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Author Topic: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)  (Read 578 times)

The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« on: July 05, 2020, 10:17:44 PM »
Summer 846

 It was all she could do to keep herself standing at attention, to keep her body from trembling. She knew the moment she tried to speak, to say a word, to do anything other than nod at the Instructor... Her wall, her composure would shatter and collapse. The news was crippling, soul destroying and... No she was not going to break down here, not with so many other cadets around to watch, to see it. She would not let them see her broken, humbled by a cruel and entirely unexpected blow. They were supposed to be safe, they were supposed to be protected.

She managed a stiff salute after the instructor handed her the letter. But Sylvia did not immediate open it, instead she turned and bolted, sprinting away from the barracks, away from the others with their questioning stares. She ran till she found a relatively secluded spot, a shelter dip in the ground, trees and bushes provided some concealment from others, a gently babbling brook served to momentarily focus her attention. Sylvia felt her vision swam as the true horror of it all overcame her. It took her a long while to realise she had fallen to her knees, tears streaking down her cheeks as she let loose a long agonised howl of grief. This choir of despair, this yowl of mourning was unlike any sound anyone ever heard escape from Sylvia before, it seemed unnatural, almost terrifying in it's own right.

With that done, clutching the letter to her chest, she curled herself up into a small ball and sobbed uncontrollably. Alone she could allow herself the luxury of such a breakdown, such a total collapse of her character. Sylvia's grief and despair threatened to drown her in it's tides. Her whole world had changed suddenly... They were gone, never to exist any more, only in her memories and in her heart.

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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2020, 09:01:34 PM »
Killing time wasn’t something Annie particularly enjoyed. 

Sitting on the steps near the dormitories, she leaned casually back on her hands, legs stretched out before her, almost giving the impression she was waiting on someone.  Really, she was entirely alone, and not expecting company.  Cadets milled around during this break between classes, some acknowledging her as they passed, others finding it easier to keep their eyes averted away from the stern, unfriendly girl.  Either way, Annie was able to catch snippets of conversation.  Nothing exciting, nothing interesting, just the usual muttered concerns over assignments and sweethearts and Titans.

Boredom was beginning to gnaw when an instructor snagged her attention.  Eyes, glacial and cold on a day that was bright and hot, followed the officer.  They were looking for someone in particular, judging by the way they moved with purpose, their gaze drifting from cadet to cadet.  Then they found who they were looking for.

Sylvia Charpentier.

Interesting.

Annie tilted her head, blonde hair shifting across her face.  Sylvia was a wealthy, kind-hearted and clever noble girl, one of the few Annie felt she knew in any meaningful way.  She sat up, resting her elbows on her knees, chin propped in her hands.  Watchful now, without being obvious.  Sylvia was standing to attention, but from across the yard even Annie could see her face was dangerously blank. The instructor’s lips were moving, their head bowed low.  Only bad news could be delivered so soberly, and her classmate wasn’t the sort to fail a class or get into trouble.  A letter passed between them, a clipped salute signalling the end of their exchange.

Other cadets were watching now, whispering to one another, shielding their eyes against the sun as Sylvia fled, sprinting away into the shrubland that bordered the training grounds.  Annie rose with a sniff, stuffed her hands in her pockets and followed at a considerably more leisurely pace.  It pissed her off, in a distant sort of way, that nobody else felt compelled to check on the obviously distressed girl.  And to think she was the monster.

Somewhere amongst the greenery, Sylvia was crying.  Annie heard her before she saw her, ears greeted by the anguished cry of one completely bereft.  The sound reminded her sorely of the misery and grief that permeated the refugee camp she, Bertholdt and Reiner had stayed in after bringing down Wall Maria.  A quick scout of the area turned up the chestnut-haired girl.  She was curled up, sobbing, as though crushed by the weight of the world.

Shit.

‌“Sylvia, hey,” Annie said by way of greeting, a note of genuine concern in her normally impassive voice.  She knelt on the ground beside the girl and, after a moment of hesitation, laid a hand awkwardly on the cadet’s back.  Comfort did not come naturally to one who was all razor sharp edges.  ‌“What’s happened?”
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2020, 09:27:02 PM »
 Sylvia had not known how long she lay there on the damp ground, curled up and drowning in the depths of her private misery. The world was dark for her too now, finally filled with the terror and despair that effected everyone else. The world as she knew it had fallen apart. Sobbing, it took her a precious few seconds to realise that someone was speaking to her. The voice was familiar, but distant to her grief addled mind. It sounded almost like... Annie.

The sudden realisation was enough to get Sylvia to sit up, she wiped at her red eyes, trying to clear away the tears that marred her cheeks. She felt a hand on her back, warm and comforting, alive.
She struggled to control herself, desperate to stop herself from trembling. "Hi... Annie." Sylvia managed to croak out, trying to pull herself together, to bring her emotions, her grief under control. But it was too much, too much, there was only a bitter emptiness, an endless pit of despair.

She fell silent for a long time, not because she didn't want to speak. Nay, every time she attempted to speak, her vocal cords prevented her from speaking, from giving voice to the words, as if by speaking them it would make it all true.
"I... I.." She began, not caring that her tears continued to flow down her cheeks. "Annie... My friend... It... It's my... Parents." She glanced down at the letter in her trembling hands. "I... They are... Dead... Th... I have... The will."

There, she gave voice to the most dark and terrible of truths.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 02:15:32 PM by Sylvia Charpentier »
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2020, 10:56:45 PM »
Hi… Annie.

Well, that was a start.

But then came a long stretch of silence, the girl trembling and shaking beneath her hand.  There was a sound like static in Annie’s ears, as she struggled to process what she was seeing and what - if anything - the sight of Sylvia’s suffering stirred in her.  What could she do?  Was it even possible to help?  At a loss, thinking only of what a much smaller, younger and even more lonely and wounded Annie might have herself longed for, the blonde began to rub her hand against her comrade’s back, palm skimming lightly along Sylvia’s Cadet Corps jacket, smoothing over the symbol of crossed swords.

‌“Take your time,” she murmured.  ‌“Just… breathe.” 

The chestnut-haired girl was strangled with grief, scarcely able to speak.  Indeed, it took some time before she was able to formulate anything close to a sentence.

Annie… My friend… It… It’s my… Parents.  I… They are… Dead… Th… I have… The will.

Annie’s wintry eyes widened.  Secondary though it was to the more pressing and devastating revelation, the fact that Sylvia had referred to her as a friend was not lost on the blonde.  She didn’t have friends - not in Liberio, not in Paradis - or so she wanted to believe.  It was easier to pretend her world was separated only into allies, enemies and neutral parties.  And whatever Bertholdt was to her.  Something.  Someone.  But if Sylvia meant nothing, why was she kneeling on the damp ground beside her, wishing she could alleviate her pain?

‌“You’re… certain?”  Annie swallowed, her gaze darting to the letter clutched in Sylvia’s hand.  All the while, her pale hand moved slowly, ceaselessly.  ‌“Did they tell you what happened?”
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2020, 07:35:51 AM »
 Sylvia felt a warm hand on her back, the action was comforting, soothing, relaxing. The simple and mere joy of another human being, pain and loss, love and joy, these were emotions that proved they were alive. It was what it meant to be human. She nodded slowly at Annie's words, after a few moments she managed to speak. "Thank you." Sylvia said in a quiet and broken voice. It was taking most of her strength to speak, to maintain some manner of control. She knew that she needed to be calm, however logic and reason could be dammed in the face of her overwhelming grief and loss.

Besides though she could never justify such a break down, such a collapse of her character in public, surrounded by others. Though with Annie here, it was okay, she needed a friend. Somehow she believed it would be worse to deal with this alone. Pain demanded to be felt.

The petite girl nodded slowly, her voice strangled by her personal and all consuming grief. She was certain, she knew in her heart that this was the unfortunate truth. "Yes..." Sylvia managed to say, in spite of her grief and sorrow. "Carriage accident..." Sylvia croaked out. "They said my father died instantly... My mother..." Her voice broke out and failed her a few moments later. "She... She lived long enough to write me back into the will." Sylvia swallowed, feeling her tears fall. She wiped them away and managed to look at Annie, she was really glad that she happened to be here with her.

With shaking hands, Sylvia managed to open the letter and pull out a considerably lengthy and weighty document. Her eyes widened as she read. "Bloody..." She half swore at the figure she read. "I... I have... She left me everything..." Sylvia jaw dropped for a few seconds, clearly stunned. "Bloody hell... I... That's a lot of money." She managed to swallow and showed the will to Annie. "I... I am reading that right, right?"



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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2020, 11:02:04 PM »
Carriage accident.

So mundane a death, but no less devastating in its finality.  For a brief instant, Annie’s mind conjured the image of an overturned carriage, one broad wheel spinning idly, blood splattered on velvet, the sound of a horse in its death throes.  Death came for everyone, peasant and noble alike.  Not even the Charpentiers were immune.  It made the blonde cadet wonder about her own father, waiting for her back in Marley.  Mr. Leonhardt was crippled, thanks to her, but other than his lame leg he remained hale.  Or at least he had been, the last she saw him.

‌“I’m sorry…”

Annie kept rubbing Sylvia’s back - whether it helped or not, she wasn’t sure - politely averting her gaze as the girl opened the letter.  From the corner of her eye, she was aware of a sea of text.  It was in keeping with her understanding of noble, learned folk.  They always seemed to enjoy a certain degree of ceremony and flair, even in dying.

Sylvia sounded surprised, as though she had not been aware of the immensity of her family’s fortune.  When invited to look at the document, Annie hesitated, then hooked blonde hair behind her ear as she examined the will.  It was so long, listing out various properties, notable items, monetary wealth, orchards, vineyards, livestock, land…   

Blue eyes narrowed as she finally found the sum total, then blinked in surprise.

‌“Certainly seems so,” Annie answered, sounding calm and collected despite the staggering figure.  ‌“I give it five days before you receive your first marriage proposal,” she added in a dark murmur.  ‌“Men are drawn to heiresses like hounds to blood.”  The Charpentiers had to be amongst the wealthiest of the wealthy.  Sylvia had to be amongst the wealthiest of the wealthy.  It was only a matter of time until suitors, potential business partners and the like began rapping at her door, arriving like a wake of vultures, ready to pick clean the bones of the fallen.  ‌“What happens next?  Will you retire from the military?” « Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 11:14:58 PM by Annie Leonhardt »
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2020, 06:43:05 AM »
 She managed a weak nod and said in a quiet voice. "Me too... I am glad you are here." Sylvia found herself unable to speak the rest of the words though, that she would hate to go through all this alone.
Annie's action in rubbing her back was soothing, it was warm, she wanted to lean against her and just try to forget reality. At least for a little while, but there could be no escaping the truth, the fact that her family now numbered her and her alone. It seemed even being in Sina was no guarantee of safety, death could strike swiftly and unexpectedly. Perhaps if she had never been conscripted in the first place, she too might be lying injured or worse dead with them.

Annie seemed to be a lot calmer than Sylvia about it. Maybe inside she happened to be excited, elated... But maintained her outward calm for Sylvia's sake. Slowly she had begun to calm down somewhat herself, the tears no longer fell. However her eyes were red and puffy from the crying.
"I hope your joking." Sylvia said horrified of the idea of someone proposing to her. Yet Annie swept on leaving her no choice but to nod in grim agreement. "You... You are probably right... Though... I don't know if I want to marry anyone, especially if I knew they only wanted my money." She flipped through a few more pages, skim reading but it was the usual stuff and details in such a document. "I... I suppose if I had to pick someone to marry I'd like someone like Reiner." Sylvia's cheeks flushed at the confession. "He is strong and brave, he works with everyone..." She sighed and offered the will to Annie if she wanted to give it a read through, Sylvia found herself unable or maybe unwilling to read it any further. "That's what I'd like them to be like."

At Annie's question, Sylvia shook her head. "No, they offered me the chance to but I said no." She could not think of anything worse than returning to that empty home, to be surrounded by the trappings of wealth and hounded by gold hungry suitors. "Do you think some of the cadets might try it? After all they know I'm a rich girl from Sina... The last name give that away. Now sole heiress to a kingdom of gold." She chuckled grimly. "My father would have gone nuts if I married someone from Wall Maria... Good old classism hey..." She let out a long sad sigh, she was clearly worn out from her emotional outburst. "Sorry for burdening you with my troubles Annie..." She said quietly as if she was afraid of being overhead or saying another embarrassing comment. "I... I have been given a few days leave to go home and get any affairs I need in order. They have also said I can bring a couple of friends with me... Partly for security, partly for company I think... I..." She seemed to be skirting round the question, rather than simply saying. "I mean feel free to say no but would you like to come with me? Since you want to join the Police Regiment you get to see bits of the interior as well as my home." She did not know who else might want to come, but it felt right to offer Annie the chance. « Last Edit: July 15, 2020, 06:49:33 AM by Sylvia Charpentier »
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2020, 09:32:04 AM »
How dire things must be, for her meagre company to be a balm, for Sylvia to count on a soulless, empty girl as a friend.  Yet Annie realised she must be doing something right, however small, as tears had stopped flowing for the time being.  Perhaps the mention of marriage had provided a solid distraction. 

The revelation came as a genuine surprise.  Sylvia was interested in Reiner?  It was all Annie could do to not make a face.  ‌“Reiner is - his heart is in the right place,” she murmured, knowing that much to be true.  ‌“He’s the ideal soldier.”  The sort of person the other cadets looked up to.  Strong and brave, as Sylvia said, honourable and dependable too.  Annie hated that, resenting that as he opened up more to the Paradisians, the more closed off and distracted he seemed to be around her and Bertholdt.  She would have to tell him about Sylvia’s feelings, she supposed, even though it felt like a betrayal of her trust, even though it might sink Reiner deeper into his soldier persona.

Sylvia handed her the document, and Annie skimmed through it.  It seemed straightforward enough, and no underhand clauses jumped out at her.  Carefully she folded it and held it in the hand that wasn’t resting on Sylvia’s back.  Thrusting it back into the grieving girl’s grasp might remind her of her loss.

Soon enough, the cadets would know of her situation.  ‌“They might,” Annie conceded.  ‌“They won’t hear about what’s happened from me, but my guess is your family’s tragedy will make the papers.”  How horrible it must be, for even the most personal aspects of one’s life to be public property.  ‌“If anyone bothers you, tell me and I’ll sort it.”  A scowl from mean-faced Annie Leonhardt was often enough to chill the blood.

The apology was unnecessary.  ‌“Don’t be sorry,” the blonde cadet insisted, with a faint shake of her head.  Sylvia reminded her a little of Bertholdt in that respect, ever apologetic, never wanting to inconvenience or impose on anyone.

What followed was a promising development.  An invitation to Wall Sina, to visit the Charpentier estate.  A chance to avoid classes, and spend time with one of the few people who didn’t grate on her.  ‌“Sure, I’ll come with you, Sylvia,” Annie answered softly, agreeably.  ‌“Whatever you need.  I’ll… help as best I can.”  Although she meant it, she couldn’t help but feel she was being manipulative.  After all, her thoughts already strayed to what she might learn within the Interior, whether this would be a step closer to identifying the Coordinate, to going home.  Perhaps she would attend the funeral, following in Sylvia’s shadow, where there were sure to be influential individuals present.

A pause then, her palm still circling gently on Sylvia’s back.  ‌“Shall we go back to the dorms?” Annie asked quietly.  ‌“I’ll stay with you, if you want.”  What they would do then, she wasn’t sure; caring didn’t come naturally to her.  Maybe she could bring Sylvia some tea, and tuck her into her bed.  Comfort wasn’t a cure for grief, but it might help. « Last Edit: August 11, 2020, 12:14:15 AM by Annie Leonhardt »
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2020, 10:00:14 AM »
 Annie was right, Reiner's heart was in the right place and he did happened to be the ideal soldier, strong, swift, brave. There were few cadets as good as him, with soldiers like him and Annie, the Titans would not stand much of a chance when it came to battle. "He is." She said in agreement, not that Sylvia had ever spoken to him properly. What Sylvia knew about him came from seeing him in action, how he interacted with the other cadets. In her wounded heart however, the last thing Sylvia wished was to marry anyone, at least not yet. It felt wrong to her, after such a tragedy, yet deep down she knew Annie happened to be right, there would be those eager to secure her fortune, people after her just for her money.

She listened quietly to Annie's words, seeming to slowly recover her composure. "Thank you Annie... I... I think you are right about it making the papers..." Sylvia looked at her friend. "Thank you, just don't scare them too much... We still need them to finish training." She chuckled weakly at her comment, though she felt sorry for anyone who managed to earn the ire of Annie. "Thank you." Sylvia replied when Annie told her not to be sorry.

She was delighted when Annie declared she would come. It did much to lift her grieving heart. "Thank you Annie, I really appreciate it... I owe you one." She would be able to point out to her friend all the interesting sites of Sina. Not to mention, there would be the delights of proper food, meat, vegetables, fruits, desserts all served by her family's famous chef. Hot water, comfortable feather beds, no one snoring to keep them awake at night. "You would like Philippe's cooking." Sylvia added. "He's the head chef we... I mean I have now... You would love what he can do with a joint of beef or his lamb chops with plumps." It would be a shock to return to home as head of family, business owner, heiress, grieving daughter and military cadet. She felt better to talk about what Annie might be able to expect though. "But there is more than just food, hot water for baths, comfortable goose feather beds... No one snoring for once." She chuckled wearily to herself, seemingly more tired than upset now, perhaps exhausted by grief or maybe feeling comforted by the fact she was here with a friend.

She considered the question. "Yeah... I think I am ready to go back." She could not hide forever from facing the music as it were. "I... I would love the company, if you... Well if you are not busy of course... I'd hate to impose on any of your own plans." Sylvia offered Annie a warm, relieved smile. "I did mean it when I said I owe you one Annie... If you ever need anything, anything at all just let me know and if it is my power to grant I will... A Charpentier always pays their debts."
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2020, 01:00:02 AM »
Gratitude poured out of Sylvia, and Annie wasn’t entirely sure what she had done to deserve it.  The weak chuckle that escaped the girl’s lips was a positive sign at least, an indication that she was working through her pain, becoming more grounded.  It would likely prove a temporary improvement, given that grief had a tendency to come in devastating waves.  This cadet didn’t owe her anything yet Annie made a conscious decision not to correct her.  A debt, even an imagined one, might benefit her in future.

A chef?  A head chef?  It was such an obvious detail, yet something that had escaped her attention until then.  Annie blinked, her mouth almost watering at the mere thought of lamb chops served with plums.  She couldn’t recall the last time she had eaten meat that wasn’t as tough as leather and an unappetising shade of grey, mixed sparingly into the watery stew they served cadets.   Of course the Charpentiers had a legion of servants at their beck and call, as well as all the other luxuries immense wealth could provide.  So focused had she been on the opportunity to gather intel, she had overlooked the pleasures this jaunt into Wall Sina would bring.

‌“I’ve… always dreamed of having a house with a bathtub,” Annie murmured, her voice low and thoughtful.  Then, as though only realising she had spoken aloud, she shrugged.  ‌“It sounds like bliss.”

I… I would love the company, if you… Well if you are not busy of course… I’d hate to impose on any of your own plans.

Sylvia looked exhausted, even as she offered a warm, grateful smile.  Annie returned it with one of her own, small and fleeting and rare.  It was far more than most people got.  ‌“That’s good of you,” she murmured after mention of a debt was made again, along with a promise to repay.  It seemed unlikely Sylvia would forget today, and that was saddening.  Manipulating genuine, kind-hearted people was the worst part of the objective in many ways.  Rising to her feet, she offered Sylvia her hand. 

‌“I really am sorry about your parents,” Annie affirmed quietly.  ‌“It’s not the same, but my mother died not long after I was born…”  That was true, but while Sylvia would surely imagine a woman languishing and dying in her bloodstained birthing bed, the reality was she had likely been hanged for her relationship with an Eldian man.  A union so revolting and abhorrent to Marleyans that it carried with it the price of death.  Annie thought of Bertholdt then, who was as Eldian as they came, who was intelligent, brave, kind and a million other wonderful things.  He was so much more than the blood that ran in his veins, and so much more than the atrocities he - they - had committed. ‌“Parents are… they’re a cornerstone of a person’s life,” Annie added.  She had suffered in the absence of a mother, she realised, and in the absence of a normal, loving father.  ‌“But you are going to be okay, Sylvia.”  At least until the Walls fell and Titans claimed Paradis.  At least until the Marleyan military rolled in, and consumed every available resource. 

Annie suddenly felt sick.
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Re: The cost of wealth (Annie) (M)
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2020, 10:15:42 AM »
 Sylvia looked momentarily started before she realised that Annie would not have had access to the same standard of living as herself. Even after all this time the rich girl from Wall Sina was still learning how the majority lived. Not in comfort like she, but from hand to mouth, eating what they could and striving to survive. She on the other hand, never wanted for anything, they always had food, perhaps too much of it, nothing was out of reach, meat was a staple and not a rarity. "It is..." She replied quietly, ordinarily she would have felt embarrassed given her own slip up about how wealthy she was. Yet given recent events, she lacked the energy to feel so. She was rich and that was simply a fact, there could be no hiding or avoiding the fact that she came from the elite, that her life and upbringing was far easier than many of her fellow cadets.

She nodded slowly before shrugging. It was how she had been raised, debts were repaid, usually with money rather than anything physical. But now she possessed a vast fortune, her debts could be repaid in whatever manner she felt like. Having never expected to find herself as the heiress to everything, Sylvia was at a loss for what to do with her new wealth. If she desired, she could probably buy her way out of the military along with whoever else sought a way to escape. Yet Sylvia would not do that. Home was gone, there was nothing worse than returning to a massive and empty house alone.

"Thank you Annie... I'm sorry about your mother." She murmured quietly, deciding against prying as to just how it happened. Sylvia knew if Annie wanted to tell her the nature and manner of the death, she would. Misery and grief it appeared seemed to love company. She was now the last of her line, the sole Charpentier in the world. It weighed upon her shoulders, she wanted to feel like she earned her place in society, rather than merely being placed a top it all by pure fortune of birth. "I don't know what my father was planning to do with all that money..." She said softly, thinking aloud more than anything. "The problem when you have money is you always want more even when you have far more than you need already." It had been an eye opening experience, hearing stories from the other cadets, of their homes and lives. Despite her attempts to not come off as the rich girl, Sylvia wondered if all this time she was and still acted like the rich girl from Sina. The thought depressed her in spite of her considerable grief.

She was silent for a long moment. "Now I am without foundations, armed with gold... I am poorer for it." She shook her head slowly. "I don't know Annie. The world is coming apart... Titans breached one Wall already, what is stopping them from doing the same to the other two? What if we are the only humans left after all and my theory of other survivors is just that?" Sylvia looked at her friend, eyes filled with despair. Sylvia normally so confident of human victory, Sylvia normally calm in the face of a crisis... Sylvia was scared, she was smart enough to see what the writing on the wall was and kept it to herself. "The Titans will show us no mercy and sooner or later we will run out of places to fall back to." What then? Where could the humans go that their enemies would not follow? The sky? They lacked the technology, the water? The lakes, rivers and canals were no deterrent to the Titan. Underground then? How long would it be till they were dug out of their holes like a cornered prey beast?

Checkmate. All was lost. 
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