Once upon a time, a girl was born. A hundred years later, she grew up. Aurianna must rewrite the past in order to save the future. When a mysterious stranger sweeps her back in time, she discovers there is more to her life than she ever imagined. Aurianna must race against time to uncover the truth about a catastrophe that will leave the world broken, divided, and at war.
Targeted Age Group:: Teen and Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I grew up reading and watching many versions of fairy tales, both old and new. I have always loved unique spins on traditional stories, so I decided to incorporate this into my writing. I write "stories of myth and magic" that cross over into multiple genres, but they are mostly fantasy at their core.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Every character has their own unique personality that shows in their dialogue and reactions. They lend both their strengths and weaknesses to the journey. I try to give my characters realistic backstories that shape them yet do not entirely define them.
Hoist and march, heave and drop.
Today of all days, Aurianna longed to be almost anywhere else. She desperately wished she could avoid looking at both Damon and at the burdens they shared.
He kept grinning at her like an idiot as they carried one corpse after another down the hallway in the depths of the Consilium to the burning pit of magma. Approaching those who guarded the flames, Aurianna and Damon heaved and tossed their load before hurrying away, eager to leave behind the horror and the smell of burning flesh—but reluctant as well, knowing they were just going to have to haul another to the same fate.
Hoist and march, heave and drop.
Aurianna always hated seeing this, hated being a part of it. She knew the people were criminals. Aunt Larissa had been telling her the story since Aurianna was a little girl.
“Once upon a time, not so long ago, people began to fall from the sky,” she would begin. “Dark shadows erupted into dazzling shards of light as the night sky was filled with bodies pouring from the clouds. Everyone stayed away, terrified of the strange beings who fell from the heavens but did not die.”
When she was younger, the words didn’t always make sense to her, but as she grew older, Aurianna began to understand and appreciate the horrible truth they revealed.
“A group we call the Carpos was assigned to hunt down and question them. Eventually, they reported back, claiming the strangers were trespassers from a distant future who’d come to steal our resources and take them back to the future, along with as many of the people as they could capture—to be their slaves.”
The woman was a masterful storyteller, always conveying more than she said.
“Horrified at this revelation, everyone let go of their doubts and curiosity, no longer questioning the need for the strangers to be rounded up and put to death. They became numb to the smell, the sight, the sounds. . . .”
But for Aurianna, the fear and anger of her people was never enough to dissolve her own revulsion at having to take part in all of it. Something in the way her aunt told the tale gave Aurianna a sick feeling deep in her core. She couldn’t overlook the fact that only hours before, these corpses had been living, breathing individuals. When the bodies were ready to be taken to the burning pits, they were just a pile of discarded refuse.
Hoist and march, heave and drop.
Despite these feelings and without any choice in the matter, Aurianna continued in the morbid dance, grabbing the arms as Damon grabbed the legs, awkwardly moving down the hall with—quite literally—dead weight between them. And still, he beamed stupidly at her, prattling on in a conversation he was unknowingly having with himself. Aurianna was in no mood for lighthearted banter. All her mind could do was focus on the memories of the morning and the undesirable task at hand.
No, it hadn’t exactly been a grand start to the day, getting the absolute worst labor assignment. And this day was no more grim than all the rest, but for some reason her patience had worn thin lately. No one harbored much patience these days, with the Darkness seemingly intoxicated on the joy it lapped from the air.
Even standing in line to receive her work detail for the day had been an exercise in frustration. The Praefect on duty had been working by himself that morning, causing the line to stretch down the street and wrap around the nearest corner. The Consils, the governing body of her people, usually kept the number of Praefects to a minimum in order to maintain the position’s prestige, but typically at least three of them handed out labor assignments in the mornings. The Praefects were nothing more than an extension of the Consils, performing whatever tasks were asked of them by their esteemed leaders. There was, however, a fair bit of bowing and scraping required to obtain the coveted role. The Praefects were tasked with anything from running errands for the Consils to guarding the flames of the burning pit.
When the nasty little Praefect with the balding head and clammy palms had slapped the service docket in her hand early that morning, she hadn’t even looked at the details of her assignment for the day until she had almost passed the Consilium.
The brightly lit Consilium was an alien monstrosity among the low-lying homes and shacks scattered in tiers across the rolling hills of the land. Within the walls of this imposing structure, the Consils met to govern and rule over the people of their small community. The structure beamed with an unnatural glow from an abundance of what the Consils called “electric power.” No one knew where it came from or why it only existed at the Consilium.
Stopping in the lee of the building as it loomed before her, she’d looked at the paper in her hand, silently cursing. She hated any assignment that brought her even close to the building. Something about it struck her with a sense of foreboding, even though everyone who worked and lived there seemed happy and content. Of course they were. They had electric-powered everything.
Still, something unnerved her about it.
Hoist and march, heave and drop.
Aurianna came out of her dark thoughts to focus again on Damon’s expectant smile. She had wished over and over throughout the morning that he would stop looking at her like that. They were adults now, not children. The one kiss they had shared years ago had been innocent, and she had regretted it the moment it happened. Damon had been like a brother to her for almost twenty years now. Nothing would ever change that fact. Aurianna had been attempting to avoid one-on-one time with him ever since “the incident” and had succeeded quite well until today.
She sighed, reaching up to her headscarf and pushing a stray lock of her light copper-brown hair back up into its folds. She yanked the knot tight with a quick jerk of her hands before bending to take up a new burden. Heavy physical labor had never suited her, particularly when it came to the horrid business of transporting dead bodies to the burning pit.
“So, how is your aunt doing these days?” Damon attempted to smile at her despite the unfortunate load they carried between them. The sweat sticking his dark-brown hair to his forehead threatened to run down into his eyes.
Aurianna gave a half smile back, certain he could see through the feigned gesture. “She’s doing well. About the same as always, I guess. Never seems to age as fast as the rest of us.” Thinking of her aunt made her laugh. “I bet she’ll be running around attending to me in my old age.” The image brought another smile—this time genuine—to her face.
Hoist and march, heave and drop.
It wasn’t until she heard another voice—more a raspy whisper—that she returned to reality.
The stench of burning flesh permeated the air, suffocating and choking her. Yet it faded from her senses as she registered that one simple word—a plaintive cry that tilted her world into something unrecognizable to her own eyes.
Aurianna pivoted around with her upper body, looking for the source of the voice—anyone who might be passing by—but the empty hallway revealed nothing. She peered back at Damon to see if he had heard it as well. Eyes wide with some unknown emotion and half-covered by his long hair, Damon had his focus locked on a point just below her waist—an odd and uncomfortable gaze.
She was about to ask him just what the hell he was staring at when she heard the whispered plea again. Looking down, she saw two deep pools of pale-green staring back at her. The intensity of the man’s gaze seemed to bore a hole into her lungs, stealing away her breath.
Dead bodies were one thing. The not-so-dead one in her arms caused her grip to tighten as she tried, in vain, to inhale. His cracked lips parted, opening myriad fissures where dried blood had stained tiny rivulets of red.
When it—he—spoke again, her entire body froze, and her paralyzed hands lost their grip on the man’s arms. He fell in slow motion, the action feeling like a lifetime in her confused mind. She refused to believe her eyes, to believe the impossible.
The dead normally lacked the desire—and capacity—for speech.
But the dead wanted company.
For one sharp moment, Aurianna froze and let her senses return. The man’s eyes were slightly open and gazing intently at her. That word, that plea for help, was all she heard in that instant. Damon had also forfeited his grip on the man’s legs and was slowly backing away, so she grasped the stranger’s arms again and proceeded to drag him into the nearest open room, mindful of the possibility of a Praefect walking by at any moment. Damon was in a daze but followed as if he were attached to them by an invisible thread.
Aurianna laid the man on a faded oval rug in the middle of the room and ran to close the door. The sound of the door slamming shut roused Damon from his stupor. He looked at her, then at the half-dead man lying on the floor.
As she knelt to speak with the man, Damon grabbed her upper arm and screeched in her ear, “What the hell are you doing, Aurianna? That man is dangerous! We must tell someone. Now.” When she refused to move, he backed away, shaking his head. “You can’t be serious?”
Steeling her amber gaze on him, Aurianna spoke with calm determination. “Damon, the man is alive. He spoke to us. You heard it, right? I will not take a living being to the flames, Damon. Do you hear me? I will not do it.” When he started to answer her, she stopped him. “Haven’t you ever wanted to talk with one of them, to find out what they’re like? The future, Damon! Aren’t you even a little bit curious?”
All the time she was speaking, the man lay gasping on the floor, blood-streaked clumps of sandy-blond hair clinging to his pallid face, death tugging at him mercilessly. Aurianna turned to him, a desperate question in her eyes. Instead, she said, “I won’t hurt you. But I can’t help you.”
The man answered in the same raspy whisper, “I know. But I want to tell you something. Someone needs to know so this can stop. My people are dying, and there’s no way to warn them, to tell them it’s a trap.”
“A trap? No one asked you to come here.”
“No. But they knew we were coming.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Your Consils have more at stake than they let on.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, but why come here? Stealing resources from your past seems incredibly stupid.” Her uncertainty building, she deflated, settling next to him on the floor, thinking about all the things they were told by the Consils regarding these people, these invaders from the future. None of the stories had ever made sense to her. How could someone change the past by taking resources—taking people—and not risk major changes to their own reality in the future? She’d spent many nights mulling it over but had always come to the same conclusion: she couldn’t understand time travel unless she experienced it herself.
“I don’t . . . I don’t know anything about stealing resources. I just came here to escape.” He paused, gasping for one more breath, seeming determined to hang on long enough to reveal his secrets. Sudden realization dawned on his face. “Our past? You think we’re from your future. Is that what you’re saying?”
Now it was Damon’s turn to sag to the ground, the confusion in his eyes dragging his entire body down in exhaustion. His words were barely more than a whisper. “But you can time travel. You have to be from the future.” He shared a look with Aurianna, both dreading the man’s answer.
“No. No. Not the future. The past. Everything went wrong. We thought it was safer here. And there’s no one to tell the others . . .”
Aurianna straightened. “What others? What are you talking about?” The other part—the part where they were from the past—did not want to register in her brain just yet.
“The other Kinetics. They will keep coming. And dying. They’ll all be killed. Someone has to warn them not to come.”
“Kinetics?” She shook her head. His words confused her, making her head spin with a thousand unspoken questions.
“You don’t know.” A solemn look of realization came over the man’s face, followed by a moment of mirthless laughter. At least, she thought it was laughter. He didn’t make a sound, but his chest shook, and the corners of his mouth tilted upward almost indiscernibly. “I guess they’ve won, then. Our names, our existence. Erased from memory.” The man silently wept as his stunned audience looked on.
Damon clutched his arms to his chest, rocking back and forth on his heels. He glanced her way, mirroring the dread Aurianna felt in her heart. She chewed her bottom lip, no idea what to do or say. Cold fingers inched up her spine as the stranger’s tears edged down the side of his face, disappearing into the fabric of the rug beneath him.
Finally, he spoke again, the air rattling in his lungs with his dying breaths. “We—Kinetics—have control over the elements. Some call us mages, but we possess no real magic. Our gifts lie in manipulating what is already there.” He paused again, his face pained with the effort of breathing. “Some hated our powers. Then one of our own hurt a lot of people. So they sought to destroy us. Hunted us down. This was our escape, our plan to regroup and fix everything. But they were waiting for us. We should have known.”
“Who? Who was waiting for you?”
“The ones who did this to me.”
“The Carpos? They’re trained to find and bring back anyone like you. They work for the Consils. What exactly did they do?”
“Drained my powers, what little I had left. Drained me over and over. I must have passed out. I guess they thought I was dead.” He gave a small smile. “They were just over-hasty.”
“We’ll get you some help. I know I said we couldn’t, but we will. Right, Damon?”
Damon only stared at her, not moving. Finally, he said, “Yeah. We’ll get you some help. I’ll go find a Healer.”
A series of racking coughs shook the man violently. This went on for several moments. When he regained the ability to speak, he said, “No. That’s not necessary.”
“Of course it is!” Aurianna cried.
“Just don’t let them erase us. If you can find a way to warn the others . . . But no. They lie in wait for us. There’s no time. Just . . . help my people, please. If you can. Promise me that.”
“What can I possibly do? The Consils control everything here!”
“Promise me you’ll try. That you’ll tell my story to others.”
“Of course! Of course. We promise. But we need to get you some medical attention.”
“Too late, I’m afraid. Thank you.” He took Aurianna’s small hand in his own, his grasp weak and cold to the touch. When he locked gazes with her, his pupils dilated, and a look of recognition crossed his face for the briefest moment before it was gone. His small smile was unmarred by derision or pain now, a faint look of joy that was wholly unnatural on the face of a dying man. Aurianna was puzzled by his sudden change in demeanor and wondered if he was simply becoming delusional in his last moments. “I feel it in you, girl. It’s going to be alright, some day. Maybe the Essence still hear us. You might be . . .”
His last words were lost as the life left his eyes and his body went limp.
As they sat in silence, stunned beyond words at the revelations still swirling like tiny cyclones in the charged air around them, Aurianna realized she had never asked him his name.
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