The Price of Independence - Rough - Day 17

Altman considered Tremaine’s words carefully. It was true; his uncle had, on multiple occasions, stressed that complying with his own beliefs was not a prerequisite for assuming the mantle of Tremaine’s work. But Tremaine’s arguments had wormed their way into his mind with a disturbing speed and efficiency, and once there, had planted the seeds of doubt. Who were the Conclave to dictate the pace of innovation in the world? Who were they to proscribe knowledge from those who would know?

They were powerful, and they were dominant, that’s who they were. But Altman could think of no reason that that should entitle them to such power. They were a group of people who had gained their power hundreds of years before in this land and had spread rapidly to other lands besides, and by keeping knowledge and education itself locked away, ensured that nobody questioned why it should be so. Altman couldn’t think of it without something uneasy stirring within him, a sick feeling as though the bottom of the world had opened up and left him over a great abyss. How could he never have seen it before?

That much was easy enough to deduce, he concluded. He’d never bothered thinking about things such as politics or social policies before. He’d been too concerned with absorbing as much information as he could to worry about who else was or was not absorbing it along with him, nor who could or could not do so.

His reverie was interrupted by Tremaine’s sudden “Here we are.” His voice was a little breathless; the walk had been short, but had taken a lot out of him.

They were in the forest a ways from the house, with several small wooden buildings clustered in front of them. They were slightly ramshackle, as if they’d been standing for several years without proper care or even frequent use; the forest had been hard at work reclaiming the ground upon which they were built, and roots were starting to grow under the wall boards while vines snaked up several of the walls. Water and temperature had worked their insidious magic to warp and twist the wood, leaving the smallest of openings here and there for the forest’s footholds.

All looked normal enough, save for the space beyond the buildings. Archerd would have missed it had he not been forewarned by Tremaine’s description of the effects of electrite the night before; just visible beyond the screen was the start of a dead zone, the vegetation having sickened and lost some color. As they moved past the buildings the damage became clear; a depression lay beyond, and within that depression, nothing lived. “And here it is, nephew. The mother lode of electrite if ever there was one.”