Beware of old gods

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Religion was something Tranton left to other people. He didn't have any particular complaints about the notion - other than the wars, the abuses of power, the undue political influence, the siphoning of money from the poor, the stripping of cultural assets - but it had never held thrall over him. His father had entertained his own unique superstitions, as did many who sailed upon the Winfast Gap between Evinden and Safast, but Tranton had always perceived a gulf of difference between the idiosyncrasies of one person's faith and the organised hypocrisy of mass worship.

That was the context which shaped his thoughts as they were led out of the museum and further into the interior of the spire, which revealed itself to be a lattice of criss-crossing walkways and staircases, leading off to other areas concealed behind the oddly opalescent walls. The central space was hollowed out, granting dizzying views all the way down to the ground and up to the very top of the structure. He leaned on the rail the ran the length of the level they found themselves on and stared down into the abyss, where lights flickered in the depths and people could be seen moving about, appearing as small as ants. Nothing about the spire revealed the method of construction and he had never seen anything even vaguely comparable in all his travels; the towers of Bruckin, the palace on the mesas in Treydolain, the waterways of Hollanhead and the vast souks and raceways of the southern deserts felt like a child's playthings in relation to Aviar's architecture.

Not to mention that the entire city was perched atop a floating slab of rock.

He'd seen technological differences which were often hard to fathom or explain; sciences which had developed in isolation and which appeared like magic to the untrained or unlearned eye - but there were always clues to be derived or guessed at: Aviar was nothing less than impossible.

Akila was gesticulating at the space around them, pointing out notable architectural motifs and technological achievements, but Tranton's attention had already drifted. A place like this didn't exist without an exchange of resources, somewhere along the line. He'd had the same feeling when he'd arrived in Treydolain, later explained when he met Fenris and was told about the 'machine rooms': the entire city was held up on the backs of the enslaved.

At least Aviar upon first glance did not share Lagonia's monoculture - even wandering the museum and the walkways as Akila and Eris led them had revealed a range of appearances. It was the first time Tranton had not acutely felt his otherness since leaving the Headland. Here, nobody stared at him as if he were an untrustworthy wild animal. He'd heard Fenris say something about refugees departing the valley long ago; perhaps they had finally settled here. He tried to see that as a good sign, but was unable to shake the feeling of indistinct unease.

Everyone they had seen since landing on the spire appeared to have a purpose, as they strode about the walkways and disappeared through doors into other areas of the building. They seemed content and engaged, not to mention healthy and well-dressed - albeit in peculiar styles that bore little resemblance to Lagonian or Headland fashion.

"What does everyone do here?" he asked, as they approached doors set into a vertical column that stretched up and out of sight.

"Most of us here in the spire are polyants or above," Akila said, "with occasional high achieving mentors such as Eris."

"I'm hoping to be promoted to polyant in the next two months," Eris said, pride evident in his tone. "That way I'll be ready."

Akila held up a hand and the younger man shut his mouth, flushing slightly. "All in good time," she said. "We want no secrets from you - all of you. You've come all this way to find out the truth, and there is so much we can do together."

"What is a polyant?" Fenris asked. "I've not heard the term before."

Tarn leaned in awkwardly close to Akila. "Is it an ant? Are you an ant?"

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