This is the first in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.
Ice flowed out from the western mountains, a glacier that had existed for so long that no one could date its origin. Nor could they date those of the people who lived upon it, the Fferedig Ddynion, a culture so apart that it did not interact with those around them. Instead, they preferred to stay behind their barrier of dead and wasted lands that cut them off from Tri-Hauwcerton and the other greater kingdoms, confident and complete in who they are.
Only a few explorers had returned from that icy land, and spoken of what they knew of the Fferedig Ddynion, and so those of Bedwar Barthu Dirio regarded them as little more than a curiosity, a place that was of mild interest and no import, and that could safely be ignored. Perhaps they had been right, once upon a time, but now things were different, and a new man lead the tribes of the Fferedig Ddynion. He named himself Annwyd Arwedda, chosen at his fifteenth birthday, and it suited him well, for he was a creature of both the cold of hate and the fire of anger. He was a man of stature no greater than any other, but a will as cold and pure as crystalline ice, and a resentment built of a heat strange in such a westerly man. He saw the plenty and the wealth and the comfortable living of those to the east, and wished that for himself. A home that he did not need to build every night, a fire, an abundance of food, these he craved far more than any great treasure, and he vowed he would gather these adornments to him.
Annwyd Arwedda stormed across the packed snow, breath freezing against his face as he threw aside the flap of the tent and stepped inside. The Elders of the Fferedig Ddynion thought to stop him, to make him stay here and live as he always did. That was why they had called him to the meeting tent at this late hour, and why he stormed with rage. And so he threw the tent aside, and saw them formed in a sitting circle, and he glared, refusing to sit and standing with arms crossed, waiting for one of them to speak forth. Bwrw Eira Ddyn, the unspoken leader of this gathering of equals, waited for Annwyd to sit, and gestured for him to do so when he did not. Seeing as nothing would transpire with him still afoot, Annwyd took his place in the circle, arms still folded in defiance.
“It is good of you to join us, and we are sorry to have called you from your wife, but others amongst us felt we should speak to you this night.” Bwrw Eira Ddyn spoke with a firm voice, age only tingeing the edges. “You wish to move our people to a warmer land, a land of greater plenty, is that not so?
“I would only take of them those that would go.” Annwyd knew well that if enough of the young went, the old would have to follow, for without the young, the old could not hunt enough food.
“You speak one, and act two. You would have us all go, down to a valley where the land is warmer and men grow plants in the ground, and you would coerce those who do not by taking their food and their shelter. Is this not so?”
Annwyd growled. “I do what I think is best.”
“We had noted that amongst your actions. You proclaim it rather loudly, even without being asked. You have thought through the disruption this would cause, the possibilities of our people being ill-suited to a journey of this kind?”
“We journey from here to the north sky, and we do it well! What could a simple walk have for us that a mountain cannot contain? It is well within our grasp!”
“And when ice and tundra give way to battered earth and bloody rock, you know enough to hunt, do you? To feast, to forage, to find shelter, amidst a new land? And you will teach those of us who need to know these skills before we depart?”
“Yes, I do. I have spent years living along the edge of those lands, then pushing deeper. I am not a fool that discards his home for nought but a whim. I already teach some of those who would go. Others will learn from them, and from me.”
“And you have the agreement of those of our new land? They will accept our arrival with equanimity and grace, and leave us room and time to adapt?”
“I work the same miracles as you, Bwrw. None! Do you wish more than to toss questions at me like spears at a mark, or do you have no substance hiding beneath that thicket of hair?”
Bwrw Eira Ddyn waved at Annwyd, as if he was of no matter. “Go, go then. You are clearly determined. We will debate what shall actually happen after you leave. You will be informed in the morning.”
Annwyd Arwedda rose a furious man, and stalked to his tent, spine rigid with stung pride. He would not sleep this night, his mind caught in a web of all the things that might be, could be, may be. He would wait at the entrance to his home, and when the soft tread of a messenger arrived, spring to his feet and fling it open, speaking only one word: “Well?”
The Áðexe are a clan oriented people. Even in the great cities that cover Læccan, the Áðexe huddle in family units, each living in a single dwelling made of many different houses merged together. Towns and cities are built up of clusters of these family units, with each family compound being a hexagonal shape with only a few doors and windows, and cleared ground between it and any next to it. In cities, where room is harder to find, the Áðexe have learned to adapt, and live in giant beehive shaped buildings, dug partially into the ground as a defence against the bitter cold of the winter storms.
In Æbb, they lie in sod houses made of dried mud brick strengthened with lattices of reeds and brush. On Þracian, they build with stone, permanent structures that have stood for generations. The Áðexe of ?gflota have broken with the old ways and live in many small houses of breeding pairs, rather than in the great family units of the other kingdoms. This forms one more reason why they are viewed as strange and unclean. Many other kingdoms will not let a Áðexe from ?gflota within their borders, for fear of moral corruption and dissolution. Citizens of Hálsiend burrow down into the earth, their homes shallow tunnels just underneath the surface, pockmarked with breathing holes and windows that let in air, but designed to be plugged easily when winter or a hurricane comes close.
Elders are considered the fount of knowledge amongst the Áðexe, and councils of them are found ruling in many places, although some kingdoms prefer hierarchical rule, with a single family exercising dictatorial power over the rest. Stories and tales and laws are rarely written down, but instead passed down by speakers and archivists, whose jobs are to hold certain memories within their heads, and pass them to a worthy successor. However, should this fail, each speaker must spend a month a year reciting all that he knows to scribes in his kingdom’s capital, where the knowledge will be interred for future generations.
The Áðexe are gifted with a magical talent seen nowhere else, for they can shift their own form or that of someone they are touching. The magic allows them to shift other peoples forms in certain physical ways, by altering the muscle and bone structure. The Áðexe can only do this to those they are in contact with, or to themselves. The more sudden the change, the more energy and the more dangerous it is. Even gradual changes become dangerous if a creature moves too far away from its norm. Energy for this magic comes from within, or from the person being changed, in which case the burden is shared.
This talent is fairly rare amongst the Áðexe, and in some places is considered a sign of evil, of being cursed to an untimely grave. In other areas, the shifters are considered a holy sign, a gift from nature to the family. Families that produce unusually high numbers of shifters are prized, and often find their daughters and sons placed above their station into high class breeding families.
In appearance, the Áðexe are vaguely reptilian, their bodies low slung to the ground and capable of walking either upright or on four of their six limbs. Two limbs form vestigial arms, used for fine manipulation but little else. The upper pair of arms are much more massive, mounted with strong hands and webbed claws excellent for swimming. The legs are short and stocky, strongly muscled but not capable of great speed except in short bursts. Their torsos are squat but muscular, with scaly skin the toughness of thick leather covering their head, back, and limbs. Fur sprouts from between the scales, a testament to the chill temperatures that arrive in winter. The jaws of the Áðexe are short but wide, capable of swallowing fish whole. Their colour varies with the season and location, but most have wave-like patterns on their stomachs, to disguise them while swimming.
The Áðexe primarily use tools of stone, wood, and obsidian, although the Þracians have discovered metalworking, a secret they do not share with any others. Armour is formed of reeds or grass woven about wooden plates with stone facings, strong but light. Their ships are more primitive than those of Bedwar Barthu Dirio, but very sturdy and built with extremely thick hulls, due to the prevalence of ice.
They are a greedy people on the whole, with the various kingdoms involved in near constant warfare with one another over the small areas of habitable land. Thus, when the Enaid Brudiwr or spirit mages of Bhreac Veryan came calling, the Áðexe listened closely.
The continent of Læccan is a wet, dismal place, overrun by swamps and rivers and mangrove nests in the south, and cold and eternally locked in the grip of snow and ice in the north. Foetid jungles and pestilent lands cover the northern slopes of the great mountain range that divides Læccan from Bedwar Barthu Dirio, at the very extent of the land, while further north the swamps and mangroves flourish, and only on the shores of the rivers and the great inland sea do the Áðexe find a home in this miserable land.
The islands upon the sea itself are hospitable and welcoming, and clustered upon them are two of the great kingdoms of the Áðexe, the twin capitals of Æbban Dún and Æbbercurnig controlling the south-west islands, while Þracian houses itself on a massive isle to the north, along with a few minor subsidiaries. Here the lands are temperate, flush with wood and stone, but lacking metals. The Áðexe subsist on fishing and the seas, leaving much of their land uninhabited. Often, the centre of their islands have not been visited for centuries, too deep and dank in the forest for the citified folk to venture inland.
The kingdom of Æbb has six islands under its control, and their cities form a ring on the inward facing side of those isles, with four housing great cities, while the last two are little more then claimed trading posts, held only for the resources found there. Rain constantly drips across the land, an unending stream of constant drizzle. With their lands prone to heavy mist yet separated by the sea, the Áðexe of Æbb have learned how to sail by dead reckoning and the lead line, and so their charts show not the wind and the wave, but the particular type of sediment that comprises the sea floor.
Their great rivals, indeed the strongest kingdom of any that resides within the borders of Læccan, is that of Þracian. Their hill covered land is the only area of Læccan to be rich in ore, and their iron weapons have made them a fearsome foe to the stone and obsidian of the other Áðexe. They and the land to the north-east, Hálsiend, have long fought over the north-east corner of Læccan’s main continent, but since the discovery of metalworking, Þracian has never been rebuffed from the area. Only the deviousness of the navy of Æbb has kept that kingdom from becoming a conquered outpost of the Þracian empire.
Further north, difficult to reach by any route but the sea, lies the kingdom of Ægflota. Blessed by the flame, the peasants of this land do what no other Áðexe would dare: they burn the trees of their land, slashing down great tracts of land to farm and grow. Because of this strange fascination with the land, they are the only Áðexe who do not primarily subsist on seafood, and this desire for land has made them more acquisitive, and driven them into open warfare with the kingdom of Hálsiend. Despite this, Ægflota is the smallest of the four great kingdoms.
Hálsiend is a country in retreat, controlling half of a long, low island, swept by winds and oft buried under snow and ice. Ægflota has laid claim to the other half, and established a border city that is little more than an armed fortress to fend off the Hálsiend reprisals. To the south, Hálsiend was ejected from its land on the main continent by the advances of the Þracian, and now only controls its primary capital as well as a few smaller lands. Still larger than Ægflota, the two front war that Hálsiend is waging has sapped its strength and drained its coffers, leaving it in dire danger of collapse. The hurricanes that come yearly to ravage the land have been especially fierce the last decade, and so Hálsiend has been beset from all sides. Unless a great diplomat and warrior is born to their ruling family, Hálsiend will be swept away, chaff before the wind.
So, after sitting around for a little bit, I’ve completed the mapping process for the next book in The Four Part Land. It’s the second book in the Tarranau series, and will take place in a land called Læccan. The book itself is tentatively titled “Læccan Waters”.
Each of the areas in TFPL is personalized and given an old world language. The for Chloddio and Tarranau it’s Welsh, with a few hints of Cornish or Manx thrown in. For the new world that Tarranau is going to enter, I’ve chosen Anglo-Saxon. Below are the names of the major towns and cities, as a taste of the flavour and style of Anglo-Saxon.
Æbban Dún, Æbbercurnig, Andbita, Angnes, Cáserlic, Gárwiga, Grýtan, Hálsiend, Heardlic, Herewulf, Íegbúend, Lufestre, Néahéaland, Telgian, Tyhtan, Þáwian, Þracian.
I’d love comments on whether this style of naming characters and places works for you as a fantasy reader.
Days passed by, and I wept in sadness for their loss. Months strolled along, and I waved goodbye with my heart aching. Years disappeared into the mists, and I bawled openly. I saw friends come and go, family born and dying, the kindness of strangers, all the little acts of life. But I was not in any of these scenes. I had been redacted, removed from life by fate.
I watched from the sidelines now, seeing life as it would have been without me. I lived a movie, seeing someone else take my place, take over the actions I once made. I saw other men father my children, other men raise them, and I shuddered inside. I saw my wife beaten, and I howled in rage, but could do nothing.
Every day that I watched became an agony, and when the story of my life had swept before my eyes and I had been tortured once more, the reel would flicker, and then it would start again, another telling of my family’s life without me. Each was subtly different, and all horrible. Eventually, I began to doubt my own existence, to wonder if I had ever met my wife or had children.
I wished for the peace of death, but I long ago had been shown death was no release for me. I shuddered in memory of what had happened to my liver. But this, this was a thousand times worse. I had been let free, given the gift of a normal life, only to have it snatched away at the end and used to torture me again and again.
The movie showed another man meeting my wife for the first time. My heart broke.
Wind whipped Isabella’s hair as she leaned out the window. “David, come here!” David obediently looked out, then sat back down to his book. “Beautiful, dear”.
“You have all the romance of a shrew, husband. We are flying across the country on a beautiful clear day, and you’ve got your nose buried in some tripe about a long lost jungle creature.”
“Izzy, I am quick content with my lot in life. I have seen the country many a time. I have not seen this book before.”
“You are such a bore.” Isabella flounced off, heading to the bar where someone of more suitable personality would entertain her. Above, the engines of the mighty dirigible whirred and whined, a constant background hum.
Isabella was quite pleasantly drunk when she returned to their cabin. David glanced up and sighed. He’d have to tuck her in again, and make sure she didn’t do anything stupid. She was a wonderful lady, but hardly the most skilled with self-control. Rather unbecoming to her stature, but all the more endearing because of it.
David was hopeful their escape had gone unnoticed, but became more and more apprehensive as the days passed. Airships were hardly inconspicuous, and someone had to have noticed.
His premonitions were proven right the next day, as dawn broke not with the rising of the sun, but with the rattle of gunfire and the deep-throated cough of cannons. Dashing to the window, David saw small gnats buzzing in the distance, charging about the dirigible. “Blast! Isabella, we have to get you to the emergency plane!” She moaned in response, still sleeping off her exuberant consumption of alcohol.
Grabbing her by the arm, David threw Isabella over his shoulder and ran down the corridor, bumping into walls and doors as the airship slewed about, trying to defend against those pesky bi-planes that harassed her.
A soldier stepped into David’s way, banning his entry into the escape chamber. David growled, and the soldier stepped aside, suitably chastened. Handing a still sleeping Isabella into the escape plane, David waited. Here, deep in the bowls of the airship, there was nothing that could be heard except occasional vibrations.
The order to abandon ship came over the speakers soon after. Isabella, now awake, squawked with indignation at the command, but silenced when David climbed into the pilot’s seat. Behind him, two more pilots climbed into the other escape planes. Today, they would not be trying to escape, but instead draw the pursuers away.
Isabella grabbed onto David’s shoulders as the bottom dropped out from under them. The rotary engine sputtered into life, the retaining hook let go, and they were off. Above them, the airship listed badly to one side, helium chambers punctured and spilling buoyancy. There were three gnats angrily buzzing about, and they broke off from their attack on the airship to speed down upon David’s biplane.
Their attack was too predictable, and cannonfire from the dirigible downed the third in line. The second swung away at the flak burst, but the first raked his guns across the wings despite David’s best effort to dodge. The metal groaned, but held together. Isabella shouted imprecations at the aircraft, then grabbed the ring-mounted machine gun in the rear turret. She wasn’t going to let those bastards get an easy run at it the second time.
The second plane came in high and from the right, but between Isabella’s gunfire and the arrival of the other two escape planes, it was driven off before it could fire a shot. Seeing numbers evenly matched, the escape planes engaged the gnats in a dogfight, trying to force them away from David and towards the still functioning firepower of the dirigible.
One escape plane fell to the ground, struck by guns mounted on the airship. The other was soon on fire, bright flames gushing from holes in the fuel tank. Leaving it to its death, the two gnats swung back around, chasing down the fleeing biplane. David turned the plane at an angle to their pursuit, giving Isabella angle to fire around the rudder.
The pursuit split, one coming high, the other low. Machineguns crackled, and Isabella launched an answering stream of tracer. The bursts fell wide, and the two pursuers swung around for another pass.
The lower of the two planes disappeared into a cloud, and failed to come out again. Perhaps luck was on their side. The higher stooped like a hawk, coming down at a steep angle to avoid incoming fire. The tactic worked, for Isabella’s turret could not aim high enough to shoot the fighter, and his fire came down unimpeded onto the biplane, tearing off a corner of the upper wing. Isabella swung the turret and waited, and as the gnat flew past, she unleashed a close range burst into the top of the plane. It burst into flames and spiralled down, the dive ending with a heavy crash into the ground.
Lifting her hand to his lips, David gallantly kissed his wife, then settled into the task of escaping from this damn country. The deposed queen and her husband flew north, hoping some day to come home once more.
Figured I might as well jump back into the JNY-35197 saga, but rather than do it right away, I’m going to drop an interlude in there. This is practice for me getting back to that writing style, and remembering everything that’s going on with the story as well.
This interlude takes place on a nameless planet where they are fighting a different alien race than the one in the main storyline. As such, certain terminology is different as I try and remember what everything is called.
Oh hell. This was ugly. Blastbolts flew overhead, impacting on the hillside behind. Right into the teeth. Three, two, charge! Up, up, dodge left, right. Oh crap, there goes a squad. Bugger, what was that? Shrapnel in my arm. Can’t stop now. Almost there. Why had we gotten trapped on a hill again?
Into the trench. Land firing, slugs ripping apart the T’Ckah. Idiots never wore body armour. Look around for support. Got three men with me. Down, blasterbolts! Make that two. Sweep east. Two gestures and we’re off. I get point.
That’s a bunker, isn’t it? In goes the grenades. Quickly, quickly. Speed is all we’ve got. A repeater nest. Two quick bursts and the crews are in pieces. Counter-fire. Friendly down. There’s only one now. We’re getting torn apart. I think only a third even made it to the trench. Damn T’Ckah breed like cockroaches. Hell, they are cockroaches.
Right, on, on. We’ve got at least a small section clear. Keep pushing. More bolts. Scorch marks on my armour. Glad they missed. Got the bastard too. Another bunker, another grenade. Peek inside. Tunnels, not bunkers. Sod that, I’m not going down there.
Keeping scouting ahead. Trenches appear clear. They either retreated or are in the tunnels. Which outcome do I bet on? The crap one. We’ll need special gear to go down there. Or an earthquaker.
Huh, trench is clear of meatbags too. Check the radio. Nothing but static. Blocking must not have let up yet. Tagged two more cockroaches. This last soldier is pretty damn skippy with his slug thrower. Picked one off sneaking up behind us.
Right, push on. Oh. They didn’t retreat. They bunched. There’s a swarm of T’Ckah coming down the trench at us. And it’s too wide for two to hold. Burst fire and retreat! Crap crap crap. We’re going to eat it. They’re damn fast too. Flick out the last grenade as cover and dive into that bunker we cleared. Hope they didn’t see us through the flame.
Burrowing underground. Humans are not meant for this. Except we’re organ replacements, not humans, I suppose. Down we go. IR and UV and sonar on. Bright as day down here. Radio sure as hell isn’t going to work down here either. Keep the gun in front, crawl along. Listening devices picking up noise, keep moving away. T’Ckah marching past.
Tapped on the leg, look back at organ replacement. Holding up two hands. Means he just got the phase two beep. That’s the charge past the trench structure one. Guess it went better on the surface than I thought. Time to find a tunnel upwards.
Sonar says that one. Off we go. Crawl, crawl. Scary and boring at the same time. Weird what happens when the juices are going. Now is this bunker occupied? Yes it is. With corpses. I like my slugs.
Open air. That’s nice. Clap my mate on the shoulder. We’re both grinning like idiots. Phase three chirps over the radio. The air defences are down and the earthquakers are going in. I guess we mark this as a victory. I’d estimate casualties at sixty percent. At least us clones are damn cheap.
The ideas that occur while showering…
I raged against the dying of the light, but it was an empty rage, a hollow rage. All but the last glimmers of the sun had gone, and the death that is twilight stole over the land. I knew this time had to come, and I accepted it, for I had been a party to the slaying, to the degradation. My hand was one of those that had held the sickle, and through action and inaction I had let it drop. Thus had I helped slay the light.
Now came the dark times, the end times, as the world built a bitter cold shell about itself, hoping to protect what little remained of the glorious times when light had gleamed fully across the land. Perhaps it would work, perhaps not. I only knew that I would not be here to see the ending. Those of us who had slain the light had looked at one another and parted in sorrow and sadness, one last night of hedonism before a shadow stole across us. That next morning, we said tearful goodbyes and walked away, never to see or hear from one another again.
We each travelled long and far, heading to distant peaks and observatories where we could see what we had done, where we could see the dying of the light. For my part, I choose mountains near my home, where I could see what I had done, and impale myself on the spear of shame.
I was the last of the slayers, the last to keep a tenuous grip on life. One by one, I had felt the others slay themselves as they had the sun, dying in the hopes that it would resurrect the great beauty of the skies. I alone remained, and a bitter anger fuelled me. I would not die until I had seen what I had wrought, until I was the last creature to walk the living planet. I would force myself to see each moment, to live each day in pain, to face the anguish as I woke and saw no sun. I would not take the easy road, the sure road, the quick road. No, I would stay, stay until there was nothing left but me.
And so here I stand, my eyes turned west, watching the setting of the sun for the last time. The sky to the east is the black of night, and no stars twinkle in the heavens above. Below me, the village of my home cries out in fear, for rumour and knowledge has reached them, and they turn to the old ways, the evil ways. Tonight, my daughter will be sacrificed, a foolish demand that the sun return. Tomorrow, it will be another man’s daughter, and so on until there are no more left. Then it will be the turn of the boys. This village will not last.
I go to my cave now, for I have seen the dying of the light. I have seen the sun sink below the horizon for the last time. Now I will wait, and I will watch for the end of all things.
Life was a strange beast here, for it ebbed and flowed with the tides of the moon. In the morning, all creatures would die, and in the afternoon, find themselves revived as they once were. Even those that had been consumed as prey woke up once more in their homes.
The moon was a cruel mistress, for it did not remove the memories of their deaths. Every day, another death would be added to a long litany of memory, and so creatures became warped and twisted things, their memories consumed by pain. Some sought suicide as a way out, thinking that if they killed themselves, they would be well and truly dead. Alas, that was not to be, and so they grew despondent, dying but never dead.
Evolution was a slow and stunted thing on a world where every creature died at six hour intervals, but progress was made, and eventually the creatures decided that they must crack the moon, must sweep their cruel mistress from the sky. Many years passed in frustration and failure, as despair overwhelmed the creatures and anguish caused them to destroy their own experiments. But all things come with the passing of time, and a weapon was created that could crack the great devil in the sky.
It was used, and low and behold the demon of the skies split apart in a great explosion. The moon swept across her children one last time, and cursed them with ash and fire and destruction that lasted for many aeons, and when it was done, the creatures rejoiced and danced and sung. A great celebration was held, and all manner of joyous speeches were proclaimed.
That evening, as the sun swept out of the sky, all creatures died, to wake with the rising of the fiery globe.
There’s four historical artefacts tucked away in this story. Four that I’m aware of putting there, anyway. One of them is the building where the bell is found. I’m curious if readers can name them all.
In Freedom’s Name Do These Bells Ring. There it was, a little inscription tucked away on the inside lip of the bell. Geoff and his team had been searching for these bells for weeks. And now they were going to melt them down. The damn things had been held up as a symbol of what was right. Well, this symbol was going to die, and never be found again. And look at it, cracked. Geoff struck the bell with his rifle butt. A barely heard sound.
What kind of idiots think a cracked bell that cannot ring is a symbol? Next thing they’ll be telling stories of a drum that summon ancient admirals. Geoff jerked his hand, and the bell was lifted onto a truck and carted away. That was the end of that.
Next, he waved the demolitions team into place. No building which had housed fugitives or fugitive objects would be allowed to stand. It wasn’t his directive, but he loved the work. Seeing all these hideous old buildings going up in smoke was one of the highlights of his work. Like that damn fake Grecian temple down south. The resistance had put up quite a battle not to have that one destroyed. In the end, the air force had had to come in and level it with bombs, because getting near it on the ground was too damn dangerous.
Well, the resistance was crumbling now. Their symbols were all but destroyed, their history was written out of the textbooks and would die off in a generation, and even their race was being bred out of existence. Resisters were sterilized whenever they were found. Inferior cretins, not recognizing our right to rule, and our long legacy of supremacy.
After disease had ruined their population and climate change had thickened the clouds in the northern sky, they had come all but begging to us, asking to be saved from the predicament they had caused. Only those south of the equator had survived intact, and what a wonderful opportunity that had been. Geoff loved to listen to the stories his grandfather would tell, the great masses of infantry and mechs sweeping north, pacifying and eradicating all serious resistance. He wished he’d been alive then, to march alongside his old man, gather some of that glory to himself.
Geoff looked at his watch and gestured to his team. It was quitting time, another good day’s work done. Only the demolitions to go. Outside, Geoff popped the champagne cork, and served it up to his team. With that, the building rumbled and collapsed, to a cheer and a toast. Not as glorious as the Great Conquest, but good enough.
A second, a third, a fourth, a fifth rumble followed that of the collapsed building. Geoff spun about, and saw great pillars of fire arcing upwards into the sky, curving over onto a southerly track. He wondered what the columns were. He was still wondering when a sniper’s bullet smashed his brains onto the pavement.
- Maximum word count of 1,000
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