Offspring-Paperback-SmAs a special Christmas gift to my all my readers who are anxiously awaiting Book 2 of the Watchers of Ur series, OFFSPRING, here’s a tiny little sneak peek. Please note that this is “officially” unedited since my editor Victoria hasn’t had a crack at it yet, so please be kind and forgive any grammatical erratum. Merry Christmas!

Azrael sat in the soft green grass meditating as the cool arid breeze dancing across the Bolivian plateau kissed his skin. The delicate scent of Jacaranda blossoms from the lone tree on a small hill filled his nostrils. He raised his head and looked to the east, recalling the days so long ago when he taught a group of farmers to cut and quarry stone. Over the course of five generations his students built a city whose foundations would stand more than three thousand years. He willed himself to the spot and stood at the great Gate of the Sun, whose massive carved edifice had witnessed the rise and fall of three empires, casting its shadow on the wide stone floor of the long absent temple.

Azrael placed his hand on the warm sunlit stone of the lintel, the weathered surface much rougher than he recalled. His eyes followed the still-sharp lines of the massive andesite stone blocks — the precision of the blocks still baffled twenty-sixth century archaeologists. He smiled remembering the hundreds of workmen and artisans that labored for decades to quarry, cut, transport, lay, and finish the massive stone blocks that made up the Tiwanaku complex. The memory of the once-thriving metropolis high up on the plateau caused him to feel a momentary longing for days long past.

The familiar disturbance in the air announced the arrival of his superior. He turned to see Hameliel standing with his hands clasped in front of him, his head bowed. As he raised his eyes, Azrael could immediately sense the heaviness of his brother’s spirit.

“Do you find comfort in these dead stones, my Brother?”

Azrael looked at Hameliel and shook his head, “No, Brother. But I do cherish the memories of my time in this place. Life here was simpler. The aspirations of Man were not as…complicated in those days.”

“I know your current assignment weighs heavily upon you. You have had to make some difficult choices that have affected many of the Children,” Hameliel observed in a sympathetic tone.

“Those living at Kleopatra station have endured much. While they understand the reasons behind their situation, their restlessness and anger has not subsided. I fear that more of them will lose faith in our work.” He let the empathetic pain he held in his heart radiate like waves of heat, hoping that his superior would understand.

Hameliel closed his eyes and wavered for a moment as he stood, the waves of intense emotion piercing his spirit with the cries and anguish of scores of souls longing for the lives and loved ones they left behind.

“Brother, much greater misery is being avoided by keeping the Children apart. It is not for us to question what is, but only to do what must be done.”

Azrael knew that Hameliel was right and that he was verging on disobedience by letting the emotions of the humans affect his judgment. But he could not help but feel responsible for the death and suffering that the captivity of the humans had brought. The specter of having to watch Kavan’s children grow up on a lump of rock locked in the grasp of Eridu and its moon was something he wished to avoid. He would have to find a way to convince his superiors to let the humans return to their home worlds.

“You did not come here to walk with me among the stones, Brother,” Azrael said flatly.

“Azrael I have been sent to bring you before the Erelim. The escape of Remus and the Fallen Ones has caused the Elders to seek counsel from the other Choirs. Yefeiah has ordered that you be brought to testify about the failure of the mission at Titan.”

In all of his existence, Azrael had never heard of one of his order being brought into the presence of the Erelim of the First Choir. This troubled him not because he was concerned for himself, but it spoke of the grave nature of the events that were unfolding. The events of mere mortals rarely concerned the Erelim. But something was moving in the human sphere that shook the very foundations of the celestial realm such that the highest orders were conferring and seeking counsel from all quarters.

Azrael turned from Hameliel, and looked out once again across the ancient stones and thought of all that he had seen humans achieve. From the first days after Eden, to the foundation of great empires, and now the conquest of the stars, Azrael was there teaching and guiding the Children of Earth. It brought him joy and gave his existence meaning. He knew that he would see this through.

After saying a silent prayer for wisdom and glancing back toward the lone tree, Azrael replied, “Then let us depart.”