Echoes From Dust
by L. S. Popovich
In the Cauterhaugh, lifeforms and even the landscape are composed of synthesized metals, and beasts called cynths ravage the dwindling human settlements. Riku is a Mag, an inorganic human born in this harsh and unforgiving land.
Riku has grown up hearing stories about Mitchlum, a metropolis of habitable trees and the bastion of the Priesthood, which channels divine powers in defense against the encroaching cynths. Riku is chosen to undergo the sacred trials, assume a priest’s mantle and protect her homeland. Everyone has high expectations for her, but her destiny is hers to decide.
|Table of Contents||Glossary|
Chapter 29: Virgil
Early one afternoon, when Izzie was pacing the bridge above the gently flowing quicksilver river, Virgil joined her with a knowing smile on his face. “Still haven’t found what you’re looking for?”
“As you expected,” she said with some acidity. “Why would both of our gods lead me here if I wasn’t supposed to find the relic?”
“The gods reveal the truth in their own time.”
With a sigh, she lent on the iron railing, allowing her frustration to grow. “Why are you letting me stay? You probably think I’m investigating for the Council.”
“You are part of the Council, but you aren’t one of the dejan, right?”
“How do you know that?”
“My god watched you fight, and the way you sacrificed your arm to get the job done. To avoid risking their own lives, the dejans train many priests.” Even under her harsh glare, his smile didn’t waver.
Izzalia wondered how he knew so much about the Council, then remembered the advanced age suggested by the intricate lines of his face. “That still doesn’t answer my question. Aren’t you worried the Council will try to extend their control to Waypoint Town?”
“We aren’t trying to hide. As I said, if the town grows too large, and the Council tries to use it for an outpost, the relic will fail. From the start, I sensed that you were not scouting for the High Priestess but seeking your own truth.”
Izzie mulled over his words. “Your god led me here,” she reflected.
“No. Your own god brought you. My god appeared before you, and drew something out that had always been inside you.”
“Your inner desire to understand your purpose. You are just the same as I remember.”
“What do you mean? You remember me?”
“I remember your first trip to Dust.”
Incredulous, she froze, and took a deep breath. A hazy recollection lurked in her muddled memories. “That must have been long ago.”
“I have a good memory. When you were a child, you were very memorable, Izzalia. I’ve met many families, but yours was one of the strangest.”
Her fingers clasped fiercely on the railing. “My father died at Dust. He was killed by a grotto-le.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Virgil joined his forefinger and thumb, and swept them across his forehead in a sign for peace and rest. “It is odd that you have no memory of it.”
“A lot of things fade from the mind with time. But I have the scars to prove it. My brother blames me for the attack. Perhaps I blame him for not doing enough, but we were small. All these years, I’ve worked for my mother, and she’s never talked about my childhood, about what my father was like. She has tried to bury the past.”
Virgil watched her solemnly for a moment before laying a hand on her shoulder. “The deepest tragedies can turn out to be the deepest sources of strength. Have you considered that the gods might have ordained it? They exist on a higher plane, where a future that is impossible for us to fathom is clear as day. If your god allows you to carry out the Council’s work, why question it?”
Listening to his words made her want to spit. To put the work of the Council on the level of the gods! To brush off her missing memories, her father’s death, excusing it as the will of the gods, like everything else... If she would have struck out with her elbow at that moment, she might have sent him hurtling over the rail. Instead, she cast him a scathing look and turned to leave.
“Everyone sits around doing nothing, hoping the gods will tell them what to do. Well, the gods can hang their plans! I’m leaving tomorrow whether your god reveals anything to me or not.”
Virgil’s expression was troubled. “You can ignore what I say, but it’s never wise to ignore the voice within you. Before you go, why not tell me why you hold onto so much anger?”
Izzalia left without a word. Afterwards, Virgil stared at the mesmerizing river of metal below and touched the railing, which bore two handprints from the pressure she’d inflicted upon it. Feeling the grooves of the imprints, he smiled to himself.
Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich