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to the rhythm of the war drums

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She awoke to the sound of screams and gunfire. Light streamed past the boards blocking her windows (when did that happen?) but her alarm clock told her it was still well before dawn. Confused, she put on her dressing robe and headed downstairs.

Teatime was standing in front of the only unblocked window, awash in a warm orange light. He was smiling, one hand pressed against the glass. He hadn't noticed her.

“Teatime...” she said softly, tugging on his sleeve and trying to see around him.

He turned at that, smiling down at her as if nothing were amiss. “What are you doing up, Empress?” he asked. “You should be in bed.”

“Is something going on?” Every time she tried to see around him, he moved to block her view. “I heard screams...”

“It's nothing. Just some people causing mischief.” He tousled her hair gently. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Why are the windows closed up?”

“It was Lord Vetinari's idea.”

“And where is he?”

Teatime got a funny look on his face. “... Not here.”


“It's past your bedtime.” He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her around, leading her back to the stairs. “Go back to sleep. I have it all under control.”

Flames licked at the front porch. Men in thick white suits murdered people by the dozens. Clouds of poison smog choked anyone who managed to get away.

He sat down in an armchair and waited for the world to end.