The Vanguard’s central facility in Corpei was no impressive thing. It looked just as humble as every other building they owned in this country. Field Marshal Jackson was a firm believer in the old Vanguardian tactic of blending in, Parson knew. Leaders like that were becoming less and less common, it seemed, so that was a quality Parson could admire.
He walked right into the tiny headquarters, and a lone guardsman reading a newspaper with his apparent reaper just waved the captain general on. Parson proceeded farther in but soon noticed something amiss.
‘What’s that look on your face?’ Overra asked him.
‘There’s an ashy smell in the air,’ he informed her. To his eyes, she was a faceless angel, winged and glowing all over with a soft white light, save only for her halo, which emanated gold instead. ‘Do you sense anything strange?’
‘No,’ she said, as ever devoid of any sort of expression. ‘Jackson is ahead and to the right.’
When they turned the corner, the hallway became abruptly black. Charred, to be specific, and he could hear the floor crunching under his boots.
He shrugged and kept going.
Jackson’s small office was entirely burnt black as well, save only his desk and chair in the middle, both of which looked new. The room was also missing a ceiling. Instead, it was just open blue sky there, in spite of the fact that there should have been another two floors above them.
“Did we catch you in the middle of redecorating?” Parson asked. “I like it.”
Jackson looked up from the document he was reading, but as soon as he took his eyes off the paper, it burst into flames and disintegrated in his hands. “Dagh!” The man stood up from his chair and took an exasperated breath.