Sergeant Janom squeezed the bridge of his nose, trying to get himself to concentrate. Monitoring the radio communications on the middle, opperations deck of the cohort headquarter’s VAU-4-UN Super Heavy Transport robot was an unenviable job. The almost constant stream of tweets and whistles might have sounded like something out of the vast jungles of the Mwangi Expanse, but to Janom it could be painful. Volumes and tones would shift depending on the relative importance and sender, but it was all robot to robot communication. In training he asked the VAU-4-UN what the substance they were sharing and it broke it down as to the precise location, size, flammability, and opacity of a seemingly never ending list of trees within weapons range, interspersed with reports on terrain conditions, rocks, birds, even clouds. He thought it was appropriate that the radio bursts sounded like birds chattering in a bush, talking about everything and nothing at the same time.
The silence cut through to his attention. A blue light flickered on his console, with the same chirp being repeated after each flash.
“This is Arqueros Black Pronto. I have not understood your message, please say again, over.”
The system chirped again in his ears.
“This is Arqueros Black Pronto. Speak slower, over.”
“Arqueros Black Pronto this is Arqueros Black Ironside. How do you copy, over?”
“Arqueros Black Ironside this is Arqueros Black Pronto. Copy 5 of 5, over.” Janom sighed. The robots always seemed to want to know they’re being heard before they actually transmitted anything. That and their insistence on using this overly formal communication; one of the researchers from the Numerian Institute of Technology had told him it was how the Androffan military communicated and that they just had to get used to it.
“Arqueros Black Pronto this is Arqueros Black Ironside. Request contact Arqueros Black Sunray, over.”
‘Major Danug?’ Janom thought.
“Arqueros Black Ironside this is Arqueros Black Pronto. Wait, out. Major?”
Across the deck Major Danug sat reviewing some reports on an Androffan tablet. It seemed to be an odd combination to Janom, this hulking Kellid barbarian holding a glowing sheet of glass; the man even wore a pair of eyeglasses. “Sergent?” The large man replied, setting the tablet aside.
“Sir, Four Un Seven wants to talk to you sir.”
“Did he say why?”
“Sir, no sir.”
Clipping a field commset in place, Major Danug said, “Arqueros Black Ironside this is Arqueros Black Sunray, over.”
“Arqueros Black Sunray this is Arqueros Black Ironside. Request cancellation of escort. Request assignment of two Ex Ah You Two units. Request immediately deployment to Kenabres, over.”
“Arqueros Black Ironside this is Arqueros Black Sunray. Requests acknowledged. Wait, out.” He tapped a key on the commset and continued, “Captain, has our situation changed?”
“No Major. Aside from the local militia we spotted an hour ago, there’s nothing on the board. Why?”
“Four Un Seven wants to break formation.”
“What? I’ll be right down.”
Captain Elka slid down the ladder from the upper, tactical deck. She, like Janom, was from the city of Chesed and lacked the scarring and weathering her commander sported as a typical Kellid.
“Did it give a reason why?”
“No he didn’t, but he has shown considerable initiative. We’re riding heavy with both him and Four Un Three.”
“Yes sir, but we’re both in foreign territory and shouldn’t give those things too much leeway. It needs to know we’re in charge.”
“Well he did ask for permission Captain, he’s respecting the chain of command. Many of my tribesmates would ask for forgiveness after the fact.”
“I still advise against it.”
“I’ll put that in the record. Thank you Captain. Arqueros Black Ironside this is Arqueros Black Sunray. Request justification for your requests, over.”
“Arqueros Black Sunray this is Arqueros Black Ironside. I believe the Black Sovereign to be in danger. We have not had radio contact since initiation of Iron March protocol, over.”
“Arqueros Black Ironside this is Arqueros Black Sunray. The Black Sovereign has been in radio silence before. I will not approve requests without justification, over.”
“Arqueros Black Sunray this is Arqueros Black Ironside. Arqueros Alpha Starlight said to be receptive to Lady Luck’s signs. Last night The Rose was brighter than usual for approximately seven minutes. Ex Ah You Two reports have included observations of many unexpectedly wilted flowers. I believe she is warning us of the loss of hope, over.”
“Arqueros Black Ironside this is Arqueros Black Sunray. Requests approved. For Numeria, over.”
“Arqueros Black Sunray this is Arqueros Black Ironside. WILCO. For Numeria, out.”
“It wants to go running off because it saw some wilted flowers? Why do you give it such leeway?”
“He Captain, he.”
“All my life I’ve only ever seen those gearsmen round up my countrymen, impassively but stupidly following the literal orders of the blasphemous Technic League. But Four Un Seven? He broke ranks to take a collapsing building on his hull … spared the lives of several civilians. I asked him why … his interpretation to ‘save Starfall’ meant not just to save the place, but the people in it. All of them have been acting differently since the Black Sovereign came to power. You and I need to recognize that.”
Bliks ran a finger across the bubbled remains of the Powered Armour’s visor. ‘What happened to your fields?’ she sent.
‘The gargoyles took them down, little buggers,’ he replied, looking over from some reading on a still intact screen, ‘you think if they were up, I could’ve gone through that Wall?’
‘I doubt it. Prismatic Walls do more than just damage, it probably would have sent you … elsewhere. And no, I don’t want to try it out when we get back to Starfall.’
‘You’re no fun!’
In the middle of the cul-de-sac Hex turned on his heel, eyes scanning doors, windows, and rooftops. It always amazed Bliks how he kept active, never seemed to tire or get bored. Her momentary reverie was broken by Eryno curse, ‘it’s saying I can’t use it if I want it to fix itself! I was looking forward to cutting loose tonight.’
‘Do without.’ Hex sent monotonously to which Eryno rolled his eyes.
For a moment Bliks considered then sent, ‘this might work to our advantage. We’ll look just like any other group of crusaders.’
“Hey paladin!” Eryno said over the Powered Armour’s speakers, his voice tinny but much louder, “Mind if I stash my suit in your house?”
Soon after his breakdown, Irabeth had taken Horgus inside while the Torch Bearers recovered from their battle. A faint voice called out, “Of course friend!” Bliks waved for Eryno to head inside, a gesture he mirrored which only made her eyes narrow. Between them stepped Hex, his head shaking as the half elf broke into laughter.
With the shutters and curtains closed, the front room was dim, but Bliks could make out its humble furnishings. Easily the largest room in the house, it was a simple kitchen with a table for meals at which Horgus sat. His eyes still seemed puffy from his earlier outburst, but he otherwise had regained his composure as he drank from a tankard.
“Safest might be to conceal your suit in our pantry,” Irabeth said gesturing, “and please, make yourself comfortable.”
Hex sat at a small desk near the door, his back to a wall while Eryno muscled his suit around the table and into the small pantry. Irabeth was nervously pacing, adding “we don’t often have guests.”
With a smile Bliks said, “for the captain of the Eagle’s Watch, your home is quite modest. When you told me it was in the Gate District I was surprised, most others at your station would demand at least something in New Kenabres.”
“We wish to set an example, that others might focus on the Worldwound, not on material comforts.”
Horgus looked up from his drink, “you’re naïve paladin. If you want respect, you can’t just have good intentions, you need to put on airs.” Irabeth looked at him agape. “You may not like it, but not everyone is as high minded as you.”
“Let’s not quibble over politics,” Bliks said soothingly. She shot the half orc a sharp look then said, “besides, I have something that you might appreciate. Come, sit.”
She immediately winced at a crash from the pantry followed by a muffled “sorry!” The two women then joined Horgus at the table, only to hear the clatter of metal and another “sorry!” Rolling her eyes Bliks shook her head in disbelief at her companion’s inexplicable clumsiness. Smiling she lifted her pack on to the table.
“When I was under Kenabres, in exchange for their assistance in finding your wife, the Descendants of the First tasked me with wiping out an enclave of demon worshipers. Amongst their treasures I found this.” From her pack’s extradimensional space she drew out a long darkwood case. “Seeing as you recently lost your sword, I thought this might make an appropriate replacement.”
Irabeth slid the case in front of her and snapped open its clasps. As it opened, and the golden brilliance of the longsword Radiance spilled into the room, all but Hex drew in a breath. It glowed of its own accord now, illuminating the kitchen with the warm touch of sunlight. “This … is precious,” the paladin stammered, “I am surely not worthy of it.”
“Who would you say would be?” Bliks replied.
Irabeth looked to the pantry door where Eryno was standing, “you’re a great swordsman, are you not? A champion of good and purity?”
“Well, yeah, but I’ve got my bases covered,” the half elf said, several scabbards hanging off his waist.
“Who better to wield Yaniel’s famous blade than one resisting the taint of the Worldwound? Even if she is gone, her blade remains … and it did not glow in my presence alone … it calls to you Irabeth Tirablade. Take it and carry on her legacy.”
With renewed confidence, the paladin slipped her hand into the mithril crossguard, her green fingers tightening around the cold iron wire that covered the weapon’s hilt. For a moment, the blade blazed with light, blinding Bliks, before the aura seemed to spread over Irabeth herself. The half orc stood, her shoulders back, a new gleam in her eyes, as she held the sword before her.
Then Bliks doubled over in pain, her hands snapping to her temples as her head suddenly felt like it was being crushed, a thousand eyes suddenly upon her. Tossing a handful of coal dust and finishing an incantation, Bliks centered a Darkness spell on herself, but heard a taunting whisper, “pathetic wizard, do you think your mere spells will block my sight?”
In a flurry, she threw her chair back and bolted out the door, her head pounding in time to the laughter in her ears. Outside she shot into the sickly sky. “Clever, clever indeed, to separate yourself from your … friends … so you would not betray them further” the feminine voice cooed, “but I still see you. I can’t wait to see what’s wrong with you, to peel back your skin, your mind’s eye … Bath’tanath said so much before I finished with him. I wonder … how many times will I have to flay your soul before I find out what he meant?”
Somewhere far away she could hear Eryno or Hex sending her messages, or Irabeth shouting, but the coursing howl in her ears, a screeching laughter, an indomitable will pressing against the vault of her thoughts, suffocated every other sense. “Where are you?” the voice whispered in one ear, her breath hot and the slight tingle of the flick of a tongue, “you can trust me, lover” her other ear registered, the feel of sharp teeth pressing against her skin, “we can be together, as you always wanted”, from lips pressed close to her own, “no more fears, no more doubts.”
Then, through the hurricane, a single bell tolled.
It was distant, forlorn, but clear.
Again it rang, quiet but insistent. The wind snarled but began to die. Something wet stained her lips and she reached out for the ringing surety. Her hands felt weighed down by chains, her legs stuck in amber, yet she strained against her restraints.
Something cracked. She was sure it was one of her ribs. The voice was a panting howl, teeth tearing at her, like a beast fending off a scavenger. Then something else cracked. Another bone? Her jaw felt numb.
Then a golden light broke through the storm, parted the clouds in her mind, and it was done.
Around her, her clothes were in disarray, their edges frayed. Laying on the ground, a figure in gold gleaming above her, its sword a sun. She could taste the metal, her blood, as lip dripped and then all went dark.
“What in Avernus was that?” she heard Eryno say. He was somewhere nearby, holding her? Carrying her? She felt a wet cloth against her brow, another dabbing at her bleeding mouth. With significant effort, she opened her eyes, finding them strained as if she had squeezed them tight.
Irabeth stood above her, chanting one of Iomedae’s liturgies, Radiance held high creating a glowing dome of light and protection. Eryno’s face was near, as he administered some ointment to her skin. The handsome half elf caught her open eyes and smirked, “at least you’re not dead. Again.”
Her side ached, her head thundered, her lips were sore, her brow strained, and her jaw felt like she had been punched. “Dominate … Person,” she said at last, her mouth painfully forming the words, “unlike … I’ve ever … felt.”
“Well it looked bad. You were floating up there, flailing about, then slammed into a streetlamp and came tumbling down,” Eryno said, his hands doing much of the talking. “You kept flopping there until she,” he thumbed towards Irabeth, “came out and did that thing with her sword.”
Bliks pressed the wet cloth against her pained forehead, letting her head roll back realizing she lay on a table. “We tested ourselves against Unity, but this was beyond its power. I fear that Areelu must be in Kenabres already … that or I am being plagued by the gods.”
The glow in the kitchen dimmed as the Paladin finished her hymn, lowering Radiance to one side. “I thought you had reacted to the blade, to my claiming ownership of it, but Iomedae consoled me, sent me to your side.”
“It was rather disturbing,” Horgus added noncommittally.
“We should not tarry,” Hex said, repeating himself from earlier.
Struggling to sit, Bliks said “yes, Sovereign, our duty is even more pressing I feel.” With a deep breath she felt the breezes stir up about her once again and she was lifted upright. “I am able to travel, but I must travel apart from you, if only to not give our adversary any clues as to our intent.”
Heading outside, Hex, Bliks, and Horgus waited for Eryno to slip into his well worn suit of heavily enchanted studded leather armour while Irabeth tested the weight and balance of her new sword. Floating at least a story above ground, Bliks felt exposed, shivering slightly. She curled her legs up under her so she seemed to be sitting in mid air, folding her arms across her chest, trying to become as small as she could.
“Alright, let’s go!” Eryno said almost too cheerfully, bounding out the Tirablade residence.
The most direct path to Gwerm Manor meant they had to cut back and forth, using several alleys along the way. That bothered Bliks the most as she had to fly high above the rooftops so as to have nothing identifiable within Scrying distance of her. This she did as quickly as possible, hanging back from the rest of the group until they had made their passage.
Still as they progressed south, the city started to again show signs of destruction accompanied by the occasional body in the street or more often a mere smear. Bliks saw the gouge they would have to cross before the others and quickened ahead of them to scout for an easy route down. The path of descent was forgiving but on the far side Eryno had to scramble up a steep incline to secure a rope for the less capable of the group.
Once they had cleared the gouge, Horgus started to show greater spirit, making commentary about the abandoned shops and boarded up homes, which ones had particular good products or how much they had borrowed from him. No business venture or renovation seemed to be below his interest as he remarked on everything from loans for a new stove to a handful of silver for a stout pair of boots. The businesses lining Old Cornmarket were of particular pride, as he proudly pointed out the initial G painted somewhere near their entrances, a discount he offered to increase his local notoriety.
As they turned off that thoroughfare Gwerm Manor came into view. It was a considerable building, wide with circular turrets dominating either end. At her altitude, Bliks guessed it had at least three, perhaps four functional floors, with steeply pitched metal roofing above that. The ground floor had only small windows set high in their walls, while the upper floor windows were all tightly shuttered. Neither light nor sound came from the building.
Horgus scowled, “these are not the instructions I left. Where are my guards, my groom? I will have words with Sofila.” He tried the door, a smile breaking the scowl as he found it locked. An intricate key opened their way into the darkened manor.
Shaking her head, Bliks came to a stop short of the entrance. “Your home could easily be recognized, could it not Lord Gwerm?”
Almost absentmindedly Horgus said, “but of course, I pride myself on …”
Bliks held up a hand and interrupted, “then I cannot enter.”
The contorted look on Horgus’ face suggested he was about to angrily protest then he tapped his forehead, nodded, and led Hex inside, “after you, Sovereign!” Eryno and Irabeth hung back. Horgus paused, adding “you are all welcome, of course!”
“I’ll keep Bliks company, you guys go ahead,” Eryno replied, tipping his head to Irabeth whose exaggerated sigh Hogus didn’t seem to notice.
Even before they were out of sight Eryno said “so what’re you doing after this?”
‘After this we still have to navigate…’ she sent in reply
“No, no, I mean after we’re done in Kenabres. I get it, you were curious, and it just happens to help Numeria if you give Mendev a hand. But what’s next? A diplomatic mission to Ustalav or Brevoy? More robot reclaimation sweeps of the Felldales?”
‘Surely the task at hand …’
“Can wait. Humour me Magister.”
Bliks balked. “Magister? What’s become of you?”
He smiled his lopsided grin, “when we’re out like this you forget my day job. I’m not dumb, I know how Scrying works. People can read lips.”
Bliks grinned in response, “well, I do hope to increase the ranks of robots in our military. That and convince more of the tribes to sign up. Numeria really does need a strong central-“
Shouting from inside the manor broke her train of thought. ‘His house has been burgled,’ Hex sent.
“A man flouts his wealth then is surprised when it is taken from him?” Bliks asked Eryno sarcastically. She shook her head and then continued to give a breakdown on her plans to bolster Numeria’s military, carefully avoiding discussing the Helige Cohort or either of her initiatives along the Egelsee and West Sellen rivers.
Still the half elf’s smile didn’t match his drooping eyelids or lolling head. Bliks persisted, floating several yards away from anything, partaking in the spymaster’s gambit. After what she considered was half an hour, he stifled a yawn, but then gestured for the sylph to continue. She couldn’t help but laugh.
An animated voice from the manor was accompanied but an occasional brief reply or interjection, which heralded Irabeth and Hex’s return. The Black Sovereign nodded to his two chief advisors, “Lord Gwerm has many surprises.”
“I can’t imagine how he’s managed to maintain such a ruse!” the paladin exclaimed, obviously in a good mood, “his staff, to the lowest hand, holed up in his safe room. They refused to abandon the house to looters but secured his valuables with them! All I’ve ever seen is their distain in public, even then hiding their love for that man.”
“His mistresses were unexpected.”
“Mistresses?” Eryno laughed, “that insufferable bore has more than one?”
“And they knew one another!” Irabeth continued, “what a scandal that would be if it got out.” She then paused, her tone dropping, “not that there are many nobles left to gossip.”
The travellers nodded to one another and set off again. The skirted the edge of Horgus’ property, noting the destroyed woodlot that served as his back yard. From her vantage, Bliks could see another chasm cutting into a muddy depression that might have previously been a pond. Sections of the wall between the Gate district and the next plateau of New Kenabres even now broke and tumbled into this dark rift, the sound of their ruin not being matched by a crash at its unseen bottom.
Turning to the west, the wounded sky was in full view with threatening clouds ready to unleash anything but water. “I had hoped we could climb that tower,” Bliks said, pointing to a mostly intact square redoubt, “to investigate another of the cultist’s safe houses. But these rifts … I will go alone.”
“Be swift,” Hex said.
The tower was considerable in scale, with unmanned ballistae dotting its flat roof. A stain and a destroyed emplacement suggested to Bliks that not all had fled their posts. More disturbing was the disturbing glow she could see, even midday, coming from the rift that ran parallel to this curtain wall. ‘Go out, have a look, get back,’ she reminded herself from one of Eryno’s training sessions as she turned from the rift to the devastation of New Kenabres.
Another one of the inexorably wide gouges leading to or from the central cathedral had torn through this entire neighbourhood, with rubble of collapsed buildings in its path. Nyserian Manor lay amid the debris somewhere, another sign of the Abyss’ lack of direction, as the demons destroyed allies alongside victims in their blind urges. ‘It’s gone’ she sent over the link, ‘likely destroyed by one of those Vermeraks. I doubt this city will be rebuilt with fervour that established it during the First Crusade. There are even lights from the deepest rifts … whether they are a result of the demonic attack or something else, I can’t say. Even if we destroy the wardstone, foil Vorlesh’s plan, I have difficulty seeing a bright future for Kenabres. Continue along our planned path, I’ll catch up.’
Bliks dropped down, keeping what remained of New Kenabres’ wall between her and the oppressive sky. As she passed over the deep rift, she could see their next destination ahead. While the others would have to cross one of the trench like gouges, she took a more direct path to the Librarium of the Broken Black Wing.
When she had lived here fifteen years ago, she occasionally went to study at the Librarium; the Tower of Estrod was dedicated to historical records, a place for sages not an aspiring wizard like herself. Each time she entered, she’d pass under the pitch Vrock wing, preserved and tacked there, giving the place its name. She also preferred the view. From its roof she could see into the gated community of retired crusaders who had braved the Worldwound to secure questionable wealth from the remnants of Sarkoris. It was rumoured that they had walled themselves as much to protect their wealth as to stifle the screams of their night terrors.
Black Wing’s tower was now absent from Kenabres’ skyline. While the trench her companions were traversing passed close, the destruction of the Librarium seemed to be of a different sort entirely. There were precise cuts in the stone, slicing through walls and floors, making upper floors slide off the building to shatter on the ground below. What remained of the great hall had been pounded by either multiple Fireball spells or a Meteor Swarm, the wooden parts of the façade being turned to ash. It was an unnatural mixture of fury and precision.
Amid the ruins was a ghastly circle. Arrayed in a crude star were five corpses amid a pile of books, all burned. What made it particularly disturbing to Bliks was the scorch marks streaming away from the circle, as if something had exploded amid the conflagration. As the other travellers made their way through the broken skeleton of a building, she carefully scanned the area with Detect Magic.
“That Warped One you fought yesterday?” she said to Eryno, “I believe it was born here. This ring stinks of the kind of magic that would create one of those things.” Turning to Irabeth she explained, “we fought a demon partially encased in a suit of plate mail dedicated to Iomedae. Where a crusader fell to corruption, it rose.”
The paladin grimly nodded, kneeling at the edge of the circle. She began to intone Iomedae’s ritual of last rites before she stopped, snatching something off the ground. Holding the leathery grey strip of flesh out for Bliks inspection she asked, “is this from that Warped One? I would know the fate of those who fall from her light.”
“That,” Bliks said cautiously, “is from something else. Eryno do you recognize that?” Looking over from a collapsed bookshelf, the half elf shook his head. “Hex?”
“Nargin Haruvex, the Choking Tower’s basement.”
“That’s what I thought too. Maybe not him, I mean he didn’t seem to have either an interest in the Worldwound nor the power to do this, but something like him. A Worm that Walks.”
“Hey Bliks?” Eryno said as he pulled a chunk of shelf from under the rubble, “isn’t this the same mark on your pack?” He held up the scorched piece of wood, a spiral engraved in its surface.
“The symbol of the Riftwardens. That might explain the ferocity of the damage! If this was a Riftwarden enclave,” she pointed to the clean cut through the stone, “then that would have been caused by blackfire. Perhaps one of the Adepts took the assault on the city as a chance to strike. But perhaps this was coordinated with the demons … I had always thought they sought to harness the power of Worldwound, not become its minions.”
“Are you not a Riftwarden?” Irabeth asked.
Bliks blinked, saying “no … I know of them, but I am not a member.”
“Whence did you get that pack? The Riftwardens do not idly sell their wares.”
“It was my mother’s. My father gave it to me years ago … after she failed to return from Eagle’s Rock.”
Irabeth’s eyes widened, “your mother died at the Eagle’s Rock Massacre?”
“No,” Bliks sighed, “she died when Eagle Rock fell in 4693.”
The winds around Bliks petered out as she settled to the ground. Her world became mute. “How do you know her name?”
“My parents died trying to retake that fortress. I have spent many nights studying it, in the hopes of one day leading the vanguard of the host that will do what they died trying. There have been few ousiders like her in the crusade. But your last name is Kelshite, is it not? Neither they nor Abasheen are known for skin as pale as yours.”
“She was an outcast, a renegade from her kin. She had more in common with Djini, so she fled to Golarion at the first opportunity.”
“Sorry to break up the Society of Eagle Rock Reclamation, but I can’t tell how much time we’ve got to get into position,” Eryno broke in, gesturing towards the unkind sky.
Hex nodded, “Let’s go.”
Through her socks and boots Bliks felt the cobblestones of Kenabres. They walked west, past Southgate Market that, while deserted, hadn’t been scorched from the land as Northgate Market had. What merchants hadn’t taken must have been looted, but the stalls were intact. Bliks mumbled that their planned path to the New Kenabres district would trap them between two rifts, so they steered parallel to the wall, aiming for a gouge that had broken through that curtain wall.
She slipped while they were climbing down, scraping her hands through her gloves. Biting her lip, she ignored the pain, folding her hands into her pockets as they hurried north along the trench that led towards where the Cathedral of Saint Clydwell had stood. Not wanting to attract more demonic attention they turned towards a tower similar to the one Bliks had scouted earlier. Eryno took the lead, securing an Autograpnel at it’s ragged top so the others could take turns ascending. From the pile of rubble that had been its upper floors, they found a stair and made their way into the Ring district.
Truestone Park had been fouled by the demons, its pond now glistening with oil or worse. ‘Hezrou demons’ Bliks thought but tried to hold her breath against its stench. Those trees that hadn’t been torn down were even now twisting and writhing slowly in an unfelt wind. Furhter in, Alodae Amphitheatre looked intact but a row of ravaged corpses impaled on crude spikes suggested it was providing a new kind of entertainment.
Under Eryno’s direction they bypassed the few demons they spied, who seemed more intent on systematically smashing windows or defecating on any open surface. Irabeth produced a set of keys that let them cut through another tower into the highest plateau, the district of Old Kenabres. While the tower’s twin had been utterly consumed by a rift, they found each floor intact until they reached the roof, so they could see when their allies signalled the attack had begun.
Then it would be a short scramble to the Grey Garrison and the wardstone.
“Alone at last. Such a sad story, your mother. I killed mine.”