Here’s the second of our two exclusive extracts from the final book in Laini Taylor‘s epic Daughter of Smoke and Bone series – Dreams of Gods and Monsters…
2. The Arrival
They appeared on a Friday in broad daylight, in the sky above Uzbekistan, and were first sighted from the old Silk Road city of Samarkand, where a news crew scrambled to broadcast footage of… the Visitors.
In flawless ranks of phalanxes, they were easily counted. Twenty blocks of fifty: a thousand. A thousand angels. They swept westward, near enough to earth that people standing on rooftops and roads could make out the rippling white silk of their standards and hear the trill and tremolo of harps.
The footage went wide. Around the world, radio and television programs were preempted; news anchors rushed to their desks, out of breath and without scripts. Thrill, terror. Eyes round as coins, voices high and strange. Everywhere, phones began to ring and then cut off in a great global silence as cell towers overloaded and crashed. The sleeping slice of the planet was awakened. Internet connections faltered. People sought people. Streets filled. Voices joined and vied, climbed and crested. There were brawls. Song. Riots.
There were births, too. Babies born during the Arrival were dubbed “cherubs” by a radio pundit, who was also responsible for the rumor that all had feather‐shaped birthmarks somewhere on their tiny bodies. It wasn’t true, but the infants would be closely watched for any hint of beatitude or magical powers.
On this day in history—the ninth of August—time cleaved abruptly into “before” and “after,” and no one would ever forget where they were when “it” began.
* * *
Kazimir Andrasko, actor, ghost, vampire, and jerk, actually slept through the whole thing, but would afterward claim to have blacked out while reading Nietzsche—at what he later determined was the precise moment of the Arrival—and suffered a vision of the end of the world. It was the beginning of a grandiose but half‐assed ploy soon to fritter to a disappointing ending when he learned how much work was involved in starting a cult.
* * *
Zuzana Nováková and Mikolas Vavra were at Aït Benhaddou, the most famous kasbah in Morocco. Mik had just concluded bargaining for an antique silver ring—maybe antique, maybe silver, definitely a ring—when the sudden hubbub swept them up; he shoved it deep in his pocket, where it would remain, in secret, for some time.
In a village kitchen, they crowded in behind locals and watched news coverage in Arabic. Though they could understand neither the commentary nor the breathless exclamations all around them, they alone had context for what they were seeing. They knew what the angels were, or rather, what they weren’t. That didn’t make it any less of a shock to see the sky full of them.
It was Zuzana’s idea to “liberate” the van idling in front of a tourist restaurant. The everyday weave of reality had by this time become so stretched that casual vehicular theft seemed par for the course. It was simple: She knew that Karou had no access to news of the world; she had to warn her. She’d have stolen a helicopter if she had to.
* * *
Esther Van de Vloet, retired diamond dealer, longtime associate of Brimstone and occasional stand‐in grandmother to his human ward, was walking her mastiffs near her home in Antwerp when the bells of Our Lady began to toll out of time. It was not the hour, and even if it had been, the tuneless clangor was overwrought, practically hysterical. Esther, who didn’t have an overwrought, hysterical bone in her body, had been waiting for something to happen ever since a black handprint had ignited on a doorway in Brussels and scorched it out of existence. Concluding that this was that some‐ thing, she walked briskly home, her dogs huge as lionesses, stalking at her sides.
* * *
Eliza Jones watched the first few minutes on a live feed on her room‐ mate’s laptop, but when their server crashed, they hurriedly dressed, jumped in Gabriel’s car, and drove to the museum. Early though it was, they weren’t the first to arrive, and more colleagues kept stream‐ ing in behind them to cluster around a television screen in a basement laboratory.
They were stunned and stupid with incredulity, and with no small amount of rational affront that such an event should dare to unfold itself across the sky of the natural world. It was a hoax, of course. If angels were real—which was ridiculous—wouldn’t they hew a little less closely to the pictures in Sunday school workbooks?
It was too perfect. It had to be staged.
“Give me a break with the harps,” said a paleobiologist. “Overkill.” This outward certainty was undercut by a real tension, though,
because none of them were stupid, and there were glaring holes in the hoax theory that just grew more glaring as news choppers dared to draw closer to the airborne host, and the broadcast footage became sharper and less equivocal.
No one wanted to admit it, but it looked… real.
Their wings, for one thing. They were easily twelve feet in span, and every feather was its own lick of fire. The smooth rise and fall of them, the inexpressible grace and power of their flight—it was beyond any fathomable technology.
“It could be the broadcast that’s faked,” suggested Gabriel. “It could all be CG. War of the Worlds for the twenty‐first century.”
There were some murmurs, though no one seemed to actually buy it.
Eliza stayed silent, watching. Her own dread was of a different breed than theirs, and was . . . far more advanced. It should be. It had been growing all her life.
Angels. After the incident on the Charles Bridge in Prague some months earlier, she’d been able to maintain a crutch of skepticism at least, just enough to keep her from falling. It might have been faked, then: three angels, there and gone, no proof left behind. It felt, now, as though the world had been waiting with held breath for a display beyond all possibility of doubt. And so had she. And now they had it.
She thought of her phone, left intentionally behind at the apartment, and wondered what new messages its screen held in store for her. And she thought of the extraordinary dark power from which she’d fled in the night, in the dream. Her gut clenched like a fist as she felt, beneath her feet, the shifting of the planks she’d laid across the quicksand of that other life. She’d thought she could escape it? It was there, it had always been there, and this life she’d built on top of it felt about as sturdy as a shantytown on the flank of a volcano.
Taken from Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor