Heir of Shandara
Aaron and Sarah have defeated the High King, but the danger of war is far from over. As they relentlessly hunt down rogue Elitesman strongholds, they know General Halcylon and the Zekara won't stay in hiding for long. Battles of terrifying proportion are imminent, and it will take the combined forces of all the kingdoms to stop the Hythariam army. Little do they know that their actions could have disastrous and apocalyptic consequences.
Forty years in the future, Bayen is brought out of cryostasis to a hellish, war-torn world on the brink of destruction. Everyone he knows and loves is dead, but hope remains. The cruel and gritty future of Safanar can be averted if Bayen travels back to protect the most heinous villain in recorded history. Both failure and success may end his life, but victory alone will prevent the end of the world.
Heir of Shandara is the fourth installment in the Safanarion Order, an unconventional fantasy series that mixes sword and sorcery with science fiction. Fans call the gripping series "simply amazing," as they keep coming back for edge-of-their-seat action, cosmically generative imagination, and unforgettable entertainment.
Pick up the next tale in Ken Lozito's epic fantasy series today, and you won't be able to put it down until the final page ends.
Release date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: Acoustical Books LLC
Print pages: 316
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Heir of Shandara
“System failure is imminent,” the AI said as its monotone voice spat out critical alarms.
The old man shuffled on shaky legs across the room as if he were straining from a great weight. The aged metallic floor shuddered beneath his feet. The bronze holo display was overrun with catastrophic failure messages. The alarms he muted, not needing them to know the chaos that had swallowed all of Safanar was coming for them.
“Bring up cryo-vault ten-zero-three-nine,” the old man said.
“Confirm. Cryo-vault online. Status is green.”
The old man sucked in a breath of relief. “End stasis,” he said, and collapsed to the floor.
A bronze panel on the far side of the room slid open, and a cryostasis tube hovered through. Tendrils of cold vapor hissed around the tube, and the red indicator light switched to green as the tube settled upon the floor. A mechanical arm rose from the platform, and a blue laser ran the length of the tube. There was a snap-hiss of the tube opening, and the occupant inside began to awake.
Bayen forced his eyes open. He sucked in quick breaths and coughed out the bitter fluid used in cryostasis. He wiped fluid from his eyes and pulled himself up.
“Stasis ended. You may now exit the pod,” the AI said.
The secondary tube door that covered his legs hissed open. Bayen swung his legs to the side, placing his feet on the floor, but didn’t rise. He knew better and continued to take shallow breaths until his head cleared. He flexed his feet and rubbed his hands together until the stiffness left them.
A medical bot hovered to his left, and Bayen felt the slight prick of a needle enter his arm. Within moments, his foggy brain cleared. Bayen rose to his feet, feeling more of his strength return.
“Where am I?” Bayen asked.
“Location Q34B Alpha Base,” answered the AI.
Bayen frowned and looked away from the holo screen. He’d never heard of Q34B Alpha Base. His last memory was going to sleep at the palace in Shandara. His gaze darted across the screen, searching for the current date. A soft rustle drew his attention, and Bayen peered through the dimly lit room. Vibrations coming through the floor panels caused the lighting in the room to flicker.
Across the room an old man knelt, balancing himself with his outstretched hand upon the console.
Despite himself, Bayen took a few steps toward his father and stopped. He barely recognized him. The dark hair had turned mostly gray, and his clothes draped off his frail bones. The brown eyes still had strength in them. When had his father got so old?
“Bayen, come closer,” the old man said.
Bayen glanced at the readout on the console behind his father. “What have you done? How long have I been in cryostasis?”
A coughing fit stole the breath from the old man as he struggled to his feet. His once-towering frame stooped with age.
“I protected you,” the old man said.
Bayen stomped over to the console; his fingers flew over the interface. “Twenty years? You kept me in cryostasis for twenty years! It was only supposed to be a few months while the cure was finished.”
“The plague had already claimed your mother and sister, so with the help of the Hythariam, I had you kept in cryostasis to keep you safe.”
Bayen’s eyes locked with his father’s. Mother and Taryel dead? His gut clenched. “You had no right.”
“Things got worse after you were asleep. The plague spread everywhere, and armies of those creatures swarmed across the continent…” his father said with his watery eyes growing distant.
“Where are we? What is Alpha Base? What happened to our home?” Bayen asked.
His father winced as shadows of unwanted memories pushed themselves across his haunted eyes.
“It’s all gone. Alpha Base was our last hope. We had to run. Shandara was lost,” his father said.
Bayen gasped. Shandara gone? The city was a marvel of the joint efforts of the people of Safanar. One of the capitals of the Free Nations. The city had been rebuilt after High King Amorak’s armies sacked the city before his father was even born.
His father coughed and continued. “Alpha Base is on a string of islands well away from the continent. We took survivors of the plague and came here to continue working on a cure.”
“Do you have a cure?” Bayen asked.
His father compressed his lips in a thin line and shook his head. “No. Each time we thought we had a cure, the plague changed. It spread to the other creatures, and each iteration contained the Zekaran directive to replicate itself and hunt humans.”
“What about the Hythariam, they are immune to the plague?” Bayen asked, unable to stop the growing dread creeping through him.
“There is no one else left, Son.”
Bayen jerked back, his chest heaving. “I don’t believe you. Stop this.”
There was a loud pop, and the floor shuddered beneath his feet. The lighting in the room dimmed for a moment. Ignoring his father, Bayen returned to the console, which had the standard interface. He brought up the base’s video feeds of the surrounding area. Smoke and haze billowed past, slowly giving way to a sea of glowing yellow eyes.
“Is there a way out of here? Can we get off this island?” Bayen asked, glancing back at his father. His fingers flew across the console, checking the system and defense status. Nothing was online. It was a miracle there was still power in this room. He checked the backup systems and noticed that power was being diverted to somewhere beneath them.
“What is this?” Bayen asked, bringing up the schematics of a chamber beneath them. It appeared to be a keystone accelerator, but with additional pylons configured to tap into geothermal energy deep underground.
“It can take you away from here,” his father said.
“Great, let’s go. We can take the research data here and go.”
“I cannot leave.”
Bayen faced his father, seeing the energy gathered around him. “You’re keeping all those creatures at bay?”
“Even if I weren’t, only one person can go through this portal.”
Bayen frowned, glancing at the information on all the screens and then back at his father. “But the cure?”
His father turned away from him. “There is no cure. We stopped working toward a cure and shifted our focus.”
“You just gave up! No, this can’t be happening,” Bayen said, his mind racing. Twenty years stolen from him and everything he knew was gone.
“We had to find another solution,” his father said.
“Who is we? There isn’t anyone else here,” Bayen said.
A door hissed open behind them, revealing an elevator. “Please, there is little time,” his father said, heading for the door. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep them at bay.”
Bayen headed to the door, feeling like this was futile. The elevator rapidly descended for a few moments then came to a halt. The doors opened to a blast of stifling humid air. There was a red glow at the far side of the massive cavern and the acrid smell of sulfur. A web of cables ran along the walkway that took them to a ring of metallic pylons. On either side of each pylon were glowing crystals.
“How are energy pylons going to help with the plague? That keystone accelerator is different than the others. You said the plague was everywhere on Safanar. What’s all this for?” Bayen asked.
“Safanar’s last hope. You, my son.”
His father slowly nodded.
“What can I do?”
“The portal can take you back to a time before the plague.”
Bayen’s eyes swept the room, taking in all the equipment. The amount of energy in this cavern could destroy the entire island. “Time travel is impossible.”
“The last of us devoted our remaining resources to this. Our AI helped with the calculations required for adding the fourth dimensional plane to this keystone accelerator.”
“You put an awful lot of faith into an AI. How do you know if this will work?” Bayen asked.
“We don’t. This is not something that could be tested. We only have enough resources for one trip. If you don’t go, then we’re dead anyway.”
His father walked over to a console, and Bayen couldn’t help but notice just how old his father had become. “You’re the reason why this happened.”
His father stopped what he was doing at the console, and his shoulders slumped even farther. “I know… I didn’t know it then. You can stop this from happening. It has to be you. You can stop the plague from being created in the first place, and then this world will cease to exist.”
“Yeah, but it could be much worse,” Bayen said.
“There is no other way. We’re out of time.”
“Even if it means your life?”
“Better I die than let Safanar become like this,” the old man said.
“But it’s my life as well.”
His father drew himself up. “You are a member of the Safanarion Order, Son. Who will the fate of the world fall to if not to us? There is no other way.”
Bayen glared at his father. The man had stolen his life from him, and now he was being asked to sacrifice what little there was left.
“What happened to the other people here?”
“They were all killed. The forsaken surprised us. We’re all that’s left,” his father answered.
Bayen had never seen his father look so defeated. He looked dead on his feet.
“What am I supposed to do if this works?” Bayen asked.
His father reached out toward him and Bayen stepped away. “Don’t you dare. I’ll do this, but you and I are finished.” Bayen said scowling at his father.
“Killing me won’t prevent this from happening,” the old man said.
Bayen stepped back. “How do you—”
“We tried to conceive of every possible probability.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Bayen asked.
His father’s lips pressed together. “Keep Halcylon alive.”
“What! He’s a monster. Father, I can’t do this. How will keeping Halcylon alive accomplish anything?”
The old man held up his hands. “Sam, what is the greatest probability for preventing the plague?”
The AI’s monotone voice answered. “The greatest probability for preventing the plague that stemmed from the life form known as Ryakuls is tied directly to General Morag Halcylon, 55 percent.”
Bayen frowned. “Sam?”
“I got tired of calling it computer.”
Bayen wondered how long his father had been alone here on this island. “Fifty-five percent is hardly conclusive. What about the Eldarin?”
His father’s eyes darted around as if Bayen had given word to a nameless fear.
Bayen repeated his question to Sam.
“The Eldarin represent an unknown quantity, and therefore their influence on the course of events is inconclusive.”
“Do you hear that? Inconclusive. Even the AI doesn’t know if this will work. Sam, what is the probability of creating a cure with all known variables in play?” Bayen asked.
Bayen frowned. “That can’t be right. Before I went into cryo, we were close to a cure. Sam, expand upon probability of cure.”
“Data input required.”
“You see,” his father began, “all our efforts to create a cure have failed. The plague adapts too quickly for us to stop it.”
A panel opened beneath the console, and a dark metallic bracer rose upon a shelf. His father grabbed the bracer and handed it to him.
“Put this on,” his father said. “It’s a mobile version of Sam, and it will help keep you alive.”
Bayen hesitated for a moment before taking the bracer. He placed it on his wrist and felt it conform to the contours of his arm.
His father opened a tall storage locker next to the console and withdrew a long dark staff that ended in a short sword.
“I kept it for you.”
Bayen reached for the weapon. It was his favorite and by far the one he was most skilled at, but it irritated him that with Safanar crumbling all around them, his father had saved it for him. The ground rumbled beneath their feet, and steam hissed from fissures on the far side of the cavern. His father collapsed to his knees, writhing in pain. The structure around them groaned in protest.
“There’s no time. They’ve breached the upper levels. Take the supply pack over there.”
“Father,” Bayen said. “I can’t just leave you here.”
His father’s gaze drew down sadly. “I know you hate me for what I’ve done, and I don’t blame you. I would save you from this if I could, Son.”
The pylons ignited to life. Bands of electricity snapped across, and the focusing crystals flared.
A lump grew in Bayen’s throat despite his anger. “How will I even know if I’ve succeeded?”
“Death comes for us all, Son. It’s how we choose to meet it that counts. If you succeed, then this version of you will cease to exist at that precise moment.”
Success means death. Failure means death. Bayen’s bitter thoughts sucked away his resolve. His thoughts turned to those that were gone. Taking strength in that his actions could lead to the salvation of the only home he had ever known, he grabbed the supply pack and headed toward the pylons. The elevator doors exploded. Snarling, shadowed forms with glowing yellow eyes emerged.
Bayen watched as his father pushed out with his hands. The shadowed forms slammed against an invisible barrier. He stepped toward his father.
“Go!” his father shouted, sinking to his knees, the last of his strength giving way.
Bayen turned back to the portal. The crystals on the other side of the cavern shuddered and exploded. Flames ripped through the cavern, and Bayen leaped through the portal, leaving the doomed remnants of Safanar behind him.
Bayen had been through portals before, but this was different. The skin on his face hurt from the extreme cold. He was surrounded by a swirling mass with bolts of electricity running through it. He felt as if an invisible hand was thrusting him forward, and the swirling mass blurred away from his vision. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. His breath came in gasps as the crushing pressure on his entire body intensified. He squeezed through the portal and landed in a field. The portal zipped closed above him, and the air was warm and still. He sat up, and traces of frost crinkled away to the ground, quickly melting in the warm sunlight. A slight vapor rose from his things into the much warmer air. The ringing in his ears slowly faded. He shook the stiffness from his hands and brought up his wrist. He ran his fingers over the touchpad to activate the device, but it remained off. After a few more times, the device whirled to life. A basic holo interface was brought up, and the AI seemed to be running some type of automated diagnostic. Nothing he could do but wait for it to finish.
Bayen opened the supply pack and changed out of the cryo-suit he had been wearing. The AI vibrated on his wrist, and he brought up the interface.
“Sam,” Bayen called.
“I am here, sir,” the AI answered.
“Where are we? Can you sweep the area and report in?” Bayen asked.
“According to the local satellites, we’re in the Waylands, one hundred miles north of Rexel.”
“What is the current date?” Bayen asked.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...