“The Envy Of Angels” Opening Scene


I’ve been working more on my decopunk retelling of Poe’s “Annabel Lee”. Revised the opening scene some more and have done more world-building. It’s shaping up to be a very intriguing tale. I’m sticking to the very Poe-etic sense of dread as much as I can, and this is not a happy bedtime story. All I can say is, the Seraphim are really damn creepy…At any rate, here’s the intro as I have it currently. Still first draft so watch for falling typos and such 😉 Image is “The Angel” by Erte.

Waves tremble and weep, with the secrets they keep,

In a kingdom by the sea;

‘Neath the moon wan and pale, the wind moans the tale

Of a maiden named Annabel Lee.


The day I met her was the first day I ever beheld the ocean.

Never had I dreamed to be in the wondrous Kingdom By The Sea. Dark waves crashed against the shore, gray upon gray, mists receding into a nearly indecipherable horizon. Salt spray settled like a gentle veil over my skin, the eternal roar a symphony upon my ears. I threw back my head as the wind sliced past, reveling in the wild chill.

Music, the passion of my soul, rushed in time with my heart. A melody of hope formed within my mind, and I sat upon a rock with my cherished harp. My fingers flew across the strings, each note a declaration. The past and its misery was behind me. Lyrics swirled with the intricate sound. I sang to the open sky, to the gulls crying upon sharp white wings, the vastness of water and stone.

When I finished, a pattering applause startled me. I nearly dropped the harp in alarm, turning to face my audience.

“That was beautiful.” A girl on horseback smiled nearby. Muted blue riding attire accented the striking azure of her eyes. Her dappled gelding snorted and tossed its mane, rattling the shiny metal bit.

With haste I removed my flat cap, to appear a gentleman. Instead, I felt a fool, staring with my mouth agape.

“I apologize for startling you,” she said. “I heard you singing, and had to see who played such lovely music.” She dismounted, and walked toward me, the horse plodding obediently behind.

I ran fingers through my black undercut, hoping it wasn’t shabby and windblown. My throat tightened as she drew closer, and I noticed how pretty she was. She was young, close to my own age of seventeen. All I could mutter was, “Thank you.”

Clutching her reins, she sat next to me. “What’s your name?”

“Tristan. Tristan of Steelbend.” I was of the workers’ caste, thus I possessed no surname of note. Rather, those of my class were identified by birthplace.

“Steelbend? I’ve never heard of it.” The horse stomped, and she stroked its gray nose. A silver-threaded monogram glistened on the breast of her riding jacket, displaying a symbol of outstretched wings–the emblem of the Seraphim, marking her as one of society’s elite. She extended a palm gloved in soft kid leather. “I’m Annabel Lee. Do you live here in Hosanna?”

I fidgeted, setting my harp down to shake her hand. “No, I…well, I hope to. I just arrived on the shuttle. I’m headed to the Examinations Office, but I wanted to look at the sea first. I’ve never seen it before.”

 “You’re one of the new hopefuls? Well, I do pray you pass the test. You’ve more talent than most of the lackluster composers within the Host.”

“Thank you, again. I’m not certain I can live up to such a high compliment. But I do hope to be accepted. I’ve dreamed my entire life of being here, and finding renown.”

“You will.” Her grin bore amusement. “Did you come to the beach for inspiration?”

Stunned at having such a conversation with a strange, beautiful girl, I nodded. “Yes. It’s difficult to explain. When inspiration strikes me, it’s like hunger, and demands its own way.”

A fetching blush bloomed upon her cheeks. “There’s no need to explain. I’m an artist, too. I ride here every evening for the same reason.”

“Truly? What do you do?”

“I’m a poet. And it’s what I want to be in life, but my father doesn’t approve.”

I’d never met another young person who shared my love of artistic pursuits, let alone one as gorgeous as Miss Lee. “Parents seldom do. My own insisted I work in the rfoundries, as the rest of my family has done for generations. But I can’t deny it. ‘Tis why I’m here, where people appreciate refinement. Not many steel workers enjoy a ballad or an ode these days.”

She laughed, a wisp of dark brown hair lashing free of her tight coif and riding helmet. “I imagine not.” Those brilliant eyes implored, deep and blue as the ocean itself. “Sing me another song, Tristan of Steelbend. Your favorite this time.”

I set my harp upon my lap, and dared a flirtatious smile. “Certainly. But only if you promise to recite one of your poems for me afterward.”

“Agreed.” She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, twirling her crop in anticipation.

“This is one of my own compositions. It’s about a man who drowns in a shipwreck, and his beloved searches the shores for him every night after.”

Her expression grew wistful. “Please begin.”

“Not a sound did her foot make

“Upon sand and breakers tossed,

“She watched and she waited,

“Many years and a day

“For the love she had known and lost…”

I sang with all my sorrow, my rage, my determination to find a better place. Closing my eyes, cold sea air circling through my lungs, the harp strings cried my purpose aloud.

When I finished, her eyes shone with tears.

“There you have it.” I shrugged, though I was pleased to see her so moved. “Now, let’s hear yours.”

“My work is all contained within the Host, so it’s best I show you this way.” She reached into the pocket of her trim jacket, and withdrew a small device. It resembled a compact mirror case, polished black bakelite with a chromed geometric inlay of an angel. “Are you ‘faced?” she asked, flipping the object open. Within, an interface node extended its miniscule sensors.

I blinked, taken aback. “No. In Steelbend, only the administrators are allowed such connections.”

“How is that possible? Everyone in Hosanna is ‘faced.”

“Well…think of it this way. You don’t need access to the Host when your only reason for existing is to pour and pound steel for twelve hours a day.”

Her brow creased in disbelief. “Oh. I never considered that. Well, this won’t help you then.” She closed the device, and set it aside on a flat part of the rock. “Thankfully, I’ve committed a few of them to memory. This one’s called ‘Awake, The Stars Do Fade.’”

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