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Umara is taken to the capital of the Kurani Empire , after being sold into slavery by her own mother , where she will be rescued by who she believes to be a prince. The long journey and the hardships make him lose consciousness and when he wakes up he finds himself nothing more and nothing less... than in the Shapeshipter Emperor's harem! Trying to defend her beliefs, she finds herself involved in a series of dangerous events, as she accidentally finds out that someone is trying to poison the emperor and his Lunas. He wins the enmity of Lady Cassandra, the Emperor's first wife, who will try by all means to get rid of her.
Cycle/ Cycles: equivalent to Year/Years.
Moon: Also equivalent to a month.
Solar births: equivalent to days.
Solar deaths: equivalent to nights.
Luna: destined love
When the prince was born, a wise man saw the Prophecy in a vision:
“The earth will tremble under the might of his feet,
the moon, the sun and the stars will turn at your command,
his enemies will tremble at his name,
His glory will cover the earth and
six moons will crown his temples…
The intense solar rays are suffocating. Big beads of sweat run down my back. My wrists and ankles are swollen from the wounds opened by the heavy shackles. The soles of my feet are raw and burning as if a fire that never goes out is constantly feeding on them. My mouth is as dry as the desert. My skin seems to be made of sand. My long black hair has been a misshapen, smelly mess on my head for weeks.
My breathing is ragged, fatigue has not overcome me by mere divine intervention. My eyes cloud over. My mind seems to be wrapped in a fog full of mirages.
I have been living on bread and water for five days.
Perhaps you might think that for a slave of the Kurani Empire a meal of bread and water is a luxury; but what we are given for bread is just a mouthful and for water a small sip and we had been walking many miles, too many.
When we were forced to leave Sibiú, we were a group of a thousand prisoners. But to the Imperial capital, with life, we have only arrived little more than about two hundred.
Every year the Emperor draws his tribute from the nomadic tribes of the north. Usually, he takes for himself beautiful maidens, daughters of wealthy herdsmen, to be slaves to the royal palace in Tarmen, but if the nobleman has sons, they are taken for warriors of the royal guard or eunuchs.
For many years, the delivery of the tribute had been peaceful, but this time, the emissary captain Kurani and the Golden Army were in the mood for a bit of fun; and ended up massacring three of the eight nomadic tribes gathered in conclave for the annual council. This time, the elders of the tribes were discussing whether or not to sign a more permanent alliance that would protect us from the military might of the Emperor and Kurani armies. Apparently, the indecision of the leaders aroused anger and bloodlust in the imperial army. Among the decimated tribes was Find the Sindu to which I belong. After quenching their thirst for fun, the enemy army withdrew, leaving the survivors badly wounded and defenseless at the mercy of the slavers.
A tear runs down my cheek. It is true that my mother had already sold me to a Guenty merchant by the time the invaders arrived, but that does not prevent the cries and sobs of anguish of my countrymen from still resounding in my ears, having caused a great meya in my soul. Ten other women from my tribe survived the slaughter, because they had been exchanged for their fathers. Severe droughts and food shortages had driven many of the tribe's elders to the point of trading their older, marriageable daughters for food. In my case, I am not the oldest, I am the middle of three sisters, however my mother sold me for being the least graceful of the three. Now we are, the thirty prisoners who have not been sold, kneeling on the slave platform.
With erratic movements, I try to dry the trace that the tear left on my dusty face. A quick look at the small group makes me see that we are the most emaciated and weak of the prisoners.
Some are too old for arduous labour, others have fallen ill along the way, and the few young women left behind are not beautiful enough for the beauty standards of the Empire's greatest city.
Sigh, my mother and sisters were not taken captive, deep in my heart I caress the hope that they have managed to escape and I raise a prayer to our God, because otherwise... The other possibility seems extremely painful and heartbreaking.
Hours have passed... the other women of my tribe have already been sold. And that's kind of a relief. The customs of the Kurani Empire dictate that if a prisoner of war has no value or use to his captors, the slavers can dispose of him as they see fit as the slave is their commodity and this group has everything to lose. We are all bony, hungry and at worst half-dead.
If our captors feel like it, which is very likely, we may end up working in the mines. I run my hard tongue over my dry bottom lip, wincing. A life of slavery in the mines is the worst fate for a
slave. They make you work from dawn to dusk while they starve you. The women who are sold there, serve as water carriers and healers in the best of cases...
I slowly sit up on my butt, resting my chin on my bony knees. Wrapping his arms around my legs, and considering that death would be a more merciful end to me than suffering for a handful of years, which is usually what one survives in that place.
Almost always, the women in the mines end up entertaining the guards or the slaves themselves.
Five hours have passed since the slave market opened this morning and fatigue has taken over my body. Strong tremors shake me from head to toe. I'm cold, then hot, then cold again. My vision is cloudy. The voices and smells and colors of the market come to my mind as if the passers-by and shopkeepers were far away, further and further away.
The people of Tarmen who have come shopping today pass in front of the platform where we are standing and move ahead long, openly disappointed in the lack of quality of the merchandise displayed. The fat and sweaty slave trader has started to get impatient.
Several of my companions in misfortune have already fainted from hunger and thirst, and have been punished for their weakness by whipping. Now we are standing on the platform the ten that are left.
My body wobbles. In a few hours it will all be over, in a few hours my fate will be decided. I will be sent to the afterlife by the same hand that bought me with gold from the slaver who brought me here from my land or I will be taken to the quarries.
I raise a prayer to the Magnanimous, to grant me rest soon. Perhaps this feeling of emptiness and uncontrollable cold are the warning that my end is near. I struggle to stay on my feet, but my knees threaten to give out.
I close my eyes and imagine that I am with my father, running freely through the green grasses of the Orenheb oasis, I can swear that I hear the murmur of the sacred stream and the memory of the sweet and fresh water makes me swallow dry. I try to smile but my face is frozen. I can't take it anymore, I know, I've reached the end of my strength. My knees buckle under the little weight I have left. I must have fallen off the platform because the muddy ground rushes up to meet me.
An unbearable burning has taken over my back. I am pulled roughly by the shoulders and forced to support my upper body on my hands. I barely hold my head up, raising my face and I see that a strange chaos reigns around me. Here and there the finely dressed and bejeweled Kurani nobles and other citizens of the capital run in terror, I can hear the sound of horse hooves. My mind tries to make sense of this commotion, but I don't even have the strength to reason.
Near where I've fallen, a bronze-skinned warrior with fierce eyes holds a whip, which he mercilessly slashes at the fat, sweaty slaver's bare back as he is pinned to the ground by two royal guards. look at the features of the warrior because he brings the face covered with a burqa of the finest white linen. All his clothes are totally white and that makes him stand out in the filthy and muddy street.
The merchant cries out for mercy in the ancient Kurani language, but the warrior is ruthless. His long black hair gives him a wild look, but his linen clothes and sons of gold and silver make me suspect that he must be a member of the royal court.
A Kurani prince has come to rescue me. Sigh. I must be suffering from delusions, undoubtedly.
Slowly I manage to sit on the quagmire in which I am and disinterestedly contemplate how some court guards are freeing the other slaves from their shackles and chains, while they look at each other in astonishment. Then, one of the soldiers approaches me and with the heavy key frees my wrists and ankles from the sharp irons that imprisoned me. I look at the wounds on my wrists and frown. It's strange, my sores don't hurt anymore, in fact I don't feel anything anymore. Stumbling, I get to my feet and wipe the mud off my face with the backs of my hands.
The warrior coils the whip in his strong right hand. He turns around imperiously and shouts orders to his soldiers. I notice that the slaver lies unconscious on the ground, his back a horrendous sight of great wounds and blood. The other slaves are herded into a group of soldiers and begin to stream down the main street. I take a few steps to follow them, but the warrior has already mounted a mighty black stallion and before I can take three steps, the air leaves my lungs as it is ripped from the ground by iron arms around my waist and holding me back. I suddenly find myself sitting sideways, in a saddle, on the imposing horse. My forehead is level with my new captor's chin, my aching back brushing against his muscular right arm.
As he harasses his mount and we shoot off at full gallop, my strength leaves me and my eyes close again. The last thing I saw before passing out was a pair of fierce golden eyes.
The master of the six Lunas, the warrior wolf, The Great Destroyer and shape-shifter, The Merciless Emperor Kurani; he gripped the lion's heads on the armrests of his golden throne so tightly that his knuckles turned white. Fury consumed him. His sharp, shrewd mind was possessed by a red haze, his deep, searching eyes red with uncontrollable rage. His athletic frame and powerful muscles were contracted in a spasm of anger.
"By all raging fires of hell, Cassandra! How the fuck could this happen?" - he roared.
The woman who was lying prostrate on the ground trembled, andfor the first time in many cycles Lady Cassandra feared for her life.
"How is it possible that after almost twenty cycles in which your predictions and visions have always been correct, something like this can happen?" - The Emperor nervously caressed his forehead, with the tips of his fingers, trying to alleviate the incessant hammering that had taken over his hundreds.
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