Book Two

The smell hit first. Or rather the stench of urine, rotted straw and molded rags. The air was damp, hot, and clinging – and despite the dark anyone would know this as a place of fear. A place of the horrors of man, for men.

“I was kept here. Chained and starved and beaten. This is where they sentenced me.” He walked along the tables, brushed a hand across rows of knives, shears, screws and all manner of unidentifiable implements. “I imagine it would not have been an easy death.”

“An icon for the injustice of the empire.”

“No. I would never have been known beyond that day. Forgotten, like a louse picked off and crushed.”

“Yet God has mercy.”

“The reprieve. Sentenced to a penal division. That was by your order, Threyn.”

“By an agent of our Lord, Darrent. We are many.”

“And you led me into the conspiracy, unknowing. Working for the rebels without even realising. That is a betrayal.”

“That was necessity. You are loyal to your people, despite how they’ve wronged you. You needed to see that we are also servants of that empire. We are not the betrayers of the once noble ideals, long since corrupted by the landed aristocracy, the charlatan priests. You know this. You claimed your place on the plains near Derani. The generals bowed to you.”

“To a dragon god. I was little more than a figure head.”

“You have doubts still.”

“Do you blame me?”

“God seeks followers, not fanatics. It is in your nature to always question what is before you. To seek out hidden paths, potential deceits. It made you a better officer than the generals of your legion. It is what makes you favoured of our Saviour. I am His child, Darrent, and I too bow before your will.”

“Figuratively, I guess. I suspect your spine would break before it bowed.”

The clang of an iron banded door drew their attention to the hallway, where they saw men in fresh uniforms dragging a bound and gagged man into the room. Their livery was that of the newly formed Terana Noble Republic. The prisoner wore the tattered remains of an Imperial Arms officer’s attire, now torn and bloodied. A dozen minor cuts in his exposed flesh seeped crimson.

“The purge has begun,” noted Threyn. “This is the man that read your sentence, Darrent. His life now rests on your whim.”

The recently appointed Marshall of the Republic looked down at the man who had been pushed to his knees in front of him. The man’s eyes pleaded with fear and confusion. Darrent couldn’t bring himself to care. He felt neither pity nor fear for this man. With a gesture he took in the instruments around him. “We do not glory in cruelty. The excesses of the privileged classes ends here. Mercy for this man. A quick death, for him and all his kind.”

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