Friday, June 2, 2017

Sneak Peek - Cosmic Rift, Chapter One

 Cosmic Rift
Cosmic Rift, Book 4 in the Grand Masters’ Galaxy 
Empath Violet embarks on a new and desperate mission to find her missing lover.

Violet’s happy family is shattered when Athanor Griffin vanishes. The formidable Grand Master might have teleported anywhere in the galaxy. Violet strives to find her psychic partner, while looking after their baby and fulfilling his duties on the Council. Her frantic search uncovers a new threat to galactic civilization along with resurgence of the infamous Ixioth slavers. The Council dithers in response to her call for action, and even her former allies believe the Griffin is dead. She must risk her son, her psi-powers, and her life to rescue her beloved mate in the hope they can unite to fight the menace.

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Chapter One

Violet sat in the nursery of the Griffin’s Eyrie, rocking her baby son in her arms and crooning a lullaby. Little Varan smiled at her. At nine months old, the jet black of his short hair rivaled his father’s. His blue-green eyes were solemn, his eyelids drifting lower as he grew sleepy. 
The orange cat, Rascal, a furry weight across her shoulders, purred his loud, “Love you, love you.”
The two fluffies curled at her feet like a pair of oversized bunny slippers. Dilly and Dally had identical white noses and long silky fur, although Dilly had conspicuous white patches on her brown flanks. Their alien minds mumbled a contented refrain, “Sleep, happy sleep, sleep happy.” 
Her usual entourage of bedtime assistants, except for Athanor, her beloved psychic partner. They had exchanged vows and rings at a formal ceremony, and now, she held their son. Violet hummed to little Varan, alert for his father to pop in at any moment. Athanor was travelling on diplomatic affairs for the Grand Masters’ Council. He teleported home almost every day, arriving at odd hours, depending on the event and planetary cycles at his target. Often, she accompanied him, leaving Varan in the Jackson’s care. But this morning, their little son had been fretful, and she had stayed home to soothe him.
She glanced out the nursery window and smiled at the georgous scenery. Low on the horizon beyond the orchard, the sun sparkled on the turquoise waves of the ocean. She loved the Griffin’s Eyrie, the beautiful planet where Athanor had built his castle, and her home for almost two years. After Varan fell asleep, she could tackle her tasks. She ought to check the reports from the drones in orbit around her planets, her share of the booty from ousting the conspirators on the Council. Unlike their opponents, she complied with the formal goals of the Council to foster peace and recruit new sapient entities into the Galactic Congress.
Judging the time with the precision of habit, she laid her sleeping son in the crib, kissed his mop of dark hair, and tucked the blanket with the blue griffin around him. Varan sighed, but did not wake. The two fluffies hopped over the rail and snuggled beside the little boy. She brushed her fingers over their long silky fur. Displaced from her shoulders, Rascal rubbed against her bare legs and mewed for his share of attention.
Now their son was asleep, she allowed her love for Athanor to rise to the forefront of her mind. Her formidable partner had spent the past month visiting members of the Galactic Congress. He worked tirelessly to advocate peace and encourage psychics, determined to rectify the past failures of the Council. To most people’s surprise, he was a devoted father, playing with his little son for hours. His telekinetic skills were invaluable. He could flick a finger to clean the baby with a psi breeze. At times, he looked after Varan while she chatted with her friends at the Academy. She admired his kindness as much as his strength of purpose and astute mind. Two years ago, she had feared she would never find a man who would love her in spite of her ability to read emotions. Now her worries seemed foolish. Athanor enjoyed their psychic link, and he could block her probe if he wished. 
Violet!” Athanor’s mental cry pierced her thoughts.
Pain stabbed her temples.
Varan wailed.
Rascal yowled. The fluffies uncurled and twitched their little noses in the air.
Had they heard Athanor or just picked up on her alarm? She couldn’t think clearly with the baby crying. Damping the upsurge of her emotions, she picked up her son and soothed him with a song. Ten minutes later, he quietened and she laid him back on the mattress. His quiet breathing comforted her. The two fluffies curled against his small body. Only the cat was still roused and angry, his tail whipping like an orange flag. He stood on his hind legs and pawed at her thigh.
The pain had eased. But, something had changed. Violet made a mental sweep through the castle. The only other inhabitants, Zoe and Jamail Jackson, were in the kitchen. Zoe hummed as she cleaned the stovetop. Jamail put down the knife he was sharpening and picked up a mug of beer. Undisturbed by any alarm, the Jacksons were finishing their daily tasks.
Violet froze in sudden comprehension. Athanor had gone. She had no sense of his mental presence. What had severed their psychic link?
She gasped a sob. Only last night, he had been in this room with her. He had come to see her and their son and stayed overnight before returning to Council Hall in the morning. Later in the day, they had talked via the amethyst he wore on a chain around his neck. Touching her forehead where the matching amethyst was embedded, she reached out mentally. Nothing! She could not sense him.
Had he met an accident, or… was he dead? She shuddered in horror. What tremendous power could silence a Grand Master in his prime, protected against known hazards?
Violet dashed to the library with the cat bounding at her side. Standing on tiptoes, she pulled the wire cap from a high shelf, and fitted it on her head. She perched on Athanor’s swivel chair, dangling her feet off the floor and leaning her elbows on the desk, while she focused on the contact reinforced by the cap. Still no thread of his thoughts, not even a dim vision of his environment. She groaned. Nothing would be visible if he had slipped the crystal under his shirt.
Violet laid the wire cap on the desk. She activated the hologram of the galaxy and frowned at the rotating spiral arms. He could be on any planet or moon. Anywhere within the galaxy.
Sharing her puzzlement, Rascal jumped onto her lap and meowed. She stroked him absentmindedly, while she pondered the problem. Most days, Athanor worked from his office in Council Hall on Terra. He joked he never knew what emergency awaited his attention when he arrived. Who would know his latest travel plans? Amarylla Threeleaf was the most likely to be informed about current diplomatic events. The flower Grand Master often assisted Athanor with Council business.
Violet rotated her wrist com to expose the miniportal, a device for instantaneous communication across the galaxy. She had received the special com after her acceptance into the ranks of the Grand Masters. Almost nobody besides the Grand Masters had access to this special technology. Nobody, except for their powerful ally, the Black Dragon. With his usual foresight, Athanor had asked Master Smith Stimon to manufacture a miniportal suitable for Ythris. 
Placing a fresh data chip in the com, she composed a short message and spoke aloud into the recorder, “Brightness Amarylla, where did Athanor go today? I fear for his safety.” She tapped the code for the Wistralian Grand Master and transmitted her question. Violet settled back in the capacious chair, hoping for a rapid response. Surely Amarylla would understand that she would not send the message lightly, but had good reason for anxiety.
Before five minutes had passed, a pillar of pink radiance appeared in the middle of the library. Spinning to a stop, the shimmering pillar resolved into the giant three-petalled flower of Amarylla. 
Violet sprang to her feet and bowed, “Brightness, you are welcome.”
The scent of roses wafted across the room, and Amarylla rustled, “Peace, friend Violet. Brightness deemed your query urgent.”
“I’m not sure,” Violet admitted. “But, I’ve lost all sense of Athanor. It happened suddenly, a few minutes ago.”
“Brightness tastes your acute senses.” Her petals opened wide and the edges crinkled. “You fear the Griffin drifts into danger.”
“But where?” Violet shivered. She reached the tip of her forefinger to touch the edge of a rosy petal. “I have to find him. Rescue him if need be.”
“The Griffin has been touring the main branches of the Galactic Congress.” 
“Our allies, I believed.” Violet did not hide her sarcasm. Athanor had shared with her what he had learned in the Chair’s records. Threat of retaliation by the Council of Grand Masters had prevented interplanetary wars on many occasions. No other group in the galaxy wielded a weapon to match the united powers of the Grand Masters.
“Allies and enemies,” Amarylla agreed. She fluttered the tips of her petals. “Brightness captured breeze from Griffin not three standard days past. Grand Master Ravaleen, Meilai of Marina, urged his azure presence in her realm.”
“He told me about Ravaleen’s message. I believe he meant to visit her today if nothing more urgent came up.” Sizzling curls of lilac psi, Violet paced up and down the room. “I must go to AguaSalva. Ravaleen may know what happened to him. But, I cannot leave our little son untended and unguarded for long periods.”
“Brightness asks to taste the young bud.”
Interpreting the plantoid’s oddly phrased request, Violet halted and nodded. “Certainly, you may visit Varan. Come with me.” She walked across the hall into the nursery. Her rootlets scraping the wooden floor, Amarylla glided after her. The baby lay asleep in his crib beside the furry balls of Dilly and Dally.
The flower Grand Master extended the tip of a petal to touch the baby’s head. “Small bud tastes sweet. Brightness foresees son of powerful parents will grow strong.”
“Varan has little power yet. He can scarcely crawl.”
“Sip patience. Human buds grow slowly.”
“Yes.” Violet sighed, “I wish his father were here.” The baby stirred in his sleep. Immediately, she squashed her fears for Athanor, laid a hand on the boy’s arm and crooned to calm him. When he slept soundly again, she turned to Amarylla and whispered, “Let’s move outside so we can speak without disturbing my baby.” 
Returning to the library with Amarylla, Violet shut the door and resumed a businesslike tone. “Brightness Amarylla, I must search for Athanor. Did he leave an itinerary for his tour?”
“Brightness sipped no news beyond what we exchanged. Chair’s office may offer a scent of his passage.”
Eager to take action, Violet smiled. “Flashy! We’ll search in Council Hall. I can leave Varan for an hour or two while he sleeps beside the fluffies.”
Amarylla’s leaves rustled, “Entry to the Chair’s office is barred.”
“He gave me the key. We’ll port together to his door.” Violet touched a fingertip to the edge of a pink petal and tapped the enhancer behind her ear. With the powers she had gained as a Grand Master, she no longer needed to travel via the teleportal cylinders. They flipped into the eerie virtual space of whirling lights. Skimming along the quantum surface of an intersecting universe, they journeyed across the galaxy to Council Hall on Terra.

An instant later, they stood outside the Chair’s office. Violet shielded quickly. She had become accustomed to the stark white walls and black tiled floors, although she still felt oppressed by the grim interior of Council Hall. She tossed a stray lock of hair off her face, stepped to the door and pressed the palm of her hand over the lock. The door swung open with a lilac flicker of her psi energy.
The office was still and cold. Athanor had removed the green jade desk and ornate carved chair of his predecessor, Nathan, Lord of Lightning. Instead, he had installed a plain desk of polished mallan wood and a large leather swivel chair. The shelves held the same stacks of ledgers yellowed with age and faded brown folders holding many years of records.
Amarylla waved her petals, wafting rose-scented warmth into the air.
Ignoring the cold, Violet perched on the big chair and frowned at the blank white pad of paper on top of the desk. She pulled the center drawer open. On the right hand side, she found a notebook with a blue cover. Flicking through the pages, she reached the final sheet with notes scrawled in Athanor’s large handwriting.
She pointed to the name and date at the top of the page. “AguaSalva. According to his notes, he planned to travel to the planet this afternoon and meet with Ravaleen. Surely, she would have sent a message if he had met with an accident.”    
Curious about Athanor’s notes, she flipped to the previous page and read the lines silently, “Request for medical supplies from Aoli. Done. Request to oust killer slugs from Chiaxi. Done. …” She flipped through pages of tasks he had completed. Placing the notebook on the desk, she rested her elbows on the glossy surface and cupped her chin in her hands. Yes, some ventures she knew about. But, others were new to her. Athanor had not told her about all his tasks. He didn’t grumble about his duties as Chair.
She blurted, “Amarylla, I didn’t realize how much he did. All these things he did to promote galactic civilization.”  
“Brightness swears the Griffin is the best Council Chair in generations.”
“He did all these important tasks while protecting me from every worry since I was tending to our child.” She stared at the pink petals. “We must find Athanor. The galaxy needs his leadership. Our son needs his father, and I need my dear partner.”
“Brightness scented the Griffin’s visit to the Meilai of Marina. What of his future ventures?”
Looking down at Athanor’s notes, Violet said, “The next item on his list is appraising the security measures at the portal station on Aman-el. They are hosts for the formal meeting of the Maanaan and Yelliast leaders to sign their peace treaty.” 
“Their war claimed many lives. The peace treaty must be signed.”
“Yes, Athanor worked long hours with both sides to negotiate their ceasefire and reach a peace agreement. He believed the Council should take responsibility since their first accord was disrupted by the failure of the portals.” 
Amarylla’s petals fluttered. “Griffin’s absence from the meeting will be proclaimed a deadly insult by the two parties.”
“Voids!” Violet frowned. “We can’t allow them to begin another war.” She traced the dates in Athanor’s notes. “The peace conference will be held in seven Terran days.” Projecting optimism in spite of her doubts, she said, “Surely we’ll have found Athanor well before then.” 
“Brightness wafts success.”
Frowning in concentration, Violet considered the options. “First, I’ll visit the Meilai on AguaSalva. There’s no indication he completed this item of business. If he traveled there, Ravaleen may have news of his next destination. Will you go to Aman-el, Brightness, and assess their security precautions?” 
Unfurling her pink petals, the flower Grand Master agreed, “In dry season, Brightness represents the Council Chair.”
“Take Lira,” Violet suggested. “Your Aman-ellan pawn has acute instincts for danger.”
“Agreed. Waft message if Griffin found.”
“Instantly,” she promised and waved goodbye. Before she traveled to Ravaleen’s island residence, she wanted to check what Athanor had taken from the castle.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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You can find earlier books in the series HERE
 Grand Masters Galaxy