Читать онлайн «Crusader»
51. Sliding South (#litres_trial_promo)
52. A Marital Reunion (#litres_trial_promo)
53. Sigholt (#litres_trial_promo)
54. A Troubled Night’s Dreaming (#litres_trial_promo)
55. A Tastier Revenge Than Ever Imagined (#litres_trial_promo)
56. StarLaughter’s Awful Mistake (#litres_trial_promo)
57. South, Ever South (#litres_trial_promo)
58. Sweetly, Innocently, Happily… (#litres_trial_promo)
59. Midwiving Deity (#litres_trial_promo)
60. The General’s Instructions (#litres_trial_promo)
61. For the Love of a Bear Cub (#litres_trial_promo)
62. Katie, Katie, Katie… (#litres_trial_promo)
63. Hunting Through the Landscape (#litres_trial_promo)
64. The Most Appalling Choice of All (#litres_trial_promo)
65. Abandoned (#litres_trial_promo)
66. Choose, DragonStar! (#litres_trial_promo)
67. Bring Me My Bow of Burning Gold… (#litres_trial_promo)
68. Twisted City (#litres_trial_promo)
69. Light and Love (#litres_trial_promo)
70. The Witness (#litres_trial_promo)
71. The Waiting (#litres_trial_promo)
72. The Tree (#litres_trial_promo)
73. The Garden (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)
Also by Sara Douglass (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)
Prologue: An Evil Released (#ulink_36bb0964-1abe-5821-895f-02ab86ffa277)
“What can we do?” Fischer said uselessly, but needing the comfort of an endlessly repeated question. “What can we do? Bloody what, you ask?”
“Easy, mate.” Henry Fielding laid a hand on Fischer’s tense forearm.
Fischer shifted his arm away then turned his head towards the far, windowless wall. He was in his seventies, a white-haired, emaciated old man, his face deeply lined with the forty-year struggle against the evil that had savaged — pervaded, consumed, destroyed — his world.
When it had begun he’d been a man in his prime: copper-haired, bright-eyed, lithe and energetic, determined to fight and destroy the invading beings.
“Demons” was a strange, horrid word that Fischer had only now learned to use, but which he still found completely distasteful.
“Demons” did not fit a world that was based almost entirely on scientific theory. On logical explanation. On provable fact. On the complete belief in technology that was far more acceptable and comfortable than religious beliefs. “Evil” did not exist. Only scientific fact existed. Only the vagaries of nature and as-yet-to-be- controlled-and-predicted geographical events existed. Only the selfish and arrogant nature of human society existed. Only petty crime by social misfits and corporate crime by the socially successful existed.
Evil had no place in this most rational and explainable of worlds.
Until it dropped out of the sky over New York one blithe and fair Sunday morning.
That was what took us three decades to come to terms with, Fischer thought. The idea that we’d been invaded, not by pastel-coloured and elegantly-elongated extraterrestrials with great dark eyes in shiny Spielberg-like metal-pocked spaceships, but by pure, and utterly hungrily angry, Evil.
And thus for three decades pure Evil in the shape of the TimeKeeper Demons ran amok. Countries were laid waste, save for the moaning, shuffling crazed populations that roamed their dusty surfaces. Cities were abandoned, jungles stripped of foliage, oceans dried and ravaged. Within a year the human population of earth had gone from billions to a few pitiful ten thousand huddled in bunkers, waiting out the demonic hours, and wondering how they could strike back.
The ten thousand were those left sane, of course. There were still countless millions left roaming above ground, their minds completely unhinged, utterly demonised, noisily breeding — and entirely successfully — countless millions of genetically insane babies. Those infants that survived their first five years uneaten (or only partially eaten), grew into even worse monsters than their parents.
Fischer shuddered. The insane (and by now there were billions of them) were still out there, haunting the as yet unreclaimed surface of the planet.
He and his companions might have managed to trap and dismember Qeteb, but the other five Demons continued to howl their destructive way about the planet.
They had trapped and dismembered Qeteb, but not destroyed him.
This was the problem Fischer and his companions now faced. What to do? What to do?
“The other Demons will break through the barriers within the month,” said Katrina Fielding, Henry’s wife. She’d been the one to suggest the idea that the Demons could be trapped by reflecting their own malevolence back at them.
Fischer glanced at her. She was young, in her early forties, a mere child when the Demons had first dropped in.
She’d lived virtually her entire life underground, and it showed. Katrina’s shoulders and spine were stunted, her eyes dull, her skin pallid and flaky. She’d never been able to have children. And after the initial years underground only a scattering of babies, mostly physically or mentally disabled, had been born to the few women who came to term.
We’re dying, Fischer thought. Our entire race. The Demons will get us in the end, even if it may take them a generation or two longer than those they cornered above ground. If the Demons don’t leave soon then no-one will be left who can breed!
No-one sane, that is. The insane hordes above ground multiplied themselves with no effort, and certainly no thought, at all.
The idea terrified Fischer. “Whatever we do,” he said, “we’ve got to get rid both of Qeteb’s damned death-defying life parts, and the other five Demons as well.”
“There is only the one solution,” Henry said. “Devereaux’s proposal.”
Devereaux’s proposal frightened Fischer almost as much as the idea that the sane component of the human race would soon die out, leaving earth populated by the maniacal human hybrids (God knows with what they had interbred upstairs!). But a decision had to be made, and soon.
Why, why, why, Fischer thought, is there no government left to make this decision for us? Why couldn’t we leave it to a bunch of anonymously corrupted politicians to foul up so we can be left with the comfort of blaming someone else?
But there were no nations, no governments, no presidents, no prime ministers, no goddamn potentates left to shoulder the responsibility. There was only Fischer and his committee.
And Devereaux. Polite, charming, helpful Devereaux, who had advised that they just load Qeteb’s life parts on separate spaceships (how convenient that the people inhabiting the bunkers when the Demons had initially arrived tended to be the military and space types) and flee into space.
“Drop them off somewhere else,” Devereaux had said only the day before yesterday. “Or at the least, just keep going. The other Demons are bound to follow.”
“What if Devereaux finds a place to leave them?” said Jane Havers, the only other woman present. “Or just crashes into some distant planet or moon. What then?”
“We pray that whoever inhabits that moon or planet can deal with the Demons better than we have,” Katrina said. “At least it won’t be in our solar system, or galaxy.”
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