Agra – ‘The Emperor’s Garden’.
Imperial Cartographic Designation: Samax IV. Alpha-class agricultural world. 1.75% Terran mass. Single continental landmass.
Soil profile: high yield.
Exploitable ores, minerals, etc: low-yield.
– Extract from ‘A Concordance of Pre-Heresy Cartographic Data Spools’
Vol. XXV. Librarium Collegium Astropathica
‘FATHER! COME QUICK!’
Brael Corfe was in the livestock shed when he heard his son’s shout of excitement. Moloch, the young buck Brael was hoping would replace Magog, the ageing sire that presided over the farm’s herd of milk-heifers, had gone lame. Brael had moved him into the shed and was treating the traces of green-white hoof rot that he had found on one of the animal’s front feet.
The mould was a common enough pest. If it was noticed soon enough and treated with a well-known medicament composed from various local roots and herbs, it was soon eradicated. If left to develop, however, it would invade the core of the animal’s hoof, reducing it to an evil smelling mush and leaving the farmer no choice but to destroy the animal.
‘Father! Mother! The sky’s on fire!’ Bron was jumping up and down in the yard. Brael dipped his hands in the water trough by the shed door and wiped them dry on a scrap of cloth as he walked across the yard towards Bron. The yard was a squared-off half-circle, centred on the well from which Corfe men and women had been drawing water for generations, and bounded to the east and west by the long, low structures of the livestock shed and the hay barn.
Across the northern edge of the semi-circle, its door facing south, stood the farmhouse. The shed and barn had wooden roofs, the farmhouse roof was thatched. Warm, yellow light from an
animal-fat lantern burned in the window of the kitchen, its shutters were open as were all the others on this gentle summer night. Bron had been born beneath the farmhouse’s broad low thatch, as had Brael, his father and his father before. Men of the Corfe clan had lived and died hereabouts for countless generations; Brael fully expected that he and Bron would do the same.
Bron was jumping about in the middle of the yard. Had it been daytime, he would have been able to look out across the flat, fertile grassland upon which Brael and his cousins grazed their herds. On a clear summer’s day, it was possible to see as far as the Southern Hills, three days’ ride from Brael’s farm. Ownership of land meant little when there was so much of it. Ownership of stock and crops was much more important and, for better than three days’ ride in every direction, the name attached to the livestock and crops was Corfe. Hardly a day went by without Brael looking forward to teaching Bron what it meant to be a Corfe and to work the land.
Brael saw Vika emerge from the house, also wiping her hands. Bron got his excitable nature from his mother, Brael was sure. He loved to listen to her stories of heroes from the distant past, of men who could fly like birds and shoot fire from their eyes. Some of the stories were thrilling, even Brael would admit that.
Unlike his wife, however, Brael didn’t believe them to be true.
‘Can you see them?’ Bron asked, pointing up into the night sky. ‘You can see them, can’t you?’
Brael reached his son and followed the boy’s gaze skyward. Lines of light were drawing themselves across the night, arcing north along long curved trajectories.
‘Falling stars, Bron,’ Brael told his son.