Nothing was stirring, not even a Rat.

Merry Christmas from The Piper

Those creatures that could hibernate had already done so. The snow lay upon the earth and suspended much that was life. In the bleak midwinter, only those things that needed to move, moved. Without man, without his never ending battle to control nature, without snow ploughs of gritting machines, the world was thrown back to an age that was pre-industrial. An observer, unknowing of the causes of this white wonderland, would have marvelled at the beauty of it all. In the days leading up to Christmas, very little was stirring but the rats and the first of The Leathermen.  

The dead father, as Michael called him, had done his job well. His works of art had been well preserved. Away from the damp, devoid of heat and free from pests that would chew, burrow and lay eggs, the works of art had hardened in the freeze. Perfectly preserved (a few major cuts and bruises not withstanding) they were as near to excellence as one could imagine. Not even the celestial majesty of the Sistine Chapel could have created a thing as miraculous as this. For these creations were now a part of the living world once again and had the power to move one emotionally and physically.

These new additions were welcomed to the ranks of the distantly deceased, that forgotten brigade of hermits who had perished unknown, unwanted and unmissed. Of these James Harrison had assumed a mastery that was only matched by the positions enjoyed by Flowers and Hope in the respective worlds. The days were at hand when the dead would walk the earth, the world of creation would choke upon its implausibility and the forgotten ones would rule.

Those followers of Flowers who had not entered the forest in pursuit of the traitor and the girl had massed. Their numbers were greater than had been estimated. There eyes were added to by the rats who would scour the land for the remaining Resistors and a large group of them had been found. They were close by in an old castle escaping the worst of the snow. Already, scouts had been sent to reconnoitre the place and it appeared that the Resistors had failed to mount any guards or sentries. There was plenty of time to gather and plan. Once the snow had abated, they would move themselves into position, encircle and ensnare. The end was nigh and so was the beginning.

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