Session 2 (6/9 – 8.37 a.m.):

the rumble of the earthquake woke her a little before dawn the glass of water at the head of her bed was still vibrating with a single ringing tone as the walls and beams of the palace creaked and groaned under the strain slipping out from under the smooth lion skin naked as she was born she walked to the window and stared out over the troubled city the darkness was broken here and there by flames screaming voices she couldnt be sure but she suspected one of the watchtowers had fallen there seemed to be some shift in the ridges of darkness which were all she could see in the penumbra

she felt on edge disturbed her nerves unnaturally alert thats how it generally was of course one couldnt simply turn over and go back to sleep after one of these events it was worse during the day in any case then one could sometimes feel the tremor approaching like a wave of upheaval rushing across the land smooth and irresistible all one could do was brace for the shock and wait till it was over

dont show fear that was the most important thing dont show fear that was what her father had told her not long before he died we have a position to safeguard people look up to us if any of us ever loses control then the others will too father never lost control not even when the mountain spewed flame that last time not even when he marched towards the lava flow holding the whip and flail he died like a king thats what they said about him shed only been a little girl at the time but she still remembered the spurt of hot tears blinding her at the last minute she hadnt turned her head away though that was what theyd been emphasizing to her for days you mustnt turn your head away so shed seen him die seen the lava grind across him as nonchalant as it was pitiless but the next day it stopped the day her uncle was anointed the new king

she shook her head this was no time to rake up those old memories only yesterday shed been telling herself that it was time to grow up take more interest in the conduct of the kingdom otherwise it might be truly said her father had died in vain as for her uncle she shuddered thinking of his bloated hateful face those fat white hands tufted with bristles shed learnt to avoid those hands ever since shed realised he wanted something from her not just to marry her off to one of her cousins consolidate the kingdom for himself and his family of toad like children but something unutterable for himself

dawn was beginning to break now over the harbour rim lighting up the docks and cranes the little ships moored out in the channel it was a rare day now that passed without a tremor of some kind so people had learned to live with them ships would

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