Not Your Father's Horseman
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by Valerie Griswold-Ford
Category: Fantasy ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist
Description: Earth is a Balanced Land--Shadow Magic and Light Magic interweave to form a world where magic is known of, but not well. Most of the population figures that magic is some form of technological trick--a misconception the Council of Nine encourages. Earth is also the meeting place for the other Lands--the Shadow Lands and the Dawn Lands both have enclaves scattered about its surface, keeping all the Lands in Balance. Shadow Lords, Earth Lords and Dawn Lords--all work to keep the Balance steady. Or that's the rumor. In actuality, the Shadow Lord Andreas is working to disrupt the Balance, shift it towards him so that all the Lands fall into Shadow, giving him more power than anyone ever imagined. However, the Starchild stands poised to take it all away--to stand against her, he and the Dawn Lord Kymara are attempting to breed super soldiers, an army of Shadow-born warriors that will lead him to victory. But something goes wrong. The experiments are destroyed, and the first set of his soldiers disappears into the darkness, carried in the wombs of the two breeders they had. Now, twenty-three years later, Andreas is set to try again, with new breeders and a new companion by his side. And yet, once again, there are those who have come to stop him, most notably Nikki Jeffries, a young woman with a shadowed past and an uncertain future. Now the clock is ticking. If Nikki and her friends cannot stop Andreas from completing his experiments, the Council of Nine and the Starchild will have no choice but to reset the Balance utterly, wiping out everything and starting anew. But with the rumor running that the Four Horsemen have already been summoned and unleashed on the Earth, will they have time to stop him, before chaos envelops them all?
eBook Publisher: Dragon Moon Press, 2005 Tradepaper
eBookwise Release Date: August 2006
11 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [469 KB]
Reading time: 316-443 min.
The first explosion was barely noticed throughout the labyrinth that was the Gene-Tech Scientific Facility, especially in the secure wing, where the soundproofing and cold steel walls dampened the noise into the background. The lights flickered a bit, and one of the guards at the front desk noticed a small blip on one of his security screens. He was reaching for his walkie-talkie to ask one of his comrades to check out the generators when the lights died abruptly. The sudden silence was broken only by the excited babble that exploded over the walkie-talkies and the buzz of the orange emergency lights as they came on.
"What the hell is going on?"
The strong voice of Alex Masterson, head of the Facility, cut cleanly through the confusing gibberish, and the other voices stopped abruptly. The silence stretched as it became clear that no one had a response for the man who said impatiently, "I want an answer, dammit!"
He was standing in an antechamber deep within the secure wing, his handsome face lit by the hellish orange glow of the lights, the walkie-talkie clenched in one hand as he watched the two junior Mages in the other room finish the final preparatory spells. His dark hair was slicked back, as much by sweat as by gel, and his dark eyes were tense as they strained through the gloom to monitor what was going on in the inner chamber.
The ritual room was barely brighter than the outer room, but by the light of the candles lit around the edges of the chamber, he could see the two breeders strapped to the tables, their swollen bellies revealed and ready for this final session. When no answer came from the walkie-talkie, he threw the unit into the wall with an angry oath and resumed pacing. There was the faintest smell of burnt wires, like brimstone, in the air--some damn fool must have tripped one of the fail safes on the circuits again.
Everything had to go perfectly. There was no more room in the schedule for delays--the breeders were no more than three weeks away from delivering, and his Patron Lords were eager for the births. This was the last session--it had to go exactly according to plan. His patrons, and his pride, would demand nothing less.
He came out of his musings as the door to the outer chamber opened and one of the Mages stepped in. "We're ready to move forward, Mr. Masterson," the man said quietly. "We've repaired all the damage to the spells that Cameron did. Everything is set for the Lords, as soon as they are ready."
"They'll be here shortly. Thank you, Damon." Alex watched the man bow and leave before continuing his pacing.
Damn Cameron and his change of heart. Alex still didn't understand what had happened to his former best friend and chief Mage. What were you thinking, Cam? Alex thought for the thousandth time. You knew how important this was to us! To Gene-Tech! This is the future, and you chose to try and stop it. Why couldn't you understand? There had been several moments, right after Cameron's death, that everyone had thought he'd succeeded in aborting at least one of the fetuses, but they had managed to save all three. Alex's patrons had been most displeased with his lack of control over the project. Alex was still smarting from the lecture Andreas had given him.
This is MY project! He glanced in at the chamber again, savoring the sight of both women tied to their tables. Caran's eyes were closed, her pale lips moving in what he assumed was prayer. Alex sneered at her fear, and then stopped.
Teraisa was looking back at him, her dark blue eyes alien in the flickering candlelight. There was no fear--only a promise of something that stung him. Challenge? Threat? After a moment, he deliberately turned his back on the window, ignoring her stare, although the skin on his back prickled as her gaze continued to bore into him.
His thoughts were interrupted by the faintest whisper of wind moving through the room's still air. Alex moved back towards the window as a dot of emerald light appeared in the semi-darkness of the center of the room. The spot turned lazily, arms of energy spiraling out from the center in ever-lengthening swirls. Alex waited, his arms crossed over his chest and one foot barely tapping the ground in irritation as the portal continued to open.
Andreas always did like to make an entrance.
"Did we rush you?" Alex asked sarcastically, as the two Elemental Lords stepped through the portal slowly. Andreas, the majestic Shadow Lord, ignored him, meticulously settling his dark robes around his tall, athletic frame as the green glow of the portal faded.
"Don't be obnoxious, Alexander," Kymara said softly, gliding over and kissing his cheek. Alex tried to keep his scowl in place, but the slender Dawn Lord smiled up at him, her golden eyes mischievous, and he smiled back, in spite of his irritation at their theatrics.
They were a picture of contrasts--Andreas tall and dark, with hair and features similar to Alex's own, and Kymara, as golden as her name implied, long blonde hair trailing in a cloud down her back, her pale silver robes a stark contrast to Andreas' midnight blue ones. Even in the eerie glow of the emergency lights, Alex fancied he could feel the warmth of the sun coming from her skin as she laid a hand on his arm.
"Have you repaired the damage?" Andreas asked, his robes finally arranged to his satisfaction. "I want no problems."