How can Kallum ignore his visions when they show him the deaths of the people he cares about? Clinging to a thread of hope, left with no choice, he takes matters into his own hands and returns to Levitor—only to be caught and arrested.
Now, stuck in a prison cell, his fight for survival begins. Not only is he pitted against a Reaver, but the Aeternas suddenly show up and demand the city hand him over.
Kallum’s very existence becomes a life-or-death chase. But he vows to fix the aetherium, seek out his father, and escape the Aeternas.
Doing so won’t be easy.
Doubts torment him, and his thirst for blood is all-consuming.
Failure isn’t an option. Kallum must push himself and decide how far he’s willing to go.
Find out in Coils of Revenge, the second installment in the Aeterna Chronicles. If you love young adult sci-fi, portal fantasy, time travel, and a touch of romance, don’t miss Kris Ruhler’s Aeterna Chronicles. Join the adventure!
The man’s hood fell back. His face, framed by gray hair, shone under the thin rays of moonlight filtering through the window. A cloudless sky with a moon. Kallum wasn’t in the domed city of Levitor, for sure. Could he be in Mythren city?
He watched the old man step close to a bed in the room and lift his arm. A blade glinted in his hand. No, not a knife, but the needle of a syringe. A young girl with short, dark hair and slim, angular cheekbones lay on the bed. The man hesitated, a flicker of pity in his eyes.
“Stop!” Kallum shouted.
The young girl didn’t move. Nor did the man. Ugh. Not again.
Kallum hated being a mere observer in his dream—he was pretty sure he was dreaming—where no one could see or hear him. What was the point, since he couldn’t warn the young girl?
Kallum’s travel through time in these dream visions was anything but smooth. During his visits to the past, he could interact with people and “borrow” items. But these dream visions, which he understood were possible futures, were tricky. At times people noticed him, and sometimes he was only an observer. Like now.
Which meant his consciousness had traveled. Right now, his body was still back in the Quod, Levitor’s prison. At least Kallum hoped so, or there was no way to explain his disappearance.
He couldn’t interact with his surroundings, but he had to try to save the girl from that old man. As the man pulled on a mask and his knuckles turned white on the syringe, Kallum rushed to her side.
“Wake up!” Kallum shouted to the girl. “Get up now!” His hands shook her shoulders. For an instant, the coarse fabric of her clothes brushed his hands.
The girl’s eyes opened, and Kallum pulled back. A silver ring flickered around her iris and then disappeared. She was an Aeterna. One who could somehow get rid of the silver in the eyes. How strange.
She grabbed the man’s arms with both hands, pushing the syringe away from her. The old man pushed harder, leaning forward. Kallum reached for him but to no avail. He couldn’t get a grip.
The girl suddenly twisted her arms, and her hips bucked. Still gripping the syringe, the man lost his balance and stumbled against the headboard. The girl sat up and swung her legs off the bed, shaking her head and looking woozy.
Then Kallum understood why the man was wearing a mask. Hazy smoke was spurting out of a canister on the floor. It seemed to affect the girl. The old man straightened up and lunged again.
“Watch out!” Kallum cried out.
The girl seemed to hear him as she twisted just in time. The syringe landed on the mattress.
The girl’s movements were a blur as she rolled over onto the floor and crouched down. She shook her head again as if to dispel the fog.
Kallum felt himself fading away. His vision clouded as the old man growled in frustration. The girl was on her feet and facing her attacker, her fists raised and holding her breath.
Kallum let out a sigh. He had given her a chance. Now it was up to her.
He woke up next, drenched in sweat, finding himself in the familiar underground cell inside the Quod. The slodon, which was twice as big as his fist, was sawing its teeth on his cloak’s hem. Its squinty eyes, whiskers, and long pointy snout made it appear cuddly and helpless. Kallum kicked it off the bed. It landed in a shadowy corner of the cell, pretending to be dead for a while. Then it got up and sniffed, the kick forgotten. The creature crept back toward him and gnawed on the bed’s foot.
Any chance of escape from this cell was slim. The only way was through the main door at the end of the corridor. That was if he managed to get past the electrified bars first. Kallum got off the bed, and as he neared the bars, a faint buzz sounded. The slodon trailing next to his boots squealed and retreated into the shadows.
Light beaming from the ceiling filtered through metal grills along the corridor. The circular beams shone on the hard, stone floor at regular intervals. The grills were wide enough to fit one’s body through, but the walls of the tubes carrying light from above were too slick and had no grips to climb up. Distant clangs and shouts echoed at times from the grills. More likely, these cells were under the Arena or the training grounds.
The beams had dimmed twice, which meant he had been in the cell for at least two nights. Not that it mattered to know the time of the day. In this place, there was no routine or time set for meals. Time drifted and seemed endless. Kallum never had so much free time on his hands and so little food in his stomach. He was sure that he would die of boredom rather than lack of food and water. Thoughts could distract him only for so long.
Even if he could get past the electrified bars and the main door, there was a maze of tunnels to get to a heavily guarded pressure lift. During his “fitness” routine, Kallum had walked around endless corridors and given up on mapping an escape route the previous day.
“You know the slodon’s vicious teeth can shred a person in hours, right?” Flyx said in the cell opposite Kallum’s. “Blazed pests!”
Judging by the pile of rags they called a bed in this cell and the dents in the wooden bed frame, Kallum believed him. He shuddered at the thought of those prisoners too weak to push them away.
“They forgot to feed us again,” Flyx said, his hopeful eyes on the main door. “Man, I’m so hungry I could roast these wretched creatures. They keep picking at my boots.”
He and Kallum both felt the harsh effects of meager meals. It had been a while since the main door had opened and their last meal delivered. Flyx, who had a ravenous appetite, was more affected. On the first day, the hunger pangs got Kallum so desperate that he was tempted to open a portal to get out and just escape.
But where would he end up? Earmon said it was dangerous to open a portal anywhere; the Bunker was the safest place. And if Kallum were to open a time portal…he would only end back here in the same place he was right now.
He swayed, and his vision clouded again. Kallum closed his eyes. Two days of little food and water had brought him to his knees. His hunger was at first like a voracious animal scrabbling inside, an ache in his belly. Now, exhaustion weighed on every part of his body. When he was fighting to keep awake, the animal inside would come clawing back at times like these.
The silver lining to the slodons’ presence was that it kept Kallum and Flyx on their toes. It gave them something to do other than sleep.
A thud sounded, followed by a slodon’s squeal. Flyx continued, “There must be something we can do! I never thought—I never thought Father would ever put me in the Quod. Don’t get me wrong. He’s stubborn and a pain. But I always thought that—that I mattered… Why did you even come back? You could have sent a message or something.”
Flyx was furious with him. He had good reason to. By defying his brother Haggen, he’d risked all to make sure Kallum got out of Levitor. Even Malkin, Flyx’s father, who now had proclaimed himself head of the Shadow Council and Levitor’s ruler, couldn’t get Flyx out of this.
Kallum’s attention snapped back to his boots, where the slodon was gnawing at its edges. He admired this creature’s perseverance while the other three slodons scrabbled along the cell’s edges, keeping away from him.
And that thought—which he ought to be thankful for—downed his spirits. For the other slodons sensed what Kallum was. He was no ordinary Levitorian. He was an Aeterna, a technologically advanced race that had bestowed a stone on Levitor: the aetherium. The stone yielded immense energy, and Levitorians had built a dome and lived a lavish, safe life.
Now the dome was under threat, the shield was vanishing, and the stone’s energy was spiking. Only one device could restore its balance, and it was on Mythren, another world that only Kallum could access through a portal.
Two days ago, he had been out of Levitor’s dome. He had flown to Mount Meru and crossed the portal, landing on Mythren. Trapped in a dust storm, he had had two visions in which the people he cared about would die soon.
Kallum couldn’t bear that thought. Not when he held power to stop the future. Visions had a purpose. There must be a reason why he foresaw them.
So instead of following the plan to retrieve the device that would fix Levitor’s aetherium, Kallum had crossed back to Winevera. Then he had been captured, flown back into Levitor, and tossed straight into the Quod.
Imprisoned in this cell, he had little power, much less the ability to stop two deaths. Upon his arrival at the Quod, Kallum had told Flyx about seeing Boniface dead. His other goal was to convince his friend never to leave Levitor. For in the vision, Flyx died on Mount Meru next to the portal to Mythren.
“Aegon let the guards beat you up,” Flyx said thoughtfully, leaning forward and squinting at him. “I can’t believe she’d do that. Not her. She must have her reasons,” he added. His tone held some doubt. “She helped us, right?”
He had a point, but still, Kallum felt a bitter betrayal. Aegon, who had urged him to fight back and stood to defend him—the girl he had trained with at the Academy—had helped capture and put him in the Quod. She’d once believed in Kallum and helped plan the heist in Lysan’s quarters. But where did her loyalty lie?
That had failed miserably, but they’d learned something vital. Lysan had information from Hedge, the Aeterna who had once lived in Levitor. Now Kallum and a few others knew Levitor’s days were numbered because the aetherium would implode soon. Everything on planet Winevera would be reduced to nothing. Blazed domes, they had such little time, less than three months since the aetherium’s first spike.
Bile crept up Kallum’s throat, and he forced himself to walk around the cell. He avoided the corners where the slodons scrabbled about. A rumble like a quake broke the silence, startling him. Flyx moaned from his cot, an arm over his eyes.
“I always thought Aegon was on my side,” Kallum said carefully. “I thought I knew her well, but not anymore.”
Flyx grimaced. “You need to focus on the bigger picture. Once I get out, I’ll find a way to get Boniface out too. The trial and sentence are in two days. Sneak him out even if I must bribe all the guards. Getting the aetherium fixed is your responsibility. You’re the only one who can restore the gap in our dome shield. Reavers are waiting outside, biding their time. What if the shield disappears at ground level? There’d be a horde invasion!”
Kallum once had a vision of Reavers running in the clearing behind Ankur. But saying that out loud would only confirm Flyx’s speculations.
“Levitor can stand against it,” he said. “The cirbonium wall was nearly complete last time I heard from Lady Althia, and there are enough weapons, right?”
“The weapons are all aetherium-powered,” Flyx replied impatiently.
Kallum needed a change of subject. So much weight on his shoulders. He examined the nooks and crannies on the walls. His hand barely fit in the depression where the slodons had disappeared. The rodents could squeeze into holes as small as three fingers.
“Aegon brought me here from Mount Meru. She didn’t beat me up or let the guards. These scratches are…from a dream.”
Kallum thought Flyx would laugh, but he only shook his head.
“Darn, I don’t envy you. Can’t even sleep without getting your ass kicked. Do you mean that you got this black patch on your face and those scratches in these dream visions? Was it a Reaver like in the FIS test?”
Kallum’s breath caught for an instant as he remembered the red-haired girl in his dream the previous night. “No, it was a big Flugan. Hear me. I can’t fully describe this dream vision I had about a girl. It’s like I’m not there. I shout, but nobody notices me. She was patting the beast like a friend. I then found myself bruised and stuck in a tunnel and barely escaped with the help of a Reaver. But then the previous night, that beast came at me again.”
“Wait! That’s so messed up. You’re going too fast. I can’t get this time thingy figured out in my head.”
“I can’t interact, but that big Flugan, Ari, could sense me, and…its strikes darn hurt, yes. It’s all confusing.”
“Ari? Like the big Flugan in the legend? So the girl’s name is Ember, right?” Flyx said, startling Kallum.
“How did you know?”
“You’ve been muttering in your sleep. Is Ember in Levitor? How do we find her?”
“She’s Princess Zenithia’s daughter.”
“Zenithia? Queen Bodhee’s daughter? Then they must both be in Mythren!”
“I went through a time portal and saw the princess. Zenithia is dead.”
To Kallum’s surprise, Flyx looked distraught at the news. “That was a vision of the future, right?” he said. “Please tell me that it was.”
“I don’t have a clue about the timeline, but I’m quite sure it was the past.”
“It’s sort of complicated, Flyx. When I saw Ember in the dream vision, she had a healed scar on her cheek. But later, when I walked through the time portal, her cheek was bruised and purple. I’m sure Zenithia is already dead.”
“It’s just…. From what I dug up from history, Zenithia turned the outcome of the Battle of Ari. She allied herself with Ari, the bigger Flugan. With its help, Levitorians and the Flugans defeated the Reavers in the last invasion.”
“She’s dead now, Flyx.”
“But you saw her daughter patting Ari, an Irgan, right? So, there is hope. She can control the Irgan. We must find her and bring her back here. The Royals have some connection with the aetherium, and they can help fix it.”
Could Ember fix it? Had she inherited the synergy? Somehow, it felt wrong to bring the girl to Levitor. Earmon had said something about this, but Kallum couldn’t remember when and why. He was too light-headed to think of any course of action. No, he couldn’t lift Flyx’s hopes.
“We can’t bring her here,” Kallum said, shaking his head, “even if we’re invaded. “The Shadowers will hunt her down. They will never let her inside. Her presence will threaten their power. I’ll find the device and fix the aetherium.”
“Shame we couldn’t find the medallion in Lysan’s quarters,” Flyx continued. “Once I get out, I’ll try to get it back. That leech must be hiding it somewhere. It could help to quickly track down your father and the device.” Flyx peered at him, cocking his head to the side. The shadows outlined his spiky hair. “You’re probably right about bringing the girl here. You looked to be in full panic mode just now while you were dreaming.”
“It was some other girl on Mythren,” Kallum said. Flyx whistled, and he hurried to explain. “She was an Aeterna too, but the silver rings in her eyes seem to flicker in and out. I’m sure I was in Mythren.”
Flyx cleared his throat, but Kallum reckoned he was stifling a laugh. “Did she beat you up too, like Ari? Then you had plenty of practice: Ari, Aegon, another Aeterna.”
“She was the one being attacked, in fact. I think—I think she’s one of the three half-Aeternas. It was dark. There was a weapon by the door, bigger and rougher than our blasters. Her boots were lined against the wall next to neatly folded clothes. It looked like a military uniform. The Aeternas will go after her if they know of her existence.”
“What nonsense of this advanced race to believe in prophecies from a Seer. You sure that was what Earmon said?”
“Yes. My father told him three half-Aeternas will end humanity, and I’m one of the three. The Aeternas mean to stop us either by killing or…recruiting us. The Aeterna I talked to said I was their new Seer, but I can’t be sure of his intentions.”
Flyx scoffed. “Talked? I was there, remember? He mind-tortured you! No way his intentions are any good. The Aeternas want to control you.”
The Aeternas had been searching for an Aeterna Seer for a long time, Kallum had been told. They would never stop until they got their hands on him. In fact, Kallum believed they were using the aetherium to seek out their Seer while knowing full well the aetherium would eventually implode and kill billions.
So Kallum would never agree to be on their side. His visions were one of many possible futures anyway, and they were fluid. As Lex pointed out, by getting a glimpse of a future, you were likely changing its outcome.
“It’s not that great to be an Aeterna,” Kallum said, shrugging. “You feel each other’s presence. We might be deep down underground, but I can sense the Aeterna above inside Krohnur. I must constantly keep up this mental wall to block him. It’s exhausting, and he’s always prodding. He’s trying to find out whether I have knowledge of other half-Aeternas.”
“Don’t let that Aeterna know about that girl. He’ll set off for Mythren.” Flyx’s outline suddenly jumped off the bed. “I got an idea! You’re their new Seer, right? Just make something up. You can join them temporarily.” Flyx made air quotes with his fingers. “Then tell them it’s alright. No need to panic, no end to the world. Humanity survives, blah, blah, blah. They’ll just believe you, right?”
Kallum shook his head. “Join them? The Aeterna in Levitor said they would keep me safe, but what if it was all a lie? What stops them from killing me, huh? They tried to kill my father—well, not kill exactly, but they tried to extract his brain and preserve it in a Cryo unit. They must have the tech to extract information from just a brain. No, I can’t take that risk...not until we find the device to save Levitor.”
“I know that look,” Flyx said. The outline of his head bobbed side to side. “Looks like you’re guilty, or you’re hiding something.”
Kallum grimaced. The beams of light shone well on him. He hesitated for a moment. “You remember when we first met? It was in Krohnur, and you unlocked the FIS test room.”
“Yeah, all right. The medics just evacuated the building, leaving me groggy and with a bleeding arm. How could I forget? The few shields on the dome turned off, and we had this gap above our heads. What about it?”
All Kallum had wanted back then was to work in the Control Center, managing and sorting data. He was good at that. But he turned out to be an Aeterna who could open portals and travel to other worlds. And he had this unique ability to travel through time too. Which he didn’t have much control over.
He cleared his throat. “I told you before. It’s all my fault. During the FIS test, Elcar, the medic, tried to erase my memory. I panicked. Alwyn showed me the feed: I disappeared from the pod. At the same time, the blackout happened. A time portal, it seemed, destabilized the aetherium. I caused the shield to fail, Flyx.” Kallum took a deep breath, realizing how much the knowledge weighed on him. “According to Earmon, it happened to Turak too. After an attack, my father disappeared into a time portal and glimpsed the future. The shield failed. The Battle of Ari followed with the Reavers’ invasion.”
Flyx remained silent for a long time. Then he finally said in an even tone, “It doesn’t matter who caused it and how it happened. Levitor won the war thanks to Ari, Princess Zenithia, and Turak with his device. Now we have no device, no Ari, no Royals. Levitor will fall again unless you go back to Mythren. If you believe that it was no coincidence and your fault, do something about it. Open a portal right here and right now. You can get out of here. We can no longer sit and do nothing."