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“I don’t understand,” wailed the creature at his feet that clutched wildly at the symbol around his chest. “You will save us, Great Sakatha, won’t you?”

Sakatha shook his head once again and planted the staff firmly in the ground to await the arrival of their pursuers. It was the matter of only a few more minutes before the six horsemen appeared at the plateau where the three dragonchildren awaited.

The obvious leader of the horsemen was a darkling with deep purple skin and silver eyes. He rode a massive black unicorn and even the animal’s horn was the color of night. Fire came from its nostrils as it breathed and the rider looked at Sakatha with a narrow smile and eyes squinted to a slit. “This is the end, Sakatha,” he said. “I come by order of the emperor himself from the throne of kings in mighty Das’von. You have been convicted in absentia of treason to the empire. Do you deny your guilt?”

Sakatha shook his head slowly and looked up at the sun that rose high in the sky. “You would be nothing more than a worm crawling under the ground had you not that black sphere around your neck,” said Sakatha as he pointed to the neck of the lead rider where the black sphere seemed to emanate darkness that spread over the man.

“I do wear it though,” said the Black Horseman. “And I carry the order of your execution under the seal of the emperor,” he went on and produced a large envelope sealed in wax with a symbol of a running cheetah. “Do you choose to fight or accept your punishment with dignity?”

“You wish me to fight,” said Sakatha. “You wish me to invoke the power of the staff I created. My token of rule is my own, crafted by my hand, not stolen from someone else,” he said and almost spat the words as he glared at the black ball around the neck of the leader.

“We nomads,” said the rider with a wave of his hand towards his companions, “are a desert people. We accept the sunrise as the herald of the day and the sunset as the harbinger of the night. You are who you are, Sakatha. You are as you have always been. You will do what is in your own best interest. I have traveled far to find you and am not adverse to stringing out the pleasure I will enjoy at killing you and the high priests of your blasphemous religion.”

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