"This is bedlam," Acton Ri said.
Eriphet nodded. He'd just separated another mairon from her hatchlings. The mairon was good stock and would lay more. But the hatchlings would die without her, and the mairon had been beside herself with grief. She'd clutched at him, begged him as he carried her onto the ship. "I can't," she said, "I have to stay-"
"You'll live," he said, meaning it kindly. She spat in his face, would have bitten him if he'd been close enough. When he came back out into the street, the hatchlings were gone. Eaten, perhaps.
Better by Phyrnosians than Mituants.
Now he stood with Acton watching the boarding. In the beginning many private ships had taken off. They weren't filled to capacity or properly stocked, but what could be done? They disappeared into the darkening afternoon, and Eriphet had wished them well. He'd tightened security, though. If they were to save what was good about this world, each ship must be made to carry a measure of it aboard. He put soldiers he trusted inside the ships, and gave them all a mellow dose of zuu.
The program gathered rhythm. Food was loaded, and cargo to trade. Crates filled with live Phodiine beetles, squirming Krystaac and screaming Gilahawks went up the boards; were tucked into holds with their keepers. After the goods came the breeding mairons, the architects of Vyrnna, the thinkers, the warriors, the scientists and traders. Lastly came the lottery winners, clutching their tickets tightly.
Although it had been explained that no one could bring more than one item, nearly every passenger came holding a huge skin stuffed with all their belongings. The soldiers did not even bother to apologize anymore. They tore the bags away from the passengers and threw them into the street. Jewels rattled across the cobblestones. Treasured heirlooms landed in filth, contraband hatchlings and eggs cracked on the gates of houses. Phyrnosians Eriphet known all his life now fought tooth and claw in the street over the fine things no one would ever be able to use again. Bedlam.
He looked around him at the only planet he'd ever known. What remained would die. Blackened buildings, mucus running in the street, broken antiquities-this was Phyrnos. This was Phayara, her mighty city, a gift from the goddess... who had abandoned them.
It was just as well he'd never worshiped her. But as he stood with Acton, watching and waiting, disgust rising in his gut, he felt an overpowering urge to say goodbye.
"When's our ship due?" he asked the merchant.
Acton looked at the suns. "Now," he said. "Anytime."
"I've got to go," Eriphet said. "I'll be back. Hold it, if you can."
"Don't be a fool! You won't have another chance."
But the Valkyrie ran away. Acton shook his head. If the ship came and his friend wasn't here, he'd scoop up one of these hatchlings to take in the warlord's stead. The one over there on the corner looked clever. He moved closer, hoping to keep an eye on it. Already he'd seen four hatchlings eaten. At this rate there'd be nothing left for the Mituants.
Phayara was devouring itself.