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It was a hot day in Eliviston. The long hot summer had persisted into what would normally be autumn. Gaian had been hoping that the heat would soon start to wear off as he walked down the main street of the village, as it was extremely uncomfortable. Whilst he could appreciate the summer weather, there was only so much of it that he could take. He sincerely hoped that it would rain soon.

It was market day, and so the village was quite busy. The potions stall had a new potion that could allegedly restore half a warrior’s strength after a tiring battle. The armourer mainly had equipment made from bronze, but was promising to have iron goods in for next week. And the weapons seller was focussing this week on two-handed swords. But Gaian was perfectly happy with the broadsword that was sheathed by his side.

Not that there was much use for it in Eliviston. The beasts that plagued the frontier towns rarely travelled this far into the Republic. But it was always good to be prepared.

“Get your swords here!” yelled the weapons seller, “The Empire could strike at any time!” He said the same thing every week. But over the past few months rumours had been circling throughout the Republic that the Empire was planning an invasion. However, few people believed that they had the strength to pose a serious threat. But their Emperor, Calistan, had made no secret of his desire to expand further. They occupied all of the territory on the eastern continent, and the Republic, which the Empire could easily reach via the Lestern Straights, was full of fertile land. But this land was well protected by the Republican Defence Force. It was believed that the RDF outnumbered the Imperial Army by three to one.

And, as Gaian well knew, the RDF were well organised. He had only recently left after five years loyal service. The laws of the Republic only required him to serve for two, but he felt that there were further opportunities for him there so he stayed for longer. But recently his unit had been patrolling the Frozen Frontier to the north, and fighting off Ice Wolf after Ice Wolf whilst also trying to keep warm for weeks on end had taken its toll. There was no prospect of their unit moving on, and so he decided that now was the time to leave. Whilst he was a competent warrior, he had dreams of writing plays for the great Engelheim Theatre in the Republic’s summer capital, Ashgar.

But that would be to come later. Eliviston was where he was now, as he still had to feed himself. He earned his living by assisting the local farmers, helping to plough their fields and feed their livestock, and fighting the occasional beast that strayed onto their land. It wasn’t the most exciting existence, but he was well fed, and had enough money left over to buy parchment and some ink.

But as the heat continued to oppress him, there was a part of him that wouldn’t mind being back on the Frozen Frontier, if only for a brief moment. The sky above was a clear blue, with not a cloud in sight.

Kovern, the village’s priest, was giving a sermon in the village square, and Gaian decided to sit in the shade for a while to listen.

“Many people have the mistaken belief that God is all powerful, that he can solve all of their woes. But they forget about the covenant of Pyturn, where God created man. In doing so part of him was injected into the mind of each human, and it is through us that he gains his strength. Each time someone does a good deed, does something to improve the state of the world, God gets a little stronger. These deeds don’t have to be great – fetching a pail of water for an Elder, or offering to take you neighbour into town with you on your cart for example.

“But every time someone does a bad deed that damages the state of the world, God gets weaker. Cursing at someone, pushing your way through a crowd, spitting in the street. All of these acts weakens our God.

“And whenever someone commits a truly wicked act it pains our God deeply. These days I’ve seen towns full of whores and adulterers. Throughout the world there are many wicked people. In the Empire they even use slaves! If people don’t stop their wicked behaviour, and soon, then the great Apocalypse as foretold by Arnan will come to pass. For when our God becomes too weak he can not protect us from Geevan, who only seeks to wreak havoc on our world. God has protected us for eight millennia, but if we don’t all work together, each and every one of us, Geevan will overcome him and we will all be doomed.

“So remember, as you go about your daily lives, do what you can to make the world a better place. A friendly greeting to an elderly neighbour whose family have left, helping an invalid carry their bread home, tending to a child’s grazed knee – all of these things will help to strengthen our God, and will help him to stave off the Apocalypse.”

It was similar to Kovern’s usual rants. Gaian didn’t pay them too much attention. Whilst he himself did always try to do the right thing, he wasn’t really religious and didn’t see himself as making God any stronger.

Bevern, who Gaian served with in the RDF, walked up to him and said, “Bet you wish you were back in the north now! This heat doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to go away!”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

“So, how’s the play writing going, or shouldn’t I ask?”

“It’s going OK, when I get the time to do so. Between working on the various farms I hardly seem to get any time for myself. But it’s getting there. How about yourself? How’s life in the stables.”

“Well, it’s one good thing I can say for the hot weather, it sure makes us a lot less busy. Not so many people like going horse riding with the sun beating down on them like this.”

“I don’t suppose you have time for a pint in the tavern?”

“With you my friend? Of course I do!”

The tavern was just across the square, and was doing a roaring trade. The hot weather was certainly making the village thirsty. The two friends bought their drinks, and sat down next to an open window, not that there was much of a breeze blowing in.

As they drank one of the barmaids, Sianna, flashed Gaian a smile. Bevern turned to Gaian and said “I think she likes you!”

“Leave it out!”

Bevern shook his head, “I despair of you, I really do. Are you ever going to say anything to her other than your drinks order?”

“Maybe I will, one day, but now the time is just not right.”

Gaian then heard from over his shoulder, “Not right for what?” Sianna was standing over him.

“Er, the time’s not right for me to travel to Ashgar. Maybe next summer.”

“So you’ll still be around for a while then. That’s good. Maybe you could take me to village ball next week.” She flashed him another of her winning smiles that made her eyes light up, and he blushed red as a beetroot.

“Well, er... OK, sure.”

“OK, I’ll see you then.” She winked at him, and left.

Bevern had a look of disbelief on his face, “I can not believe that just happened!”

“Neither can I...”

“God, you were so shy back in the army, and you never changed when we left. I thought you'd be doomed to be a bachelor for life. But I never expected a girl to ask you out! You know back when we were in – ”

At that moment an ear shattering explosion, like a colossal clap of thunder, could be heard from outside. This was followed by a deep rumbling, and then lots of screaming.

Gaian and Bevern jumped through the open window. Everyone in the square was looking towards the east. On the horizon a gigantic cloud was billowing up, and was heading towards them at incredible speed. Within seconds it had filled up the entire sky. There were flashes of lighting everywhere, and it started to strike the buildings in the village.

One strike hit the church with such force it exploded. Rain started to fall, and it burned Gaian’s skin. “We’ve got to find cover!” he shouted to Bevern.

They ran to the town hall, which appeared to be the strongest of the buildings in the village and the most likely to take a lighting strike. By the time that they got there it was already crowded with the other villagers that had the same thought.

“Where the hell did that storm come from?!”

“I don’t know,” replied Gaian, completely mystified.

At that point the ground started to shake violently. The busts of the previous mayors of the village fell to the ground and shattered. Suddenly, a large crack appeared in the centre of the room, and it grew larger and larger. Then magma started to spill out from it, as some people fell into the crack.

Instinctively Gaian and Bevern ran. One of the walls shattered and they were able to make their escape through the resulting hole. The village had completely changed, with not a building left standing and dead bodies littering the street. The acid rain was still falling, and there appeared to be no escape.

Those that were still alive were running as fast as they could to wherever they felt they could find relative safety. Only one person wasn’t running.

Kovern stood in the centre of what was left of the square. His arms were raised up and he looked up at the now black sky. “We are all doomed!” he cried. “Mankind has sinned and will now be punished by Geevan! The Apocalypse is here! The Apocalypse has arrived! The Apocalypse is now!”

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