Chapter 1

Honor of the Clan

Golden sunlight drifted through the dingy window that looked over the brown, withering garden. Many years ago this garden had been home to clusters of blazing red azaleas, vines of royal purple morning glory, and groups of shockingly yellow daffodils, but now they all lie limp against the parched soil. Turning her body away from the depressing scene, Avian's eyes paused at the sight of the ancient grandfather clock leaning precariously against the battered wood paneling. In the late afternoon light the tarnished gold detailing that made up the clock face faintly glinted. The intricate clock hands were frozen in the tell-tale position of 7:09.

For as long as Avian could remember, the old grandfather clock had always been broken. Her father, a man of high esteem and with an ego to match, had taken to calling the repairman once every few years to examine the old clock in the hopes of finally receiving the answer he wished to hear. With every visit though, the repairman always reported that there was nothing wrong with the clock. It had simply stopped working.

"Avian! Dinner time." A voice broke through her thoughts. She started to trot down the dusty grandiose staircase once again lost in thought. At one time, the manor had been the point of envy for the villagers, but now it was nothing but a pale imitation of the privileges the Tenebrae clan once held. Privileges lost due to the Silent War. The manor used to house only the head of the Tenebrae clan and his or her family, but after the war, all of the branches of the family were forced to live together in the war torn home. The war had purged her family of life and wealth, leaving them with overwhelming grief and bitterness. Their only saving grace had been her father's, Torus Tenebrae, tentative friendship with the Prime Minister of the newly created government for the Republic of Serenea.

The Silent War had lasted for exactly 157 years. 157 years of death, misery, poverty and inhuman cruelty. However, no one knew how it had begun. One day there was peace and normality, and the next day clans were allying themselves and mass producing weapons to prepare for war. Though it had been officially declared over by the supposedly legitimate Prime Minister just two years earlier, factions of discontent and bitter clans formed together to launch a coup d'├ętat. Every uprising ended in countless deaths of men, women, and children. The new government was inordinately cruel to opposition and with any hint of a coup would start a round of "cleansings", as they called it, to "clear the fine Republic of Serenea of the radical scum". How murdering thousands of helpless civilians, most of who had absolutely nothing to do with the attempted coups, was considered sane and acceptable to the government, Avian decided she'd never know. Even some of the most prominent clans vanished after the government detected any form of deception.

The clan of Tenebraes had declared themselves neutral in the Silent war, but had been suspected of supplying weapons to the opposing side. The ignorant public, as Avian thought of them, began to build a prejudice against the Tenebrae clan and eventually it escalated into refusal to allow them to buy food, and it escalated into the violent raids led by the drunkest and the angriest of the villagers. Arms curled around herself, Avian snapped herself out of those horrifying memories and realized that she was standing in the door frame of the dining room with all the occupants staring at her. Awkwardly, she made her way to the only empty chair which was located next to her father, who was sitting stiffly and eying her like a vulture observing a dying animal.

"Now that Avian has bothered to grace us with her presence, we may eat." Torus uttered as he lifted his fork and started to eat the exceedingly simple meal of plain rice, slivers of old chicken, and withered vegetables with as much dignity as he could muster.

Silence reigned over the table while the occupants bore through the mediocre meal. Avian shifted nervously and allowed her eyes to wander across the faces of her aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters that had managed to survive. The war was written across their faces with various scars, bruises, and the look of desperation for peace that can only come from a war victim. Finally, her eyes rested on the dusty and cobweb ridden painting hung over the cracked marble fireplace. A stern looking man in a traditional military uniform glared back at her. Slowly, a scowl crept across her face, distorting her normally pretty appearance to an ugly mask of anger and contempt. Him! That man caused all of this to happen! We would have been fine if he didn't have to run off and spout out his foolish ideas of change. Avian thought viciously. Tearing her eyes away from the anger inducing picture, she began to rip furiously at her napkin. Her father's eyes snapped toward her.

"Avian! Quit acting like a child. You're far too old to resort to such pathetic means to relieve your anger." Furious, Avian shot up sending the chair crashing to the ground and slapped her hands on the table.

"No! Why do we keep that piece of trash on the wall? He's the cause of all our problems!" The room became stiflingly silent as Torus slowly stood up from his chair.

"No child of mine will speak that way while living in my house." He uttered with a deceivingly quiet voice. "You should be honored to descend from that man's lineage. Without him, you along with the rest of us would have ended up dead or worse. Go to the study and wait for me. I can hardly look at you right now, so I will be there when I decide how to deal with you."

He sat back down, back tensed and the beginning signs of a foul mood showing on his face, and continued to eat his meal, silently dismissing her. Unable to tolerate being in his presence any longer, Avian stomped out of the room furiously and followed the worn down throw rugs to the office where her father spent the majority of his time. The time he should have spent with his kids. She thought cynically. If he had bothered to notice that he did, in fact, have children that needed his love and affection, then perhaps things wouldn't have ended up the way they did.

For a long time, Avian's father had holed himself up in his office under the guise of doing important paperwork, but Avian knew better. It hurt him to even look at children because he saw bits and pieces of her in each of them. The loss was still raw after four years, and seeing glimpses of her smiling face and gentle kindness felt like salt rubbed in a wound. Still, it's his responsibility to take care of us, and he's doing a horrible job of it hidden away like that. She thought as she slumped down into the cracked leather chair in front of the desk. Papers were strewn all over the top of the desk; stacks of books piled around the room and the blinds haphazardly drawn to block out the morning sun.

After another half hour of waiting, Torus stalked into the room, closed the door, and perched himself in the massive chair behind the desk. Another moment of silence passed as he stared at her with dark eyes before he spoke.

"We have had this conversation before. I do not like to repeat myself. As such, I'm assigning you a month's worth of messenger duty."

"But-"

"No." Torus interrupted. "I will hear no more about this. Your lack of control over your emotions is disgraceful. Get out of my sight. I don't want to see a glimpse of you until tomorrow when you report for duty. Do you understand?"

Avian opened her mouth to argue more, but rethought it after the dark glare he shot her. Giving a jerky nod, she stood up and stiffly paced out of the room.