Castle de Forest is nestled in the woods on a mountaintop overlooking the village of Oakforest. For generations the de Forest family has ruled here, passing on leadership from father to son. That legacy almost ended with the passing of old Lord de Forest. Long ago he had sent his only son into slavery, hoping that the boy who bore “the marks” would be wiped from the memory of Oakforest.
Grigori de Forest had escaped the nightmare colony to which his own father had banished him and upon the old man’s death, claimed his birthright.
Now, standing in the lush field behind his castle, the unusual striped Horseman grants an interview to hopefully put rumors of his evil nature to rest once and for all. His cloven hooves move restlessly for a moment, then he stands still, his piercing eyes–one blue and the other so pale it appears almost white–stare with such intensity that this interviewer can’t help feeling a bit nervous.
It’s obvious Grigori wants to get on with it, so without hesitation, we begin.
Lord de Forest, is it true that during your exile you fought as a gladiator in a slave colony?
Grigori: It is true. When my father sent me into slavery, I had to adapt to the ways of the gladiatorial colony or die.
Some people believe that your unusual characteristics are a sign that you possess evil magic. Is there any truth to that?
Grigori: Think about what you just said. If I possessed evil magic, would I have remained a prisoner in a gladiatorial colony?
That’s a reasonable answer. Since your return, how have the people of Oakforest treated you?
Grigori: Most still fear me. The contempt they had for me as a child hasn’t diminished, but it seems their fear of me has increased, except for one woman.
Yes, your maid, Violeta. Some say she is more than just your maid.
Grigori: [Glaring.] Violeta is more a lady than anyone in this village. If I find out who has been spreading rumors about her, they will have reason to fear me after all.
My intention isn’t to sully her reputation, but I’m curious to know if she means more to you than just a servant and if it’s possible that she might actually become the lady of the castle?
Grigori: It’s true I care very deeply for Violeta and would marry her in an instant, but I don’t want her made miserable being the wife of a. . .of a Horseman with my marks.
Why do you care so much about Violeta?
Grigori: She’s the most decent, compassionate, beautiful woman I’ve ever known. She showed me kindness when no one, not even my own family, did.
If you could send the people of Oakforest a message, what would it be?
Grigori: I’m not your enemy. If you’re fair with me, I’ll be fair with you. However if you strike me, I’ll strike back. Believe me when I say I make a far better ally than a foe. Threaten me at your own risk.
The interview draws to a close and as I make my way down the winding forest trail back to the village, I hear the sound of massive wings beating overhead.
by Kate Hill
Book 7 of the Horsemen Series
From Ellora’s Cave
Long ago a striped Horseman lost his heart to the only Horsewoman ever born. Feared and rejected, he allowed his bitterness to destroy them both. Since then, no striped Horseman has ever known love. . .until now.
Sold into slavery by his father, Grigori de Forest arrives home twenty years later to reclaim his birthright. Now lord of a land where superstitious villagers despise and fear him because he bears “the marks”, he intends to live alone in his family’s ancestral castle.
Grigori de Forest soars through the sky, his black and white striped beast-half vivid against the background of blue.
Will the people ever accept him, or is it inevitable that violence will erupt between the superstitious villagers and the master of Oakforest? If it happens, will he be alone in the fight, or will Violeta stand beside him?