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Echoes From Dust

by L. S. Popovich

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Chapter 15: Remera

During a break in the conference, Izzie entered the atrium. Remera left the inner chambers alone, and rushed to greet her daughter. Izzie gave in to the overly enthusiastic hug but noticed again how the High Priestess only came up to her shoulder. However, the piercing expression of Remera’s eyes and her well-defined cheekbones revealed a striking resemblance between them.

Yet, as far back as Izzie could remember, a wide emotional gap had separated them. For too long, Izzie’s impetuous decision-making had undermined Remera’s calculated plans. Izzie interpreted the Council’s orders — and her mother’s, by extension — very liberally. Despite the ever-increasing tension, or perhaps because of it, Remera was eager to talk.

“It’s been so long!” Remera said. “There’s been a lot of hearsay, but your reports are so infrequent.”

“I’m too busy to update your lackeys most of the time.”

“How bad is it out there?” Remera asked in a low tone.

“The Caughterhaugh’s a disaster zone. But that’s not exactly news to you, I’m sure. The towns are small and shoddy. It’s all I can do to take out the big grotto-le and let the unaffiliated priests handle the small attacks.”

“The Council appreciates all you do. I don’t tell you enough how important you are to my research. But don’t you think you could spend a little more time training the master priests?”

“Forget it, I’m not going to hang out in the Fjord, like Ovid, when I could be defeating grotto-le.”

“Ovid’s doing his part, too. Perhaps you don’t realize how much goes on behind closed doors. Someone has to organize and repair the society you’re fighting for. You two can bicker in the lobby all you want, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, he’s pulling just as much weight as you. Mitchlum doesn’t run itself, you know. And when the Council calls, one must answer, Izzalia.”

Izzie squinted at her mother suspiciously. The quaint expressions of the High Priestess didn’t fully conceal the calculating woman underneath.

“I can tell there’s a lot on your mind,” Remera said. “Why don’t we sit down and talk... off the record. I can make some time.”

“I didn’t come here to catch up.”

“At least let me tune up your arm.”

“I’m sure Ovid’s more than willing to test your latest contraptions.”

“You shouldn’t resent him for his reliance on my custom parts. Not only do they help him do his job, they keep him alive. And if it weren’t for your mods—”

“I know, you’d never be able to put me back together again next time I snap a limb.”

“So say what you came here to say, if you’re going to be so impatient.”

“The grotto-le are getting stronger. The last one would’ve wiped the floor with any other opponent. If I hadn’t gotten there in time... They’re going to deliver the body here. Have you found out anything that can stop them? Brute force may not work forever.”

Remera looked at her with forlorn concern. They stood in front of the high, faceted windows. A few stars stood out like glinting bits of silver.

“I can look into it later. I’ve got a full schedule today. There’s a lot on the docket. But if it’s important to you, I’ll try to get to it quickly. Did you notice anything strange about its composition, the way it looked?”

“No.” Izzie frowned. “But I had a bad feeling. It was enjoying the fight. I just worry that they might be getting more intelligent somehow.”

“And I worry that you spend too much time risking your life out there. I admit it’s a distressing notion. The functioning of the creatures of the Cauterhaugh never ceases to amaze me. But they change and grow. New and surprising varieties are bound to arise. One of these days, I’d like to teach you more about inorganic biology.”

The hope in her mother’s voice deepened Izzie’s frown. “You should probably teach Ovid that stuff instead. He’s always been a better student.” Abruptly, Izzie turned and started away.

Remera called after her, and then struggled to catch up to her daughter’s long strides.

“You just got here. At least sit in on a meeting.”

“Like Ovid said: I’m not a member of the inner Council.”

“That’s not important... Just a quick update in the conference hall? Some of the other dejan haven’t even met you.”

Izzie’s pace quickened and she heard Ramera’s hurried breathing. Rather than answer, she stomped through the echoing corridor.

The tedious outer stairway didn’t appeal to her in that moment. Instead, she gave the guards quite a scare by transforming into beast-form and leaping off the side of the Fjord. Within seconds, her silhouette disappeared into the thick haze over Mitchlum.

Proceed to Chapter 16...

Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich

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