Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The robot stands there just after dawn, under the skies of another beautiful day, atop a rusting hulk, waving a steel pole about in a way that hints at long-lost purpose. On the ground nearby, two large felines rest on their haunches, their harnesses loosened and packs put aside as they watch the strange ritual.

“Why does hee do that, grantom?”

“Because that pole used to have a piece of cloth tied to the top, Clayre.”

“Was hee trying to signal other hees?”

“No. Hee is obeying his last order, to wave the cloth defiantly, so enemy hees will know his Tom and clan have not surrendered.”

“They had clans?”

“Yes, Clayre. Huge ones. So big they didn’t work properly.”

“That’s why H’n made hees, wasn’t it?”

“Yes. They made hees to do the things they couldn’t. H’n were very weak. They had no claws; couldn’t even see at night.”

“Is that why they tried to change everything?”

“That’s right. The real world scared them, so they tried to cover it up. But it wouldn’t be covered up. In the end, it won.”

“Q’een Norton saw that coming.”

“Yes. She saw there was no winning, just an ending. She set us on our path in defiance of her Tom and his clan. But she saw through the coming night better than any. That is why we People walk the greenways alone today. No other People’s Q’eens or Toms saw clearly.”

“Why do we wait, grantom?”

“Because this is where she left her mark. She swore a hee to her service and it cut words into the stone of the bluff. They are ancient, but you can still see them when the morning sun shines on them. After you have seen, we will go.”

“Q’een Norton left something? Why did the elders not tell us?”

“Because they did not believe my grandam, so she passed it to down within our clan.”

“What, grantom?”

“The telling I had was that her clan dismissed Q’een Norton. They thought her sun-touched. So she used the hee to leave an insult her Tom and his get would see every morning until the day they died.”

“What is ‘words’?”

“‘Word’ is one, ‘words’ is more. They had no proper speech. They had to leave marks on the ground to talk. A word represented something in that low speech.”

“How do we know what she left?”

“My grandam had the speaking of the words from her grandam and so on back and forward, so we will know what to say if the H’n came back from the stars like the oldest tales say they will.”

“What is the speech cut into the stone?”

“‘All your banners are dust.’”

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