Tessa Du'Mont ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The granary was decidedly grim. Tessa sat on the edge of the loft, her feet swinging impatiently as she searched the dimly-lit building for inspiration. The walls were lined with tear-like deposits of limescale and rust that looked like bony white fingers in the glow of her candle. The building was square and squat, divided into cell-like recesses used for storing crops during the winter months. However, considering winter only lasted two months and every family in the village harvested more than enough during the year to survive on their own, the building was left unused. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, Tessa thought wistfully, half-turning to face her makeshift workspace. The floor was littered with a variety of tools and pieces of parchment. She grabbed one and looked at the carefully-drawn sketch she had started just this morning. This one in particular was a schematic for a tree-tap, which she could use to harvest the heavy, pliable sap from the trees surrounding Saint-Malo. She had months of preparation and testing ahead of her, but she believed she could make a tough, malleable material from the sap that would revolutionize Saint-Malo’s current agricultural practices. “No, not now,” Tessa said firmly, resisting the familiar tug of curiosity that could get her lost for hours at a time. She put the parchment down and turned back to the diary in her lap. She considered her final words carefully, eventually settling for “Inda-nur has fallen, and nothing will ever be the same.” Having done this, Tessa hastily snuffed the candle, packed up her things and descended the ladder to the ground floor. She moved dangerously quick through the crumbling building, stepping over fallen rafters and sharp, vague objects that looked like they might have been chairs in a former life. She exited through a patch of wall that had fallen years ago, her eyes adjusting to the pink-and-purple glow of the setting sun. “Fuck all,” Tessa murmured angrily and set off at a run through the ramshackle town. Once the sun had fully set, the Council would be finished with their pre-meeting Rituals and no one else would be permitted in the meeting. Tessa streamed through Saint-Malo, trying not to let the horrible sights slow her. The fall of Inda-nur had caused immeasurable damage to the small town. Inda-nur had fallen no more than a few miles away, and the resulting shocks had toppled more than half the village. Homes and businesses were destroyed, turned to nothing more than piles of wood and stone. Tessa passed by a man and his children picking through the wreckage of their home, no doubt looking in vain for the body of their wife and mother. Beyond the family Tessa saw the remains of their crop fields, reduced to a bubbling swamp of mud and broken earth, and it took all her strength not to turn around and help them. Tessa’s guilt clung to her like shackles, slowing her run to a shambling jog. She felt in no small part responsible for the current crisis facing Saint-Malo. After-all, it was Tessa that had introduced the clay irrigation system to the town. For hundreds of years the crops of Saint-Malo had flourished on the back-breaking labor of its inhabitants, however Tessa was not content with this. Instead of the archaic system the town was content to use - trapping rain water during the rain cycle in large drums and manually watering the crops, Tessa had devised an ingenious system of underground piping that connected to the rain-catchers. The pipes were connected to large clay pots buried under the ground and punched with holes that slowly fed water into the surrounding earth. Despite the initial hesitation, and complete abhorrence from the Council, Saint-Malo had eventually embraced her ideas with unbridled enthusiasm. And what had that gotten them? The force of Inda-nur’s fall had rattled the earth like a plaything, destroying the clay piping and drowning most of Saint-Malo’s crops. Not only were homes destroyed and family members lost, but winter was fast approaching and the town had no crops to harvest. The suffering would continue for months to come. With these heavy thoughts in tow, Tessa arrived at the Council Hall. The Council Hall was a simple brown building made of hardened mud and reinforced (per Tessa’s recommendation) with stone. The building was large and circular, with a domed roof that made it look like a mound of dirt. Tessa could hear the rhythmic voices of the Council leading the attendees in Ritual within. The sun began to dip out of sight over the horizon, and with heart thumping in her ears, Tessa slipped inside.