Alien hunters invade a dying Earth in search of a saviour, and an ancient prophecy predicts a golden child who will save a galactic empire. A mysterious black ship is Rayne's guide and a masked outlaw known as the Shrike her guardian. Others want to slay her and prevent the prophecy from coming true. In the midst of two great empires' strife, the Shrike holds the power to save or destroy her.
The lurid light of the temple's sputtering torches illuminated the high priest's grim face. A sleek white animal writhed on the gem-encrusted altar, its slender legs thrashing as its life drained out in a scarlet stream. Its grey eyes closed, and its head drooped.
The priest glanced at his audience of Draycon nobility before he slit the animal's belly with a deft motion. Red and blue entrails spilt out, and he thrust his hands into the bloody mass and spread it on the sacrificial slab, bending closer to study the offal. Several minutes passed before he straightened, his eyes bright with triumph.
"She has come. She has been born on Enthos." He raised his hands, the wide sleeves of his crimson and gold robe sliding back to reveal withered arms, and shouted, "She must die! Her destiny cannot be fulfilled! She must not stop the great one who will vanquish Atlan. He is our saviour! He comes soon, to aid us in our fight against those who would oppress us!"
Empress Drevina Ranshan stepped forward as he lowered his arms, her eyes as hard as chips of green ice. "What does she look like?"
The priest shrugged. "She is the Golden Child, Empress. Something about her must be gold. Her hair, eyes, or skin."
"So you don't know. How will we find one miserable girl on this Enthos? We don't even know where the planet is!" The Empress' voice rose.
The priest met her gaze. "I know not. I have done my duty and given warning of the coming danger. Follow the Atlanteans. They will go there to find her, or wait until they have her, then take her from them."
"Take her from them? They are the most powerful people in the galaxy. How easy do you think it will be to take her from them?"
The priest nodded, his haggard features impassive. "You'll find a way, Empress. That's why you were born as our ruler at this time of danger. You've been chosen to stop her, and you will."
The Empress of Drayconar snorted, then smiled, revealing sharp pink teeth. "Yes, I'll find her, and she'll die. Your ranting cannot stop the wheels of destiny, but I can. All you can do is fondle the guts of dead animals and prophesy, but I'll ensure Drayconar rules the galaxy."
She thrust her angular face closer to the priest's. "You had better be right. If she's not on that stupid planet, it will be your blood on this altar next. So you must be quite sure before you send me off on a fool's errand. Do you understand?"
The high priest licked his lips. "I am certain, Empress."
Drevina turned away, casting her gaze over the bevy of loyal subjects gathered within the temple's blood-red walls adorned with gold inlaid carvings of grotesque gods and demigods. The torches' green-shot flames fluttered and dipped, sending monstrous shadows across strained faces. Thick, oily smoke gathered in the temple roof's grimy carvings, the noxious fumes adding to the planet's already foul ammonia-sulphur atmosphere.