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Slave Empire: Prophecy by T C Southwell

Slave Empire: Prophecy by T C Southwell

     The lurid light of the temple's sputtering torches illuminated the high priest's grim face. A sleek white animal writhed on the gem-encrusted altar, its slender legs thrashing as its life drained out in a scarlet stream. Its grey eyes closed, and its head drooped.
     The priest glanced at his audience of Draycon nobility before he slit the animal's belly with a deft motion. Red and blue entrails spilt out, and he thrust his hands into the bloody mass and spread it on the sacrificial slab, bending closer to study the offal. Several minutes passed before he straightened, his eyes bright with triumph.
     Rayne woke with a start, as one who sleeps lightly does. Sitting up, she rubbed her face and glanced around, then yawned, squinting at the bloated, angry-looking sun on the horizon. Thick, sooty clouds almost obscured it, dimming its glory to a weak gleam beyond the polluted atmosphere. The distant muttering and shuffling of thousands of human beings and the pungent smell of unwashed bodies and excrement wafted to her on the chill morning breeze.
     Throwing off her ragged blanket, she stood up and stretched, ridding herself of the kinks acquired from sleeping curled up. She studied the countryside, on the lookout for roving police patrols or the furtive movement of a fellow raider. Ruined buildings huddled in groups, surrounded by the remains of roads and walls the tanks that had rumbled through here in the days of the rebellion had reduced to rubble. Only the hardiest weeds struggled to grow in the rubble, their yellow leaves blotched with brown. Rusted or burnt-out cars lay in ditches and on kerbs. Most of the trees that remained were dead, but a few bore sickly, withered leaves.
     Dawn found Rawn wandering along a dirty alley, tramping through piles of rotting refuse. This provided the rats' breeding ground, and the people who lived in this evil, depressing place trapped and ate them. Rawn hardly took any notice his surroundings, unable to think of anything except how he was going to find his sister. He did not notice the group of men lurking in a dark doorway until a net descended over his head, and many dirty hands pulled it tight around him. Someone snatched his weapon from its holster, and the men flung him to the ground. The net pinned his arms, and the raiders pulled it tighter while he fought. He kicked a man on the shin and made him hop and curse. These were the worst sort of raiders, who hunted people to sell to the autocrats for food.

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