by Katya Hernández
Publication date: April 22nd 2023
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Young Adult
A fate traced by the stars…
Fifteen-year-old Etar can see the future in the stars—a rare skill even among magicians. But while other Starseers before him have become the stuff of legend, Etar has never predicted anything more exciting than the weather. Orphaned at age five and living under his uncle’s disapproving gaze, he yearns to prove his worth.
Disaster strikes when, in defiance of his uncle’s orders, Etar breaks into the Starseeing Dome—an ancient structure built to potentiate the powers of Starseers. Aided by the Dome, the stars send Etar a vision of ironclad warships destroying Skalland, the tiny island he calls home.
Hunted by a bloodthirsty admiral who seeks to enslave his newly awakened powers, Etar will have to fight to protect his friends while grappling with his past, his out-of-control magic, and a budding friendship turning into something more.
Etar didn’t have time to process any of what Hans had said before he went back to the hallway to let someone in—and whatever Etar had been expecting, it was nothing like the man that walked in.
The stranger walked with a step so light Etar could barely hear it on the floorboards of his room. His long black hair caught light like flowing water, and his eyes were distant in a deep, wistful way, blue and luminous even under this morning’s gray light. He wore a black silken tunic embroidered with the most marvelous iridescent threads. Starbursts, suns, and moons, all decorated with tiny gemstones, crowded every corner of the fabric. Etar couldn’t help staring at his jewel-decked hands. He had long, delicate fingers, as though made for minute tasks like building watches.
As soon as Hans closed the door, the man bowed, a gesture Etar had never received from anyone. “Starseer,” he said, soft and reverent.
Panic rose in Etar’s chest. How did this man know he was a Starseer? “Um. Hello?” he said, his mind struggling for coherent thought.
“It is such a great honor to finally meet you. I have been looking for you far and wide.”
Etar couldn’t parse the words from this man’s mouth, so he gaped instead of replying. His eyes pivoted from him to Hans in search of explanations, but Hans only fell back into a corner of the room.
“My name is Áehd, and I am an alchemist,” the man said.
An alchemist. A trade Etar only knew through books. To his knowledge, there had been alchemists and magicians in this castle long ago, but his uncle had expelled them all.
Etar supposed he should introduce himself, but he was too stunned to act properly. “How do you know I’m a Starseer?” he blurted out. No formal salutation. No bowing to receive his guest. It showed so glaringly that he hadn’t been raised as a royal.
The alchemist offered a gracious little laugh and pulled something out from between the folds of his tunic. When he opened his hand, a butterfly flew out of it.
At first, Etar thought it was a real butterfly because of how dainty its legs were and how its wings broke light, but on closer inspection, it was made of metal and colored crystals. It emanated a soft, bluish glow from under its belly.
“My constructs respond to energy, and no energy is more attractive to them than that of a Starseer,” Áehd said.
The butterfly kissed Etar’s face, making him flinch when it came close to his eyes, but he was afraid of breaking it if he flapped it away. Its glow intensified whenever it grazed his skin, and Etar could feel warmth wherever it alighted. After a while, the alchemist caged it in his fingers and put it away in his tunic.
The butterfly dredged out a memory of one such toy Etar had since childhood but which no longer possessed this butterfly’s agency.
Katya is a writer, illustrator, and graphic designer who lives with her partner, two cats, and two dogs in sunny El Salvador.
Her cats are her harshest critics, but she loves them all the same.
When she’s not writing or drawing the fantasy worlds that live in her head, she’s cosplaying as the creepiest monsters from all her favorite horror movies.
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