Grand Masters' Universe

Grand Master's Trilogy

Book 1, Grand Master’s Pawn: 

 Book 2, Grand Master's Game:


Science fiction story with paranormal powers.

Empath, Violet Hunter, travels the galaxy on missions for her mysterious Grand Master using the vast web of teleportals. Life-threatening cracks appear in the portals and Violet agrees to investigate the disruptions. When she discovers the perpetrator comes from within the ranks of the Twelve Grand Masters, Violet penetrates their curtain of secrecy to fulfill her task. Armed with only her erratic powers and a mishmash of allies, she must challenge the most powerful beings in the galaxy.

 Book 1 of the Grand Masters Trilogy. 


Two blue beams emerged from the round eyes of an ugly stone griffin, casting a weird light over the walls of the small room. A deep, resonant voice spoke, “I am the Grand Master and you will serve as my pawn.”
“Yes, Grand Master,” Violet said, refusing to show fear at the eerie, disembodied voice. “What may I call you?”
“You will call me Grand Master,” the haughty voice held an unpleasant edge.
Violet resolved to assert her independence instead of retreating into her usual passive acceptance, and said indignantly, “Grand Master, do your pawns have individual names?”
The room vibrated and psychic pressure built up against her. “You are insolent, Violet Hunter!” the Grand Master growled.
Shivering at the menace in his words, she stepped back against the wall, and instinctively shielded her mind. His psychic power was impressive since he was not physically in the room. Unexpectedly, Violet sensed a faint drift of amusement, the mental equivalent of a smile.
“Hunter is a good name for your vocation,” he remarked in a milder tone.
Violet stiffened; he must never learn the truth. She hunted him.
The Grand Master's avatar is a stone griffin/gryphon.

See short story in the same universe: 


  Chapter 1 of Grand Master's Pawn

Violet Hunter paced across the campus toward the Grand Masters’ black tower, which stood in stark contrast to the airy glass-fronted buildings of the Space Academy. The black marble facade of the Council Hall was unbroken by windows and reflected the gray overcast sky. She shuddered at the ominous symbol of the power wielded by the Grand Masters.
The massive iron gates at the entrance prevented casual visitors. The candidates filled the flagstone plaza in front of the gates, anxious about the interview by the Grand Masters. Many candidates had arrived early, although the gates were not due to open for another thirty minutes. They stood around in quiet groups, or wandered restlessly through the plaza. Violet scanned the plaza and saw none of her close friends.
A cool breeze stirred through the plaza. Violet shivered and tuned out the swirl of emotions from the surrounding people. Her sensitive mind needed a protective shield. She reflected on the past two weeks with her own mixture of sentiments. Her graduation ceremony a week ago was not the happy triumph she had envisioned. Her joy at seeing her mother for a few days was tempered by her mother’s discomfort. Silvia rarely left her flower-filled gardens on the quiet planet of Cirrus-beta, although her daughter’s graduation was a special event. The Space Academy brought back memories of Violet’s father, who had died before she was three years old. Silvia was distressed to the point of tears by every familiar sight in the Academy grounds, and Violet dared not talk about her father. Her mother had returned to her secluded gardens immediately after the graduation, still unaware of Violet’s plan to become a Grand Master’s pawn. And then, three days ago, Violet was elated by the notice of acceptance as one of the hundred eligible candidates.
Staring at the other students, Violet wondered what else she could do to improve the chance of success. The Grand Masters selected only handful of pawns from the hundred candidates. Despite the odds, Mother Tingu had been confident that Violet would be chosen. After ten years of lessons to control her empathic talent, she trusted Tingu.
A familiar hostile mind loomed closer through the expectant crowd and Violet automatically strengthened her mental block. Big, blond Marius Krupp shoved past her with a loud taunt, “Violet, the midget candidate! You’re no beauty with that silly mark on your face! What Grand Master would want you?” He snickered and swaggered away to join his cronies in a noisy group of toughs.
Violet glared at his retreating back and shook off his disruptive influence. It was true that she was smaller than the majority of the candidates, and she had few pretensions to beauty. Her large green eyes were her best feature, while the star-shaped birthmark on her forehead was inherited from her mother.
She sensed her friend, Srinivasan, approach from behind. He remarked quietly, “Don’t worry about your height, Violet. Marius is foolish to antagonize you. I’ve seen you trounce larger men than him.”
Srini’s slender physique was deceptive, concealing his ability to fight. Moreover, he was a genius at mathematics and deciphering esoteric languages. He had coauthored the initial paper interpreting the ancient symbols carved on the rock faces of the planet Aman-el. Violet believed he was a prime candidate for selection as a pawn.
“I don’t suppose the Grand Masters care about the height or looks of their pawns,” she reflected with a wry grin. “Although, it is a mystery to me how they select their pawns.”
Srini nodded amiably and his black eyes gleamed. “Let me enlighten you! I’ve analyzed the Grand Masters’ selections over the past twenty years. Statistically, the candidates with the top academic qualifications are the most likely to become pawns. So, our chances are excellent, Violet. Both of us achieved the highest honors in our major subjects.”
“I’m glad to hear your conclusions.” Violet glanced at the massive gates, “I wish the gates would open. It is several minutes past the scheduled time.” She sensed the level of anxiety ratchet up among the candidates as they watched the iron gates. Voices were raised in complaints at the delay.
She reflected on her achievements in the past few years. Violet had won a scholarship to the elite Space Academy on Terra. After the requisite four years of coursework, her qualifications were excellent for a Grand Master’s pawn. She had graduated in the top rank with a master’s degree in xenobiology and wilderness exploration. In addition, she was a certified expert in weapons. One fact was omitted deliberately from the official records. After tests at an early age had indicated a high psychic potential, she had visited the White Mother Tingu for secret lessons in defiance of the prohibitions of the Grand Masters.
Impatient candidates shuffled their feet, and Violet wondered if the Grand Masters had deliberately kept them standing in the cold wind. Ordinary people must wait until their superiors were ready. That attitude was on par with the ominous black exterior of the Grand Masters’ Hall.
Tessa Brown, her pretty blonde friend, joined them and tugged at Violet’s arm. Her voice shook, “I don’t want to be chosen as a pawn. Do you, Vi?”
Violet brushed aside her timid friend’s fears. She grinned fiercely, “I’d love to serve as a pawn. Then I’d learn more about these mysterious and powerful Grand Masters.”
“Oh Violet, I’ve heard some of them are horrible, truly evil, and not even human,” Tessa whispered, her brown eyes wide in alarm. Her family had insisted she apply as a candidate in the selection of pawns because of the associated honor, even though poor Tessa was terrified of the idea. 
“Well, I don’t think you need to worry. I’m sure the Grand Masters won’t want a scared pawn,” Violet said, in an attempt to pacify her friend. She focused on staying calm, despite the bombardment of emotions from Tessa and all the other nervous students.
“I should love to be chosen,” Srini said, his black eyes shining with excitement. “It’s a great honor to serve the Grand Masters, and I’ve always wanted to explore uncharted regions of the galaxy.”
Violet smiled at his enthusiasm. She agreed, although her attitude was more cautious, “Yes, I’d love to explore other planets, although I know the missions can be hazardous.”
Doubts crowded into Violet’s mind as the minutes passed. Would she be selected by one of the enigmatic Grand Masters? Her ambitions for a career exploring new worlds would be achieved if she became a pawn. On the other hand, Mother Tingu would be disappointed if she were not selected. In reality, she had few other options for a career in space. Despite her rigorous training, she did not meet the stringent physical requirements for the Space Corps because of her small stature. Professor Gullish, her Brululian teacher for xenobiology. had offered to recommend her for the scientific surveys. But again, competition was fierce for the limited places. She needed to leave Terra, where the high population placed a considerable strain on her mental shields. Violet yearned to travel, rather than retiring to her mother’s peaceful home on Cirrus-beta. Selection today as a pawn was her best chance to achieve her goals. She bit her lower lip and steeled herself for the interview.
The iron gates swung open with the swish of well-oiled hinges. The crowd of graduates surged forward, their feet rustling on the flagstones. Violet cringed at the flare of their excitement and strengthened her mental shield. The candidates marched through the gates into a spacious hall adorned with colored banners, and fell silent as they waited for instructions.
A loudspeaker blared, “Candidates will enter the interview chamber in groups of twenty.”
Two black-uniformed guards stood on either side of an inner door, which was decorated in images of the major civilized planets of the galaxy. The guards opened the door and allowed the first group of twenty candidates to enter the chamber. They walked through the door in silence, staring straight ahead.
By easing past other, more reluctant candidates, Violet maneuvered to the front of the crowd. She decided not to join the first group to be interviewed. It would be better to position herself in the third or fourth groups. Her plan was to avoid being seen too early when the Grand Masters would wish to see more candidates, and not so late that all pawns had been selected.
Srini and Tessa stood nearby, and both sent her anxious glances, as if she offered moral support. Violet had lost her nervousness. She was curious rather than frightened. The interview must be some kind of evaluation. Would they see the fabled Grand Masters? 
After a short interval, the second group of candidates was called inside. Violet sensed their taut excitement as they passed through the door. There was no sign of the first group, and they must have departed by another exit.
Tessa gripped Violet’s hand tightly; her face was blanched with terror. “I’m scared,” she moaned. 
“Don’t worry! It won’t take long. The Grand Masters seem to decide quickly,” Violet said to encourage her fainthearted friend.
The door opened for the third group of candidates. Violet stepped forward, eager to complete this step. Whether she succeeded in becoming a pawn or not, her life would move into the next stage after today.
Marius boasted loudly, “The Grand Masters dominate the galaxy. They rule over many planets. I’m going to grab that power!” He shouldered roughly past her to enter the door first.
Obnoxious brute, she thought, let him be the first to take the stage. But, his words disturbed her. Did the Grand Masters fight over planets? She walked steadily toward the door, staying with her two friends. Any Grand Master who chose Marius would not be to her taste. She hoped to find one with less grandiose goals.  
Once inside the interview room, Violet stood near the middle of the twenty candidates, watching what happened. Tessa clutched her hand, nearly desperate with terror, and Srini stood rigidly on her other side, wearing a frown of concentration on his brown face.
The candidates clustered uncertainly at the back of the room, staring at a low platform bearing a row of strange objects. Twelve tall cylinders were surmounted by black spheres. Violet was disappointed. No Grand Masters were visible. She could sense no living entities in the room, apart from the twenty jittery candidates.
Gasps of alarm came from her companions as a humming sound filled the room and colored points of light flared on the spheres. Some spheres had a single pair of lights, arranged like two human eyes, while other spheres had three, five or more tiny lights. Violet saw sets of red, blue and yellow lights, as well as other colors. When the pseudo-eyes lit, she sensed very faint presences, as if the Grand Masters watched the candidates remotely via the spheres. 
Tessa trembled violently. Violet dropped her friend’s hand, ignoring her beseeching eyes. She did not wish to be contaminated by Tessa’s display of weakness. They would be judged separately.
An artificial voice called, “Candidates will walk onto the stage, one at a time, and stand still for evaluation by the Grand Masters.”
One brave candidate stepped up, nearly stumbling in his haste, and stood silently for a few minutes before he was dismissed to the left exit. The bully, Marius, strode to the front, and was dismissed even more quickly than the first candidate.
Violet compressed her lips and stepped forward, resolved to take her chance. She stood erect and stared at the row of lighted spheres. An uncanny vision wavered before her eyes, and she tensed, holding her breath in awe. The hazy image focused into a semicircle of twelve people seated on thrones, human men and women and alien creatures. Their eyes glowed in the bright colors she had seen on the spheres. One alien was a mass of writhing tentacles, while another resembled a green gelatinous blob. One humanoid woman was dressed in red robes, and another in a green gown, and two men were clad in somber black robes.
In the midst of these amazing sights, her attention was caught by a dark man in blue robes seated at one end of the semicircle. He had a grim face like an eagle with fierce black eyebrows over a hooked nose. His eyes were half lidded. While she watched, his eyes opened and blue beams flashed out, piercing straight into her face. She stared boldly into those laser blue eyes. Yet in the next moment, his eyes slid slowly past, and she doubted he had even noticed her.
She stiffened in alarm and shielded smoothly, hoping belatedly to conceal her psychic power. The eerie vision of the twelve entities vanished from sight as swiftly as it had arisen. Violet was disappointed; she wanted to inspect the Grand Masters more closely. Surely, she had perceived the mysterious Grand Masters in the transient image. One or more of the strange beings in her vision might be the culprit she sought. 
Violet blinked, returning to the cold reality of the interview room with the lighted spheres atop each tall cylinder. The mechanical voice called, “You have been chosen. Walk through the right hand exit.”
Violet grinned and raised her fist in triumph. She had succeeded in the first step of her risky venture. As a pawn, she could study her Grand Master and pursue her dream of exotic travel.

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