Living in the Countryside

by Jason Gibbs

“Alia, I’m back,” he called.

She walked into the atrium and embraced him, “Hi Lucius, you’re back early, how was town?”

He grimaced.

“I just don’t understand those people. I had to leave early. I couldn’t even see Philip.”

“Oh, why not?”

“There’s a panic on, again.”

She frowned, and he continued.

“I got to town, and thought about getting breakfast at the bakery. As I approached a man came running out shouting that they’d run out of bread.”

He paused, and she looked at him, “And?”

“And his arms were full of bread! I carried on, but was pushed aside as people rushed past me. Before I knew it there was a scramble of people at the door. Deciding that discretion was the better part I retreated, and went to Philip’s place.”

“But he wasn’t in?”

“No, he wasn’t. I saw his secretary who said I’d just missed him. Apparently one of his friends had brought him a warning, and he’d decided he needed to get out of town as quickly as possible.”

“Gambling again?”

He laughed, and said, “I said the same to his secretary. He just looked scared, and said no, and pointed up.”

“Up where?”

“To the mountain.”

“What?”

“It took me a while to get it out of the man, who kept trying to get away to pack or something. But I held on to the scoundrel, and he told me what he knew. Apparently a messenger came from the south. They’ve had a big problem down there, and wanted to warn everyone.”

He paused… she looked at him, knowing he was enjoying the drama, and said, “Go on!”

“Apparently their mountain blew up. Fire and stones all over the city. Many dead.”

“Dreadful!”

“Yes, it does sound terrible. I tried to calm the man, but he said he needed to go. He’d heard that the council had decided on measures to protect the town. And he wanted to get out before they were enacted.”

“No!”

“I didn’t quite understand, but by this time he was frantic, so I let the poor wretch go. He ran. Then I heard some yelling, and saw some people running. Soon there was a crowd passing me… and behind them I could see smoke. Well I’ll be honest with you, I wondered if perhaps they were right… but I looked at the mountain, and well, it was the same.”

“So what was it I wonder?” she asked musingly, knowing he needed encouragement.

“I managed to grab one of the laggards, who was panting. He told me that the town council had decided to set fire to the houses in the eastern district. To save the town… but the wind had got hold of the fire and it was now sweeping through the town.”

She shook her head.

“At this point, I decided to leave, and here I am.”

They both looked up at the White Mountain and he said, “I’m glad I live in the countryside.”

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