Enemy Within

Ruanieth, (Sta: Ruania)
Cerenerian Ocean
12th May 1947

In a hurried stutter of confusion and urgency, Kensa clattered down the ochre marble staircase as fast as she could, grabbing clots of her linen dress with one hand, careful not to trip on it, and the brass accented mahogany rails with the other. Distant explosions echoed the cloister below; the sound of rubble being cleft from the walls of buildings in the surrounding town.

“As the headmaster said, the school is now closed!” she wailed to a huddle of distressed schoolchildren at the end of the passageway, “Go back to your families while you can!”

They looked up at their deputy headmistress briefly before scattering down a different staircase out of sight, some children clutching their study books and others abandoning them where they were. They were as confused as she was, their entire world was falling around them. Overhead, the thunderous crackles of a fighter aircraft soared, and before Kensa realised she was dazedly scrambling from the floor. The explosion was so close and so strident that it rattled her bones. She wiped off a film of granite dust that had settled on her face and continued past the cloister, down the next flight of stairs and out of the main, arched door into the road.

No longer being behind granite walls amplified the already loud explosions fivefold. Noises and visuals overwhelmed her. With the sun tearing out her delicate, unadjusted corneas, she covered her eyes with her feathered fingers to give them time to adjust. Turning on the spot, she looked down the street to get the wider picture; several armoured transport vehicles whizzed past her down the road. One jerked to a stop nearby and nearly a dozen troopers scurried from its rear. Wielding rifles and machine guns, they quickly secured a perimeter. Within seconds their presence dominated the street, they were like busy ants who knew precisely what their duties were to the greater colony. A bomb went off somewhere in the distance behind her, and she turned around to take in the view of the harbour. The school was perched in the higher end of the town, on a flat at the top of a hill which if you followed its winding roads would descend to the fish market and later the docks. In deeper waters, two frigates and a destroyer lay, firing at unseen parts of the town. She couldn’t quite see over the brow of the buildings in front of her to give her a view of the docks themselves, though it wasn’t hard to guess what was down there. She felt a grip on her arm and jerked around in freight.

“Ma’am, all civilians are to evacuate to the military checkpoint at the cathedral.” the soldier ordered.

“What is going on?”

“Gwithyasmor Trockyer, ma’am, there’s been a rebellion in Carnyorgh, the-” before the man could finish, the corner of a building within eyeshot was obliterated by cannons from the destroyer, flinging granite chunks across the street. The soldier tapped hard on her shoulder. “Go!”

Pivoting towards the armoured vehicle, Kensa was half jogging, half running in the direction of the cathedral. She passed several distressed people who seemed to be running off in various directions of the town, though she wasn’t the only one now headed for the cathedral. The other soldiers from the truck had seemingly rounded up more people than she could count from nearby buildings. So now she and two dozen or more strangers had amalgamated into a cluster of bumbling desperates, all striving to seek shelter from the bombardment.

She had no way of contacting her husband Fragan. He worked over two miles away on the other side of the cathedral. Since he was closer, she just prayed he had made a trip home before he was commanded to evacuate. She tried her best to shelve her anxiety of second guessing her husband, for if he didn’t go home now there may not be a second opportunity to collect their egg which had been incubating for the past four months.

Two low-flying fighter planes that were engaged in a dogfight raced high overhead, their engines heard from miles around. As Kensa looked up, the first tirade of bullets missed its prey, but the second round riddled the engine and the bird went down in fiery hue. Not only was the war from somewhere out of the blue, Kensa paired it with what that soldier said to conclude that this was not a threat from abroad; this was the enemy within.

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There was a main intersecting road in the east bank of the cathedral grounds that Kensa was filtered into by the cluster of an innumerable body of people, all desperate to escape the battlegrounds of the port and the lower neighbourhoods. Fear principally reigned among the people around her, as most of them had little to no idea what was going on. Though many people made good guesses, like being the Ethalrians or maybe a different enemy of Terghintia, none of that really made any sense. But what Kensa had briefly ascertained from the soldier, and what seemingly several other people had heard too, is that Gwithyasmor Cadan Trockyer was responsible. Given that the ships in the harbour were from the Terghintian Navy, and some people heard soldiers on the other side shouting words in Terghyntek, it made sense. The invading force sounded like it was their own kind. And given that they were apparently also cava, it pushed more legitimacy to the idea. Right? It had to. But for what reason, what purpose? Doubt cast a shadow on her mind. Kansa thought that she had not seen any soldiers on the other side, so maybe they were wrong. It is totally plausible, she thought that in their confusion, they may have thought certain soldiers were the enemy when they weren’t. This idea stewed that it must be the Oan people going for an island hundreds of miles away from their homeland because it might have belonged to their twentieth great grandfathers back along. Perhaps this was judgement day for her and her kind, who came and settled this far away island, and that the Oan people, oppressed once before, would enact revenge on a different kind of Auroran. Oh goodness, what train of thought was this?

She saw a young boy filtering through the people in front of her and it bade her mind back to the school. A sense of doom laid in her midriff. She whispered in prayer that all of the children at her school should make it home, or at least found their parents. Reflecting on the past half an hour of events now she had stopped running, she realised how poorly executed the closure of the school had been. Was it wrong for the headmaster to have sent the children home? It was not like there was any figure of authority there to tell them otherwise. When they had dialled the candlestick telephone there was no response from the police department. Their little island had not been invaded in living memory. There was an old brewing cellar that the may have done well to hide the children in, but there was no telling whether the invaders would have spared them when they found them. Oh no… What if those children lived in the lower town? What if they were shot and killed on their way to their parents? What-
A nearby explosion brought her out of her cascading madness. She was close to the front of the mass now. They were being quickly funnelled through a rudimentary checkpoint where it didn’t seem like they were asking for identification. From what Kensa could see, it seemed like they were jotting down your name and age and letting you pass to somewhere else. She couldn’t tell.

“Name?” a soldier at one of the six desks asked her.

“Kensa.” she replied.

“Kensa what?” he said, agitated, as if that was the thousandth time someone had done this.

“Kensa Talwynn Kitto.”

He jotted it down on a large list of names, “Date of birth?”

“11th of April, 1909.”

He finished jotting and then pointed to his left, which was beyond the checkpoint. “Head down the street following the others. There are buses waiting for you. Next!”

“Sir, please, could you explain what is-“

“Next!” the soldier wavered.

Looking up at the sky, there seemed to be more planes but they were all engaged a bit further up in the sky. Once in a while among the cannons of the destroyer, the tanks that she had seen rolling in in the adjacent street and the distant popping of individual gunfire; she would hear the high-pitched whir of the engine of a propellor fighter plane nosedive to its fiery grave, atop some pour souls house, or someone’s livelihood.
The buses were sure enough at the end of the street, though from the checkpoint it was impossible to have spotted them through the swathes of folk in the same position as her. They were flat nosed, very long and its corners very rounded, and an inconveniently bright blue with chrome trims and rounded headlights.
She was ushered into one of the buses down the line. Besides a few schoolchildren and their parents that she had seen, she was at the wrong end of town to know anyone. And still no sign of Fragan. She genuinely wondered if she would ever see him again.

“Do you know what is going on?” she asked a young woman who had just taken the seat next to her.

“No ma’am. Not really. Aside from taking us away from this place, I have no clue.”

“God!” Kensa exclaimed. The younger girl saw the horror in her face.

“What did I say?” she replied, but before she got an answer, she followed Kensa’s eyes to see a teenage boy with his arm around the shoulder of another, a bandage half-committed to a head wound, and another as inelegantly wrapped around his neck, where maroon blotches stained his clothing and mussed his feathers. He looked terrible.

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The three patrician men and women anticipated their host in his living room, having been welcomed inside by his wife who took no time to make them feel comfortable. Armed with a stout, wide brimmed glass of Angwin wine herself, she sat in her husband’s armchair to entertain their guests before he arrived. The wife was called Melyor and she was a well mannered greyfeather that shared an upper-class standing to that of her guests. Slightly older than her husband but impervious to the ravages of age unlike him, she exhibited herself in the typical fashion of a lady of her time, wearing a round neck long dress emblazoned with tessellated lace and opulent pearls. Melyor was one of two women and two men representing the acme of society on the island of Ruania, the culmination of their respective familial wealths over one to two hundred years. Bersaba, even more senior than herself and one of the most recognisable names around, headed the Tangye family and their control of a majority of the sugar plantations on the island; whilst the younger blackfeathered and keen-eyed Jago Gwavas controlled the lesser, though considerable share of plantations in the north. Combined, these two families held a substantial cleave of wealth and employment on the island. The other man, Clesek Tremayne, was a middle-aged, scraggly blue-grey feathered gigantomoa of a man, physically and metaphorically; standing far above the norm for the cava race and absolutely dominating the import and export business of the region with a merchant navy that under his name, competed in the top league against other bigwigs from the five continents of the Cerenerian. It just so happened that he was born here, and never forgot where home was when business soared despite having a second home in Sani Bursil and a third in the Volscine countryside. Clesek lowered his beak into the wine, letting it fill with water. He looked up at the ceiling and then after a moment to his host.

“Terrific wine, Melyor,” he nodded his head in appreciation. Cava were unique drinkers in the sentient world, requiring gravity to pass the water down their bill.

The width and shape of the glassware was designed for this requirement.

“Ah, why thank you,” she nodded back, “This is the Angwin nineteen twenty two. The Jusdelviz mahogany barrel in which it ages in lends its flavour profile,” she smiled, “As far as I know, there are only five barrels left in the world; one of them are in our cellar.”

“How would a lady know the intricacies of the wine world?” Jago said. Melyor thought he was jesting if it weren’t for an underlay of scorn in his voice.

“A lady learns many things from a passionate husband. Likewise, a good husband learns many things from his impassioned wife.”

“Said from a wise lady,” Bersaba interjected, chuckling but not hiding her disliking of Jago altogether.

Clesek opted to reroute the conversation from its clear demise, and so they made smalltalk for the next fifteen minutes. Starting with compliments to the house, it quickly evolved into places that people should visit, and when the conversation encroached into business territory you could feel a broader stiffness in tone. It was as if people were uncomfortable with talking about the very issues that plagued them. Bersaba scoffed at more of Jago’s remarks, and belittled him somewhat into shutting up, because she had it worse. When Clesek dragged them into details of his own business plight, Bersaba seemed to likewise recluse. It felt like witnessing an uptight battle for sympathy.

Heads turned when the marvellous eight foot tall mahogany ornate door to the living room opened inwards, and sparing seconds, footsteps led to the figure of a haughty, smart-dressed military man, who’s various accolades jingled from his uniform before you saw them. Blackfeathered, which was stark against his white frock coat and golden epaulettes; it was a scenery of neatly partitioned medals vying for room, silver spherical buttons among other military adornments befitting an admiral in full dress. It was Cadan Trockyer’s finest hour and he was showing it. Everyone, including Bersaba, his only senior, stood up in deference, as was tradition.

“Gwithyasmor,” Clesek bowed his head before Cadan tapped his beak with his own, “an honour.”

“Gwithyasmor,” Bersaba followed suit with the greeting, and likewise did Jago.

The formal greeting of tapping beaks in this fashion went back millennia. Teghyntow children were taught to greet their elders with respect by bowing their heads and allowing their upper mandible to be tapped by the elders’ lower. It extended into adulthood when addressing anyone older than you in your family. It was a family preference, most would tap gently twice, whilst some would tap once, and more rarely some families would tap thrice. Some would tap harder, and some would tap softer. A kind of middle ground, moderate two-tap would step into extrafamilial use sometime around the industrial revolution, and since then had been adopted among many cava cultures as their preferred greeting. Despite these rules, elders would be expected to receive the tap from younger people if they were their boss, or if they were in the armed forces; and then only in formal settings. Cava still adopted the human-centric handshake when greeting another species, as it wasn’t possible for a cava to tap or receive the beak of another species, because there was none.

Only when Cadan came to his wife Melyor was the greeting different. They tapped their beaks side by side, symbolising the equality of their stature in marriage. No amount of age or social hierarchy would change this.

“Kespar,” Cadan said softly.

“Kespares,” Melyor responded.

Cadan turned to the other three, clasped his hands, and sat in his armchair. His wife sat with the others.

“I hope you are all well, I did not mean to keep you waiting this long. There were some pressing matters at the war office.”

“We were none the wiser; we were just talking about your lovely house, and the state of business affairs,” Clesek gestured with his fingers.

“Thank you kindly,” Cadan paused. “Well, I am a busy man, so let’s get straight to it. The Teghyntow government in Synt Jowan does not recognise our sovereignty, and have treated our coup d’etat as nothing more than an insurgency, which we expected. The Governor’s Offices have been seized, and any resistance to our rebellion have been all but crushed here in Carnyorgh. The final corner of Ruanieth in the hands of the Terghyntow government will fall by tomorrow. When it wasn’t possible to have boots on the ground in Synt Gryffyn, our destroyer laid siege to the military targets that we couldn’t immediately contain. Despite months of planning, it seems that I drastically overestimated their capabilities. Victory is nearly ours.

“Despite this, we do anticipate an eventual Terghyntow response will be harsh. We have communicated this with our allies and by the time they will get here, we will be ready to defend ourselves. Each and every one of you, over many moons, individually expressed your disdain for the more modern model of economics that Terghyntow has yielded to. Similarly to yourselves, I have heard many stories of plight from all over Ruanieth, where the economic model has broken them and destroyed their family’s wealth. Businesses all over have been failed by the system, but it has happened so slowly we nearly did not notice,” he paused, “and now, an overdependence on food imports when we historically grew our own. Taxes through the roof! We are seeing droves of our younger generations flee to more economically viable areas because the government has abandoned us. We are very aware that without change, Ruanieth will be left behind; it will become a backwater civilisation whilst the rest of the world evolves, and I will not stand for it.

“I am sixty two years old, and with it this being the last time in all of your lifetimes that you will have the opportunity of military sympathies of a native Ruanow admiral, being as I am the only person in Ruanieth to have ever held such military power. I can safely assume that if we do indeed fail, the Terghyntow government will never relinquish its grip on us, or any of its territories as much as it has not realised it has done with us now. You have all opted to make this decision, the right decision, and we are now in it together. Today, the point of no return has passed over us. We are all traitors to them, and if we surrender now, tomorrow or the next day, we will surely hang; but with your help, if we succeed, we will be hailed as heroes, so help us god.”

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The ink came seamlessly from its repository onto paper, being gilded elegantly in swirls, intersections and points. The pen was passed to the next, who copied the actions of before, albeit in a scruffier style; then to the next, and the next, and the next, all performing the ritual in a manner befitting their vastly differing personalities. When the last person was done, he softly propped the fountain pen into its holder, signaling the end of the act.

“Thank you menyster-jeneral,” the blackfeather said so eloquently. He took the time to tip his head in the direction of each of them individually, murmuring menyster-jeneral as he did so, ”you have all made the right choice.”

Staring at him and his ostentatious white uniform was seven beading eyes, some you could tell were nervous, belonging to those who may have had reservations about this rebellion; and others that showed raw, unabridged passion. Their eyes met the admirals with a sort of intensity that would scare little children. These eyes belonged to some of Trockyer’s closest allies that he had been working with for years to this goal. Each minister-general represented an individual island of the Terghintine Cereneric territory. None of them, out of understanding or fear, questioned where their pennvenyster was. That title once belonged to Arthek Havos, the prime minister of the territory whom each minister-general would report to. With him missing, they were each responsible, and they all had, some more willing than others, signed the Acquisition Bill. Ruania would henceforth claim sovereignty over the territory with no on-the-book objections, other than of course Terghintia. It was something that Trockyer saw necessary to legitimise his secession from the mainland.

Trockyer ordered his new minister-generals into a line, and they all stood for the cameras representing various magazines that bothered to show up. It was very short notice, only a matter of a day, and it wasn’t like these islands were close to anywhere, they were in the middle of the Cereneric! Various of the largest magazines in the territory and surrounding countries had turned up, as well as a cameraman and journalist from the Cadoret Crier, somehow. They were one of the titans of Kaltariz journalism, and Trockyer knew that they alone would push the sort of publicity he wanted.

A stout brownfeather at the front holding one of the various film cameras raised his hand to get their attention.

“On three. One, two, three!” and with that, over a dozen flashbulbs went off, rippling and distorting the light in the room for a fraction of a second.

Trockyer spared some of his valuable time answering questions from the journalists. When he was finished, he thanked them all for coming, turned to his minister-generals, and thanked them for coming too. His gaze finally settled to a short man among them, who very obviously held auric ancestry with his bluejay-like plumage.

“Gerens, take a walk with me.”

“Y-yes,” the little man fluttered to his side and they both walked out of the conference room and down a wide marbled staircase.

“Gerens, thank you for coming today,” Trockyer said sincerely, before stopping and turning to face him halfway down the stairs, ”have I given you the time to explain the next steps in this unfolding dynamic?”

“No, gwithyasmor.”

“No worries,” Trockyer continued off again, “I will now. Your governance over Eythinen Island has been long and fruitful, and of course there is no man better to do the job than you. I have reaffirmed that over the years to you.”

“Yes sir, thank you.”

“Do not be alarmed then that you will not be permitted to return home for the meanwhile,” Trockyer said nonchalantly.

“W-what? Why?”

“None of the menyster-jenerals are now safe after leaving that room, something you surely realise. In signing that bill you are now all traitors to the Terghintine Federation. They will come for you and I. Our names and faces are likely already pinned to the special forces’ hitlist. Not to mention the bounty hunters…”

“Bounty hunters?” Geren gulped.

“Oh yes.”

“I thought that practice was outlawed years ago?”

“The government can be partial to the rules when it is hurt.”

“Thaer’s above,” Geren exclaimed.

Trockyer sensed tremors of dolour fizzling through his otherwise sturdy facade. They passed through a guarded doorway into an arcade, where stout pillars gave way into a wide arched ceiling.

“Gwithyasmor, what does this mean?” Geren asked.

“It means that we have become expendable to them. They will probably never stop coming for us because of what we have done. I can give you protection, but an assassin will eventually find his way past a handful of guards, and if that happened there would be chaos. It doesn’t take long for fear to reign supreme among a population. I need time to transform Tresodronen into a military fortress and naval dockyard. The central location of Eythinen Island lends itself well as a primary host of our fleet. You will be given protection when you do return, but you and your family must be so careful. Until that time, I have given orders for the military to bring your family to Carnyorgh where you will all be safe. For the ensuing war, military governance will be established. You will be in charge of some domestic affairs, and you will still be the face the public sees as their leader. It will be as if nothing has ever changed.”

“Why are you only telling me this? Why didn’t you raise this to the rest of the menyster-jenerals?”

“You are the most important menyster-jeneral to me, and the only one I wanted to personally speak to. My deputy will be telling the others where they fit into this wider machine about now,” Trockyer stopped and faced the man, “I am afraid that is all. Good day, Geren.”

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Kensa felt as if she had been mindlessly herded like a sheep in the last two days. On many occasions she had to ask herself: was she being rounded into another field, or was she flocking to her demise? She felt utterly nugatory. From the cathedral to the bus, then from the bus to a little trawler moored in a quaint fishing village up the way a bit. The vessel was the biggest in the dock, but when it made its way into open ocean it became one of many, probably twenty or thirty vessels that the collapsing government had managed to muster to shepherd its people on as a form of evacuation. At least that is what Kensa heard from whispers above.

See, Kensa was sardined in her seat, if you could even call it that, squashed in a far corner of the hold, sat at the bottommost of the ship on its cold, metal bottom, probably only inches from water; with about three foot of space to the occupied wooden seating directly above her so that she was hunched over. With a wall on her left and a jay-feather practically on top of her to her right, she had some legroom, which was a relief that lasted all but two hours when a teenage mother begged to sit there. With literally nowhere else for them to go, Kensa gave up the little room she had left until she was packed into the corner in a fetal position. Earlier when she needed to relieve herself, just getting out of her seating area was half of the trouble; she found herself trying very carefully not to step on anyones hands or feet across the length of the hold. People were sitting and standing everywhere, and it was impossible for people to get out quickly. The choppy waters outside made the claustrophobia five times worse, and some people were unable to get to the deck fast enough before being seasick.

Night crept in fast, and by now the smell of remnant fish, old sweat, dried blood and stagnant sick congealed into something of an abomination, not least without the occasional waft of a ladies perfume. The overly warm hull, lack of available water, and the swaying and rocking of the ship as it crashed against vicious Cereneric waves in the daytime gave way to an incurable coldness of the night. There was heating on the ship but it didn’t do much for people crammed down here in the hull, their best hope was a couple of oil lamps spared from the captains quarters, and of course themselves. Their own body heat was enough to sustain them. The morsel of dim orange light from the lamps were all that these terrified people could have to see each others faces. Being able to see other cava faces was certainly better than being in the terrifying dark in the vast nihility of the ocean.

Kensa had allowed herself to drown in this overwhelming dispair from the collective. Over the course of the last two days all hope of seeing her partner Fragan and their egg were lost. She came to these terms amicably, however depressing they were. Wherever she would end up (some guessed they would be integrated as refugees into the Terghintine Cereneric Isles, an island chain that Terghintia controlled; and others guessed they may be rerouted to Terghintia), one thing was certain; her old life was over, she had nothing left, and she would have to start again from the bottom. When the captain was asked where they were being taken to, even he didn’t really know, other than they were headed south.

And so through the behemoth surging waves of the high seas this mass of souls onerously parted their homeland, away from the internecine conflict of Ruanow Island. Kensa’s mind melded the sounds of sobbing, pain, snoring, coughing, giggling (though far less of this), and low chit chat into one string of white noise, desperate to clutch the vestiges of a dream which would reunite her with her lost love.

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Now that the battle for Ruanow was over, Trockyer spent the coming days restoring law and order to the island. Orders cascaded down the chain of command to many departments. His deputies willingly shared the load, and were equally busy men, delegating their own orders from Trockyer down to their various obsequious minions. The nimiety of secret meetings didn’t prepare them for the workload that they now bore. It was exhausting, but good work, and they knew once things were in order that it would slow down. Starting a country from scratch was not easy at all.

Ruanow had the largest naval dockyard of all the colonies, and despite having his feathered clasp tightly bound over the might of the Cerenerian Fleet, he immediately set to work in annexing the rest of the islands that belonged to Terghintia. Trockyer had no chance of surviving even with foreign aid if all he did was perch upon one solitary rock; he knew that his naval superiority would collapse under the weight of a few years of Terghintine preparation. So, mustering most of the fleet, he sent them away to secure his own empire. it was tactically imperative to control them, and not just for its resource exploitation; controlling them would force the battleground far from Ruanow, which would become the heart of the oceanic spiderweb. From his command center in Ruanow he would be in control like a master puppeteer.



A colossus steel mass ploughed through the caerulean expanse, yielding a rippling wake in its stead. Armoured to high heaven, its deck boasted an array of six and four inch cannons, and men who ran around like little ants performing their hive duties. They were en route to rendezvous with the rest of their cruiser squadron in the Gvelles Islands after scheduled maintenance at Eythinen Island within the Cereneric Isles. Blue spread seemingly infinitely to the horizon in all directions.

Captain Lewen Friggins had answered an emergency call from the bridge whilst on his lunch. He burst through the door with the appropriate air of his commanding rank, striding over to the navigation table where he saluted his inferior jayfeather. They broke away from their formalities almost rhythmically.

“What is the problem officer?”

“Sir, we’ve spotted a battle squadron on the horizon. It appears that they are also heading to Enesek Gvelles.”

“It appears? What do you mean?”

“Sir, I have hailed them on the radio. They have not responded.”

“Have they identified themselves?”

“Sir, no they haven’t. They are in a Terghintine formation pattern. They have come from Ruanow-”

Captain Friggins swept past him and sat down in the radio chair. He moved his head towards the mouthpiece and held a button down which initiated his mouthpiece.

“This is Kapten Friggins of MGT Gostytter hailing all frequencies. Please identify yourself, battle squadron,” Friggins allowed a pause of about ten seconds before trying again. “My name is Lewen Friggins and I am the kapten of the Terghyntin light cruiser MGT Gostytter, which is bound for Enesek Gvelles. Please state your side, battle squadron.”

“This is Is-Gwithyasmor Rawe Penknegh of the 4th Battle Squadron,” came the instant response, “Hail Gwithyasmor Trockyer,” came clear-as-day. “Submit or die.”

Captain Friggins took his finger off the button and sat up straight in his chair. He glanced at the officer who was perched behind him. Others had stopped what they were doing to also listen in. There was a long pause before Friggind next spoke.

“Will we make it to the island before we are within firing range?”

“Sir… No.”

“Then turn this ship around. Report our situation to high command; there’s nothing we can do except pray for them.”

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