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Devouring Angel: Book Two of the Elixir Trilogy
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DEVOURING ANGEL

Book Two of the Elixir Trilogy
 
Darren Ryding
 
 

 

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”
 
- African proverb.
 
 
 
Prologue
 
Even after twenty thousand years, no one was certain whether machines had souls.  Probe Seven, however, liked to imagine that he had one.  If he did not, he was still happy to have an intellect, a sense of curiosity, and a love of learning.  If this did not constitute a soul, he often thought, then he probably did not need one.  After all, learning and exploring was the love of his life.  It was literally the reason for his existence.
         The world spread out below him, for all its potential dangers, was something that he could not help but love, for it was another reason for his very existence.  It was his duty to observe it.  After a whole year of silent, hidden observation, he had learned to love its many inhabitants.  He loved its billion Humans, with the exception of those that were petty and cruel.  He loved its hundred thousand Dragons, with the same exceptions.  He loved the many trillions of creatures that crawled and swam and flew and knew nothing better.  And, perhaps, he could learn to love the only ones he had to fear.  Perhaps that day would come.
         For today, however, Probe Seven was happy to watch the world awaken.
         Thousands of kilometres below, the edge of the morning sunlight was sweeping across the surface of the planet Haloken, peeling back the shadow of night.  For the past few minutes, it was mostly the ocean that fell under its relentless advance; yet even here there were signs of intelligent life and activity.  On a sailboat near the equatorial centre of the Armestraung Ocean, a small band of Ixthalion fishermen were already awake, enjoying their mugs of steaming beverage when the sunrise greeted them like the face of an old friend.  Far to their north, a squadron of nine Skywatch Dragons were gliding below the speed of sound as the hazy border of sunlight caught up with them, clothing their scales from tail to head with gleaming swiftness, brightening the ocean before them with graceful slowness.  Far to the south, a team of Human researchers near the ice-jagged coast of Farasion awoke to a sunrise that glinted upon the ice like a lamp on white glass.
         On any other day, each one of these small, routine activities would have held Probe Seven’s interest for considerably more than a millisecond.  Not today.  This day marked the sixth anniversary of the most momentous - the most shocking - event in this planet’s recorded history.  And on this day, in the place where it had all begun - where history had been born, hidden, and re-exposed in all its brilliant and terrible glory - the remembrance of those events was about to commence.
         After endless minutes, the wave of daylight flooded throughout kilometres of unfrozen land; the cliffs, beaches, forests and - finally - the freshly constructed college buildings of New Keslazhin Island.
         The Probe had no breath to gasp with, no flesh-framed eyes to widen with wonder and fascination.  Yet his body’s trillions of molecule-sized components held much, much more.  Thousands of scanning devices all diverted their attention from peripheral activities, and focused all their observational powers on this one patch of land in the midst of the sea. 
         This was the place where the Elixir had been buried so many thousands of years ago.  This was the place where it had slept, existing only as a dream, as a legend, before finally being reawakened.  The consequence of this disturbance did much more than tremble a world - it had shaken an entire galaxy.
         Your latest report fills me with wonder and pride, Hygraxil transmitted to Probe Seven over a secure, narrow Q-link.  Continue to monitor all significant mentions of the Elixir.
         Affirmative, My Lady, replied Probe Seven.  (Their true conversation was far more complex than this, but the concepts raised and formal undertones were mostly translatable in mortal terms).  Yet while I find it easy to monitor all crystal transmissions, eavesdropping upon the great majority of telepathic conversations is still an unattainable goal.
         As unattainable as it is unnecessary.  Do not allow excessive pride to cloud your duty.  You cannot possibly deposit any more dataspores into Haloken’s atmosphere without arousing the suspicion of the Moredrex and Kujiras. Your scanning network surrounds the entire planet - surely that must be sufficient for you?  You must value patience and security far more highly than you presently value curiousity.
         I understand, My Lady.  Yet I have sworn my life to your service, and utilize the gift of curiousity to the fullness of your desire.
         The fullness of my desire is to see your mission continue as long as required, not to have it halted prematurely.  My gift of curiousity to you is not to be abused for the purpose of hasty gratification.
         I concur and apologise, My Lady.
         Apology accepted, pride of my spawn.
         As daylight swept across the ocean, hundreds of Dragons could be seen soaring towards New Kesalzhin Island, many carrying equipment and Human passengers.  The festivities were well underway.
         A few hundred kilometres to the north, a medium-sized sailship belonging to the Church of the Celestial Ambassador began its slow journey towards the heart of the ocean.  Sitting around on the deck in rigid silence, their nervousness apparent even from Probe Seven’s altitude, were sixteen black-robed young Initiates.  They had come of age, and were now rehearsing a once-in-a-lifetime ritual that was nonetheless a common occurrence for the increasingly expansive Church.  Probe Seven scanned the surrounding seas to five hundred kilometres, then a thousand.  There were no signs of any Kujiras.  However, as the Probe knew all-too-well, that meant nothing.
         Fixed high in orbit, linked up to a billion microscopic dataspores that surrounded the planet, Probe Seven gazed down upon the mortal realm from the dark and dangerous heavens, watching the world turn.
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