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Azuli Eyes

Azuli Eyes by Michelle L. Levigne
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Scout Captain Ian Fieran came to Chorillan to hunt Gen’gineers – genetic terrorists. What he found was a mystery that struck at the heart of the Scout Corps, because children were in danger. Children were vanishing into the wilderness, driven by a sudden sensory overload that struck without any way of predicting who would be affected, and when. The Azuli, mysterious, sentient creatures, seemed to be at the center of it all. Were they friends, helping the children, or enemies luring innocents away to death? Ian teamed up with Miranda Riallon, a teacher, daughter of a politically powerful family. Together, they began to unravel just the outer edges of the mystery – which would take another generation to solve completely.

Awe-Struck Publishing; September 2004
188 pages; ISBN 9781587494703
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Title: Azuli Eyes
Author: Michelle L. Levigne
 
Excerpt
Across the river, something silver gray stood in blurred relief against the sodden blacks and dull greens and browns of the forest. Big, he estimated. The animal – canine? – stood four footed with a chest as wide as the trees on either side of it, maybe half a meter wide, minimum; maybe a meter and a half tall at the shoulders. The head was set on a strong, short neck ringed with a softly gleaming ruff of fur. Ian couldn't decide if those streaks were stripes in the fur, or just blurs of shadows as the sun poked more holes in the cloud cover. "Azuli?" he whispered, after long, dream like moments staring at the figure across the churning water. No one had ever been able to take a picture of a live Azuli. All the records Ian had studied showed only pictures of killed Azuli, or sketches. The dead animals were usually mangled piles of blood and fur and broken bones. The sketches, Ian had thought until this moment, were fanciful renderings full of anthropomorphism. Now, even with the churning river and shadows between them, he saw intelligence and grace in the silvery figure. "I've never heard of them coming this close to Port," Miranda said, her voice dreamy soft. Ian glanced at her, unwilling to take his eyes off the Azuli and let it vanish. He saw a soft smile touch her lips, the same soft light shining in her eyes. "Close?" He almost laughed. "Azuli used to come to the edges of Port, when I was a little girl. They used to be welcome, because they kept away all sorts of little biting and poisonous animals. People used to be glad the Azuli helped look after the Wildlings who broke free. Then someone decided the Azuli were stealing the children, not helping them." The dreamy look left her face, replaced by hard lines of anger around her mouth. "People hunt Azuli now?" "If they can. It's hard to find Azuli, much less get them to stand still and be targets, or walk into traps. They're too smart for that. But wherever there are Wildlings, you can find Azuli. That's how some children get hurt – people hunt the Azuli and the children get in the way." "We have to do something about that, don't we?" Ian murmured. Miranda's eyes widened, and a few of the harder lines around her mouth softened. "There are some people, the older explorers mostly, who say that if an Azuli adopts you, nothing will ever hurt you out here in the forests. Vessers can attack you and silverdeer gore you and you could sleep in a patch of lotusite, but Azuli would protect you. They say if you carry Azuli Eyes, the Azuli will know, and they'll come to help you in time of trouble." "Eyes?" Ian swallowed back a blip of nausea. Surely she didn't mean actual eyes, cut from an Azuli's skull, did she? Then he took an intuitive leap. He dug into his belt pouch and brought out the sample envelope. "These?" He up-pended the stones into Miranda's hand. "Six? Where did you find them?" Her eyes gleamed as bright as the stones. "That many is rare?" "Extraordinary." Miranda rubbed her bare fingertip over the stones. The glow brightened for a moment, almost a spark in the center of each stone. "Electrical energy. No one has ever been able to figure out how it's stored, or why, or what use to make of it." She glanced at the Azuli again, and her smile faded. "He's gone." "How do you know it's a he?" Ian chuckled. "Every time someone gets close enough to study an Azuli, they're always male." She held out the palmful of stones to him. "No, keep them. Why no females?" "No one knows. Maybe they're patriarchal, and they don't let the females away from the house." Her eyes sparkled mischief again. Miranda thanked him with a nod and slid the stones into the front pocket of her jacket, under her poncho. "Maybe they're matriarchal, and they send out the useless males to take all the risks," he countered. Ian decided he loved the sound of Miranda's rippling laughter.