GUARDIANS OF THE PORTALS
In a familiar world of corporate wheeling and dealing, where fingers in many pies drive profits—from the arms trade to designer drugs, and even from small scale cons bilking seniors of their hard-earned retirement money—the familiar can be skewed when it co-exists with the fantastical, the bizarre, the inexplicable.
Intermixed with the mundane and the normal are those who exist outside of time and space, outsiders who escaped persecution for having extraordinary, otherworldly gifts, outsiders who safeguard those who are different, outsiders who discovered worlds existing in dimensions that intersected with our own via portals.
Those outsiders vowed to protect the innocents and the persecuted, electing themselves Guardians, ruling the transition zones between this world and others, zones called portals.
For a thousand years, they kept their secrets and the lives of innocents safe. It took modern times, modern greed, and men with new agendas to threaten the tenuous compact between the Guardians and those they protected.
When the split comes, it pits brother against brother, father against son, leaving the innocents at the mercy of forces they cannot control.
Caitlin is one of those with an uncommon gift, uncommon even amongst the many with exceptional talents. She is a special kind of shape shifter, one of a kind, and that alone makes her a person of interest for those looking to exploit that special ability. Perhaps even to breed for it.
Trey was a refugee from the war of attrition, throwing his hat in with the Althings, turning his back on his father and his brothers. With soulless determination he oversees the integrity of the portals, wielding justice without regard to consequences. He is the best at what he does.
His job is to protect Caitlin, a job made nearly impossible when an accident of genetics changes the equation between Guardian and innocent, forcing him to flee through the portals, taking Caitlin with him. She does not go willingly.
Caitlin stared, dull eyed, barely registering her captor’s well-choreographed movements as he checked tack and the over-stuffed bundles on the mule that he called ‘panniers’. She’d never been around either horses or mules and felt ill at ease with the beasts. She closed her eyes, hoping it was just a nightmare, only to have that tableau replaced with images of her father racing across Greyfalcon’s rooftop as she spun off into space, the sound of gunfire, screams of men hit, men running, her mad rappel down the side of the building—all whirled in a kaleidoscope of fierce angry reds and evil purples.
She whispered, “Please, dear God, let them be alive and let me live so I can go back for them. Please.” Her father may have given up on her brother, but she hadn’t. Once free of the madman holding her hostage, she’d do whatever was in her power to bring the O’Brien family together again. She held onto that thin sliver of hope with determination.
“Woman. Get over here. Time to mount up. We’re running out of light.”
“Why won’t you use my name? It’s…”
“I know what it is. Now get up there.”
The man angrily gripped her thin arm and squeezed hard. Her harsh intake of air seemed to dismay him, his strange gold-flecked brown eyes giving away what little emotion he displayed. But he persisted, dismay yielding to challenge, the pressure steady, promising more if she did not acquiesce. Scrambling awkwardly onto the animal, Caitlin took pleasure in the small victory though it was short-lived. He reached up and quickly bound her hands, then took the reins. Mounting easily, he settled the mule on one side of his horse and her mount on the other. He urged his horse forward toward a wavering curtain of air, heat waves dancing over the rocky ground, strangely indistinct … and threatening at a primal level that churned her gut.
He turned to her and said, “This will feel strange. Close your eyes if it will help. If you need to vomit, do it off the other side.”
Caitlin asked, her voice barely above a whisper, “Where are we going?”
“To hell, woman, to hell.”
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