Case of Louisa, Part IEdit
18 November, 347 YD — Pastel Caramel, Oghillos Prefecture, the Confederacy of Ashen Waters
Louisa Lacey lazily closed her laptop and stretched her arms. Her boyfriend had promised to take her shopping at the new mall in Four Forks later today. It was the least he could do after spilling a jar of jam on her favorite dress, that clumsy brat. That complete nincompoop. That idiot.
They'd only been together for two weeks, but Louisa and Johnny were totally in love. Their first date had been a little awkward -- they'd gone to a diner together for breakfast and were struggling to make conversation, as clueless teenagers are wont to do -- but after the waiter had brought out eggs and toast they'd gotten on much better. Maybe the food had just cleared up her head and allowed her to see how perfect he was. She couldn't pinpoint any one thing she'd liked about him, since he was a clueless fumbling moron with a bad case of acne, a lisp, and nothing but skin on his bones, but Louisa knew that Johnny was simply the ideal man.
Louisa's mother warned her every day that she was taking things too fast. And her dad seemed to hate Johnny so much. Those evil old people! What did they know about anything?
And what was taking Johnny so long? He was already thirty seconds late!
Thoroughly peeved, Louisa turned on the television. Great. The news. Nothing exciting about that.
She was about to click away when the anchor said, "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an emergency report."
The screen showed the Queen of Gyro: a tall, Aasimari woman with olive skin and flowing black hair, who always kept one hair roller in over her forehead to show that even part-gods could have just a little imperfection to their beauty. Before today, she'd been every girl's heroine, even in her old age: she was charisma immaculate.
The Queen was soaked from head to toe in blood. Bandages covered her face, and an attendant was helping her fumble into a chair. Her tiara was smashed in two.
What the hell was going on?
The anchor spoke: "Earlier today, an explosion on the Queen's personal aircraft nearly killed her. She, and all other casualties, are expected to survive. The throne of Gyro claims that an insider in the Queen's entourage is believed responsible and will face justice."
The camera panned to show the wreckage of the plane: the engine was in flames, and little metal balls kept spilling out of it. A fire truck was spraying water on the carnage, and the skies were black with smoke.
Louisa's eyes had only begun to fill with tears of fear and dread when the anchor spoke again. "We interrupt this emergency report to bring a second emergency report. This is highly graphic, so view with your own discretion."
The screen showed the League of Legends: a round, cherry-like building in the center of Topos, center of Confederate politics. Louisa had just barely noticed all the fissures lining the streets, and the minivan that had fallen into one, the stone roof gave in, and muffled wailing could be heard from inside. A newsman stood in front of the camera from across the street.
"I'm here in Topos, where a major earthquake has struck. As you can see, the roof has just collapsed. This is as close as civilians are allowed to go; it's not clear if any of the other buildings are stable."
After the collapse, people started pouring out of the League building. At first the evacuees were unharmed. But then out came a man whose leg was shattered, who collapsed into the street.
Then came the woman missing an arm, an old man covered in gore. A bloody mass fell from the second story balcony, and tainted the grass red.
And then the first child.
"I've gotten reports that there was a field trip from a local elementary school to see the League meet today. This was to be their first time meeting since the Roscoe Incident a few weeks ago. I want to stress that this is not a drill. These are real incidents. The only explanation for so many disasters in such succession must be that the Confederacy is under attack. This is war."
The camera turned to face the child -- a boy no older than nine years, covered in a liquid that could not be ketchup, but only if it was. He began to scream. Louder.
Louisa couldn't take it any more. She shut off the news and ran outside screaming. She ran for as far as she could, until she could scarcely breathe anymore. She was overcome by the urge to choke herself. Or maybe she wanted to vomit, or jump off a bridge. Anything, anything, anything to end the terror.
At least she didn't know any of the victims.
Or did she? Just from the sheer number of casualties, it was definitely possible. But she couldn't think about that right now. She couldn't. She couldn't. She couldn't. She couldn't. She couldn't.
The next day, she forced herself onto the internet to read the news. It seemed that the attack had meant to target each of the senators, as two of them had been found murdered in the desert shortly after, and that all were dead except the Queen of Gyro, who was in critical condition. Among the other casualties, 105 were dead and 56 were injured. There were already conspiracy theories that the president, who had been declared a temporary dictator until a new government could be installed, had planned the whole thing. There was a rumor that ROSCOE remnants were responsible. Or maybe it was Ame-no-Murakami's declaration of war. Maybe the world was going to end.
Louisa clicked to look at the list of victims. But before she could, the news website showed a video of that child wailing again.
"WHY?" Louisa screamed. It was going to be okay. No. That sound was so bad. It was so bad. It was death.
She began to flail around in her bed in agony.
Her parents found her the next day.
Case of EarwynEdit
19 July, 332 YD — somewhere, the Lovlos Sea, Tyrfing
The newlyweds gazed out at the limitless blue. Time had stopped, and the mainland had finally escaped their vision, after three hours of sailing. Every so often one of the ocean's gray waves would splash over them, but they could barely notice the cold, entranced with each other's touch as they were. Though they were hundreds of miles from Vakil, Lana's salt-kissed lips still were home.
Earwyn wrapped one arm around Lana, and pointed out to the horizon with his other.
"Look, love. That speck off in the distance is Lyapunov Tor, the shifting island. We're so lucky to be able to be able to see it up close. It's like the gods wanted this moment to be especially romantic."
The dream ended as Lana pulled away from her husband and scowled.
"I'm sorry?" Earwyn was puzzled.
"Wynnie, don't you know any history?"
"Of course I do." He frowned for a second to recall, and then continued. "In 307 Year of Death, the Confederacy liberated the island from the Glorious Republic in twelve days of naval and aerial battle. The battle was remarkable for the Confederacy's novel use of druidic teleportation magic to keep up with the island's movements, and in that Bradamante's presence in the Tyrfing Archipelago collapsed soon after."
"Wynnie, my grandparents lived on Lyapunov Tor. They died in the bombing. Or maybe they were among the stragglers that Bradamante executed during the evacuation. Whatever. Nobody knows and it doesn't matter."
"Before we have kids, you need stop viewing war as a game. Otherwise they'll inherit that crappy attitude."
Earwyn could not think of any fair response to that, except a weak little "I'm sorry."
"If you're sorry, then promise me something."
"I know you have connections with the powers that be, even if you pretend to be a common soldier."
How the hell does she know that? Who else have I spilled my secrets to?
"Wynnie, promise me this. Before our children are adults, you'll push for an end to the cold war with any means you have. I won't see our babies get drafted."
"Honey, they ended conscription years ago. Murakami only uses undead armies now."
"You said you'd promise me anything."
"Yes but, well, okay. I promise."
18 February, 348 YD — Base Glenius, District Vakil, Ame-no-Murakami
"Sir, please wake up."
Earwyn groaned and looked up to see a thoroughly peeved Nadeko looking down at him.
Gods, did she really have to wake me up there? Earwyn's dreams had been true to memory, and if his memory served him well, it was just about to get to the good part, wherein Lana forgave him and they spent the next week absorbed in each other at sea.
"I don't understand why you stay at the office so late every day when you always just end up falling asleep around the thirteenth hour."
"You know damn well why I stay so late. More than that, you're the only one I trust enough to let know why I stay so late, but since your memory is apparently quite poor, let me drill it into your head again."
"Since the ROSCOE Incident six months ago, we have been in the position to end the cold war. General Nema is a greedy profiteering ass, so he would not approve — so I only advance these designs after he departs for the day."
"Sir, as your attendant, I am charged with giving you candid advice, though you may like it not." Her words were so cold, they could make an ice dragon retire. "Have you ever considered that General Nema would not approve your plan because of how absolutely, completely, fucking reckless it is?"
"The first principle of war in the Equinoctial Analects is that great victories require great risks. But this plan is really not so reckless; if things go south, the fallout will mainly affect the desert outside Akadeos, which was uninhabitable anyways."
"Sir," Nadeko asked, "Why do I not report your insubordination to General Nema?"
"You do not report my actions for two reasons. The primary reason is that, while you have a shadow of doubt in you, you know, deep down, that I am in the right. A secondary motive, I suppose, is that the magic on you prevents you from leaking any more of my secrets; after your run-in with my son, I made sure of that."
Earwyn stood up, wiped the sleep from his eyes, and towered over Nadeko.
"In two years' time, the Cold War of Ascalon will be a fantasy for the history books."