Chaya stepped up. “You said something about ‘men in black,’ is that right, Felicity?”
As she nodded, the crowd turned Chaya’s way.
She addressed Mara. “I believe I know who she’s talking about. There’s an offshoot of the Chiranian guard. Its members wear nothing but black. They even cover their faces so that they can’t be identified—and they carry black flags marked with skulls with snakes crawling out from their eye sockets. They call themselves ‘succedunt’ soldiers.”
“So?” Echo asked.
She turned her way. “So, trust me. You don’t want to be in their presence.”
Birdie stepped up. “We don’t know anything about the succedunt you mentioned. We’re going to Chiran to become brides to the ‘descendants.’”
“Yes, that’s another name the succedunt use,” Chaya said. “But . . . become their brides?” She grimaced. “Have you lost your minds?”
“Who are these people, Chaya?” Mara asked.
She turned her way. “You think Zarek’s regular guard is filled with evil men? They are nothing compared to the succedunt. They, like Zarek, are descendants—successors—of a line of Chiranians known as the Hazarik. I suppose that’s where Zarek got his name,” she added as though in afterthought. “In any case, they, along with their supporters, have grown significantly in number over the past few years—and you should know this: the succedunt will stop at nothing.”
“What could they possibly do that’s worse than Zarek’s regular guard?” Jerrett asked.
“Huh!” Chaya scoffed. “Zarek’s regular guards may kill indiscriminately and without remorse, but succedunt soldiers make a . . . a sport of it.”
“They burn people alive. They cage them and drown them. They . . . cut off body parts, rendering their victims helpless. They . . .” She shuddered. “The things they do are too awful to imagine. Even then, it might be fair to say that those who die at their hands are the lucky ones. What they do to their women, you don’t even want to know.”
Mara turned to their visitors. “I’d listen to her if I were you,” she said. “Chaya is a former Chiranian. She knows of what she speaks.”
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