For Belor, life in Cerulis provides a myriad of comforts: endless food, a nice and warm home, and his dream job. He has life all planned out.
But when four-year-old Saya is about to be executed, Belor makes an irreversible decision that upheaves his entire life.
Soon, the pair find themselves on the run, fighting for survival. Saya is no ordinary four-year-old. She is a half-Aeterna, a race of beings banned from Cerulis.
Will Belor be able to keep Saya alive?
A story about integrity, choices, and struggles, Severed Ties is the prequel to the Aeterna Chronicles. Follow Belor as he meets the two protagonists, Khara and Essie, before books 3 to 6.
Belor’s footsteps echoed in the dark alleyway as he tried to tiptoe on the uneven cobblestones. The swishing and rustling of his cloak cut into the silence, jarring his nerves. So, he gathered the edges tightly around his body. He could only hope that the cloak’s material hid his aura more than anything else.
The cloak was his backup in case the procedure he underwent a few hours ago wasn’t successful. To dampen the white aura that identified him as a member of the House of Cats had been excruciating pain. His skin still prickled. He wondered whether such pain was worth going through for a meeting with the enemy.
Doggedly, he made his way forward. The meeting was unexpected. Especially at a time when he had his life planned out: Lilya and he would share a home on the set date, the birth pod was booked, and the date of their newborn was set two years from now.
All Belor wanted was a peaceful life: work in the Labs, develop theories, test them, and create new experiments.
And then the request for the meeting came. Darn, why did the enemy contact him? Why him, of all people? Why now?
Deep down, you know the answer. It could be just a fleeting feeling. Maybe it was a word said in passing, a frozen smile, or a sense of discomfort. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but yes, something was definitely wrong.
A glint caught his eye, and Belor froze. His heart thumped in his chest. The meeting point was right ahead, ten steps away. He hesitated for a moment and leaned forward. Ah, it was just the light glinting off a windowsill. For a moment, he thought it was the enemy: the Silver Eyes—or the Aeternas, as they called themselves.
Four years ago, Cerulis City banned them from its grounds. Why? Apparently, to protect its citizens. To Belor, that explanation made little sense. The Silver Eyes had never shown any signs of aggression. Nor did they seem to have any intention to invade and take over Cerulis. But the damage was done, and the fear sowed and ingrained.
Now Belor was on his guard. He couldn’t help the fear growing inside him. Worse, he’d brought no weapons. The fact that he had “forgotten” to do so indicated that he trusted Kyel. Right? The Silver Eye had been his friend before the injunction. Why would things be different now? Kyel would never hurt him.
“I see you’ve changed your aura,” a deep, gravelly voice said an arm’s length away, startling him.
A flash of teeth glowed in the dark corner. Belor took a deep breath to calm himself down. His fear seemed to amuse Kyel, and the thought made Belor fume. So much was at stake when he had agreed to this meeting.
“And you have none,” Belor retorted. “I see you’ve changed your eye color,”
Kyel’s eyes didn’t have the usual silver rings. Likely some sort of concealment. Rubbing his forehead, he stepped forward, the angles of his face shining under the moonlight.
He hasn’t aged at all, Belor thought. They say the Silver Eyes lived for hundreds of years. Their advanced tech not only granted them prolonged life but also superior fighting skills and weapons. Again, a finger of fear ran down Belor’s spine. He couldn’t help it.
Kyel has shown you nothing but kindness. Never had the Aeternas been aggressive. That was just a rumor spreading. Get hold of yourself.
All Belor remembered of Kyel was his good-humored smile and laugh. He had never seen that deep ‘V’ between his eyebrows and worried expression.
“Thank you for coming,” Kyel said quickly. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure you would. As I remember, changing one’s aura even for a day must have caused you lots of pain.”
The pity in his eyes smothered Belor’s anger. “If anyone finds out about our meeting,” Belor said, “I’d have to stand trial. I could lose everything.”
“I know the stakes, but I need a favor. There’s no one else I can turn to.”
Belor frowned. “Is this regarding Yelona? As I remember, she said you left for good, and then came the ban. Do you still want to meet her?”
“No!” The fierce growl was so loud that Belor jumped. For a moment, Kyel’s eyes flashed brightly. Then his shoulders slumped, and his head bowed.
“I loved your sister, but no. I would never meet her again.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “I didn’t leave your sister. I vowed to stay by her side even if the Aeternas’ Council banished me. But it was she who ordered me to leave and never return.”
Belor opened his mouth to protest and then stopped. That sense of unease, the itch just below his ribs, returned. For a while, he had known that something was wrong with Yelona. No, he could be wrong. Did Yelona… The confusion left a bitter taste in his mouth. Who was lying? Who was telling the truth?
“She was pregnant when I left,” Kyel continued. “No newborn conceived outside our race is known to survive. Nor does the mother. I gave her meds to ensure she would survive, and soon after, I was banned entry to Cerulis. I wasn’t sure whether she survived until a few days ago. Not knowing nearly broke me.”
Suddenly, Kyel straightened and raised his chin. “And to my surprise, I discovered that it was Yelona who proposed and set the injunction in motion.”
“She must have had good reason to.”
“To shut me out? To ban all Aeternas? I also found out she gave birth to our daughter.”
At Belor’s guilty look, Kyel nodded. “I know she’s in your care.”
“Yelona barely survived the birth,” Belor said. “She refused a birth pod.” His sister’s insistence on carrying the child till birth had never made sense to him. Her pain and endurance had awed the Cerulians. They saw strength and gave her the keys to the city. But the truth seemed to be entirely different.
Belor now understood the unease that had tormented him for so long.
“How did she know an Aeterna child wouldn’t survive a birth pod?” Kyel asked.
Because she had already tried it. Belor cleared his throat. “So, the meds you brought from your world gave her the strength to bring the child into the world. Now, why are you back here after five years? Is it because of your daughter?”
Had Kyel sneaked into Cerulis to take his child away? Belor bristled at the thought. The truth was he had grown attached to four-year-old Saya.
“It’s only a matter of time until the Aeternas know of her birth. All you need to know is the Aeternas will kill her. If need be, they’ll storm Cerulis to get their hands on her.”
“Because she wasn’t supposed to survive the birth?”
“Because of a darn prophecy about half-breeds. It’s complicated, Belor. We used to have a Seer who could travel in the Time Vortex. She foresaw three half-Aeternas. She foresaw the destruction they brought.”
“You used to? Is she dead now?”
“She also foretold that one of the three would be her successor. If my daughter survived the birth, this means she is probably one of the three. We have to hide her.”
A thought suddenly crossed Belor’s mind, and he raised his palm. “Hold on. You’re just assuming she’s your child. We should run some tests. I still don’t understand why Yelona would push you away. You two were perfect for each other.”
“You don’t get it, do you? Your sister manipulated me. I know she keeps blood samples from me in the Labs. As for the child, I—I heard her voice when I went close to the Labs two days ago. I know she’s mine.”
The Silver Eyes’ ability for mind speech was...mind-boggling. He once watched Kyel and his brother Nyko stare at each, raise eyebrows, and then laugh. Kyel once tried to explain thoughts and speech as channels he could open and close. The channels also worked both ways. Belor could never understand.
“Did Saya hear you?”
“Saya... So that’s her name. No, I shielded my thoughts. No need to confuse her more. I heard other voices and incoherent words, as well. I can’t be sure if she’s the only one. But hers was the strongest. I heard her call you, and I felt her relief and joy. Like you’re the only happiness in her dark world.”
“Dark world…” Belor repeated. Kyel must be mistaken. For the last few months, he had taken over Saya’s care, yes. But he’d never seen her smile or look joyful at his presence. She’d never thanked him for the candies he brought to her in secret.
Before he could argue, Kyel explained quickly. “Aeterna’s mind voices have a distinct echoing sound. I know she’s an Aeterna.”
Belor sighed. It was a mind-boggling story of conspiracy. “Let’s say I believe you. Yelona was experimenting on you. She conspired to even create a child with you, duped you, and threw you out of Cerulis. Now you’ve come back to claim what’s yours because your race believes half-breeds shouldn’t exist and be killed. All because of some kind of prophecy. Let’s say, as far-fetched as that may sound, I believe all that. I still don’t understand why Yelona would do such a thing. What is her motive?”
“Does Yelona visit her?”
Belor thought for a while and then shook his head. “No. I never understood why, either. Maybe Saya reminds her of the pain she went through.”
Kyel leaned closer. His eyes darkened, and his lips twisted into a thin line. Belor flinched. For the first time in all their meetings, he understood why the Silver Eyes were feared. Kyel could kill him with a single touch of his hand. At least, according to the rumors.
“You call her Saya. Which means the shadow, the follower. But she isn’t. She has such a pure mind which is her own. She needs love.” Kyel paused and then sighed. “I—I didn’t shield my thoughts fast enough that night I heard you. I may have channeled my thoughts. I didn’t intend to, but I couldn’t help it. I had to comfort her. Because of me, she is now in danger.”
Watching Kyel’s despair unsettled Belor. A sense of dread slowly pooled inside him. “Two days ago… Why are you in Cerulis, Kyel? What do you want from me?”
“I came to Cerulis because I heard a rumor.” He waved a dismissive hand at Belor’s raised eyebrow. “Information is always bartered, and some of you Cerulians easily bought. I heard of this child—extraordinary apparently—and came to investigate. When she heard my voice, she wasn’t comforted at all. She panicked and was quite...aggressive.”
Saya aggressive? Belor clamped down on his protest and waited for Kyel to continue.
“You felt it, didn’t you?” Kyel continued. “She is no ordinary child. She has extraordinary strength and healing abilities.”
“Yelona says it’s for her safety to keep her sequestered.”
“Admit it. You’ve all treated her as an experiment. Testing, prodding, isolating her.” Kyel retrieved a small bottle from his pocket. “She is also very sick. Please give this to her.”
Belor hesitated. How did Kyel know so much? There must be an Aeterna spy in the Labs. “Is that why you called me? I’m sure your spies would’ve gladly obliged.”
“You’re the only one I trust.”
“I’ll try, but no promises.” Belor pocketed the bottle. He clamped down on his doubts. Did Kyel believe in that prophecy? No, Belor thought. He looked genuine, and Saya was his child. He’d never harm the child.
A shuffle echoed close by. Belor flinched and whispered. “Someone’s coming this way. I have to get back.”