Two down-on-their-luck ex-soldiers follow a jailhouse rumor to the barren planet known as Kafiristar, where a slave trader’s stash of twenty million in uncut jewels lies hidden in a temple. What they find instead are unimaginable horrors from without and within, culminating in a discovery that pales in the face of their own unrecognized greed and savagery.
They lined the edge of the outcropping in one continuous, writhing mass. Sep counted forty, maybe fifty of the howling tribesmen before getting lost in their tattered, brown robes. And still more were coming. When the first one finally stepped onto the bridge, Septimus hoisted Fin across his back and broke into a run. A quick succession of gunshots crackled through the air. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the rhythm of his labored breaths, drowning out the sounds of the bullets snapping all around his body. His knees buckled when he finally caught one in the back and he felt himself falling, tumbling into a black tunnel of pain that exploded onto the wooden planks. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see past the flashing strains of light in front of his eyes. But he could still move.