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“I wanna die.”
A groan of agreement sounded from under a pile of dirty laundry.
Petra would say she had been having an off day. But that implied she had days that
weren’t off. She lived in a permanent state of ‘off’, with the moments of lucidity between her long stretches of lethargy being few and far between. To her, there was little to no difference between wakefulness and sleep. She remained mostly unresponsive and lived in her own little dream world in both. And with that in mind, anything happening in the real world was much to her disdain, and instantly ruined a day that could’ve been happily spent ignoring reality. In short, things happened too much for Petra’s liking.
She stared disdainfully at her phone screen, the innocent white light glowing softly from her hand, completely misrepresenting the potent rejection it was displaying.
“How long did I spend on that job app?” she spat, “ Remind me. I just know it was too long to have some bullshit email - y’know what? They can take their little minimum wage job, and stick it right up-”
“You would’ve hated the job anyway. It’s better you didn’t get it, man.” came a muffled assurance.

The town was silent for once. Completely and utterly silent. The girl stepped out of the house warily, making her way over the rough cobbles. It was still early in the morning, with the simulated sun just grazing the horizon. As such, no warmth hung in the air and she shivered in the uncomfortable chill. She pulled her cloak tighter over herself, half wanting to drive out the bite of winter and half to conceal her delivery.
Streets always looked unfamiliar in the pre-dawn gloom, she mused. The houses looked more foreboding, more unwelcoming. The bricks seemed shrink themselves further into the walls, making the road larger and infinitely more lonesome. The sky was slate grey without a single patch of blue in sight. A few telltale drops of rain bounced down onto the girls head, making the cloud's intentions known. She crept up to a small ratty door and gave it a gentle knock.
“Come in, Leetsi.” croaked a voice from within.
The hinges squealed in protest as she huddled into the hut. A few candles floated carefree in the air, throwing warped shadows to every corner of the room. A figure draped in countless blankets and shawls sat in a chair , surrounded by books and crystals , the usual collections of those who were magically minded. Bookshelves leaned uncomfortably on their sides, struggling to hold tome after tome of old knowledge. Long wires with innumerable feathers and pearls and other tidbits were strung up across the low ceiling , some having dropped to the threadbare rugs that were messily overlapping each other. Any old idiot could've guessed that this was the home of a shaman of some sort, going by the glistening idols and dusty alchemy equipment lining the tables and walls. And they'd be right.
“So, are you getting bette-”
“No, I'm not. You keep asking the same question, you'll keep getting the same answer, Leetsi,” snapped the figure,her voice cracking slightly. She pulled a few of the cloaks off of her and looked around to the girl. “I'm still terminal. Now give me the items, if you please.”
The girl handed over a brown satchel. Inside were even more trinkets. She began patiently threading them onto a wire.
“I heard you did a reading?” said Leetsi, trying to make idle conversation whilst twiddling her thumbs.
“Yes, it says the same it did last time. A nebulous evil is going to rise up and six people must unite to fend it off or else the Realm is going to go under faster than a kayak made of lead.” muttered the lady disinterestedly. “And if I remember correctly, I told you to find these six people. Have you done that?”
“Listen, Esther-”
“That's Mrs Narwood to you, madam.”
“MRS NARWOOD,” Leetsi said exasperatedly, “If you only tell me I need six people, I could go and band together the next six drunks I see coming out of The Mouldy Lemon then call it a day. Can you give me specifics?”
“Leetsi, I'm a seer. If fate wishes to tell me what she has in store, she will. It's just that fate is an overdramatic ponce who never gives me straight answers. So here's the deal. I've been having my bog-standard prophetic dreams and every morning when I wake up , I write it all down and analyse the hell out of it. Over the last two weeks, I managed to get this down...” she gave Leetsi a tattered piece of parchment covered in annotated symbols and scribbled out theories.
“They're … they're Preyers?” she said, skimming through the notes.
“I believe so. Or at least, they live amongst the Preyers. And if theory 51 proves true, they are so integrated they think they are Preyers,” the seer said disinterestedly, tying a knot around her new wire and quickly muttering a chant. The wire glowed with a gentle sickly green and floated up to the ceiling, where after two soft popping sounds it was suspended. Little lime green sparks floated away from the wire before making a beeline straight back to the seer.
“You cannot be serious. I mean, these guys won't even-”
“First off, they will most likely be female.”
“Oh, for Jyntta's sake,” snapped Leetsi, pinching the bridge of her nose, her eyes squeezed shut. “The problem is I can't get them. It's like sending a mouse among the cats. Too dangerous.”
The seer stared at her sternly.
“So you will let the rest of the Realm burn just because you're a wimp. I see.”
Leetsi sighed heavily, letting out a great deal of frustration with it.
“Am I the only one who can do this?”
“You are the only one who cares.” Mrs Narwood crowed. “If you manage to get anyone else listening to me, then consider yourself free of this responsibility. But since I've been classified as completely mad by the authority, there's no chance. So how about you grow a backbone and face this, instead of hiding from what is inevitable?”
She turned away from the old lady, pulling her cloak back over her tightly. The Preyers were the very last thing Leetsi wanted to confront in her life. They looked like her. In fact, they looked similar to many of the creatures she'd met in her lifetime. But they were menaces, murderous and unapproachable if you had any sense in your head. No rational creature could trust them. With a half-hearted farewell, she stormed out of the door. The town was beginning to stir; a few were leaving their homes, ready to face the day. Offerings had been placed at the Shrine in Pinion Square already, and light was growing stronger by the second. She hurried through the streets, avoiding eye contact and all other types of contact too. No one heard her or saw her, and if they did, they didn't pay her any mind. Just another hooded figure rushing around. They couldn't hear her mumbled assurations to herself that everything would be all right and that it would all work out in the end. They couldn't see her face, lovely dark skin against odd blue eyes, features that would've given her away as a trusted town member. They wouldn't think twice about her swift steps down the road, her cloak swishing through the air. A cowled mysterious creature was no odd occurrence in Rookforde.
The tavern door croaked open and Leetsi strode in. Her hood was already off the second she got over the threshold before falling heavily into a booth and sinking into the not-particularly-plush seat.
“Miss Laidum,” greeted the barmaid, with a coquettish smile across her face. “I'll get you your drink and your sandwich. ”
Leetsi smiled weakly back at her, and watched her turn tail to make the usual. When it arrived, the napkin had a flirty note scrawled onto it and the imprint of some lipstick. She sipped quietly, watching the barmaid go about her early morning business, trying to determine whether she threw herself at everyone who went through the door or if she was a special case. If she was special, she was lucky indeed.
But her sapphic thoughts would have to wait. She spread the notes she'd been collecting across her table.

The floating mass pulsated with the shifting glow of unknown evil. It was like a great cloud, an almighty infernal storm about to rain not water but blood on the land. It was the very definition of ominous. Lysistrata was sick of it.
She stood ramrod straight at the crown of the mountain, looking over the surrounding villages and valleys. From this point almost everything was visible, the hamlets shrunk into little clusters of people and thatched roofs. She could feel incredibly powerful, but with Chrystosmus quite literally breathing down her neck behind her (or something akin to breathing), she had no chance of feeling any splendour or might.
“Which town needs erasing first, O Lysistrata?” it said. She rolled her eyes so far back into her head it hurt.
“I'm no master of strategy, O great and misty one.” she said with a legendary amount of contempt. “Perhaps you can ask assistance off of one of your many other lackeys.”
A deep rumble from within the whirling cloud signified a great deal of displeasure. Lysistrata growled back.
“What troubles you?” it grumbled.
“Your lack of deference toward me. Must I remind you that I am a Queen? The true Queen on the Realm?”
“Must I remind you that I am a god?” Chrystosmus shrieked, its voice becoming distorted in rage as tendrils of lightning flashed out from its form.
“And such a mighty god you are. So mighty you were forgotten within a century. If you want to invest any interest in your cosmic hissy-fit, you pay respect to me. I have a definite place in the consciousness of the people. You are a campfire story. I am a legend.” she spat. She dug her hooves into the ground, not even trembling.
“This lack of respect will not be tolerated.” The cloud circled her, completely enveloping the centaur. “I brought you back to life fully intact. I could just as easily make you a shambling corpse. Or take your life away completely.”
“Go on then. I wanted to kill myself. And I wanted to stay dead.”
The darkness parted and she strolled out. Luci had approached, his gleaming heaven-white form making welcome contrast to the void-black of Chrystosmus.
“I have assembled a strategy plan for you, Your Majesty.” he announced. “I hope you get a chance to review it.”
“Thank you, Luci. You have always been so kind to me. You are truly a great friend and ally.” Lysistrata smiled. Luci beamed at the compliment. “Now, my silken white friend, you are the most knowledgeable creature this side of the Realm, correct?”
“I have a great deal of information. Is there something you require?”
“Yes. Tell me, how long does it take for a god to die?”
Luci stared blankly up at Lysistrata.
“I'm sorry. I don't know. That question seems paradoxical.” Luci said, panicked.
Lysistrata looked behind her to the sulky dark fog that she was bound to.
“What a pity.”

Into her lungs went the smoke and tar, sucking in fumes. A polluted breath came gustily from her lips, and she gave a look of violence to a nearby teenager with intentions of asking for a fag. The adolescent withered slightly in her stare.
“Do you have a cig, babes? I ran out just and I’m dying for one.” they said anyways.
Nora did not reply.
“D’you speak English?”
“Yeah. I haven’t got any more. And you’re like 14. Wouldn’t give you one anyway. Bad for you.”
“I’m 16 actually?” came an incredulous voice , with a palatable mixture of anger and smugness.
“Doesn’t matter.I haven’t got any. Go bum one off someone else.” Nora replied disinterestedly, putting her own cigarette up to her lips again. The adolescent walked briskly off, muttering something under their breath.