ENCANTE by AIYANA JACKSON
Deep under the ocean, Simeon Escher, protégé to the leader of the order of Loth Lörion, finds himself an unexpected guest aboard the submersible, Narwhal. Home to a crew of humans, and strange mer-folk few people are aware exist, Simeon is swept up in their quest to find a world within a world, a possible safe haven from the insidious reach of the Kabbalah. Yet how can he think about his mission when the captain’s niece fills his every thought, distracting him from all that’s important to him, including his own fiancée?
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‘My worst fear is that I shall one day shift to another world and find it gone, sucked into some singularity, lost to a strangelet, or shattered by the rain of a million asteroids. Perhaps it would only take one—a rogue planet that for reasons beyond reason collided with another. We knew so little about the stars, how could we ever say with certainty that the worlds to which we travelled would still be there upon our arrival? That was, I suppose, the reason for the carapace—if one did step through into nothing, the carapace would activate. An invisible, translucent second skin, it preserved your air, giving you a little time to reactivate your damned compass and get home. And yet, I know this is not how portals are supposed to work. The Kabbalah takes no chances when hopping from one world to the next: they can see, as if looking through a window, exactly where they will appear on the other side.
The rebellion has precious few portals in their possession, all cobbled together from mismatched pieces of kit and barely functional parts. Since I joined I had become a man of many luxuries, courtesy of my benefactor, yet we still did not have the luxury of true portals; we still did not have the luxury of time. On my worst nights, I dreamed of losing my compass, of drifting in space, slowly suffocating as I watched a transient star devouring its childling planets.
One might wonder why I continued to hop from one world to the next, never knowing where I would materialise or what would await me. I liked to say it was for the adventure, for the cause, for the future, even for Cecelie, but the truth was far simpler: since joining the rebellion my worst nightmares had changed. And I far preferred the new to the old.
When it came to it, the carapace worked exactly as had been intended; however, I was to see no stars, no nebulas or magnetars. No comets. As the shell closed around me, I saw only one thing: darkness.’