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First came the time-storm, which erased half the population. Then came the Dinosaur Apocalypse …

How did it all begin? Well, that depends on where you were and who you ask. In some places it started with the weather—which quickly became unstable and began behaving in impossible ways. In still others it started with the lights in the sky, which shifted and pulsed and could not be explained. Elsewhere it started with the disappearances: one here, a few there, but increasing in occurrence until fully three quarters of the population had vanished. Either way, there is one thing on which everyone agrees—it didn't take long for the prehistoric flora and fauna to start showing up (often appearing right where someone was standing, in which case the two were fused, spliced, amalgamated). It didn't take long for the great Time-displacement called the Flashback—which was brief but had aftershocks, like an earthquake—to change the face of the earth. Nor for the stories, some long and others short, some from before the maelstrom (and resulting societal collapse) and others after, to be recorded.

Welcome to the Lost Country.

From "Mesozoic Knights":

I unsheathed Blood Zephyr and gave her a heft—relishing the touch and feel of her (even if it was steel on steel); appreciating her weight and balance. "No, Black Duncan. It is not possible. The Quest must not be surrendered—not for you or for anyone. You know that."

"And again, I ask: Why? Why, when everything a man could possibly want exists right here, now, and in such great plentitude? Bah. This shard and purity nonsense … it's just that—nonsense. Why pursue it?"

I watched as Mortigen drew his own blade and paused to admire it, as I had done. "What would you prefer?" I snapped. "To live as prisoners? To wither away in this very cell but for the chance at some sexual gratification?"

Black Duncan guffawed. "They're not going to keep us here. Eve told me herself. It's only until they get to know us. Regardless, I think I should tell you, that, that …" He lifted his chin and squared his shoulders, as though having made up his mind at last. "That I'm staying. That, indeed, I did lay with my progen—my progen—"

"Your progenitrix," I said, curtly.

"His hooker, he means," quipped Mortigen.

Black Duncan shot him a glance—one I wouldn't want directed at me. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that. No; she was skilled in the art of love, it's true—but she was no prostitute. None of them are. What happened between us was genuine. It was real." He looked at me almost pleadingly. "Don't you see, Galaren, it was real. It wasn't like Ambergard—or Craxis—or the way we talk—or any of this other faux bullshit we've immersed ourselves in. No. This was nature, this was truth—real nature, not some phantasmagoria dreamed up by—by Them," He nodded toward the ceiling and the sky. "Like the bees we saw coming in. They are trying to build something here, Galaren; something based on reality, not fantasy. Something authentic. And I'm not simply going to walk away from that. I mean, surely you can understand—"

"What I understand is that we're getting out of here," I said. "And that the test of virtue will be met. And what I suggest just now is that you—"

"Your test of virtue, Galaren. Your test. I'm not leaving. I'll help you escape, but I'm not going to—"

"Shh," said Mortigen. "Someone's coming."

Sciencefiction en fantasy
19 mei
Hobb's End Books

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