((Disclaimer: The writing within the “Memories” series is 100% headcanon. While I try to write within the boundaries of lore, much of this is pure speculation, and completely just character exploration.
While I personally feel that the history of Allag should remain a mystery, recreating a realistic environment for Amon’s flashbacks requires me to use a little liberty in describing how things might have been. I go light on the details mostly because I don’t want to define too much, however. And mostly because I have little idea beyond the lorebook how it actually was!))
“Just look at those ears,” the girl’s voice whispered with the sound of lips partially hidden by fingers. “Like one of father’s hounds.”
The statement was followed by the laughter of other children that wasn’t hidden at all.
Amon pressed his forehead against the ship’s window, pretending that he didn’t hear. One advantage – or disadvantage – of his long, pointed ears was that he could detect sound quite well, even from a distance.
He wanted to tell them what his mum always said: he’d grow into his slightly-too-large ears one day. But he didn’t think this group of children would be very receptive to his mother’s wisdom. Especially since only the moment before, they were remarking under their breaths on the poor state of his attire.
“He smells a bit like a hound, too.”
This renewed the snickering from the back corner of the transport ferry.
The children were supposed to remain seated with proper safety restraints on at all times. The mammet attendant had informed them so. Of course, they’d ignored the machine and did as they pleased. Except for Amon, who had never ridden in a sky ferry before, and was experiencing lightheadedness from it all.
Initially, the boy was excited at the prospect of the big adventure he was embarking upon – this ship was transporting the next class of students to the KEEN project. This was an academy meant to nurture the development of the most clever young minds discovered in the Allagan Empire.
Only, Amon hadn’t considered that his more modest upbringing, and late recruitment, would paint him as a target for other children. Especially those who were returning for their second or third year, while matching his age. Where he came from, children didn’t behave like this. Perhaps it was the difference between those from the city and those from the forest settlements.
He really wasn’t ready when another, tiny girl hobbled past the group, right up to him, and stuck her face near his own. Amon pulled back at this, unable to pretend to ignore it, and wrinkled his brows as the girl… sniffed him.
She then turned to look back over her shoulder, bright auburn hair feathering with the motion. Her voice was strong and unafraid as she proclaimed, “Scylla. You’re a big fat fibber. He doesn’t smell like dogs at all!”
The first girl – Scylla – wrinkled her entire face up in response. This made her dark eyes look ugly, despite the fact she was dressed in finery that would befit a princess. “How would you know? You can hardly see anything.”
“What a dummy! You don’t have to have good eyes to smell.” Came the smaller girl’s response. When she looked back at Amon, he then realized she was wearing very big, very thick corrective lenses. She just smiled. “Bread, right?”
“You had fresh baked bread today. I can smell it.”
“Oh… oh aye.” Amon nodded. “Mum made it for my going away.”
“I knew it!” The girl beamed at him, even if her eyes struggled to fully focus on his face. She stuck a hand out to him. “I’m Clio.”
He took her hand gingerly. “Amon.”
“Don’t listen to Scylla,” she told him in a whisper way too loud for it to be discreet. “She just thinks she’s smarter than everyone else. Which is dumb. Everyone here is smart. We all took the same test, or we wouldn’t be here.”
Indeed, that was how Amon came to be there. Though his family lived far, far in the outskirts of the Empire, every few years or so, the Auditor passed through their land. It was the Auditor’s job to test people. To find those with special abilities and skills.
Or, in Amon’s case, those who tested with abnormally high intelligence levels.
Because they lived so far away, he wasn’t discovered until the age of 10 – which was fairly late. Other than displaying a quick aptitude for learning and devouring any tomes he could get his hands on, Amon had never really showed any outward signs of being extraordinary.
That was not the way the tests apparently saw him. Because as soon as the results came back, a man from the Tower had appeared at their door. He’d come all the way out in the middle of nowhere, just to bring a decree that Amon was found fit to become a part of the KEEN project.
His parents were so proud. To send a child to the service of the Empire would certainly see a betterment for their entire family status. In fact, it would only be a matter of time before they would all move to a location in the city, a generous offer provided by the Empire itself.
“Hey,” Clio leaned uncomfortably closer. So close, Amon could make out each freckle on her face. “Is this your first time seeing it?”
“Seeing what?” Her train of thought darted around so much, Amon had a hard time following the conversation.
“The Crystal Tower, silly.”
“Oh, aye. I’ve never been to the city before,” he admitted.
Her face lit up even more, if that was possible. “We need to find a better spot, then. Come on.”
Clio tugged at his arm a little.
“We’re supposed to stay in our seats,” Amon advised.
She just huffed a little. “That’s nonsense. Do you know the injury rate for sky ferries has dropped over 23% in the past five years?”
“No… uh… actually…”
“Just come on,” Clio reached out and pressed the button on the side of his seat, releasing the safety.
Amon was uncertain, but it was hard to resist the girl’s excitement. It would be nice to be far away from Scylla’s piercing frown. Before he realized it, he was weaving between the seats, following her towards the front of the ship.
That’s when he first really noticed the way Clio moved. Like one leg was shorter than the other, or had a knee that was bent the wrong way. He was too polite to make note of it verbally, but he’d never met someone who was… defective… before. Those issues were usually cloned out on the spot.
Clio motioned to a ladder which had the words “Main Deck” scribed into a panel next to it. As she took hold of the rungs, a mechanical whirr and tick sounded behind them.
-Unauthorized area for passengers. Please return to your seats.-
Amon grit his teeth, watching the mammet approach them, all lights and sounds. If he didn’t know that it was just a machine, he would have thought it was displaying real frustration. The boy shot a worried glance at Clio, who hobbled down from the ladder quickly.
At first, he thought she was going to comply with the order. It turned out, that’s not what she had in mind at all.
“Oh, hush! Don’t get your circuits in a bunch.” The girl pulled a thin, rectangular device from within her vest pocket. Holding it out, she placed it just in front of the display panel on the mammet’s chest.
The device beeped three times, a little light flashing along the edge. Something within the machine responded, also beeping three times, the eyes flashing as it did. Amon could hear the sound of realignment working within it.
Then, it looked at them as if seeing something completely different than before. –Apologies. Please carry on.-
“Thank you,” Clio told the mammet, withdrawing her device.
Amon’s mouth opened a little as the machine wandered away. “What did you do?”
“Used a control key,” the girl laughed as if that was the most obvious thing ever.
He squinted, looking at the design of her device, trying to hide some of the excitement he felt, “’Tis a TSTM-2424?”
Clio was delighted. “You’ve seen one before?”
“Once,” Amon didn’t want to admit that his family mostly used the refurbished tech and didn’t have access to these top-of-the-line devices.
But, this was something very rare. Even for the city. He couldn’t help but wonder how the girl came to have one.
She didn’t seem to notice his quiet awe, holding it out for him to see. “I’ve modded it with a few tweaks of my own. Including a master control key that works with most of the standard Mazebits.”
Amon could only stand and nod, feeling small at his own lack of knowledge on the topic, something this girl apparently knew inside and out. She spoke with excitement and passion, a quick tittering like a little bird, just happy that anyone would listen.
That’s why he hated to interrupt her, “Were we going to the deck?”
“Oh! Oh, right!” Clio put away her device with a grin, and hoisted herself up the rungs. It took her a few tries to lift the heavy hatch, but as soon as she did, the girl pulled herself through the port above.
If she really did have trouble with her legs, she didn’t let that stop her.
Amon sucked on his lip, not to be outdone, and followed her through the hatch. The moment his head peeked above deck, his silver-white hair was blasted back by the wind. Squinting, it took a moment for him to gain his balance and grab hold of the first thing he could.
Clio stood there, as if being on the deck of an airship was the most natural place for her, leaning dangerously on the rail. She laughed at his timid stare over the side, then motioned with one hand for him to look at the horizon.
There it was. The center of their entire civilization.
It was a massive monolith of brilliant blue crystal. Far larger than even he could have imagined it to be, a great spire of light and hope pointed towards the heavens. It made him feel both so tiny and excited all in the same sharp breath.
“What do you think?” Clio asked, watching his expression with anticipation.
“’Tis amazing!” He shouted above the rushing wind.
“Just wait until you see the inside!”