Author : Ian Rennie

It was the last day of the forty third reign of the Enduring Prophet, and all was right with the world.

The prophet was now bed-bound, and it was widely expected that soon his spirit would leave behind this mortal form, and appear incarnate in his successor: a boy groomed from childhood to take on the mantle and the spirit of the Enduring Prophet.

At least, that was how the monks told it. The worldly city-folk smiled at such stories when they heard them. Their ancestors had believed in continual reincarnation, but these days most people accepted that the actual procedure was that when the monks saw the Prophet was getting on in years, they selected a boy, tutored him to become their figurehead, and continued their own rule by proxy. It was a neat enough system, and the monks tended to rule wisely. Over the years, the concepts of reincarnation and divinity had become a pleasant story, truly believed only by peasants and children.

Shortly before noon, the Enduring Prophet sent for the boy. Today, the child’s name was Kai Lo, a name that would be taken from him if and when he took the mantle. The Prophet needed no name. The boy was solemn, old before his time with the burden of responsibility. He knew what was coming.

Before he entered the Prophet’s chambers, a monk stopped Kai Lo and spoke to him. Wen Chan had looked after the boy for the five years since he had been brought to the monastery, had become almost a father to him, and his tone was gentle and grave.

“Kai Lo,” he said, “Do you know what is asked of you today?”

“I do.”

“And you will do as you have been asked?”

The boy nodded. Wen Chan paused for a moment, and when he continued the words were less ceremonial.

“Should you not wish this, if you are not ready for the burden, it can be taken from you.”

For a moment, his eyes seemed to plead with the boy. Kai Lo shook his head.

“It is my destiny.”

Wen Chan said no more, simply led the boy into the room. The hum of machinery grew louder as the door opened.

An hour later, the monks lowered the flags around the monastery entrance. The crowd gathered before the gates knew what this meant. The funeral and coronation would take place this evening.

In his bedchamber, the boy no longer known as Kai Lo heard the sound of the crowd outside. It had been a long time since his hearing had been this acute. There was a fresh pleasure in these first few days after the transfer, where everything felt new. After a while, it became normal again, but for a few short days he felt capable of anything.

The boy hadn’t struggled, hadn’t resisted when the technicians placed him in the machine. His pious sense of duty had lasted until the transfer had taken place, when something akin to shock had passed across the face of a boy suddenly trapped in a dying old man.

Sometimes, the prophet felt remorse for the life that he ended, the body he stole, but it was just how things were. His people needed a leader, and there were some prices you had to pay.

He stepped towards his balcony, basking for the first time in the roar of the crowd.

It was the first day of the forty fourth reign of the Enduring Prophet, and all was right with the world.


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