It came like a funeral march over the fens of dry rice paddies. The beasts called from some unilluminated place just through the hedgerow and the patrons pushed their refusal and earbuds deeper.

They first arrived as envoys and company volunteers and each held on them somewhere a deed for their return. Wrapped up in pledges of reimbursement and guarantees and promises paid in full.

Distant lights of the approaching carriages preceded a horn’s cry in the dark. Everyone knew there was no going back. Not from here. Still, all huddled to board, and carried their thoughts of home.

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