The Rossem Project

     Ten years after the end of the Fourth Shadowwar, Thomas Gown is a happily married family man with a beautiful wife and a perfect son, but when he takes his son back to Lexandria University to arrange for his wizardly education he learns that another threat to the world has arisen, and that the perfect life he’s come to enjoy could soon be nothing more than a fading memory…

Extract from The Rossem Project.

     The atmosphere in the conference room was tense and strained, so tense that none of the occupants could bear to sit in any of the plush, padded chairs that had been provided for them. Instead they stood, some of them pacing up and down like tigers in a cage, others chain smoking cigarettes of gli grass, a special variety that had been bred to remove its addictive and carcinogenic ingredients but not its stimulatory effects. One man stood by the long table and picked at his lip, a habit he'd tried hard to break but which returned in times of stress, and a woman standing alone beside him drummed her nails rhythmically on the dark, polished wood, making a noise that was rapidly driving some of the others to distraction. They'd been waiting like this for far too long. Something had to happen soon! How much longer could they be expected to endure this endless, endless uncertainty?

     All seven people were dressed in clothes of a different colour, although in more or less the same style except for minor changes demanded by the gender of the wearer. A simple one piece garment covered them from neck to sleeves and boots with a belt of pouches and a cape that came to within a few inches of the floor. In addition, they all wore bracelets incorporating large gemstones the same colour as their clothes, which also matched the colour of their eyes. The woman with green eyes and the man with blue eyes both looked fairly normal, but the woman with amber coloured eyes would have aroused instant comment had she appeared in any street on Tharia and the man with the fiery red eyes could have caused a riot with a single angry glance at the wrong man.

     Compared to the occupants, the room was almost normal. Twice as long as it was wide, it had a long wooden table running along the centre, covered with papers and reports scattered in disarray, some in danger of falling onto the floor. One of the room's long walls contained a simple wooden door, standing half open to give a view out into a plain, no nonsense corridor. The two short walls were plain and unadorned, and the floor was covered by a simple, uniformly brown carpet. A pair of glowing globes of marble floated near the ceiling, bathing everything in a soft, pearly light. It might have been any conference room in any town hall or civic centre in any universe if it hadn't been for the other long wall. This was a single long window, giving a view out over a vast open landscape of fields and rolling hills that grew smaller and smaller with impossible distance. There was no horizon caused by the curvature of a planet, the furthest features were hidden only by the haziness of the almost perfectly clear air.

     Finally a man entered, a man dressed entirely in red, with red eyes and whose gemstone, strapped to his wrist, was red as well. Dressed identically to one of the men already in the room, in fact, but different in build and appearance and having none of the other's aura of power and command. This man was smaller, and had a worried, apologetic manner as he bustled in, closing the door behind him. He instantly had the full attention of everyone in the room, and they closed in around him with expressions of desperate hope, even the man in red, although he tried hard to maintain his hard, self assured manner, as befitted a man of his position. "Well?" he demanded impatiently.

     "Sorry to keep you waiting," said the newcomer. "We triple checked the results, just to be sure." He spoke a word, and a strip of light appeared in the air in front of them. A spectrum, bright red at one end, a dim green at the other, the blue and violet so faint as to be invisible. It was crossed by dozens of black lines, some thick and bold, others so faint as to be barely visible. A long white stick appeared in the newcomer's hand as if by a conjurer's trick, and he used it to point to a pair of very fine black lines, close together, in the green part of the spectrum. Amongst all the other black lines, they would have gone completely unnoticed if he hadn't pointed them out.

     "There it is," he said grimly. "I'm afraid there is no longer any room for doubt."

     All around the room a deathly hush fell. Some eyes widened in fear, and some heads drooped in grim acceptance. Only one woman still seemed to have some spirit left, a woman dressed in shining white whose eyes seemed to lack coloured irises altogether, making her gaze extremely disconcerting to anyone who wasn't familiar with her. "How long have we got?" she demanded, fixing him with a steely glare as if she suspected that it was all his fault. The newcomer could only shrug helplessly, however. That was a question impossible to answer, as the woman in white had known, of course.

     "So," said the woman in black, whose skin was black as well, and she gave a scared little laugh. "We're not immortal after all. What a disappointment."

     "Maybe we still can be," said the man in blue, however, and they all spun around to stare at him.