Zalfron’s Tale 04: The Bastard Emperor

In the Spring of 1501, the rebels invaded Iceload, stormed Zvie Castle, and slayed Loki Ipativy the Archbishop of the Hundred Empire Alliance. With the mastermind of the theocracy dead, the remaining bishops and deacons met with the rebel leaders in Zviecoff, Iceload to figure out what to make of their world. Unfortunately, the greatest of the leaders had been lost in the siege. Munkloe’s Apache Dreb and Icelore’s Heimdallure Darkblade 10 had died while Mannistan’s Queen Takia Eninac disappeared along with the one Ipativian on the winning side of the revolution, Eir Ipativy. The man the world had assumed would replace the Archbishop, Saint, was gone too. While most of the delegates at the Zveicoff Negotiation sought only to eliminate foreign control over their sovereign nations and keep further violence from developing, a few sought to exploit the resolution for their own gains – one in particular: Saigo Fou.

After a week of negotiations, a treaty was formed that wouldn’t last a year. For the most part, territories were still divided as they had been in the Hundred Empire Alliance, the main difference was that the Ipativy Dynasty’s influence was practically non-existant. Brahim Phinn kept Manaloe, Vinn Icelore kept Vinnum Tow, Barenchi Kou kept Koustan in northern Sondor, Zion Cage 3 kept Meri-Cagistan and Cori-Cagistan in central Sondor, and Saigo Fou kept Tadloe. The Fang Sacha, a chicken dragon Empire that had risen during the Bishopry, remained intact. Adalyn Fang ruled Batloe and Abhidhara Fang ruled Foxloe. New leaders stepped up to the plate aswell: Jasmine Eninac, a cousin of Takia, recieved Dogloe, Kentrel Eninac, another cousin, received Mannistan in southern Sondor, and Apache Dreb’s son, Cherokee Dreb, received Munkloe.

Dividing Iceload was a little more complicated seeing as the royal bloodline of the Sentry was dead and no one wanted to give the last true member of the Ipativy bloodline, Gerda Ipativy, Loki’s daughter, a position of power. Many felt the same about the Sentry, as they had been anti-Saint up until the last chapter of the rebellion. The majority of Solarins recognized that the Ipativians and Sentry had to hold some power or else they’d risk alienating the two dynasties. And alienation, many of the negotiators argued, caused the entire rebellion to begin with. They compromised and divided Iceload into five pieces. The southern peninsula, Azunu, was given to a bearn, Pueblosa Azuran. The Vanian Mountains and western Etihwy went to the Icelore who, after Heimdallure’s death, were ruled by Cathedra Icelore. The middle peninsula, Middakle, went to the Oreh family with Tristan Oreh. The northern peninsula, Thorakle and Sentrakle, was divided up between ten Sentry families and two Ipativian families, all of which held no pure claim to royal blood. The fifth chunk was the one little bit of the negotiations that made no sense. It was a section of land east of the Etihw River between Azunu and Middakle that wasn’t, by itself, really that important. In order to get Saigo Fou on board, this territory had been given to Tadloe.

map once between saints leave and return part 1

Saigo wanted Iceload. Iceload had more enertomb mines than any other continent where as Tadloe had next to none. There were many smaller nations with large enough natural stockpiles to satisfy Tadloe’s needs, like Vinnum Tow, Batloe, and Munkloe. Vinnum Tow was way too strong to invade as was Batloe, but taking Munkloe would’ve been child’s play. The jungle was still in ruins from the battles of the rebellion. His heart was set on Iceload for two reasons: first, the Tadloens had a long history of hatred with the Iceloadic and after Loki’s reign these sentiments were resurfacing and, second, the people of Solaris were less likely to empathise with electric elves than the bearns of Munkloe – who were seen as the martyrs of the revolution. Still, Saigo wasn’t brave enough to invade unprovoked. He waited for the opportune moment and this moment came at the end of the year.


– – –


“Always be one person who ruin everyding.” Nogard stated.

Zalfron grunted in agreement then looked to Joe as if expecting a question. Feeling the silence, Joe looked up at Zalfron then his head lulled back as if his spine were made of wet noodles. For a while there, things had begun to clear up but like the breeze which seemed to come in waves, the aquannabis came and went like the tides. Finally, Joe rolled his head around to face the elf again.

“No questions?” Zalfron asked.

“Look at da boy!” Nogard chuckled, “He still be trippin balls, mon!”

“Hungray?” Zalfron offered Joe some blue-fire fried crab on a stick.

Joe could only respond with gibberish and a nervous laugh.

“Jesus!” Zalfron turned to Nogard, “Should wae be worried?”

“Nah mon, can’t die from da stuff. Can drive a man insane but can’t kill em.” Nogard shrugged, “He be alright.”

Zalfron looked back to Joe, “Can you aven understand what ah’m sayin?”

Though the part of his brain in charge of communication seemed to be asleep at the wheel, Joe could comprehend Zalfron’s story quite well. In fact, his enebriated state made the tale all the more better. Translating this to Zalfron was difficult but he gave it his all. With spit bubbling at the edges of his mouth he reached out and grabbed Zalfron by the arm.

“Con…” he stared at the elf hard, “…tin…” it took such effort that tears began to bud in his eyes, “…ue!”

With a nervous giggle, Zalfron obeyed.


– – –


Cathedra Icelore had no interest in ruling any lands east of Icelore. As Ipativian families began to complain in Thorakle, believing they’d been stiffed by the Zviecoff Negotiation, Cathedra met with Gerda Ipativy and offered her the city of Ipativy. Ofcourse Gerda agreed, Cathedra merely had to get the acceptance of the global community. The other empires were not to fond of this idea but when she compared her foreign rule to the very type of colonial imperialistic government they’d fought to upend, they could not deny her logic. Saigo was the only world leader unwilling to approve but he was ignored and on January First, 1502 when Gerda Ipativy returned to the birth place of her dynasty, Fou soldiers crossed the Etihw. They occupied Zviecoff, and a few other cities, but were unable to break through the fortifications at Ipativy.

Enraged, Cathedra Icelore summoned all the help she could get. The Sentry and Ipativy of northern Iceload, Tristan Oreh of Middakle, and Pueblosa Azuran immediately joined the fight – even the Kou and Eninac sent aid. It seemed Saigo would be cast out of Iceload within the month if not the week but Cathedra wasn’t the only one with allies. Saigo began discussions with the two Fang queens, urging them not to let Loki’s decendants return to their former prestige and tempting them with ideas of world domination. Even before Saigo came to them, the Fang Empire had been mulling over the idea of expanding their conquests. After the rebellion, aside from the Fou, the Fang were the strongest empire under Solaris. If the Fou and Fang worked together, what could the rest of Solaris do but bow? Before the month was out, troops from Batloe had taken Azunu, capturing Pueblosa, and troops from Foxloe had won victories that greatly crippled the allied Ipativy and Sentry in the Northern Islands.

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With the help of the humans, Tristan Oreh managed to keep hold of Middakle but Saigo, with his creative ambition, tested these foreign defender’s allegiance to the plight of the electric elves. Vinn Icelore, King of Vinnum Tow, had been rubbed wrong by the Zviecoff Negotiation. First off, when discussing who would inherit Icelore, his name wasn’t even considered despite being Heimdallure Darkblade 10’s son-in-law. Instead, they chose a daughter-in-law to head the Icelore Dynasty. Secondly, many of the leaders, like Brahim Phinn, Barenchi Kou, Jasmine Eninac, and Cherokee Dreb ridiculed his state’s practice of slavery and seemed bent on forcing him, by threat of war, to emancipate the free work force that was the foundation of Vinnum Tow. Vinn avoided this by reminding the negotiators that Vinnum Tow had been promised one hundred years of peace by Saint himself. When Saigo’s messengers came to Vinnum Tow, telling Vinn that the Fou and Fang had teamed up against the supporters of the Zviecoff Negotiation, he was eager to join. Vinn’s first move was to invade the northern edges of Dogloe: Headistan and the Marble Cape.

Also at this time, Zion Cage 3 and Kentrel Eninac were at each other’s throats. The short war that had begun with the Marble Revolt had been called off when Saint and the rest of the revolutionary leaders threatened to turn their focus on Zion. In the following peace, Zion wasn’t eager to return to that war but when he noticed weakness in the Eninac royal family he used his connections to start trouble. The Cormac family was the second strongest clan in Mannistan and the household head had a daughter, Adira Cormac, who was looking to marry. During the short Sondorian War, the Cormac family had been captured by Zion when Ehcatsum was raided. The Cormacs were merchant civilians, not a part of the rebellion, so Zion let them stay in his palace in hopes that his kindness would leave their trade deals intact. There his son, Hannibal Cage, met Adira Cormac and the two hit it off. After the Archbishop died and the Cormacs returned to Mannistan, Adira was betrothed to an Eninac but eloped to tie the knot with Hannibal. As the decrees of the Zviecoff Negotiation were dissolving around the world, Zion saw an easy opportunity to expand his territory and was urged to do so by Saigo. In February, he revamped the Sondorian Wars. Adira and Hannibal led Cage forces into Mannistan forcing the Eninac to abandon Sondor and flee to Dogloe. With the Eninac gone, the only lands of Sondor not bowing to the Cage were the Kou in the north and as Zion turned his attention to the deserts of Koustan, Barenchi Kou was forced to withdraw his forces from Iceload to defend.

Without the support of the humans, Middakle, Iceload fell to the Fou and Tristan Oreh was forced to hole up on the nearby island of her namesake. Simultaneously, the Fang continued their expansion. Abhidhara Fang conquered Sentrakle, northern Iceload, and Adalyn Fang sent troops into Manaloe to take control of Riverwood. As for the Fou, after taking Middakle they hit a brick wall trying to force Icelore out of the Vanian Mountains nor could they overcome the Ipativian and Sentry forces united in Thorakle so they turned their gaze north to attack Drebunu, central Munkloe. It was during this Munkloe campaign that his troops took the islands of Jungloe and Panta. Shortly after Panta bowed to the Fou, the infamous historians there revealed the same information they had revealed to Loki Ipativy that had been one of the major factors leading to the rebellion: the location of the Well of Youth. But Saigo wouldn’t yet have the time to seek out the mythical spring.

April 14th, 1502, now that Solaris had allowed the memory of the Second Hatching to fade from the forefront of their minds, the second moon dragon made landfall. Her name was Semar and she chose the mountains of southwest Foxloe – which thereafter were named Mountains of the Moon. The people of these hills fled as dragons from all under Solaris flocked to meet their new deity. Aside from the occasional village, the islands of Baba, Dragonrok, and Fox Island represented the closest bases of civilization and encountered the worst of Semar’s initial assaults. Once these cities fell, she turned north which would put her on route with Mystwood – the city that was, at this time, Foxloe’s capital.

The North Fang had no choice but to retract their forces in Iceload and devote all their attention to stopping the moon dragon. South Fang was too busy keeping the nonviolent protestors of Manaloe inline whilst trying to keep from losing their now defensive position in Azunu to send any support to Foxloe let alone Sentrakle thus the northern end of Iceload was given to Saigo lest it be returned to the electric elves. The new territory was more of a curse than a blessing. The change of flags revived the enthusiasm of the Sentry and Ipativian elves and they fought the Fou with renewed vigor on two fronts: the northern V of the Etihw and the southern shore of the Black River. Struggling to keep his grip on Sentrakle, Saigo was unable to spread his control over Munkloe past the Sereibis River and into the jungle lands of Nevomnu which hid his coveted magical spring. Before he could restabilize his empire, the forbidden child, the renegade crusader, the forsaken savior, Saint himself, returned to Solaris.

map once between saints leave and return part 4

According to the rest of Solaris, Darkloe was uncivilized. During the age of colonization that occurred before the Fourth Void War, the empires of the south felt they’d purged the north of its barbarism – except for Darkloe, which had been widely ignored. Over the years, the goblins of south Batloe had trickled across hemispheres to this neglected land. There were no large deposits of ore or enertombs, no grand forests of timber or plains of game-beasts. Darkloe was nothing but slate colored soil with brittle branched, spikey shrubbery and terrain carved up by monstrous mountains and writhing rivers. Yet, to the goblins, it offered solace from the overbearing ambitions of the peoples from the other side of the world.

In the Spring of 1502, when Saint, Theseus, Grandfather, and the Dragon Slayer emerged from the fiery depths of Mount Ahsik they would’ve met the same fate in Darkloe’s Black Mountains they nearly met in Delia’s Calkoniya if not for the local goblins that welcomed them into their villages. Despite being ignored by the world, they did not ignore the world. The goblins kept themselves up to date on the wars that afflicted the other races. They told Saint of the failed negotiations and of how Saigo Fou, along with the Fang, Cage, and Vinn Icelore, seemed to be attempting to split the nations of the world amongst themselves. There, amongst the goblins, the four strategized and planned their return to Solarin civilization. The Dragon Slayer went to Foxloe to deal with Semar, Theseus Icespear went to Iceload to spread the word of Saint’s return to the south, and Saint with Grandfather went to Manaloe.

From Brahim Phinn, they were told that though peaceful resistance was slowing the spread of the Fang invasion, and causing confusion and chaos in the lands already captured, the brothers and sisters of the Woodland Ridge Monastery presented the biggest hurdle to Queen Adalyn, still, Brahim was not convinced it would be enough. Led by Father Shisharay, the monks of Woodland Ridge could out shoot any archer in Solaris and could do so on dragon back. Their steeds were lion dragons. These slender, flexible beasts had lizard-like bodies that fit perfectly with the guerrilla style combat the small band of spirits utilized in order to succeed against the much larger forces of their enemies. Saint met with Father Shisharay and fought alongside him and his monastic children until the end of May when he began to believe what the Father had told him from the beginning. To expel the Fang, they needed an army. When Saint and Grandfather left in June, they left with a regiment of Father Shisharay’s dalvary and headed to Dogloe, determined to find a way to give Brahim Phinn his nation back.


– – –



Joe’s sudden intelligible outburst startled Zalfron onto his back. As the elf struggled to return upright, Joe quickly articulated his question before the clouds of aquannabis drifted back into place, shrowding the lightbulb glowing in his brain.

“I thought Saint had made a vow of nonviolence?”

“Nah mon,” Nogard answered, “he only promised not to kill.”

“Yup,” Zalfron nodded as he dusted the sand off of the crab meat he’d dropped, “hae’ll faht, hae just ain’t gonna kill nobody.”

Joe was skeptical, “How does that work out in the middle of a battle?”

“Dat be why he had Grandfadder wid him.” Nogard explained.

“When takin folks prisner wan’t an option, Grandfather would step in so Saint could kaep his word.” Zalfron elaborated, then he asked, “All thase places and paeple ah been mentionin, you been able to follow?”

“Not uh…not really…” Joe could feel another wave of euphoria coming.

“Well you can check out the maps in the appendix.” Zalfron said, his skin beginning to shift and slip around his head as if a high powered blower was directed at his face.


“Or ya can jus tune dose parts out.” Nogard suggested, his scales seemed to have been reorganized, rather than sitting in staggered rows, they sat in spirals forming intricate and intriguing designs.

Joe blinked but the daze remained – only getting funkier. He sat back and let it crash upon him, managing one last question before incompacitation, “so what happened?”


– – –


In Dogloe the war was practically at a stalemate. Headistan was solidly under Vinn Icelore’s grasp who had fortified along the Collah River. The vast majority of the fighting took place along the Marble Cape but even there the skirmishes were rare and brief. Every other week the Eninac would get riled up and clash hard against the estranged Icelore, gain no ground, and lose their zeal. Then, on the weeks inbetweem, the troops from Vinnum Tow would believe the time ripe for another attempt at invasion only to find as much victory as their enemies had a week before. Jasmine Eninac welcomed Saint’s return but doubted his presence would have much affect. Having only just shown up, Saint had the benefit of perspective – and dragons. He took his dalvary, which he had come to call the Lion Dragon Guard, and soared the skies over the Bleak Sea where they intercepted, commandeering or destroying, Vinn Icelore’s supply ships until the troops of Vinnum Tow were starving. Before the month was over, Vinn Icelore called for peace so that he could bring his ladies and gentlemen home. Jasmine Eninac was so greatful she was willing to keep her soldiers in the war and sent them on with Saint, commanded by Kentrel Eninac, back to Manaloe.

map once between saints leave and return WHEN SAINT RETURNS part 1

Saint and the soldiers, both from Woodland Ridge and Dogloe, barely had to fight five battles before the Fang left Manaloe. This was not thanks to Saint and his followers alone, but partially due to unrest at home. Almost half of Batloens were molemen and they despised Adalyn and her war and were beginning to feel the same way about the entire Fang Empire. Much like the Icelore Dynasty, split between Cathedra in Icelore and Vinn in Vinnum Tow, the Fang Empire seemed to be heading in two different directions. While Adalyn Fang of Batloe stuck with the ways of her predecessors, Abhidhara was coming to terms with Saint’s return and not necessarily by choice. When the Dragon Slayer went to Foxloe, Abhidhara had only refrained from executing the cocky fool out of the hillariaty he provided. He, one man, claimed he could solve their dragon problem, alone, while she had devoted all her military strength towards eliminating Semar. Already, Mystwood City had been burnt to the ground and the capital had been moved to Hawk Eye. His pride hurt, the Dragon Slayer wisely got the Queen to promise she would bow to Saint if he kept his word. Not in the least bit worried, she vowed. On June eleventh, Semar left Solaris. Despite his name, the Dragon Slayer had removed the moon dragon without killing her and a humbled Abhidhara became bound to Saint.


– – –


“Bull shit, mah boy!” Nogard crowed, “Dat dragon be dead as dirt!”

“Nuh uh!” Zalfron cried, “Shae flew back to the moons!”

“You sure Joe be da one who be trippin, mon?” Nogard asked.

“Then where’s her ramains?” Zalfron turned on the chicken dragon, “The Ipativians got the skull of Kor, where the hell is Semar’s?”

“If da dragon went back, den why she ain’t been seen since?” Nogard challenged.

Zalfron rolled his eyes, “Cause shae made a dael with the Dragon Slayer.”

“Sure, mon…” Now it was Nogard who rolled his eyes before turning to Joe. With glossy eyes, the human had watched the two debate. He’d been able to follow the story but the banter between his friends became complete gibberish in his ears. Instead, all he could focus on was the tails, the ones that hung below Nogard’s nostrils, that seemed to be growing longer the longer he stared. Ignoring the distant, uncomprehending look in Joe’s eyes, Nogard continued, “Nobody know where Semar went. Some say she be on da moons, some say she been killed long ago, buried by da waves of da sea.”

“Aither way, it ain’t a big dael. Point is, the dragon was gone and Queen Abhidhara was indebted to Saint and his crew.” Zalfron snapped, “Now, where was ah?”


– – –


A month later, once again on the eleventh, the stronghold of the South Fang bowed to Saint. After weeks of unrest, and one week of all out revolt, the molemen succeeded in casting the Fang Sacha out of Batloe, a day after Adalyn had formally abandoned her claims in Manaloe. Those family members with any sense tucked their tails and fled to Foxloe but Queen Adalyn, and a few others close to her, fled instead to Azunu. Unfortunately for Adalyn, Saint had done all he could for the northern hemisphere and, now that his attention was directed south, Iceload was next on his list. Once Saint and his troops from Foxloe, Dogloe, and Manaloe met with Cathedra Icelore, Saigo Fou got jumpy. With his allies crumbling around him, he realized that his reign might not even finish out the year. He made a risky move that bought Queen Adalyn and her Fang-ruled Azunu some time.

Saigo pulled the brunt of his forces from Sentrakle and Middakle to launch them all at Nevomnu – the outer ring of jungle in Munkloe in which lied the Well of Youth. He whisked these soldiers away in the dark of night, leaving few numbers to stand against the Iceloadic when the sun rose the next day. With the Lion Dragon Guard, Saint followed the Tadloen dictator, catching him in the ruins of the city that surrounded the legendary spring. There they fought and there Saint gained the nickname that is still used today, in good humor by his allies or with spite by his enemies. During his duel with Saigo, Saint urged the earth elf to surrender. Saigo responded, “And let a bastard emperor rule Solaris?” In the end, Saint subdued the conqueror and gave him back to the Fou in exchange for their compliance at a second peace negotiation. The people of Tadloe eagerly agreed and were so pissed off from the unnecessary war, especially Saigo’s abandonment of many Fou troops in Iceload when he fled to Munkloe, that they had him executed publically almost immediately.

Solaris still was yet to find peace. Oblivious to the world, which was now almost completely in league with her enemy, Queen Adalyn Fang continued to hold fast to Azunu. Refusing to surrender, she and the few troops that didn’t dessert died on the battle fields of southern Iceload before August, marking the end of the Fourth Void War.

At the Second Zviecoff Negotiation, the Trinity Nations, the nearly five hundred year old alliance which still rules the solar system of Solaris to this day, was forged. Saint called not only the kings but all leaders, tribal chiefs, shire governors, military warlords, dynastic patriarchs, matriarchs, and atriarchs, and even ex-deacons (and a select few ex-bishops). The first topic was to address all disputes, the old and new. The GraiLords witnessed to their oppression as did the Iceloadic bearns. The molemen of Batloe reminded the chicken dragons they shared Batloe with that whether or not chicken dragons enjoyed the privilege of the Fang Sacha, they still enjoyed the privilege that was being scaled in a Fang Empire. The Fou were forced to aknowledge the glorification of their people in exchange for the exploitation of the tribes south of the Rah River. The Cage confessed to their incessant attempts to conquer their continental neighbors. Then the northern colonies verbally illustrated the multitude of injustices induced by the arrival of the southern empires. By the end of the first week, not a person with any ounce of power was left feeling innocent – even Saint. When the real negotiations began, there was a level playing field. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long.

Half the indecencies that were mediated not only went uncured but were explicitly enforced. The GraiLords were given one city – one city for all the minotaurs in Iceload when once the entire mountain range had been open to them. The Iceloadic bearns were returned Azunu but the north, northern Sentrakle, where just as many bearns had lived as elves since before people cared to keep record, went entirely to the Sentry. The Dreb and Nevomn Dynasties of northern Iceload were essentially told that if they wanted to rule themselves then they could do so in Munkloe. Though the rule of Tadloe went to Shirahama’s brother, a Kemplor, the capital remained deeply set in Fou lands. When Barenchi died during the final days of the war, his predecessor, who wasn’t a Kou, agreed to combining Koustan into one solid Sondorian state under Cage rule. And aside from Manaloe, where Brahim Phinn remained the dictator, though with power limitations that left him and his bureaucracy more of a figure head than an actual government, the north remained bound to the crown of their colonizers. On the other hand, one main transgression was overcome. The Selter Sacha, a moleman family, became the soul rulers of Batloe. One way or another, the lines were redrawn and the leadership formally established so that there would be no misconceptions beneath Solaris.

The final step, was Saint’s creation. He was satisfied with the previous step but those who had grown to love him since his rise a few years ago demanded that he take a role of leadership for all the people eager to follow. This is how Saint became King of God’s Island and this is when he created the Trinity Nations.

It began as a simple alliance. All the kings who wished to join this conference could. The only requirement was that members were to communicate their needs, wants, and differences rather than demand them. They would rule their domains independently but they would obey a certain set of rules agreed on and established by the participants. Saint organized it in two councils. The first was a council of monarchs, the Diamond Council, which originally included Bira Sentry of Sentrakle, Pueblosa Azuran of Azunu, Heglara Selter of Batloe, Tojo Kemplor of Tadloe, Abhidhara Fang of Foxloe, Jasmine Eninac of Dogloe, Brahim Phinn of Manaloe, and Saint of God’s Island. The second was a council of leaders, most of which lived within the territory of queens or kings, that controlled enough power to be considered social monarchs. The Crystal Council included one atriarch from each of these twenty groups, organized under these families: Darkblade, Oreh, Aznaru, GraiLord, Fou, Row, Shelba, Oturan, Habba, Kou, Eninac, Ruse, Shisharay, Petara, Baba, Pow, Fasthoof, Anura, Ein, and Kakal. Together, these councils would solve their problems and when the entire organization needed to make a decision, a commandment to be followed by all the bits and pieces beneath the Trinity Nation’s umbrella, these two councils had one vote each. It was Theseus’ idea to add a third vote, Saint’s – so that his vote counted in the Diamond Council and in a council of his own – and though Saint would have rathered this not be the case this was how it was agreed upon. The “Trinity” is in reference to these three votes. Though some nations have left and some tribes have joined in, and vice versa, this was how the Trinity Nations began and roughly how it looks as it continues today.

map once between saints leave and return WHEN SAINT RETURNS part 2

– – –


“That’s pretty-” Joe winced, “-cool.”

“Da pain comin back, mon?” Nogard asked.

“Want more?” Zalfron offered.

Despite the uncomfortable distortion the drug put on Joe’s sensory perceptions, with the pain in his snapped leg beginning to return, Joe did not protest. Gently, they smeared the gell of the plant across his shin and before he knew it, whether or not it could be considered sleep, Joe slipped out of consciousness and did not wake until the morning sun breached the Aquarian Dome.

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