PrologueThe village was alive with flames, the bright light blinding, the intense heat scorching. All around, Arrows were running and screaming, as the only place they had ever known went up in flames. All of their hard work was being destroyed before their eyes, their homes turned to ashes, their possessions now nothing more than dust. Smoke rose to the sky in great clouds, billowing up from the burning chaos below. And in the middle of this chaos the Axes stood, silhouetted against the blood red sky. These were the Lynthians, the race that ruled the world over the lowly, insignificant humans.
Their pointed ears stood out against the short, rounded tips of the human Arrows. The decorative piercings glinted menacingly in the harsh golden light of the flames and their long hair, plaited with the traditional style of the Lynthians: half up, half down, marked them as Axes. The male bodyguards wore thick leather armour, immaculately crafted and almost impenetrable by blade. These soldiers surrounded one of the burning wrecks, keeping out the Arrows.
And out of the blaze, two near-identical figures loomed. Behind them they dragged a 14-year-old human girl. They were distinctively recognisable as Lynthians, as Axes, but at their appearance, hushed murmurs arose from the ruined villagers. The two Axe girls’ pointed ears were covered with spiked silver piercings and chains, their hair also traditionally braided. But these were no ordinary Axes. These were the daughters of Asmos Dranther, “King of Slaves”, and as the twins stepped away from the ruins, a tense silence fell over the crowd of Arrows.
“Children, step forward.”
All Arrows under 17 obediently parted from the group, forming a line in front of the sisters.
The twin who had spoken stepped forward. “Stand in line.” Her voice was hard and cold, like ice, and her stare matched perfectly. Her slightly pointed teeth gleamed, an obvious threat. Once again, the Arrows did as they were told. The children pressed closer together, shifting uneasily.
Both twins paced up and down the line, pointing at 6 of those assembled before them: 3 boys, 3 girls. Those selected stood awkwardly to one side, whilst the rest returned to their families, barley hiding their relief. The chosen children were shackled by the wrist to one another, and the Dranther twins led them off, pulling hard on the tight metal, as though the children were animals waiting to be slaughtered.
It was a long, hard trek back to the Dranther mansion, and when they arrived, Asmos was waiting. The 6 slaves looked away when his frosty, searching gaze moved towards them.
He took out 6 slips of paper, numbered 1026-1031. Next he produced 6 long, deadly silver pins. Numbers 1026,1027 and 1028 were baby blue, the others pale pink. Roughly, he shoved the boys to one side, pushing the girls to the other. Smiling a hauntingly demonic smile, he beckoned the youngest boy to him, a child of but 6 years old. The human was forced to his knees, blindfolded and gagged.
“Let’s play a little game, shall we?” Asmos smiled.