Excerpt from The Lost Prophecy…Brynna and new friend Trill on their way to Utopia!
“Is this the slave market?”
Trill shook her head. “It’s the central market.”
The deafening turmoil, the kaleidoscope of colors, and pungent smells of perfume and spices overwhelmed my senses. Trapped in the frantic melee, my tensed body knotted with anxiety until I detected the sweet strains of a familiar melody. I focused on the vibrations and started to relax.
As we passed the musicians playing the tune, Trill lifted her hand and waved to them. She looked at me and gave me another wink.
What was she trying to tell me?
Our captors stopped and engaged in a heated discussion. Finally, one of the men disappeared into the crowd. The other herded us to the outskirts of the mob and forced us against a wall.
“Don’t move or you’re dead,” he yelled over the noisy throng. He joined another group of men nearby.
Entranced by the activity around me, I soon forgot our captor. My gaze flitted from one person to another, attracted by the passing scene. I stared unthinkingly when I caught the attention of a passerby. At first his smile was inviting, but as our eyes linked, his narrowed. I panicked and dropped my head, pulling strands of hair over my face.
My heart pounded. Had he noticed my odd eyes?
I turned to the wall and waited several seconds then ventured a quick glance behind me. The stranger had disappeared in the crowd. Relieved, I cautiously continued to enjoy the surrounding spectacle.
The radiating tunnels gleamed with attractions. In one, stalls were draped with vibrant swaths of material. Another displayed clothing, shoes and boots. Others offered fragrant spices and exotic foods. Vendors hawked pottery, tinwareand cooking utensils, along with tools and mechanical devices for every need. I spotted gold and silver jewelry and exotic gems along with chunky necklaces in colors I’d never seen before. There were more items than I even knew existed.
I glanced quickly at our distracted guard. “Where does all this come from?” I asked Trill.
“Most of it is brought in by scavengers. After the Rising, the receding waters washed all sorts of things into the sea. The floating stuff was easy to salvage. The rest has sunk by now. The scavengers use grapple nets to scrape the ocean floor. Some dive to retrieve debris as well.”
“So the items are cleaned up and sold here?”
“Or made into other articles people need. Plastics are especially valued because they last almost forever. Those gaudy necklaces are madeof plastic.” She pointed to where I’d been looking. “The clothes are made from plant material harvested in greenhouse vats. The food is grown here too, but the bad stuff—like drugs and chemicals—comes from Prima Feminary.” She shook her head at my surprised expression. “You didn’t know?”
“No.” I was more saddened than shocked. Mother would be heartbroken to learn how her beloved sanctuary had changed.
A commotion broke out a few feet beyond us. The crowd pulled back. I stood on my toes to watch five women in shimmering body suits hang from a giant of a man, clinging confidently to his enormous arms while their feet rested on his thighs. To one side, a man swallowed half a dozen coins, then regurgitated them to the delight of the crowd. Across the circle, a woman contorted her body and disappeared intoa tiny box before reappearing in a cloud of smoke. Magicians and jugglers vied for the crowd’s attention while dancers and singers wove their way through the throng.
Suddenly a group emerged in the central area. Four feet taller than the crowd, they wore glittering robes, tall square hats, and carried long staffs, lighted at the tips.
“Who are they?” I nodded discreetly in their direction when I saw our captor glance back.
“We call them Blasts,” replied Trill. “They walk around on stilts, harassing those who don’t believe as they do. If someone disparages them, the Blasts point their staffs at them and yell ‘blasphemer’. They’re a bit of a joke around here.”
Just then a woman floated by in a luminous, juba-like garment. She had a glowing halo in place of a hood. As she crooked her finger toward me, her mouth curled intoa semblanceof a smile. She exuded a dizzying odor.
“Come with me, my dear. Join us.” Her eyes glowed with an unnatural light.
“Get away,” Trill swatted at the woman, making sure she moved on before she turned to me. “Stay away from them. They’re seducers and evil to the core. They worship the moon. They’re as crazy as bats right now because of the upcoming solar eclipse.” She grinned at my bemused reaction. “Nothing like this in Hypor City, I bet. Look over there.” She nodded toward a woman with an albino python coiled around her body. Both were covered in pale yellow spots.
I laughed, almost forgetting our dire situation, until I spied more trouble.
A cluster of purple jubas slithered through the crowd. I thought my heart would pound from my chest. I yanked Trill’s arm. “Crouch down. Don’t let them see you.”
She squatted beside me but raised her eyebrows. “Who are we hiding from?”
“The Genetrix’s bodyguards.” I rose slightly and peered over nearby heads to see if the threat had gone.
Trill grabbed my shoulder and balanced on her toes while scanning the crowd. “The ones in the purple hoods? They’re here a lot. You’ll have to get used to seeing anyone and everyone in Nuvega. It’s the central trading hub on the planet. Why are you hiding from them anyway?”
“I think they might be looking for me.”