The world was crumbling slowly. The tremors – a term which failed to adequately describe them – were happening more frequently now and with a renewed ferocity that made even the most optimistic of the community question their future.
The refugees had started to panic. The tremors had been what they were running from in the first place, after all. Most of them calmed down when they were reminded that the mountains were still hundreds of miles away. Some, though, were still angry that they would have to move again so soon. These were the dangerous ones.
Riviero had found a horse and was galloping towards the city as fast as it could run - it only had to make it back to the city. He knew that was at least a day and a halfs hard ride, but the horse probably wouldn't last half of that. His face was lined, not with fear, with concern. Worry. And something else not many people knew.
The city was probably the only thing that could survive what was about to happen and it was prepared by accident.
Thousands of years ago, when the city was founded, a powerful group of people established themselves as influencers and politicians on the ground floor, as it were, in a hope to ensure the city and its people followed a calm and orderly trajectory as it grew.
With this foundation it grew and grew. Quickly becoming the center point of the nation in all respects. Economically, culturally even militarily.
With the focus now on the city, disagreements about its purpose began to erupt into the public sphere. Groups who disagreed with the original founders goals for it actively lobbied against their opponents inclusion in city planning. Others campaigned on not having any special interest groups involved in the city planning at all, leaving everything up to the elected officials.
These attacks were rarely successful on a large scale and only really distracted people from the real issues which the founders always found themselves being the ones doing anything about, and so the status quo was maintained, even if it was, largely, by inertia.
Over time, the various factions against the founders came together to form a larger coalition. On paper their goals were to offer an alternative to the founders politics. They were, after a long fight, able to get one of their more charismatic members elected to the local government. However, this was little more than a front to imply legitimacy within the established political environment as behind their closed doors, the real reason for their existence was to simply replace the founders with themselves with no regard for the city and instead their own desire for power and influence.
“I have an idea,” one of their members said in the middle of a lull in discussion at one of their meetings. “Gaining a foothold from the outside has failed to work many times and is quickly becoming a waste of time and money. We should try from the inside.”
“Get someone to infiltrate them?” one of the more cautious members asked sceptically. “Seems like just as much effort.”
“Perhaps. One of their strengths is they play a long game, results are sometimes only seen years after their actions. Maybe something we can try.”
“That doesn't help us now,” their leader said, almost sounding angry at the suggestion.
“I don't suggest giving up. But attacking on two fronts, one of which they don't realise is an attack, will provide better results.”
“And if it doesn't?”
“Well, assuming we keep to our normal mode of operations, we'll still have the plant inside their organisation. We wait for a bit, let them sow the discord and come back later to finish them off.”
The group discussed and argued the merits and disadvantages of this idea for hours, into the small hours of the following morning, but eventually came to a compromise which, while not completely pleasing to everyone, managed to strike a balance with enough to be put into action.
They selected someone new to the coalition who hadn't been publically associated with them, but who was loyal and gave them the instructions to join the founders group to push them into disarray.
Now, no one really knows what happened after that. The loyal coalition operative was, allegedly, outed within hours of registering for the group but was allowed in as a double con. This was never proven as anyone who had any contact with him, along with him, himself, were murdered several weeks later just before the whole story came to light.
The official story goes that the operative decided that his original plan wasn't working and in a fit of drug induced rage, opened fire indiscriminately among the founders group, killing at least a dozen with rumours of others killed prior.
The coalition denied all knowledge of the operative and condemned the people responsible for placing the blame on them, but tellingly, not for the murders themselves.
None of it was ever sorted properly and life continued for everyone as normal.
Within the corridors of power that the founders operated in rumours had started to spread of an invasion from another nation, jealous of the city's progress, culture, reputation and stability.
Even though it was rumour, the decision was made to prepare for it, or any other hostile act against the city. After this attempted coup, there was no such thing as too cautious.
Mostly in secret, the buildings and walls were reinforced and the military was given more training and better technology just in case. And, so, by accident, thanks to rumour and paranoia the city was made better. And thanks to that, the founders lost their grip on the city itself, but thats another story.
Riviero had to ditch his horse more than two dozen miles out from the city and since he couldn't find another, made the last leg of his journey on foot, reaching the gates, which sat in a state of disrepair which he found worrying, a little over a day later.
Unfortunately for Riviero, the city was abandoned. There was not a single person within the walls, yet, aside from the gate, everything looked fine. He slumped, disappointed, against a building and closed his eyes as yet another tremor rocked across the landscape.