Gentle Chains (The Eleyi Saga Book 1)

Gentle Chains

Book 1 of The Eleyi Saga

 

Nazarea Andrews

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents
are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events,
or locales is entirely coincidental. The author makes no claims to, but instead
acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of any wordmarks
mentioned in this work of fiction including brands or products.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Nazarea Andrews.

 

GENTLE CHAINS by Nazarea Andrews

All rights reserved. Published in the United
States of America by A&A Literary.

 

Summary: Stolen from their home, and sold into
slavery, psychic twins Juhan and Chosi cling to the hope of finding each other
and returning home.

 

ISBN
978-0-9894799-8-1

1. Space Opera. 2. Psychics. 3. Romance.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced
in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of
brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 
 

For information, address 3106 Hilton Ave Suite
121 Columbus GA, 31904.

www.nazareaandrews.com

 
 

Edited by Brianna Shrum

Cover design by Melissa Stevens of The Illustrated Author

Cover art copyright©: Nazarea Andrews

Ebook Formatting by A&A Literary

For Chantee—

Who has held my hand and talked me down, and told me to focus.

And who has loved every single version of this story, almost as much as
I do.

 
 

Chapter 1

 

Chosi’le

 
 

CREATURES OF THE SKY are not meant to be in water, yet here I am. All
because I made a stupid dare with my brother. Again.

As the warm water closes around me, crushing my wings to my back, I
fight the urge to gulp for breath. I have to relax. I’m safe. I don’t need to
breathe as long as I have the amphibious gel to filter oxygen for me. I stretch
my mind, feeling the eels and fish, the dim awareness of the plant life, the
peaceful edge of Eleyi sentries in the treetops. If I try hard enough, I can
see them in my mind—pale and humanoid, with the gorgeous, multi-colored wings
that set us apart from the humans who settled this planet. Our ancestors.

I should be there, in the trees. Not held down by water and unable to
fly.

An eel darts past, and I jerk away from its barbed tail, but it’s
already gone. I look around—I’m alone. Which can only mean Juhan’tr is about to
back out of his end of the dare.

-Get
your skinny ass in here
,- I demand on a psychic thread, my mind to his,
twisting to look through the water to the shimmering surface.

I feel his laughter, the edge of his intent before he dives. I jerk
backward, almost out of his grasp. Juhan was always faster than me. His long
fingers close around my ankle and I thrash, irritation swamping me. I open my
mouth to inhale and shout at him.

It breaks the gel seal that is letting me breathe, and I choke as sticky
sweet water floods my mouth.

-Close
your mouth, you idiot,-
my brother orders -
you’re not a fish.-
I glare at him as I obey, the amphibious gel
sealing with a soft ‘pop’.

He smirks. -
This was your idea.-

He mellows the jab by twisting to grasp my hand. It is familiar enough
to settle me and I glance around again. Brilliant water lilies bob at us, a
quiet thrum of psychic energy running through them, drawing the fish that
scatter their seed pods. The water, tinted a soft orange by the Eltei roots,
tickles as it disturbs my wet wings.

I glance at my brother and see the awe in his eyes. All around us,
swarms of brilliant purple kenkark fish glide by, silently sucking at the water
as their double wings swirls circles, churning the water above and around us,
obscuring everything but their jewel bright tones.

-
Deeper?-
Juhan nudges and I
grin, nodding.

He dives first, and I watch him, the water streamlining his dark hair,
pinning his emerald-toned dragonfly wings to his back. Like this, he can almost
pass as human, all long slender limbs and effortless grace. Juhan twists his
head, looking at me curiously. I dart after him.

The roots of the Eltei trees, as thick as my waist and the bright orange
of the Eltei leaves, sink past us, disappearing in the deep water. I jackknife,
swimming down to the undisturbed depths.
 
Far below me is the silent presence of something ancient and calm,
soothing some of my own jangled nerves.
 

When our ancestors first came to Eleyiar, they lived on the water and
the Eleyi trees never slept. That was lifetimes—dozens of lifetimes—ago. Now,
no one is brave enough to venture into the water. No one will risk being found
by the slavers without a way to escape.

The thought makes my wings twitch. I can’t fly until they dry. -
I’m
going deeper,-
I say impulsively, and feel Juhan’tr hesitating behind me. -
It
won’t take long.-

-We have to get back before Mother realizes
we’re gone,-
he reminds me, but he dives, following me
deeper.

One of the trees is waking, slowly. The leaves and submerged branches
stretch gradually. Silt bursts upward in plumes as the roots shift, obscuring
the planet floor. A sentient presence—vast and gentle—brushes my mind. I glance
at my brother. -
How long has it been, since we lived in the water?-
I
ask him.

-Since the first great Taking—a hundred and
fifty years. No one left the treetops after that,-
he
answers, awe filling his eyes again.

This is why he came—not because I wanted to swim, something we have
never done. He came for the chance to see the roots, to feel their thoughts
drifting on the orange waves. I smile at him and go through a curve of root,
brushing aside a weave of moss.

I feel the sharp spike of fear from my brother a heartbeat before the
net snaps closed around me.

 
 
 

Juhan’tr

 

We shouldn’t have come.

I
knew
better than to listen
to her; she’s always too damn impulsive. I glance around as she screams, a wash
of bubbles obscuring my sight. They could be anywhere—or nowhere. Slavers are
adept at traps.

-Calm down,-
I snap. Her panic is
spilling out of her, slamming into me, shattering the mental walls that have
never kept her out. She thrashes against the net, but I can see it’s useless—it
gleams silver in the water, strangely foreign in the undisturbed nature. I’d
bet my wings the metal is an alloy neither of us can break.

-Can you get me out?-
she asks, the forced calm she’s always assumed when
she was falling apart settling over her.

I shake my head and she inhales sharply—behind her mental walls, her
mind is a jumble of fear and panic. I force myself to ignore it and grasp the
root, frantically looking for the trap’s trigger, anything that can help me
free her. I can feel the slavers, their psyches a dark spangle of stars
clustering into us like the inevitability of a black hole.

-Juhan,
you could get me out,-
she says, and I follow her mental trail to the
idea. Me, using my abilities to control the slavers. I recoil, jerking from her
mind, shocked. Using my gifts against someone is so anathema to who I am, it’s
impossible to entertain.

Distantly, I feel a surge of triumph, from the approaching minds, and we
both go still, her wide eyes finding mine. Slavers—they were closer than I’d
thought.

-Go,-
she snarls. -
Tell Papa.-

I hesitate, imagining his reaction—the flicker of terror, the calm
acceptance, the bitter disappointment that will never fade. Even if he tried to
keep it from me, it would taint every emotion, every telepathic thought.

And I could never forgive myself if I left her to slavers. I dart
forward, yanking a knife from Chosi’s ankle sheath, and saw awkwardly at the
net. The slavers’ minds are ordered chaos above me, swirling deeper, and I grit
my teeth—tiny bubbles pop, the amphibious gel giving way.

-It’s useless, Juhan. Don’t let them take us
both—you could buy me back, but only if you
go,- Chosi snaps and I
shake my head, my hair obscuring my vision for a moment. This is useless—
I
am useless. What kind of brother am I,
if I can’t save her?

My psyche is bitter, and she flinches as she absorbs it. -
The Others
never let Eleyi buy each other, even if Father could afford it. If I came to
the auction, I’d be in chains at the next sale. I’d rather be with you from the
start.-
I drop the knife, and
watch it spiral down into the darkness.

Her eyes widen in anger and she hisses, snapping at me. I feel her fury
like a palatable wave.

And then, the slavers are here, swarming around us with brutal
efficiency. I have just a moment to taste the surprise on their auras, feel the
jitter of excitement, before one yanks on my wings. Pain flares, hot and
blinding, along my back. I feel Chosi’s anger exploding outward, a
mini-shockwave that does nothing but push me into the waiting blackness.

 
 
 

Chapter
2

 

Chosi’le

 
 

A SLAVER IS GRIPPING Juhan by the wings. I scream again, choking on my
anger and the water flooding past my broken gel seal.

A slaver darts toward me, antennae probing the orange water. Large black
eyes swivel, assessing me. Its emotions are a mix of anticipation and pleased surprise—even
without understanding the gibbering nonsense of its thoughts, I know it’s happy
with our capture.

And below the slaver’s mind, below my anger and the void where Juhan
should be—are the sentient trees, the damn trees that I used to lure my brother
from the branches. -
Another one,-
I hear the thoughts of the tree
echoing in my mind, and I gasp. No one hears the trees anymore.-
Come to us, only to be lost.
You’ll leave now. We won’t touch your
thoughts again.-
The voice
is thick with sorrow, and it pulls at my psyche until I want to weep, and rage.

The net jerks upward and I shriek, a silent protest as I am slammed into
a large root. The tree cries with me, and I close my eyes against its thoughts.
What will Papa think when we don’t return? How long will they search for us?
Will they bother?

The slavers holding Juhan clamp a metal cuff to his wrist before they
start toward the surface, trailing bubbles behind them.

I strain against the net, pushing at it with my limp wings. Once Juhan
is gone, the remaining slavers converge on me. I shudder at the sight of their
shiny, insectile faces, the probing antennae, the pincers on their second set
of arms, the blank intensity they exhibit as they scuttle through the water
like overgrown earwigs.

Yalten. Of all the Others, it had to be them.

The assent is painful—they jerk my net along with no regard to what I
hit. A school of fish scatters when I burst through it. When I bob to the
surface, a slaver yanks me from the orange water and dumps me, dripping and
limp, onto the bottom of their skiff. They gibber again, and one leans down to
slap a cuff on me.

A sharp spear of pain stabs through me and I shudder, my wings seizing
tight against my back. I fight the scream that’s choking my breath, and my
vision blurs as an electron current arcs through me from the cuff. I try to
breathe and choke on the amphib gel. With no water to filter oxygen from, the
amphib gel is useless, filling my mouth and choking me. I cough, gagging as I
spit it out. I struggle toward Juhan, ignoring the pain in my body as I clear
the gel from his mouth and he takes a shuddering breath.

“Prisoners are not allowed to touch,” one of the slavers snaps, a nasal
series of clacking snicks that makes my skin crawl.

I blink past the pain and stare in confusion around me.

“Can you understand me?” the Yalten demands, and I realize I do. He
reaches out and backhands, hard exoskeleton slamming into me, pain criss
crossing across my vision, like a fedlin
  
spider spinning a web, a thousand electric strands spun a thousand
directions. Coppery blood floods my mouth and I fall back against the skiff. He
leans over, grabbing a handful of my pale blonde hair and yanking my head up.
“I asked you a question.”

Without thinking, I spit the blood at him, satisfaction flaring in me
when it smacks his shiny face with a wet slap. Rage darkens his psyche and he
slams the back of my head against the skiff. I scream, high and shrill.
Distantly, I feel the spike of alarm in our sentries. But they are in the
treetops. They’ll never get here in time to stop the skiff. And they are
Eleyi
sentries—they watch, they don’t
fight. Even if we were not pacifists, they would not risk capture.

The Yalten drops me, and I huddle on the bottom of the boat, blood
leaking from my lip, dripping onto the metal cuff.

“Learn to watch that temper, leech, or you’ll never make it to the
auction house,” the Yalten says. He wipes my blood from his face and smears it
into my wet suit.

I can barely sense the sentries now--they are too far, even soaring
through the treetops.

-Chosi’le. Juhan’tr. Tell our father. Tell our
mother,-
I scream across the telepathic thread, and I feel their hesitation. -
You
can’t save us. They’re Yalten. Tell our family.-

Again, there is a moment of hesitation, and then the sentries fall back.
There is nothing they can do--not against the sheer numbers and savagery of the
Yalten.

I hate the sentries for it—for abandoning us.

 
-
Farewell and starry skies,
sister,-
one whispers across the thread, a wash of empathy coming from the
others.

And then they are gone.

 
 

Juhan’tr

 
 

Space sickness wakes me.

I retch, my stomach heaving as I throw up, a splash of orange water that
splatters on the iron grating. I heave again and again, until my muscles ache
and my throat feels raw and nothing but a thin string of spit hangs from my
mouth.

Space. We’re off-planet. I can feel it in the anxious cramping of my
belly, the lightness of my wings, the pressure of the ship’s grav field pushing
against me. Panic threatens, and I shiver.

-Juhan.-

I twist and see Chosi’le a few feet away. Her face is bloody, and she
sags against the bulkhead. My stomach drops, nausea and guilt flooding me. I
shift, scrambling toward her. Electricity crackles through me as I reach for
her, and I yelp, falling back.

-Prisoners are allowed no contact,-
she
says the words mocking. I can taste the anger in her, barely restrained. -
Sit
back.-

I hardly realize I have obeyed until I’m sitting. She refuses to look at
me, so I take a quick glance around. The hold is spacious—under other
circumstances, it might be comfortable. But it’s crowded with Eleyi, almost all
of them very young—chubby with baby fat, still in that gawky stage before their
bodies catch up to the size of their wings. I catch sight of a tan little
redhead girl with crimson butterfly wings. She looks familiar—like the little
girl I’ve seen skipping around the trees with my tutor. His missing niece. For
the first time, panic seeps in—all of these children were Taken.

I’ve been Taken.

My hands shake and I clench them into fists, aware of Chosi’s careful
attention on me.

I force my mental voice to stay steady when I
ask,
-Is that Kendle’ka?-

Chosi glances in the girl’s direction. -
Yes. Poor thing hasn’t
stopped crying since we arrived.-

How long has it been? I see her twitch, a miniscule response to my
confusion. Being psychic telepaths doesn’t offer much room for hiding
things—being twins leaves less.

-I told the sentries. They’ll tell Mother and
Papa,-
she says across the thread to me, and I can feel the curious nudges of
other Eleyi touching my mind. Chosi’s psychic touch is heavy, guilty, and that
worries me.
–They didn’t fight for us,-
she
adds, angrily.
 
-They
should
have fought for us.-

I feel the minds around us recoiling—it makes our people uneasy, talk of
fighting. It makes
me
uneasy—nervous
and sick to my stomach. I’m used to it, though—Chosi has never been as peaceful
as I am.

She finally looks at me, and something in her gaze is raw and bleak. I
shudder. -
The slavers are Yalten.-

I look away—there was hope, before. Hope that
we could escape, hope that we could get home. Now, the only hope is that we’re
bound for the auction houses and not the Scarlet Stain.

 

Chosi is quiet after that, closing in on herself in a way that she has
rarely done. I’m so accustomed to her constant presence in my mind it’s almost
more terrifying than the slavers. Almost.

Of all the Others who have come to Eleyiar for slaves, the Yalten are
the worst. They have no pity, no remorse—and they never stop. An insectile race
broken into tribes fanatically loyal to their queens, they travel in hordes—if
you see four, there are sure to be twenty. They aren’t psychic, but they work
with a hive mind, taking orders directly from the queen they live and die for.

More Eleyi are stolen by Yalten slavers than all Others together.
 
And no one has been rescued from the Yalten.
Ever.

I watch as a horde descends into the hold, watch the young Eleyi around
me backing away from them. A Yalten male steps on an Eleyi female’s wing,
ripping it, and I flinch at her scream. He doesn’t laugh, doesn’t react to the
pain in her voice. He doesn’t do anything at all to acknowledge her.

I wait for him to walk away, then inch toward her. A shield of
electricity springs up and I yelp.

-Stop it
,- Chosi hisses at me.
She’s glaring at the slaver walking toward us, but there is something desperate
in her. -
Don’t bother, Juhan--it’s not worth it.-

-They’re children, Chos. We have to care for
them,-
I protest, stunned.

-We have to survive. We can’t protect them if
we’re dead.-

A Yalten is walking toward us, his antennae pricked and waving. His
thoughts are a foreign mess—I can’t understand the language in which he thinks.
But I can feel his emotions, his gloating triumph. “Are you feeling a bit more
cooperative, leech?” he asks.

I’m startled that I can understand his speech. Chosi twitches her wrist,
and I glance down at the silver cuff gleaming against her pale skin. Of course—a
commtrans must be embedded in the cuff. “I’m feeling a bit dirty, actually,”
Chosi says, her voice deceptively light. “Don’t suppose I could get a shower?”

The Yalten pauses, and amusement fills him for a heartbeat before it’s
gone. “No, leech. You can’t. Not until we reach the auctions.”

Without another word, he checks our shackles, the electric field
separating us, and then moves on to the next pair of Eleyi.

-There are so many children,-
I
say, depression filling me.

I know why. The younger we are when Taken,
the easier it is to control us, to mold us into what they want.
 

It’s the curse of our people—the psychic touch that we hadn’t known to
keep to ourselves when Others landed on Eleyiar hundreds of years earlier.
Eleyiar was settled centuries ago, by humans fleeing a dying Earth. After we
settled Eleyiar, we were forgotten for centuries, as Earth fought to survive,
and the galaxies became interwoven. I don’t know why they came back—maybe it
was just something that eventually had to happen—but they did. They found
Eleyi,
my
people—descendants of human
settlers who had been changed by time and the psychic planet. Peaceful winged
telepaths who didn’t know to hide our gifts.

I look around again at all the children. How will we survive this? How
will they? We don’t go off-world. Eleyi are tied too closely to our roots, to
the great trees themselves, to venture off-planet often.

And it isn’t safe. I shiver as the slavers’ words echo again. The
auction houses—and no one on Eleyiar will lift a finger to save us. It would do
no good if they tried.

 
 
 
 

Chosi’le

 
 

Anger keeps me going.

When Juhan is awake, I try to act like none of this touches me. Like I’m
not furious. And he believes me, for the most part. But when he sleeps,
collapsing into dreams that I won’t touch, I let the rage sweep over me.
 

The air is thick with the smell of piss, vomit, and rank body odor. And
fear. So much fear. I wonder how many of the children were able to psychically
reach the sentries when they were Taken, how many were able to tell someone
what had happened.

It can’t be many. They are too young, in the first blush of their
telepathic ability, and that makes it virtually impossible to touch the mind of
someone far away. They haven’t been trained yet.

How do the sentries live with themselves, bringing back daily tallies of
the Taken?

 

The Yalten leave us alone most of the time, and we glide through the
abyss of space lost in fear and silence. I drift on dreams of killing the
slavers. Even hell can become monotonous, and as time passes with no way to
measure it, I begin to track time by how often they check our restraints.

After what I gauge to be a sevenday, they come in force. A horde of
Yalten swarms the hold, splitting the cavernous space almost down the middle.
For the first time, the electric fields are down and we are able to touch.
Juhan scrambles to me, and I can feel his relief pulsing against my mental
shields as he hugs me. His heartbeat is a steady drum under my ear, and for
just a moment, the anger recedes. I can see the relief in my people’s eyes,
feel it streaming through the air. And that scares me. In my brother’s arms, I
tense, waiting.

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