Strength stoops unto the grave, Worms feed on Hector brave; Swords may not fight with fate, Earth still holds open her gate. "Come, come!" the bells do cry. I am sick, I must die. Lord, have mercy on us! —Thomas Nashe, A Litany in the Time of Plague
From the crest of the next ridge, he had a view of the land to the north: the broad ribbon of river looping through the dark hills; the moon above, a bright crescent. He began to search the skies. It was just past midnight. He waited and watched until he saw it. There, he whispered, then shut his eyes and opened them, to make sure his vision wasn't playing tricks. Against the black scrim of space, a star—but not a star at all—began to fall, flaring to brightness as it drew nearer to the earth, somewhere far to the north: one of their black ships descending from orbit.
The entrance hall was empty, the floor thick with dust. Garlands of dead leaves straggled along the baseboards. Many sets of footprints, booted or sandaled, tracked to and from the west corridor. Laila followed them into an old-style guest wing; none went farther than the first door. Kōdayū's room. She slid the door open and looked in.
A paper screen half concealed a folding camp bed, neatly made. On a tray beside the bed leaned a painted miniature of two women, wife and daughter.
—Let his spirit not be lost.
Against the far wall, Kōdayū's full-dress uniform hung like a decapitated ghost on a wooden clothesframe. She shut the door and went back up the hall.