QSFer Nicholas McIntire has a new epic gay fantasy out, The Archanium Codex Book 1: “The Hunter’s Gambit.”
No one promised Aleksei Drago an easy life. Growing up amongst the Ri-Vhan of Seil Wood, losing his mother and just as suddenly being torn from the forest folk, Aleksei had no choice but to make the best of an unpredictable situation.
But what happens when the monsters and figures of fiction become horrifyingly real? How will Aleksei cope? When the stakes are at their highest, will he finally falter? Or will he rise to the occasion, reforging himself into the man Prophecy demands he become? In a world of magic and Magi, of Angels and Demons alike, how will a simple farm boy survive his own contorted destiny?
This is the story of a seemingly-simple world gone mad, and the reality that every action, no matter how apparently benign, can serve to unravel terrifying truths. This is the story of Aleksei Drago, farmer, Hunter, and so much more.
Note: The Hunter’s Gambit is the beginning of a 10-book epic fantasy series. While the primary love story is between two men, there will be a spectrum of other love stories explored throughout the series.
Sweat rolled down the hard angles of Aleksei’s face, dripping from his nose and chin as he worked. Lift, throw, lift, throw. The motion was methodical and soothing, and it was exactly what Aleksei needed at the moment.
He stepped back to survey his progress and managed a grin. In a single morning he’d shifted half of the hay from the west field into the barn. Perhaps tomorrow he and his father could finish carting it up to the loft. And then there would be little to do until it was time to plant next spring.
Aleksei restrained another surge of hope. It had been at least a week since he’d last dreamt of the strange voice, and those terrifying green eyes. It was near a Market Day since the last voice had echoed through his mind. His prayers had finally put an end to this…disorientation altogether.
It was now well into Harvest, and the work on their tiny farm was practically complete. And once it was, he and his father could spend their days relaxing by the fire. Maybe he would spend the last few weeks before the first snow chopping firewood. They could never have too much—
He froze, back stiff as he glanced around the barn and then out into the field. No one. At least no one he could see.
Aleksei, I have need of you.
Aleksei shuddered, running a hand across his forehead and turning his eyes towards the farmhouse.
He was alone.
North, Aleksei, north.
He closed his eyes and the golden mist rushed back to him.
It was always the same, the voice, the golden mist, and those brilliant emerald eyes that spoke far more power than any simple farmer could fathom in a thousand lifetimes.
North, Aleksei. I have need of you.
“Who are you?” he whispered, but that never changed either.
The voice never responded, never even seemed to notice that Aleksei was speaking. It simply repeated itself. North. I have need of you.
What need? Aleksei was more than a little apprehensive about the voice. What need could anyone have with him? Surely whatever was needed could be found somewhere else. In someone else. Why him?
Fate made that decision long ago, Aleksei Drago.
His eyes snapped open and his pulse quickened, fear tumbling rampantly through his veins. This was the first time the voice had deviated. Before, everything had been composed of the same series of phrases. But now…now something was very different indeed.
Fate will make you come to me, Aleksei. Do not fight it. Do not run. It will find you. I will find you.
Aleksei wanted to weep with frustration. Even if he were mad enough to consider following the voice, ‘North’ was hardly enough to go on.
He jumped at his father’s call and turned, trying to bury the emotions sweeping across his face. Fear, panic, despair. What was he supposed to do?
“Come on boy, it’s supper time.” his father said with a bright smile. “This can wait until tomorrow, and then we’ll do it together. Finish in half the time.”
Aleksei nodded, “Alright, Da. I was coming in anyhow.”
His father’s brow creased, “Something troubling you, Son?”
Aleksei tried to banish the uncertainty from his face, “Troubling? Nah, I was just thinking that the sun was getting to me.”
His father’s face lightened and his smile returned, his pale brown eyes twinkling knowingly, “That sun can play mighty tricks on you if you don’t mind it. Especially during Harvest. Trickiest thing in the world, that old sun.”
Aleksei relaxed and nodded his agreement, fetching his shirt from the hook inside the barn where he’d left it. As Aleksei snapped the buttons into place, he was keenly aware of his father watching him. He knew Henry was concerned, but the last thing he wanted to do was trouble his father with his flights of fancy. How could he explain something he didn’t understand himself? At best, Henry might just think he was addled in the head.
Would the voices ever leave him alone? Would the man with the green eyes finally decide he wasn’t worth the trouble and move on to someone else? Someone more willing? Gods, but he hoped so.
And even as the thought entered his mind, he knew it would not, could not be. He was trapped. Trapped by…what had the man said?
He rolled the word over in his mind, trying to comprehend what it was about that word that carried such a strong feeling of bitterness. Why did he shy away from it so? Something tugged at his thoughts, just on the edges of consciousness, but he found no answers in the silence. Some part of him rebelled against the word. Something inside of him hated it.
“Fate.” he whispered.
Aleksei realized he’d spoken the word aloud and looked to his father’s questioning face, “Da, do you believe in Fate?”
Henry frowned, “Fate, Son? Can’t say I do. I’ve lived too long and seen too much that Fate just can’t explain. If there was Fate, then everything would have to have a reason. And I just can’t see the reason in some things.”
Aleksei knew what his father meant. The memory of his mother haunted his father day and night, as it haunted him.
Why were some things just so…so senseless?
Nothing is senseless, Aleksei. But sometimes we are too blind to the world to understand the ‘whys’, and sometimes we don’t receive answers. Sometimes we do, but they aren’t the answers we want.
Aleksei felt a sudden surge of anger at the voice’s intrusion. Was it reading his thoughts now? Would he ever have a moment of peace, when some stranger was not listening inside his head?
You’ve never truly been alone, Aleksei. Privacy is an illusion crafted for the powerless. And now your anger stems from the knowledge you have gained. I know that is not the answer you wanted, but that does not keep it from being true.
Damn you, Aleksei thought angrily, let me be!
He waited for a response, but was greeted by silence. It was only several hours later that Aleksei realized his wish had been granted.
Critically-acclaimed author Nicholas McIntire has been writing fantasy since he was 8 years old. The bones of the Archanium Codex were first created when he was 16, and in the past 20 years he has taken that initially simple idea and crafted it into a fully realized world, finished the sequel, earned three degrees (one in Russian, Eastern European Studies, two in Nursing), and lived life to its fullest. Now writing full-time, Nicholas is ready for his debut, The Hunter’s Gambit. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas.