Instead of asking me to wait, Venet’s two sentries bow smartly and lift the flap of the command tent. I find Isaac sitting at a desk busy making notes, and he stands up as soon as I enter.
“Ariane of the Nirari, a capital performance once again. It was a pleasure to see you at work.”
“Indeed! A spectacle the likes of which I never thought I would witness. The way you tore through their ranks and slaughtered their officer corps in an instant! And brandishing that head was such a nice touch.”
“Do not be embarrassed. Your actions broke our foe’s spirits and this is what we needed. Shock and awe, not good manners and subtle threats. The right tool in the right situation, applied in measure. I knew you were the right woman for the task. Now, I have a request, but I can tell that you do have something to say. Please, tell me.”
“I understand that we are to discuss terms tomorrow?”
“Indeed. Strand and his counterpart, colonel Ingram, will officially meet.”
“I would like to make sure that we share the same goals and the same bottom line.”
“Absolutely. How fortuitous, what I was about to ask is related. You see, I cannot attend tomorrow’s negotiations.”
“Venet estimates that there is a low chance that they will try to bombard our delegation on its way back, should no agreement be reached. I think this is silly, but I am already pushing it by being here. By a lot. I did mention it before, we are forbidden from participating in battles. I am going to be reprimanded on my return... In any case, with my absence, the leadership of the vampire faction falls upon you.”
Huh, I came here to make sure we got the Brotherhood off the old continent and to see how important I was, I did not expect to get such an immediate answer.
“You want me to be lead negotiator for our side?”
“I would advise you to let Strand and Ingram do things on their end. We care little about prisoners and other terms. Otherwise yes and why not? You have destroyed their installations over the last year, bought us time and gathered the auxiliaries that brought us victory tonight. I consider you a full partner in this endeavour, and what we care about is the key of Beriah being under the custody of the consortium.”
He frowns with a hint of worry.
“We do agree about that last part right?”
“I have no interest in becoming the guardian of an eldritch artefact, Isaac. Just make sure you don’t lose it this time.”
“Look at us, talking about that thing as if it were a ring of keys. In any case, you and Loth will be richly rewarded for your service. Just like every crime against us is recorded, we Rosenthal never forget those who helped us in our time of need. You already earned a significant monetary bonus and we will deposit the sum of five hundred francs on your account when the key is safely on its way to Geneva.”
“I don’t even know how much that is.”
Isaac leans forward as if he were about to deliver a juicy piece of gossip.
“Enough money to buy a mansion in the better part of Savannah...”
“I see what you’re doing.”
“I would hope so. Have you given any thought to my proposal?”
“Well... Yes. Tell me, can you really protect me from my status as Rogue? And from the Lancaster?”
“Absolutely. As one of our assets here you would not be a rogue, but an agent from a third party organization under the Accords. Until you claim House status and therefore become a free agent, you will be under our protection. Only the knights would be allowed to track you down and they won’t move unless you commit some serious offense, which, I must say, I cannot imagine you doing. Afterwards, the Lancaster will have a hard time proving that you are a danger when you have stayed in our employ for an extended period of time.”
“Very well. I would like a written agreement between us that clearly states our terms.”
“But of course! Of course, yes. We shall draft it on our way back to Savannah, if it is agreeable.”
“It is. I was also wondering if the beaches are still under surveillance?”
“Rest assured, I have men everywhere on the coast. They will not be able to land a search party without our cavalry detachment knowing about it. Now if you don’t mind, I would like us to work on the details for tomorrow’s ordeal. I have prepared a list of conditions that represent our bottom line...”
For the next hours, Isaac briefs then drills me on negotiation practices and what terms are acceptable. One thing is certain, Ascendency is leaving this land.
I step in Black Harbor village proper for the first time. Both armies mostly left the place alone and the inhabitants had been hiding. Now that rumours of peace abound, they leave their homes to watch us pass with curiosity.
This is not much different from Clarkson cove. The houses are made of wood and purely functional. The only adornments are glass trinkets or small decorations that hang about to give some personality to the otherwise dreary place. The inhabitants themselves have sullen tanned faces and mostly plain clothes. Colours are rare. So are young men. I assume that most of them are sailors in one capacity or another and that they left their children, sisters and parents at home. The assembled crowd is strangely silent. The presence of men in uniform is the likely cause for their nervosity.
At least nobody is throwing stones.
The delegation consists of Strand and a squad of ten men, Venet and two guards, Langdon and Colvert, a war chief named Okili for the native tribes, Dalton and myself. We each represent one of the factions on our side, with the two mages here as an additional safety.
Loth stayed behind to work with the cannons while Merritt was tasked to protect Isaac’s camp against possible infiltrators. She complained about it vocally too.
One of Strand’s men casts a fearful glance backwards. It appears that rumours have started to spread. Our eyes meet and he shudders, turns around and crosses himself. His companion snorts with disdain, so my nature is not yet widely recognized.
We soon arrive at the village’s rickety piers. The Ascendency delegation have chosen to mirror us, with a squad of soldiers in front and the Herald and his tower mage behind. The officer in charge is a short man in a powdered wig harbouring an air of anger and arrogance. He takes a deep breath before ordering his group forward.
The Herald is a surprise for me. He does not look furious as I expected but instead, sorrowful. His brown eyes are darkened by exhaustion though he wears a perfectly tailored ensemble in dark green that could be worn at the court of Queen Elizabeth. He shows me the thinnest smile, the kind that comes with grace in defeat.
“You came, vampire.”
Ingram turns to his charge in outrage. It appears that Ascendency leaders are at odds, which isn’t surprising when one considers the result of their campaign.
“You will let me have this conversation, then I will give you free rein to conduct the negotiations as you please.” retorts the man calmly
The Herald takes the time to study me. My own companions are obviously annoyed though they wisely decide to remain quiet.
“Such a pretty mask for such a dangerous thing. One would never think… And yet…”
“Have you come here to pontificate?”
“No, I wanted to say goodbye. Tell me, what of Belinda?”
“She died well.”
I am surprised that he shows so much regret at those words. I always assumed that those two were associates, but it appears that their relationship went deeper.
“I notice that you left your tower mage behind.”
“I did. I know that your kind never breaks their word. We are ever forced to dance around you with ruse and tricks while you take us down with your might. An Eternal Game, if you will. Tell me vampire, what do you know of the key of Beriah?”
The non sequitur surprises me though I try not to show it. What is his game? Even his allies consider him with worry. He should know that it is too late for that.
“If you are trying to bargain, know that…”
“No, I am not. We both know this is the end. Just… Indulge me?”
I see Dalton frown from the corner of my eye and pick up on his tension. I agree, it looks like he is up to something, and yet his pain, his sorrow, those are not fake. I am sure of it.
“It does not belong here.”
The Herald nods as if I were a student and he, a professor. The strangeness of the situation is starting to get to me. I just want this to be over with. I want him and his ilk to depart these lands and never return. I am not interested in a post-battle contest of wit, especially not with him.
“Yes, I assume that you saw the drawing of the box, but you did not read the scholarly work on it. I did. And in all of them, I found the same thing,” he lectures, “Cooperate, speak, receive, embrace. The same words, the same semantic field. I understood it then. The key is not just an artifact. It is… Alive. Just like your mysterious eye in the sky.”
“Yes. And the next step was obvious. If it is conscious, if it is eager to share, then it wants to be found.”
No. No no no no no move Ari MOVE! I need to kill him but… I should not. We are under the flag of truce!
And then it is too late.
From a recess in his vest, the Herald removes a curved blue spike that cannot possibly fit inside, and the item swallows me. Just like the Watcher, it captivates but this time I can feel something terrible within. This is the Key of Beriah, and he somehow found it first.
The construct is wrong. It should not be here. It should never have been brought… So many depths, so many curves, inward and outward ad infinitum. Is there an end? I feel like the deeper meanings caress my consciousness with the siren call of knowledge, power, anything I want, if only I would let it…
The man raises it. He should not. The Key does not belong. The man raises it, still, and with a primeval scream of anguish, the world shatters.
Impossible bonds curve up and down, but mostly out. They follow a shockwave that extends all over the village and where it hits, people scream. Their cries speak of pure agony, a pain so powerful and so intimate that it defies description. I scream too. The tendrils of power pull on my very essence and find no purchase, but they follow Dalton’s bond into my soul and the tug of war for my essence is horrific.
Pain, white hot, blinding.
Let me just die, please.
And then just as it had started, the scathing tendrils retract. Dalton, protected by me, stands before the Key master. He removes a pistol from its sheath and shoots the man in the heart.
The Herald takes a painful breath, and the shockwave stops, reverses.
All around us and deep into the houses, men, women, and children fall to the ground and stop moving. Filaments of the deepest blue emerge from the eldritch object and dig into the Herald’s body. He is lifted in the air by the mind defying vitality and power.
I cannot move. The pain has stolen my control away. No! I need to fight… I need to do it. I must help my Vassal. I must help Dalton. One finger. Move one BLOODY finger. Come on!
The horrible wound on my foe’s chest heals before my very eyes. Faster than anything I have ever seen, or known to be possible. This was an engraved silver bullet…
Dalton lifts his second gun with perfect calm. The world ending around us does not concern him.
He pulls the trigger.
The Herald’s forehead explodes and he falls back down spread-eagle. Need to take the artefact from him! Must move!
I want to tell him to run. Vassals should not have to defend their Mistress but I can’t. I watch powerlessly as the gaping hole on the Herald’s head closes itself, the missing brain matter already replaced by sparkling blue light. The influx of power is simply too massive.
He cannot hear me. Dalton sprints to the fallen man to wrestle the key away from it. Just as he closes in, the thing speaks. The nerve-wracking sounds pierce my ears as if a god were swearing against creation. Dalton claws his ears and falls forward. The monstrous form lifts a single hand.
I do the only thing I can think of. I take a deep breath and scream.
The Herald’s eyes are now burning with an otherworldly blue light. He is held aloft under some magical influence and blue bolts extend from his feet to the ground. The thunderous discharges dig deep furrows in the shore’s packed hearth. Each one is echoed by the miserable screams of the prostrate forms surrounding him. When he speaks, his voice is mirrored by another one, much deeper.
“I care not, vampire. I am a mortal man, not bound to... to...”
Yes! His face twists in rage, then in pain. The ocean of power around him peters out. It is still there, but he can no longer control it. He is a magical being now!
“You harlot! You think you are so smart.”
He smiles again. Gone is the refined gentleman. The thing looking back at me is no longer human. It bends forward and picks up something from the dying colonel by his side.
Oh no. No! Damn it Ariane MOVE!
“As you took from me, so shall I take from you.”
He calmly lines up his shot.
I finally manage to push myself up from the ground.
He pulls the trigger.
I know that sound well, the one of metal hitting flesh.
Dalton does not cry. He lets out a small yelp of pain and clutches his chest.
No. This is not happening. This is not happening at all. This is a nightmare. Some kind of prophetic dream. It can’t be real. And the people around us are rising, moaning, yelling, a choir of the damned.
I ignore the cackling form fleeing away from us, towards the forest. I crawl to Dalton. I can still save him. I can feel our bond. He is not dead. PROTECT THE VASSAL.
I am myself again, pick him up, kick and push the screaming mass trying to shed his blood, trying to reclaim the essence stolen from them to stop the maddening pain. I sprint away from Venet, Strand, Langdon, Colvert, the men who came here. I need to reach Loth. He’s a bloody doctor, with some magic. He can save him. Definitely.
I run and rush past children with their eyes gouged out, adults trying to rip their throats out with their own bare fingers. Those who smell follow with the fury of despair. I don’t have the time. Loth is up in the fortress.
It’s fine he is still alive, if I hurry I can make it.
Loth is a miracle worker.
No I can’t I must go on, I must LISTEN.
I stop and jump at the top of the town’s church, of all things.
Gently, I lay him on the wooden roof. He is so pale, and his brow is wet with perspiration. His familiar amber eyes are now feverish, clouded.
“You’ll be fine.”
I realize how stupid this is the moment the words cross my lips. He does not answer but his face turns tender, filled with sympathy, I don’t care about sympathy. Fuck sympathy I want him with me.
“No. No, you can’t . You just rest now and Loth will save you. He will. He’s a good, good surgeon.”
“Don’t leave me alone Dalton. Please don’t leave me alone. I don’t want to be alone again. Please.”
“No... Just stay a little longer and I will find a way...”
There is so much blood trailing down the stupid rafters of this stupid fucking church. Fucking useless piece of shit God.
“No shh rest, rest and we’ll go. Just don’t leave. Don’t leave. Please.”
“Send me off.”
Nononono. No. I... I MUST LISTEN.
Fighting every step of the way, I slowly bend forward, I gently cradle his head. I don’t want to, but I have to. For him. He asked. The ultimate freedom of choosing how to go. I MUST HONOR IT.
I cannot stop. He is in so much pain.
I bite his neck softly.
The punch sends me reeling. I don’t understand. It was just an honest question. How can he behave so much like a heathen? I want to remind him of the love we must spread but he punches again. His face is a mask of rage.
I block and try to argue.
The next punch almost knocks me down. He is trying to kill me. I’m hurt. I lash out.
Father recoils and holds his liver. I make a hammer with both of my fists and strike him down. He is insane!
When I look up, my family only shows fear and disgust.
“My son, you must repent.”
Repent? Have you not seen with your own eyes? This is unfair, so unfair. They are all mad! Hypocrites… I run to my room, take a backpack. I leave home.
The man with the crow feathers is charming and malevolent. He is the one I was warned against. A tool of the Devil.
“Can you shoot?”
“Then, you’re in.”
I want to see with my own eyes, this punishment, this life of sins they spoke of.
She killed big Bert with a single strike, without even looking back. So beautiful, my angel of death. The others are running. They are fools. The end is coming for us and this is our last chance to show some spine. She walks up to me, with those hands dripping with blood. Her nostrils flare in a gesture that seems human but is not. She stops. She will keep her word?
A monster who keeps her word.
I want to see.
Everything hurts. I think they’ve come to kill me. I failed my new companions, failed to bring them their arms. The cultist opens the door and takes out a knife. I wish I had been stronger.
He falls dead with a crack of bone and a twist of the neck. She is here. She came for me. She came. For me.
Eight fangs pierce my skin. I shudder in pleasure, then something is made. I can feel her. I can get a glimpse of her emotions. She accepted me, committed herself to this. I was chosen. This is the most beautiful day of my life.
The garden. Dusk’s sun colors everything a light red. She is sleeping. I can feel her below me, somewhere. She is even dreaming.
Loth inspects the target and turns, satisfied. There are three concentric circles on it, and only the center one is shredded by repeated impacts from the Wolf Slayer crossbow. The rest is immaculate.
I won’t disappoint her. I’m strong now. I can help us both, repay the debt. She and Loth will be proud. I am part of a family, a strange one but it feels right. I know who I am, what I do, and who I will fight for.
I am dying. My only regret is the suffering it will cause. I love you Ariane, I am sorry I must go first. Live and remember, Ariane. Live for us and remember. Forgive me...
The bond snaps. It recoils like an angry snake and returns to its one surviving tether. It will kill me on impact, of this I am sure. At this instant, I cannot bring myself to care.
A cloud of warm golden light stops the feedback. It slows down. Even then, the pain is so intense that I lose my mind. My talons dig in the thatch roof and tear it apart. My throat gets raw for screaming so much. Physical and mental agony wrack my body and my mind. Excruciating. Endless. I cannot sob, I cannot even look down.
Slowly, I crawl my hand back to my throat where I manage to close it. Anything to make it stop. Please just make it stop.
LIVE FOR US.
I can’t. It wasn’t meant to be. Not so soon. Not like this.
LIVE FOR US.
No. Yes. No.
My arm falls by my side and I abandon myself to the fire coursing my veins and my soul.
An eternity passes.
Eventually, the burning tide recedes. I am left shivering on the roof. My face is drenched with blackish blood trailing from my eyes, my nose, even my ears.
I feel empty. I am lightly choking. I breathe great gulps of air that do absolutely nothing.
Dalton lies next to me. I push him with my hand to wake him up. He doesn’t move. I push again and again and again.
“Enough with the joke. Wake up. It’s not funny.”
“Not funny at all.”
Have to breathe harder. It doesn’t work. Choking to death. And so Thirsty.
The feedback stops.
He’s dead. I already know he’s dead. I am just lying to myself like the sorry excuse of a failure I am.
Need to bring him back. I can’t leave him here. He’s family.
I take his body in my arms and jump down. There are moaning people around, searching with despair. My sudden arrival triggers something in them. They attack.
I kick the closest one and place the body on the steps of the church. Then I turn around, grab and bite. It’s weak, so weak. Barely any essence there. It takes me less than half a second to feed. No matter, there are others. They are condemned anyway. The next is an older woman with an embroidered cap. The next is a young boy with a scar across the nose. The next is an old sailor with teeth stained with tobacco. The next is a young girl with a scarf dyed red. And the next, and the next, until there are none. So Thirsty, and so tired. My chest hurts. I feel hollow. Above, there are war cries and the sounds of battle. That means people, people who can help me.
I pick him up and move through the twisted streets to another junction with more people. Every time I do so, I find a relatively clean surface and then Devour the meagre prize. Rinse and repeat. So little to take, but still better than nothing. The more time passes and the thicker the resistance is. Houses with their doors hanging open like tongues lolling from corpses. Moans. Somewhere, a fire. Smells of blood and offal.
I do not know how long it took but I am out, moving up a hill. There are more people than ever. I walk, stop, lower the body, stab and slice and feed then I do it again. At the edge of Isaac’s camp, the fighting is the thickest. I have to stop completely. Sometimes I have to move to fight them off even though I can no longer afford the energy expenditure. Thirsty, always Thirsty. Always choking. I breathe like the runner at Marathon for the illusory relief it provides. More people come, a mountain of them. A sea. I am going to be overwhelmed. I find a tree and climb up. Place him as if he were having a nap. His head keeps falling to the side. I drop down. I keep at the edge of the herd like a circling wolf. It is easier to Devour when the density is less. I thin the herd. Minutes turn to hours and still I slaughter them and still, they come. There is no more sanity in them. The pain has turned them all mad. I am cold and methodical and keep doing it because they are in the way and because they are lost.
They never broke. At some point, I raise my eyes from my latest victim and everyone is dead. It takes me a full minute to find the tree and recover its charge and then I walk to the line.
Venet’s men and Nashoba’s Warband have formed an impregnable fortress on a hill. A ring of corpses three men thick surrounds a small earthwork where the men stand side by side in unusual harmony. They are filthy, exhausted, and their gazes reflect a pain that will never leave them. No celebratory yells come with this victory.
Loth is in the middle. He spots me and raises a gauntlet, then sees everything and lowers it.
I walk up to him and the men part to let me through. I reach my friend and open my mouth but nothing comes out.
I don’t know what to say. Are there words? Is there even one language on this sorry rock that can adequately transcribe… This?
“Here, here lass, let me take him from ye… Let me take care of it. Ye…” he sobs “Ye go see Isaac aye? Tyr, not this again. Let’s go together. Come here lass. Come.”
Loth does not pull me. He slightly nudges and I follow. I pass wounded men and others bawling like children. Some are looking in the distance, lost in nightmares of their own. Merritt stands at the centre of a circle of power, unconscious. Blood slowly drips from her nose. Venet’s second is trying to bring some order around with a sonorous voice that wavers every four words.
We get in the command tent. Loth deposits him on a low table, by the side.
Isaac is here. His normally flawless composure is fractured by the ordeal he went through.
“Ariane, by the Watcher… I am so sorry.”
I listen to the words. I understand the meaning behind them but somehow, they don’t translate into anything I can use.
“And there is no time. Ariane, you must leave with me.”
I blink slowly, then start breathing again. I slowly clutch my chest, where it hurts the most. Isaac winces.
The vampire hesitates, then realizes that I will not be moved unless he manages to convince me.
“It’s… About your Master. He is back.”
Why does this even matter?
This time, Isaac is clearly surprised.
“I dreamt of it.”
It does not matter. This entire conversation is pointless. Behind me, Loth has brought water in a barrel. He is undressing and cleaning him. Sometimes, he stops to wipe a few silent tears.
“You dreamt of it?! When?”
“A few nights ago?”
“By the Watcher Ariane, this is… No, it could simply be Nirari himself. Who knows with one so strong? Still, Ariane, you must never share this. Dreams of the future are… Well, you must not speak of this so casually.”
“In any case, your Master has slain Wolfgang.”
“Wolfgang, the leader of the Knights on the American continent.”
I still don’t understand and do not really care to. There must be blood around here. So Thirsty.
“I just received the news by sending. His disciples are coming here looking for you.”
This doesn’t make sense to me.
“I am not sure, they may think that you helped him wake, or they could just assume you are a rogue. There could be many reasons and none of them good. It’s a Knight squad Ariane. You do not stand a chance. We must flee. I will take you back to Europe with me. We can protect you, I owe you that much.”
“No? Really? Why? Is this about the Key?”
I shiver. Of course, not you… Daft creature. This is not about ANY PITIFUL REMNANT. I MUST RETALIATE.
“Ariane, please, I beg you. This is your nature talking. I have no idea how much it must hurt but you cannot stay. The Knights will find you. They will kill you.”
“Please Ariane, please, think. You do not want to die. This is… Not what Vassals live for. They are here to keep us anchored, close to our living selves. He was here to better your life, not have you throw it away!”
“I will go.”
“Listen, someone who used the key is practically unstoppable. It would take a Lord!”
“It does not matter. There is a price to pay. Vassals are forbidden. They are not to be touched!”
He should not have taken that which is sacred. He should have left Dalton alive. You do not touch Vassals. Vassals are the binds, the souls, the living ones. They keep us centered, and safe. They remind us of rules and of others and of why we maintain that balance. They must remain inviolate, or the price is too high, for everyone. Now all of those Ascendency imbeciles, every last member of this pathetic rabble, none of them will see their home again. None of them will leave these shores, no matter the cost. There will be retribution. It has to be so. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. Not one may live. N̩o̠̙̺̝͞t ̀o̹̹͖n͚̟̯̳͚̗ͅe̴͕̮͖ ̬m͈̯͇̻͚͈a̼̼̗͜y͔͉̯͚̣͝ͅͅ ̸̝̰͓͓̤͚̮ļ̦i͈̺̮̘̤̤͝ͅv̴͓͈̥̰e͎̙̰̥̫̙.͠ ̱̪͙̣́N̡̻͍o̹̪̯̮͔̯̭̕ṱ̢̣͍̗̮͓̩ ̢̪o̜̗͍̠͟ṋe͖͇̤̞̩ͅ ̛̰m̩̣̝͎̖a̬͖͈̖y͚̟̮͉͎͡ͅ ͔͈̳̘̩͜l̞̰͍͍̻̹͚͟i̤͉v̵͈̰̭̟̺̞e̳̘. ̣̤N̫̥̰̣͙̞͢oͅt͕͓̤̬̱̗̫ ͈̘͈͔̕o̡͖̤̪͎n̮e̵̼͚̤̱̤ͅ ̡̳̦̝̞̝m͍̺̣̖̱̀ͅa͢y̶͖̫̼̫ ̮̹͇l̨̳̮͇̭i̜͇v̸͙̬̼̗e̻̘̻͖.̰͟ ̼̣̱͘ͅN͓̞̟̺̠͈ot҉̗͔͖̜̙̼͈ ͙o̦n̼̲͙ḛ ̳͉̥̩m͚͚̙ͅa͖̹y̘͔͓̖̖̞ ̶l̜̦̠i̱͈͔̖͜v̱͖é͈.͍̘̩͡ ͇̟͖̠̫N̞̱̱̭̖̕o̹̦͎͝t͍̮͖͕͍͡ ̪ó̭͚͙n̴e ̛̻͈͚̲̱̯ṃ̛̖̳̠̙̠̥a̤͇̬y̢ ͙̯̳͎͟l̜͚i̯̣͇̩̮͉͠v̳̦̹͇̜e͜.̴̥͎ ̰͎̜͚N̕o͚̭̪̰͙̹̣t͖̼̘́ ̸͖͔̲̺̹̤ͅo̬̞̟n҉̩̥e̲͇̝̭̮̥ͅ ̫̝͕m̦͇̯̲̘a̶̲y͘ ͓͍͈̙l̼̹͓͠i̟̙̭̠͝v͓̻e͎̝͙̘̮͘ͅ.̥ ͔̼͡N̵̡̛̞̙̳o̧̰̪̖̫̩̯t̖͈̫̩̰͕̺͉ ̸̢̛̖̜̪̱͚̳o҉̙̠̲n̘̲e̴͔̺͖͚̮̤ ͕̤̮̤̭͝m͖͚͇͜á̷̡̝͕̣̱͙͖̻ý̷͉̳͍̙͈̬̱͟ ͎̹̠̮̦̮̠͚͘l͡҉̩̝i̥̮̣͠v̴̤̟̯̣̜̭̗͈͘ͅe̲͘.̻̝̼̮̣͙͠͝ ̶̢̠N̼͈͓͉͍͍̺o̹͉̤̦͎̖̭t͇̹̩͎̪ͅ ̼͖͇̣͔̮͚̲̕͜͝ò͓̝͖̟͖̘͙͠͠ͅn̩͖̙͙͔͘e͕̞̞̘̪͖̻ͅ ̴̬͖̰̤͉̮m͚̟ḁ̹̦̜ͅͅy̸̼͉̭̱̖̖̠̖ ̭̗͍̩́l̸̛͈̺͈̭̼̟i̻̳͇͡v̗͙͙̬̱͘͢͠e̢̡͇͙͔̦͔͜.͕̭͈͘ ̲̼͉͓̙̘N̵̢̼͔̠̖̫̼͢ͅo̧̮̬͘t̀̕҉̠̣̳̜̠ ͖͔̟ò̡̬̟͈̙͖̥̘͢n̞̤̮͇̘͝e̡͍̻̝͔͝ ̵̢̹͓̦̪̼͞ͅm̤̖ͅa̴̢͙̩̰̼͖͔͉̻̞͡y̡̛͔͖̜ ͙l͏̵̼͠i̸͔͙v̸̰̝̺̦̲̯̘͍̝͜e̶͏̲͔͚͙͔͙̞̻̩.̝͚̙̞̣͚̱ ̬͈͉̤͡Ṉ̢̳̪̞̪̀o̭͞t̫͠ ̠̬͔̯̬̺̘͟ó̡̲͔̜n͈̞͚̖̲͚̕͞e̢͏͚͈̪̰̫̦̜͟ͅ ̤̱̟̜͉̱̻m̬̟̤̮a̞̝͙͉͞y͚̱͚̖ͅ ̴̶̙͓̠̱̺̦̗͝ĺ͎͓͜͠į̺̭̖v͇͕͔̲̩̯̲̮̀̕e̹̰̼̝.̕҉̠̦͓̼̠̥ ̧̜̖̬̥N̷̲̦̘̤͖̞͔o̧͎̮̹̮̠̻͕t̸̟̘̺͙͟͢ͅ ̧̗̠̪̜̺̩̠̫͝͞o̬͙̬̪̞̺̫n̡͉̣͔͚é̬̯̙ ̸̳̠̪̦̜̙̣͎m̮̦̳͓̠̕͜a̵̴͎̼͡y̨̭̠̟̞ͅ ̗̖̲̠̯̣̱̯́l̸̸̘̱̙̥͡ͅi͏̩̯̰̪̲͕͎̪v͚̩̬̩͕͕̟͈ͅe̢̟.̗̭̝ ͈͉͔̖͓͢N̗͔̳͍͈̱o҉͉̥͉̠t͚̪̦͔ ͔͍͎͚̭̪ͅͅo̜̻͍͍̠͕̣̺ń̪͔̩͕̳͜e̩̘͇̭̳͍̯͎ͅ ̡̗̣̟m̟͈̞͘͢͞ͅa͇͙͝y̛̹̤ ̹̙̩͟l͈̗̳͉̘͞i̶̳̹̤̲͉̺̰v̧̢̛̙̞̼e̕͏̳͕̜̱ͅ.̴̷̧̮͔̫͚̯̰͎͔ ̶̢̜̪̹̭̰̟͝N̮͎̤͟o̖͔̼̼̯̜t̶̩̱̗͈͖̗͘͜ ̶̟̖͡ơ̶͉͍̰̘n͟҉̥͓̼̙̮̬̗̀e̲̗̘͚͙̥͙ ͏̫̞̣̮̬̙̲͠m͕͖̥̲̣a̸̫̞̣͉͢͜y̰̣̝͚̙̝͉̭ ͕͇̲l̥͔̳̤̗ͅi̧̻̙̝̗͎̬̬̮v̼̀̀e̖.̶҉̵͕̬ͅ N͏҉̪̻͖̮͓͇̣̹̖͙̬̗͙̞̬ò̴̸̧͉̰̲͕͍̤̼͇̫̱̙͟t̶̼̗͇͈͖̗̳͍̥͓͟ ̧̨͇̙̹̣̹͈̰͎̥̗̗̣̺̥͘͟ͅo̧̫͕̳͉͚̪̘͉̼ǹ̵̩͈̬̫̳͡ḙ̶̥̻͎͇̼̩̲̖̞͍̭̘͖͎̝̪̻͖͘͟͞ ̸̢̛̰̱̫̤͜m̧̦͉̦͔̭̹͇͖̪̻̦̹̭̖̺̞̤͟a̢͉̣͓͎̪͇͚̰͉͈̞͈̬͕̘͡͡y͏̥̞̺͎͎̳͚̻̼̫͕̙̫͓̻̗̣́ ͏̢͈̣̘̳̤̦̳͎͍̻͖͚͉̙̬̤̫̟̞̕͡l̶̶͕̖̩̱͙̰̜͎̣̦͍͖̪͓̹͘ͅi̸̫͓̪͉͡ṿ̠̩͈̹̕͝ẹ̵̱͚̼̜͍̩͈̬̮̫̫̫́ͅ.̡̟̞̣̟̺̫̱̮̥̝̠͇́̀͝ ̵̰̦̞̝̬̼̙̕͜͜N̵̛͕͍͖̬͚̞͘͜o̴̷̧͖̹̱͚̝͇̦̣̮͍̺͙̥̥̯̲͘͞ͅt̷̲̞̬̹̤̯͍̦̼̘̙͕́̀͘ ̵̷̮̦̩̻̹̀o̧̨̲̟̹̗̮͉̹̗͟͝n͏̞̮͉͙͍̘̮͍͉̬é̵̙̩͢ͅ ̧̡̱̝̜̜͎͔̥̲͈̲̘̦̭̝̠͚̤m̧̢̧̢̝͎͎͔̳̜̙̞̫̤͇͈͢ͅͅa̵͏̤̫͓͔̬̭̱̩̤ý̷̻͈͍͎̠͔̯̱̰̬͙̘̮͖̖̮̗̟́͟ ͘҉͘҉̖̖͉̹͖͍̞͕̫̖̼̠͎͎̣̮̙̟͎ļ̷̶̞̞͈̫͍͈̫̩i̴͓̹̖̲̯̞͙̦̺̙̺̯̞̼̰͕͉͎͘v͈͙̤̫̬͖̪̝̱̕͠e̴̵͈̼̞̱̠̞͎͉̭̝͚̞̳̮͎̱͙̬͘͡ͅ.̯͍̲̤͖͙̟͚̻͢͝ͅ