Mage, page 1
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2017 Cyndi Friberg
Cover art by Dar Albert
Editor: Mary Moran
Electronic Book Publication, January 2017
Trade Paperback Publication, January 2017
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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Praise for Beyond Ontariese
Taken by Storm
“Taken by Storm had it all—tense action, suspense, erotic sex, humor and a wildly imaginative plot.”
~The Romance Studio
“Unplug the phone and put the kids to bed; once you start reading Taken by Storm you won’t want any interruptions!”
~Fallen Angel Reviews
“For a story that will delight, entertain, and keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend Taken by Storm and award it RRT’s Perfect 10.”
~Romance Reviews Today
“I highly recommend Operation Hydra…it’s one of the best science fiction romances I’ve ever read. Perfect 10!”
~Romance Reviews Today
“Outstanding! This segment only whetted my appetite for more. The heat between Kyrsta and Trey could cause a nuclear meltdown.”
~Simply Romance Reviews
City of Tears
“WOW! City of Tears by Cyndi Friberg is one amazing blend of science fiction at its best and romance at its hottest…”
Battle Born, Book Ten: Letos, a notorious technomage, along with the other two members of the Triad must calm the people of Rodymia and prove that a new kind of government can work for a planet that has only known tyranny. As if that’s not challenging enough, into his life strolls Mirella, the enigmatic Bilarrian Ambassador. Letos wants her with an all-consuming passion, yet he senses deceit, and one wrong move at this point could reignite the fires of war.
Mirella has lived her entire life in the shadow of others. She is sent to Rodymia under false pretenses, never expecting to encounter her mate. But once she sees Letos, inhales his scent and experiences his taste, her heart will accept no other outcome than bonding with the other half of her soul. She knows he wants her too, but can their budding affection survive her deception? Or will the secrets hidden in her past destroy any hope of peace between their worlds?
Note to Readers: This book contains detailed descriptions of sizzling passion only suitable for mature readers.
From Cyndi: Battle Born is a fully integrated sci-fi series. Each romance is resolved within the given book, but many plot elements continue on from story to story. For this reason, it’s best to read the books in order. Enjoy!
Table of Contents:
“Come on, Vox. It’s time to return. You’ve rested long enough.”
A deep authoritative voice penetrated the darkness, drawing Vox out of tranquil lethargy. “Rested”? He wasn’t resting. He’d been fighting for his life. Everything else might be hazy, but that one fact was clear.
His thoughts were so muddled it took him a moment to recognize the speaker. Awred Loriet, known to most as Master Fire, one of the most powerful mages on Bilarri. Vox just called him Father.
Vox muttered an objection and sank deeper into the velvet darkness. It was comfortable here, peaceful. Now that the fire had burned itself out. For endless days he’d battled the fire, terrified that he’d be devoured by the heat. But gradually the flames sputtered out, leaving nothing but aching darkness. For a time he’d fought the void too, struggling to free himself from its cloying embrace. He was still young and had much to accomplish in life. He wasn’t ready for the next plane of existence. Yet the darkness was persistent, bleeding away his determination along with his strength. He’d never wished for death, never invited it, but he’d accepted that death was unavoidable.
“Vox, dear. Come back to us. We’ve been terribly worried about you.”
His mother. He sighed. His father always thundered demands, expecting immediate obedience, while his mother cajoled, wielding guilt with ruthless skill. She was also sweet and loving, which made her subtle manipulations surprisingly hard to resist.
“Mother.” Pain erupted all over his body and he moaned. He had no strength left. How was he supposed to resume the fight? “Where am I?”
“You’re aboard a hospital ship called the Intrepid,” his mother explained, her tone smooth and patient.
“He doesn’t care about the ship’s name,” Awred snapped. “This is Lunar Nine, the Earth outpost operated by the battle born rebels. You’ve been hiding here, like a disobedient child.”
That was right. Vox took several deep breaths, backing off the pain just enough so he could think. He’d come to Earth after sensing a friend’s peril and stayed because he found the battle born cause worthy and compelling. “How. Long?” His throat was raw, making each word painful.
“You’ve been unconscious for the past two weeks,” his father told him. “We arrived three days ago.”
If he’d lost two weeks, he’d come to Earth about six weeks ago. Of course, Lunar Nine wasn’t technically on Earth. It was inside Earth’s desolate moon. But he’d been at Stargazer Ranch when he lost consciousness, and the ranch was on Earth. So how had he gotten to Lunar Nine?
Shaking away his rambling thoughts, he slowly opened his eyes. Light stabbed into his brain, dragging another groan from his sore throat.
“Here, love.” His mother carefully lifted his head and held a glass to his dry lips.
He drank, blinked his eyes, then drank again. The water was cool, a blissful relief for his abused tissues.
Slowly the room came into focus. With only pale gray walls and movable partitions, there wasn’t much to see. He lay on a treatment table, his head slightly elevated, and he wore a loose medical gown. His parents stood on either side of the narrow bed. His tall, imperious father and regal mother both dressed in rich garments befitting their station. Neither ever appeared in public without being immaculate and well turned out. Sloppiness was simply unthinkable.
“What happened?” It was easier to speak now, though his throat still burned. “Why did I lose consciousness?”
“You’ve been very ill, dear.” His mother lowered the bed so she could sit on the edge, then took his hand between hers. Her rich auburn hair swept up into an elegant twist that showcased her high cheekbones and compassionate gaze. The gold rings separating her pupils from her irises, also known as phitons, gleamed in the subdued light. “If General Nox hadn’t contacted us—”
“After eleven days,” Awred flared. “If the fool had waited any longer, even I wouldn’t have been able to heal you.”
“What made me so sick?” Getting specific information out of either of his parents was difficult when the other was around. They were notorious for correcting each other and debating opposite points of view. Many took it to mean their decades-long union was in trouble, but Vox knew they simply enjoyed arguin
“Doctor Mintell told us it was a common Earth virus called gastroenteritis,” his mother began. “Apparently, Bilarrians are particularly susceptible to its symptoms.”
In true Awred form, his father argued, “If one can believe a Rodyte hybrid. I fear it was an attempt on your life. You are heir to one of the four thrones of Bilarri after all.”
As if Vox would ever be allowed to forget. “I’ve not lost sight of who I am, Father.”
“Are you sure about that?” Awred crossed his arms over is chest and raised his chin. He’d just reached his middle years, but his hair was purest white. The anomaly made his blood-red phitons even more dramatic. “What are you doing here, and why were you shielding yourself from us? As your mother said, if General Nox hadn’t had a belated attack of conscience, you would have passed beyond.”
He looked from his father to his mother, then away. It had been selfish to hide from his responsibilities, but Vox desperately needed a break. He’d spent the past twenty-five years studying history and governance, diplomacy and protocol, until he’d felt utterly stifled by the life looming before him. Then he’d sensed Chandar’s terror and rushed to Earth to help his dear friend. Being able to focus on someone else had been so refreshing that he offered to train the battle born as they unleashed their dormant magic. It was an honor they didn’t fully understand, which was part of the appeal. No one really knew him here. Some knew his titles, but no one bowed and blushed, scrambling to please him, or worse, tried to manipulate him to gain access to his father, Master Fire, or his uncle, the current king of the Fire Islands.
“I’m sorry I worried you, but I’m not going back.” He saw no reason to avoid the conflict. Nothing they could say would change his mind.
With predictable indignation, his father puffed out his chest and narrowed his eyes. “You had your little adventure, but it’s over now. You will accompany us back to Bilarri as soon as you’re strong enough to travel.”
“I’m needed here.”
His mother gasped, then scooted off the bed and moved closer to her life mate. “You’re needed at home too. Your father is right. This has gone on long enough.”
As soon as they joined forces the fight was generally over. His mother was every bit as powerful as his father and when these two combined energies, no one stood a chance against their might, and determination.
“I’ll return once I’ve trained enough of the battle born so they can train the others. I’m not to that point yet, so I will remain here.” It was a logical compromise. Unfortunately, his parents weren’t in the mood to bend.
“Impossible.” His father made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “I told your uncle, your sovereign, that I would not return without you. To do so would make me look weak. I’m guild master. Would you humiliate Master Fire for the sake of some Rodyte criminals?”
It was just such manipulations that had launched Vox’s “little adventure”. He would not be imprisoned by the circumstances of his birth. The thought made him smile inwardly. The details might be vastly different, but his frustration echoed the principles driving the battle born rebellion. They too wanted to be judged by their actions rather than their heritage. “If you force me home, I will only disappear again.”
“But we know where to find you now,” his mother reminded. Then her expression changed, softened. She looked tired and concerned. “Do you really want to engage in a power struggle with your father? No good can come of it.”
He didn’t want a head-on confrontation with Master Fire, or his brother the king. Vox intended to return to the Fire Islands and continue his training. Eventually he’d take his place on the throne. He just needed a bit more time away from the palace before he again lost himself in expectations. So, the question became, how could he keep from humiliating his father yet remain on Earth?
A slow, calculative smile curved Vox’s mouth. His father couldn’t return emptyhanded. Awred was right, that would make him look weak. “Are you aware of how far the battle born rebellion has progressed?”
Awred rolled his eyes. “Lotar is following the events, but they have nothing to do with me.”
The developments were more important to a regional king than a guild master, but Vox doubted that Awred was as disinterested as he professed. “I know the Council of Kings has frequently debated whether or not to remove Quinton Keire from power.”
“And they determined that forcing a regime change on Rodymia would result in fallout worse than allowing Keire to continue. At heart Quinton is a coward. His replacement could be much worse.”
Vox agreed with the position, so he only nodded. But he’d clearly piqued his mother’s interest.
“I know Quinton has already been deposed,” she said. “Why bring this up?”
He wasn’t surprised that his mother was better informed than his father. Such was frequently the case. Guild masters spent so much time on the metaphysical plane that it inadvertently limited their focus. They were spiritual beings, focused more on what came next than on present challenges.
“The battle born are trapped by a similar paradox,” Vox told his mother. “They had no choice but to remove Quinton from power, yet ending his life would have—”
“That creature yet lives?” Awred’s instant indignation contradicted his claim of ignorance. “Unacceptable.”
“The battle born and their allies don’t want civil war. As you said, regime change was inevitable, but assassination would have emboldened the elite.”
“What did the battle born do with Quinton?” All pretense of disinterest dropped away as Awred moved closer to the bed.
“Unless General Nox made other arrangements while I was unconscious, Quinton is in a containment cell aboard the Destroyer. General Nox has not yet found a location secure enough for long-term incarceration that would also honor their need for discretion.”
Awred clasped his hands behind his back. “Incarceration is unacceptable. Quinton Keire’s energy must be dispersed. He’s guilty of kidnapping and torture, medical experimentation and murder, not to mention a long list of war crimes. If the battle born won’t hold him accountable for his actions, Bilarri must intervene.”
“I agree.” Vox began to relax. His father had arrived at the exact conclusion Vox had intended. “I suggest you submit a request for extradition to General Nox. There’s no reason he’d refuse.”
“This way we won’t return empty handed.” His mother smiled at him as she placed her hand on her life mate’s elbow. “It will also emphasize the importance of what Vox is doing here. This is not a rebellious misadventure. He’s on an important diplomatic mission.”
His father stilled, and for a long, tense moment Vox thought he’d disagree. Then Awred shook his head and smiled. “You’re too damn clever for your own good.”
His mother’s smile broadened. “No, dear, he’s just too clever for yours.”
Awred straightened his tunic and reclaimed his stern expression. “Three months. I will allow this to continue for another three months, but it will cost you.”
Vox had expected this too. His father never capitulated without demanding something in return. “Name your price.”
“An heir. As long as you remain unmated, my line is not secure. When you return to Bilarri in three months’ time, you will choose a life mate and create the next generation.”
Vox should have seen this coming. His father had been after him to “settle down and start a family” for longer than he cared to remember. Awred had abdicated the throne when he’d become Master Fire. Vox was still a child at the time, so Awred named his brother Lotar as his successor. There had been one important stipulation to the appointment. When Vox came of age, Lotar must willingly step aside. So, regardless of Vox’s reluctance, it was his duty to sire strong sons and daughters, one of whom would rule the Fire Islands after he passed beyond. He’d backed himself into a corner without realizing it.
With a sigh of resignation, he looked into his father’s eyes. “Agreed
Vox paused outside the office of Governor Raylon Lasenger. The battle born rebels had set up a no-frills headquarters on the top level of the commerce tiers inside Lunar Nine. Hidden inside Earth’s moon, the outpost was large and somewhat antiquated, but its proximity to Earth was perfect for the rebels’ mysterious transformation program. Vox’s involvement in the program was indirect. His expertise was only needed after the transformation had taken place and the warriors gained access to the magic previously locked inside them. Still, he knew more about the program than any Bilarrian was ever meant to know. Bilarri and Rodymia were at war. Technically, he was an enemy to the battle born, which made his position precarious.
The summons from Governor Lasenger hadn’t been a surprise. Vox set events in motion three days ago that spun beyond Raylon’s control, and the newly elected governor hated being out of control. Vox hadn’t intentionally stepped on Raylon’s toes. There had simply been no help for it. Vox saw an opportunity to advance the battle born cause and he’d taken it. A sly smile spread across his lips. The opportunity also worked to his advantage, but he refused to feel guilty about it.
With his focus restored, Vox pushed open the door and strode into Raylon’s office. The governor stood beside his desk, studying a chart so large it spanned an entire wall.
“You asked to speak with me,” he said when Raylon failed to greet him. The rebels were coarse and often disrespectful, clearly more comfortable on battlefields than in conference rooms. Vox found their barbarism oddly invigorating. Life at his uncle’s court was very different from the rough and tumble existence of the battle born.
CYNDI FRIBERG SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Royal Obsession (Shadow Assassins 1)War BrideHereticOntarian Chronicles 2: Operation HydraZealotTherian PriestessFire Pearl (Beyond Ontariese 5)Splendor and Darkness
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