Books, Books and More Books!!

Books, Books and More Books!!
Publications from Taki Drake

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Road to Honor - Snippet 2

Here is another snippet to the upcoming book, Road of Honor. The book is close to release, but I am trying to be better about letting you all know what I am writing. My work schedule is crazy and I squeeze writing in where I can.

This is a major new event in the Standard of Honor series and universe and I hope you will love it as much as I am enjoying writing it.


Luxuriating in the feeling of a full stomach, the atmosphere in the room changed radically when many of the Hidden Folk straightened in alarm.

Zhanna asked, “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Stefan had risen to his feet and turned toward the door as soon as he had seen the reaction of the Hidden Folk. He knew their hearing was better than his and reacted automatically to the alarm that they had raised. Quickly, he positioned himself to see who was approaching the house, while still concealing his body from anyone on the outside.

At first, the mercenary didn’t see anything unusual. Then, he noticed activity at the edge of the front fence. Rushing toward the gate, a middle-aged man in the robes of a practicing Witch became visible in the fading light. Rather than a sedate walk, the man was running toward them.

Stefan’s sharply indrawn breath warned the rest of the room that there was indeed a problem. Instantly, Mikhail joined the older man at the doorway, positioning himself so that he was partially hidden by the opposite doorjamb.

Zhanna moved to support them, standing slightly to the left. Both mercenaries flashed her quick smiles of approval, a testament to how the young Witch had incorporated the fighting lessons that they had been teaching.

The young Witch could feel her Familiar at her side and noticed the comforting heat on her shoulder when the Flamechild that lived in the stove came to help. Zhanna could hear Jack quietly directing the children to a more protected position. She dismissed her concern for them, knowing that the battle-wise cat would protect them with his life.

Iskar whispered into the Witch’s ear, “A Witch and what feels like a Familiar are approaching. The Familiar is an Air Elemental Master, and they both come at rapid speed.”

Just then Zhanna heard Dascha over their bond exclaiming, << It is Glenfrey and Henley! I wonder what on Earth is wrong. >>

Quickly, Zhanna explained to the rest of the group that the people approaching were known. The young Witch saw a look of relief pass over her grandmother’s face at her words. There was something off about the Seer’s expression, but there was no time to investigate it now. As she moved toward the door, Zhanna promised herself to talk to her grandmother about that when things quieted down.

The young woman met Henley at the base of the stairs, saying, “Henley, it’s nice to see you. However, you are not looking happy, and your headlong speed indicates a problem. What is the matter?”

The man was out of breath, and both distraught and dust-covered. He was carrying a travel bag and visibly trembling when he reached Zhanna. Dropping the suitcase onto the ground, he leaned on the porch rail for a moment. Trying to catch his breath enough to speak, all he could do was gasp for a few seconds.

“Gasp… Gasp… Sorry for the surprise, Zhanna, but I have come from the Seer of the Plains to tell you that you and your companions are urgently needed at some place called The Badger Hole. She said to tell you that it is a True Vision and that is utterly urgent for you to go right away. She also told me that I have to go with you.”

Just then, the huge golden eagle, Glenfrey, swooped down to land beside his Witch. Shaking his feathers to settle his wings, the Familiar first looked at his companion with concern before turning to Zhanna and adding, << She was extremely agitated and made sure that we understood the urgency of the matter. We stopped only long enough to grab some items and then ported over here. That type of spell is very draining and hard to cast. Henley and I are both exhausted and shaky.>>

Dascha’s mental tone was confused, asking, <<Henley, would not Zhanna’s grandmother have had that vision also? I know that Seers frequently get different views of the same situation if it is a True Vision.>>

<<Dascha, she did not say. She rushed us into motion and practically pushed us out the door, frantic for us to get here. You need to grab some basic items and your companions. The Seer was quite specific that you need to take companions with you. Then we need to be on our way. I have never heard a Seer be so serious. >>

Henley nodded his head, reinforcing what his Familiar had said, “Yes, she was very serious. But even more alarming, she was frightened.”


Stay tuned! Down to the last chapter and editing! Then back to my Unfettered Mage!




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

First Snippet from the Road to Honor - Zhanna's story continues!


This is the first snippet from the upcoming book in the Standard of Honor Series. It continues the tale of Zhanna, her Familiar, Dascha, and the people that she knows and loves. 

Please remember, as always, that this is unedited!

Road to Honor - Snippet One

The fog was heavy and laden with musty and acrid scents. Zhanna, Stefan, and Mikhail stayed close together, more for comfort than for any other reason. Stefan was obviously uneasy, darting glances from side to side as he strode along close to her right side. Mikhail followed a step behind her to the left with his blade drawn in his left hand. Slung over his right shoulder were the carry bags for Noma, Tish, and Saroc. The Hidden Folk had insisted on coming along on the urgent mission to the Badger Hole Bar and Zhanna had been so rattled that she hadn’t argued much.

<< You are still unsettled, kitten. When Henley and Glenfrey came bursting in on us and said that we had come to the BHB right away, neither one of us knew what to say. >>

<< You are right, Dascha. I can’t seem to get my mental footing, and this fog is not helping. For some reason, it feels different than the last time we came this way. >>

<< I know. It’s as if something is watching us from within the fog. Last time, it just felt sort of creepy, but this time the emotion is darker and more serious. The only saving grace is if it’s this scary for us, how does it feel to the rest of them? >>

Zhanna’s mental chuckle help to break the tension, and she could finally take a breath. The relief made her able to take a quick look over her shoulder at the rest of her party. She hoped that the message that they were given was correct because otherwise, it looked like an invading army. Not only did she have Stefan and Mikhail but she had three of the Hidden Folk and the Mage Henley and his huge Familiar, the Eagle Glenfrey with her. Given the various abilities of her companions, she hoped Madrik was in a forgiving mood.

<< It could be worse, I suppose. We could have more than nine of us. >>

<<Ah… We might have a few more that you weren’t aware of. >>
Zhanna stopped cold in the middle of the pathway, causing Henley to almost trip to avoid her. Turning to stare at her Familiar, who was studiously looking straight ahead, Zhanna demanded in an irate tone, “What do you mean? Who came along that I didn’t know about?”

Mikhail answered, his eyes watching the fog and his voice tense and low toned, “I don’t think this is the right time to stop and argue, Zhanna. You can be angry later, but for right now let’s get a move on.”

Swallowing the waves of irritation that had burned every last vestige of her uneasiness out of her system, the young Witch turned toward their objective and started to walk so quickly that the rest the party had to scramble to catch up. Fuming to herself, Zhanna promised, A certain black fuzzy smartass and I are going to have a chat soon!

So incensed was Zhanna that she forgot to be unsettled by the fog and marched her way determinedly toward the Badger Hole Bar door. The mist receded from the path as if it knew that the Witch had gone from intimidated to infuriated. Seemingly, even uncanny clouds were leery of an enraged Witch.

In just a few moments, the welcoming lit sconces of the BHB external door appeared. Zhanna heard distinct sighs of relief from both her merc companions and a smaller, softer sound from the Mage Henley, following closely behind.

The first time Zhanna had come this way, they had opened the door themselves. This time, the door swung open before anyone could lay a hand on it. The light from the taproom of the BHB shown with a golden glow. The subdued sounds of conversation and activity immediately calmed Zhanna down even further.

It didn’t seem like there was an emergency, and the lack of excitement and strain relaxed Zhanna enough to bring a smile to her face as the waitress, Wynn, hurried over to her delightedly exclaiming. “Zhanna! I didn’t know you were coming. It’s wonderful to see you, but what is the occasion?”

The young Witch didn’t answer until her entire party was through the door and it had clicked closed safely behind them. Only then did she turned to her smiling friend and say, “We got an urgent summons to come here, and I thought something was wrong. So, we dropped everything and came as quickly as we could.”

Before either of the women could say anything else, Zhanna heard a shout of, “Zhanna! What brings you here?” The voice and the unusually warm greeting issued from the broad chest of the head bouncer, Alastair. The big man had come from the other side of the bar and was hurrying toward them. What caused Zhanna’s jaw to drop and her two mercenary friends to take up protective positions was the creature riding on Alastair’s shoulder.

In some ways, the entity reminded Zhanna of some of her friends in the Hidden Folk. It looked like a cross between Noma and Saroc with tufts of fur and a long prehensile tail. Much larger than any of her friends, this creature looked like it weighed about 25 to 30 pounds. It was balanced carefully on the bouncer’s shoulder with one paw hand gently braced against his head.

Of course, Alastair acted as if he didn’t notice the weight but Zhanna knew that as strong as he was, he probably wouldn’t have cared if the creature weighed 100 pounds.

Shock held the young Witch still for just a moment, long enough for the Hidden Folk that had ridden in Mikhail’s pack had time to let out earsplitting sounds and swarm down him as if he was a pile of rocks. Noma and Tish ran over to the creature that had jumped down to the floor on hearing them. They were all soon embroiled in a spinning, chattering mass of small beings.

Saroc was more restrained. Coming carefully down Mikhail, the little amphibian moved over toward the excited and chattering trio. Waiting patiently until things calmed down, he soon interjected, “Nidji, what are you doing here?”

The young Witch exclaimed, “You know him?”

“Yes. I knew him from when we were both very young. Before we came through the cold doors. However, I have no knowledge of how he got here, or even why.”

Madrik had come up to the group silently, going unnoticed until that moment. He caught Zhanna’s eye and suggested, “I believe it would be better if you joined the rest of his party over at the table. When they came through the left door and explained their dilemma, there were a lot of people here who suggested options. But we kept watching the right-hand door looking for the solution and had about given up. Now you have come, and I can feel the BHB’s satisfaction.”

Zhanna felt a cold shiver run down her back as if someone had stepped on a grave nearby. Looking up in consternation, she saw that Stefan and Mikhail had drawn closer to her in a protective shield and Henley had stepped to one side as if to defend her also.
“Madrik, what is going on? Even the air feels strange right now, and nothing seems quite solid.”

The strange creature spoke for the first time. In a voice as deep as most humans, he said, “You must be the Witch that is the pivot of all of this. You’re probably confused, and at least we have some of the pieces of the puzzle for you. Please join my companions and me for a drink and a discussion.”

Glancing around quickly, Zhanna didn’t see any other option reflected in her companion’s faces, and without a better solution, she chose to follow the creature across the floor to the large and comfortable table beside the fireplace. Waiting for her at the table were two more creatures that looked like Noma and Tish. They were silent and motionless, staring with large eyes at the group approaching them.

They so reminded her of her Hidden Folk friends that Zhanna couldn’t maintain her anger although her unease never left her. The table was large and easily accommodated all of them. The BHB even sent up a thick tendril that made a comfortable perch for Glenfrey. Clacking his beak in relief, the large Golden Eagle settled his feathers and turned first one side of his head and then the other to thoroughly examine the beings that were waiting.

No one spoke at, some of them not knowing what to ask and others not knowing what to say. Finally, the young Witch couldn’t bear it any longer, “Please, can you explain to us what’s going on? Obviously, it is something that’s very important but we have come hurriedly from our home to be here, and I have no idea why we were summoned.”

The discussion got general for a while as Noma and Tish introduced, at least in a general way, the others of their race. Although they had not personally known each other, there were enough connections of family and lineage, of geography and clan, that the Hidden Folk seemed to accept each other at face value.

Zhanna could see that Stefan and Mikhail were calming down as the familiarity and the confidence of the Hidden Folk became more apparent. While the young Witch was relieved, she couldn’t help but wonder where these strange waves of feeling were coming from and why this is such an urgent mission.

Wynn had come over and brought drinks and food to everyone. It was only when the smell of hot grilled meat permeated the air that Zhanna learned that she had more than her visible party members to contend with. Popping his head out of Mikhail’s pack, TT’s Uncle Jack looked around quickly. He then hopped lightly to snag his share of the warm food. Before Zhanna could say anything, the white shape of a small Persian cat emerged to join in.

By this point, Zhanna was beyond quibbling with the stowaways. She noticed that Dascha easily made space for the two other cats in the companionably shared dish of food. She also saw that the strange Hidden Folk were frightened of both the cats and the giant Eagle. However, whatever drove them was strong enough either from fear or devotion to make them move past the presence of uncontained predators in the room.

Finally, the discussion focused on the problem and the help that was required. The three Hidden Folk were from a world that they had traveled to through the same type of transportation doors, the ones that Zhanna’s Hidden Folk referred to as “cold doors,” when they left their home planet.

<< I bet that’s a story to hear some time! It sounds like everybody left the world all at the same time but went to different destinations. I wonder why? >>

<< Dascha, we can find that out later. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out why were the ones that got called on this. >>

Finally, the young man who looked like Noma started to speak. He started off rather shakily, but his voice strengthened as he got into the meat of his tale. “The world that we are coming from, the place that we live now, sounds very similar to what you have today. It has seasons and dense undergrowth, interesting godlings and many people. However, there is an infestation of Magic users that rely on blood sacrifice and pain to power their magic. They are evil, and we have tried to stay out of their way and protect our friends from them whenever we can.”

Stefan asked, “How powerful are they?”

The small Hidden Folk male responded, “I’m not sure that I’m qualified to tell you how strong they are. They are far more powerful than we are, and they can kill at a distance.”

The small female interjected, “But only if they can see you, so we stay hidden most of the time.”

Nodding his head in acceptance, the senior mercenary proceeded to question the three of them on the exact issue and problem that they needed to be solved. While he was finding out the information, Dascha leaned against her Witch in comfort.

<< At least we know how to deal with the blood mage. >> Dascha’s mental voice was slightly relieved but had a base of sadness that Zhanna didn’t understand. Resolving to herself that she would ask her Familiar about it later, the Witch continued to listen.

The young male was still talking, “Without warning, a large city has appeared in the middle of one of the plains. It is full of magic and all sorts of interesting things that the blood mage’s want.”
The young female interjected one more time, “They are almost crazy with desire for it, but the city is keeping them out. Every once in a while, in the early light, you can see dim shapes moving through the city. The blood mages are trying to get to those dimly-seen people. They can’t seem to, and the evil ones keep sacrificing more people to overwhelm the defenses with sheer power.



Monday, August 13, 2018

Another Snippet from the upcoming Fleet Genesis!

This is another snippet from the next Unfettered Mage book, Fleet Genesis. I gave you one from the new player in the game last time, but this one is centered around the Archmage. Hope you enjoy it - just remember that it is not edited yet!


“I know that the other time did not go well!” Ruth’s voice was quiet but sharp with an edge of some pent-up emotion.

“Not go well?! That is an understatement!” Drake’s voice almost trembled with his own emotion.

“It is too important to try to make contact with Earth for me to give in to a minor inconvenience.”

“Working yourself into a collapse that lasted for two days is NOT a minor inconvenience. Please do not push yourself so hard.”

Ruth sighed, letting out her breath in one extended exhalation. She knew that Drake was worried about her but felt driven to provide her son and grandson with all the comfort she could find. Deep inside her, the iron determination to figure this problem out drove her to push her point for the first time in their relationship.

“I am sorry, Drake, but I am going to try the communication conduit again. I will not let you or Cal talk me out of it.”

Cal looked at his mother with a conflicted look on his face. Glancing over at him, Drake could see the younger man’s desperate longing to see his wife again fighting with concern for his beloved mother. The Lord of Borachland knew how he felt when he lost his mother. That agony was still new and sharp in his heart even years later.

Even newer was his bond with the Archmage. Becoming her Anchor had been life-altering for him, and he marveled anew every day at the changes that had been wrought in his life and his mind. Even to himself, he didn’t want to admit how much it changed his heart.

Flinging his hands into the air, Drake said, “I admit that I’m worried but if you’re going to do this anyway, let’s be smart about it. I don’t want to be focused on the spell and unable to react when we get hit with another attack by the idiot Council head.”

Relaxing now that she knew the primary argument was over, Ruth added her own bit of concession, “That would make a lot of sense. I will go and have a discussion with the Inner Keep staff and leave the Outer Keep portion of it to you and Cal.”

The two men turned and moved briskly out of the room, united in their desire to both keep all of them safe and get on to the spell. Ruth smiled, thinking how much like the two men were. Separated by decades and species, they still managed to look like family. Strides about even, the two men moved in step down the hallway toward the stairs. The Mage could hear their voices as they rapidly evaluated options and approaches.

Deciding it was time for her to get moving also, Ruth moved lightly down the stairs to the kitchen area. She knew that she would find most of her senior staff in the kitchen at this time of day, drinking hot tea and discussing issues. Thinking about how good some tea would taste right now, the Mage speeded her steps up a bit and walked into the warm and welcoming chamber.
<< <> >>
The discussion with the Inner Keep staff had gone well, and Ruth felt reasonably sure that they had all the critical bases covered. Jenna was not terribly happy with Ruth attempting the communication conduit spell again, but her protests had withered on her lips as she had taken in Ruth’s set face.

At some point in the discussion, Troyer and Techla had joined the group in the kitchen. They sat silently, huddled together, drawing comfort from each other. Looking over at her grandson and granddaughter, Ruth asked, “What is the problem, dearlings?”

Troyer burst into speech, saying, “I really want to see my Mom, Grandma. But… I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Techla looked terrified and about ready to cry. Troyer put his arm around his younger sister and held her close against his chest. Looking over the top of her shaking head, the little boy said, “How dangerous is it for you to try to get to Mama?”

The Mage responded with the courtesy due to another adult, saying softly, “Any new spell is dangerous. The first attempt, I didn’t do some things that would’ve helped me, and I paid the price. This time, I’m going to learn from my experience and try to do better. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.”

When Ruth rose to her feet to go back upstairs, the two children followed closely behind. All the way up the stairs to her spell circle, she thought about telling them that they could not be in the room. However, there was a chance that this would be the only opportunity for Troyer to see his mother again. She just didn’t have it in her heart to deny him that possibility.
<< <> >>
Coming into the ritual room, Ruth stopped abruptly at the sight of the extra people. She had expected to see Cal and Drake, but there were two others in the chamber. Before she could ask a question, Cal started to explain.

“Just in case there’s a problem, we are going to have several people in the room that can possibly help. If you cast a small protective circle over on the side, that will shield the children, me, and the two healers here.”

Ruth thought for a moment and surprised both Drake and Cal with a smile. “I bet you thought I was going to argue with you, didn’t you? Both you were ready to try to win me over with a variety of different reasons why this is important. I can tell from your faces what he had planned. Too bad you don’t have to use all those arguments because I think it’s a good idea!”

The Mage turned away immediately and went over toward her preparation area. She could not have stayed another second because she would have burst out laughing at the expressions on the two men’s faces. She had personal experience with the frustration of not being able to present a well thought out argument. Being able to take the wind out of their sails at this point gave her a much-needed boost of humor.

It only took Ruth a few moments to finish her preparations. Focused and feeling like a vibrating drum and wailing violin had combined into a harmonious disharmony of potential, she cast the protection around everyone but her Anchor and herself. Then, moving to the center of the room, she and Drake took a position in front of the materialized archway.

Once again, Ruth activated first the protection of the circle surrounding them and then the containment that slithered along the outside walls in intertwining flashes of moving light. The Archmage was ready to try her spell again.

This time, the exact spell had changed and evolved. It had become more fluid and integrated, more powerful and efficient. The materialized archway was used for focus immediately, and the spell grew quickly and surely.

To the wondering eyes of her anchor and spectators, the gathering of glowing light that was the visible aspect of Ruth’s magic seemed to flow from the mage through the archway. The threads of magic came off her hand and arms. The fibers quickly thickened and strengthened as the power of her Will and Word moved toward the portal and beyond.

Drake’s hands on Ruth’s shoulders were steady and comforting. The drain of her spell did not even register on him. Instead, he was wholly focused on his Mage’s wellbeing.

Even in the middle of the searching phase of the spell, Ruth was conscious that less energy was being pulled from her. Having her Anchor present provided far more power to her spell. His rock-solid support allowed her to search more quickly and feel less stretched by the distance and time.

The shock of connection to Rena was like a dash of ice cold water on the skin of the Mage. Goosebumps rose, and the hair almost curled at the icy touch of the vast space that her spell spanned.

Rena was crying, a heart-wrenching expression of grief and horror. Ruth could feel clearly her fear that she was losing her mind. Why else would she imagine that she could talk to the mother-in-law that had been gone for so long?

“Rena, sweetheart! You are not going insane. We found a way to contact you, but we haven’t figured out all of the pieces of it yet.”

“Mom? Is that really you, or are you a figment of my imagination? Has my grief and loneliness driven me past the edge? I can’t go insane, Mark has nobody else left, and I won’t abandon my other son!” The younger woman’s voice was cracked and broken sounding. Her image through the archway looked like she was on the end of her endurance and had nothing left to give.

Ruth’s heart felt like it was shattering into small pieces. Choking on her own emotion, the Mage whispered, “Honey, please listen to me. You are not going nuts, please calm down.”

In Ruth’s intent focus on making the connection, she had forgotten that the archway would display the person with whom she was communicating. That oversight was costly, as a scream of, “Mama, Mama,” pierced the air like a sharp arrow of sound. Troyer could see his mother and all of the pent-up longing for her erupted in a mad dash that broke the protective circle around the children in a flash of brilliant white light.


The little boy ran headlong toward the glowing portal, tears streaming down his face. So great was his desperate craving for his mother that his ears were closed to the pained shout of anguish from his father. 
<<<>>>

Monday, July 30, 2018

Fleet Genesis - Sneak Peek! Snippet 01


A snippet from the upcoming book, Fleet Genesis, in the Unfettered Mage Series. Remember that this is not its final form necessarily! This book has been lots of fun so far. I love the characters and the world. My enjoyment has increased even more by the thoughtful collaboration of a talented writer of military sci-fi, Paul Middleton.

We are getting close on the release of this story. The action scenes are getting tighter and I am thrilled at the way it is coming together.

Until then... enjoy!

The Auditor’s Guild classification of the battle had Gwilliam worried. Their broadcast had slammed the classification of Holding action – Draw to all known points. That meant that the Empire forces fighting were considered to have no salvage rights. It also mandated that they not continue the struggle.

The shock of the abrupt change was disorienting. One second the forces of the Empire had been fighting a desperate battle against the Insectoids, and the next they were told to stand down. The urge to finish the fight against the overwhelming forces of the aliens had been almost impossible to overcome. Only with years of experience and discipline at his call had he managed to pull back.

Gwilliam had front row seats in that battle, on the bridge of the Empire battleship Thymestyl. He and half his naval personnel had been hired directly by the Emperor to train the Imperial fleet. He was the Emperor’s insurance policy, provided with the authority to override Admiral Schafer if the man put the fleet at unwarranted risk or acted ‘against the interests of the Emperor.’ As was feared, the Admiral had lost perspective and endangered the entire fleet.

When the enemy fleet stopped firing simultaneously, Schafer had believed he was exploiting a weakness. He lacked the experience to realize that no navy acted that way — that something unusual and unplanned had occurred. Anxious to make a name for himself, he had pushed to attack the frozen enemy, against the edict of the Auditors’ Guild.

Even the Emperor walked softly around the Guild. To have violated their edict would have destroyed the underpinnings of the Empire, reducing it to a shadow of itself in just a few minutes. Gwilliam knew what would happen. He had seen the damage and destruction that followed such ill-advised action. Unable to stop the Admiral short of relieving him of command, the mercenary commander was forced to play his trump card.

Those unusual circumstances were why Gwilliam was headed to Seer’s Rock. He had known that something momentous had happened and started investigating it immediately. Further digging had determined that Insectoid activity had ceased entirely across all the realms in which he had contacts. Many of those realms had faced regular Insectoid incursions for a generation or more and were shocked and relieved at the cessation.

There had to be a new power in play, and they had taken the Insectoids entirely out of the picture. A frightening power that had preyed on civilizations for centuries had been reduced in the space of a few minutes. Such a power needed to be checked and evaluated.

Something had happened to the Insectoids, and it was vital for Gwilliam to know what. Nor was curiosity the sole reason. As a commander of Mercenaries, he needed to know what new risks and opportunities this brought his people. As an escapee from the Order of the Just, he needed to know if there was a threat to that shadow organization. If so, he had no doubt that they would suddenly remember his existence.

He had tried very hard to stay underneath their notice, content in the life he had made since escaping. However, if they chose, he knew that he would be faced with a strident demand for his services. Since he had no plans to work with them ever again, the danger of forced compliance, via either torture or kidnapping, was a very real danger.

It all revolved around the nature of the new player. What, or who was behind the new power? Was it an upcoming race, waxing into a potent force? Or had an organization formed to destroy the marauding Insectoids? That might have happened, perhaps driven out of sympathy for races vulnerable to their pillages or seeking power through time-honored means of removing others?

There was another, most disturbing option. The only other situation that Gwilliam could think of would be the rise of a Mage of extreme power? He dreaded the last possibility, a fear goaded higher because logic told him it was the most straightforward answer. The final explanation was also the one most dangerous to him, and likely the Galaxy at large.

No traditional source of information, no contact, no quiet query he had sent had given him an answer. Solving the mystery would require a defter touch. Gwilliam needed a mind not restricted by the usual perception of time. Something far beyond his talents and skill was demanded.

There was one place he knew to find that talent. A location very dangerous to him and his crew. As much as he had cast his mind around looking for another solution, the answer came back to one option.


He would have to take a trip to the colony of Seers’ Rock.