Klane Kalonia and the Great Burning (10) by DMFW ()
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The games field was north of the town near the Pallish camping grounds, where this morning the census was due to conclude before competitions could start on the morrow. Each resident of Ironhope presented themselves to a panel consisting of Verindu, the leader of ceremonies and his advisors, Jythra of the Nykwin and Thorawn from the Conclave. Although he appeared to be just a delegate, Klane had no doubt that it was Thorawn who was really running things. Alone amongst the Riders, Klane understood how the Conclave worked and the influence it wielded in maintaining the Season of Innocence, even as it ostensibly faded into the background of their lives.
Explaining their skills and duties in Ironhope before the panel, a townsman or woman was given a twine necklace looped with a set of coloured crystalline rings which betokened their abilities. At the same time, a matching necklace was tallied and stowed with Jythra. These necklaces would be used to assemble sets of workers to be assigned as prizes for the winners of the games. Children and old folk might travel with their families but the rest of the ciizens of Ironhope were destined to be split up and dispersed amongst the other settlements in the lands of the winning Riders. In time, a new settlement would surely arise as a natural replacement for Ironhope, but the numbers of such settlements were never allowed to grow without a matching Great Burning, just as the human popuation of the Earth was now balanced at levels far below the ones the world had known before the Great Forgetting by the long disciplines and traditions of its current global culture.
Klane waited his turn patiently, although as a Rider he could have pushed to the front of the queue. There were only a last few ahead of him and he was not pressed for time. All he needed to do now was to register his alias "Alderon" as a competitor, for Klane had chosen to try his luck in the games.