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Echoes From Dust

by L. S. Popovich

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Chapter 24: Healing

Though Izzie’s mother said Izzie was healing at a “fantastic rate,” Izzie felt it was taking an eternity for her body to knit itself back together. Her lacerations had mended, but her arm stubbornly refused to perform simple tasks without shaking. Remera explained that a toxin in the beast’s fangs had weakened her bones, but the details didn’t matter to Izzie. She wanted to go after the apparition that plagued her dreams. She also wanted to get some distance from her mother.

At times like these, Remera lavished extra attention on her. The High Priestess had plenty of duties as head of the Council, but she spent every spare second fretting over her estranged daughter. She found excuses to walk and talk with Izzie, but every effort to rekindle the relationship was foiled by Izzie’s irritable distraction.

Izzie’s body always healed, but the emotional wounds of her early life remained remarkably fresh. The gap between them was unbridgeable, Izzie felt, when so many of her childhood memories were lost. And though Izzie found occasional excuses to slink off with Riku to the quiet corners of Mitchlum, she knew she wouldn’t be able to shake her mother’s watchful presence until she got back out to the Cauterhaugh.

Much of Izzie’s time was devoted to priestly duties. Until her arm was fully recovered, the Council would consider her tainted, and wouldn’t allow her much freedom within the Fjord. Until the toxins were completely eliminated from her system, and the cleansing rituals were complete, she couldn’t get back to her missions, either. Only meditation served to quiet her unease.

During a quiet moment, her mother slipped into her room. Izzie was in a foul mood after spending hours in the archives searching ancient texts for the mysterious creature she’d glimpsed, all to no avail.

“How are you feeling?” Remera asked. “Have you been taking your pills?”

Izzie continued her breathing exercise, rather than answering the question. “The arm’s still sluggish,” she said finally.

“Oh,” her mother said in a voice befitting a saddened child more than the leader of the Council. “Well, I always thought it would need to be replaced eventually.”

“Somehow, adding modifications whenever the body can no longer heal doesn’t seem like the best way to do things.”

Remera sighed. “Izzie, you need to be more careful. Everyone looks up to you. When they carried you into this cloister, I had to reprimand them for making it so public. There’s too much uncertainty right now for you to fall in battle.”

“So we should keep them blissfully ignorant? You’re more concerned with controlling perceptions than stopping the attacks, aren’t you?”

Remera sighed heavily. “Izzie, if I knew what was causing—“

Izzie jumped to her feet so fast Remera stumbled back in shock. “Tell everyone what they need to hear. But don’t you dare pretend you don’t know what’s going on! I know you do. You’ve had too many test subjects, and you have too much brainpower not to know something by now! After all your lies have done to me, you’re still treating me like an initiate? Did it ever occur to you this mangling might have been avoided if I’d had some idea where these grotto-les were coming from?”

Remera considered her for a second, and then answered without meeting her daughter’s eyes. “Your brother should be here soon. We can talk then.”

Izzie shook her head with contempt. “You can talk to him by yourself. If you won’t give me answers, I’ll find them on my own.”

“Izzalia, I’m sure your father would have wanted us to work this out... as a family.”

“Don’t. Don’t bring him into this. What happened to him is on you, not me!” Izzie’s voice trembled whenever she spoke of her father. But her steely eyes were firm.

“I know I haven’t always given you the whole truth. But, please, let me try to make things right. You used your good arm when your augmented arm would have saved you from pain. You’re deliberately reckless. I can only conclude that you did it to get back at me.”

“You don’t like being kept in the dark either, do you?” When her mother didn’t say any more, Izzie left the cloister for the battlefield she’d been running toward in her dreams.

Proceed to Chapter 25...

Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich

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