Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

1960, England.

Maiel overlooked the rooftops of London, from her roost on edge of the Great Ormond Street Hospital. In the distance, the crosses of a Union Flag thrashed in the breeze. Big Ben's clock tower jutted its great face into the skyline. Deepening dread filled Maiel's thoughts. Streams of light disappeared into the milky firmament, a dazzling show that might have comforted the ones left behind if they could see it. If they only knew that their loved ones had merely disconnected from this world and were quite safe back home in Zion.

The erela had matured into a fine leader in the Moon Order. The five piercings in each ear were strung with silver hoops, each marking the destruction of a Lord of Jahannam and two marked with cobalt to denote barons. Upon her form, cobalt armor declared her order, similar to the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans centuries gone from Earth and the Samsara Universe. The penannular normally on her shoulder was embedded into the breastplate, an empty, narrow ring of silver over her heart. When at rest, the device would be a silver circlet around a cobalt center boasting a small full moon. Her crimson wings lay folded on her back, partially concealing a round shield of the same hue and design as the penannular. Silver gauntlets and greaves piped with blue adorned her limbs, ending in claws that could shred the toughest shade's hide. The blade running the length of each greave nearly completed the destructive combinations in her armor. Her flame tresses sprung from the crest of her spine-crowned helmet in a thick braid that parted into several others. Each rope formed a crushing barbed whip. At her side hung her trusted gladius, the same blade given to her by the guards of the Armory of Walhall, keepers of the arsenal of Zion, upon her placement in the order when she was just a skinny youngling. A quiver of arrows and a bow peeped from behind the shield. Still, these were not the only weapons she carried. A multitude of unseen arms could be pulled at will, like her handy curved dagger in the holster at her knee, the tip of a silver hilt the only hint of its presence.

Maiel set her sandaled foot on the edge of the roof and stepped up to gain a better vantage of that section of the city. Her fingers flexed the articulated armor. The skin of her upper arm showed the tail of a dragon, its head hidden beneath the armor where it reached to her wrist. The marking prickled with electricity. There was nothing to dread, for the cause was not present in Samsara, but she felt the warning all the same and was glad for every blade.

Caer Wydion, what the humans called the Milky Way, and her Earth changed a great deal since she first traveled there, preferring it to the other worlds of Samsara. The humans used this training ground as intended, but sometimes they abused the privilege to their detriment, struggling to dominate a place between three-twined worlds where they could at last be the supreme race. This struggle was not unique to their species. They reminded her of the shades of the Jahannam. Other souls who shared their plane, hidden galaxies apart from one another, made the same claims. Every so often lights of promise sprung up among them all. This day, she was there to guard one of those atman.

Maiel's solemn gaze lowered to the street. Cars slid up and down the narrow artery stories below. The cloak of her penannular prevented the humans from spotting her perched far above, observing them with a clinical eye. Her kind watched and guarded. They were always watching, waiting for the shadows of the enemy to show. If she wanted, the veil of the penannular would release. However, eons of experience and the warnings, that were like tiny sharp electric pulses along the surface of her skin, suggested discretion.

Maiel's assign lay below, through several floors, ready to disconnect from a bio-interface appliance, or bio-vessel, which made her time in Samsara possible. When the divide occurred, Maiel would guide the girl to Zion where the energy converged back to full consciousness in her real home. That process required all of Maiel's attention. This wasn't the time to have a lark and go hunting.

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