A new truth

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"Most of what you know is wrong," Akila said, as the disc approached a landing platform protruding from the upper levels of the spire.

"People tell me that a lot," Tarn said, as he looked out over the city, hand shielding his eyes from the sun. They were above the clouds, such that the light was bright and glaring, as if it were bouncing at them from all directions. Aviar's structures were a mixture of white stone or a reflective metal, resulting in a glimmering city that was infused with a natural, beaming energy.

Akila smiled sympathetically. While she talked, Eris was manipulating a device wrapped around his wrist, which seemed to be affecting the flight of the disc. "Tranton Seldon," Akila continued, "you know that there was a war between the Headland and the valley, hundreds of years ago. You know of the warlord Kraisa, who led your people in their doomed attack."

"After that we turned to the south," Tranton nodded, "and we never much held with warlords after that. Too much trouble."

She pointed at the Bruckin soldiers and Kirya. "You, princess, and your companions, have your own point of view. You know there was a war, and that legend speaks of how the valley fought off the aggressors, and the land itself rose up to protect the chosen ones."

"We recognise that as myth, though," Hatch said. "There's a truth in there somewhere, but records and facts from that period are thin on the ground."

Tarn still had not managed to wrap his head around all the stories he'd heard from the people he'd met since escaping the machine rooms. It seemed that each person on the surface had their own understanding of the world, often contradictory. Down below it had been simple: everyone understood their place, the work was clear, the stakes evident. There was little room for interpretation. At least, not until Tarn had climbed into the pipe.

The disc settled into a perfectly sized indent in the landing platform, becoming part of the floor. "This way, please," Eris said, leading them from the disc and across the walkway towards the spire. They were about two thirds of the way up the height of the structure, which must have been nearly as tall as the mesas back in Treydolain. Tarn had long since given up being surprised by the worlds he had discovered above ground, resigning himself to a life of constant confusion. Aviar, at least, seemed friendly.

"I know a little more," Kirya said, "from talking to Fenris, and having access to the royal library. But even then, it's patchy. There's not much detail until my ancestors took the throne three hundred years ago."

"Those are the official histories," Fenris said, walking beside her. "There are other texts."

"Ah," said Akila, walking ahead of them, "you are the Watcher, yes? Your people did what they could to retain knowledge."

Tranton held up his hands. "Not to interrupt your moment of cultural superiority," he said, "but when do you get to the point of telling us what really happened?"

Many of Kirya's lessons to Tarn as they had journeyed to the north had been about etiquette and politeness, two thing she seemed overly fixated upon, even despite abandoning her family in the capital - which seemed to Tarn as if it must have been the height of rudeness. She insisted that learning the rules of how to talk to people would make his life easier, yet being in the company of Tranton Seldon seemed to present an alternative. The explorer made a point of speaking his mind, much like Tarn, and that frankness served him well. It struck Tarn as odd to disguise one's true thoughts behind a mask.

They had reached the doors to the interior of the spire. A wide walkway ran around the outer circumference, disappearing out of sight around the curving edge. Other walkways extended out, leading to platforms similar to the one their disc had landed upon. Eris waved a hand in front of a discreet panel set into the wall and the doors opened - not by swinging or sliding apart but through a motion Tarn had never seen before: shifting and reforming into a different shape, revealing an opening, the solid surface appearing to dissolve from an unseen force. Around the leading edge of the opening a blue light briefly shimmered.

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