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Echoes From Dust

by L. S. Popovich

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Chapter 50: Return

From the moment Izzie was conducted into the Fjord, she was under lock and key. Her energy was curbed by daily injections from Remera’s staff. The guards were told she was undergoing a treatment and was unable to transform. All Izzie knew was her anger was dulled, along with her awareness of her god.

More than anything, her mother’s silence perturbed her. It was the silence of resignation. The time for discussions had passed. Sitting in her cell, Izzie waited for the sentence. The dejan deliberated in their meeting rooms, and she felt condemned. The Council was on the warpath against her, but Remera prolonged her confinement, arguing for an official trial.

Izzie lost track of time. One dejan after another took her testimony. Telos passed by occasionally to deliver meals, outfitted in formal garb, and fitting in better than Izzie would’ve expected.

Ovid visited her once, masking his fury with a quick effort of composure. He carried more weapons than usual, including the device for disabling her modifications.

Ovid situated himself just outside her reach, preparing to say whatever he had come to say. “Ever since we spirited you back, Remera has been losing face with the Council,” he said. “You’ve ceased to be a human being in their eyes.”

“Since you know what I’ve done, do you agree with them?”

The pause before his words betrayed his true feelings. “Nonsense. Nobody asks for my opinion, but the Council is quick to forget what they owe you for a century of faithful service.”

Izzie snarled, “They’ve always been like that, haven’t they? Now that I’m out of the inner circle, aren’t you right where you want to be? You can quit pretending, Ovid, I’m sick of sitting around waiting for the Council to write me off.”

Her statement was met with a contemptuous denial. “I’m not one for executing people, even if they deserve it.”

“Really? Riku said you were ready to finish me off back at the oasis.”

Ovid’s nostrils flared in alarm. “That was... a precaution. Your head would already be on the chopping block if Remera hadn’t bought you time. You’re still alive, aren’t you? Thanks to everyone else putting their neck on the line.”

“You’ve always been a tool, Ovid, and that’s why I’ve never called you my brother.”

The punch came unexpectedly. There was a lot of force behind his blow and it caught Izzie unaware. Telos peeked her head through the door. Clearly, she had been listening.

“Remera and I put up with a lot,” Ovid said, “but we don’t have to put up with your insults.”

Izzie straightened and dismissed the dark emotions rising inside her. The chains around her limbs held tight. “We’ve all been through a lot.” Izzie glanced at Telos, who lingered.

“There are too many grotto-les out there already,” Ovid said.

Izzie’s eyes burrowed into his. “What’re you trying to say?”

“You’ve served your purpose, but the time has come to retire you.”

She lunged at him, wrenching her arms in the chains. Dust flew from the wall, and he leapt back.

Telos took a cautious step into the room. “It’s fine, Telos,” Ovid said, raising his modified, glinting hand and waving her away.

Izzie relaxed. Her anger had surged for a moment and quickly subsided.

“Her fate is decided. Only a few formalities remain.” Turning, Ovid excused himself gruffly, slamming the door behind him.

Izzie sat in silence and searched herself mentally. Omi was nowhere to be found. There was only a dullness at the back of her mind. The medication was a necessary measure, she thought, to put the Council at ease, but she wanted to meditate again, to seek guidance from the god inside her.

Telos paced the hallway. Izzie called out to her softly. After a moment, Telos’ head appeared over the slot in the door. A wry smile curled the corners of her lips.

“What have you been doing?” Izzie asked her.

Telos glanced to either side, making sure the coast was clear. “Working, keeping guard, fighting cynths. Mitchlum has become a dangerous place.”

“Have you seen Riku?”

“She’s fine. Dealing with the Council’s questions.”

“Look out for her when I’m gone.” Izzie sighed.

Telos grunted, “She doesn’t need me to look out for her.”

“You’re right.” Izzie smiled.

“Thanks for fixing her up after the fight anyway.”

“It was the least I could do. Mitchlum needs more people like you and her.”

“Don’t forget about the mags in the Cauterhaugh.”

Izzie frowned. Telos now understood that the Cauterhaugh was in far worse shape than the Council had led everyone to believe. “I envy you, Telos.”


“You don’t have a god inside you.”

Telos clenched her fist in annoyance. Of course, Izzie didn’t know about her encounter with the relic and how her body had resonated with its power. “What do you mean by that?”

“We all trust our gods blindly. That’s what the priesthood teaches. But I’ve learned that the gods have their own conflicts. The communications we receive are our own interpretations.”

Telos scoffed. “That kind of thinking got you into this mess.”

“I have been to the Celestial Plane.”

Telos regarded her skeptically. “What good is your experience and knowledge now?”

Izzie was silent.

“Are you just going to give up?” Telos went on. “What about the hordes of cynths under Mitchlum? What about the grotto-les running amok in the Cauterhaugh? Our problems have only gotten worse.”

“What would you have me do?”

“Break out of here. Clean up some of this mess.”

“Then you haven’t sided with the Council, after all?”

“I want to win,” Telos said emphatically. “Putting you to death isn’t going to improve our odds.”

“I’m not sure I want to go back to that life.”

“Well, you better make up your mind soon.”

Izzie searched herself for the strength to break her bonds or to transform. Her anger and resolve fizzled rapidly. With Virgil plotting against Remera, was there even any need for her to resist?

She looked up to speak but Telos had gone. A physician accompanied by a troop of guards was approaching. It was time for her sedative.

Proceed to Chapter 51...

Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich

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