Where duty and passion collide—The Twelve Systems Chronicles.
In a society where honor is revered and love is a luxury, a woman in peril and ruthless warrior enter into a dangerous contract. To survive, Lilian vows to give Lucius her complete obedience. To achieve his ambitions, Lucius vows to keep Lilian alive. Keeping those vows will prove more difficult than either of them could have imagined.
Lilian is twenty-four, well-educated, disgraced, destitute and desperate. Raised to wealth and power, her expectations of a bright future were destroyed when her father was executed for foul crimes. Her family name is erased, their cartouche melted, their property forfeit. Determined to survive and protect what remains of her family, Lilian becomes the apprentice of a powerful warrior. For three years, he will train her for a position in the Cartels. In return, Lilian will yield him absolute control of her mind and body.
Lucius Mercio is the preeminent warrior of his cartouche, and the cartel it dominates; the Serengeti Group. Ruthless, clever and ambitious, Lucius’ wealth, influence, and power are exceeded by few within the Twelve Systems. It is not sufficient. Lucius intends to take his Cartel to unimaginable heights with the aid of Lilian’s brilliance. He faces only one obstacle. Lucius must keep Lilian alive.
In the second volume in the Twelve Systems Chronicles Lilian’s enemies are more determined than ever to see her destroyed. A ghost from her past will imperil her future and threaten to destroy Lucius’ slowly developing trust. To survive the next set of challenges Lilian will need to find new reserves of courage, wit and determination.
When Lucius’ motivations and ambitions are revealed, they are far more extraordinary than Lilian imagined. His rivals are about to increase in number and ferocity as they seek to limit his expanding wealth and power. They will use any means to undermine and destroy his plans including his notorious apprentice. To advance his ambitions, Lucius must be more ruthless and devious than ever before. To succeed, Lucius requires Lilian’s brilliance. To make use of it, he must keep her alive. It is going to prove more difficult than he anticipated.
Life within the Serengeti Cartel is perilous, riddled with malice and intrigue that can threaten the mightiest of warriors. For Lilian – brilliant, despised and one misstep away from execution for her father’s crimes – all that stands between her and destruction is the powerful warrior Lucius Mercio. In return for his protection, Lilian became Lucius’ apprentice, yielding control of her body, will, and intellect. The desperate gamble has paid off. In defiance of all expectation, Lilian has survived nearly a third of her trial by ordeal, but it is far from over.
Determined to raise Serengeti to the pinnacle of power in the Twelve Systems, Lucius has ruthlessly exploited Lilian’s brilliance to achieve his ambitions. Within seasons, he will lead Serengeti to new heights with the launch of Bright Star, the first stellar exploration venture in over two centuries. With each new success, Lucius’ rivals multiply while a traitor stalks the halls of Serengeti, determined to thwart Lucius by any means. As the viciousness of her enemies escalates, Lilian is forced to confront the past and choose between betraying her oath of loyalty to Lucius and protecting the deadly secrets of her father’s dark acts.
For a year and a half, Lilian has endured the hostility, spite, and deadly violence of those who despise her for her father’s crimes. If not for the protection of the powerful warrior Lucius Mercio, Lilian might not have survived. Without Lilian’s courage and brilliance, Lucius might have lost the Serengeti Cartel to a vicious traitor. Instead, Lucius has total control of his Cartel, and few within Serengeti will risk his wrath to torment his apprentice.
Determined to advance his ambitions and reward Lilian for her role in his success, Lucius prepares for the voyage to Fortuna in the Fourth System. There, they will oversee the next phase of the first interstellar space exploration in two centuries. Lilian’s anticipation soon turns to dread as dark dreams haunt her nights, increasing in frequency and force as they journey to Fortuna. On a distant world, cut off from her few friends, Lilian will face dangerous intrigues as her nightmares take form.
Ruthless, devious, and ambitious, Lucius Mercio has elevated the Serengeti Group to the third wealthiest cartel in the Twelve Systems, cementing his place among the twelve most powerful members of the ruling warrior class. With Lucius’ rise, his enemies increase in both number and subtlety. Few will dare to attack Lucius directly, instead they will move in secret, targeting the most vulnerable aspects of his empire including his disgraced and reviled apprentice, Lilian.
As Lilian begins the third and final year of her trial by ordeal, she is more determined than ever to survive and repay Lucius’ protection and trust with loyalty and diligence. Expecting only the meager assignments reserved for apprentices, Lilian was stunned to receive the conservatorship of a valuable Vistrite Crevasse—an honor reserved for proven and trusted warriors. When a lethal disaster strikes Desperation Mine and Refinery and imperils Lilian’s conservatorship, hidden adversaries seize the opportunity to plot the downfall of Serengeti.
With only a season and half left to her bond, Lilian’s enemies are becoming desperate, and those who would see her fail seek any infraction, no matter how minor, to deny her bond proof. With her actions in the battle of Serengeti proving her valor and loyalty beyond doubt, only the honor proof remains – adherence to the rigid and complex Apprentice Protocol. Although few within Serengeti will challenge her bond proof, throughout the Twelve Systems, those who wagered against her are facing penury and will stop at nothing to keep her from surviving.
With Damocles and Despoilers defeated, Lucius’ power with Serengeti and the Third System is uncontested. Determined to advance his ambitions, Lucius lays plans for a triumphant launch of his revolutionary stellar exploration vehicle, the Nightingale. As he prepares to depart for Fortuna, a new threat appears in the form of a charismatic prelate who rouses the populace against Bright Star and Lilian’s role the venture. The prelate will prove but the first among many determined to thwart him through any means, including his notorious apprentice.
When thousands gather on Fortuna for the historical launch of the Nightingale into orbit, Lilian finds herself treading a blade’s edge as she attempts to adhere to the Apprentice Protocol among adversaries who are increasingly desperate and bold. Planned as a celebration of Serengeti achievement, the Fortuna voyage becomes a nightmare where she is faced with deadly opponents intent on her destruction.
In defiance of the odds, Lilian is within a month of proving her bond, driving desperate Odds Managers to ever increasing bounties on her life—every step beyond the security of the cartel is perilous. Within the cartel, she must put aside her fear, giving all her attention to her duty and the decorum demanded of an apprentice.
The success of the Nightingale launch has brought Lucius and Serengeti into the center of Twelve Systems commerce. As the Nightingale Command Crew is gathers on Metricelli Prime to prepare for the dangerous voyage to the Thirteenth System, whispers of pirates emerge from the Eleventh and Twelfth Systems. A decade before, pirates almost to toppled Serengeti, their reemergence so close to the Nightingale launch endangers all Lucius has achieved. When a group of free-traders arrive from those distant systems, they threaten to resurrect an ancient Mercio scandal that could undermine the honor of Blooded Dagger and Serengeti, and imperil all Lucius’ values.
In the final days of Lilian’s apprenticeship, danger lurks in every shadow. It will require all Lucius’ power and Lilian’s courage to achieve her bond proof.
After three years of trial, Lilian is free and Monsignor Lucius Mercio’s protege. Her triumph comes at cost. Fearful of Lady Estella’s wrath, Lilian has refused to continue her liaison with Lucius, breaking her heart and straining her relationship with Lucius. She is stunned to discover that Estella is entering her final days and wishes Lilian to return to Lucius and help him through his grief.
Lilian and Lucius’ relationship has only begun to repair, when duty demands she travel to the distant planet Desperation. There, she will confront her deepest fears when the theft of dangerous technology forces her to descend into the depths of Desperation Crevasse. In the frigid wastes at the bottom of the Crevasse, Lilian will discover an ancient legacy of the Five Warriors and Adelaide.
The worst of Lucius’ grief at Estella’s loss has barely passed when his world shatters again. Lilian has disappeared into Desperation Crevasse. He cannot lose them both. Determined to rescue Lilian, no matter the cost, he races toward the Sixth System and deadly danger.
Author’s note: This is the eighth book in the Twelve Systems Chronicles and a continuation of the story that begins in The Cartel: The Apprentice, Volume 1.
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