Editor's Note: "the Easterners", as referred to here, is a garrison of the Grand Army of the Empire of the Great Republic of Salimpahr, a garrison that had been moved into the author's town recently. These would have been of the same general ethnic derivation and of the same cultural root as the writer. While the writer (and possibly many soldiers in the garrison) is from outer lands that retain the old culture of independent cities despite their nominal allegiance to the Empire, most of the soldiers and all of the officers would have been raised in lands whose culture had been deeply shaped by the social stratifications and behavioral edicts of the Empire after it's formation some 50 years before.
When the Easterners first requisitioned all the cattle, then all the meat, I have to admit I was a little excited. Anything for a change in my routine work at the meat shop. The burble in my stomach now calls me a fool. They've left nothing but scraps for us, the meat shop has closed, and mother's hands bleed and eyes sag from late hours repairing the soldiers' uniforms for a pittance.
I guess we have it better than Callus' family, though. Owning a meat shop for so long had got them a nice sized house, enough to house both his and his wife's parents, and a whole separate room for his children. What was the word for it? -Requisitioned to house the soldiers. Apparently something the town leadership agreed to just before I was born gives the Empire people the right to do that. Just throw people out of their homes. Callus and I had our differences, but he did not deserve to be cast out into the street. If only we have more than the one room. But no.
To distract myself from the hunger and boredom I go out to the burning hills and talk to - well, what ever those voices are. Something down in the crevasses with the fire. Some of them just make spitting noises and belch smoke, but others, the glowing ones, some of those have voices. Rrick says they are demons from the melted land (ed. - Malak, a land roughly 1500 miles to the Northeast) but I think they're something else. I don't think they're *in* the fire. I think they're in the dark, and just...don't mind the fire. Anyway, they're smart, so smart I hardly understand them. They don't like people.
Mom sewing all the time makes me think too much about the Shin tailor I was trying to get work with before all this. I wonder where ze is now. Where they all are. A few days before the Army came to town, the Shin were just gone, and any of us non-Shin that had married them or whatnot. Halla says her Ma got a note and that the Shin left of their own choice, that they somehow knew the Empire was coming to town in force on their way somewhere else and that things would get bad soon. I don't know. Why wouldn't they tell more people? I guess they didn't know who to trust. I don't.
People are saying an Irongen attacked the soldiers still in tents outside the town, just one single Irongen, that it was being wild and not calm like they usually are. No one will tell me more than that, though.
The Fleshless carry on as usual. They hardly seem to acknowledge the soldiers, and vice versa. But who can know what a Fleshless feels? They have no faces. An inscrutable skull.