The Ruby Insignia
Ismael watched as servants placed glassware on the cedar dining table in the center of the dining-room. The Divine Palace was lavish and enthralling. He’d stepped inside through ebony double doors that stood nearly fifteen feet tall. And the foyer itself stretched for what looked like miles. White marble tiles stretched across the flooring and two spiral stairs, gold and ivory, pillared at each end of the foyer, leading up to a mezzanine that opened out into a hallway of rooms positioned on either side of the second-floor hall.
Ismael had crossed all of that, making his way to the dining-room that branched off the left side of the foyer—an open space, separated by nothing but an outside archway, which led to a semi-open dining-room. And the cedar table that stood in the center was the statement piece of the room, looking antique against the floor-to-ceiling windows that covered two walls of the dining-room.
The Divine Palace had changed up a lot since the last time he was here. It was quite refreshing to see something elegant and poise and divine. It made for a nice break from the beach house he’d just flown from.
Ismael inhaled the crisp air that cut through the room and watched as servants carefully arranged cutlery and plates on the table. It was high day, so his guess was that the Divine Ones would soon be down for brunch. Ismael wondered if he came at a bad time.
Ismael fiddled with his lilac-colored hair, waiting on anyone to address him. Someone here must have recognized him, at least. He grew up here, even though, the last time he’d seen these Palace walls, he was fourteen years old. Fathered by the Divine Giver, Ismael spent his childhood years playing in the gardens and running about in the foyer. At that time, life was simpler, and there wasn’t a looming threat over the realms.
But time passed, and things changed. Years of small-scale wars, treason, and threat riddled the realms, and the tense atmosphere only proved that the aftermath of those years hadn’t completely worn off. As a matter of fact, to get here was torturous. The only reason he could get into the Ynacci Empire was for the simple fact that Bry flew him here and then gave him a letter for the warriors stationed at the Divine Palace.
Lucky for him, Bry was his godfather. And a former Divine One.
Ismael took another step inside, the servants hustling past him, refusing to take notice. But some other aingeal had to be here. There was no way the servants would’ve been so busy if no one was around. He knew how servants operated. His mother was one before she was lucky enough to be married to the Divine Giver.
Marriage to a Divine One was no easy task, according to his mother. Yo was rigid and formulaic, but Karan was carefree and easy-going. Ismael was his father’s last son, and through the unhinged stories his mother told, Ismael figured that bringing him into this world wasn’t an easy one. So, by the time Ismael was born, his parents were already traveling down the divorce road. When Ismael turned fourteen, Karan returned to Illaryia, and Ismael followed her.
His mother preferred a more laidback setting of sun, salt, and sea. Not the hustle and bustle that Ynacci came with. She much preferred the Celipha Empire, her original home. And in truth, Ismael didn’t mind living there. Ismael had been to Illaryia during his childhood, so moving there permanently never really bothered him as much. Except, Illaryia was the worst place for a creative to find work. The only reason why Ismael left was so that he could find work as a couturier, or at least, a tailor.
Bry had suggested he came back to the Divine Palace for some sort of work since he’d been making very little money in Illaryia. His godfather taught him the art of tailoring, once being a couturier to the Divine Creator before climbing the ranks of the Divine Throne and becoming a Divine One himself.
Truthfully, Ismael wanted to stay in Illaryia as long as he could, but after years of barely surviving on a fisherman’s salary and being unhappy with the job, he decided to try his luck. Life in Illaryia was a bit harsh. Illaryia was, by far, completely backward compared to the rest of Ariwa-Ịte. Illaryia was a place built for those who resented technology and progression. It wasn’t that Ismael was unhappy there, but money needed to be made. Illaryia was stunning and beautiful and relaxing, but it was stifling at the same time.
Ismael wanted more out of his life. He’d tried to venture out into the other tribes that surrounded Illaryia, especially Aria, since that tribe—although labeled a ‘tribe’ by regencies in Celipha—had the cutting-edge technology and the creative atmosphere that Ismael longed for. And he still wasn’t satisfied there. He never wanted to move into the outer regencies of Celipha because although those regencies were riddled with technology and face-paced life, it was unforgiving to those of an artistic nature. He knew he had to leave the Empire completely.
And that’s why he was here.
“Do you need any assistance?”
The young female voice caught Ismael by surprise, and he jolted, turning to face a female that looked completely different from the servants in the dining-room.
With black pearls around her neck and a colorful scarlet-red headwrap elaborately folded into a work of art, Ismael stared at the aingeal, who awaited his reply.
“I’m here for a job.”
“What kind of job?” Her tone was harsh and unforgiving. “This is the business residence of the Divine Throne.”
“I know. Bry sent me here.”
“Bry?” She arched an eyebrow at the mention of the name.
“My godfather.” He did tell Ismael to use his name as a reference.
“Bryël is your godfather?” The female chuckled. “Am I supposed to believe that?”
“I’m Ismael, the youngest son of Yo, the Divine Giver.”
“I know of His sons, but I haven’t heard of you.”
“I’m his last son. For his ex-wife, Karan.”
“Karan left for Illaryia fifty-six years ago.”
Ismael took in a breath, trying to be patient with the female. “I know. I was fourteen years old when she left.”
The female tipped her head to the side. “You don’t look like Yo.” She was trying to verify if Ismael was telling the truth.
And he wasn’t surprised by it. His father was golden-brown in complexion, a tone that perfectly paired with dark brown eyes. But Ismael looked more like his mother with clean white sand-colored skin and light hazel eyes. Though his mother always told him he had the same nose and angular jawbones as his father.
“I’ll get some sort of authentication on you. Can you wait here?”
“I’m willing to.”
Ismael watched as the female climbed the spiral stairs and headed down the hallway, seemingly disappearing into the void only to reemerge on the mezzanine with his father. He looked down at Ismael then said something to the aingeal before quickly disappearing into the hall.
He never changed since the last time he saw him. Not that Ismael expected Him to. He was a Divine One; they were immune to aging, though Bry did mention that as ehols got older, their hair tended to whiten. But all the time, His father’s hair was raven-black. And not the greyed-lavender that Bry sported ever since he decided to stop dying his hair. And Ismael wasn’t sure what that meant.
The female skipped down the stairwell, meeting Ismael back in the archway that separated the dining-room from the foyer. “Oh, He knows you.” A smile plastered her face. “But He’d rather you leave.”
“Did you tell Him that Bry sent me?” Ismael pressed.
Ismael wasn’t necessarily on good standings with his father lately. During Ismael’s time in Illaryia, he didn’t exactly behave as prim and proper as the son of a Divine One ought to have behaved. And a few times, they butted heads, never really seeing eye to eye on anything.
“Can you ask the Divine Creator about the possibility of work?”
“He’s not in. He won’t be in until the next week.”
Ismael’s eyes widened. A week?
He didn’t want to leave without an answer. And he never considered his father’s insult to be one. Though Yo was a Divine One, His jurisdiction was the Chura Empire, so He never had any say in Ismael wanting to find a job in Ynacci. “Can I visit the Creator where He’s at? I need an answer now, or I’ll be out of a job for a week if I don’t see Him.”
“Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do at this moment. His excursions are normally unplanned and sporadic, so even if I wanted to tell you something, I couldn’t.”
“And yet you knew He’d be gone for a week.”
“He informed Yo of this earlier in the day.” The aingeal waved her hand at him, an effort to dismiss him, but Ismael remained firm.
“Can I stay here until I see Him? Then, whatever His answer is, I’ll go by that.”
The aingeal let out a deep sigh. “You can stay here, but only for one week. And you’ll have to stay in the guest room in the Palace’s west wing. It’s just a five-minute trip from here.” The aingeal strutted across the foyer, going toward the rose gardens on the opposite end. Ismael followed her, making his way out and taking in the scenery of the luscious gardens that were vibrant with color.
Even though his time here was short-lived, his memories lasted a lifetime, etched into his mind like a branding burnt into the skin of an Ancient God. These gardens weren’t just a part of his memory; they were a part of his life. His mother worked on in these rose bushes herself. And the cobblestone path through them took him on a nostalgic trip of what Ynacci was like before war and threat. He remembered how his father would pick him up and rest him on His shoulders while they walked through these gardens, and when he got older, those walks turned into conversations about life.
Here, he felt at home and loved.
Ismael’s path down memory lane took him toward his old bedroom here. The west wing was always reserved for the females, the children, and any guests invited to spend the night here. And because he was the youngest child living here at the time, he was given the largest bedroom, nearly a suite. It was a tall space, framed with ivory columns that stood nearly fifteen feet tall, and artistically chiseled by skill workers that knew how to sculpt—
“Where are you going?” The sound of a not-so-thrilled female echoed.
Ismael looked back, realizing that he’d been on the path to his old bedroom. “Sorry,” he said as he got back on the cobblestone path that the female was on. He continued to follow her, quietly uprooting the memories of his past.
“Yamanda, love,” a deep, nearly thunderous voice vibrated in the air.
The female in front of him spun around, and so did Ismael.
Tall and hidden behind a black hooded cloak, standing in the middle of the garden’s cobblestone pathway was the very Elohim the aingeal had claimed wasn’t here.
“You’re here.” She sounded surprised.
He recognized him. How strange. How flattering.
“I’m here for a job.”
He stood there quiet, then He stepped closer.
Yamanda—now that Ismael learned her name—cast a demeaning glance at him; it was obvious she was upset that he’d been right the entire time. The Divine Ones did know him.
“A job? As what?”
“A couturier, Kasị-Elu.”
“And what makes you think that here would be the best place for you?”
Ismael swallowed. “Bry recommended that I come here. He trained me in tailoring and thought that I was fit to ask You for a job.”
“The Divine Giver dismissed him, but he insisted on staying,” Yamanda interjected.
“I have a tailor already.” The immediate response was harsh.
“I understand.” Ismael cleared his throat, taking a subtle but respectful bow to the Divine One. “I’ll leave. Thank You for Your time.”
“I didn’t say I liked the tailor I have.”
Ismael straightened himself and tried to choke back the chuckle. “Pardon?”
“I do need a new tailor, but I’d rather mentor you Myself. Would it offend you if I asked if you became more of an apprentice?”
“I would be honored.” The thought of being mentored by the Divine Creator of all things caused his heart to skip with joy. Imagine, he’d get to live in the Palace and learn from the Divine Creator—the same person that taught all the excellent couturiers that Ismael learned about. It was more than just an honor. It was a rare privilege only given to literal Divine Ones. Ismael’s cheeks flushed red as he tried to fight the excitement within.
“You can start right now if you like. Is that too soon for you?”
“No.” Ismael quickly shook his head. “I’m ready right now. Maybe a place to rest my things, and I’ll be fine.”
“I’m right now on an excursion, so you’ll have to come with Me.” He turned His head toward Yamanda. “Would you be kind enough to take his things? He has his personal room here, just beyond the rose garden over there.”
Yamanda curtseyed, taking Ismael’s bag but giving him a very disparaging glare. “Lucky, are you,” she whispered to him behind a pretentious smile.
“You’ll get to like me,” he whispered back.
“Follow Me,” the Divine Creator instructed. “Everything that you need, I’ll provide it for you.”