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In Memoriam

The twin suns rose into the pale green sky. The warmth of the summer suns coaxed the petals of the sea flowers open, filling the air with spicy and sweet fragrances. The people of Avda were beginning to arrive in the great city, having travelled from all over the continent, making their way to the temple. It was the same each year. At the height of summer, on the 7th day of the month of Creech, the Avdai gathered before the Memory Priestess for the Great Recitation.  

For the children of Avda, the occasion was simultaneously joyous and serious. As part of their studies, they were required to produce some work to mark the momentous occasion. It could be a poem, a sculpture, a holonovel, anything, but it had to be borne out of true inspiration. As they made their way to the temple some whispered words, trying to capture the mood surrounding them. Others were sketching in their notebooks as they walked, others still discussed the symbolism of the ceremonial practices and the similarity and differences from previous Recitations.  

The Great Recitation was the biggest gathering of the Avdai, the only one that required every citizen of Avda in attendance. The Memory Priestess presided over all ceremonies, all events of the Avdai people, great and small. And where she could not be in attendance, witnesses who attended would come to her and give their testaments. That was how she spent most of her days, presiding over events and hearing testimonies. That was her role, as the living memory of the Avdai people, her role was to remember, recall and recite. Dates, names and events were protected by her, a living vessel carrying who they had been. She was their eternal, their beginning and their end. She carried their stories in her mind, as well as on her tongue, reciting genealogies, testaments and tales of valor. 

Akora was the Memory Priestess’ guardian. Her main role was to make announcements and keep order during ceremonies. From childhood, oratory had been her talent. She had written speeches and poems for most of her studies, and she had a voice that rang out almost and loudly and powerfully as that of the Memory Priestess.  

“People of Avda,” Akora cried out. “Welcome to the 50th Great Recitation.” 

“Please stand to welcome the Memory Priestess.” 

 The people rose. Like a stone hitting the surface of a river, the crowd seemed to ripple as movement spread out from the central podium. 

The Memory Priestess emerged from the antechamber and sat on the throne. The people then took their seats. The throne and the podium were made of pure gold and studded with emeralds. The ceremonial amphitheatre was over four hundred years old but it was well maintained. It had originally been built in a natural stone valley. As the population had grown, there had been calls to build a new venue on a new site. Instead, the ancient amphitheatre had been extended continuously, new seating hewn out of the valley sides to accommodate the growing population. It now stretched out at a radius of almost half a mile. Yet, by means of tesseractal spatial extension and digital augmentation, every person in the huge structure felt as if they were right in front of the podium. To each of them, the Memory Priestess looked close enough to touch and indeed had they reached through the tesseractal spatial extension, they could have.

The High Priestess emerged fully, her white gown was cloud-like and she seemed to float to the centre of the podium. 

“Akoya,” she said in greeting. 

“Akoya,” came the thunderous reply, over a million voices resounding into the morning air.  

“As Memory Priestess of the Avda people, it falls to me to keep the stories and songs of our race,” she continued.

“Speak to us,” the people recited. “Pour out that which was.” 

 “Here I stand as I stood at first,” she began. “On this spot, I first gazed upon the Avdai. Here the world began, here I was hailed at the First Great Recitation where I received my first witnesses.”

She continued telling the story of the Avdai from the first Great Recitation to the present day.

At last, the High Priestess came to the end of her recitation. The sky had taken on a bronze hue and the twin suns were dipping, falling slowly into the ocean in the distance.  

 “I have recited the great and glorious stories of the Avdai,” said the High  Priestess.  

There was silence. The Memory Priestess looked up and around, confused. Her pause was an invitation for the traditional response from the people, but there was nothing. 

Fifty years had passed since the Memory Priestess’ first Recitation. Many gathered had not been in attendance back then, but young and old, they knew the one secret that the Memory Priestess did not hold. Hewn out of the earth as it was, the amphitheatre was not full of shiny smooth surfaces like some of the more modern structures on the continent, it was rocky. There were stones all over the ground. One by one the Avdai picked up stones. Some barely had pebbles, others used both hands to lift great chunks of rock. Even the children had stones, their inexperienced fingers grasping their role in the ancient ritual.  

 The Memory Priestess looked around confused, but not afraid, until the first stone hit her on her cheek. Moments before there were attentive faces, but now resolute stares, frenzied voices and stones were coming through the tesseractal spatial distortions. The Memory Priestess screamed. 

 Akora stood on the podium and raised her hands. The crowd became still and there was silence.  

“Time has ended,” Akora said loudly.  

“Time has ended,” the crowd repeated. 

Figures dressed in black appeared with a sheet with rods on two opposite sides. They placed the battered corpse of the Memory Priestess on it and carried it away. 

“Nothing remains that was,” said Akora. 

“Nothing remains that was,” the crowd repeated. 

Akora pulled a lever and rain began to fall, washing away the blood that stained the throne and the podium. 

“There is no memory of former things,” said Akora. “All conflicts are erased, all debts are cancelled.” 

“We are made new,” the crowd said joyously. 

Akora pulled another lever and steam began to evaporate from the throne and the podium. After a few minutes they were both dry, shining, the jewels glinting in the waning sunlight.  

“Bring her forth,” said Akora. 

At this the door of the temple opened and two attendants dressed in black led out a young girl, a child on the cusp of maturity, dressed in white with a yellow band across her eyes. They sat her on the throne and removed the band. 

“All hail the Memory Priestess,” shouted Akora.  

“All hail the Memory Priestess,” thundered the voices of the people.   

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