3 – 9
Alois said that if something happened, run into the forest.
The reason was because of the foundations of this town.
Since the city of Einst was built atop a reclaimed swamp, it was surrounded by swamps that had either been used for mining in the past or were currently being excavated.
What’s more, the reclaimed land itself was originally a swamp that was mined for manastone. Once the mining in the area had dried up, that’s when the town of Einst was built.
Therefore, deep below the surface of this town, a manastone vein still flowed. It was said to have withered due to the mining, apparently almost to the point of disappearing, but it was still a vein that was connected to others. Furthermore, what flowed into it was the very active veins still currently being mined in the swamps nearby.
On the other hand, the forest itself was outside the town limits of Einst. Those woods were populated by trees similar to the ones seen back in the territory’s capital, broad-leaved with few animals and insects seen scurrying around in their shades.
Compared to the marshes that surrounded Einst, the forest was unique.
It was the only place outside of town where the ground was dry.
The dirt had become compact and solidified, forming around the deep roots of the trees. There weren’t any poisonous herbs or plants growing there, whilst the fact that the trees were thick with leaves and there were some normal animals making their homes there proved that it wasn’t polluted with miasma like the swamps.
Between the regular wetlands and the miasma filled swamps and bogs, it was hard to tell just where one ended and the other began. Rather than escaping into the wetlands and potentially running into a poisonous swamp, it would be far less dangerous to escape instead into the forest.
The people in Einst should have known that as well.
Alois himself certainly would have issued those same instructions he told Camilla to everyone else, should there be the need to evacuate.
The booming noises came one after another. The first one was earth shaking, but gradually they became quieter and quieter.
Was the danger passing? Yet every time the ground shook, the miasma seemed to become denser.
On the streets of the town outside, people ran out of their homes in panic. The shouts of confused and bewildered townsfolk began to sound in the streets.
“The manastones exploded! It sounded really close!! Everyone, run!!”
The voice was swallowed up by the sound of another explosion echoing through the town.
“The explosion is underground!! There’ll be a collapse!!”
As if that explosion had broken the dam, shouts of fear and confusion poured forth.
Camilla who burst out the front door of the mansion saw women and children fleeing down the street, the earth still shaking under their feet.
That neatly paved avenue, the road that was split precisely for two lanes of carriage and foot traffic, the uniform houses that stood neatly in a row. Yet, the terrified throngs of people, looking for any escape as they ran down that street, destroyed that orderly image.
As the town was filled with cries and the constant tremors from the depths of the earth, Camilla could hardly hear herself think. The miasma filled the air like a thick and discoloured smog, so she could barely make out the faces of people standing right in front of her.
A middle-aged woman shouted in the street in an attempt to find her children. The elderly, without firm feet of their own or a shoulder to lean on, lagged behind the main group of fleeing townspeople. Someone fell and was trampled underfoot, another child was lost in the fog, cries echoed from all around her.
All she could see through the smog were older commoners and children. She couldn’t spot any group of men who would have been useful for getting people to safety at all. She didn’t have time to think about why that was, as the quaking earth nearly threw her off balance again.
“Stay out of the houses! Head to the town square! Make for open ground!!”
One of the manservants who had blocked Camilla’s path earlier raised his voice from somewhere nearby. Just as Camilla ran out the front door of the mansion, all the servants of the house were beginning to escape as well.
Martha also came down the front stairs, hobbling on her cane. The second of the man servants took her arm to support her as she made her way out of the estate.
They all seemed to be heading for a specific place. The center of town, just off the main street, a place where the largest thoroughfare in town intersected with numerous others, forming a major intersection like a spider’s web.
– The town square,,,?
Those individual flows of terrified people seemed to merge into one uniform stream. Despite the screams of panic, they all headed in a single direction.
“Lady Camilla! We have to escape as well!”
Nicole tugged on Camilla’s sleeve, urging her to join the flow of people. But, Camilla hesitated for just a moment. Should she really go?
– The town square… Isn’t that right in the middle of town?
“…Lord Alois said to escape to the forest.”
Standing still in front of the mansion, Camilla muttered to herself. From behind her, as if to drown out her voice, someone yelled.
“…Out of the way!!”
One of the maids from the manor ran past her, knocking Camilla aside. That maid with a strong looking gaze and chestnut brown hair was about to enter into the flow of people.
“Wait just a moment!”
Camilla found herself reaching out and catching her arm. The maid looked surprised at being stopped like that, but was doubly surprised when she turned around and saw that it was Camilla who had done it. After blinking in confusion, she looked at Camilla with a mixture of fretful impatience and confusion.
“What is it? Please release me. Don’t the both of you want to escape as well?”
“If you want to escape, why not escape into the forest? Is that not what Lord Alois said to do as well?”
The maid shouted like she couldn’t believe her ears.
“What if the trees fall over!? We’ll be crushed!”
“But, in the first place, isn’t there a manastone vein running underneath the town!? Even if there’s nothing to collapse on you in the town square, the ground itself will fall through!!”
“The ground will not collapse!”
The maid raised her voice again, throwing off Camilla’s hand. It was if she knew for a fact since she said it with such conviction.
In the first place, she didn’t have time to listen to Camilla in an emergency like this. The sound of explosions could still be heard and the miasma rolling through the streets was only getting thicker by the second. They had to escape as soon as possible.
“This town has been around for over a hundred years and the ground has never collapsed like that! I know much more about this town than you know about the capital!”
“Wait! Just wait one moment!!”
Camilla grabbed at the arm of the maid who turned to escape again. Then, raising her voice, she shouted not just so that the maid could hear her, but everyone else nearby.
“Stop at once! You are evacuating to the wrong place!”
“What… Stop saying ridiculous things!”
Only the maid whose arm Camilla held was able to respond to her shout. The fleeing townspeople didn’t spare Camilla a glance as the panicked throng kept moving towards the square. Still, Camilla couldn’t give up. Taking a deep breath, she yelled from the depths of her stomach.
“Turn around and escape to the forest!! I command you!! Stop at once!!”
“Get your hands off me! Stop talking nonsense!! Isn’t it only common sense to escape to somewhere wide open!? This is what we have always done!!”
The maid in front of her snapped. She yanked on her arm and twisted her body to try and escape. Did she lose her footing because of the struggling maid or was it because the ground shook beneath her feet? Camilla couldn’t have known.
Standing beside Camilla and the maid from Einst, who were all tangled up on the ground, Nicole spoke timidly. The girl’s eyes seemed somehow distant. Then, as if she were looking at something no one else could see, her breathy voice came out through trembling lips.
“Mistress, this is bad. It’s getting closer…”
The quaking didn’t stop at all. Beneath their feet, there was the sound of a deep rumbling. The young maid could feel the presence of an incredibly vast amount of magical energy growing ever closer.
Her vision blurred. As if choking on the miasma, Nicole doubled over with coughs.
But, her words were drowned out by the tussle between the two girls on the ground below her.
“Do you even have a reason to run for the square!? If you value your life, you should escape into the forest! Your traditions aren’t going to protect anyone!!”
“What would an outsider like you know!? If you want to get yourself killed, don’t drag me into it!!”
“I’m telling you because I don’t want to see anyone getting killed!!”
As Camilla cried out, the rumbling died down for just an instant, leaving the streets eerily quiet.
The earthquakes, the disquieting sounds from deep beneath the earth, even the sound of far off explosions. All of it ceased.
The sudden silence left the people dumbfounded. Some wondered if time itself had somehow come to a standstill.
All they could do was stand there, blinking in silent confusion as they looked around.
But in the next moment, everything ended.
A deafening roar far louder than anything before peeled through the town. This time, though, the ground beneath their feet didn’t quake.
Instead, it completely collapsed. Cracks emerged all over the street, swallowing the townspeople down into the earth.
The last thing Camilla remembered was the desperate screams all around her and the odd sensation of falling through the air.
Edited by: ApoPie