Continuum – Episode Thirty: Flight

Continuum – Episode Thirty:      Flight

In the previous episode:

Alanee has completed Hasuga’s task, bringing the stolen book, which has revealed itself to be called ‘The Bible’, to place in his hands.   When she does so, the integrity of The City is destroyed and the Continuum moves in.  Hasuga is taken, images, places, people are stirred up and scattered like leaves.

Alanee strives desperately to find her way back through the ruptured dimensions to Sala, her friend, but Mother, Hasuga’s previous carer attacks her and in the fight Alanee is badly wounded…

Now read on.

Exhausted amidst the chaos of the collapsing City, Alanee is alone.  Hasuga has gone, taken by the demon that her predecessor, the old Seer, gave a name.  Celeris is gone in just the same way, stripped from her mind by Hasuga’s destruction and unable to fulfil a promise both had made.

‘I will never leave you’

So if it is help she seeks, it will not come.   If it is strength she needs, that, too is gone.  But Hasuga gave her his legacy and his faith that she can fulfil whatever purpose this monster, The Continuum, has.

“I have made you powerful haven’t I.”

Power that lies in the great vault of knowledge he has etched into her brain, which must offer the solution that will lead her back to Sala:  if she can only find it. Her head aches, her eyes hurt, yet she can still think.  She can still see.  Her injured limbs cry out their protest.  She was in the Palace Yard – is she now?

She should feel something outside herself – the stones of the pavement, the heat of the sun on her face, perhaps – but no.  Despite the great structures that fold into ruins all about her, no toppling statue seeks to crush her, no mighty boulder of construction does so much as scrape her flesh as it passes by.  Where is the dust?  The bookseller side by side with Ellar – she sees falling people and their fragmented homes, businesses, lives; people who are all familiar to her.  She sees them because she knows them.  If that is true then why does she not see Sala?

She focuses entirely upon Cassix’s chambers, that one location.  It is still intact!  The old stones, marked mysteriously by Cassix, are a spell she must break.  Cassix’s enchantment; his final defence!  She centres upon Sala in her mind, straining every brain-cell,  and instantly she is on the flags of the chamber with Sala standing over her, pale and scared.  “Alanee!  Oh, Habbach, Alanee?”

“My magic…stronger than Cassix…”

“Oh, ba.  What in the seven hells have you done?”

The old stone room is steady at the moment, although Alanee knows that will change.  In her joy at reuniting with Sala, she lets her thoughts shift away for an instant, and the floor begins to move away with them.  The noise, that insane roar, is close behind her.

 “We have to leave here, now, ba.”  She clambers to unwilling feet:  she must discover some means of escape, “We have to – to stay here is to die.”  It is all she can do to raise her voice above the demon’s clamour.

Sala steadies her arm.  The chambers are collapsing around them.  The great ball Alanee moved with such ease vanishes, the mirrors are melting into candle-wax cascades.  Only that metal disc remains, and it spins now beneath several searching lazer light needles.  In vain she tries to pin her thoughts to the elevator that leads down to the gardens, knowing even if they find their way to it, it will not work.

Frantic because she can feel her concentration fading, Alanee stares about her, seeking answers.  In all the turbulence, the heaving floor, the melting walls, that ancient wooden cabin remains as impenetrable as ever.  There is a door, she has seen it, but where is it now? 

“Look for a panel, or a handle – something!” She gathers her resources once more.

There is no response.

“Come on!”

She focuses again, makes a fresh demand of the wood, but no – the opening she saw in the mirrors, the place where the old one sat will not appear.

Cursing, Alanee musters one last mighty effort; all the suffering of her life, all her belief poured into a single vision of an open door, a way outside.  But still there is nothing; no movement, no sign that the door she has seen just once was ever there.  Once more the heavy cloud of defeat wraps about her; once more she drops to her knees, this time in certainty.  Her strength is gone, no answers have been found, she has lost.

Sala curls herself about Alanee’s hunched body, kisses her goodnight as she would a child, preparing them both for death.  Alanee can do no more than take her dear friend’s hand, to press it weakly in her own, to feel her flesh, the ring with the emerald stone she has always worn…

The stone!  The stones!

“What stones, darling?”  Sala asks. 

“The stones!  Find the leather chair!”

Sala’s reply is soothing and kind:  “The chair’s gone, Alanee-ba – everything’s gone!”

But hope, however unjustifiable, is returning.  “No.  No it hasn’t!  It’s still there, I know it is.  Fix your thoughts upon it:  fix all your thoughts on two stones – one on each arm of the chair.”

Sala shakes her head:  Alanee, don’t make me leave you, ba…”

“No.  You can do this.  You must do this.  Remember the chair, how it looked!  Use that memory!  Go to the stones.”

“For you.”  Sala sighs, dredging up a last strength of her own.  She will do as Alanee asks.

“Concentrate!   It was right there, remember?  It stood there!”

Unbelieving, the Mansuvene woman stares hard into a space that has no levels, references or form of any kind.  Her world, her whole world and every memory in it is whirling before her.

Alanee’s voice is suddenly powerful:  “The stones.  Bring them to me!”

Out of nowhere the old chair appears: standing solidly in the eye of the hurricane, and the stones, one upon each arm, waiting for her.  Wordlessly, Sala rises to her feet, strikes out; a few terrifying steps. 

Bring them!  The command is not spoken, for the dervish yell of the Continuum drowns all sounds but those inside her head.  Determined now, Sala turns to find Alanee on her feet, buoyed up by strength beyond her own.  She lifts the stones, passing them into Alanee’s extended hands.  An instant flash of raw power nearly throws her over, its blue plume of light bathing her friend in garish relief as she slams the stones against that obdurate wooden wall.  They explode – shatter into a thousand pieces that fly off, glittering, into infinity. Overawed, Sala is witness as, apparently from no visible place, a door springs open.

He is there.  Karkus sits within, just as Alanee saw in her mirrors, at the self-same desk.  With a grey-as-time smile across his thin dry lips he raises a hand, gesturing towards the interior of the cabin, and with Sala supporting her arm Alanee staggers inside.  Behind them, the door to The City closes and they find themselves standing together in the gardens, facing the path that leads down to the Balna river.

Sala is stupefied.  Her Mansuvenian superstition speaks to her of witchcraft, insists that this cannot be real: her body may have accomplished a descent of several hundred feet in less than a couple of steps, but her mind will not accept it.  “What deception is this?”

“It was a doorway, ba, a portal.  Cassix knew what would come and he provided himself with a means of escape.  He brought it from another place, an ancient place.  Or maybe it was here first.”

“The old man…”

“His job is done.  He can rest now.  Come, we must hurry”

Muttering prayers for their protection, Sala supports Alanee, shutting her ears to the devastating shout of destruction which rises once more behind them as they struggle down the pathway to the banks of the River Balna.  It is a painful journey and only when they have reached the river will Sala look back.  What she sees is beyond comprehension:  her city has gone.

There are no cries:  there are no escapees but themselves.  There is only the wall towering into the sky like a white fog – and now it seems to be gathering heat, moving so quickly it leaves no room for question, no margin for doubt.  Nothing will be left.

Unspeaking, the pair pause in homage to those they have known; Ellar, Trebec, Rabba, Delfio, the Domo – so many others.  Alanee urges Sala on:  “We must keep moving.  It will not rest there.  It will spread.”

She sees the emptiness in her friend’s face:  “Come on, ba.  There will be an answer somewhere, you’ll see!”

Alanee makes to move again, sending pain shooting through her leg and hip:  her head is beginning to spin, making each new step an unsteady agony.  By crippled stages, she and Sala make their way along the path beside the great river, but her blood loss is taking its toll.  By the time they reach the bridge, Alanee knows she can go no further.  “I’m finished.  You’ll have to leave me here.  I’m sorry, Ba.  I’m so sorry.”

Sala says:  “What about that?”

Clarity is fading.  Alanee mutters stupidly:  “What?”

Ignoring her cries of pain, Sala hoists her friend bodily to the rail, pointing down at the river.  “That!”

Moored by its painter, an old wooden skiff Alanee once saw braving the jostling ice-floes of the spring thaw, is still there.

Alanee’s impressions of what follows are patchy and confused.  Sala almost carrying her across that wide bridge, each move striking shudders through her quaking bones: half-stepping, half falling into the rocking boat, lying in the prow while Sala arranges some green-stuff from the bank behind her head and all the while the closing thunder of the Continuum:  these before darkness comes in merciful release; after that, only night.

Sala does not fear impending danger, nor does she particularly want to run from it:  For someone whose whole life is invested in The City the prospect of life without it seems more formidable than the quick death the Continuum offers; if she feels a compulsion to go on, it is only for Alanee.  Alanee is her lover after all, and now her only friend.  Nevertheless she has to prompt herself to loosen the mooring and commit them both to the mercies of the Balna.  The skiff lurches free of the mud, the river snatches, the river takes:  stern first, then wheeling around so swiftly Sala clings to the gunwales for her life as she is launched into the turbulent narrows downstream of the bridge.

For some hours the little craft faithfully follows the current, throughout which time the heat is intense; the water hot, almost boiling, the wall of the Continuum never far behind.  There are paddles, but these are rarely needed.  The skiff seems to know its way, and bustles about the weeds and tangles of the bank without ever becoming snagged or grounded.  Sala blocks her ears to the noise and her mind to the heat – busies herself by tying Alanee’s tourniquet more severely, using a hem of her own robe as bandaging for the wounds to both leg and arm.  Alanee drifts in and out of consciousness, though even when her eyes are open she barely recognises where she is.  Sala can see her friend is ailing, watches life seep from her in slow, unremitting drops. 

There comes a time – a bend in the river perhaps – when the furious pursuit of the Continuum fades, the steam from the water rises less freely; almost as though the monster has given up their chase and, its mission complete, drifted back into the sky.

Day drifts into night, thunder into silence.

In the darkness, a new distant rumbling from a fresh adversary: white water.  At first Sala believes the Continuum has returned; as the sound grows with each passing minute.  The boat gains speed, rocks perilously.  Then she is amidst cold spray and black rocks, unable to see and unable to steer if she could.  Is there a waterfall?  Cowering over Alanee’s inert form as the helter-skelter descends, Sala can only trust the boat to find its way, which it does.

It is midnight before they reach calmer waters.  The boat has taken on water she has no means to remove.  She knows Alanee’s body is lying in it and that cannot be good, but nameless terrors haunt her, the night-cries of beasts, strange rustling noises, the plunge and ripple of alligators sap her courage.  Sne will not go ashore in darkness.  

By fits and starts she learns to use the paddles.  Colder, wetter and hungrier than she can ever remember, Sala greets the dawn.  As soon as she has confidence enough she finds a place to land.

Child of The City that she is, Sala can remember nothing less certain than pavement beneath her feet.  She is not so naïve she does not know the boat must be hauled up, away from the current, its keel firmly grounded, yet when she clambers gingerly over the side mud lurking in the shallows clings about her legs to make her fall.  She rises to her feet with a city woman’s pettish anger, laments the ruin of her clothes, weeps for her hair, her nails.

Although the boat seems secure, she is nervous of leaving Alanee helpless inside it, fearful lest it should release itself to the river, leaving her stranded ashore.  It is heavy with water, yet she struggles and sweats and screams with it until she has the painter within length of a stunted bush where she may tie it off.  In the prow, at least Alanee now lies upon drier wood, though her clothing is sodden and her flesh cold.  The leg wound is weeping again, refusing to heal.

After this exertion Sala takes stock of her surroundings.  She settles on a ridge higher up the slope, close enough to run back to the water should that untrustworthy vessel take its leave.  Now she is ashore the deep cover of the forest seems closer than it did, and if the night creatures that serenaded her are asleep, they are still very active in her mind.  It is nevertheless an ideal place for her purpose.  A sward of green meadow-grass leads into the forest like a wide path.  Taking a deep breath, she follows it towards the woodland margins, starting like a hind at each unexplained noise, but hungry enough to overcome her fears.

The woods are full of berries, absolutely none of which she recognises.  Enticed by swarthy verdant scents and venturing ever deeper into forest, Sala picks experimentally, tasting as she goes, until she has found a small quantity of some she does not think too sour.  These she collects in the front of her robe, nearly dropping them when she is confronted by a squirrel-like creature the size of a cat clinging to a branch not three feet away.  Her squeal of alarm sends the animal flying for concealment in the upper branches, and serves to remind her that this may not be a friendly place.  With dignified haste she brings her gleanings back to the boat where she tries to induce Alanee to eat; but her friend is barely awake.  At length she gives up: the water in the boat must be bailed out and she has no vessel with which to achieve this.  Once again her robe suffices.  Thanking Habbach for a warm midday sun she takes it off, using it as part scoop, part mop for two long, laborious hours until the stern is emptied.  Then she dries it as best she may upon a rock until, with threat of the Continuum still in her mind, she casts off once more.  Her robe is still damp.  Thirty minutes later she throws up the contents of her stomach into the river.

So it is for the hours of this day, then another.  All the while the boat moves between steep, wooded banks with no sign of any people, anywhere.  On the third day the tree cover thins. Among marshy shallows and low, stony beaches Sala finds a place where she can haul ashore, gathering her courage for a longer expedition.  Throughout the night Alanee has been delirious, mouthing unintelligible sounds, shaking with fever:  this morning her condition is desperate, scarcely breathing, flesh clammy and cold.  Sala is certain if she does not get help today, her friend will be beyond recovery.  She decides she must climb the hills that skirt the valley, in the hope that from a vantage point she might see some sign of civilisation.  As soon as it is light she makes her friend as comfortable as possible and sets off.

Her shoes are not meant for such rigours.  Hunger has weakened her and the climb is arduous for limbs that, however fine, have never made any serious ascent.  Behind her and far below, in the green trough carved by a million years of flowing water, the little boat with its precious burden waits.  The sun beats from a cloudless sky and far away to the west she can see a rainbow low over the horizon where the white water runs.

  That is behind them now – what lies ahead? 

At noon Sala stands upon a high summit, her vision so clouded by tears she can scarcely see.  In every direction the prospect is featureless; an infinite desert of grey ash.  Only the lofty needle of Kess-Ta-Fe stands resolute, a distant marker to the ruined north.  The river valley, it seems, has escaped.  Otherwise, the Continuum has taken everything.  The world she knew has vanished.

That afternoon when she returns to the boat she tells Alanee all she has seen, while Alanee, of course, hears nothing.  Alanee has neither moved nor shown any sign of consciousness since before the dawn.

On day four Sala wakes late.  Although the boat drifts lazily she is too weak to leave it.  Constant vomiting has dogged her attempts to eat; the warmth she shares with her friend against the night-time chill has penetrated her own defences.  She checks Alanee and finds her stiff and cold.

Sala weeps bitter tears for her friend.  She watches over her, warding off those imagined demons that visit the Mansuvene dead.  When the morning is far advanced and there is nothing left to do or say, she gets to her feet.  Carefully stripping her robe from about her she waits until the boat reaches a part of the river where the water is deepest.  There, with a last smile back at her life she slips over the side.  In all her City years, Sala has never learnt to swim.

…don’t miss the final episode of this story…

© Frederick Anderson 2020.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

Picture Credit: Matthew Wewering from Pixabay

The Making

 

 orangutan 2

Some time ago, in a book called Hasuga’s Garden I wrote a chapter or two about the Miroveti, a species modelled somewhat (though not entirely) upon the Orang-utan of East Asia.  They appeared again in the Hasuga sequel ‘The World-maker’s Child’.  In Hasuga’s story  the Miroveti were not apes – they were an experiment.  I can say no more than that without ‘spoiling’, so I’ll let them introduce themselves to you, if I may.    I always had the feeling I sold them short – so maybe this is a beginning and there will be more, I don’t know.

It was somewhere along this trail, he remembers.  Somewhere near.    The creature is old, his sand-blond hair near turned to white, yet his memory still serves him:  it was here; just here.

He casts about him with myopic eyes for any sign that might betray the place, but that which he seeks is small; the mosses conceal it as they do all things: the grey, grey mosses that clad the land, stretching away to either side unceasing, and there is no undulation or interruption.  Nothing.

Yet it must be here – it must!

Of the Miroveti, the haired ones, he is the eldest.   When his friend Essata passes he will be alone of his generation upon this wild earth, among these tangled ruins of the Last Experiment.  A glorious vision of the Forefathers reduced to impenetrable overgrowth, a final hope of a future, when this land might become a home for his fellow creatures, dashed.   Even the trails the Forefathers seared with their staves of fire are cold and soon the few survivors of his species will be too burdened with years to clear them.  The moss will take them back.  In the end, the moss takes everything back.

Above him, the sun has lost its fierce edge.  The time of Making is near – this thought spurs him to search with renewed urgency.  He combs the dense growth beside the trail with his long fingers, oblivious to those poisonous spores that float into the air when his touch disturbs them.  It was here – he has probed for hours now, undeterred because he knows for certain it was here!  He hurries, old bones aching, breath short.  Time is short.

So small it is, that even with his finger right above it he almost misses the speck of nature he seeks. Spying it there, almost buried, at last, a tiny spark of joy warms his failing heart, and he gathers up a little grain of life, clutching it to his breast.

A glittering thing it was when he dropped it so carelessly on his way to his first Making, all those years ago.  Then he could not take time to recover it because the moment of Making was upon him.   After, as his colony mourned another failure, it was forgotten.  Then, it shone; but then there were so many, many bright life-germs to collect, to nurture.  And so he left it, neglected to recover it.  Through four Makings since that day, this minute speck has waited for his poor inadequate brain to remember until now it is dulled and black with neglect.   But today is his last Making and it is all he has to offer to the bowl. Today is the time of the black sun and the hour.  This is his last chance to keep the appointment it has missed.

He forces his stiff old legs to run, skipping over the root fibres that have begun their destructive work on the trail that leads back to his settlement.  He must reach the Great Bowl of oak cork that stands in his village compound in time to make this final, small offering. The signs in the sky are converging, the light in the North is dimmed.   At an appointed time Sun and Moon will be joined and the auspices set.   Then all the elements will combine to raise a Creation Mist in the GreatBowl and those who have offerings must cast them into its swirling depths.

As he hastens, a voice is speaking to him, urging him on.  Thoughts inside his head are finding shapes, pictures he can understand; almost as though the weak and sickly thing he carries is alive still, and insisting.    Here, where the water passes, are twenty or moss-thatched hovels where his colony – the very last of the colonies – resides.  Once this place would have been alive with his golden haired brethren; females fashioning food from moss root, children playing and squeaking their delight in the dying sun.  All are deserted now – all but a precious few huts at the village centre, poor shelters gathered around the compound where the scaffold of the Great Bowl sits, and no children;  no children anywhere.

It is a pitifully small group that is gathered about the Bowl.  They climb the scaffolding to its edge, casting their offerings into its depths where once, the Forefathers had promised, their prayers would transform anything that still held the germ of creation into brave new life.  Once, they had eagerly explored the rocks and crannies of the upper land for jewelled stones that might bear the germ, but of all their bright prizes nothing was ever found that would fulfil the Forefathers’ prophecy.

Now, all faith is lost, all hope gone.  Offerings are of small, random things, mostly household or grooming items like moss-stem combs or clay effigies; entreaties to a compassionate god for a miracle, but nothing that lives, or could inspire life.  Only the moss lives..  Motis is there, with a wall art she has saved, Hada offers a prayer to aid his handcomb on its journey, as poor, mad Ethela comes forward in that wild flailing dance of hers, bearing some trifle for Making.

Essata sees the old one come, and even from a distance he can discern the sadness in his eyes.   They greet each others’ thoughts, and the mind-picture Essata composes is of failure and old age.

‘We are both old, and this is the last Making we shall know’.  Their pictures agree.  As they share the minds of the others who stand by they can see no chance of success.  Although some, Ethela for one, will live to another Making yet, no-one has anything to give.  There is nothing here that will begin the great regeneration the forefathers envisaged.   Perhaps there never was.

The old one lifts his foundling seed to the sun and makes his prayer.  In his turn he will cast it into that strange and unexplained soup that stirs like glutinous fog within the bowl, and he stands in line – so short, so short a line.  There is a ladder to ascend, six steps, no more.  A platform to traverse, a place where the elbows of his long arms may lean above the green mist.  There, in the tradition, he raises it, that frail, failing seed, towards the sun one final time, one final prayer.  As he does….

In the heavens, the moon has drawn across the sun in full eclipse.  In his grip, the little spur of life leaps – yes, leaps in his hand!  He has no time to cast it in, for it has gone.  It is already within the bowl amid a maelstrom, turning and sinking.  But no matter that it spins and is drawn from view, it speaks to him; it speaks of the water that runs, of the dark matter that gathers at the water’s shore.

It cries out.

In wonder, he steps back, forgetting where he is and nearly falling from the platform to the hard clay of the compound below.   And behind him the Miroveti have paused to wonder too, for the behaviour of the old one is strange.  They cannot see his gift from so far away, they do not know why he starts and stumbles in such fashion, but his mind pictures tell them something extraordinary has happened.   A moment now gone.  The mists settle once more and three Miroveti who remain clamber sadly up to make their gifts.  Mad Ethela is the last.  She makes no prayer, but casts her morsel with a thrusting motion that almost takes her with it into the mist.  The others watching gasp their disapproval for her blunt hand touches, is even lost for a second, within the swirl.  To touch the mist is a sacrilege, but she is only mad Ethela after all – she is forgiven.

That night the old one sleeps uneasily.  He dreams of the running water that passes the colony, and the dark deposits it leaves.   An oddness in his mind has told him many times that he must learn about the water – from whence it comes, where it goes.  And he knows that dark matter well, for it gathers where the watercourse is wide and lazy, where a spur of rock deflects it from its journey.  When morning comes he rises early, eager to see the rising sun and glad that it is normal.  The eclipse that heralds the time of The Making has passed.

He walks a while about the village, seeking remnants in empty huts that he can brew into food.  As he forages and explores, Essata joins him, for they are firm friends.  So it is together they wander at last into the compound and together they see…

Many suns pass before the tiny green shoot is more than a sapling, and fit to stand tall above the tangle of the moss.  There are wild moons, and days when greyness gathers in the sky, but still the new  thing thrusts its roots into the dark matter from the river’s edge, and drinks the water from the river, and grows.   It grows strong and tall, unrecognizable from that first green frond that greeted the old Miroveti on that first morning after The Making, standing proud above the rim of the Great Bowl.  Before the old ones go to meet their own maker they will see its first children, hanging rosy red from strong, youthful boughs.  Eyes shining with hope will watch the clippings that they take grow healthy in their turn, and willing hands clear the moss to make a place rich with dark silt from the running water, fit for an orchard to grow.

Only mad Ethela does not join them, but sits instead within her moss-roofed home preparing, year after year, the little dark ovals of eggs she found asleep in the silt of the upper waters, and those tiny swimming seeds that clung to her fur when she touched the swirling mists within the Great Bowl.  Her poor twisted mind insists these will have meaning, and she will cast them into the Bowl, when the next Making comes.

 

© Frederick Anderson 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

 

 

From a Mother on Behalf of Her Children

I have few complaints.

My home is warm and comfortable, I want for very little.  My children are well fed, intelligent, and making their own way in life.  I like to think I raised them well.   I have taught them to contribute.

We are shy and retiring as a family, and not very sociable I’m afraid.  Because I’m not very good at those things that pass as wit, the barbed conversations, the veiled innuendo, and I’m liable to bite back when attacked in such fashion, I tend to stay away.  You probably don’t even know I exist, though we live less than a stone’s throw from one another.  I am your neighbour.

I don’t want you to think I am lonely – far from it.  Life has to be challenged, and I am always busy.  In fact, I am far more concerned about you.

You seem to have prepared a particularly untenable hell for yourself:  your constant bickering over your selfish wants and needs makes it well-nigh impossible for you to live with each other.  You seem to be on an unceasing quest for more of everything, and blame everyone but yourselves when you fail to obtain it.

Your fire and brimstone pollutes the air, your rape of the land for food scarifies the soil, your children are allowed to run riot without any meaningful discipline.  Of recent years I’ve watched you turn more and more to alcohol and drugs for solace, and I’ve seen the lines of despair etched deep into your flesh.  You move with downcast eyes now, scarcely daring to look at one another for fear the deep anger you feel should erupt.

Each year your car gets a little better, your road a little worse.  You spoil for richer and richer cuisine while the meaner creatures of the world suffer for your excess.  Bound by rings of useless blubber, you waddle through your existence, persuading yourself you are happy.   Perhaps you should consider that.   Perhaps you should wonder if a world without you might be a better place.

I have.

The world has.

But there, the world need not be concerned.  As soon as she has shrugged you off, my family are ready – we are clever and we are righteous, no matter how low we stand in your regard.  And we are next.  We  shall inherit!

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