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Episode 1:
Destiny Approaches

Valmoran Republic, Planet Kronai, Temple of The Seven

Matthai Valtrellin, Future High Priest

Matthai Valtrellin hit the dirt with an undignified ‘oof’ as the wind left his lungs. As he struggled to catch his breath, he stared up at the bright afternoon sky.

And just for a moment, he was lying in the grass of the East garden with his sister, staring up at the clouds and whispering secrets, the phantom scent of flowers permeating the air.

He could almost convince himself that if he just turned his head, he’d see her smiling up at the clouds, strands of blue hair dancing around the gentle points of her ears in the breeze.

Then another VIP shuttle rushed overhead and shattered the delusion.

It cast a flickering shadow over him as it passed, destined for the gleaming spaceport atop Valtrellin Tower.

Relentless harbingers of the fate that was coming for him. Bitter reminders that he would be the one taking vows tomorrow … not Liyara.

His chest tightened. Would this grief never fade?


The outline of a figure leaned over him, backlit by the piercing sun, hand outstretched. “You okay, Scion?” Priest Jarron asked, voice uncharacteristically concerned.

Matthai gasped in a breath, then wheezed out, “Yeah, just catching my breath.” He coughed, grasping his trainer’s calloused hand and allowed the man to haul him to his feet.

“It’s been a while since I got a hit on you. Distracted?”

Matthai swept the dust off his blue robes, glancing around at the other adepts, trying to figure out the right response. Their excitement crackled in the air as strikes encountered blocks, bodies hit the ground. Laughter, cajoling, smiles …

An ugly snarl of envy twisted in his gut, but he forced it back. These were his people—he wouldn’t begrudge their happiness.

Besides, distracted was an understatement. The looks of reverence and concern everyone had been throwing his way, the pilgrims arriving from all over the galaxy, the crushing weight of duty …

He wanted to run. To scream.

His throat tightened, the corners of his eyes stinging.

But his grizzled trainer just stood there, cobalt wisps of hair swirling around the points of his ears.

He needed to answer the man.

“Some,” he answered, then added, “I’m gonna go grab a drink,” before whirling around and heading for the ancient stone wall of the training yard, hoping it looked like an athletic jog rather than an escape.

He braced his arms against the cool stone wall of the training yard, willing himself to become as steadfast. These wise walls had been here for ages, weathered and mended, patient and resolved. Fulfilling their duty without complaint.

And yet, his heart still raced like it was determined to flee without him. His surroundings began to fade in and out. In and out.


The wall in front of him distorted, dimensions sliding out of proportion. The sounds of the training yard muffled, slowing and dropping in pitch.

No, no, no, no, no.

It had been seasons since he’d lost control of his powers—there was no way he was letting it happen today.


He forced himself to focus on the smooth stone beneath his fingers, the packed soil of the yard beneath his feet. To relax his clenched fists, release the tension in his shoulders.

I am here. I will not jump away.

He crouched down to grab his water flask, then took a deep swig, the crisp water sliding over his tongue, down his throat. A few stray droplets traced a chilly path down his chin.

The sleeve of his blue robe rasped against his skin as he wiped them away.

The world slowly came back into focus, sounds speeding up again. He tried to ignore the persistent chatter of the crowds of pilgrims in the Temple courtyard on the other side of the wall.

Thinking about them would just set him off again.


Matthai flinched. He hadn’t heard Jarron approach.

His trainer’s tone held the edge of someone who had already called out once or twice and was becoming concerned.

He took a deep, deep breath, then turned to face Jarron, leaning against the wall behind him, hoping it looked casual and not as if he needed the support.

Jarron’s grizzled appearance was marred by raised brows and a worried expression. “Training you too hard, Scion? With the ceremony tomorrow, perhaps we should stop for the day.”

“I’m fine—just needed a moment.”

He couldn’t give the priests any more reason to doubt him. Besides, maybe a good spar would help burn of this anxious energy.

He took another sip, bristling as yet another transport shuttle passed overhead, then set down his flask, composing himself. Intent on returning to the yard with the quiet dignity his parents always exuded.

But then Jarron slumped against the wall, reaching for his own water flask. “I think you might have the right idea—you’re wearing this old man out today.”

Jarron wasn’t old, just one generation older than him. And he was an elite member of the Order of Protection, so there was no way he was tired. The man wasn’t even out of breath.

Matthai tried to huff a laugh, but it came out slightly strangled. “You’re taking pity on me. Don’t think I can’t see it.”

Jarron responded with an indifferent shrug, before resting his head against the wall and lazily looking up at the sky.

Matthai was grateful for the excuse to take a few more moments to recover, so he slid down the wall to sit next to him.

“Big day tomorrow,” Jarron grunted, unceremoniously tossing his flask to the side.

Matthai didn’t know how to respond to that. The other priests knew, they had to know, that he wasn’t ready for this. He saw it in their faces every day.

The concern.

“Yes, it certainly is,” was all he could manage.

Jarron’s voice was laced with nostalgia when he continued, “You can almost feel the excitement in the air, you know? Everyone getting their career assignments, mating season about to begin ...”

He turned his head toward Matthai, one side of his mouth quirked up.

“I mean, I know the new cycle doesn’t really start until the babies start coming, but we’re on the cusp. A new beginning is just around the corner, I tell you.”

Matthai scooped up several pebbles, then tossed one into the dirt in front of him, creating a small puff of dust where it fell.

“Sure.” He forced a brief smile. “A new beginning.”

He didn’t like to think about the long list of female Kronai, all vetted when he was still a child.

Every one confirmed as god-touched, gifted with chronojumping, just as he was.

During mating season, he would be tested against them all, to reveal which one the Gods had chosen as his mate.

The formality of it was stifling.

Seemingly oblivious to Matthai’s meandering thoughts, Jarron continued, a rueful grin spreading across his face.


“I can still remember the end of my first cycle like it was yesterday ... checking out the other adepts, wondering who I’d end up matched with, praying to the Gods I wouldn’t be assigned some wretched administrative duty ...”

He shot Matthai a smirk. “Can you imagine? Me, stuck in some fancy office in Valtrellin Tower?”

Matthai forced a laugh, eyes flicking up to the gleaming central tower, which stood in stark contrast to the rest of the ancient temple complex.

“Truly, I cannot.” He shook his head from side to side, envisioning the gruff trainer barking orders at the priests in the Order of Finance. “I’m pretty sure everyone on administrative duty thanks the Gods you’re out here, rather than in there.”

Jarron chuckled. “You’re probably right. There’s a role to play for each of us, just a matter of matching the right priest to the right job.”

Then Jarron paused, face serious. Finally, he turned to Matthai. “Scion ... it isn’t my place to ask this, but—propriety be damned, I’m asking. Are you okay?”

Matthai flung another pebble into the dirt, then another, then ground out, “You said it yourself—it’s a matter of matching the right person to the right job. Well, I’m the only person for the job, so we’re all going to have to live with it.”

Jarron frowned and opened his mouth as if to speak, but Matthai cut him off, though he tempered his tone.

“I was never suited for this.” He heaved a sigh that felt almost like a sob. “Not like Liyara.”

Jarron made ‘that face’ then. That helpless look of pity everyone always got whenever her name was mentioned.

Matthai couldn’t even blame them—everyone else had moved on seasons ago. Sometimes it was almost like she had never existed, like everyone was intentionally forgetting her.

Erasing her.

Or maybe they were just trying to be kind, to not remind him of his loss. As if he could forget.

Jarron’s features gentled. “Matthai …” He reached out as if to pat his shoulder, then hesitated, hand paused between them.

Matthai waited, heart aching. Yearning.

No one ever touched him without permission, not with the strict moratorium his parents had placed. With Liyara gone, it was more crucial than ever that he mate with a god-touched Kronai woman—to carry on their precious bloodline.

There wasn’t any risk. Jarron was happily mated—it was why he’d been chosen as Matthai’s defense trainer—but it was a strict rule.

No one touches the heir.

Apparently reaching a decision, Jarron finished his earlier motion, resting his hand on Matthai’s shoulder, giving it a firm squeeze.

It was such a minor gesture of kindness, and yet, Matthai so rarely experienced anything like it that tears prickled at his eyes.

A wave of emotions rose in his throat, but he swallowed them down and cleared his throat to hide it.


Jarron noticed and quickly snatched his hand back, clearing his own throat gruffly.

“You’re a good man, Matthai—you’ll find your way.”


Then he jerked his head toward the training yard. His voice took on a painfully distant edge as he said, “Let’s get back to it—can’t have our future High Priest getting soft now, can we?”

Jarron spun on his heel and strode off for the center of the yard, then shouted, “Kreslin, watch your stance—elbows in, yeah?”

A heavy weight settled in Matthai’s chest. Jarron must have thought he cleared his throat as some sort of chastisement. He wanted to clear up the confusion, but wasn’t sure how.

He shouldn’t draw attention to the lapse in decorum, but hated that Jarron seemed to think he’d done something wrong.

The best thing would be to just get back out there and spar. That should clear the awkwardness without drawing attention to the situation.

Mind made up, he moved to follow Jarron, but before he’d taken two steps an urgent message popped up on his Hix interface.

He groaned, but flicked his eyes to open it.

Please report to the Office of the High Priestess and Priest at your earliest convenience.

His stomach dropped. ‘Earliest convenience’ meant ‘now’.

Sure enough, his guards were already making their way around the perimeter of the training yard.



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