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Echoes From Dust

by L. S. Popovich

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Chapter 5: Telos

In her room, Riku meditated the way Nadyr had taught her. After seeing so many children scarred by the trials she’d felt hopeless. Another part of her couldn’t contain her wonder. Mitchlum was an entirely different world. The stories Nadyr had told her of the gods resembled myths but, in the cloister, everyone was confident the gods were close at hand, judging their performances in the trials. Their unshakable faith daunted her.

Riku had been assured she’d be allowed see Nadyr once she progressed, but she already missed him terribly. Nonetheless she had to survive without his guidance, since his duties as a priest in Kaminovo Village came first. But one day, if she could inspire people like Izzalia, it would all be worth it.

A girl walked into her room a while later. Riku regarded her silently. She was tall and willowy, with legs that went most of the way up her body. The way she moved didn’t seem right to Riku, who wasn’t used to the unpolished skin and awkward proportions of Mitchlum folk. Removing worn boots of flexible hide, the girl folded them carefully and shoved them under the bed. Then she went and drank from the basin of holy water with her hand. Two of her fingers had been replaced with flexible steel rods.

Riku was caught staring. Taking a deep breath, she said, “My name is Riku.”

The girl squinted her dark eyes and nodded. “You didn’t have to tell me. It’s your first day. Everyone knows who you are.”

The girl’s voice sounded mature, but her face was young and speckled. At first, Riku thought the off-color flecks were rust, but looking closer, she realized they were beneath the soft skin of her face.

“What’s your name?” Riku asked.

“The name’s Telos. I guess we’ll be roommates for now. I shouldn’t have to tell you, but everything on this side is mine.”

Riku surveyed the other half of the room. A stack of wooden boxes contained stone weights, slate tablets, chalk, graphite sticks, knives, gloves, a hat, and other clothes. Oddly, there were also six books with hide covers, the greatest number Riku had ever seen in one place.

“Where are you from?” Riku asked good-naturedly.

“I’ve always lived in Mitchlum.”

“Have you been in the cloister a long time?” Riku asked.

Telos surveyed her again. “You could say that. Not many last as long as I have.”

Riku’s heart pounded. “Is it really that bad?”

Telos let out a hollow-sounding laugh. “You’re my third roommate.”

Riku swallowed, on the verge of tears. Seeing her reaction, Telos reached over and patted her shoulder. The metal fingers made a clicking sound. “Let’s go get some grub. We’ll talk more at the table.”

Proceed to Chapter 6...

Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich

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