“The mind readers stole our land, our liberty, our happiness, our dignity, our deepest secrets and our dearest loves.  I will gain it all back, piece by bloody piece.”

– a long-forgotten Yeresunsa who rebelled against the early Torth Empire

Evenjos walked the decks of the starship in the guise of a refugee woman, bundled in rags so that no one would get a good look at her.  She had not achieved authenticity as one of the albino people.  They were aliens to her, chinless and long-necked.  

She kept her misshapen attempt at one of their faces buried in scarves and woolens.  

She listened.  She searched in vain for familiar customs or familiar languages.  Where might she find Yeresunsa who were loyal to her?  Where were the royals?  The nobles?

Families huddled around lanterns or rubbish heaps lit on fire.  They peered forlornly into empty urns that held no water.  

Everyone aboard this overcrowded starship was a filthy commoner.  Worse—they were foreign.  They did not pray to the goddess-empress, as they should.  Instead, they whispered prayers to a giant.  

Evenjos thought she knew their big savior.  Ariock.  He had rescued her, as well.

This starship was crude, just an empty shell.  It was devoid of furnishings or basic plumbing.  It was horrifically overcrowded.  If Ariock had made this place, as his worshipers believed, well, he hadn’t done a very good job.  Unimpressive.

As for the refugees … although they traveled in a vessel capable of delivering them to a new world, their minds held no recognition of that fact.  They were nothing but ignorant cave dwellers.  

Disgusted, Evenjos dropped her corporeal focus.  She disintegrated into a cloud of dust, letting the empty rags drop.  The nearest aliens gasped in shock.  She didn’t care.

She flitted overhead, from room to room, seeking anything familiar.  She was nearly desperate enough to revisit that sickly monster-child who called himself “Thomas,” to beg him for advice, but that idea made her shudder, even in her incorporeal state.  Thomas was dangerous.  He reminded her of Unyat.

Or maybe Unyat’s clone.  Or his clone’s clone?

To Evenjos, the past was a disjointed haze.  She feared that her memory might be permanently damaged, atrophied after years of….

(don’t think of it)

She pushed away the darkness.  

Really, she ought to kill Thomas.  He was a telepath; he knew that she was scared and alone, and he had the same calculating mind as Unyat, with that creepy, all-consuming curiosity.  What was to stop him from tricking all these cave dwellers into serving as his minions?  

Thomas could outwit anyone.  Even Evenjos herself.  That made him an obvious threat.  He should be eliminated.


Evenjos had a disturbing sense that she owed the monster-child an enormous debt of gratitude.  He had saved her from that…

(no, don’t think)

That hellish pit of despair.

Memories kept seeping into her subconsciousness, like sludge filling an ancient well.  Hadn’t Thomas been trapped inside that terrible prison with her?  Hadn’t he tried to comfort her, in there?

He had.

And he had saved her, after so many others had tried and failed.

So Evenjos would allow the scary boy to live.  For now.  But if he showed the least sign of becoming like Unyat and masterminding a plot against her … well, her generosity and tolerance had limits.  

An eerie keening caught her attention.  It was followed by another ululating wail, and another.

Albino maidens marched in a procession, eight abreast.  They dipped in a choreographed dance, trailing gauzy sleeves while they sang in discordant lamentation.

The bereaved maidens preceded an enormous bier, carried by a formidable troop of nussians.  Upon that platform lay Ariock.  

Evenjos could not detect life sparks in her discorporated state.  But judging by the grubby-looking albinos who sat cross-legged around Ariock, gazing at him with intense focus—and judging by the concern which everyone exhibited for him—she suspected he was gravely ill.  

Instead of wearing badges to denote their incarnations and magnitudes, these alien Yeresunsa wore identical purple mantles draped over their shoulders and backs.  That made their role hard to guess.  Were they healers?  If so, why were they failing to complete the job?  Or were they telekinetics, struggling to keep Ariock’s heart beating and his lungs breathing?


The procession included more people.  There was the grouchy old man who had been present when Evenjos was rescued.  There was the maiden with the peg leg and the auburn hair; the one who had spread herself over Ariock’s comatose chest with that possessive look.  

As the maiden limped alongside his bier, the fury on her face was plain.  Evenjos had trouble reading minds in her discorporated state, but she could see that the girl’s rage was directed inward.  She resented this funerary procession.  

Did she think it was an unnecessary farce?

Evenjos wondered if the girl was right.  After all, Ariock must be alive, or he would not be surrounded by healers or whatever type of Yeresunsa these foreigners were.  

What was the cause of his illness?  A brain injury?  Those were nearly impossible to heal.  Was he bleeding internally?  

His illness looked like power depletion, but that was unthinkable.  A well-bred stormbringer of his magnitude would never be so stupid as to deplete his powers.  

Evenjos gathered her various dust particles.  For an accurate delving, she would need the focus which only her default body could afford her.

She coalesced amidst grief-stricken bystanders.  Some of the albinos were tapping the bier with their most venerated family heirlooms: urns, platters, hairbrushes, staffs, and candelabras.  That seemed to be their way of honoring the dead.

The procession halted and the keening stopped.

Hundreds of people stared at Evenjos in awe.  It was plain that none of them had ever seen a goddess.  Or an empress.

Evenjos had been beautiful even in her youth, and with centuries of practice, beauty had become second nature to her.  Stylized waves of lavender hair cascaded over her bare shoulders.  Wings arced from her back, electric magenta lightened by an opalescent sheen.  A shimmering white gown and diadem completed the look.  

This was the form she felt most accustomed to, and most comfortable in.

“Oh great one!”  The gnarled old man bowed.  Unlike everyone else, he alone seemed to recognize her as a sovereign.  

Disappointingly, he was not a Yeresunsa.  His life spark was common.

Despite his rich cape and trimmed white beard, he wore ornate armor.  He had to lean on a staff for support.  Not a royal, then.  A royal would have been able to afford a healer for his crooked leg.  The scars on his creased face bespoke a hard life, confirming that he was merely a commoner.

Evenjos frowned as the old man limped into her range.  He was a telepath.


Telepaths were the worst sort of commoner.  They worshiped science and Unyat.  She prepared to slay him.  A bolt of lightning should suffice.

“I am your most humble servant.”  The old man stooped in an obsequious bow.  “If you’ll have me.”  He mentally introduced himself as Garrett Dovanack, and he seemed to have a ludicrously high opinion of himself.  “Thank you for gracing us with your royal presence.”

Evenjos studied Garrett Dovanack with narrow-eyed suspicion.

His mind held a lot of knowledge, but not a godlike amount.  He contained the wisdom of one lifetime rather than millions.  That was acceptable.  

And she felt a strange sense of familiarity with Garrett, as if they had shared a prison cell together.  She knew him from… 

(not worth thinking about)

Somewhere.  A time and a place that she did not wish to ponder.

“Rise.”  Evenjos touched Garrett on the shoulder, signaling that she accepted his servitude.  Garrett showed proper respect towards her.  That was refreshing.  Perhaps he was one of the holdouts who secretly worked against the machinations of Unyat?

Besides … although she mistrusted telepaths, she had to admit that telepathy would facilitate communication.  

The only reason Evenjos was able to speak the alien tongue of these people was because she was a low level telepath herself.  She kept having to mentally decipher their words.  If she wanted to make herself understood, she had to mentally translate, which was a chore.  She didn’t like it.  

“Many thanks, mighty one.”  Garrett straightened awkwardly.  “I hate to beg a favor of you, but I’m afraid we have no choice.”

Evenjos rolled her eyes.  Of course her new manservant wanted a favor.  She couldn’t guess much about these people, but she could guess why they’d rescued her.  Power.  It was always that.  Everyone wanted the goddess-empress to grant their wishes. 

She sighed.

Garrett chose simple words and spoke slowly, aware that Evenjos needed to mentally translate everything.  “This large man over here is on the brink of death.  He rescued you, and he also rescued all of us, aboard this ship.  We cannot afford to lose him.  I beg you.”  He faced Evenjos with a pleading gaze.  “Will you heal him?”

Evenjos strutted past Garrett, pretending that she needed time to decide.  She wanted a few moments to study Ariock.

Even unconscious, he was a marvel to behold.  His sheer size drew attention.  He must have no peers.  

He was handsome, in a rugged, oversized sort of way.  

He would make an interesting lover.

Evenjos held her hands over his chest, ignoring the possessive, poisonous look from the maiden with the peg leg.  What a silly girl.  How could someone without powers—a cripple, no less—believe, even for a second, that she was worthy of a majestic stormbringer?  

Whatever ailment Ariock had would probably be mendable.  These cave dwellers were unimpressive.  Evenjos sensed the low strength of their life sparks, and figured they just needed a mightier healer…

She jerked back.  

Ariock had no injuries.  His life spark ebbed on the verge of death, curled up tight, beyond any hope of a natural recovery.  

He was critically depleted. 

“He needs more power than I have right now.”  Evenjos stepped back, puzzled by the ignorance around her.  Did these primitive people not grasp the dangers of power depletion?

And what sort of fool was Ariock?  He had not seemed suicidal.  Could he really have depleted himself by accident? 

“Where is your Yeresunsa Order?” Evenjos demanded.  She wanted to calm down, but a darkness inside her rose up, grabbing for answers.  Why was everything so alien?  What if this was all a delusion?  What if she was still screaming in…

(stop don’t think of that)

In darkness and silence?

“What happened to my world?” she asked, unable to suppress the plaintive note in her voice.  “Where are my people?”  

“You tore your world apart,” the peg leg maiden said.  “Remember?”

Evenjos had destroyed a cesspool of a planet, yes.  But not her own beautiful world?  No.  Surely not.  She had torn apart a polluted obscenity crawling with mutant telepaths.  The universe did not need a blight such as that. 

Why was Garrett studying her with pained pity?  It made her feel ashamed.  A goddess-empress should never be made to feel this way.

So what if a few innocent aliens had died in her vengeful destruction.  So what?  Evenjos always acted with the greater good in mind.  She had saved the universe from millions of nasty telepathic abominations.  Didn’t these commoners trust her judgment?  

Didn’t they know who she was?

“I want to speak to your powerful Yeresunsa,” Evenjos demanded.  “Who is in charge among you?”

Garrett coughed in a self-effacing way.  “That would be me.”

An albino woman spoke at the same time.  “I am in charge of all the surviving Yeresunsa.  My name is Jinishta.”

Jinishta and Garrett gave each other defiant glares.

Both of them lacked an intense life spark.  They could not be Yeresunsa.  Unless…

Had Unyat’s inhibitor serum become widespread?  Had Unyat mass-produced the cursed stuff, the way he had mass-produced his awful mutation Formula?

This situation just got worse and worse.  Evenjos transformed her subcutaneous skin layer to diamond-hard strength.  She needed to be careful.  She knew, from painful experience, that she was not immune to the inhibitor.

As she surveyed the brutes around her, she concluded that none of them deserved to be in charge.  No one here had a drop of noble blood or breeding, except maybe for Ariock.  

Just how many years had passed while she suffered in the dark?  In that…

(bad bad don’t think about it)

…That hellish pit, sealed away from the universe?  

A hundred years?  Two hundred?

“How long was I…”  Evenjos hesitated, because she yearned for reassurance that her world still existed, and that her loyal subjects still supported her, and that everything would be all right.  

She forced the question out.  “How long was I imprisoned?”  

The onlookers blinked as though Evenjos was speaking gibberish.  She had painstakingly translated her thoughts into their weird alien language, but perhaps her accent was a problem?  Well, she was not a translator.  She would not attempt the accents that went with this alien tongue. 

Garrett spoke in a soothing tone.  “We can discuss that later, your highness.”

“I need to know.”  A dreadful guess welled up in her chest, forcing her breath to come in short gasps.  “Why is everything so different?” 

A thousand generations.  That was what Ah Jun had predicted.

No.  That was impossible.  Ah Jun had been a fraud; a false oracle.  A dozen generations might have passed.  Evenjos could tolerate that.  She could readjust.  After all, she had ruled her planet for more than two hundred years, remaining young while her parents and brothers were dead from old age.  So what if she had outlived her supporters and loyalists?  She would gather new ones.

“It doesn’t really matter how long your imprisonment lasted,” Garrett said in that soothing tone.  “What matters is—”

Her snarl of rage caused electricity to snap around her hair and wings.  “HOW LONG?”

Garrett cringed.  “Twenty-four millenniums, give or take.”

Evenjos had to pause and mentally translate his answer into a number she could comprehend.

Except it wasn’t merely years.  It wasn’t even mere centuries.  It was so much more.

The shock made her lose bodily cohesion.  All of the ignorance and alien customs made chilling sense.  Eons had passed.  The universe had changed beyond recognition.  Everyone she knew was dead, crumbled to dust and long forgotten.

Unyat had won the war.

And she had lost.

Her Crystal Throne was gone.  Her world was truly gone.  

Evenjos reformed her body, but she was not the same person.  The weight of millenniums pressed upon her back.  She could not stop trembling.  That disgusting bald girl, Ah Jun, had been a true oracle, after all.  The darkness had come to pass.  

And Evenjos had, indeed, suffered a thousand generations without rescue.  A thousand generations of lonely, cold, deathly silence.  

“I’m sorry.”  Garrett seemed sincere.  “I am truly sorry.  I wish you hadn’t suffered so much.  No one deserves that.”  

Now Evenjos understood why Garrett’s manner was so bold in her presence.  She had assumed that he was a rural peasant, clumsy with etiquette.  The truth was much worse.  Garrett had no idea who she was. 

He inhabited a future where people were feeble and impoverished and uneducated.  What did he know of etiquette?  He was a brute of this era.

Evenjos swallowed, nauseated by how many obstacles she would have to overcome.  Maybe she was better off dead.

Except … could she die?

Evenjos held up her hand, manipulating molecules until her hand became transparent and glassy.  She could disintegrate into dust, or harden herself into titanium, or transform into anything she was capable of drawing or sculpting.  Her reconstituted body seemed to come with augmented shape-shifting powers.  

Before her imprisonment, Evenjos had been limited in scope, vulnerable to weapons and poisons.  That was how they’d trapped her.  Elome had made love to her … and the next thing she knew…

Evenjos shuddered and shoved away that awful memory.  She had been a fool.  Too trusting.

Now she could eat nuclear bombs while they exploded.

She could transform her strange new body into anything.  Anything at all.  The price for this power had been far too steep, so she didn’t feel particularly grateful, yet the price was paid in full.  Not much could threaten her anymore. 

“Please.”  The peg leg maiden—her mind hinted that she had a name, Vy—clasped her hands in desperation.  “I’ll do anything you want, if you help him.  Just please?  Help him?”

Evenjos considered the situation.  Considered Ariock.

Few weapons could harm her.  But after wrecking the planet, Evenjos had felt frightfully weak.  She had become so weak, even bodily cogency had been a struggle.  

She shuddered to think what might have happened if she had failed to locate this starship.  She might have dissipated forever.  

Power depletion was a risk for her.  She could probably still die that way.

Evenjos pursed her lips.  If she donated all of her strength to Ariock…

The problem was, she was still recovering from her own near-depletion.  To revive Ariock right now would likely entail depletion for her, and death.

Ariock did seem nice.  He had the respect of his people and the love of his friends.  But she didn’t really know him.  The giant might turn into a rival for her throne, or an unruly lover.  Evenjos had misjudged men in the past.  One such mistake had led directly to…

(darkness emptiness loneliness)

To her imprisonment.

“Ariock is worth taking a risk for.”  Garrett sounded properly subservient, but then he kept talking.  “Your highness, Ariock is a prince among men.  We absolutely need him.  If you can…”  He trailed off, because he must have detected her growing fury. 

Evenjos took a deep breath and regained her composure.  

Time travel was supposed to be impossible, yet here she was, a visitor to the distant future.  Maybe she could reestablish herself as the goddess-empress and change things for the better. 

She assessed the bystanders.  How much of her current weakness did she dare confess in front of strangers?

They seemed harmless.  But then, telepaths used to seem harmless to her.  It was safer not to trust anyone.

Evenjos contemplated Ariock again.  It was true that she owed him a debt of gratitude.  That was undeniable.  When Ariock had resurrected her … when he had held her in his massive arms, with her naked and trembling….

She had felt safe.

She wanted to feel that way again.

Evenjos trailed her hand down Ariock’s forehead and nose, touching his lips and scruffy chin, and her wings flexed.  She did want to get to know this royal messiah stormbringer titan.  Ariock did seem interesting.  He might be worth talking to.

At least he wasn’t a telepath.

“Very well.”  Evenjos heaved a sigh to show how great a favor these people were asking.  No doubt they would pester her with more wheedling requests.  That was the nature of commoners.  “I will revive him.  You have my word.”

NOTE: This chapter is a preview. Megacosmic Rift has a publication date of September 2024 and can be purchased on Audible, Amazon, or anywhere books are sold. The Torth series starts with Majority