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Rampart

Rating: Explicit
Status: In Progress
Series: None
Preceding: None
Succeeding: None




Prologue
    It was a frigid winter night, cold enough to freeze streams and frost windows, but, alas, not to produce snow. Still, the unforgiving winter weather could not hope to damper Dennis Kirklith's sheer elation as he sped down a pristine highway, the old cobbled road now replaced by a four-lane thruway that occasionally scraped the rocky cliffs through which it ran. Atop the cliffs, Dennis could glimpse the occasional farmhouse or barn, built so close to the edge that he swore that they were liable to fall off. The lit houses provided enough dim light to distinguish the giant Evergreen trees that dominated the mountainside forests. It was the first sign that he was getting close, nearing the small town where he was raised. He swore that he could smell the hot beef stew that had seen him through so many winter nights long ago. At that powerful nostalgic thought, Dennis shed a single tear. He briefly checked himself in his side-view mirror. Rubbing the stubble on his chin, he was painfully aware of his aged appearance. Although he was only thirty-five, he had the ruddy complexion and sagging jowls of a man ten years his senior. His bulbous, red nose and the permanent dark circles in his eyes did nothing to help matters.
    "Eight years," he muttered to himself as he returned his attention to the road ahead. His inner thoughts becoming muttered sentences, he continued, "Eight years, and look what's happened. I swear this valley used to be narrower." Stealing one more glance at the rocky cliffs that surrounded him, he grimaced in disgust. The region couldn't have grown that much, could it? He suspected not, considering the utter lack of traffic on the narrow ribbon of highway. Intellectually, he knew that no one would be using a rural highway at half past midnight, but he held on to the irrational former sentiment, desperate to quell his nostalgic fears. Terrible weather and fear of progress aside, he couldn't be happier tonight. When he signed up for the freighters' union, he had no idea that it would mean spending most of his time freelancing abroad, attempting to haggle with warehouse managers who barely spoke his language and routinely driving for fourteen hours a day to make his deadlines. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept for more than six hours. His union contract expiring, coupled with the accordant four-figure bonus, was quite enough on its own to put a bit of pep in his step. But surviving the last eight years was only the tip of his good fortune, for he found a job hauling tin canisters to his beloved hometown, Arcohor, where he had spent the best and worst years of his life. Moreover, it would reunite him with his mother, whom he had only been able to speak with by public phone, assuming that whatever backwater in which he happened to find himself had an international line. Few did. He passed a shimmering road sign that exclaimed, "Welcome to Maidsland Territory: The Land of Opportunity". Finally, after so long, he was forty miles from a wonderful reunion and a well-deserved vacation. Perhaps he'd sell his truck and give up being a freighter. That way, he could live in Arcohor for the rest of his life. He dwelled on that thought for the next thirty-nine miles.
   Wanting to save the reunion for the morning, Dennis pulled his truck into a rest stop, vowing to sleep for the next eight hours. Eight, he thought to himself, giddy, What a novel concept. Knowing himself, however, he knew that he would only sleep for six, meaning that he would have a whole two hours to clean himself up in the rest stop bathroom and eat a regular goddamned breakfast for once. His stomach grumbled at the thought, as if in agreement. Although the reclining bench seat in his truck hardly made for a comfortable bed, he gathered up the assortment of sheets and quilts to keep warm and switched off the engine, almost immediately plunging the cabin into a painfully damp, frigid cold. He might have looked for a motel with weather this bad, but he couldn't spoil the luxury of a clean, warm bed before he reached his mother's house. As he attempted to rest, struggling to find the most comfortable position that he could, he thought about a local joke about the Maidsland territory. The territory was named for Annabelle Cyrus royal governor's daughter back when it belonged to an overseas nation. The story went that she would reject suitor after suitor who courted her, claiming that she would only marry the perfect one, vowing to keep her virginity until that time came. Needless to say, that day never came, and she died a "maiden" at the age of seventy. The joke was that Maidsland's terrible winters inspired the people to name it after Lady Cyrus, "the most frigid bitch in the territory". On that thought, Dennis fell hard asleep, the first flakes of a winter snow beginning to float down, quickly blanketing the rest stop and his truck.



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