The Book of Sky and Stars

by Quinn D.K.

Summary: While the world struggles to rebuild after a devastating war, young librarian Chase Cansu lives a quiet life. That is, until he finds a mysterious book of untold power... and quickly becomes the target of sinister forces beyond his comprehension. Tough, battle-hardened knight Ellis Pyre vows to protect him, but their unspoken attraction quickly becomes passion neither man thought they were capable of.

Chapter 1: In This World or the One Below

Have you ever seen a knight? Up close, I mean?

The one I hired was tall as a mountain and just as unmovable. If an airship were to collide with him, he would have emerged from the wreckage unscathed (and considerably annoyed). I'd never been in the presence of such a man before. It was hard to imagine he'd been born the natural way, from a womb. Those intense dark eyes and the immediate command of any room he stood in would have you believe he was the creation of a machine, something with a metal surface and hard, right angles.

Before the war my mother told me that although I was not a woman myself, I was beautiful. And to be a beautiful young man in this world, she said, was dangerous. What would she have thought about a man like Ellis Pyre? The man of dark eyes and hard angles? He was not beautiful, he'd spit if you ever applied that word to him. But he was rugged, intense and direct. Everything I was not. Would she have warned me about men like Ellis? Would she have been right?

On a normal night I will wake in fright from a nightmare I can't remember to find Ellis keeping a solemn watch from our campfire. He will let me take up room next to him, tell me to huddle in close. He doesn't want me to be cold, but more than that I think having someone to watch over is comforting to him. He will put an arm around my shoulders and press his bearded cheek to my head. He only does this when it's just the two of us. I will close my eyes and let him. I need these moments as much as he does. These reprieves keep us sane.

Tonight is different, mostly due to the weather. I'm writing this in the backseat of Ellis' pickup truck, a rusty thing that groans and shudders like an old man. We're sitting in silence not because we have nothing to say but because the rainstorm has drowned out our voices. Ellis is shifting in the driver's seat. The armor makes sitting uncomfortable and I know he hates when we stay still like this. But the roads are impossible to see right now, this being Roamer territory where silly things like streetlight maintenance are no longer performed.

A campfire seems unlikely tonight. I'm using the blue glow of Ellis' tactical hardlight blade to write this. He set it on its lowest setting for me, offered with a weary smile that wasn't really a smile at all. He must have recognized the wacko (his word, not mine) look in my eyes I get when I'm itching to commit that day's thoughts to paper.

Beneath my journal I feel the rough leather of the book resting on my lap. It's hungry and hot under my fingertips. I haven't opened it in a week and it's well aware of that. I've only read from it twice and I never will again.

I've gotten better at understanding the book's kaleidoscope of moods. Spend enough time with it and you'll understand, too. Despite the wordless muddy brown-black cover, it's as emotionally undisguised as a child. It's jealous I've been paying more attention to my journal tonight.

Rot in hell, I tell it.

Ellis lifts his eyes to the rear view mirror and says something. The roaring rain muffles his voice so I climb into the passenger seat. But just as I do the storm quiets to a dull rumble and the rain starts to thin as if someone, somewhere, turned down a couple of dials.

"You hungry?" His voice is deep and rough but not unpleasant. Something about it reminds me of warm coffee.

"No, I'm alright."

"Suit yourself." He reaches into the glove compartment for an energy bar. His armor clanks against the steering wheel. "You wanna stay here tonight? Wood'll be too wet to make a fire even if the storm stops."


He nods and it's done. It's nice of him to make me think I made the decision. I do what Ellis tells me to and I don't (usually) question his choices. He was trained for this, after all. Maybe not this specifically - I doubt anyone in the United Galactic Worlds military anticipates escorting a librarian along the ruins of the Canadian west coast. But ask anyone what kind of man is most suited for the task and they'll all tell you the same thing: a knight.

"Are you going to sleep in the armor?"

He glances down and almost chuckles. I haven't gotten a full laugh out of him yet but I'm trying. It doesn't seem to come to him easily. "Maybe just without the chestplate. Takes too long. Wanna get going soon as we wake."

We'll be near a town by morning and Ellis says they're always trouble. I believe him.  As my protector, I need him to be alert. He brushes his dark hair off his face and I notice it's getting too long. He catches me looking and my face gets warm and, I imagine, very red. It's a little awkward between us tonight. Tending to a fire gives us something to do and somewhere to direct our eyes. I want to tell him we can still do our nightly ritual, if he wants to. He can still put his arm around me and press his beard to my smooth skin. I can still fall asleep on his shoulder, my furrowed face softening as his hand kneads my neck. But there is no campfire for this, just a cramped tin box of a truck. I don't feel right to ask.

"Thinking of a place," Ellis says as he taps his rainswept window.

"Oh, not this again."

"Got anything better to do?"

I pretend to be annoyed but I rather enjoy these little guessing games of his. "A place," I repeat. "Earth or off-world?"


"City, province, or state?"



"I think it was."

"Was? So, pre-war?"

He absently scratches the stubble fading down his neck. "Maybe."

"No maybes. Remember?"

"Hey. Not my fault you're asking the wrong questions."

I smiled. Narrowing down specific information from a vague source was a daily part of my job at the History Archives. A reference interview, it's called. "Real or imaginary?"

"Now you're using that brain. Imaginary."

"On land or in the air?"

A half-smirk. "Neither."

Although that book is no longer in my lap - I had left it in the backseat - I can feel something pulse within it. It's hard to describe for something that doesn't seem to have a mind or physical body. I don't know what these pulses mean, where they come from, what they are. I don't know why I can feel them even when I'm not touching the book. But the one I feel now is strong, right beneath my chest. It's blue and wet and sharp.

The world around me tears away and I'm a child again. My mother is perched at the vidscreen watching news about the war. I'm writing. I'm always writing. I see the childish jags of my cursive, the smear of ink on my pale fingers. It's a story about the ocean and what dwells below. The ocean is what the Roamers took first. I'll never get to see the world it hides. My mother coughs and the effort seizes her body, forces her to the ground. Blood on her teeth, on her hand. I drop my pen and rush to her side. I see the vidscreen from the corner of my eye. The image freezes me.

With a jolt, I'm propelled back into the truck with Ellis. He's staring now, face tight with concern. My heart is thundering in my throat and my forehead is damp.

"Atlantis," I say like a valve releasing steam. "You're thinking of Atlantis."

Ellis hits the wheel with his fist, gently, but his plated glove still makes that dull clank noise. "Can't stump you, can I?"

"I wrote stories about it when I was a kid. I used to be obsessed." I dry my forehead with my sleeve. The book in the backseat is dead quiet now. Had your fun? I want to yell.

Something brushes against my hand on the armrest and I realize it's Ellis. He does this sometimes, pokes or squeezes my arm just for a moment, just to remind me of his existence. I've learned he's the type of man who needs to make his presence known to me, needs me to understand that he's still doing his duty.

"You alright?"

"It was the book," I nod to the backseat. "I guess it's feeling neglected."

"I can put it in the trunk."

"No, distance wont matter. It'll find a way to reach out either way." I don't like talking about the book and my voice comes out harder than I want it to.

A grimness settles into Ellis' expression. I imagine a hammer and chisel being held to the sculpted planes of his face, the only discernible way to make him appear even sterner. Beneath the coarse hair of his scruff I can make out the way his frown lines divot into his sun-golden skin. He catches my eye, again. I turn hot and red, again.

Despite what many have mistook us for, I am not a tricker and Ellis is not my keeper. We may be an odd pair but that isn't our arrangement. I've come to learn that the blame for this misunderstanding lies with me. Most young men who look like me are trickers. Most of them have no choice. I am lucky.

I hear my mother's voice. The difference between a gentleman and a bastard is slimmer than you'd think. You watch yourself out there, Chase. You won't be safe forever. Some men'll want more from you than you're ready to give.

I almost shake my head. I hired Ellis Pyre for a protection assignment. We are librarian and knight. Nothing more.

I feel safe around him, I do. He protects me. But he also scares me. He probably doesn't mean to and I don't think he can necessarily help it. He's a formidable man. He towers over me, him and his two swords and three guns. They jangle together as he walks. I've seen how he fights, seen the bloody paths he's cut through to ensure my safe passage. I've imagined being on the wrong end of his sword. It turns my mouth sour.

Still. I can't imagine anyone else at my side. Especially through these nights...

As I reread what I've recorded so far tonight, I realize I'm getting ahead of myself. I do that sometimes. I apologize.

My name is Chase Cansu. I will turn 25 in October. I was born in orbit but raised in British Columbia (good ol' B.C. if you're local). I have two degrees from UGW Capital University, one in English and one in Orbital Communications (back when I was starry-eyed, thinking I'd have a career off-world, ha). I completed my master's in library and information science and took a job at the UGW History Archives in Vancouver. I am a librarian there. Or, I was.

God, even now with the clarity of hindsight, I still don't know quite where to begin.

I am supposed to be a lover of books. After all, I was paid to catalogue, process, and organize them every day. But if I had known what lay ahead of me when I found the goddamned leather-bound thing that has driven an ugly black scar down the center of my life, I would have cast it into the poisoned ocean, blasted it into space, or torn it to shreds myself, page by page.

I've always wanted to be a storyteller, so I will start from the beginning.

Before I turned the first page.

End of Chapter 1
To Be Continued

Thank you so much for starting this new journey, reader! Send all comments and feedback to: or tweet me at @Quinn_DK