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Echoes From Dust

by L. S. Popovich

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Chapter 22: The Close Call

Riku closed the dorm room door gently behind her and slumped to her bunk. Forcing her will on cynths always left her feeling drained. With her new assignment, she wanted to collapse at the end of every day.

A familiar voice greeted her. “Out again, I see.” Telos stood up from her desk, her usually stoic expression was marred by worry.

“How’s it going?” Riku sat up to face her roommate.

“I should be asking you how you’re doing. You always come back from your training and fall right asleep. I don’t know what they’re making you do, but you’re missing a lot of classes.”

Riku’s chuckle turned into a yawn. “I’ll just copy your notes like usual.”

“Still, you better read up on the rituals.”

“I can just follow your lead once you become a priestess.”

Uncharacteristic emotion deepened on Telos’ face. “Riku, I don’t think I’m going to be a priestess. Perhaps it’s time you realize that.”

“What do you mean?” Riku exclaimed. “You’re the best fighter here. You’re obviously going to be one.”

Telos sighed and ran her two metal fingers through her hair. “There’s more to it than fighting. If you paid attention you’d already know that. If a god doesn’t choose you, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Once we’re here, we’ll always have a place in the cloister, but some people just don’t get to the next level. Of course, there’re worse things than becoming a servant for the Council.”

Before Riku could process the information, a commotion outside the room drew their attention. Hurriedly, they followed other initiates through the hall to the concourse. The main doors had been flung wide. Mitchlum noise poured in.

“Someone, get the High Priestess immediately!” one neophyte called. A few more carried in a badly wounded priestess.

All the initiates stood silent and still. An unconscious Izzie was carried by on a stretcher, but they couldn’t make out the details of her condition amid the crowd.

* * *

It was some time before Izzie awoke. In her dreams she chased the green-striped monster through a dense forest. The territory it led her through was both familiar and foreign. Soon enough, consciousness nudged her awake. When she opened her eyes, her mother was hovering over her.

“Oh, thank the gods!” Remera cried, relief spreading over her face. She quickly poked something into Izzie’s arm. The High Priestess took her temperature, and Izzie groaned. Her mangled arm was wrapped up tight.

Trying to flex the arm, Izzie winced.

“Don’t move it,” Remera said. “It was a close call this time, dear. If it wasn’t for your god’s abilities, I don’t think they could’ve gotten you here fast enough...” She did not hide the concern in her expression, but Izzie already felt herself getting irritated by Remera’s presence.

“Glad you could help.” Izzie rose to stand. Her mother placed a hand on her shoulder to prevent her.

“You need more time. You might heal more quickly than others, but you’re not indestructible. What if you’d lost that arm? With anyone else, there would’ve been no choice but amputation. You’re going to have to take it easy for a while. We’ll have plenty of time to talk while you’re here.”

“Fine,” Izzie said in a biting tone. “I can’t argue with the High Priestess, can I?”

Remera looked at her for a moment in something between astonishment and pain. She turned. “I’ll be around if you need me. All that matters is your recovery, but I was curious: why’d you use your biological arm? Your robotic arm was completely undamaged.”

Izzie’s eyes seared for a moment. “We can’t always rely on technology to save us.”

Remera sighed and retreated from the room.

Before the door closed, Izzie spoke one last time. “Thank you.” Remera paused and smiled. “Mother... Was there ever a green monster covered in short, sleek hair with horns on its head?”


“In your studies, have you ever come across a rare grotto-le like that?”

Remera stared at her inquisitively. “Maybe. With fur? There were hundreds of similar animals before the Fjord. Did you see one? Why do you ask?”

“No reason. Never mind.” Izzie said, lying back on the cot.

Hesitating, Remera left, and Izzie drifted back to sleep. The moment she closed her eyes, she found herself again chasing the fiery-horned beast through the forest.

Proceed to Chapter 23...

Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich

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