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About the author:
The Twelve Systems Chronicles are E.G’s first published works. She works in IT and writes as often as possible. When neither goes well, she cooks exceptionally and gardens adequately. E.G. resides on the East Coast of the USA with her beloved (and often confounded) husband and their severely OCD Jack Russell Terrier.
What inspired you to write your book?
In the end it was three years from the initial dream to the completion of the first volume finished because it took that long for the characters to reveal how everything ends. Bright Star took another year to flesh out and refine. I’m working on the third, Transgressions, and as I write each volume, they tell me new secrets.
Here is a short sample from the book:
A fine drizzle mists the vista of the Garden Center and cityscape visible through the glazed surfaces that comprise two walls of Lucius’ opulent office. Lucius is oblivious to the panorama commanded by his commerce suite on the top level of the thirty-five storey tower. He is focused inward and on the future. This day’s events will alter the course of Blooded Dagger Cartouche, Serengeti Group and even the future of the Twelve Systems. The sound of the eighth bell chimes pulls Lucius from his reverie and his attention to the scarlet door which is recessing to admit the lithe form of his apprentice. Lilian.
Unnoticed by the windows Lucius observes that her gray eyes are bright with anticipation that is echoed in tightly controlled energy of her movements. He can discover no lingering effects of the traumatic events of a sevenday gone. Once again Lucius wonders at his apprentice’s remarkable resiliency.
Attired in the black of a Blooded Dagger apprentice, her hair gathered tightly to her head in a warrior’s queue, Lilian’s athletic form moves gracefully into the chamber intent on his massive ebony desk. Discovering the scarlet leather chair lacks an occupant, Lilian glides to halt. Frowning slightly in confusion, Lilian turns sweeping the chamber with her gaze. When she finds him the frown eases as Lilian comes to attention, her obediently neutral expression unable to fully hide her excitement.
After five months Lucius has barely scratched the surface of the young woman’s formidable reserve. Born a warrior, his prodigy was raised in luxury and privilege. At the early age of fifteen she was sent to Mulan’s Temple, the great University on Artesia in the First System where she remained for nine years. Lucius expected a sheltered academic, frightened and resentful of her loss in status, unable to fully submit to his will.
Lilian met none of those expectations. Pragmatic, courageous, fiercely loyal to her friends and protective of her small family, Lilian has demonstrated her commitment to Lucius’ will, his Cartouche and his Cartel on more than one occasion. She confounded him on her First Day and regularly since. It is not a state Lucius enjoys. He is very much looking forward to confounding his apprentice some bells hence. The thought brings a smile to his lips as he motions Lilian toward him.
Milord? Lilian considers the empty desk chair in momentary confusion. Where is milord? Pivoting slowly Lilian scans the expansive chamber seeking milord at the crystal conference table in the corner, on the scarlet sofa facing the wall-size reviewer, in the comfortable seating area. There is a slight sound and then a shadow by the windows coalesces into a man.
Garbed in gray almost the color of the exterior mist, milord was invisible until he moved. His sudden appearance from shadow sends a brief frisson of shock through Lilian increasing her barely contained excitement.
Lilian knew when she sealed her bond that Monsignor Lucius, at the impossibly young age of thirty–eight, succeeded his father as Serengeti Preeminence in the midst of the worst societal unrest since the Anarchy. Through brilliance, ruthlessness, daring and uncanny prescience milord salvaged the Cartel and moved it to new heights. She is now certain those traits have not lessened over the years.
Milord holds out his hand, a smile softening his harsh features. Milord is pleased. As Lilian reaches milord, he pulls her close. His large, strong hands grasp her shoulders and then move to cup her head. His thumbs gently trace her jaw. Milord’s dark gaze holds heat and a spark of dark humor. I am the sum of my ancestors. Milord’s amusement can prove very disconcerting. Mesmerized by milord’s touch and intimidated by the hint of mischief, Lilian attempts to hold on to her control.
As Lucius lightly strokes the delicate jaw, trepidation mingles with excitement in the bright gray eyes and the lithe form trembles slightly. Pleased at the evidence that he has overset his stoic apprentice Lucius yields to impulse and pulls Lilian into a kiss.
Milord’s mouth is on hers, demanding, insistent. Releasing her reserve Lilian yields to milord’s embrace. Her lips part and milord’s tongue sweeps in, challenging, taking. Large, strong hands mold her against his length. Her breasts are pressed against milord’s chest, her thighs to his. As her senses swim milord’s mouth retreats, milord’s embrace ceases.
Relief and disappoint mingle as milord ends the contact and moves away. Eighth bell is for status, midday is for milord’s pleasure. Lilian finds it difficult enough to maintain her balance and contend with milord’s often inexplicable will without the added confusion of disruptions to the established routine. I am the sum of my ancestors.
“Lilian,” milord begins only to be interrupted by a chime from the ebony desk. Frowning with annoyance milord crosses to his desk, Lilian in his wake. A few quick taps on the techno console and milord’s frown deepens. “Master Trevelyan will be joining us.”
I am the foundation of my family. Anxiety coils in Lilian’s chest as she obediently settles into the comfortable chair to milord’s left. Master Trevelyan’s presence at her eighth bell status review is a significant departure from protocol as is the use of milord’s seating area rather than the conference table. Most unusual of all is that Lilian is seated to milord’s left and not at attention behind milord’s shoulder. It is uncomfortably reminiscent of her bells spent answering milord’s and Trevelyan’s interrogation after the Shrine beggar incident. It is not an experience that Lilian wishes to revisit, although she is certain she has no choice.
This is ill. Milord’s expression is forbidding as he demands, “Trevelyan, what have you?”
“I regret, monsignor,” Trevelyan replies as he ignites his slate, “my findings are inconclusive.”
“Inconclusive?” Lucius echoes, eyes narrowing. “Explain.”
Random violence is common enough in the less savory sections of Crevasse City. It is exceedingly rare in the Garden Center District which is home to the warrior elite.
Referencing his slate Trevelyan cites, “The Shrine beggar was born here in Crevasse City in the Refinery District. Apprenticed in a tannery at the age of sixteen; at the age of twenty, sentenced to five years menial labor in the Great Crevasse for assault and robbery. Subsequently employed at a tannery for two years until injured while unloading a shipment of hides; evicted from his residence several months later for failure to pay rent.”
Lifting his gaze from his slate Trevelyan completes, “That was a year gone. Since then the record is a sporadic one of occasional labor intermingled with Shrine beggary. He was migrating steadily away from the center of the city and into the plains until three sevendays ago when he first appeared at the Garden Center Shrine.”
“A sudden abrupt shift in his pattern of movement,” Lucius interrupts. “Hired?”
“It is the most obvious conclusion,” Trevelyan’s frowns in frustration, “It is unlikely though, he had but a pittance.”
“Payment upon success?” Lucius hazards.
“Mayhap monsignor,” Trevelyan agrees without conviction. “I can discover no evidence of a confederate and there is another possibility.”
Lucius’ fingers steeple as he considers his spymaster, “Voice it.”
With a tightening of his lips Trevelyan says, “The man was thrice presented to the Shades.”
“Disordered in his wits?” Lucius startles.
“Three separate Shrines did not find him so, including Jonathan’s Shrine in the Garden Center,” Trevelyan replies in clipped tones.
Had the man been proven deranged he would have been taken into the care of the Shrines and constrained to the extent necessary to protect him or others from acts of madness. At one time or another most Shrine beggars will present themselves to the Shrines of the Five Warriors in the hope of the relative comfort of Shrine confinement. Very few are ever found truly deranged.
Lucius cares not for Trevelyan’s findings. Too many possibilities, too little real information. “What of your Shine informants?”
“Nothing useful,” Trevelyan admits. “The beggar was only within the Garden Center Shrine Ring for a few days before he attacked Mistress Lilian; kept to himself, did not say much, favored Jonathan’s Shrine.”
“Not much value in that,” Lucius recognizes. “Half of the Third System follows the Fourth Warrior.”
Lucius knows one other avenue of inquiry. His Cartouche, Blooded Dagger, owns the Vistrite crevasse, “What of his time in the Great Crevasse?”
“He tended the sanitation conduits,” Trevelyan does not need to reference his slate for this. “He executed the terms of his sentence without incident or complaint. Beyond that my operatives have naught. It is three years gone and none noted the man at the time.”
“He was sound of body and with a clean record of Crevasse service,” Lucius interjects, “Yet he chose the life of a Shrine beggar?”
With a clean record of Crevasse service, the Shrine beggar could have returned to the mines as a laborer. Life in the Crevasse is difficult, the wages are among the best in Twelve Systems.
“It does call into question the man’s motives,” Trevelyan admits. “It is insufficient evidence of true derangement.”
“Lilian,” Lucius turns to his apprentice who has been silent and motionless for the discussion. “Have you aught?”
Absently fingering her scarlet and gold conservator’s seal, Lilian shakes her head, her voice soft, “Naught, milord. I am certain I never encountered him before that morning.”
Honor is my blade and shield. There is no purpose to be served in inquiring who wishes Lilian ill. The list includes half the Twelve Systems and includes scores, if not hundreds, of those harmed by Remus Gariten’s foul crimes who might wish to retaliate against his tainted offspring.
Honor knows not fear. Whether random misfortune or a deliberate assault, it is Shades’ Grace that Lilian lives. Honor endures. She dare not forget again how many wish her ill. It is not only her life in peril. Does Lilian fall before her bond proves, the life of Shrine beggar will not see Katleen to her majority. Honor acts as duty commands.
“Enough,” Milord’s voice holds conviction as it pulls Lilian from her concern. “If the beggar was deranged, there is naught to be done. If there is something more nefarious in play, we have little means of discovering it. Trevelyan, leave the investigation active in the Shrines and the Crevasse, perhaps the Luck of the First will favor us. Beyond those measures, expend no more of your attention. There are great matters before us, they must not be hindered.”
Turning back to Lilian, milord’s gaze once again softens, “Attend me in the Synthetics lab at tenth bell.”
Accepting milord’s words as dismissal, Lilian rises as a hint of her earlier brightness returns. Months of labor are about to bear fruit.