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Echoes From Dust

by L. S. Popovich

Table of Contents   Glossary

Chapter 14: Ovid

Izzie stared up at the monumental spire of the Fjord’s outer shell. Even in the shadow of Mitchlum’s eternal night, the hull gleamed with ethereal light. It was technology beyond her ken, but her mother had told her long ago that the Fjord’s imposing presence ensured the Council’s dominion over the desolate Cauterhaugh. It was only owing to the Fjord that an organic oasis like Mitchlum could still exist.

Many jaded city-dwellers called the sky-piercing pillar monstrous and unnatural, but the Council kept the cynics at bay with propaganda, attributing the many virtues of their metropolis to their own technological advances.

Izzie never had time to explore every nook and cranny of the colossal edifice, but the many mechanisms her mother used to bolster the Council’s influence and oversee the ungovernable Cauterhaugh were enough to convince her that her own skills were better put to use in the wild, where she could make quick decisions and answer for them later.

The Fjord had been built by a desperate people, her mother had said, but from where Izzie stood it looked like the symbol of empire, a stake laying claim over what they had built.

Ascending the outer staircase was hazardous, but she preferred it to the magnetic elevator. In her beast form, with a few flaps of her wings, she could’ve made it to the top in no time, but such a display would have infuriated Remera, the High Priestess, who was always watching.

On her way up the endless steps, her perceptive hearing caught the whispered talk of the guards above. Watching her approach, their hushed conversation quickly turned to her.

“Is that the High Priestess’ daughter?” the tall one asked. “They weren’t kidding, these master priests have so many modifications on them they gleam like mags.”

“You’re right, except for the High Priestess herself,” the short one replied. “Seems mighty peculiar that the leading augmentation expert in the world doesn’t have a single artificial body part.”

“Izzie’s got to be properly outfitted for the Cauterhaugh; she doesn’t fit in with the snobs of the inner Council.”

When she neared the entryway, the tall one whistled idly, and the short one stood at attention, staring into space. She wore a courteous smile.

“May the light shine in you.” She signed the proper greeting with her hand. “I require an audience with the High Priestess,” she added.

The guard shifted awkwardly, tipping his head back to address her: “The Council has barred all visitors for the rest of the day.”

“You know how the Council is,” the other guard piped in and then, immediately regretting his words, stammered, “I mean they seem busy as usual...” He leaned against his spear casually, but the steel tip scraped harshly against the corner of the portico.

Izzie frowned. She didn’t have time for this. “I’m going through that door,” she said with a chilling smile.

Both guards stepped back, and looked at each other with wide eyes. The lanky one shrugged and bowed. “If it’s so urgent, it must be the will of your god.”

“Precisely,” Izzie said. “I’d say the will of the gods supersedes the Council’s.”

A look of terror crossed the guard’s face before Izzie realized someone was behind her. Before the man could speak, she had to stifle the sudden urge to throw him off the side of the Fjord to the barely visible ground below.

“Don’t let Remera hear you say that, your grace. Even the gods have to bend to the Council occasionally,” the man said in a honeyed tone. He wore the official garb of a dejan.

“I’ll keep that in mind, Brother,” Izzie said, narrowing her eyes at him.

“You might as well let her in,” the man smiled, “since I’ll be opening the door shortly.” The dejan waved a synthetic hand, and the guards instantly made way. His magnetic boots glided soundlessly over the walkway.

“Surely, Master Ovid,” both guards said simultaneously.

Ovid smiled, showing off titanium teeth. “While my sister is not officially a member of the inner Council, she’s our most important enforcer.” Both guards nodded emphatically. “I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side, if I were you.” He smirked.

The tall guard unlocked the door. It took both neophytes to pry the heavy stone slab open. A breath of clean air escaped through the entranceway from the inner throat of the Fjord. Sighing, Izzie followed Ovid through the massive portal. It swung shut behind them.

“You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that,” Izzie said in the long corridor.

“If you participated more in the open forum, the dimwits around here wouldn’t give you such a hard time. You still cringe at the sight of us, don’t you?”

Izzie wrinkled her nose at the scent of fresh plastic and polish wafting off him.

“In fact, if you ever came by anymore,” he continued, “I’m sure Remera would be pleased to talk to you at length. You wouldn’t have to sidestep bumbling neophytes.”

Soon they were greeted by the continual background noise of the Fjord, part of which was a cylindrical waterfall running from top to bottom. The water cascaded against the crystalline windows and reflected wavy light all over the clinical, bare walls and floor.

Ovid paused, glancing about briefly. Izzie saw a lens in his eye tighten. Sometimes it was difficult to tell which parts of him were mods and which were voyin. “So what brings you here? Why not send a messenger?”

“It’s between me and the High Priestess,” Izzie said coldly.

Without warning, Ovid clasped her in a powerful embrace. She allowed him a second or two of contact, and then thrust out her arms to break it off. “What are you doing?” she seethed.

Ovid straightened, “It’s been quite a while,” he said. “You’ve been pretty distant. And shouldn’t we at least keep up appearances?”

A passing crowd gawked at them. Everything has to be shiny on the outside, she thought, while the inside festers.

“I’m busy. Very busy. Saving lives and making sure you and the Council can maintain this luxurious tower in peace and tranquility. But you don’t care, do you?”

“If I didn’t know better, Izzalia, I’d say you were making yourself out to be the official martyr. Come on, you can tell me,” he wheedled, “I’m very good at keeping secrets.”

“I’m sure you’ll find out eventually. You always do.”

“Seems like the only time you’re around is when they’re patching you back up after a fight.”

“Enough banter. I’ve got business.”

“Right, right.” Ovid stared at her levelly. “You never cease to amuse me, Izzie.”

Izzie snarled, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“We must do this again sometime.” Ovid bowed and hastened in the other direction.

Relaxing momentarily, Izzie watched the rushing waterfall, wondering why they bothered to pump up so much water to the top just to let it fall to the bottom again.

Proceed to Chapter 15...

Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich

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