Casus Belli

Adrift Entry #3

rating: +4+x

Sprinting down the man-made tunnels, nearly slipping on the snow that still clung to her boots, Myra excitedly rushed to the governmental buildings of Dietrich. It was one of the smaller spokes in Veril's wheel, but it still boasted a population of 174 thriving occupants; barely bigger than Mitla but most certainly smaller than Araw.

Turning a corner and entering into an open section of the cavern filled with various buildings, Myra directed herself towards a small, red-bricked one. She rushed through the street, dodging other pedestrians, and wrenched the door to the office open, dashing inside. It was a simple little building, having only a few rooms, the one in the back being Myra's destination as she continued her sprint, though slower now that she was inside. Reaching a shoddy wooden door, Myra came to a complete stop, smoothing out her breathing, before knocking.

A muffled voice came from the other side, "Come in!"

Myra shoved the door open, trying to contain her excitement as best she could as she entered the little office. Yellow light bathed the cozy space, bookshelves lined two of the walls while the others held various achievements in frames alongside some artwork. Sitting in the middle at a small desk, now looking up from some paperwork, was the mayor of Dietrich, a brass nameplate on the desk reading "Lowe DeKlaus."

Lowe looked up at Myra, stifling his mild surprise at her showing up. "Please, take a seat," he said, gesturing to the two chairs that sat in front of the desk. Myra quickly obliged, ready to burst.

Lowe watched Myra sit down, taking note of how excited she seemed, her face flushed red— though that could just as much have been from the cold. "What brings you all the way over here, Ms. Langhly?"

"Well, sir, I'm a part of the crew you sent out scout out an area for Frostgnawed," she said, still catching her breath.

"I'm aware. Is there an issue? Did you find Frostgnawed?"

"Quite the opposite actually, sir."

"What is it then?"

"We found an old, old pre-snuff mine. Had 'MI-5' painted on the wall near it."

While this did serve to raise one of Lowe's eyebrows, it didn't seem the monumental news Myra appeared to be suggesting it was. "… and?"

Myra grinned. "Well, me and Hollan, who was there with me, decided to take a look around."

"Seems dangerous, an old, probably rotting mine being what it is."

"Oh yes sir. Admittedly, curiosity impaired rational thought, but it was well worth it."

Now the other eyebrow was raised. "Oh?"

"Not only were the supporting structures in surprisingly great condition, but the mining tunnel leads directly to a large, open cavern."

Lowe cracked a small grin, thinking of the possibilities. "Really? Is the ground mostly flat, mostly level?"

"Reasonably, as far as Hollan and I could tell. Would still need some work, but we could do it."

It was a dream come true, strangely perfect. Had Lowe been a more pious man living a few hundred years ago, he may have attributed it to the favor of a god falling on his shoulders. "I'll get to drafting some documents right away, get to talking with some of the construction heads," Lowe said, before standing up from his chair and reaching his hand out to Myra. "Mighty fine work, Ms. Langhly."

Myra stood up and grasped Lowe's hand, shaking it gently. "Thank you, sir."

he rose further and further in power
but it was never enough to sate him
he clawed and bit and chewed and ate
his stomach burst and spilled on the floor
still he consumed with little regard
the floor melted away in the acrid fluid
his seat strained beneath his weight
yet still did he hunger and thirst
forever would he be
until the end

MI-5's development was well under way, Myra and Hollan placed in charge of the project by Lowe himself, a privilege earned by their loyal support of Dietrich and its endeavors, alongside their finding of MI-5 itself. Their qualifications were slightly unpolished, having been out of the development game for quite a while, choosing instead to work fields, as development didn't have the future it once did. However, once talk of establishing a new territory arose, the two of them retook their positions as engineers and began settling in as the forefront of the effort. Of course, it came with some risk, having to personally be a part of the crews that scouted out potential areas, ensuring that anything found was truly up to snuff before being presented.

Now, the two sat side-by-side, gazing out into the cavern that was to be their future home. Population expansion was always an issue on the forefront of all the sane and perpetually-anxious minds in Veril, but with a population that barely scraped by in a treacherous world that afforded no weakness, it was a slow moving issue, one that could sit on the back burner. Dietrich, however, felt that putting the issue on hold would only lead to disaster in the long run, choosing instead to be proactive and begin looking for places to establish new homesteads, if not for the extra room for people then for more places to grow food. Bioengineering has come a long way, aided largely by the burgeoning scientific inclinations of the world pre-snuff, the development of crops able to not only survive, but thrive underground having reached a climactic summit, now able to fully support an entire territory if managed properly alongside livestock.

As the two sat, watching as a few workers wrapped up their projects before the end of their work day, tools coming to rest, they began to reminisce about where they'd been.

Myra Langhly and Hollan Frescht, born and raised in Dietrich, weaned on the cave water and moss. Growing with the stalagmites, marking heights and making promises for the future to one another in hushed whispers. Crawling and squeezing through faint crevices and tunnels into secret little hideaways, where the world was their own to form and fantasize about, idyllic and sweet, until the crevices and holes became too small for them and their dreams. And yet still did they continue on, chasing their siamese ambitions and fascinations.

So when Myra stood up and reached her hand out, Hollan took little time to grasp it tightly, letting her help him up, both grinning like drunken fools.

So when Myra put a finger up to her lips, giving a subtle side-eye to a worker passing by, Hollan took little time to playfully mimic sewing his mouth closed, giving a small wink to assure of his oath to secrecy.

So when Myra began pulling him away without a word, Hollan took little time to let himself be drug along, matching her pace so that neither would stumble.

So when Myra took him to a tucked away corner and pointed at a crevice leading to a tight passageway, Hollan took little time to assess their capability to pass, pulling on his years of experience to determine it was wide enough, letting himself bathe in nostalgia.

As they shuffled through the nook, backs pressed to the wall as their noses were mere inches away from dragging across the parallel wall, they whispered to one another despite the little care others would have for them or their antics, letting themselves indulge in childhood memories and habits. They stifled laughs as they reminisced, Myra keeping her eyes forward and Hollan keeping his on her. The entire way through, Myra had been pulling matches from a box, striking them for light, shaking them out before they could burn her fingers, drawing the next in the brief moment of darkness before alleviating it with a flick of her wrist.

The crevice came to a sudden opening, the two stopping in their tracks, staring at what they'd found. It wasn't until the match in Myra's hand burned to her fingers that someone spoke, Myra yelping in the dark as she jerked her hand.

"Did you not look ahead?"

Myra struck another match. "No, I didn't. I wanted to go in blind, experience the thrill of exploration together."

"I was wondering why the crevice seemed so… consistent. Guess it isn't natural."

The two had stumbled into a large, square room. No, warehouse. Dug into the stone. Filled nearly to the brim with sealed metal crates.

Lanterns sat intermittently across the walls, filled with oil. Myra lit them as they walked further in, navigating the edges. After twenty minutes of walking and lighting lamps— according to Hollan's watch— they'd walked the entirety of the warehouse's perimeter.

The two stood stunned, sure of what they wanted to do next but neither quite ready to do it. Myra took the first step forward, approaching the first of the sealed crates. There weren't any latches to undo, no locks to turn a key in, or anything of the like, only a thin indentation where the lid seemed to meet and slide onto the container, held together with some kind of sealant. The pair made a quick trip back to the main cavern, snagged a prybar, and shuffled back down the crevice.

Hollan stuck the teeth in the seam of the first box he came to and started trying to crack it open, pulling down on the prybar until there was a loud CHRK! and the lid came loose. Myra pulled one of the lanterns off the wall and ran over, shining it inside the box.

Food. Nonperishable foodstuff, sealed away for who knew how long. Not everything seemed edible, but most still did.

Shock still plastering his face, Hollan slowly moved onto the next crate, prying the lid open just as he did with the first.

More food.

He moved to the next. More food.

And the next. More food.




One after the other, until he had opened all of the crates laying on the outer edges. All in all, most were filled with food while the rest contained what seemed to be general medical supplies alongside items meant for general, day-to-day well-being.

And still, they had only opened a small number of the crates. They continued on into the middle of the warehouse, beginning to stack up on one another until they met the ceiling high above. If the trend continued, then they had a veritable gold mine on their hands. It was an unbelievable miracle.

While food and other supplies had never been too much of a concern, it still posed a question of considerable worth, transportation being as dangerous and costly as it was. But now, now things could be taken at a slower, more manageable pace, give them a good cushion to fall on. Not only that, but if trouble arose, they would be able to utilize it as emergency goods for themselves or for whichever territory was suffering.

It seemed to them to be a blessing from the gods of the old world.

scurry, scurry, scurry
five little mice scurry 'round
they circle the sagging chair legs
as the acrid fluid drips, drips
they fear being stung
one little mouse squeaks
"he is too far gone"
"he listens not"
"see how the legs sag"
"see how his flesh has burst"
"see how he continues on"
"see how it falls out of the wound"
"he is too far gone"
so the five little mice gather
they gather and scheme
scheme, scheme, scheme

Most people were asleep. He didn't have a watch on him, he couldn't see a clock, but some instinctual part of him knew.

Getting in was easy. He used to live there, so he knows the ins-and-outs of the system and still has his key, the little gemstone in his hand now coated in frost.

Unwitnessed, he slips to the streets, making his way deeper and deeper into the city, leaving a mist behind him as if he were sublimating. If anyone sees him, he'll have to kill them. He has no qualms with killing— he doesn't have qualms with much of anything anymore— but it'd be far easier to slip in and out unnoticed. So he sticks to the shadows, creeping slowly, peeking around corners, being as careful as he can be. He has to tread lightly, erring to grass or dirt whenever possible, as his barefooted steps elicit a light slapping sound on the stone. His feet don't bend nearly as well as they used to, now stiff and cold, making it difficult to go from heel to toe.

He's passed through the warmth of multiple heatlamps, yet his skin is still pale, tinted blue, seemingly glimmering with a sheen of ice. His breath comes out a cloud, pale fog glowing in the idle light that faintly touches the streets from errant sources left burning.

Finally he, he arrives at his destination, his target in sight. He runs through the field, no longer afraid of being spotted as deep green stalks stand tall around him, hiding him away from any sleepless eyes, the gravel pathway masking his trot. The small pouch hanging around his neck feels as if it's steadily growing, the weight of it pulling his mind down. He reaches inside and pulls out the damnation, holding it gently in his hands.

It's such a small thing, encased in a sphere of ice smaller than a child's fist. It doesn't have to be much, that's the destructive beauty of it. A weapon ripped from the corpse of Columella, a deep secret hidden away within the divine rot. She'd given it to him, entrusted him with it.

Something stirs in him. He lifts his eyes from the suspended cruelty in his hands, gazing around. But he can't see Dietrich.

The ice in his hands begins to rapidly melt, as if sensing the waning remains of humanity in him, reminding him of who he is now. He gently rests the half-melted sphere into the soil, laying it right next to a stalk.

Then, he's gone. Leaving the way he came, back out into the endless night.

the five mice dug a hole
a place where they could hide
hide away from his madness
shiver and shake in fear
hidden under a facade of progress
and they had plans, plans, plans
they would build a home in the hole
so they stuffed it full
filled to bursting
but nothing would come of it
the mice would never complete their burrow

Lowe DeKlaus sat in his office, silent save for the clock that ticked away the seconds. He rested his elbows on his desk, hiding his mouth behind his clasped hands. Under his desk, his left leg bounced, betraying the nervous energy that coursed through him.

tick… tick… tick…

It'd been discovered a week ago, the festering rot that had wormed its way into the crops. A gray mold that seeped into the interior of plant life from the soil, never revealing itself. It never sapped enough life from the plant to kill it, just enough to fuel its own growth. The toxins infesting the mold leached into the crop, rendering it inedible.

It had infected a majority of Dietrich's crops before being discovered. Their incoming food supply was decimated, the full damage discovered during the harvest. Worse still, as the mold ran through the soil, it was likely that it too had been infested with toxins and spores, making reuse of it nigh impossible. Differentiating clean soil from infested soil, even after the mold one could physically see was removed, seemed an insurmountable task.

tick… tick… tick…

He'd intended to keep it a secret, to solve the issue before relaying it, to dampen panic and worry. But secrets of that magnitude never manage to stay hidden away; inevitably, someone will let slip, either by accident or purposefully, and it becomes a cascade of rumors and fears, piling on and on and on, growing worse with each pass through ears.

Fear breeds paranoia, paranoia breeds conspiracy.

The fungus was too perfect in its destructive nature, perfectly hidden yet perfectly deadly. It surely must have been bioengineered. In the last two years, scientists in MI-5 had made wondrous strides in the field.

No infiltrator had been spotted, no stranger made note of. It was someone who the people knew or someone who knew the ins-and-outs of Dietrich. Along the same lines, it would have to be someone who knew of their harvest cycles, who would know when the perfect time to plant the mold would be. Too early and it eats up all its resources, eventually resorting to killing the plants. Too early and it doesn't spread far enough.

Every other territory is too far away, don't have such thorough information. It almost feels obvious to the people of Dietrich, too obvious to not be true.

tick… tick… tick…

Friends and family, blood boiling away in the rising hatred within Dietrich. Their foodstores are waning, their only hope is MI-5, infamous for their jump start years ago with the discovery of the cache. A blessing from the old world, one they kept to themselves. Back then, it was sensible: Dietrich doesn't have to expend excess resources and MI-5 gets a kickstart. But now it seems to the people of Dietrich that MI-5 is full of hoarders who can't fathom sharing their riches with those in need.

Lowe had tried to speak rationale into them, to tell them how MI-5 has no reason to betray them. Remind the people how the two territories are siblings, caring for one another. He speaks on the times that they helped one another, often selflessly. He's not a lone voice, others champion peace and sensibility, but they've been one-by-one socially exiled by friends and family alike, shutting them out completely.

Some have gone missing. There's no evidence of foul play, but Lowe still locks the doors of his home behind him. He's a paranoid embroiled within a crowd of paranoids.

tick… tick… tick…

He's afraid he's next. Will they lynch him? Stab him in the street? Draw and quarter him? Throw him out to freeze in the wastes?

Someone knocks at his office door, making him jump, he nerves shot.


tick… tick… tick…

Three more.


tick… tick… tick…

Then loud crashing, something heavy ramming repeatedly into the door.

Snapping, creaking, groaning, the door beginning to splinter and distort.

tick… tick… tick…

run, run, run
the little mice scamper and scour
preparing their scheme
ready to run away
awaiting the sign
the one that says to them
"run! run! run!"
but they're snatched in the night
caught in his fist, eyes bulging, screaming
he lays them on stone in the night
cold, cold, cold stone
inciting exsanguination
no where left to
run, run, run

"So, what're we gonna do?"

"I don't know, Myra! You keep asking me like I'm supposed to know!"

"You are supposed to know! We're supposed to know! People are looking to us!"

"I didn't ask for this! You were the one who wanted to lead this place, I just wanted to be with you!"

"That's right, you wanted to be with me. And here you are, so let's make a decision. Together."

"You act like this is something that can just be talked out! That we can discuss quickly, make the choice obvious! They're our friends. Our family!"

"We still have to."

"We'd decide the fate of so many people…"

"And that's a choice we have to make."

"Easy for you to say."


"Your family moved here! All of them! My parents still live there! My brother! My sister! My niece! You have no reason to care!"

"Excuse me?!"

"You. Have no reason. To care."

"Piece of shit!"

"Ghuh! Gods— ugh, my jaw! What— what the hell is wrong with you?!"

"Do you think I'm just some heartless monster?! I have friends there! People I care about! Just because my family's here doesn't mean I don't care! You condescending—"

"Wait! Wait, wait, wait! You're right, I'm sorry! I'm sorry. I just want this to be over! I just want to go home and see my family. Be with them."


"'Why?!' Because they're my family! That's my home!"

"Is it even home anymore?"


"I mean, if you went back, would they want to see you? Accept you?"

"I… of course. Of course they would."

"No. They wouldn't."

"They would, they'd—"

"Get your head straight, Hollan! They hate us. They think we poisoned their crops, that we're trying to kill them."

"They're just being irrational, they're scared."

"I know, I know. But it's over. They crossed a tipping point, no going back. Look at what they did to DeKlaus, the man who's brought them the most prosperity Dietrich's ever seen. If they killed him, then they're already too far gone."

"You sound like you've made up your mind…"

"I have. And now I want you to be with me. I don't want to make this decision alone."

"If we send them supplies then surely they'll see we didn't do it! That—"

"And then what? What happens after that? That kind of paranoia doesn't just go away. It sits, festers. We'll just be back to where we started the next time something bad happens."

"I can't…"

"Sit down with me, please. I know this is hard, but we have to look out for the good of our own people. We aren't Dietrich, haven't been for years."

"We're sentencing them to death."

"We are. But they want to kill us. What choice do we have?"


"C'mon. Sit down. Please, Hollan. No, no, please don't back away."



"What are we doing, Myra?"

"Protecting our own."


"Look, hey, I'm— I'm sorry I hit you. Okay?"


"I'll go draft up the announcement. An official embargo."

wriggle, writhe, worm
life slipping away
he cups their blood in his hands
spreading it around
the cold, cold, cold stone
he brings forth his fair lady
and she takes him
takes him to oblivion

Somewhere, a clock ticks in MI-5, its rhythm steady, counting away minutes. Five days ago, the choice to not send supplies to Dietrich was made.

No messenger was sent to Dietrich, for fear of their safety. The territory would put two and two together quickly with neither supplies nor a liaison ever showing up to pull their fate from the cliff's edge.

How long that would be, no one knew. It was likely that they'd never know. As far as they were concerned, Dietrich was dead.


A small, but experienced crew was sent out to tell the other territories what had happened, making a rotation around Veril, resting in each territory, before returning home. The message they were to deliver was twisted, but only slightly. Dietrich made direct threats against MI-5 in this new narrative, using Lowe DeKlaus' execution as a showcase of their intent.

It became a matter of hushed discussion what the twist meant. Was it an admittance of guilt? Did the pair regret their actions and feel the need to make it seem justified, to either themselves or the other territories' leaders? Did they believe the action was unjustified in retrospect, or that the other leaders would find it so? Were they upping the ante postmortem to leave all moral questioning to the wayside?

The populous fought amongst itself. Many believed that the choice to cut Dietrich off was cruel, forgetful of MI-5's roots. Others had seen themselves as independent of Dietrich for years now, that the only true severance was that of trade, and they could trade with any of the territories. They had no need of Dietrich, none at all. Yet, some did have need of Dietrich. The ties between MI-5 and Dietrich ran thick, far thicker than many wished to acknowledge, denying any semblance of familiarity for the sake of sanity, heartbreak, or their own fragile sense of control over their lives.


In the dim light of a pub, three MI-5 citizens huddled together. They spoke in hushed whispers, anger seeping from their form, spilling into their drinks, recycled back into their body with every sip. They fed into one another, each making the other two shiver with cold misery and rage.

Those were our families, they'd whisper. Our friends.

To enact such cruelty, to be so heartless.

The tumultuous pair, lying docile on their high thrones. Oh, how they've lost sight of their beginnings. Lost their humanity.

Gluttons, I tell you, gluttons for the power.

If they'd so easily discard of the lives they once were a part of, what care do they have for us?

So they scheme, make decisions of their own. They'll make the journey, braves the wastes, and incite.

"The supplies won't be coming, so come take it for yourselves." They know MI-5, the ins-and-outs, they have keys, they have supporters within.


Weeks pass, the messengers finally returning home to MI-5. They're tired, so tired. They fantasize about the warm amenities of home: loved ones, food, drink, soft beds, warm baths. It's all finally over, they can move forward. Leave Dietrich behind them, keep their eyes on the horizon.

They stumble up to MI-5, eyes bleary with exhaustion, minds slogging ten feet behind them. They take no notice of the door, the barrier keeping intruders out of MI-5, having been left ajar. It's only when they stumble across the first limp body that they realize something's wrong.

They rush inwards, forgetting their petty woes. Scattered about, resting cold on the hard ground, are the people of Dietrich and MI-5. People they knew, brothers and sisters, friends and family, vague memories of passing by on the street creeping up. The man who sold meat to one of the messengers before they left, the woman who'd met another in a cheer, raising a glass of some cheap alcohol.

The only true differential detail: the makeshift purple and yellow sashes some wore, the colors of Dietrich.

Their stores were empty, their crops devastated, the dirt salted. Some survivors remained, hiding out in the ruins of decimated MI-5. The messengers try to beckon them out, but each one they find shies away from them, tucking themselves away into corners and begging for mercy when mercy is already being held out. Who is a friend and who is an enemy had been dissolved, they can't recognize one another anymore. Friends they once held dear, neighbors who they supped with, donned the purple and yellow sashes.

There is no MI-5. It's just Dietrich once more. They've come full circle, through terror and bloodshed.

What are the messengers to do? Dietrich is dead in the water, going there would be a death sentence for them, even if they wouldn't be executed upon arrival. They don't have the resources to make the journey to any other territory, there isn't enough left in what once was MI-5. Not without robbing the scant few survivors.

So they do nothing.

They sit in silence, huddled together, staring quietly at what was once their home. What else can they do?


Inevitability, driven forward. Time progresses, hastened through direct action. Entropy, what simpler a word?

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