Prologue
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Mists shrouded the landscape in front of her, skeletal trees and the tips of weirdly shaped rocks just visible above it. The mists flowed with a wave-like motion to a force unseen, their shadows dancing to the eerie glow from the two moons that hung in the sky. Surreal and haunting, and in every way foreign. Not to mention too quiet as well, with no other sounds present at all. Nothing, apart from her own breathing. Velvet shook her head, her long blonde hair flowing out behind her as it gave off its own glow, unbeknownst to her, as she tried to work out where she was. This certainly wasn’t where she last remembered being, nor even how she remembered being.

Not that she was complaining mind you. Being stuck petrified as a crystalline statue certainly had its issues, so she was pleased at the least to be able to stretch her limbs and actually do something, even if here turned out to be merely a dream.

With nothing further learned, Velvet began to make her way forward, walking tentatively between the rocks, her pace picking up once she had ascertained that the ground beneath her was indeed solid and didn’t appear to hold any danger to her. The terrain didn’t seem to change at all, just rocks and trees in a sea of mist, like the place had perhaps once been something important, however for what and whom had long been forgotten to time. But, for some strange reason, she could feel something about the place calling to her soul, the pull slowly getting stronger as she continued to walk.

Looking down at herself, she discovered she wasn’t wearing her dragon bone armour. Instead she was dressed in a simple but elegant white silken dress, hugging her tightly above her waist and leaving nothing to imagination, and flowing down loosely around her legs, long splits in the side allowing her to walk freely. She knew she was wearing heels as well, but with the mists she had no idea exactly what they looked like. She liked the feel of them though. Her intricate runic tattoos were still all present as well, which was a relief, her magic pulsating through them stronger than ever, causing them to glow golden. Which was odd. She also noticed that she had a few new ones that she couldn’t remember creating, nor could she work out what exactly their purpose was.

She was no longer the same as she she had been, before the battle against the Demon King. She had always known that the purification ritual was going to have a cost, even more so when she had realised the extent of his corruption of the leylines, but even so, the changes that she could feel within her went well beyond that. Something fundamental within her had changed as she had channelled the power of the Dawn on such a large scale, but even now she wasn’t able to put her finger on exactly what it was. All that she could tell was that her and her magic were now even more intricately tied together than they had been before, if that was even possible, and her magic was now more than what it had been before.

The terrain abruptly changed after what Velvet guessed had been about an hour, time being very difficulty to gauge here, breaking the monotony that the walk had become. A massive cliff rose out of the mists, the sheer vertical wall peppered with the remains of small trees and a singular path up it that seemed to involve more climbing that it would walking. Every so often a clump of stones dislodged itself in the vicinity of the path, coming crashing down the side of the cliff before throwing up a wave of mists as it impacted silently with the ground. It was almost as if the land itself was trying to keep her away, while at the same time still calling her, as Velvet could feel the pull beckoning her to climb the cliff. Or perhaps the place was just that old. Not that it mattered. She didn’t have any intention of actually climbing the cliff as it was. That’s what wings were for.

Summoning her magic, feathery wings of golden light appeared on her back as like runic tattoos glowed fiercely by her shoulder blades, casting a warm glow on the surrounding area, the mists receding from her in response. Despite the presence of the mists, the ground underneath was solid and dry, hairline cracks running throughout it’s entirety. Like her dress her heels were white and elegant, the style that one would expect to see at a ball, and while they seemed to be a lot sturdier than they looked, especially with the way that she had been walking, Velvet doubted that they would be suitable for battle.

Launching herself up into the air, Velvet flew up the cliff, staying just far enough away to avoid any of the falling rocks, but still keep a close eye on the path that weaved its way up. The cliff was a lot higher than she had initially thought, and by the time she had finally reached the top the terrain below was just an indistinguishable blur of white mist. The ground up here was just as barren and lifeless as it had been below, but now there was a clear cut path that ran from the top of the cliff into the distance. Once paved stones, now it was a jumbled and uneven mess, not something that was suitable for walking any longer. Shrugging but eager to find out what lay beyond, Velvet flew her way along the path, the light reflecting from the occasional stone that still retained the gloss of its former state.

The path ran straight for a while before crossing a collapsed bridge that went over a dry river bed, weaved it’s way through a skeletal orchard (at least that is what Velvet guessed it must have been at some stage), rose up a small hill, through the remains of a garden that would have rivaled Agersdene City for size, before finishing up at at a massive temple. Or more accurately, the remains of one. Velvet landed just outside it, her wings dissipating once her feet settled on the ground, as she looked it over. Broken statues of winged creatures surrounded the front of the temple, some armed, some not, and all female. Script of a language she did not recognize covered the large entrance way, and the remains of stained glass windows covered a good half of the temples front face. The remains of spires attempted to reach up onto the sky, though of the seven that she could make out from here, only one retained much of its former size.

Making her way inside, Velvet found that the halls of the temple were lined with more of the winged statues, many of these intact, all intricate and stunningly beautiful, warriors, scholars, and servants. Peeling landscapes bathed in the light of dawn adorned the walls, the colours muted and faded. The pull on her soul peaked and then faded, and Velvet knew that she had reached her destination. It’s state tore at her very being, bringing her to tears. At its height this place would have been amazing, but now it was just a mere speck of its former glory. For some reason it had been abandoned, not that she could place when or where it must have existed. Its architectural style wasn’t something that had ever seen or read about.

Leaving the hallway, Velvet found herself in the central chamber, the light of the two moons coming in through the numerous broken windows bathing it in an eerie glow. The chamber was strangely warm and comforting, even in its state of disrepair, and dominating it was a giant statue of another winged woman, more beautiful than the rest, her smile and eyes radiating kindness, while her body and stance exuded power and strength. But try as she might, Velvet was unable to make out any details of it, as if it was both there and not, something keeping her from being able to fully take it in.

She sighed, disappointed. Just like it would be in a dream.

This is more than just a dream child.
We have waited a long time.
But now, finally, it is time.
The new age is coming.


INITIALIZING SYSTEMS...

SECURITY CHECK 10%... 50%... 100%.
SYSTEMS SECURE.
SYSTEMS CHECK COMPLETE.

INTEGRITY ANALYSIS...
INTEGRITY AT 80%...
...REPAIRS ONGOING...
...MORE RESOURCES NEEDED...
...MANA ABSORPTION AT 20%...
...LOCATION NO LONGER ADEQUATE...
...SUB OPTIMAL OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY...
...SENT TO SUB COMMITTEE...
INTEGRITY ANALYSIS COMPLETE.

HABITAT ANALYSIS...
HABITAT DORMANT.
HABITAT ANALYSIS COMPLETE.

LIFE FORM ANALYSIS...
NO LIFEFORMS CURRENTLY PRESENT.
CF773 LOCATION UNKNOWN...
CF774 LOCATION UNKNOWN...
LIFE FORM ANALYSIS COMPLETE.

ARKCHILD ANALYSIS...
SN-013 UNREACHABLE...
FF-027 UNREACHABLE...
CV-118 UNREACHABLE...
RF-001[[M]] CONNECTED...
...SYSTEMS CHECK...
...SYSTEM STABLE.
REMAINING ARKCHILDREN DORMANT.
ARKCHILD ANALYSIS COMPLETE.

MEMORY CACHE ANALYSIS 10%... 50%... 100%...
MEMORY CACHE CONDITIONAL: EXCELLENT.
MEMORY CACHE CAPACITY: 70% FULL...
...RECOMMEND EXPANSION...
...SENT TO SUBCOMMITTEE...
MEMORY CACHE ANALYSIS COMPLETE.

SOUL ANALYSIS...
MOTHER PRESENT AND ONLINE...
GUARDIAN PRESENT AND ONLINE...
ARCHITECT SLEEPING AND OFFLINE...
DRIVER SLEEPING AND OFFLINE...
ENGINEER PRESENT AND ONLINE...
PRIEST SLEEPING AND OFFLINE...
LIBRARIAN PRESENT AND ONLINE...
GUEST DESIGNATION ANGEL PRESENT AND ONLINE...

as always...

PRIEST CONNECTING...
PRIEST STATUS CHANGED TO PRESENT AND ONLINE...
SOUL ANALYSIS COMPLETE.

Do you have to do that every time someone needs to talk?

--It’s protocol. It doesn’t take long to do.--

3000 times a day though? You should change your protocols. I know you can. You need to change with the times.

--We transcend time.--

You don’t believe that, and neither do I.

--Heh. You are a little too perceptive ANGEL. We allow you here, but we still are no wiser as to what you actually are. Care to elaborate?--

In time perhaps. But we have more important matters.

--Such as?--

She has awoken, but it will be a long time before she can act. She will need champions in the meantime. Her influence is crucial.

--You have someone(s) in mind?--

Yes.

--And you require our assistance?--

Oh, don’t worry, there is plenty in this for you as well.

--Very well--

INITIALIZING SYSTEMS...
SECURITY CHECK 10%... 50%... 100%.

...

Really?

--Oh, very well.--

ANALYSIS ABORTED.
INITIALIZING MAIDEN CORE SYSTEM.
...MAIDEN CORE ONLINE...
...PREPARING... 1%... 2%...

Thanks to everyone who has a look at the beginning of book two. It has been a while since I finished the previous book, but it's good to be writing again.

As I mentioned in the announcement at the end of book 1, I have finished the first story arc (11 chapters not including this prologue, around 35k words), and the next chapter will be up this week, probably within a couple of days at max. Release schedule is up in the air at the moment, but progress has been going well.

Feel free to comment. It's always good to hear people thoughts and opinions, even if it is just 'Thanks for the Chapter'. For those who have read all of book 1, it should be easy enough to identity who is involved in the last section of the prologue, though I'm pretty sure I haven't explicitly said who exactly Angel is ^^

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