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 49: Surrender
A vehicle pulled up, and several master priests stepped out of it. Izzie and Riku were waiting beyond the wall of raging wind.
Riku wondered whether Izzie would have fled, had she been alone. Either the fight had gone out of Izzie, or she was hiding her rage, since she only leaned against the worn gatepost with a forlorn look.
Remera and Ovid approached cautiously. Seeing Remera outside of Mitchlum was odd. Izzie remarked upon this fact, in lieu of a greeting.
Ovid and Remera kept their distance. Ovid brandished a gleaming steel rod. Riku saw that it was ancient technology, rather than an ordinary weapon.
“Don’t try anything,” Ovid announced. “We’re done letting you run wild.”
“I’ll come willingly.” Izzie waved her hand in placation. “Put that device away.”
Ovid did not tuck the rod into his belt.
“I never wanted it to come to this,” Remera said.
“It was inevitable if you look at the facts,” Ovid protested.
“I will come willingly. Riku is here only because I had to repair the damage to her body.”
“Let’s get going then,” Remera said.
Izzie didn’t budge from her spot. “First, I have a few demands.”
“You’re not in a position to make demands,” Ovid said. “Within range, this remote will disable your implants, causing loss of consciousness.”
“Will it work if I transform into my beast form?”
The two dejans took a step back, betraying uncertainty.
“What are these demands?” Remera asked.
“First: let Riku go. Second: My memories. Tell me why I can’t remember. Coming to Dust didn’t do any good.”
“You will never get those memories back. I made sure of it. You’ve always held it against me, too. But from childhood you’ve been unstable. I always hoped you would gain control with time and my help. Getting rid of grotto-le was an important outlet for your anger and power. Impairing your memory was necessary.”
“You’ve had a long life,” Ovid sneered.
“That’s enough,” Remera snapped at him.
“Now that you have Riku, you don’t need me any longer?” Izzie said.
Riku had never before considered the possibility of taking Izzie’s place. A bleak vision of the future suddenly presented itself to her. She imagined standing between the destruction of humanity and the eventuality of her own death, and it shook her.
“I’ve lost control more than once, then?” Izzie went on. “You made me forget the last time? At least tell me that much.”
“We managed to cover it up and contain it for a while,” Ovid said. “But there’s nothing we can do this time.”
Izzie’s shoulders shook with despair, and she pressed her face into her hands.
Riku’s heart sank, but she didn’t offer solace.
Izzie turned to her and said, “You don’t have to be like me, Riku. You should never be like me.”
Riku felt a prickling at the back of her neck. She nodded, at a loss for words. Izzie’s crime could not be forgiven, but without someone to lead her, she would have to either follow the Council or rebel against them. Her thoughts dwelt on Gotenba’s words for a moment.
“I’ll go back to the Fjord, too,” Riku said.
“Riku, what are you doing?” Izzie asked.
“Very well.” Ovid finally stowed his weapon and waved them toward the waiting vehicle. The two of them sat between master priests on the lush seats. Izzie’s hands were cuffed with shackles she could have easily broken. The interior became tracked with soot and dust the moment they sat down. The cabin was stuffy, and all of the master priests wore stern expressions of contempt. Riku could not picture herself among their ranks one day. She watched the supernatural land of Dust recede through the gritty window. The barren Cauterhaugh stretched boundlessly in front of them.
Their journey to Dust had been a dead end for Izzie. Learning Virgil’s true purpose as the forest god had altered both their perspectives. Had he simply lured Remera to them to give himself the opening he needed? If the Fjord could be reversed, the people of the Cauterhaugh would perish. With or without Izzie, Riku could not let that happen to her people.
Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich