Arjin looked down at his bare feet, toenails painted crimson and adorned with impossibly tiny, clear gems. He stood on the border between the world he'd known for almost nineteen years and an ancient, alien realm that had been all but obliterated millennia ago. He knew he waited at the edge of destiny, and longed to take the last few steps to meet it. Instead, he remained still, with his head bowed and his hands folded in front of his belly, as he'd been instructed.
The layers of gauzy silk over Arjin's face lent a hazy, scarlet cast to his odd surroundings, as if he watched the proceedings through a shifting, red mist. He shuddered despite the heat of the fabric piled over him. He wanted to avert his eyes, but curiosity, that irresistible Vice, defeated piety. Staring through the translucent, shimmering cloth, Arjin watched men he'd grown up beside unloading sacks of grain, barrels of fruit, dried meat, bolts of fabric, clayware, and metal utensils onto the smooth floor of geometric gold and cobalt tiles. Gifts, in tribute, like himself.
He wriggled his toes, girdled in gold bands. The metal bars in his nipples and navel itched, still healing, and he distracted himself by casting his gaze around the vast foyer. Refreshing, blue-gray shade draped the room, starkly different from the searing sunlight outside. Arjin felt a wave of nausea and panic ripple from the pit of his stomach up his back. Forbidden things surrounded him: statues of nude men and women, lurid paintings, gratuitous arrangements of flowers, their petals lush and damp despite the dry heat, and mirrors. Mirrors adorned almost every wall, multiplying the sinful sights, volleying them back and forth into infinity. Despite his best efforts to resist, these illicit visions engaged Arjin's eyes and mind; he'd never imagined anything like them and couldn't look away.