written by Fyren
A new day dawns, and with it dawns new hope. The rangers return from the frostlands once again, this time with dozens of survivors in tow and packs laden with supplies. These men and women are truly heroes. The people insist on throwing a celebration for the newcomers as well as the returned rangers. There are other plans however. Several of the survivors need immediate medical attention and the rangers are eager to get back out into the frostlands as they report several more survivors in need of aid.
Once the rangers set back out and the crowd disperses, one man approaches me. “Sir, I just wanted to let you know that the new watchmen have been doing a great job.” I raise an eyebrow inquisitively at the man and reply “Oh really?”. He appears a bit taken aback by the question. In his mind, it should be a given that the watchmen are paragons. “Oh yes sir! Just this morning my son was climbing up the generator, wild dolt that he is. He coulda fell and died, but the watch saved him before he could hurt himself. I am ever so grateful”. The man salutes in a way that suggests he isn’t quite comfortable with the gesture and then runs off to work in the coal mine.
A short time later, I find myself poring over blueprints and technical plans. Boring stuff and I barely understand what I’m looking at even with one of my engineers explaining it to me. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. A rhythmic pounding comes crashing through the city, followed by the sound of cracking ice. “What the hell!?!?” I exclaim, leaping up from the table, scattering the documents to the floor as I rush outside to see what the commotion is. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. A huge quadrupedal automaton comes climbing down the cliffs of the hole. It’s stride longer than our buildings, it’s height roughly half of the generator. The people recoil in fear, not knowing what the thing is here for or where it came from. It stops when it reaches the city. A small note is attached to one of its legs, it reads “Put it to good use – 1st Rangers”. They continue to to be invaluable. With this behemoth of a machine here, our staffing needs are close to being met for the first time.
Each day grows colder than the last. The generator is having difficulty keeping up with the deepening frost. I promise the people that we will heat their homes. Cool heads and warm beds after all. I order the generator to run overtime in hopes that it will keep people from joining the Londoner rebellion. The increased heat chases the bitter cold out of our tents and workplaces, however creaking and groaning comes from the generator under the increased load.
Just as I start to think things are looking up and I start harboring just a bit of hope for the future, a protest rolls through the street. They attract more and more people to their group wanting to leave, a common refrain being “No captain, no hope”. I can only assume that they are displeased with my leadership. “Sir, we must throttle back the heat. According to my calculations, if we don’t throttle it back, the generator will explode in just a few hours”. A breathless engineer found me in the street to deliver this message. He impresses the urgency of the situation upon me. If the generator fails we do not have the tools, resources or know-how to get it running again. I nod solemnly to him, giving him the go ahead to turn down the heat until we can make some improvements to the structure.
“Broken promises! Our beds are cold!” the protests continue as the people hear the life giving generator winding down. The Londoners are still recruiting, and their movement continues to grow. This just seemed to be fuel for their fire, and for many the straw that broke their back. The protests rage on, when the rangers return again with even more survivors. With the new influx of people, my situation turns from bad to worse. Now, instead of not having enough workers, there is a shortage for food and shelter. The medical posts are overloaded, people are skipping meals and going hungry, and for the first time in weeks there are citizens sleeping in the streets.
The hope the people once had is all but spent. The rioters and protesters outnumber workers now. The Londoners have convinced nearly the entire population that I am unfit. I did all I could to maintain our chances for survival. At this point though, with starvation and sickness spreading, it appears that it was not enough. During my morning rounds, I am surrounded by my citizens. A man steps forward from the crowd, he speaks as if with the authority of all those around him “You have been found unfit for leadership of this city. We will know render a judgement. Shall we execute him or banish him?” The man turns to the crowd, holding his arms wide to indicate his reception of responses. The crowd erupts. I hear several answers. Many want to kill me, some still have hope, but the majority just never want to see me again.
Banished. I hug my furs tight against my body and tighten the straps on my pack as I look out over the frostlands before me. There is little chance I will survive. I am being sent out into the frozen wilderness to die alone. “You can’t please everyone” my mother’s words come to me, one last time. The snow crunches under my boots. Despite the bleakness of my future, I stand straighter than I have in a long while, the weight of the mantle of leadership being lifted at last. I take a deep breath, the cold air stinging my lungs and set out into the frozen north.