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A Human Prisoner in the Dragon Kingdom
#1
This is a scene from Chapter Seven of my work in progress, Devouring Angel: Book Two of the Elixir Trilogy.  It is set six years after Project Heavenstorm, which is available on Amazon in Kindle format.


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The Independent Dragon Kingdom of Vysolok was an hour ahead of the timezone encompassing Panument and Olokuvon Island, so Lieutenant Jamos Haverson of the Sentinel had been wide awake when the doors of the Dollhouse flung open and the huge blue-and-orange Dragon head glided in.

“Is there anything I can get for you?” said Livaritha, Undersecretary for Vermin Control.

Jamos had not moved from his plush armchair – a garish imitation of Human craft, like everything else in the Dollhouse, like the Dollhouse itself, which had been cobbled together from parts of the long-since defunct Varantuan and Hethstuin embassies.  Apparently it had been designed to make Human prisoners more accepting of their fate, to desensitise them to the concept of their imminent death.  There was no doubt that Jamos was desensitised.  He was desensitised to this bizarre stage prop he was confined to.  He was desensitised to these random intrusions.  He was desensitised to his sluggish state of being – body and mind – every waking moment.

“I’ve just had a glass of water,” he said.

“You must have sustenance,” said the Dragoness.  “We are obliged by law to –“

“I’m all right,” said Jamos.  “I just want to talk to my wife and kids.  That’s all.”

“You know we cannot permit that at this stage,” said Livaritha.

“Then I’m having nothing,” said Jamos.

“Jamos,” said the Dragoness in that stern maternal tone that always annoyed him, “if you are trying to avoid being drugged, then you should know by now that is futile.  The drugs are in the water.  We can drug you in your sleep.  I can render you unconscious at any time without effort.  You cannot avoid your fate through sheer mammalian belligerence.  Only co-operation will allow-“

“I told you I want nothing.  Now fuck off.”

Jamos tried to hold back tears.  He did not want to show any signs of weakness before actual Dragon fascists, no matter how superficially polite and diplomatic they seemed.

“We can give you proteins and vitamins in your sleep,” said Livaritha.  “The syringe is such a useful Human invention.  We have many experienced veterinary scientists working for us.  We understand your physiological needs.”

“Veterinary scientists among you lot?”  Jamos chuckled derisively.  “All the Dragons here play with their food while it’s still alive.”

“Some of us,” said Livaritha.  “Not all.  We are civilized.  We are cultured.  Most of all, we have faith in the Goddess.  Any educated Dragon knows that it is a sin to inflict needless cruelty upon a living creature, even a Human.”

“Just try telling that to your lovey doveys in the New Draconic Order,” said Jamos.  “Why don’t you send a kissy kissy message to Bysamathark in Hell?”

“The New Draconic Order is now confined to Karastyna, not here,” said Livaritha.  “Never confuse the two kingdoms.  We are happy to continue trade with the Human nations.”

“Ah, yes, the Free Nations of Haloken,” said Jamos.  “Where your kind is given equal rights to my kind.  And yet you don’t return the favour here.”

“Your kind has no reason to be here.  Hence your current predicament.”

“You’re afraid of me, aren’t you?” said Jamos.

“You are of no threat to me,” said the Dragoness.

“Yeah, thanks to the drugs.  Otherwise I’d pulverise this house and break your neck in a heartbeat.  In my heartbeat.”

“Nonsense,” said Livaritha.  “We have analysed your aura.  Psychokinesis is not your strongest talent.  At least, not compared with your illusionism and camouflage.  And yet we still caught you.  And found all the crystals you planted.  Plus I have military training.  I can handle the likes of you.”

“Then why don’t we just have a duel?” Jamos chuckled again.

“Because that is not the way we do things.  Do not confuse us with Karastyna.”

“Oh, right, because you’re the civilised fascists, aren’t you?”

“We are civilised monarchists.  Although some of us …”

“What?”

The Dragoness blinked thoughtfully.  “There are dozens of Dragons here in the Ministry,” she said.  “Unfortunately, not all of them share my piety.  If I were in a cruel mood, I would delegate your supervision to one of them.  They would not treat you with the kindness that I have shown.”

“What, knowingly hand me over to cruel Dragons?  Isn’t that a sin?  How does that make you any better than them?”

“It doesn’t.  That is why you should be grateful that your supervision has been delegated personally to me.  You are only the second Human spy caught here since the Kesalzhin Siege.  And, soon, in three days, you will be the second Human to be executed here in that time.  That is also my personal responsibility.  But please, be reassured, when your time comes, I will vaporise you as quickly and cleanly as possible.  You will not feel a thing.  Your suffering would give me no pleasure whatsoever.  That is why I pray for you every night.”

Jamos burst into uncontrollable laughter.  Most of the time, the docility drugs made him feel on the bad side of drunk, but for a brief moment he almost could have been at the bar laughing with friends.  “You stupid lying bitch!” he chuckled.  “Your lot don’t pray for my lot.”

“I do,” said Litharika.  “You may be a lesser creature on Tikamath’s Great Cloud Tree, but you are a Child of the Goddess all the same.  Tikamath loves all Her creatures, no matter how small or insignificant.  And if you repent, She will welcome you into Her embrace when your time comes.  That much I can promise.”

“Why should I repent?”

“You’re a spy.  You have sinned against us.”

“I have honoured my nation and the Free World.”

“We do not honour laws that are not our own.”

“Fine.  Then just incinerate me and get it over with.”

“We are civilized.  We have rules and regulations.  And if I killed you now, you would never speak with your wife and offspring again in this world.”

“Then let me talk to them first.”

“First, you must pray with me.  You must pray for forgiveness.”

What!?”

“I am sincere.  I have been entrusted to your care.  Your physical and spiritual wellbeing are my responsibility.”

“I suppose you’re going to say that you have priestess training as well.”

“I have.  This year I turn one hundred and ninety-seven.  Are my multitude of experiences so difficult to believe?”

“Hell, at this stage, nothing would surprise me.  You could say you use a dead dolphin as a pleasure toy and I’d believe you.”

“Hmm.  Crude.  Like so many of your kind.”

“It’s called free thinking, lady.”

“Free?  I call it random and chaotic, like watching a crowd of your kind walk in all directions.  Ungainly primates bumping into each other.  No grace, no dignity, only childish mockery of self-discipline.  Our ideals are of spiritual discipline – discipline of thought, discipline of the moral conscience, and unshakeable humility and gratitude before the Goddess.”

“So she says while arranging my murder.”

“Your lack of self awareness is staggering.  You know very well that your own profession requires killing when deemed necessary, just like my own.  You might be pleased to know that we have long since finished scanning your sleeping mind for global secrets.”

“You won’t find anything.”

“We have found enough.  We know what you have done, the rules you live by.  We know that the events of six years ago has strengthened your faith.  We know you love your family.   Pray with me, and I shall let you talk to them again.”

“I can pray by myself, thank you lady.”

“Then you shall never see or hear from your family again in this life.  May Tikamath have mercy on your soul.”

There was a long silence.  Jamos sat in the plush chair with his head bowed.  Litharika kept her gaze upon him, blinking only a few times.

“We know about Bysamathark,” Jamos finally said.

“What about Bysamathark?” said Litharika, not flinching a muscle.

“We know your precious King accommodated him in a secret guest cave west of here, for half a year before the Kesalzhin Siege.”

In the last few decades of his life, the notorious ex-General Bysamathark had been a citizen of Karastyna.  However, his frequent commuting to Vysolok and his friendship with King Dryzyvaxa had been well-known to Global Security.

“I have read that part of your memory,” said Litharika.  “His Majesty knew nothing of Bysamathark’s true plans.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Regardless of what you have heard, you should know that the King publicly condemned the Siege of Kesalzhin and all Dragons that took part in it.  If His Majesty ever approved of any plan to target civilians, then he is not my King.”

“Strong words.  Do you have the courage to defy your own King?”  

Jamos may have lost his powers, but he knew that it only took those words, plus a side glance and a smirk, to unsettle the Dragon.  Presumably, she had enough experience with Humans to understand his body language.  And sure enough, he noticed her breaking eye contact for half a second.

“I have no reason to defy my King,” said Litharika.  “And mere gossip is a flimsy weapon against my stalwart loyalty.”

“You’re a sinner just like the rest of us,” said Jamos.

“We are all sinners,” said Litharika.  “Some are more honest than others.”

“But your sin is inexcusable,” said Jamos.

“What sin is that?”

“Preventing me from contacting my family.  That’s making me suffer.”

“Then it is a self-inflicted suffering.  All you have to do is let me lead you in prayer.”

“No.”

“Then you must hate me more than you love your family.”

“Don’t you fucking dare try that on me.”

“Why not?  I only speak true.  You volunteered for this mission, knowing that you may never return.  What did you tell your children?  Their ages are four and six, if I remember correctly.  Did they understand that Daddy’s job is dangerous, even deadly?  Did you say your formal good-byes to Jessinta and Davon?  Did you tell them that Daddy might never be coming back?”

“Shut your giant fucking trap!” shouted Jamos as he jumped to his feet.  An empty glass rose off the side-table and flew straight for the Dragon’s head … only to halt, suspended in midair.

“I think we should increase your dosage,” Litharika said calmly.  The glass slowly levitated back to the side-table and gently lowered back into place.  “Sit down,” Litharika added.

“I’m not a dog.”  Jamos was still standing in front of the padded chair, every breath like an angry blow to his chest.

“No, you are a primate.  And that was not a request, it was an order.  SitDown.”

Before he could think or even feel, Jamos found himself seated back on the well-cushioned chair.  A helpless doll in the Dragon’s mental grip.  A fitting denizen of the Dollhouse, this private zoo exhibit for morally confused Dragons to reassure themselves of their superiority over all Humanity, even after all recent history had taught them.

“You cannot escape,” said Litharika.  “You cannot fight any one of us.  It will take weeks to recover your full strength.  And rest assured we will drug you every night until your execution.  It is only fair.  Dragon criminals are given a very similar treatment in your so-called Free Nations.  Except few, if any, are given the release of death.  Imagine spending centuries in your present addled condition.  Would death not be a sweet and welcome release from such helpless lethargy?  And if you repent of your sins against our state, your death will only lead to eternal bliss in the embrace of the Goddess.  You now know She exists.  All do.  And you know the fate of goodly souls.  You only have to cooperate, of your own free will.  Do you not miss your children?”

There were a few more seconds of silence.  The Dragoness slowly closed her eyelids, as if falling asleep.

“I understand your pain,” she spoke softly.

“You understand fuck all,” Jamos blurted out.  “You have no idea what this feels like.  You never will.  How could you?  You’re infertile.”

The Dragoness exhaled through her nostrils with a harsh hisssss.  Her ears flattened against her scalp like a prowling wolf, her neck arched stiffly until it pressed against the doorway’s head jamb.  “By the Claw of the King,” she hissed, no longer even trying to sound Human, “by the bones of my ancestors, if you mention that subject again, I will delegate your supervision to a Dragon less kind and tolerant.  Mark my words, Human.”

And with that final threat, she retracted her head out of Jamos’s gaudy prison.  The doors slammed shut and locked in a swift burst of psychokinesis.  There was the faint glow and hum as the energy cage surrounding the Dollhouse was reactivated.

Jamos sat there, as numb and lifeless as he had ever been in the three weeks since his capture.  In that time, he had already lost a noticeable fraction of his weight and most of his physical strength.  His psionic powers, once within the highest percentile of the highest percentile, were now reduced to a barely functioning trickle.

A trickle, he thought.  What a cruelly appropriate metaphor.

He turned to gaze at the empty glass the Dragon had prevented him from breaking.  He remembered he was thirsty.  More water.  More drugs.  More hours sitting around doing absolutely nothing.  And in three days he was going to die.  

He did not want to think any more.  Every pleasant thought reminded him of what he no longer had.  Every happy memory reminded him of the emotional blackmail he was under.  He could not even pretend to pray for forgiveness.  He could feel no guilt for serving global security, only pride.  And even that pride was rotting into numbness, into nothing.  

His eyes were fixed on the glass.  He did not want to drink.  He did not want to breathe.  He only wanted to sleep.  Forever.



Litharika was too incensed to even acknowledge the four Dragon Watchguards keeping watch over the Dollhouse.  She kept her head bowed as she slowly strode along the high-vaulted hallway of the Ministry of Vermin Control.  Today the halls were mostly empty, as many of the Ministry staff were allowed to spend the day with their families.  Even the culling of wolf packs to the north was being postponed until after Sakatoth, as was the herding of deer closer to the Palace.  Litharika was one of the few exceptions.  She had volunteered to keep watch on the Human right up until his execution, leaving the Minister for Vermin Control to deal with more general matters of state ecology and border security, and keeping the less ethical Dragons of the Ministry away from the object of their hatred.  Only the four Watchguards were allowed anywhere near the Dollhouse in her absence, and they were ordered not to interfere with the Human unless his actions called for it.

The Human’s personal insult still burned in her guts.  Perhaps she would find it in her heart to forgive him.  But not now.

It was not the insult that hurt the most.  For the briefest of moments, she had actually wanted him to suffer.  That was not her.  That thought was a stain on her soul that only penitent prayer could wash away.

“Lady Litharika,” said a familiar male voice to her side.  “How’s the monkey?”

It was Galokiva, one of the younger high officials of the Ministry, wearing that same toothy grin that always grated on her.  He walked more slowly than usual, keeping pace with Litharika in her sullen mood.

“Jamos is much the same as always,” she said.  “Still morose, still irate, still vulgar.”

“Then perhaps you should pass him over to me,” said Galokiva.  “I could teach him a thing or two about manners.”

“I would not trust you for five minutes with the King’s pet elephant,” said Litharika.  “And you know nothing of manners.”

“Speaking of pets,” said Galovika, “you seem rather attached to the monkey.  You even refer to it by name.  Are you going soft?”

“Not soft.  Diplomatic.  Again, not your speciality in the slightest.”

“But surely I could be of assistance in this case?  I could help you discipline the creature.  Just give me the task and I will comply.  Anything that earns me one night with an older female is worth all possible effort.”  He winked.

Latharika gave him a cold glance.  “First point: You cannot teach Jamos discipline any more than a pig can teach him theology.  Second point: I would not abase myself by getting any closer to you than my profession requires.  Third point: Winking is a Human habit you have picked up from your years spent in Panument.  If you claim to be so superior to Humans, look a little more closely at your own mannerisms.  And fourth: Jamos is a ‘he’, not an ‘it’.”

Galovika growled mirthfully.  “So you do like the monkey!”

“I only need to act as professionally as possible for as long as possible, so when the moment of his execution comes, I will know that I have tried everything to prepare him, and I will know that my part in his execution was justified.”

“What difference does it make?  The monkey dies in the end, no matter how we treat it.  That’s all you have to do.  Kill it in front of the Lord Judge, the High Priestess and the King, and then we party.”

“’And then we party’?  What kind of frivolous nonsense is that?  For one who sees Humans as no better than other animals, you have picked up so many of their mannerisms and idioms.  Are you sure you don’t want to return to Varantua?”

“Only as a spy,” said Galovika, and he winked at her.

“If you are caught as a spy in one of their so-called ‘Free Nations’,” said Litharika, “you’re fate would be far more humiliating than dying in battle, or being executed.  Would you like to spend years in an energy cage in Goroklia, drugged to the point of stupor, coughing and vomiting ash and soot every night?  And no – I am not talking about the ‘good’ kind of illegal drugs you youngsters so perversely rave about, despite the suspiciously similar after-effects.”

“It sounds like you might need some.”  Galovika winked again.

“You are truly a lost cause,” said Litharika.  “Even more so than the Human spy.”

“That hurt,” said Galovika.  

“Good,” said Litharika.

These conversations never failed to exasperate Litharika.  Galovika was one of the ‘New Citizens’ – one of the hundred or so younger Dragons to recently emigrate from Varantua and other Human-dominated nations to become part of the Kingdom of Vysolok.  

Litharika recalled the Great Expulsion of thirty years ago.  King Dryzyvaxa had decreed that all Human residents - including all embassy workers - return to their countries of origin within four weeks.  “Keep Dragon Lands for the Dragons” was his motto.  Litharika had been a priestess, and had felt just a twinge of sadness at having to say goodbye to the dozens of Humans she had got to know over the years.  Some of them she had become rather fond of - not quite as friends, but as interesting, novel acquaintances, almost like pets.  Over twenty-four years later, the influx of relatively young Dragons from the Human nations inspired a completely different emotion - amused exasperation.

For years, these younger Dragons had spent their lives ‘hovering’ – or ‘sitting on the fence’, as the Humans put it.  They had looked down upon their Human neighbours, yet revelled in the comforts and opportunities a large city could offer.  Then came the Siege at Kesalzhin, and the Accursed Dahal Savithar’s infamous betrayal of Bysamathark and his followers.  Some Dragons finally decided that they did not want to live under the laws and whims of mere Humans, so they moved to a nation without Humans.  However, displaying an astonishing lack of self-awareness, they brought with them so many Human cultural traits.  They saw themselves as the ‘New Blood’, as ‘Tomorrow’s Leaders’, but showed little patience to wait their turn in a Kingdom that valued age and experience.  They saw themselves as ‘revolutionaries’, not knowing that this, too, was a perversion of Human culture and history (as well as one of the many self-defeating flaws of the New Draconic Order).  Some had even adopted human fashion traits – tinted spectacles, novelty neckbands and ear-studs.  Ear-studs!  Had they known anything of their own ancestry, they would have known that body piercings were only for Royalty and the Priesthood.  Dozens of young Dragons had to (reluctantly) give up their body piercings for permanent confiscation as one of the many prices of becoming a ‘New Citizen’ of the Kingdom of Karastyna.

Forfeiting their former lives in a perverse Human-dominated ‘democracy’ for their new place in an ancient and mostly rigid hierarchy was something of a wake-up call for these would-be revolutionaries.  Fortunately, most of them adjusted, if sometimes begrudgingly.  It took a number of them some time to learn that leaving Human culture behind did not simply give them the freedom to play with their food before they killed it.  Although animal cruelty was not wholly illegal (yet), it was often looked down upon as unnecessary and immature.  After all, cattle herding was a long and respected tradition among Dragons, and the quality of the meat depended on the health and wellbeing of the livestock.  Litharika was always in agreement with High Priestess Chalovixa on this subject.  Mother Chalovixa frequently lectured the younger Dragons of the importance of showing the most basic respect to Tikamath’s creatures – even Humans.  This was something that more than a few ‘New Citizens’ found hard to swallow – both figuratively and literally.

Litharika and Galovika both made a left turn at the end of the hallway, where the late morning sunbeams shone brightest.  They emerged into a smoothly-cupped balcony broad enough to hold a Human mansion, overlooking the long and winding river sparkling at the bottom of a valley divinely blessed with the lush green of grass and pine trees and the russet red of mountain peaks.  Far into the distance, hundreds of Dragons – old and young – glided, played and practiced combat.

“It is a view well worth leaving the cities behind,” said Galovika.

“That is the only sensible thing you have said all day,” said Litharika.

“In the past five years I have never looked back,” said Galovika.   “Not once.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.  Especially after learning of the Bath Clubs.”

Litharika turned to Galovika, blinking in confusion.  “The Bath Clubs?”

Galovika turned to her, equally confused.  “You have not heard of the Bath Clubs?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I have.  Tell me about them.”

“It is one of the greatest scandals of the Human species!  Elite Human billionaires all over the world made a deal with the Accursed Savithar to have the Elixir shared among them.  When he failed, they could not hold their patience any longer.  They sought after the next best thing.  And you know what that is, don’t you?”

Litharika blinked again, both appalled and fascinated – if not for the reasons Galovika would have wanted.  “Please,” she said, “enlighten me.”

“Baby Dragon blood!”

Litharika stared at him.  This time she did not blink.  She just couldn’t.

“They are capturing and slaughtering joeys and bathing in their blood to stay young!  And you have heard nothing of this?  It’s all the New Citizens have been talking about!  In fact, some say that these disgusting little creatures have Joey Blood Parties in their penthouses where they all go swimming in private pools filled with joey blood!  And … and then they drink it in wine glasses and go dancing and hollering and hooting wearing baby Dragon hide!  And they put candles in the joey skulls and they sing and dance and jump around with them and offer them to their pagan gods!  Seriously, how could you not know this?”

Litharika kept staring at him.  It was a miracle she blinked even once.  “Penthouses?” she said.

“Yes,” said Gavolika.  “Penthouses.”

“Like on the tops of their high rise hotels?”

“Of course.”

“Where any passing Dragon could see them?”

Gavolika averted his eyes.  “Well …” he said, “it’s possible they could … I mean, if they, hypothetically …”  

“Galovika,” said Litharika, trying to sound as sincere as possible, “have you had a medical check-up lately?”

“Of course,” Galovika said indignantly.  “I had one last year.”

“Good.  So I trust your immune system is stronger than, say, that of a Human?”

“What?  Of course it is!  We’re Dragons!  Our immune system is better than that of any other mortal creature!  Why would you even question that?”

“I’m not questioning it.  But … would you say that your self-healing is better than any Human?”

“Absolutely!  By orders of magnitude!  We are the highest branch of mortal life!”

“Yes, yes, I know.  So … would you say that your immune system and self-healing is better than, say … that of a one-year-old joey?”

“What?  Why are you even asking these questions?  Of course my immunity and self-healing is better than a one-year-old joey!  They don’t even leave the pouch at only one year!  They get all their antibodies from the mother!”

“True.  True.  So … if these elite Human billionaires wanted to extend their lifespans to near-Dragon levels, don’t you think that they would be better off bathing and swimming and partying in adult Dragon blood?”

Galovika froze, averting eye contact once again.  “Well …” he said.

“Exactly,” said Litharika.  “May I give you some much needed elder advice?  If you want to believe in hopelessly silly rumours and conspiracies, then could you at least give more credence to the stories that have some semblance to internal logic and consistency?”

Gavolika looked away, too embarrassed to meet his elder’s gaze.  “Well …” he repeated.

“I believe it should be worth thinking about,” said Litharika.  

Not surprisingly, Gavolika was silent for several minutes.  Litharika savoured the moment to enjoy her view of the valley.

When Gavolika finally did break the silence, he was still his usual self.

“So, are you prepared to fry the monkey?”

Litharika sighed.  “I executed the last Human prisoner,” she said.  “I am prepared to execute this one.”

“The last one didn’t have time to blink,” said Gavolika.

“Good,” said Litharika.  “I vaporised him instantly, just as I promised him.”

“You made a promise to a monkey?”

“Not just to the Human, but to the Goddess that created him.  She watches all.”

“Would the Goddess object if I do the honours this time?”

Litharika gave him a dismissive glance.  “Of course She would.  It’s a mystery we still allow you to kill sheep by yourself.  Execution is a sacred process.”

“Why?  What’s the difference between vaporising him or stepping on him or shaking him to a bloody pulp and throwing him against the cave wall?  In the end, the monkey dies.  Dead is dead.”

“When the time comes, it won’t be just the Goddess watching.  There will also be a direct crystal link to the President’s office in Panument.  If the execution isn’t quick and painless, we could trigger a war.  Or, at the very least, further trade restrictions.  Do you want to see crystal production grind to a halt?”

“That will not happen.  We have everything we need here for the next five hundred years.”

“Do we now?  So tell me, where do we go mining for platinum?”

“Platinum?  Well … we could go on a scanning mission …”

“All over the Kingdom?  Fine.  So, while we’re wasting unknown years on that project, we could just use silver in all our new crystals and fall two thousand years behind the rest of the world.”

“We can’t let that happen!  I would rather risk a war.”

“Would you now?”

“Why not?  We have nearly five thousand adult Dragons here all prepared and willing to fight for their kingdom.”

“And they have the entirety of the Sentinel and the Skywatch at their beck and call.  Remember, when you fight Varantua, you’re not only fighting the largest and most powerful nation on the planet.  You are also fighting every nation within the Global Council.  There are ten thousand elite Humans in the Sentinel alone.  Five thousand Dragons in the Skywatch, plus another three thousand in the Reserve.  And even if our conflict were limited to Varantua, there are almost nine thousand healthy adult Dragons in and around Panument who would be more than willing to defend their city, their nation, their offspring and their Human friends.”

“Traitors!  The lot of them!”

“Really?  Do you think they would consider themselves traitors if they fight to defend their friends and loved ones?  Most Dragons in Varantua hatched in Varantua.”

“Like myself,” said Gavolika.  “And I’m not exactly waving the gold and purple flag now, am I?”

“No.  You kept largely to your own species, and you distrusted Humans even more after learning of Savithar’s treachery.  That is understandable.  But not all Dragons see the world as you do.”

“But they should!”

“But they won’t.  That is the way of the world.  You cannot change it.”

“I will.”

“So you have political ambitions.  I admire that.  But in this kingdom, you have to work your way up.  The only reason you are so highly ranked within the Department of Vermin Control is because it is the easiest to get into.  Had you chosen the Department of Defense or the Treasury, you would still hold a junior position, as befitting your age and experience.”

“Why don’t you come right out and just call me a moronic adolescent iguana?  It would save you your precious breath.”

“Because I have learned the art of diplomacy, something that you must also learn if you want to advance further in your chosen field.  How high would you like to go?”

“All the way up to Prime Minister.”

“Good.  Again, I admire your ambition.  But no matter how long it takes you to get there, that is as high as you could possibly go here, unless you have royal blood.  This is not like Nekalifa where the Prime Minister actually makes the decisions and the Queen is just a figurehead.  Vysolok is an absolute monarchy.  The King makes the decisions and the Prime Minister runs the Cabinet to do his bidding.  At most, you would be an advisor to the King, nothing more.  Perhaps you could change the world that way.”

“That would be enough,” said Gavolika.

“For your wiser self centuries from now,” said Litharika.  “Not for the impulsive outsized joey you are today.  Take that as a blessing.  You will have plenty of time to make plans for world domination between now and the pinnacle of your career.  Think about what challenges we would be facing in the centuries to come.  For example …”

Her line of thought trailed off as she felt the formalised pressure of an incoming telepathic message.

Lady Litharika, came the mind voice of Lieutenant Kazaroxa, senior officer of the four Dragons watching the Dollhouse, we have just put the prisoner into an induced coma.  He shattered his drinking glass and attempted to cut his wrist.  We stopped him before he could inflict anything more than a superficial scratch.  No blood has been drawn.

Litharika felt the sting of her initial panic give way to the soothing stretch of relief.  She then felt the slightest twinge of shock as she realised how the news was affecting her.  It was not just fear of failure that concerned her.  She remembered her last words with Jamos.  With her anger subsided, all that remained was the venomous ache of guilt.

Stay focused on him, she mindspoke.  I shall send the vet just in case.  We must set out to replace all glass items in the Dollhouse with conjury resin.  Stay on guard until I arrive.

Affirmative Lady.

“I must go,” Litharika said out aloud, turning to go back the way she came.

“Trouble with your pet monkey?” said Gavolika.

“Enjoy the view,” Litharika said curtly.  She sent a mind call to the Ministry’s head veterinarian.  Chivilokan, report to the Dollhouse immediately.

She strode briskly down the hallway toward the Dollhouse.

Tikamath, I implore You, watch over the poor creature, she silently prayed, knowing all-too-well that it was her duty to end the poor creature’s life.

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#2
This is a very interesting piece. The Dragon conspiracy theories are intriguing, and work as a kind of allegory for the ridiculous things humans believe about one another.
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#3
Thanks Steve.  Some of the Humans have conspiracy theories about the Dragons as well.  There's the story of the "Larder Caves", where Dragons keep live Humans underground to snack on them or to make them into private banquets.  Also, some Humans accuse all Dragons of hoarding the wealth their ancestors stole from Human villages back in pre-industrial days.

The real conflict of Devouring Angel is a new cataclysmic war between the godlike beings that mortals share the planet with.  Humans and Dragons are reminded that they are merely dust mites in a vast and complex universe.
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#4
Wow. That was really good. You've inspired me to head over to Amazon.
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#5
Thanks Aldroud.  Book 2 is far from complete, but the link to Book 1 is below.  It portrays the events of six years earlier that changed their planet forever, and the roles Dahal Savithar and Bysamathark played in those events.
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