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They emerged from the scorched scrub with their powder blue banner before them, drab and ragged against the brightness of the sky. Twenty Shrint. Enough to run through my exhausted band without breaking stride, but they faltered to a halt in the centre of the clearing.

“What are they doing? Taunting us?”

Carter raised his rifle, but he held fire at my word. We hadn’t enough charge to squander at that range. The Shrint held station, and as the tension mounted I scanned again and again across their motley ranks, seeking any clue to their intentions. I found nothing, only that odd miscellany of burgundy and navy, of bottle green and charcoal grey that to them, seeing only black and white, was uniform.

From the corner of my eye I saw Carter’s hand curl and tighten, and knew no word could stay him. I dived, desperate, shouting as I fell. That was no blue banner, but a white flag of truce.


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