"So how does it work?" They were all sat together in a secluded area of the underground complex, for the moment apart from the Avii survivors, albeit separated only by the makeshift walls of the large tent that had been erected for receiving Tarn. Stefan found it contradictory that such a scientifically advanced society would still be susceptible to such overt cult of personality, based on little more than a display of power. It was in keeping with how they'd kept Aera at the pinnacle of the Aviar spire and had constructed their entire society around her, but being able to pivot so instantly to this boy that they barely knew, based only on the tenuous notion of some form of psychic inheritance--
Not for the first time in recent months, Stefan Vortal, soldier of Bruckin and expert navigator, felt entirely lost. There was some comfort in knowing he was hardly alone in that regard - Tranton stood with his arms crossed, leaning on one of the central tent supports; Kirya lay off to one side on a thin mattress, still quiet and groggy from whatever she'd experienced; Fenris sat to close attention but had been uncharacteristically quiet since Aviar's fall. Tarn sat cross-legged on the sunken floor, which was layered with cushions that had somehow survived the city's destruction, having eschewed the grandiose chair that had been carried in by four locals.
"I'm still learning," Tarn said to him. "It feels like something I've known my whole life, but at the same time is entirely new and confusing. I have some of Aera's memories, but they're out of order and confused with my own."
"That sounds horrendous," Tranton said. "I'm presuming this isn't how it was supposed to happen?"
Tarn smiled ruefully and shrugged. "Again, I'm not sure what exactly was meant to happen. But everything was rushed, panicked. She was expecting to be more in control, I think."
"My understanding of it," Fenris said quietly, "having debated this extensively with teachers and students prior to the incident, is that it is meant to be a pure, clean, willing transfer. Aera transferred her powers and consciousness from body to body over the centuries, thus enduring. It was considered a great honour to be the one chosen to share that power."
"That was a lie," Tarn said harshly, surprising himself. "I mean, I don't think there was much sharing to be had. Each time Aera took over, the other person disappeared. They were shut away."
"Voluntary or not, sounds like a bad deal," Tranton muttered.
"It's not what I wanted," Tarn said, smiling in the direction of the explorer. "So I put her away instead."
Stefan raised his hand. "Has she always chosen a female inheritor? Or can 'Aera' be male or female?"
Tarn frowned, as if thinking back to a time long forgotten. "Male and female have little meaning to her," he said. "It was just a convenient way to present herself to us."
There was a soft moan as Kirya propped herself up on one elbow. "They've both been doing this forever," she said. "Kraisa as well. That's how this has been going on for so long. The timeline never made sense - now it does."
Hatch looked excited in spite of herself. "So your mother - the woman you thought was your mother - started life as someone else?" Stefan wince at her abruptness.
Shrugging with some pain, Kirya sighed. "Seems likely, doesn't it?"
Tranton swore and turned away from the group, walking towards the tent's entrance. "And I thought all of this was bad enough before things started happening inside people's heads."
"One aspect to consider," Fenris said, "is that the Avii people are likely expecting some kind of continuation. They will be expecting you to be Aera, not Tarn. Until we know more, we should maintain that pretense."
YOU ARE READING
The Mechanical CrownFantasy
An explorer, a princess, a slave and a sword. A belief that the world can be better. The Mechanical Crown is an epic adventure full of intrigue, mystery and romance. When Tranton Seldon becomes the first to cross the mountains in hundreds of years...