Excerpt: Realm United by Katie Keridan

In this trilogy, Sebastian Sayre and Kyra Valorian, former Felserpent King and Queen, are forced to make sacrifices to reunite the Aeles and Nocens realms. Tallus, angry over Kyra’s refusal to help him convert Daevals into Astrals, takes control of Aeles and develops a weapon that will take out all those with silver blood. As Kyra struggles to find a way to stop Tallus without crossing a moral boundary, Sebastian, a public figure with a dark past, struggles to win back the people’s trust in his position of power.

This shocking, full circle conclusion to the Felserpent Chronicles ends where it began: in the gray waters of Death.


In this trilogy, Sebastian Sayre and Kyra Valorian, former Felserpent King and Queen, are forced to make sacrifices to reunite the Aeles and Nocens realms. Tallus, angry over Kyra’s refusal to help him convert Daevals into Astrals, takes control of Aeles and develops a weapon that will take out all those with silver blood. As Kyra struggles to find a way to stop Tallus without crossing a moral boundary, Sebastian, a public figure with a dark past, struggles to win back the people’s trust in his position of power.

This shocking, full circle conclusion to the Felserpent Chronicles ends where it began: in the gray waters of Death.



I pressed my finger against the doorbell, listening as the familiar three-note melody sang a muffled welcome from the other side of the door. Batty perched on my shoulder, and Sebastian stood beside me, shifting his weight from one leg to the other as his gaze swept back and forth across the porch. Aurelius stood guard near my feet, ears pricked for the first sound of trouble. I was doing my best not to show it, but I was on edge too.

Exhaustion pulsed through me with every heartbeat, and I desperately wanted to take a hot bath and change into clean clothes, erasing any evidence of my captivity in Rynstyn. I wouldn’t put it past Tallus to send soldiers after us; he would be furious Sebastian had rescued me before destroying the clan- destine experimentation facility. But Sebastian thought our ancient enemy was more likely to respond by targeting my family. Hopefully Tallus would start searching for them at my childhood home or even Demitri’s apartment in Celenia; with the blessing of the Gifters, he wouldn’t immediately think to go to the home of Demitri’s parents. As the only sounds around us were the chirping of crickets and the squeaks and rustles of nocturnal animals, it seemed we’d outsmarted him, at least for now.

Demitri pulled open the door and waved us inside. I’d barely stepped into the house before he threw his arms around me, clutching me as if he’d been afraid of never seeing me again. I returned the embrace. When he finally released me, he turned towards Sebastian.

Thank you,” he said, his tone devoid of the sarcasm he usually employed when speaking to Sebastian. “I know we haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye on . . . things . . . but I’ll never forget what you did for Kyra today.”

Sebastian dipped his head in acknowledgment. While the interaction was still far from friendly, I hoped it marked the beginning of a change in the relationship between my best friend and my husband from a previous life.

My mother must have been listening around the corner be- cause she rushed into the foyer, a gasp catching in her throat as she pulled me into her arms. Demitri’s parents and the rest of my siblings followed, and my fifteen-year-old sister, Seren, embraced me with impressive force just as my mother released me.

I’ve been so worried about you!” Seren exclaimed, her white- blonde hair tickling my cheek as she rested her head against my shoulder.

What in the falling stars is going on?” cried my mother, brushing her auburn curls away from her face. Her Cypher, a hare named Dova, appeared near her feet and anxiously ran her paws over a large ear.

Gently untangling myself from my sister, I looked at Demitri. “Tell your parents what Sebastian told you. I’ll share more later, but right now I need to make sure my family’s safe.”

I gestured towards Sebastian as he conjured a portal. “Mother, this is Sebastian. He has silver blood, but he’s helping us. We need to leave, and then I’ll explain everything.”

My mother gaped at Sebastian before composing herself. Hugging Demitri and his parents, she thanked them for every- thing, then took my youngest brother Deneb’s hand and stepped through the portal, head held high as she instructed my siblings to follow. Enif hurried after her, but Seren hesitated, glancing uncertainly at me. I gave her what I hoped was a reassuring nod, and she stepped carefully into the crackling gateway.

I’ll be in touch soon,” I assured Demitri. Turning to his wide- eyed parents, I added, “Thank you for everything, and I’m sorry I—”

Sebastian’s head whipped towards the front of the house. I stopped mid-sentence, about to ask what he’d heard, when a sharp knock sounded, followed by someone calling, “Mr. and Mrs. Forenza? It’s the Aelian military. We’d like to speak with you.”

Sebastian jerked his head towards the portal just as Batty tugged my hair and pointed a wing at the shimmering gateway, urging me forward. I didn’t need any more encouragement and hurried through, my heartbeat racing almost as fast as my feet. Sebastian stepped in after me, and while I couldn’t help but feel safer as the portal snapped shut, I also hated leaving Demitri and his family to face anything involving Tallus.

I will stay in contact with Halo, said Aurelius, and let you know what happens.

Thank you. At least the lynx could communicate with Demitri’s Cypher. Peerins couldn’t communicate across realms, unless you had a special one approved by the government, which I didn’t. Much as I disliked feeling so helpless, there was nothing else I could do to help Demitri, so I directed my attention to the circular receiving room we’d arrived in.

It had been nearing the middle of the night in Aeles, which meant it was close to noon in Nocens. The rain lashing the floor- to-ceiling windows obscured any view of the sun, making it difficult to tell the time. The weak light that managed to shine through the droplet-streaked glass cast a somber grey pallor over the room. Thunder rumbled, and lightning streaked across the dark sky, causing me to squint at the unexpected brightness.

Dunston and Caz were waiting for us, and seeing the Dekarai brothers instantly made me feel better. While I’d never imagined becoming friends with a silver-blooded family who only followed laws when it suited them—while at the same time making a fortune through unscrupulous business dealings—they’d unexpectedly become an important part of my life, and I was grateful for their support.

A woman I’d never met was standing between Dunston and Caz, her grey hair cut into a short, asymmetrical bob that was almost as sharp as the tailored white breeches and jacket she wore. Her expression was equally sharp, and the way she gazed down her nose at our arrival made me feel like a tangled clump of seaweed that had washed up on the beach.

Welcome to Sea’Brik!” Caz stepped forward with a bright smile. “You’re just off the coast of Dal Mar, in the safest place in all of Nocens, which, fortunately, belongs to our sister, Minerva.”

So, this was the final member of the Dekarai trifecta, sister to Dunston and Caz and aunt to Devlin and Eslee. Minerva dipped her head in greeting, although the gesture would have felt more welcoming if her expression had softened even the slightest bit.

Deneb clutched our mother’s skirt with one hand while he cradled his Cypher, a possum named Hortensia, in the other. Seren’s Cypher, Sappho, a black and white sea snake, materialized around her neck, flicking her forked tongue uncertainly as Enif’s Cypher, Tiberius, perched on his shoulder, the dwarf owl’s round eyes even larger than usual. Seren and Enif stood stiff and unmoving. While they were trying to be brave, I knew they had to be terrified at being so near those with silver blood. Our parents had been far less prejudiced than most Astrals, but we’d still grown up taught to fear Daevals and told to immediately run for help if we ever encountered one.

While Sebastian had spent time with my Astral friends and even worked with them to rescue me from Rynstyn, this was the first time my family had been around Daevals. I sent a silent prayer to Bellum, the Gifter of Victory. While I didn’t think any- thing terrible would happen, given my own experiences with the Dekarais—plus my mother’s unwavering insistence on good manners—I couldn’t help but feel this meeting was important, offering a glimpse of how Astrals and Daevals might act towards one another once the realms were reunited.

Returning Caz’s smile, I took over the introductions, glad I could do something familiar and assume responsibility for something.

Mother, this is Dunston Dekarai and his brother Caz. Father met them when he came to Nocens for diplomatic talks. Caz is the one who sent the flowers after his death.” Turning to the brothers, I said, “This is my mother, Skandhar, and my siblings Seren, Enif, and Deneb.”

It’s an honor,” replied Caz with a deep bow, and for a moment the room was little more than Cyphers appearing and introductions being made. Dunston’s Cypher, Wayah, materialized, and the Komodo dragon’s tail just missed a table holding a delicate vase as Alistair, Caz’s porcupine, appeared chewing on a tree branch. Minerva’s Cypher was a lovely snowy egret named Thula, with bright yellow feet and a tuft of downy feathers on top of her head. Something about the arrival of the Cyphers helped ease the tension, and everyone began speaking, bowing, and shaking hands.

Seren turned towards me. “Who are you?” she asked Batty, studying the creature intently. Cyphers were traditionally stand- offish towards anyone they weren’t paired with, and it hadn’t slipped my little sister’s notice that a Cypher who was most certainly not paired with me was sitting on my shoulder.

This is Batty. He’s Sebastian’s Cypher.” I purposefully kept my response brief, as I’d be going into detail about a great many things very soon.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Batty draw a wing across his body before dipping into an elegant bow. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said to Seren. He then pulled a bag from one of his countless wing pockets. “Would you like a caramel? These are freshly spun, and the salt they use makes them especially delicious.”

Seren blinked at the bat, then looked at Aurelius to gauge his reaction to Batty’s presence. The lynx ran a paw through his thick silver whiskers. “I can assure you, Seren, Bartholomew— Batty—is a most welcome addition to the family.”

I’d never imagined Aurelius championing Batty, much less considering him part of the family. Seren opened her mouth, questions ready to come pouring out, but Caz held up a hand, drawing everyone’s attention to him.

There’s a few things I should mention about your temporary home,” he said. “Sea’Brik is on an island, but the water around us is spelled to repel unauthorized boats or swimmers, so there’s no danger of surprise visitors. The house is spelled, too, and scans everyone upon entry. If it didn’t recognize you, it would start shifting staircases, closing off hallways, and employing other defensive tactics, but Minerva has told it you’re friends, so it will behave.” He motioned to the platinum plate embedded in the floor. “Should you have need of it, the intersector is at your disposal and will send you wherever you like. Anti-portal wards are in place, but your portal signature has been registered, Sebastian, so you can come and go as you please.” Everyone nodded their understanding, and Caz’s smile turned apologetic. “I do hope you won’t judge all of Nocens by this unfortunate weather. Autumn is normally such a lovely time of year, but there’s a hurricane at sea, even though it’s not the right season.”

Sebastian and I exchanged a look. The longer Aeles and Nocens were apart, the more unstable each realm was becoming, experiencing natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and avalanches that hadn’t been seen since Sebastian and I established the Felserpent monarchy ages ago.

I know it’s the middle of the night in Aeles,” said Dunston, patting Wayah’s head before straightening, “so we weren’t certain if you’d want to go straight to bed or would prefer to eat something first. Rooms and food are both available.” He caught my eye. “Eslee’s still with Minister Sinclair. They’re settling the children Sebastian rescued into a new orphanage—one that isn’t a front for an experimentation project—but she’ll be here soon. Rennej and Devlin too.” He smiled at my family. “Eslee’s my daughter,” he explained, “Rennej is my wife, and as much as it sometimes pains me to claim him, Devlin is my son.”

Minerva guided us into a room where a buffet-style meal had been prepared. The long table was filled with more food than a group twice our size could possibly consume, and I was grateful to see everything was planterian since Astrals didn’t eat animals. It was a mark of the Dekarais’ thoughtfulness that they’d considered my family’s dietary needs in the midst of an incredibly stressful situation.

Too much has happened for me to sleep right now,” volunteered Enif, gazing hungrily at the table, “but I could definitely eat.”

Deneb looked up at Enif, then back at the table. “I could eat too!” he exclaimed, never one to be left out when an older sibling expressed interest in something. “Do Daevals eat pudding?”

My mother gave him a nudge, likely hoping to stop any more questions about Daevals before they arose, but thankfully Caz was never one to stand on ceremony.

I don’t know about all Daevals, but I love pudding!” Picking up two plates, he held them out to Enif and Deneb, who promptly joined him. “In fact, I love it so much I always make sure we have at least three types.” He studied the table. “Today we have butter- scotch, chocolate, and cherry.”

We usually only have one type of pudding,” said Enif, wasting no time piling food on his plate.

Unless it’s a special occasion,” corrected Deneb, repositioning Hortensia on his shoulder and grasping his plate with both hands before holding it up for Enif to fill. “Then we might have two.”

Well, today is a special occasion,” said Caz, drizzling sugared syrup over a fruit tart. “This is the first time anyone from Aeles has been in this house, and that’s worth celebrating.”

I glanced at Minerva just in time to see her grey eyes narrow. While she managed a smile, I sensed she was less than pleased at recent events. Seren kept glancing at Sebastian, clearly waiting for a chance to ask the questions I could almost see perched on her lips. Batty vanished from my shoulder and reappeared on the table, waving Seren over.

If it is not too much trouble,” he said, “would you help me fix a plate? Wings are not the best for managing utensils.”

Seren was obviously surprised to see a Cypher interested in food. Her movements were initially wary, but she couldn’t suppress a smile as Batty asked her to spoon butterscotch pudding over the top of a chocolate croissant.

Now that everyone was starting to settle in, it was time to face a conversation I’d been terrified to initiate and still wasn’t certain how to have. “I know everyone has questions,” I said, “but I need to speak with my mother first. Once the rest of the Dekarais arrive, Sebastian and I will tell everyone everything.”

Why don’t I show you to your mother’s room?” offered Dunston. “That way you can speak privately.”

Thank you.”

Enif and Deneb were engrossed in a conversation with Caz, but Seren caught my eye. “Can I come, too?”

Let me just have a few moments with Mother,” I said, “then we’ll all talk.”

I stepped closer to my mother, knowing she would be worried about leaving my siblings alone while also not wanting to offend our hosts.

They’ll be fine.” I squeezed her arm. “The worst that will happen is Caz will let them eat too many desserts.”

That is very likely,” Caz agreed, raising a cookie as if he were about to give a toast before taking a bite. My mother drew a deep breath before nodding and following Dunston out of the room.

Will you be alright? I asked Sebastian through our bracelets. We’d barely had a chance to process all we’d survived in the past few hours—Sebastian had overcome Tallus’s mental manipulation and faced his deepest fears, rescued me from captivity, saved five kidnapped Daeval children, then burned the vile Astral experi- mentation facility to the ground. And rather than comforting him or doing something that might have made him feel better, I was now asking him to do his least favorite thing—socialize. While I knew he was comfortable around the Dekarais, this was his first time meeting my siblings, and I couldn’t imagine him having much experience with children.

I have zero experience with children, he noted, following along with my thoughts. But I’ll be fine.

That likely meant he was going to slip away and stay in an- other room until I was done speaking with my mother, but it was probably best if he waited to be around my family until I was there to guide the conversation. I smiled at him and held out my hand as I walked past, grateful for the reassuring squeeze he offered before I strode after my mother and Dunston. Aurelius padded beside me, his presence never failing to make me feel better and serving as a reminder I wasn’t alone in facing the obstacles currently threatening to overwhelm me.

Having gotten used to Sebastian’s cave, I felt odd being sur- rounded by so many windows, but they seemed to function in place of walls in the palatial house. The enormous panes of glass must have been spelled together, as I couldn’t see any evidence of plaster. On a clear day, I imagined they offered stunning views of the sea and sky, but today they merely took the assault of the pelting rain.

Everything in the house sang of the ocean, from the gentle greys, blues, and greens to the globe-like lighting fixtures suspended from the towering ceiling; strings of trailing lights made them resemble floating jellyfish. There were numerous ocean- themed sculptures, created by Eslee, no doubt, and I admired one in particular; the abstract metal pieces reminded me of a blue and silver wave surging upwards, frozen the instant before it would otherwise break and come crashing down. The wall closest to the staircase had been painted to resemble the rocky basin of a tidepool and decorated with colorful ceramic sand dollars, brittle stars, and sea anemones. As I admired the mural, a brittle star began to move, crawling its slow way forward as a sea anemone waved its short orange tentacles. Even though I knew the objects were enchanted to act as they did, the effect was still impressive.

Catching up to my mother and Dunston, I managed to hear the end of what Dunston had been saying.

. . . sorry your first visit to Nocens had to happen under such unpleasant circumstances. My family and I have loved getting to know Kyra, and we’ll help however we can. Please don’t hesitate to tell us anything that might make your stay more enjoyable, or at least more comfortable.”

Thank you,” replied my mother, although I could tell she was turning over Dunston’s words and wondering just how and when he and his family had gotten to know me.

Dunston kept up a mostly one-sided conversation until he came to a stop before a large wooden door. A sign hung from it, with the words “Coral Reef Room” painted in sweeping brushstrokes. Opening the door, Dunston gestured for us to go inside, although he remained in the hallway.

When you’re done, just tell the house where you’d like to go or who you’re looking for, and it’ll direct you,” he explained. “Minerva says it’s just good spell-casting, but I think she’s managed to make Sea’Brik at least partially sentient—which is more than I can say for Caz most days.” Dunston’s grin softened into a more serious expression as he faced my mother. “In my line of work, I’ve become quite the judge of character.” Dunston’s dark eyes shone earnestly. “After meeting your husband, I thought, you know, if a man like that can come from Aeles, there might be more to Astrals than just their gold.” He ran his palms down the front of his jacket, smoothing the dark blue fabric. “I wouldn’t have been nearly so open to the idea of better relations between the realms if it hadn’t been for Arakiss. His legacy lives on every time those with silver and gold blood make an effort to under- stand one another a little more.”

My mother reached out and laid a hand on his arm, too overcome to speak, although the grateful expression on her face said enough. Dunston patted her hand, then excused himself, although not before I gave him a hug he happily returned.

Following my mother into what would be her bedroom during our time at Sea’Brik, I closed the door behind me. My knees trembled as my stomach did a somersault, sending my fear spilling through me, and I tried to focus on details of the room to stop my racing thoughts.

True to its name, the space was decorated to resemble a coral reef. Starfish were carved directly out of the crown molding, and elegant paintings of black, white, and yellow fish decorated the pale pink walls. My mother sank into a wingback chair covered with small, embroidered cuttlefish, rubbing her fingertips against her forehead as Dova hopped up on the blush-colored sofa beside her.

I considered sitting, too, but doubted I’d be able to remain still. Crossing the room, I wrapped my arms around myself and gazed outside. The rain had let up just enough for me to see the ocean below, white-capped waves crashing beneath heavy grey clouds, and I swallowed to wet my increasingly dry throat.

How in the falling stars was I going to tell my mother the truth?




D oubt swirled through me, filling every space not already occupied by fear. My mother had to believe me; after all, I was her daughter. But then again, given what I knew of Sebastian’s father, just because someone was your parent didn’t mean they supported you and had your best interests at heart.
What if she didn’t believe me?
It will not make anything you say untrue, said Aurelius, situating himself in front of the fireplace where a cheerful fire had sprung up. You cannot control her response; you can merely speak your truth.

I don’t know where to start,” I admitted, turning to face my mother and clutching the hem of my tunic. “Let me just try and get everything out, and then I’ll answer your questions.”

Taking a deep breath, I decided to start where my entire life had changed. “There are some things about Father’s death I need to tell you.” I explained about accidentally going into Vaneklus while trying to heal my father, as well as the research Demitri and I had done in the Archives and how I’d ultimately discovered I was a Recovrancer, able to recover the shades of those who died before their appointed times.

The blood rushed from my mother’s face, making the freckles I’d inherited from her stand out more than usual.

I wish you had told me sooner,” she frowned, although her expression was more worried than angry. “But I can also under- stand how it might not have seemed like the right time, given everything with your father. I’m so sorry, Kyra. You shouldn’t have had to bear this by yourself. Perhaps Healer Omnurion knows how to break such a curse. We could—”

It’s not a curse.” Normally I wouldn’t interrupt my mother, but she needed to understand this. “It’s a gift. I love being a Recovrancer. It’s part of who I am . . . who I’ve always been.”

My mother’s eyes widened. “Are you saying you’ve actually recovered a shade?”

A few shades.”

I told her about Laycus, how shades were ferried to Ceelum for rest or Karnis for rebirth, and how I could use my sana bracelet to tell when it was a shade’s appointed time to die. While my mother had likely believed in the Shade Transporter the way all Astrals had been taught, I suspected most of my kind didn’t think about him very often; I certainly hadn’t, not until I’d learned death would be an ever-present part of my life as a Recovrancer.

My mother clasped her hands in her lap. “But recovrancy is against the law in Aeles. How have you been doing this without anyone discovering you?”

I pressed my sweat-dampened palms against the tops of my thighs, heart pounding. “Because I only use my recovrancy when I’m in Nocens.”

My mother’s reddish-brown eyebrows shot up towards her hairline.

Remember when I accidentally fell through that portal with a Daeval?”

She nodded, everything about her going incredibly still, as if she already knew whatever I was about to say would force her to reconsider things she’d thought were settled. I proceeded to tell her the truth about meeting Sebastian: how Batty had misdirected his portal, how I’d healed him from the potion he’d taken to disguise his blood, how that had resulted in him setting off the Blood Alarm, and how I’d seen The Book of Recovrancy in his pocket and saved him from the Aelian military to ensure I didn’t lose access to the book.

He and I stayed in touch,” I said, preparing myself for what I considered the second most unbelievable thing I was going to ask my mother to believe. “In fact, we’re in a relationship.”

You’re in a relationship . . . with a Daeval.” My mother’s blue-grey eyes were unblinking.

Yes. Daevals are nothing like we’ve been taught to believe.” And now it was time to tell her the truly most unbelievable thing I hoped she would accept. “Also . . . this isn’t the first time Sebas- tian and I have been in a relationship.”

My mother’s expression shifted from disbelieving to confused.

In a past life, I was an Astral woman named Kareth, and I agreed to marry a Daeval warrior named Schatten to stop the constant bloodshed between Astrals and Daevals. Aeles and No- cens haven’t always been separate. They used to be one realm, and our marriage brought peace, ending centuries of fighting. But we were betrayed by a man named Tallus, who overthrew our kingdom and divided the realms.” Heat rushed into my chest at the memory of Tallus’s evil deeds. “Schatten and I couldn’t fix things in that life cycle, so we bound our shades, promising to return when the time was right to find one another and reunite the realms. Through binding our shades and reconnecting, we’ve been able to recover some of our past life memories, which is how I know the things I’m telling you. And now that we’ve returned, it’s time to bring Aeles and Nocens back together.”

My mother looked more stunned than I’d ever seen her, but I pressed on.

The reason you had to leave Aeles was because Sebastian and I aren’t the only ones who’ve returned. Tallus is back, too, although everyone in our realm knows him as Senator Rex. He tricked me into going to Rynstyn, then held me prisoner so I’d help him end the existence of Daevals. He wants me to use my healing and recovrancy powers to change Daevals from the inside out, turning them into Astrals. Sebastian rescued me, but things are going to get worse before they get better—which is why we’re here in Nocens where everyone will be safe.”

My mother stared at me, and I held her gaze, waiting for her to say something; instead, she leaned forward and rested her elbows on her thighs before dropping her face into her hands.

My heart drummed in my ears as I struggled to master my rising panic. I knew my mother had to come to terms with things in her own way, but at the same time, I wanted her to wrap her arms around me and assure me she would always love me no matter what. The seconds ticked by, and eventually she lifted her head.

It’s all true,” I said. “I promise.” Regardless of the realm, there were always consequences for lying, and they could range from inconvenient, like not being able to perform a particular spell, to downright terrible, making you ill or preventing you from using your aleric gifts. I hoped reminding my mother what might befall me if I wasn’t telling the truth would make what I was saying more believable.

My issue isn’t that I don’t believe you.” She frowned, her eyebrows knitting together. “It’s that you’re just now telling me!”

I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you sooner, but it seemed like there was always something more pressing to attend to. And”—I gestured helplessly with my hands—“these weren’t exactly easy things to share. I didn’t want to upset you. I also didn’t want you to be mad at me. I didn’t want to lose the only parent I have left.” My voice broke, and I pressed my lips together, doing my best to contain the emotions swirling through me.

Kyra, you will always be my daughter, and I will always love you,” said my mother. “But what you’re saying is serious. Life- changing! If the government finds out about your recovrancy or your relationship with Sebastian, you could be in a lot of trouble.”

I’m not trying to hide from the government. I’m trying to change it,” I explained. “I’m working to bring back a united realm where Astrals and Daevals can live side-by-side without fearing for their safety.”

While that’s certainly admirable, how can you expect Astrals and Daevals to interact peacefully when all they’ve known is ha- tred?” asked my mother.

Hearing the overly patient tone my mother often used when speaking to Deneb, I couldn’t stop my shoulders from slumping. What I was attempting to do wasn’t admirable—it was realm- changing and would alter everything everyone had ever known, rewriting the past while offering a chance at a completely different future.

Remember when Caz sent those flowers after Father died?” I tried to keep my voice from betraying both my disappointment and my rising annoyance. “You said Father’s kindness must have overcome the prejudices between Astrals and Daevals. If more of us would put aside what we’ve been taught to believe and give those with different blood a chance, there’s no telling what a united realm could accomplish!”

But what about internship and taking your father’s place as the Princeps Shaman?” A stricken look flashed across my mother’s face. “What about a courtship with Demitri?”

Of all the things for my mother to focus on.

Mother, even if Sebastian wasn’t in my life—which he is—I was never going to court Demitri. He and I are friends, and there will never be romantic feelings between us. I know that’s not what you want, but you’re going to have to come to terms with it.”

My mother shook her head. “This is just so much to take in; I can barely make sense of it.” I hated knowing I’d caused the betrayal flickering in and out of her eyes. “I feel like I’ve been excluded from some of the most important parts of your life. I know you and your father had a close relationship, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you just as much as he did.”

I know that. I just—”

I’m also terrified for you,” continued my mother. “If this Tallus is as horrible as you say, you’re in danger. Is there any way you can seek asylum in Nocens until this blows over?”

It’s not going to blow over. Don’t you see?” My voice rose, my frustration refusing to be contained any longer. “I’m not a child anymore, Mother. I know from personal experience the world can be a dangerous and cruel place. But I also know it doesn’t have to be that way. It wasn’t always that way. Because of my past, I have a responsibility, and that doesn’t end just because my life cycle does.”

My mother exhaled loudly, but at least she seemed to be taking me more seriously.

Aeles and Nocens are in my care,” I said, standing up straighter as I felt the subtle weight of a crown on my head. “I chose to become the Felserpent Queen. I chose to rule because I was willing to do whatever it took to bring Astrals and Daevals together. I changed things for the better before, and I can and will do it again.”

My mother blinked as if she no longer recognized me, and something shifted between us, giving me the courage to speak my next words.

I desperately want your support,” I said. “More than anything, I want to know that not only do you believe me, you believe in me. But as much as I want your blessing, I’m not asking for per- mission. I know what has to be done, and I’m going to do it.” I took a step forward. “I also know this isn’t how you wanted to learn about things, and I’m sorry for not telling you sooner. I understand if you need time to process it. I’m just trying to do what I’ve been taught all my life—to use the privilege I have to make things better for others. You and Father always stressed how important it is to speak the truth even when no one wants to hear it. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

A tear slid down my mother’s cheek, and she brushed it away before bringing her gaze back to mine. “I’ve already lost your father.” Her voice was strained. “I don’t want to lose you too. What you’re describing—it’s so dangerous. But as the Gifters said, the rightness of an act is never determined by the ease with which it can be performed.” She drew a shaky breath before pushing herself to her feet. “Thank you for telling me everything. I believe you, and of course I support you. I don’t have to like what you told me or when you chose to share it, but the point is you told me.” She gave me a tight smile. “What happens next?”

I couldn’t stop myself. I crossed the distance between us and threw my arms around her. “I’m so sorry about Father!” Words I’d kept to myself for weeks rushed from my mouth, desperate to be shared. “I wanted to save him more than anything. I did everything I could, and I hate that it still wasn’t enough.”

My mother wrapped her arms around me, and I sank into her embrace, clinging to her as we cried. For the first time since my father’s death, I didn’t feel so alone with my grief. While I didn’t think the pain of losing him would ever go away entirely, the constant ache I’d experienced since his passing throbbed a little less sharply.

You’re not alone, sweetheart.” My mother ran her hand over the back of my head, smoothing my hair. “I’ll do whatever I can to help you.” She pulled back and gazed into my eyes. “And Sebastian . . . he’s good to you?”

I nodded, wiping the wetness from my face. “I’ve never been happier.”

Of course, I still didn’t know what reuniting the realms meant for my bond with Sebastian. I’d bound our shades so we would find one another when the time was right to rejoin the realms, but would accomplishing what we’d set out to do also mean the end of us finding one another in future life cycles? Unfortunately, that was a conversation for Laycus, and clearly there were things I needed to handle in the realm of the living before I could visit Vaneklus.

I’d like to meet him properly,” said my mother, “now that I know who he really is and what he means to you.”

I pressed my fingertip against the bracelet, asking Sebastian to join us, then explained how our bracelets worked until a knock sounded at the door. Judging by how quickly Sebastian had arrived, there was a good chance he’d followed us upstairs, positioning himself nearby in case I needed him or to simply avoid conversation downstairs.

Come in,” I called.

Sebastian strode into the room, and if I hadn’t known him better, I would have thought him the very picture of collected calmness. As it was, I could tell by the set of his shoulders and the way his eyes immediately sought mine that he was nervous, which surprised me. Given that he’d been the most powerful man in the realm at one time, his anxiety over speaking with my mother was more than a little endearing, although it also struck a protective chord in me. While my family’s reactions were beyond my control, I still wanted them to offer him a warm welcome.

Mother, this is Sebastian.” I took his hand as he stopped at my side. “Also known as Schatten, the Felserpent King, my husband in a past life, and the Pyromancer my shade is bound to.”

While my mother was naturally one for hugs, she was also skilled at reading others, and she correctly sensed Sebastian was not inclined towards hugging. Extending a hand, she offered him a warm smile. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for Kyra— in the past, as well as more recently.”

Sebastian shook her hand. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her.”

Sincerity rang out in his words, which he’d proven true countless times in this life as well as our shared past. While I knew Sebastian’s experiences with his own parents had been fraught with terror and loss, I hoped he would eventually come to enjoy being part of my family, accepting and perhaps even appreciating the additional opportunities to be loved and supported.

I’m looking forward to getting to know you,” continued my mother, “although I suspect that may have to be postponed, given what Kyra has told me about Tallus and the need to reunite the realms.” Her expression turned worried. “Speaking of Tallus, do you think Demitri and his parents are in danger from helping us? I wish we had a way of knowing if they’re alright.”

Peerins can’t communicate across realms, unless you have a special government-approved one, but Cyphers can,” I explained. “Aurelius, do you have any news?”

Aurelius shifted his position in front of the fire. “According to Halo, Demitri and his family are fine. The Aelian military questioned them, but since they didn’t know our plans, they could honestly say they had no idea where we went.” He flicked his short tail. “Demitri did tell Halo there’s something he’d like to show you, but he’s not certain how to send it to you.”

Sebastian reached into his back pocket and handed me a copper peerin with a large sapphire set in the top lid. “The Dekarais have a few government-sanctioned peerins that will allow you to com- municate with anyone in Aeles. Caz is working on getting you one of your own, but he said you can use this in the meantime.”

My mother smiled approvingly. While anyone would have viewed Sebastian’s gesture as a thoughtful one, it was also far bigger than that. He was actively helping me communicate with Demitri, recognizing my best friend was important without viewing him as a threat, which was huge for him.

Thank you!” I clutched the peerin to my chest, and one side of Sebastian’s mouth rose in a pleased smile.

My mother placed a hand on my shoulder. “Why don’t you go contact Demitri while I take a moment to collect myself, and then I’ll join you downstairs?”

I placed my hand over hers, enjoying the comfort of a loving touch and feeling lighter than I had in a long time, relieved I no longer had to keep so many important things to myself. I was also looking forward to developing a deeper relationship with my mother based on who I was now, and I offered a silent prayer of thanks to the Gifters for having been given not one, but two, loving parents in this life cycle.


Katie Keridan has written all her life—from childhood, through college and graduate school, and during her career as a pediatric neuropsychologist. She enjoyed being a doctor, but creating her own characters and worlds brought her far more joy, so she slowly left the medical world behind to focus exclusively on writing.

She has written two other novels in the Felserpent Chronicles series, Reign Returned and Blood Divided, and her work has been featured in Highlights Hello Magazine, The Blue Nib, Youth Imagination Magazine, Red Fez, The Red Penguin Review, Sand Canyon Review, and Every Day Fiction. She loves sharing her writing with others who feel different, misunderstood, or alone. Katie lives in Northern California with her husband and two very demanding cats.


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