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The Looking Glass Chronicles Book the First

Darkness Rising Vienna Faux

~! Darkness Rising Text copyright © 2011 Vienna Faux Illustrations copyright © 2011 by various artists All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Art & Writing Awards 2011, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., publishers since 1920 SCHOLASTIC ART & WRITING AWARDS LOGO, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc.


~ To my mother and my father, for disciplining me. To Laura, for your nobleness. To Ashley, for our humorous childhood. To Nicole, for your pragmatism. To Juella, for your ingenuity. To Cody, for your resilience. To Sebastian, for your wit. To Tami, for your drive to succeed. To Nazia, for your kindness. To Jeceaca, for your name. And to all of whom I have ever known. You have made me into the person I am today, and I accept all that I am as well as all that I could be, for both the ill and the glorious. Thank you – to all of you.


Contents Prologue: Forgotten Fairy Tales

Part I: Beginnings Chapter One: Genesis Chapter Two: A Single Shard

The First Letter Dear Reader,

I admire your bravery for selecting this book in particular. Before you begin reading The Looking Glass Chronicles, I must clarify that these books are not fairy tales; they do not have damsels in distress or talking lions. These books do not have sparkling vampires, magic sticks, flawless characters, or perfect love stories; they are anything but just another fantasy series. These books are about wicked spirits, selfish desire, the development and demise of human character, and magical jewelry, but most importantly – the constant battle between fantasy and reality within all of us. The content in these installments will allow you to reflect upon what your previous beliefs on existence and happiness are. Treat the chronicles as a looking glass. Use the books to...peer into your very soul, if you will.

You, reader, are as much a character in the story as the characters themselves.

Best of luck,

Vienna Faux

Illusion is the first of all pleasures. - Oscar Wilde

Darkness Rising


Forgotten Fairy Tales Once upon a time, there were two boys, twins, conceived and born of royal flesh and royal blood, but only one grew to be a man; the other became a monster. The man was Marco, the monster – Alexius. The two princes disagreed on nearly all aspects of rule. Marco, though was dimwitted, paid much attention to his lessons and was kind to all. His father and mother, the King and Queen, found Marco to be their favorite of the two. Alexius was often disregarded as a son. He spent hours in his chamber, neglecting his lessons, but pursued knowledge through books. You see…he was…different…from a very young age. He was quite bright, but often defiant of authority. The King and Queen attempted to nurture the two and groom them for succession, but their efforts were merely effective on Marco, not Alexius.

When the boys came of age, the King and Queen were fearful of Alexius and in their will, named Marco as their lux aeterna (eternal light), signifying that Marco would be responsible for catering to the Kingdom’s every whim. The people, by word of the King and Queen, should grant all their trust in Marco and only in Marco. When Alexius discovered that his mother and father had created the will along these terms, the King and Queen died mysteriously just days following the writing of the will. The cause of their deaths was unknown, but there were…assumptions. Alexius certainly did possess the proper motive and many believed that he had somehow killed his parents. Marco, upon hearing these rumors, confronted his brother and interrogated him. Alexius denied the validity of such gossip and was set free. Soon after the death of the King and Queen, the two boys asserted power and shared the throne. Their designs for government, however, were vastly different. Marco wished for all the people in the land to coexist, and that the people should govern themselves. The monarch should only interfere when there was a crisis. All dilemmas among the people should be settled among the people. Alexius, who thought his brother was daft, impractical, and overly Utopian, suggested that trusted men, appointed only by the King himself, should govern the land by the order of the King. In this manner, the King’s demands could be heard from afar. They bickered just as brothers do. Marco, furious, tossed Alexius out of the castle. Alexius constructed a fortress in response to Marco’s measures kilometers away from, and parallel to, the castle of his birth. The mark of split territory was a forest – a wood – that extended from one very far end of the land to the other. In fear of attack from his brother, Marco forged an amulet – the Keystone – that

would be split in halves in congruence to the physical bisection of control and territory. The Keystone, in addition, produced an invisible boundary at the very midsection of the woods, dividing the two lands of the Kings. Each King would rule his own dominion. As long as the Kings were alive and the Keystone was in existence, the border would remain intact. However, the souls of Men are vulnerable to corruption. Once given the opportunity to rule, Alexius became so drunk with the magnitude of his power that he became a megalomaniac. He ordered the murder of an innumerable amount of people for no evident reason. The populace of his territory grew bitter and suffered from starvation. Many died from deprivation. Alexius’s succession of power was based solely on fear. Though Marco married many times, and had many children with his wives, he still managed to govern his lands as well as his keep. Despite his benevolence, the good king soon died. Perplexingly, all who inherited his throne thereafter met their deaths very suddenly and very young. When Marco VIII sensed the proximity of his demise, he escaped the realm of Thales and entered a new realm. Time elapsed as the people of Marco’s territory sat in waiting for his return, but this time was in centuries. Within these years, these decades, Alexius became selfindulgent and grew evermore unsatisfied with his conquests. To make amends with his internal conflict, he formed a pact with the Devil himself. The pact stated that Alexius would sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for immortality – to be ageless for all of eternity. In addition to immortal grace, the Devil saucily presented to Alexius a physical manifestation of his soul in the land itself. The more monstrous Alexius's soul became, the more his dominion would endure excruciating agony and Alexius's wrath. Of course,

the Wicked One did not know this. Decades wore on and the border between the Kings' lands grew weaker due to Marco and the Keystone’s absence. The physical darkness Alexius had entrapped in his dominion gradually extended toward Marco’s. The realm Marco had found refuge in was unknown to all, but an ancient prophet spoke of the happenings in Marco’s new realm. He told of his vision. With exposure to the wickedness and unfamiliar atmosphere of the realm, King Marco VIII instantly became damned in identity and obtained neither the knowledge of who he was nor why he had escaped. He was a lost soul, cursed, and perished in dust beside his memory. The Keystone was quickly forgotten and left to rot in oblivion. The prophet declared that the soul of Marco VIII would be reborn in another life, in another time, in another physical embodiment.

Part I: Beginnings The World, it Spins to the Echoes of War It Prays for Peace When There is No More. And Once the People Come to See That the Past Can Only Set Them Free, The Flesh of the Child Will Burn and Scorch.

Genesis If you ever happen

to wander off into Connecticut, past the corporate

buildings of Hartford and through the blaring casino flames of Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, and out into the very core of the state, you will most likely find yourself confined by the small town of Juniper Park. Now Juniper Park was similar to any other small town in the United States. There was Main Street, a village church, and a few schools scattered throughout the locale. It wasn’t even the kind of small town that appeared in the papers or in the news. In fact, if it weren’t for the neighboring city of Hartford, it didn’t seem like the type of town to even exist on any map. The houses were not mansions, but neither were they slums. And as small towns come and go, nobody in their right mind would

attempt to disturb the peace of the vicinity. However, I, reader, did mention that Juniper Park was similar to any other small, unvaried, insipid small town of the United States…I never told you that it was exactly the same. Of course there were a few people who sought out to add flavor to the all of the lifelessness that followed living in Juniper Park; one person in particular was Mr. Marcus O’Connor and it is with him where our story begins. The boy of thirteen dragged his feet across the pavement, and halted in his tracks the moment he set eyes on the looming school building of Madison Junior High School. The cracks between the overcast skies above let loose the brilliant April sun, which gleamed down upon the cursed harvest blend-colored bricks and glistening handrails of the stairs. He surveyed the lush school grounds and the double doors at the entrance, scanning the desolate landscape with disdain rupturing and bursting out of his pupils, searching for purpose in the epitome of formal education. “Marcus!” a woman of forty-two exclaimed from the driver’s seat of a silver Corolla pulled over at the curb in front of the school. She had almost unruly brown hair, sharp features, piercing olive eyes, and a white lab coat with the Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center of Hartford logo patched on the left side of her chest. Mrs. O’Connor was a cardiac surgeon at Saint Francis and often worked late into the night. The boy turned around with an unenthusiastic expression slapped across his face. “What are you doing? Go to class!” she ordered him maddeningly, motioning her hand the school doors. He sighed apathetically in reply and began his ascent up the steps.

“Okay, Mom!” he replied, highly irritated at this point. “I’m going!” He grasped the handle of the door. His mother glared at him. He rolled his eyes and entered the building just as his mother sped off to work. The minute he stepped into his first period history class, his teacher glanced over her square eyeglasses from taking the attendance. “…And Marcus is late again,” she said, frowning at the sight of him, pursing her lips. “Sorry, Mrs. Davis,” he replied quickly and took his seat at the desk near the window. Marcus O’Connor had tousled brown hair, just like his mother’s. His size and weight were average factors in comparison to the physical stature of other boys his age, though his face was a bit thin, his nose a bit blunt, and his lips a bit bow-shaped. In all of its essence, Marcus seemed like the most average of average young men. There was nothing physically repulsive about his physical form, though there was nothing that seemed so alluring that every girl adored him (though there were quite a few who found him appealing). There was nothing out of the ordinary about him at all. However, there was one remarkable bodily characteristic that was quite noticeable, and that was his eye color. Marcus O’Connor had brilliant emerald eyes, which always seemed as if they had flames or an inferno surging from within him and were the very first indicators of his mischievous nature. One other thing that set Marcus apart from all the other boys, and most children for that matter, was that while Caucasian infants are usually born with blue eyes, Marcus O’Connor was born with green. Not many people knew this fact about Mr. Marcus O’Connor, and if they did, they did not think much of it, including Marcus himself.

“’Sorry’ doesn’t mean anything unless you show you are,” she sighed, suppressing her temper. “Every day, Marcus. Every day. Would it kill you to wake up a little earlier? We go through this every morning.” He slouched in his seat as the class had their eyes locked on him. “Before I was interrupted by Marcus’s tardy entrance,” Davis eyed the boy with great loathing and then turned to the class, “I was explaining the project that is due this marking period. What you are to do is to choose a project from the list of five that Lily has already handed out to you. These are group projects and you may choose two other people to work with you. If you are unable to find anyone, then I’ll put you into a group, but since we have everyone here today, you should all be distributed evenly. You have this entire period to choose a topic and once you’re done, write what your topic is on a piece of loose leaf, along with the names of your group members, and leave it on my desk. If you can’t choose a topic, then I will assign one to you. You may begin.” All of the students shared excited glances with their friends the moment Mrs. Davis mentioned “group projects,” and scrambled to desks near their classmates. Marcus, who did the same, sat himself next to a girl with hair the color of the sun, bright blue eyes, and rosy pink cheeks and lips, and cluster of freckles on her nose. Despite their vastly different…intellectual…abilities, Marcus O’Connor and Jeceaca Nelson were the best of friends. They had been so since the second grade, specifically March sixth, when Marcus had busted Jared Harrison in the nose for teasing her in the playground about her freckles and the spelling of her name, which was pronounced “Jessica.” Ms. Nelson had respected Mr. O’Connor ever since. They became friends as steadily as friends become.

A boy with amber eyes, a gray beanie concealing his spiked-at-the-front jet-black hair, and a bit of a tan also found a desk near the two. Jacob Pérez was half Irish and half Argentinean, and was proud of it; he never failed to inform everyone he met of his unusual heritage. Marcus and Jeceaca had met Jake in the sixth grade. He and his family had moved to Juniper Park before middle school began. Marcus and Jeceaca were the only two students to step forward and talk to “the new kid.” Since then, the three were utterly inseparable, yet nobody understood the real reason behind their entanglement. Marcus was assigned detention nearly every week from most of his teachers, Jake was almost always playing World of Warcraft during non-school hours, and Jeceaca was constantly cloaking herself with knowledge from various books and television documentaries. It was, perhaps, the most peculiar friendship anyone had ever seen. “So which one do you think we should do?” Jake inquired, using his reflection on the window to adjust his hair. Marcus and Jeceaca delivered to him bizarre expressions. “What?” he asked obliviously, “Nothing, you queer,” Jeceaca said jokingly. “Your stupidity knows no bounds.” “Ha-ha, very funny,” Jake replied, sneering. “You’re hilarious.” “Excuse me!” Davis raised her voice over the incessant chattering of her students. “Sorry to interject, but if anything, anything, were to go wrong with your projects or with your group members, I will make it a point to never do group projects in any of my history classes again. Just pointing that out. So if my students next year ask me why they won’t be working in groups, you will be to blame. Alright, you may proceed.”

“She makes you feel like a pocketful of sunshine, doesn’t she?” Marcus remarked sarcastically. His friends chuckled in response. “Okay, we have to choose what project we’re going to do,” Jeceaca directed her attention at the handout with the various project topics. “Oh, what about this one on the Civil War?” Marcus peered over Jeceaca’s pencil case and shook his head. “Writing Civil War journals? No way, it’s way too boring.” “Okay…how about this one? It’s a timeline. All we have to do is –” “Boring,” Marcus interjected. Jeceaca sighed. “This one seems interesting –” “Boring, boring, boring. They’re all boring.” Jeceaca slammed the paper down on the desk in frustration. “We have to choose one before the period ends!” “I have to agree with Marcus on this one,” Jake announced. “They’re all kind of dull if you ask me.” Jeceaca rolled her eyes. “When do you not agree with him?” “When we talk about how Angelina Jolie is hotter than Jessica Alba,” Jake responded. “No way, man, Jessica Alba is way hotter than Angelina Jolie,” Marcus retaliated, snatching the list of project choices off Jeceaca’s desk. “In what century? In what century exactly?” “Focus!” Jeceaca exclaimed. “Is there a problem here?” Mrs. Davis approached the three in concern.

“Nope,” Marcus rested his head on his chin and pretended to silently read the handout. Davis leaned over to Marcus’s desk. “When is your lunch period?” “Why? Are you giving me detention for the five-thousandth time?” Davis flinched at Marcus’s attitude. “Not exactly.” “I have lunch fourth period,” he replied. “I want you to come to this room for fourth period.” “Why?” Davis gave him a stern expression. “Because quite frankly, I’m tired of you and your tomfoolery in my classroom.” She returned to her desk. Jake and Jeceaca widened their eyes, Jake cracking a smile. Marcus also broke out into a grin as well. Jeceaca was not amused. “Why are you smiling? She’s going to kick you out of the class,” Jeceaca informed him. “Chill,” Marcus snapped. “She can’t do anything. She’s probably going to give me detention again. It’s all probably just a scare tactic she made up or something. Anyway, we have to choose a topic, right?”

~ The following two periods progressed swifter than most. Marcus, Jeceaca, and Jake agreed to meet at Marcus’s house that evening to plan their history project. When the bell for fourth period sang, Mr. O’Connor entered the empty classroom with reluctance and came face to face with Mrs. Davis…and his mother, who was seated

across the desk with a frown and an austere stare. The color instantly drained from his face. “Please, sit down,” Mrs. Davis motioned to the empty seat next to Mrs. O’Connor. Knees trembling, he did as he was told. “Now, to business…Marcus is not failing my class, but I believe that he does have an attitude problem.” “What? That’s not true!” Marcus blurted out angrily. “Marcus O’Connor, you will shut your mouth while your teacher is talking,” Mrs. O’Connor snapped furiously. “I’m sorry, you said that he wasn’t failing your class. Isn’t that enough?” “It seems like it should be, but behavior is a part of the school’s grading policy as well. The objective of Madison Junior High School is to educate and enrich our students academically as well as socially. If Marcus is unable to socially adapt at the grade-school level, there is little to no chance that he will be socially successful when he reaches a purely independent age, such as high school or college, where the students are expected to follow rules and have proper behavior. However, you should know that already.” “That’s bull –” Marcus began, but his mother cut him off. “Marcus!” “Yes, you see, he’s quite disrespectful in my class,” Mrs. Davis declared. “He comes late, I’m missing many of his homework assignments, but his test average is very high. I’m wondering if there is anything going on at home that might have caused him to be impaired in this manner.” Marcus bit his tongue to prevent himself from uttering anything else.

“All of his teachers have complained, actually,” his mother confessed. “Unfortunately, I’m a cardiac surgeon and I don’t have much time for my family. So should I spend more time with him or…?” “My suggestion is that you take him to therapy if you don’t have the time. I believe he would be diagnosed with, excuse me for saying this, but either ADHD or Oppositional Defiance Disorder. It’s very common around his age. The therapist will teach him how to control his impulsivity.” “Are you insane?” Marcus exclaimed, enraged. “ADHD? Oppositional whatever disorder? I’m not crazy!” “Marcus Monroe O’Connor, let your teacher speak!” “No! Sending me to therapy isn’t going to do anything!” Marcus was now standing up, flailing his arms wildly. “You can’t label me like that! Can she do that, Mom?” Mrs. O’Connor glanced at Mrs. Davis in shame. “I think we’re done here,” Mrs. Davis said, rising and closing her grade book. “Yes, thank you so much, Mrs. Davis. I’ll see what I can do with him,” Marcus’s mother grasped her son’s shoulder and led him out of the classroom. Marcus turned his back on his mother, who whipped him around and punctured him with an outraged expression. “When I get home this evening, you, your father, and I are going to have a big discussion. A big, big discussion!” she said curtly. She bent down to her son’s height and fixed his hair. “Mom,” he hissed, disheveling his hair in response.

“What am I going to do with you?” Her eyes were filled with dejection, her voice thick with emotion. She shook her head slightly and studied her son’s face. “You’re just…” “Just what?” he inquired, knowing fully well what kind of answer it’d be – something dreadful, something gut-wrenching. His mother sighed. “Marcus,” she finished. “Just Marcus.” She stroked her son’s face and kissed him softly on the forehead. Silence descended between mother and child. Mrs. O’Connor finally rose. “Now go to lunch.” Marcus scampered away to the cafeteria as his mother watched him intently. She blurted out a quick “I love you” to pursue him.

A Single Shard When Marcus arrived home that afternoon, the only voice he could hear originated from his sister’s room. Elizabeth O’Connor, nicknamed “Effy” by her friends and classmates, spent most of her afternoons with her bedroom door shut to ignore the progression of the world beyond. Drenched from the now pouring rain outside, Marcus dropped his schoolbag on the couch and climbed the stairs to Effy’s room, rapping upon the door, which swung open to reveal a sixteen-year-old brunette in pajamas, a tank top, and a ponytail. One of her hands held a cordless telephone pressed against her shoulder while the other grasped the doorknob. “What?” she demanded.

“Nothing, I just wanted to know what time Mom’s coming home,” he replied. “Oh, um…she called about an hour ago and told me something about working late tonight. A big emergency at the hospital.” “So she’s not gonna be here?” “She will, but she’ll be late, around midnight or so. Why?” Marcus shrugged. “No reason.” “Yeah, well, Dad’s coming home late too, around eight because he has a meeting and –” she was interrupted by a voice arising from the phone’s earpiece. She pressed it against her ear and spoke into it. “Hold on, it’s just my little brother. Mhm. Yeah, alright. I’ll meet you there in, like, fifteen minutes? Alright, cool. Bye.” She ended the call and directed her attention at Marcus. “Well it looks like I’ll be gone too, and I’ll be late.” “Where are you going?” he asked. “Study party. If you need me, just hit my cell. I think there’s some leftover pasta in the fridge and a some Lunchables if you get hungry. Sorry, little bro,” she ruffled his hair and was about to shut the door in his face when he piped, “Oh, wait, I have one more question!” “What is it?” “Can I borrow your history textbook for a project?” “Uh…sure, but there’s way more books in the attic. I mean, you could still use mine, but it’s mainly for AP, not eighth grade. Mom and Dad told me that the previous owners left a crapload of stuff up there. He was a history freak or something, I don’t even know. I haven’t been up there in years.” “Alright, thanks.”

Once his sister had left, Jake and Jeceaca showed up at his door just minutes later, half-drenched. “Wow, you’re about two hours early,” Marcus chuckled. They each heaved a stack of great volumes as they wobbled into Marcus’s home, water cascading down from their clothes and skin and creating miniature puddles upon the hardwood floor. Jake, who was carrying the taller pile, peered over the tower of books, plunked it upon the coffee table, and then proceeded to sink himself into the sofa, panting, taking a drag of his inhaler. “¡Dios mío!” he exclaimed. Jeceaca placed her stack, which consisted of merely two books, next to his. “Jake, seriously? They weren’t that heavy.” Jake pointed one finger as Jeceaca as he caught his breath. “Callate,” he breathed. “Shut up.” He inhaled a second drag. “Ugh,” she groaned, gazing at the streams of water gliding on the windowpanes. “Isn’t it supposed to rain tomorrow?” She sighed in contempt and then turned to Marcus. “These are just some of the books from my library we can use.” “Some?” Marcus replied in awe. “Yes, but they’re not enough, are they?” Jeceaca asked, clasping her hands together worriedly. “Are you kidding?” Marcus scoffed. “This is great. You guys are awesome.” “Yo, what did Davis say to you at lunch?” Jake chimed in. “Where were you at lunch?” Marcus asked him. “I didn’t see you there.” “Monitoring, duh, like I do every Wednesday. So what did she say?”

“She said that he should go to a therapist because she thinks he has ADHD,” Jeceaca responded. Jake burst out laughing in response. “Are you messing with me or something?” “Kate!” Marcus snapped hastily, humiliated. “What? It’s not even true. The true mark of ADHD is receiving low exam grades, and seriously, you can hand in the homework at your own pace. All you really have is a behavior problem.” “I do not!” Marcus retorted. “Denial!” Jake roared. “It’s kind of like your trademark, getting into trouble. You’re always getting detention and crap, you know, with Davis, and Morgan, and –” “Dude, you know that lady can’t teach science. She sleeps in class. I don’t even know why she’s still teaching. Isn’t she a millionaire or something? Doesn’t she own a huge chemical company?” “That’s not the point, man. I’m asking you why you always show an attitude to the teachers.” “ I don’t show an attitude to the teachers. They just think I do,” Marcus replied heatedly. “Besides, I have a rep to uphold.” “A reputation? Really?” Jeceaca asked skeptically. “For what? Being a jerk to the school staff?” “For the last time, I’m not a jerk…I just…it’ll ruin my social life, okay?” “Be a little more respectful,” Jeceaca mumbled. “You’re kidding, right?” Marcus scoffed.

“Look, we’re just suggesting that you improve your behavior for the sake of your grade,” Jeceaca explained, sorting the books into neat piles. “Uh…” Jake interjected, “I’m not saying that. You are. I just asked why he’s always such a bad ass. You’re doing the suggesting.” Jeceaca rolled her eyes and continued, “Maybe your report card average will magically go up from a C to an A. The reason why all of our teachers give you low report card marks is because you behave like a complete fool, not because you’re dumb.” “Listen, my reputation –” “Alright, I get where you’re coming from with the whole social life thing, but let me ask you something,” Jeceaca cut him off. “Are you seriously willing to risk your own sense of self for a dumbass reputation?” Silence. Marcus failed to meet his friends’ eyes. “That’s retarded,” she remarked. “You’re making your life more complicated than it has to be. You’re not stupid, dude. Stop acting like you are.” “Can we please focus on this stupid project?” Marcus segued out of his noose. “God damn it…” “Right…” Jake lifted himself off the sofa and turned to his friends. “Eff said that there are a lot of books in my attic if you wanna go check them out,” Marcus said. “Yeah, alright, that sounds cool.” After grabbing flashlights from the kitchen drawer, the three stormed up the attic stairs. Upon their arrival at the final step, they pointed their flashlights to distinct parts of the attic where boxes were heaped high on top of one another. The mouth of a forgotten

toy chest was cleaved wide open and a mountain of stuffed animals was crammed inside. Due to the unpleasant weather, sunlight at this point was not an option. Marcus tugged on the chain to turn on the light bulb, but the bulb had fused. Damn it, he though to himself. There were nearly five bookcases, and all were filled from end to end with archaiclooking, dust-ridden hardcover volumes. “We’ll use the flashlights,” Jake muttered. “C’mon,” said Marcus, advancing. “Let’s do one shelf at a time.” They began their search instantly. Marcus found all of his books to be engraved with one sign – a wavy-sort of cross. He traced his fingers over the sign that created a relief on the wooden cover. “…They’re all blank,” said Jake. Marcus looked up to see Mr. Pérez holding an open volume in front of his face. “Look at that. Look at it.” “Your sister lied to us, Marcus,” Jeceaca replied jokingly, arising from her knees at one corner of the attic and approaching the boys. In her hands was yet another book of unoccupied pages. She flipped through the leaves madly, as if expecting words to appear at any given moment. “Can you say killjoy?” Marcus turned a page of the book Jake was exhibiting and then returned to the original page, sighing in exasperation. “Great,” he snapped and began his descent down the attic steps. “Whoa…are those yours?” Jake uttered in disbelief. “What are you talking about?” Marcus replied, crestfallen and halting in his tracks. “Your fingerprints…they’re…they’re on the paper…” Jake breathed. “In ink,” Jeceaca added, examining the page.

Marcus rolled his eyes and drifted over to the fuss. “Don’t be retarded –” he began and upon wrenching the book out of Jake’s hands, laid his eyes on pairs of inked fingerprints dotted and imprinted into the borders of the sheet. He narrowed his eyebrows in intrigue and placed his hand on the heart of the leaf, leaving a jet-black blotchy handprint. His breathing became increasingly thunderous as he inspected his palm, but to his dismay, was untainted. His handprint began bleeding into the length and breadth of the page, liquefying and overflowing into the hinge. The ink streamed out of the pages and upon the floor, plopping upon the dust-ridden planks of the floor. Marcus dropped the book in alarm and retreated beside his friends. Jeceaca advanced toward the volume and squatted down, aiming her torchlight at the peculiar object. The ink stained her tattered trainers. She set one of her hands on the page, but rather than there being the presence of a physical barrier, her hand plunged into the book. She drew back her forearm instantly, releasing the torch and clasping her hands together. Jake and Marcus gasped. “Holy...” Jake breathed. “Oh my God...” Marcus piped in. Jeceaca grinned and shot her friends a fearless expression. “We should get out of here…you know…while we can…” Jake remarked. Jeceaca redirected her attention to the book and extended her hand once more, but this time, dear Ms. Jeceaca Nelson descended head over heels into the pages of the book, letting out a blood-curdling scream. The boys’ eardrums burst into flames. Her shrieks became fainter as her distance grew.

“It’s your house, dude,” Jake responded at once, eyes widened into glassy orbs. “You go after her first.” “You’re the guest,” Marcus whispered fearfully. “Maybe we should both go?” Jake suggested, gulping. “No. We both can’t fit in.” “You’re right. You should go first,” Jake said. Marcus positioned Jake in front of the book. “Dude, c’mon—!” Jake squealed in utter fear, struggling out of his friend’s grip. Too late. Marcus shoved Jake down into the depths of the pages, Jake releasing a howl at the top of his lungs. My turn, Marcus convinced himself. He stepped into the book and plummeted downward. As he accelerated, air was not his comrade any longer, for it severed his cheeks like stone knives and delayed his breathing. In addition, his screams became wails of despair. At last, he spotted a light moving below him. It was dear Jacob brushing himself off from his free fall. “Jake!” he screamed. Jake directed his attention upward and yelped. He attempted to dodge Marcus, but was unsuccessful, for Mr. O’Connor plummeted down upon him. They were enveloped by pure darkness. Jake was terrified. He possessed no flashlight and his body was supporting the whole of Marcus’s weight. “Marcus! I can’t breathe and I’m blind!’ “Sorry,” Marcus apologized and staggered to his feet. He hunted his pockets for his torch. “Where is it? Where’s the flashlight?” Marcus asked frantically. Suddenly,

something solid bounced off his head. “Ow!” he exclaimed as the object landed on the stone floor. “Sounds like the flashlight found you,” Jake teased. Marcus ignored the comment. He lifted the flashlight off the ground, his head throbbing. Gulping, he turned it on. The light revealed a much smaller passage, as if one was expected to slither through it. Jake’s vision became clear at once and his jaw dropped. “Oh my God…” he breathed in awe staring upward. The setting was cavernous, the ceiling a smoothed stone, perhaps twenty or thirty feet high. “Yeah, I know,” remarked a familiar voice from behind the boys. They flung themselves around and saw Jeceaca grinning. “You guys okay?” “We’re fine. You?” Marcus asked her. “Me? I’m kinda scared of ever doing that again.” They chuckled. “Well there’s one place we’re not,” Jake said, striking his torchlight with his hand. It became aflame. “Where?” Jeceaca asked. “Kansas.” They exchanged grins. Despite being alone in a strange place, they were together, and that’s what mattered now — besides getting out. “So how do we get back, exactly?” Jeceaca’s eyes desperately darted around the chamber for an exit. “Dunno,” Jake replied. “I think it’s this way, but it might just be another passage to wherever,” Marcus answered, pointing flashlight at the small cavity at one side of the cavern.

“We won’t know until we find out,” Jeceaca said courageously. “I suggest we go through, seeing as there really is no other way.” “I’m not so sure…” Jake chimed in reluctantly, his voice trembling. “What if we get stuck?” “I think we can do it,” Jeceaca reassured him, estimating the size of the opening by slightly tilting her head. “And we can’t stay here all our lives. We’re in a book, for God’s sake,” Marcus added. Jake considered the option and then nodded in agreement. “Alright,” he said finally. “Let’s go.” Jeceaca crawled in first, then Jake, then Marcus, and eventually spotted light ahead. They arrived at the end of the second passage, but only to emerge into a much larger chamber. Jeceaca, who surfaced first, collapsed, panting. She mopped sweat off her brow and brushed dust off her jeans and shirt, kicking off her Converses and spilling a conglomerate of pebbles on the ground. The boys managed to escape as well, sweating, parched, exhausted, but feeling strangely adventurous. They followed suit with Jeceaca and directed their torches to yet another cavernous vault, but this time, the walls of stone were etched with rather odd-looking symbols and concepts. “It’s like Egypt,” Jeceaca remarked, catching her breath at last. At the heart of the chamber, a large crater engulfed the majority of the area. The floor was no longer caked in stone, but in sand. The walls of the crater appeared as if they were hardened from the lack of oxygen. Jake trembled at the sight of what was inside of the crater – more signs. At the very center of, there was a sort cross, not like a Christian crucifix or anything

you’ve ever seen, nor did the three friends. This cross was different – it was wavy. The two perpendicular slivers that composed the regular crucifix were undulated. “Whoa,” Marcus breathed. He took a step closer and saw what was placed upon the wavy cross – a compact wooden chest engraved with similar symbols as seen on the walls and crater. “What do these hieroglyphs say?” Jake asked Jeceaca. She approached one of the walls and examined the symbols, attempting to decipher their secrets. “I…I don’t…know…” Jeceaca admitted after a few moments. “They don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen or read about.” Her voice echoed into the cavernous space. Additional symbols loomed over the three into the ceilings and upon the ground concealed beneath the sand. “They’re not hieroglyphs, Greek, or Latin. I…dunno what they are. They’re on igneous rock, that’s all I know. Looking at the color, it’s probably Granite.” “That box…” Marcus said, his eyes still locked on the mysterious wooden, sixinch chest placed at the center of the crater. Jake and Jeceaca turned around to see what Marcus was babbling about. “What the hell is this place?” Jake asked, but Jeceaca and Marcus were too engrossed in their surroundings to reply. “Marcus, what’re you doing?” Jeceaca asked fearfully. Dear Mr. O’Connor was ambling his way over to the crater and descending into it. The symbols inside were placed about in concentric circles. The moment Marcus came in contact with the crater, the first band of symbols illuminated brilliantly. His friends gasped. Marcus stood rooted at the spot, jaw hung, breathing hard, heart pounding, hardly

daring to believe his eyes. He did not turn around. He did not speak. He didn’t even care to look to see what occurring was beyond his field of perception. If something else happened in the crater, he did not want to miss it. He didn’t even blink. He took another step…and another, and then another until every ring of symbols was coated in pure light. Marcus leaned over to the floor to see if there were light bulbs beneath the mysterious cryptograms, but there were none. He switched off his flashlight now, for the whole room had been lit ever so brilliantly by the gleam inexplicably originating from the carvings. “Yo!” Jake called. “What’s going on?” Marcus gave no reply, for he was too involved with the happenings at hand. After each step, he finally arrived at the very heart of the crater. The kinked cross blared a jadecolored beam of light. He jolted violently, startled, but simultaneously had a desperate urge to know what was enclosed within the box. He examined the object with his eyes at first. Another endless array of ciphers. He extended his hand to touch the box. Suddenly, the lid sprang open and there laid a necklace of the most precious jewel Marcus had ever seen. Well half of it, anyway. The exterior was made of mahogany wood, which was etched and carved with marks and emblems of the sort. The heart consisted of a single jewel – a dazzling sapphire. “Guys…” Marcus called to Jake and Jeceaca without turning to face them, for his eyes were latched onto the jewel. “I found something.” A bizarre sensation riveted through his blood, through his veins, as if he had just received a thousand needles to his brain. His body felt numb. He did not move. He could not move. He didn’t even dare to breathe. His entire being seemed highly magnetized, almost as if his bones and flesh were physically bound to the meticulously crafted brilliance.

His friends bolted to his side. He felt nothing else’s presence aside from the priceless trinket. “What is it?” Marcus inquired, his eyes piercing into the sapphire. He brushed his fingers over the wood and a cool rush of the etchings became stapled to his skin. His emerald eyes bored into the gem. They flashed with curiosity. “It’s a necklace,” Jake commented in an obvious tone, clearly dispirited. “Wow, dude, good job,” he said sarcastically. “We just fell flat on our asses over a stupid necklace.” “Actually, it’s an amulet,” Jeceaca corrected him, her voice rising in excitement. “We should bring it back with us and research more on it and its origins!” Typical Jeceaca answer. “Yeah, there’s one problem…” Marcus tore his eyes away from the amulet to look at his friends. “We don’t know how to get out.” “Right….” “It looks so cool,” Jake commented, staring at it, eyes widening in fascination. His hair was standing on end, the way it did whenever Jake was excited, or had some odd idea…like now. “Put it on,” Jake commanded. Marcus glanced at Jake and then back at the amulet. “You really think I should?” he asked him uncertainly, still checking the thing out, with the main part dangling lifelessly. “Jake, that must be the most—” Jeceaca started, but Marcus cut her off. “Awesome idea he’s ever said? Yeah, maybe I should. I found it, after all.”

“No,” Jeceaca corrected him petulantly. “I meant the most dangerous thing he’s ever said. It’s an amulet. From what I’ve read, they have magic stored inside, and most amulets are said to hold terrible evil. Who knows what dangerous supernatural properties it could contain inside —?” “You sound like a textbook again,” Jake reminded her. She rolled her eyes in response. He continued. “And besides, magic isn’t real. And like you told us, it’s said to have magic stored inside. That doesn’t mean it does.” “I read it in a book!” “A book?” Jake looked at her skeptically. “What the heck kind of book was that? Harry Potter?” “You leave Harry out of this!” she snapped and turned to Marcus. “I don’t know about this. I wouldn’t do it if I were you.” Her voice became higher in pitch, which is usually what happened to Jeceaca Nelson whenever she was deeply concerned or apprehensive. “Yeah, but you’re not him, and that makes all the difference,” Jake retaliated. Marcus ignored his bickering friends and wrapped his fingers around the leather string of the amulet. He slipped it over his head, squeezing his eyes shut, anxiously waiting for something to happen, but when he opened one eye, he still found himself in the same place. His friends had their eyes locked on him, Jake with a gleeful expression on his face and Jeceaca with a fearful one. “What happened?” Marcus asked them. “Nothing…did you feel any different?” Jake inquired. “No,” he now opened both eyes in dismay. “Aw, man. Then it didn’t work. It’s probably a fake.”

“I dunno about that, Jake,” Jeceaca replied anxiously. “It may be real.” “Lemme try it! Maybe I can make the thing work,” Jake said, reaching out to grab the amulet off of Marcus. Unknowingly, his fingers brushed over the sapphire, and Jeceaca tried to grab his hand away, but brushed her fingers over the jewel as well. Instantly, the stone began to draw Jake and Jeceaca inside, their hands and arms swallowed whole…like a portal, and without warning, the symbols lifted off the walls and conglomerated themselves into figures of the unearthly nature. They fused together and became a globe of pure light, spinning in place, situated above the very core of the cavity, and soon exploded, splitting into numerous human, faceless figures. These figures frolicked around the scene before them, encircling the crater, chanting a phrase in some unknown language with soft, eerie, high-pitched voices. Marcus attempted to rip the damned thing off in the chaos, but considering the string’s material, it was rather difficult to remove. The voices became increasingly thunderous and the figures' prancing accelerated as time progressed. The cord's diameter was decreasing by the second and Marcus could barely get it over his head. He screamed, but already had the dreadful awareness that nobody could hear him. Perspiration tickled his face. He was turning crimson. His eyes widened into emerald glass. The amulet had now ingested his friends to their entirety. He attempted to sever it off with his teeth, but he was unable to even bring it to the level of his chin. The string had tightened itself around his neck. He gasped for breath and out of desperation, seized the jewel. Maniacal laughter, and soon a frenzy of bizarre voices, blared into Marcus's ears. His hand was immediately dragged into its center. He let out a

horrendous cry for help. The string ceased to lessen in size and before he knew it, Marcus O’Connor and the amulet both vanished in a radiant blaze of white light.

About the Author

Vienna Faux was ten years old when she began writing The Looking Glass Chronicles in the middle of her fifth grade math class. She finished outlining the first book at eleven years of age. Intending for the series to have ten installments, she eventually dwindled the storyline down to five. At sixteen, she received an Art & Writing Awards scholarship and national recognition award from Scholastic Inc. for submitting the first few, fully edited, chapters of Darkness Rising, as well as publishing a few of her works in the Youth Section of an internationally-based newspaper. She lives in New York City with her family.

Marcus O'Connor is a class-A troublemaker. With a mother and a father almost never home due to their demanding jobs and a sister constantly preparing for college, he finds relief in the company of his good friends, Jeceaca and Jake, as well as misbehaving in school. His mischievous antics and frequent detentions leave his parents helpless and wondering what exactly to do with their son. However, when he and his friends discover a “necklace” within the pages of a book, the three of them are transported into a land that, in their eyes, only dwells in books and movies. Thales, it is called; Marcus is overjoyed when he learns that he is their long-lost King Marco VIII, sent from the Gods. And then they all live happily ever after, right? Wrong. He unearths the dark past Thales has kept under its solid grounds for the last twelve hundred years; the past about the necklace he had found – the Saxael Keystone – and ancient aggression that has been raging between its rightful owners…the past concerning a certain malevolence that separates Thales from just another fairy tale…and more towards the point – Marcus O’Connor’s true identity and how it affects who he sees in the mirror forever. Marcus now finds himself in a desperate race against time. The catch? He can’t just whip up the magic, go home, and forget all that has occurred. The only way home is to destroy this darkness that rises so wickedly from the flames of pure chance.

Something wicked this way comes. !

Darkness Rising, Book 1 out of the Looking Glass Chronicles - Prologue and First Two Chapters Only