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Echoes From Dust

by L. S. Popovich

Table of Contents   Glossary

Chapter 26: Inner Sanctum

When Ovid arrived at the Fjord, he knew where the High Priestess would be. He headed to the inner sanctum straightaway. Normally, no one but the High Priestess was allowed past the guards, but the rule was flexible for someone in his position.

Peeking to either side of the corridor, he knocked with a peculiar rhythm, and the heavy door slid open. He found the interior unchanged and his mother doing what she usually did. The fact that Remera’s private chamber looked like a workshop would have surprised anyone but Ovid. Wires and disassembled modifications hung from the ceiling and were piled on the floor in crates. Anyone else would have been mortified at such an untidy collection of artificial limbs.

Whenever Izzie took down a strange grotto-le, Remera kept pieces of the specimen for study. At the moment she was tapping glumly on the exhumed skull of a Har-risa, the name of which Ovid guessed only from the label applied to the glinting steel dome.

“I’ve never heard of it,” he said casually.

Remera eyed him suspiciously. “That’s because I just named it.”

He surveyed the wreckage of the creature. “You give the grotto-le names? I thought each one was unique.”

She scoffed. He was not normally interested in her side work. “It’s better than giving them numbers. Even if they are all different, they must be related to one another. If I can understand the relationship, I can get to know what we’re up against.”

Ovid flashed a gloomy smile. It was hard to believe the enormous collection of inorganic components once posed a threat to Izzie in one form or another.

“Izzie has already left, hasn’t she?” he asked smugly.

Putting down her implements and wearing a mask of sadness, Remera walked over and clasped his shoulder. “If you knew she’d leave, why’d you still come to see her?”

“When the High Priestess calls, I have to answer. And I have a feeling you’ll have a use for me yet. You could have kept her here a while longer against her will. Her injuries would have been a convenient excuse to shut off her augments. But it would’ve simply postponed the inevitable.”

“Disabling modifications is a last resort, and maintaining the illusion of her freedom is important. Don’t worry; I’m keeping watch.” She smiled mysteriously. “Though, I really thought that after I patched her up, she might open up to me more.”

Ovid leered at her. “You’re unequivocal at repairing physical imperfections, Mother, but your ability to heal emotional wounds is decidedly lacking.”

She gave him a searching look.

“She won’t forgive you,” he went on. “I don’t know that I would, either. The problem is that she blames you for what happened to her father, because you won’t let her blame herself.”

Remera sighed heavily. “Every time I try to talk to her, she always accuses me of withholding her memories. She can’t get past it. But I just can’t tell her the truth yet.”

“Because you don’t want to lose her, or you don’t want her to know everything about herself for her own sake?” Impatiently, he drummed his metal finger with an eerie rhythm on the detached arm of the beast.

“Ovid, I’m not sure she could handle it.”

“Then there’s nothing further to discuss. You have reasons, but reasons mean little in the face of her reality. Decisions are decisions even with the best of intentions. I’m sure there is a good reason you took me in as your son, and a good reason you haven’t explained what happened.”


He looked up to meet her eyes. When they were alone together, his mother could be soft-spoken, but in a single instant she could channel inner intensity. The directness of her command allowed her to lead the Council unopposed. “I don’t need you to lecture me on action and reaction. I am fully aware my actions are the reason I have no relationship with my daughter. I’m doing my best to fix this, but like all my great projects, it’s a work in progress.”

They stood in silence for a moment.

“You know why I love science?” she asked, back to her former calm. “Science is our way of discovering hope. You know about the law of conservation: nothing can be created or destroyed, it only changes form. To me, that means anything in this world can change, and the potential is always there. When it comes to my relationship with Izzie, I rely on the hope that the hate she feels toward me will someday be converted into love. All that’s required is time and one or two reactants.” The smile lingering on her face was touched by sadness.

“While I can’t argue with you, there are always those who stubbornly resist change. When change is beyond human strength, then we must rely on the gods.”

“I know, Ovid, but knowing the possibility is there is still a comfort. I’ve seen this world change more than anyone else living. I don’t even know if I could describe it all. Before the Fjord, people understood the world in terms of history. They had faith in the science and accomplishments of their ancestors. This faith was so well established it defined the way they lived.

“But the gods could not be ignored. When Nature rebelled, the world had to be remade. I’ve dug down to the bottom of the sciences to understand how these laws were rewritten. I still have hope because one thing, above all, is clear.”

“What’s that?”

“Nothing is ever created or lost, Ovid, it only changes form.”

“And yet you won’t let me lead the Council for you, so you can focus on a way to stop the predators of humanity once and for all.”

“As you know, I’ve been doing this for a very long time. The dejans trust me. I need to work every day to maintain that faith. And I don’t need to tell you what would happen if they knew everything.”

“They would undoubtedly overthrow you. And that’s why you only give them half the story.”

She shrugged. “It’s simply not the time. I have a long way to go. For now, I tell them what they want to hear.”

“So,” he said with a gentleness that surprised him a little, “what do you need me to do? I have the sense something is amiss. I have to admit: no ordinary beast could do that to Izzie.”

Remera went back to her work. “To be frank, I need you to follow her. Even if I track her, I can’t react quickly from so far away. I ran some tests while she was here and didn’t like what I saw. I tried my best to suppress her more volatile side, but something was off. My attempts were ineffective. I fear some outside force is influencing her, or perhaps the spark of some erased memory is emerging...”

“Are you sure it’s not just her god? It’s been so long since you had one of them inside you, weighing in on your life, you might no longer recognize the difference.”

“Ovid, we never forget, nor are we ever entirely free. There’s always some of them left. And this is something much worse. Please, I know how you feel about her, but I need someone discreet to help me with this.”

“You really think my elder sister can’t handle herself?”

She gave him a sobering look. “I think we both know it’s not that simple.”

He yawned lazily. “Very well. I’ll start tomorrow.”

Proceed to Chapter 27...

Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich

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