Some stars aren’t meant to be followed.
For seventeen years, Ezra Newport and his parents were habitual immigrants, traveling from their Ottoman Empire home across 20th century Europe. As the Newports migrate to Belfast, Ireland, Ezra wants nothing more to settle into a consistent life and lay the foundation of his architectural dreams. But after a strange, mechanical bounty hunter murders his mother and prompts the disappearance of his father, Ezra discovers that his parents had actually been on the run. Now, their enemies are targeting him, and they won’t stop until he is dead.
In a moment of desperation, Ezra’s fate collides with the Third Order of the Magi, a secret society dedicated to using their supernatural powers to protect their communities. With increasing violence around the world, the Magi are fairly certain they know who’s behind the attacks on Ezra and his family since the same group could also be threatening their own existence.
Both Ezra and the Magi’s survival hinges on knowledge only Ezra’s father has and the key to saving them could be buried within history itself. In a race across continents and time, both Ezra and the Magi must secure an ancient Babylonian artifact before hell is unleashed on the world. And, against all odds, Ezra must decide where his allegiances truly lie, despite what is written in the stars.
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A blinding white light illuminated the compartment then faded just before a concussive shockwave sent the scene around them into oblivion. Reeling in confusion, Ezra found himself lying prostrate in a barely conceivable jumble of his former surroundings. Splintering glass shattered around him. A warm stream of a substance—oil? Blood? —trickled down his forehead and along the corner of his mouth. Ezra wiped it away with the sleeve of his coat, cringing at the crimson trail left behind. His equilibrium—as much as he tried to control it—spiralled in a vicious vortex, rendering it nearly impossible to get his bearings.
“Anne?” he croaked in Turkish. His voice, hardly louder than a whisper, was drowned out by the infernal ringing in his ears.
Reaching for the compartment door handle to pull himself to his feet, Ezra recoiled when he noticed the door had been smeared with cruel red streaks. Smoke billowed throughout the walkway, choking him as he navigated on hands and knees through the devastation.
“Anne?” he called again.
His mother was within arm’s reach, but the look in her eyes seemed dangerously far.
Ezra crawled to her side where she lay gasping for air. His stomach contorted into knots at the sight of a dark, liquid halo surrounding her headscarf.
“Let’s get you out of here,” Ezra insisted, attempting to prop her up into a seated position. He frantically looked around for any sign of his father. “We need to find Baba!”
“Shhh,” she insisted, shakily reaching up to her son’s face. “Don’t worry about us. Flee. Get as far away from here as you possibly can.”
“What are you saying?” Ezra said, wondering if somehow his brain had lost all ability to comprehend language.
“Your baba and I knew this day would come,” she whispered, tears swimming in her eyes. “They have found us. They have found you.”
“Who? Who has found—” Ezra began but was silenced when her complexion faded to a ghastly white. He hesitantly followed her gaze over his shoulder.
Distorted by smoke, an inky black shadow materialised at the end of the walkway. The figure plodded toward them with an uneven gait, accompanied by ominous, mechanical whirring. But when the being finally stopped, and the smoke cleared just enough to expose his anamorphic features, Ezra could not bring himself to move.
“By the Order of Babylon, you are hereby commanded to follow and obey,” his deep voice warbled through some type of amplification apparatus. His breath’s condensation—or rather, steam—fumed from the steel grates around where his mouth should have been.
Ezra’s own breath faltered as the orange light from nearby flames illuminated the figure’s head. Slits in his mask revealed rugged skin and dark shadows beneath an organic eye, but the other portion consisted entirely of an intricate web of gears and piping. While at one time, the figure might have been an ordinary person, whoever now stood before him was nothing close to being human.
“We shall not!” his mother barked defensively, feigning a physical strength Ezra knew she lacked. “We will never yield.”
“Hmm,” the shadow mused. “So be it, Magus.” A snap of his fingers sent ruby sparks into the haze and, upon deteriorating, revealed a massive cobra. Its thick body slithered across the wreckage and advanced straight for Ezra.
“Ezra, go!” cried his mother as a deluge of glass fragments rained upon them.
Crab-walking backward, Ezra manoeuvred as fast as he could away from the serpent, but it navigated the debris as if nothing stood in its way. The reptile snapped its jaws centimetres from his leather shoe, a fierce wrath in its eyes.
“Leave him alone, devil!” yelled Leyla, summoning what strength remained to kick at the snake with her boot.
Almost in slow motion, the cobra turned its fiery eyes toward his mother and bared its fangs as if overjoyed to set a course for its new target.
“No!” Ezra screamed in terror. “No, no, no!”
The cobra paid no attention to his pleas. It struck in one sickening flash, almost too fast for the eye to comprehend. As it withdrew, Ezra choked back arduous smoke—and a wave of tears—as his mother reflexively reached for her neck.
Narrowing its eyes as if perversely satisfied by the work of its venom now coursing through her veins, the cobra turned back to Ezra.
Trembling, Ezra tried to move but could not persuade his petrified limbs to cooperate.
“Go, my love!” Leyla rasped. “Go!”
Using his elbows to help pull him down the corridor, he furiously attempted escape. If the half-man, half-machine could grin or show any form of expression, Ezra imagined he was elated beyond measure at the persistence of his pet. The mysterious being advanced, his boots ravishing the ashy remains of pencil-sketched architecture.
“Where is your father, boy?” demanded the figure. “Tell me!”
Ezra could barely breathe as the figure hovered above him. A true vision of the Grim Reaper. The last thing Ezra saw before his vision faded was the cruel twinkle behind the mask of the stranger.
Since the early age of 6, Kale Lawrence knew she either wanted to be an astronaut or an author. Obviously, the astronaut gig didn’t work out, so instead, Kale turned to fantastic fictional worlds. When Kale is not writing creatively, she works as a Marketing Manager at a pet product company, and pretends she’s an Olympic swimmer at the gym. She has also served as a board member for the South Dakota Writes organization.
In addition to books, Kale has lent her writing prowess to television, and her writing has been featured on nationwide PBS television programming, NBC newscasts, ABC newscasts, and the Travel Channel.
Kale currently lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with her feisty tortoiseshell calico cat, Emma Bug and sassy Siamese, Seattle Bean.