A Knot in Time [Book 1 of the Shaladen Chronicles: Part of the Ring Realms Series]

A Knot in Time [Book 1 of the Shaladen Chronicles: Part of the Ring Realms Series]

by Will Greenway

Take a Kriar princess with time travelling powers, a vicious Myrmigyne queen, a scholar turned tournament champion and adventurer. Combine them with half human half Kriar twins with only one soul between them and add a 40,000 year old technomage dictator. Then stir in a power-mad mage named Meridian and Rakaar the unstoppable Baronian juggernaut and you have the…  See more details below


Take a Kriar princess with time travelling powers, a vicious Myrmigyne queen, a scholar turned tournament champion and adventurer. Combine them with half human half Kriar twins with only one soul between them and add a 40,000 year old technomage dictator. Then stir in a power-mad mage named Meridian and Rakaar the unstoppable Baronian juggernaut and you have the recipe for a fantastic odyssey. The stew boils when the evil magic-user captures the injured princess and forces her to destroy the fabric of time. The good guys must overcome temporal anomalies, aliens, Meridian and even themselves before the timeline is restored. That's not the end though, the very foundations of time have been ripped open and only the ultimate sacrifice will finally make things right.

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For ten thousand millennia the Kriar worshipped the light and feared the dark. Ironicly, it was the light that eventually abandoned us, and the dark that became the cradle of our continuance. Now, the void is our home, and the light of the stars is our guide rather than our god.

--Supreme Counsel Vatraena Marna Solaris

Chronal fall

Dulcere Val'Saedra Starbinder phased back into real-time in a blaze of analogue energies. The discharge of diffracting chronal power rasped and crackled around her anomaly compensation field. Her twin hearts thundered, and she drew air with lungs that had been filled with nothing but vacuum for far too long. She sniffed the acrid odor of dry vegetation, and a breeze blew cool on her face. Night insects chirped rhythmically. Cliffs rose ahead like a battered wall against a larger backdrop of purplish mountain crags. In the twilight, a moon loomed large, framed by russet mesas that stood like sentinels guarding a patchwork of scrub trees, rocks, and shallow valleys.

She dropped to her knees in exhaustion, rips and tears in her silver flight suit exposing gold skin turned pale by the icy dark. She blinked to clear the protective membrane from her eyes, revealing black orbs that resembled pieces of a starry sky. Rubbing at her face with trembling fingers she touched the red matrix jewel embedded in her forehead. She examined its two companion stones, one faceted into her sternum and the other slightly below her waist. Clawing her way from the tween-realm had drained the reserves of her already-damaged foci. She felt lucky to have any protection at all. Maybe she deserved to be rippedfrom existence for what she had allowed to happen. Pride had cost her. To the end, she had clung to hope, thinking she could prevent it. How many lives? Dulcere shuddered, remembering the psychic wails of a billion billion minds as the timeline diffracted out of existence. If she did not go on, who would put things right? Could damage this far-reaching even be repaired?

Dulcere shook herself. Focus. She had punched through the fabric of reality where it was weakest. Where did she wind up?

She rose slowly, looking around the shadowy desert terrain. Far off, an animal keened. The wind gusted then calmed as though the world were breathing a sigh after a long day of work. This might be any of a thousand planets, scattered across millions of grid references. Still, this place possessed a familiar and uncomfortable feel. Why?

Her hearts jumped as a blue-white flare radiated from a single point in the sky. Rings of ultra-violet spread out from the center. She felt the air shudder, then the ground, as a destructive force reached down through the ionosphere.

Dulcere's skin prickled. After having seen it once, no warrior ever mistook the sight of star-drive gone critical. Flashes like reflections off a thousand mirrors winked in the sky--the results of debris burning up in the atmosphere.

The realization gripped her chest like an icy hand. "Oh, dark. I rebounded all the way back to where this torture began!"

She tossed her head, and clenched her fists in frustration. Trapped. She didn't have the power to jaunt a twenty-thousand gigarevs through the turbulence riddled chronology.

Dulcere raised her head to stare at the red and white blossom of burning gases and ionized plasma spreading its petals to embrace the heavens. At the heart of that burning mass, the gutted remains of the warship Tiraka toppled outward to spiral down to a fiery death. Her hearts beat faster. At this instant, she and the Eternal clashed and fought amid the wreckage. It was a losing fight. She did it only to buy her crew time. Nothing stopped a Protectorate Guardian. It might be turned aside, given pause, but not defeated ... not even with experimental Phalanx armor and the sophisticated weaponry put at her disposal. In the length of a few long breaths, she would witness her own death.

Something flashed on the surface a short distance away. Her matrixes chimed in her mind, warning of an incoming chronal flux. She sought cover in some rocks and damped her energy signature.

Light shined from a pinprick in the air that unfolded into the shimmering reflective surface of a gate. Weapon poised, a Kriar woman floated out. She scanned the landscape, matrix jewels encrusting the left side of her face winking in the radiance. After hovering a moment, she settled to the ground, planting her feet, she aimed back through the portal.

Quasar Diliaysus? What was the rogue commander of special forces doing here? Dulcere glanced up as more flashes of burning debris ignited in the sky. Quasar raised her head to look as well. Her attention went back to the opening as the edges of the gateway flickered and the air filled with a static hum. Another body flashed through the opening.

[Close it!] Dulcere heard the other Kriar cry telepathically.

Quasar slapped at a device on her wrist, and the gate snapped shut with a sizzling sound. Wiping at his narrow face, the shear metallic cloth plastered to his muscular frame with a combination of wounds and sweat, the newcomer stared into the space where the time door had been. The big Kriar frowned. The light from his iridescent blue eyes grew dim as if he had done something that troubled him. The crimson glow of a plasma blade withdrew into his clenched fist with a clap of imploding air. He staggered a step and dropped to his knees.

Quasar let out a breath. [Damn you. What were you doing!] She holstered her weapon and took his face into her hands. As the Kriar female raised his head, a curved silver tattoo flashed on his cheek.

Dulcere drew a breath in wonder--Eclipse Shargris, one of Homeworld's most decorated heroes. Both of the renowned soldiers had been rumored dead. What were they doing here? Their energy signatures told Dulcere they'd come quite some distance back-time.

[Dark,] Quasar cursed, her thought sounding concerned but acidic. [You only needed to hold them a moment, not take on the whole platoon! We could have handled them together on this side if necessary.] She pulled a rod-shaped wound sealer from a medical kit on her side, and began treating the largest of the male's cuts.

Dulcere looked down to her own wounds. These two possessed what she needed to get healthy enough to time-dive again. In fact, without their help she wouldn't be leaving this time at all.

[Had to,] he gritted. [The fools almost destroyed the timeline trying to come through the gate unprotected.]

The ground shuddered, and both Kriar looked up. Secondary explosions lit the sky and streaks of fire sliced overhead.

[By the light,] Eclipse thought. [It's already begun. How long?]

Quazar touched one of the many gems gleaming on her arm. [Only a few hectarevs now.]

The male shook his head. [I can feel the battle. The phase-charge is strong. Can you believe she took on an Eternal by herself?]

[Of course I can.] Quasar stared into the sky, the eruptions making rosy reflections on the shiny gold skin of her face. [Look who her mother is. She's pureblood. They wouldn't entrust the Phalanx armor to one of Commander Khirah's gimps.]

Dulcere's stomach tightened. They were discussing her. Then these two knew what would soon happen. Why had they let Meridian take her captive? Surely, they must have known the threat the madman posed to everything in existence. What could they be after that was more important than that?

[We best take cover,] Eclipse remarked. He took a few a few steps and staggered.

Quasar caught and supported him on her shoulder. The Kriar female sighed. [Eclipse, you know you are crazier than I am. You are half dead from taking on all those Daergoni.]

The Kriar male put his head on her shoulder. [Love the sun, and you are bound to get a few burns.]

[Oh hush--fool.] Quasar dragged him to some rocks as a roar filled the night.

A lance of fire angled across the curve of sky. Dulcere clenched her fists. Her insides felt as though she'd been hollowed out.

She gritted her teeth. This is how it is to watch yourself die.

Dulcere felt the heat and shock as the missile of flesh shielded by concentrated matrix energies shrieked past their position to impact the cliff with a roar.

The detonation illuminated the plateau, flashing grotesque shadows from the twisted trees. Molten detritus splattered outward as the speeding form cut into the landscape.

The hills went silent except for the sound of crackling wood. Clouds of smoke rose, backlit by a glow that cast amber shadows on the rocks.

Dulcere blinked. Her mind was numb with remembrances of the fear and pain of that moment. She had survived when no Kriar should have. She had survived a direct confrontation with a creature that had destroyed dozens of her brethren. Ironic that she would awaken from stasis to be taken captive by that living canker, Meridian.

She swallowed the anger that flashed through her. She thought that the diffracted timeline was bad enough. These two Kriar being present at her planetfall put yet another spin on the situation.

Looking at one another, the two commanders approached the impact area. Keeping to the shadows, Dulcere followed. The breeze dispersed the vapor, revealing a blackened crater of glassy stone. At the center lay a cocoon of pulsating colors that gradually grew dimmer.

A murmuring came from the crater.

Eclipse gripped Quasar's arm. [She survived.]

Dulcere shivered, if one could call the mangled mess of a body that lay naked to the night something alive.

Quasar let out a growl. [By Hellion's light,] her thought snapped. [She's not wearing the armor! All the risks and energy wasted. She ditched it before planetfall. Dark damned drone--didn't break protocol to even save her own damn life!]

They were after the armor. Why? They'd come back to this point in time, but surely in the millennia that had passed, the Kriar would have developed technologies more advanced than the prototypes she'd been field testing.

Eclipse growled, his thought hard and ringing. [Do not demean the girl for being a good soldier, simply because it inconveniences you. Look at her.] The male clenched his fists. [She is what Daergon Surr's arrogance bought us. Dead and suffering soldiers. Don't seek to emulate his poor example.]

Quasar was obviously taken aback by his intensity. She put a hand on Eclipse's shoulder. [My apologies, you are right, we would both do well to remember the ranks we rose through. We are so close, though, I can taste the Genemar. That armor is the key and--] She stopped. [Eclipse are you hearing me?]

[She's moving,] Eclipse's thought was quiet. [She's even managed to arm a distress marker. Wonder why she was never recovered.]

[Eclipse, we need to focus here.]

The Kriar male turned, expression tight. [Have you no feelings, Quasar!? Can you not feel her pain?]

The rogue commander looked into the crater, glowing green eyes flashing. [She's a tough one--admirably so. What would you have me do, Eclipse? Cry? We're twenty thousand gigarevs in the past, we can't change what already is.]

The males blue eyes brightened. [We can find out why our Belkirin was not recovered. Perhaps she will tell you where the armor is.]

Quasar stared down into the crater, tugging at strands of her waist-length dark hair. [You want to rescue the girl. I want the armor. Those goals need not be at odds. I am curious as to what happens.]

She gets scared, Dulcere thought to herself. Concerned that the Eternal would come down here and finish what he started. She panicked and tried to use damaged matrix stones before they fully healed. She got herself into a universe of more trouble than she ever imagined.

Dulcere swallowed, watching as a maimed female clawed her way out of the crater, pasty white blood oozing from a dozen wounds. She relived the pain of each agonizing reach and pull. Survive. Even after all those gigarevs of life, she did not wish to die; not alone on some uncharted rock ten thousand light-millennia from home.

[She's making for that cliff,] Eclipse remarked.

[That same cliff was collapsed when we examined it a megarev ago. Strange, didn't we see signs of recent excavation?]

[We did,] Eclipse remarked. [Someone must have dug her out, or our scans would have found her.]

Dulcere's jaw tightened. Meridian found her, curse the creature. These two must have come back-time prior to her diffracting the chronology. For whatever reason, Eclipse must never have gotten an opportunity to exercise his desire to free her. She warred with the idea of revealing herself to these two. Instinct said there was sinister purpose to their being here despite Eclipse's noble-seeming sentiments. Quazar wanted something called the Genemar. The rogue was by far one of the most dangerous Kriar alive; with her power and viciousness there was little she could not accomplish.

Once Dulcere was back to her origin reference and set things right, she could turn her attention to worrying about what these two were after. There was still a chance that Corim and Beia had survived. What a tangle this all was. There was so much to answer for, so many things she regretted.

Quazar growled. [Right now, I want to find her. Let's go. Eclipse, we don't need to stand here and watch this child get crushed. Unless you really want to watch the girl die.]

Eclipse studied Dulcere's crawling form for a moment, his head tilting up to see the cliff that would soon be collapsed on her by a combination of poor luck, bad planning, and desperation.

[No,] he finally determined. [I want to see her back with Marna. I'd like to see the Solaris motivated to do something besides sit.]

[Is that what this is about?] Quazar responded with a raised eyebrow. [You still have feelings for our lady?]

Eclipse frowned at the female. [I never stopped. She simply never would have understood us. That is all.]

Quazar shook her head. [That makes two. I fail to understand us, myself. Some cycle I will have to figure out how you got me to love you.] She looked around. [Let's find a good spot to transition out of here. There's an unusual amount of chronal turbulence.]

The male's brow furrowed. [Yes. Something is definitely amiss in the continuum. We should check it out.]

[Eclipse ... Eclipse. Let the Eternals clean up their own messes. We warned them there was a rogue timediver. Remember, I even offered to track for them. They turned me down.] Quazar thumped Eclipse on the shoulder and pointed down the plateau. [Looks like a soft spot there.] She moved toward the location indicated.

Eclipse took a last look at Dulcere as she crawled toward the cliff. He followed his companion.

Dulcere glanced at the timeshadow of herself. The memories of those last moments of fear and pain pushed through her body with icy fingers. She straightened. She needed to be ready. When the two elder Kriar gated out, she needed to ride their draft. She concentrated, listening for the signatures in their matrixes. With their guard relaxed, they didn't have all their usual shielding in place. She filed away their track identification, so if she needed to find them again she could.

[You wanted compensation,] Eclipse was telling Quasar. [That's why the Protectorate turned you down.]

Quazar shrugged. [It is not as if I asked much. For the best time tracker living, my price was cheap. They passed. Their loss.] She paused, eyes narrowing. [Feels like that snarl is getting worse.]

[This is bad,] Eclipse said, brow furrowing. [Really bad.]

[Damn it,] Quasar grumbled. She punched some of the gems on her arm. A pinhole of light shined in front of her, then widened. [I hate working for free.]

Dulcere crouched down, tensing to make her move.

Both commanders activated their analogue generators, and the sheen of phase variances surrounded their bodies. Quasar leaped into the gate. Eclipse paused, looking around as though he sensed something, then he too leaped for the portal.

Dulcere sprang up as the Kriar swung his body forward. She launched herself at the chronal threshold and a chance to put everything she'd destroyed back to rights. As she crossed the barrier into tween-space her first thoughts were for the boy Corim who had tried to rescue her. She remembered the look in his dark eyes as Meridian forced her to warp him into the void... Knowledge is the sword wielded by books in their war on ignorance. --Cassandra Kel'Ishtari Felspar

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