Completed A Peculiar Customer

Would it be that hard for a man to do his day's work in peace? Apparently so.

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Syka is a new settlement of primarily humans on the east coast of Falyndar opposite of Riverfall on The Suvan Sea. [Syka Codex]

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A Peculiar Customer

Postby Antelokes on March 24th, 2022, 2:49 am

6th of Spring


Antelokes stared transfixed by the fearsome creature that lay curled on the anvil in Syka’s community forge. It was snake that looked to be almost two feet long and was sunning itself on the warm metal. Antelokes tried not to move too suddenly. Who knew what could set it off and tempt it to strike?

Artik chuckled softly behind him, nursing a flask of wine and scratching at the curly mat of hair on his chest.

“Laugh it up,” Antelokes grumbled in as soft of a voice as he could muster. “Some of us are trying to work here, and that thing is right in the way.” A moment later he heard footsteps and saw Artik creep into his field of view, holding the wine in one hand and a heavy set of tongs in the other.

“I wouldn’t dream of joking about it kid,” the Svefra said solemnly. “That thing’s as poisonous as they come, and faster than lightning.” Artik continued to slowly approach the anvil, edging around its side. Antelokes cursed. He knew it.

The snake raised its head lazily and fixed one of its little eyes on Antelokes. Its tongue tested the air.

“Alright. You’re the expert. What do we do?”

“Oh we have to be very careful…” Artik said, drawing out his words in an intoxicated drawl. The older blacksmith took another few paces forward, reaching out with the tongs. Antelokes tensed, ready to bolt if need be. “It’s attracted to sharp movement, so just make sure you move really, really slow…”

With a deft flick of his wrist Artik seized the snake and threw it right into Antelokes’ face in one quick motion. The younger man let out a less than courageous shout and jumped back. He batted around his head and shoulders with his hands as a raucous guffaw sounded from the other side of the forge. Artik was nearly rolling on the floor with laughter, taking another long swig from the wine. The small snake slithered away into the brush without so much as feigning to bite him. Antelokes glared.

“What was that?”

“That was a snake so harmless it would get scared of a mouse! You should have seen your face.” Artik chuckled again, dwelling on the memory. Antelokes was flooded with relief (and more than a bit of annoyance). Trying to ignore the laughter, he stalked to the tool bench and selected a hammer. The iron he had placed in the fire earlier must be plenty hot by now. He passed Artik and swiped the snake-throwing tongs from him.

“Gimme those. They deserve to get used for something other than betrayal.” Artik put up no resistance, a goofy smile still plastered across his face. Antelokes pulled a metal ingot out of the coals. As he placed the hot iron onto the anvil he kept an aye out for any other critters who might be creeping through the forge unannounced. Maybe the snake had been harmless, but that didn’t mean all of them were.

With the hammer he alternated strikes to the sides of the iron piece, drawing it out and thinning it down. Syka went through nails like a flame through kindling, and he wanted to renew the forge’s supply before the town went into a riot for lack of carpentry supplies.


Word Count :
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Last edited by Antelokes on March 30th, 2022, 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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A Peculiar Customer

Postby Antelokes on March 27th, 2022, 4:14 am


Image


Artik must have slipped off somewhere while Antelokes was working because when he turned to ask for some help with the bellows the man was gone, leaving no trace but a notably empty flask of wine. Antelokes instead worked them himself, sweating buckets in the tropical warmth in an effort to squeeze every bit of heat from the coals.

It’s moments like these that make me wonder if getting one of those kids in here as an apprentice might be a good idea. Antelokes chuckled at his own thought. It hadn’t been too long ago that he had been the lowly apprentice working little except for bellows all day. He would give it thought, but now was probably not the time.

He placed the iron—now much thinner and longer—back into the furnace in preparation for cutting. With that done he took a moment to rest while the metal heated. He had just begun listening to a bird prattle on with a rather amusing string of nonsense when he noticed someone approaching the forge. People who knew what they were doing came here sometimes to do their own work, and others came to purchase supplies they needed.

He wiped his hands in an unsuccessful attempt to brush off some of the soot and went to greet them.

“Hello there! Can I help you?” he asked. Now that she was closer, he could see that she was a woman, and her skin looked strange. Definitely not human. It was a little too similar to the snake he had seen earlier for comfort. Somehow though that wasn’t the most unsettling thing about her. Her gaze on him gave him the same feeling as that of a fisherman pulling up a catch and evaluating whether it was worth keeping or not.

“Maybe. We’ll see,” she replied briskly after a pause that stretched just long enough for Antelokes to feel uncomfortable. “I need something made. I would do it myself but it’s simple, boring, and I have better uses for my time. You’re a blacksmith, correct?”

“That I am. My name’s Antelokes. What’s yours?” The lady ignored his question, brushing past him and striding right into the forge.

“What are you working on now?” she asked, poking through a few containers of materials.

“I’m making a batch of nails,” he replied. “Why do you ask?”

“You’re not doing anything important then. Good.” Once again she ignored his question.

“Hey! Nails are very important.” Who was this person to walk in here and tell him what part of his work was and wasn’t important?

“They are important in principle. What is not important is the precise moment when you make them. I don’t care to wait around long enough for you to think through the logic on your own, so I will tell you the answer now. The order I’m about to make takes precedence. My name is T’aidell, and if I should contract you again in the future you would do well to remember my importance relative to your other projects. Do you have paper? Ah, right here.” When rummaging through the forge the woman had retrieved a piece of coal, and now she snatched up the map of the settlement that Mathias had given to Antelokes. The map had been quite helpful so far.

“Hey, wait!” he said in protest as the woman took the coal and rubbed it directly on the page, sketching out a rough shape and obliterating the other markings on the map.



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A Peculiar Customer

Postby Antelokes on March 28th, 2022, 2:32 am


Image


“I need a piece of iron in this form,” T’aidell said, eyeing a curve as she drew it out in a thick dark line. “It must be flat and about half as thick as your finger.”

“Why is it so important?” Antelokes asked, still annoyed that she was diagraming her order on his map. “What is it?” T’aidell rolled her eyes, still sketching.

“Explaining would cost me more time than I want to spend, but it doesn’t matter. It’s good practice for you. You think you’ll improve at your craft by making these nails all day? Just make my part and maybe the next batch of nails you make will be a little bit better, no?”

“My nails are fine. Are you implying something about the work I do?” asked Antelokes. T’aidell glanced up sharply, freezing him again with that intelligent stare.

“No, I don’t mean to imply anything. Do you feel satisfied with your level of skill?” asked T’aidell. Biting back an urge to snap back at her, Antelokes thought about her question.

“I do good work, but I’m no savant. I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied with it. That doesn’t mean I can’t do my job though,” he replied. The hint of a smile tugged up at the corners of T’aidell’s mouth.

“Good. Take pride in your what you do, but keep pushing the limits. Always. You can start by doing this for me.”

She made a few last strokes and handed the paper to him. It was a clear sketch of a shape that looked like one half of a crescent moon, two hands long and one hand wide. “I will pay for it of course, standard rates for the material and labor.”

Antelokes studied the diagram. This was an odd request. Maybe not quite as odd as T’aidell herself, but still plenty odd. Then again, Antelokes had interacted with madmen before, and T’aidell didn’t seem to fit the type. She seemed like she knew what she was doing.

“This seems doable, but I don’t like working completely blind. At least tell me the gist of what you’ll be doing with it. Is it a part for a ship? Some kind of decoration?” T’aidell laughed at Antelokes’ suggestions.

“Wrong on both counts blacksmith. This isn’t a decoration, and I’m no shipwright. What I do isn’t actually so far from what you do. You take this iron—something raw and formless—and forge it into something useful, giving it a new purpose. I do the same though my limits are not quite so restrictive as yours. I study the components of this world, and once I understand their formless states I can forge them into something entirely new. It’s called alchemy, little blacksmith. This little trinket is just one piece of a puzzle.” Antelokes stared at T’aidell’s diagram, wondering how it could possibly fit in to what she had just explained.

T’aidell glanced quickly up at the sun and frowned at its angle.

“I have things to do. Do your job blacksmith, and do it quickly if you can manage it without breaking anything important.”



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A Peculiar Customer

Postby Antelokes on March 29th, 2022, 3:22 am


Image


T’aidell walked away and Antelokes was left with just himself and the forge. He felt as if he could finally exhale. The conversation with her had kept him on edge, but it had been invigorating. Syka was often a laid back and mellow place, but she possessed none of that easygoingness. The gods only knew what she was doing sticking to such a tight schedule. Few other people seemed to.

Antelokes took another glance at the diagram and sighed. The map wasn’t exactly in top shape anymore, but he couldn’t deny the guide would be helpful. He took another ingot of iron and placed it in the forge to heat. While it did so he removed the rod he had prepared for the nails. T’aidell might be important, but she wasn’t important enough to leave a job unfinished.

He divided the rod into appropriately sized lengths with a hot cut before hammering a taper into the end of each nail rod. He fell into a rhythm as he worked. The reverberations of his hammer on the anvil were like heartbeats, and he basked in the heat of the forge. Gripping one nail rod in his tongs he moved to put it back into the forge’s heat in preparation for the final touches.

A hand made from pure flame shot out and grasped his forearm just above the wrist. With a shout Antelokes tugged back away from the forge but the hold was firm. The hand was translucent and looked insubstantial, flickering and pulsating just like normal fire would. The hand’s touch was searing hot, and it burned it with a pain he hadn’t felt for quite some time. His Azenth mark protected him from most trivial burns, however this felt anything but trivial. Every muscle in his body spasmed and he fought desperately to stay on his feet.

A voice echoed in his ears. It didn’t come from any specific direction or source. It was as if the sound emanated from his own skull.

“You little fool. Pathetic little fool. What are you doing in this place? What cause have you to hold your head high?” The grip on his forearm seemed to tighten and more pain lanced through Antelokes’ arm. A blood-curdling scream tore itself from his lips. He strained to yank his arm away from the forge with no success. The scent of burning flesh filled his nose and brought to mind memories he would much rather remain buried.

This had to be fake, one of his visions. It must be. Surely it was. He hoped it was.

Please.

Gathering his strength and willpower Antelokes responded to the false Ivak.

“I am here because I do things that need done. And I hold my head high because I’m real, and not some pathetic imaginary vision voice!” His words came out in a primal, savage growl. Fake Ivak responded by laughing.

“You presume to be master of this forge? You presume to be master of these flames? You presume to be master of yourself? Listen and learn little one. You are master of nothing. You are nothing. And you are not worthy of my blessing.”



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A Peculiar Customer

Postby Antelokes on March 30th, 2022, 4:48 am


Image


This isn’t real. This is a curse. The visions lie. There is no truth in them.

Antelokes told this to himself, pretending not to care about the voice’s accusations. This was like a dream. A horrible, terrible dream. He needed to wake up. The young blacksmith glanced around the forge in search of a way to jolt himself awake. He caught sight of the hand on his arm and retched. Where the fiery fingers touched him his skin had blackened and peeled, obstructing his gnosis mark. The hand had sunk in and embedded itself in his flesh through pure force of heat. It held him captive, tying him to the forge, holding him prisoner. Why?

I am no prisoner here. This was his domain. That wretched voice lied. Ivak had marked him, and the flames were a part of him. Antelokes stopped resisting, and instead embraced them. He flung himself at the flames.

Almost immediately the vision broke. Antelokes barely stopped himself from diving headfirst into the forge. Even so the heat from the coals singed the edges of his shirt. He gasped, and his breathing was ragged. He tentatively checked his arm and found it intact. The bright design of his Azenth mark was as clear as it had been on the day it was first placed on his skin. Antelokes sank to the ground and rested on one knee.

So far one of these visions had come to him every day since he had stepped off the Veronica. Each had been different from the others. The first had shown Syka in flames, prophesying doom for the colony. Most of the others had been more subtle, but no less disturbing. This one was different. He was unharmed, but that pain had been vivid and lifelike. Antelokes hoped that future visions wouldn’t include that part. It wasn’t pleasant.

This vision had been personal. It was a direct attack at his identity and sense of worth. It was possible that these visions came from his own mind but considering the very real effects that other Sykans were experiencing it seemed more likely that something external was causing this too. That meant it was intentional, targeted, and deliberate. That prospect was almost scarier than the chance that Antelokes was just going insane.

He took a few more seconds to gather his wits and catch his breath, then he stood up. Antelokes needed to do something with his hands. He would feel better once his blood started flowing.

Taking up the tongs he moved back to the forge. He stared at the nail rods but felt a complete lack of desire to continue that project for now. He needed something he could throw himself at, something newer and more difficult. His eye was drawn to a lump of metal in the forge—glowing with subtle intensity. T’aidell’s order. Perfect.



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A Peculiar Customer

Postby Antelokes on March 30th, 2022, 8:02 pm


Image


Antelokes studied the diagram T’aidell had given him. Or rather, the diagram she had drawn on a stolen piece of his own property. Not that he held a grudge. Definitely not. He still couldn’t guess what possible purpose the part could serve, but the alchemist had been very clear about what she wanted. Musing, Antelokes measured out the dimensions and quantities in his head. He made a mental map of the processes he would go through meet T’aidell’s specifications. The work wasn’t especially delicate but he would have to be very deliberate in order to make such an unusual form. It would require a lot of heavy strikes. Time to go to work.

Hammer, tongs, anvil, and a formless lump of glowing hot metal. This was smithing boiled down to its most key components. Sweat beaded on Antelokes’ brow as he brought his hammer down again and again, casting showers of sparks into the air. He pounded the metal flat how T’aidell had described it, then set to work shaping it. The process was slow and laborious. He would pound the edge to compress the metal into the correct shape, but once he turned his attention back to correcting the surface the shape would get distorted again.

He worked at the project for quite some time, focused on his task. The hammer in his hands grew heavy and slick with sweat. After a series of particularly swift hard strikes with the hammer Antelokes stepped back to assess his progress. Out of the corner of his eye he caught an abnormal figure. Glancing up he almost jumped in surprise to see T’aidell herself standing there, leaning back against a tree.

“You’re back,” he said, awkward at the interruption. He was still unsettled by the vision and had not intended to talk to anyone for a while.

“Very astute observation,” she replied, “only took you ten chimes.” If processing the vision hadn’t worn down Antelokes’ emotional energy that might have made him angry.

“Your order isn’t done yet,” he said, gesturing to the partially complete iron plate on the anvil.

“I noticed.”

T’aidell made no further move to comment, so Antelokes shrugged and returned to work, heating the metal again to bring it back to the right temperature. When he returned the metal plate to the anvil he felt T’aidell’s stare on him. He tried to ignore it but every time he glanced up she was just standing there watching him.

“I thought you were busy. Why are you just standing here?” he asked.

“I have found entertainment.”

“What do you mean ‘entertainment?’ Watching me work?”

“Have you ever seen a monkey dance?”

“No.”

“They aren’t particularly good at it. However seeing them try brings a smile to one’s face all the same.” Antelokes paused in his hammering and met T’aidell’s gaze. As if to demonstrate her point her lips were pulled up into a faint smile. He returned to his task, replying while he worked.

“Funny. If I’m so much like a monkey then why don’t you just step up and do your own work?”

“I wouldn’t want to ruin my entertainment now, would I?” she replied

“I doubt many people share your definition of entertainment,” said Antelokes.

“Most people don’t agree with a lot of my definitions,” she said, “or many of the things I do.” Through his azenth mark Antelokes felt a brief and strong welling of emotion from T’aidell. He tried to identify it but it was gone as soon as it appeared. His eyes shot up to her face but it was just as much of an impenetrable mask as before. T’aidell noticed Antelokes’ interest, narrowing her eyes slightly. Antelokes returned to work, but she examined him—eventually fixating on his gnosis.

“You’re one of Ivak’s then.” It was a statement, not a question.

Antelokes hesitated, remembering the accusation from the vision. That he was not worthy of his mark, that he was nothing. He responded.

“Yes. I am.” He brought down his hammer as if to punctuate his sentence. As he examined his work Antelokes found that it was nearly complete. The tip of the crescent was a little malformed though. He switched his tool for a finer hammer.

“Interesting,” T’aidell said. “What do you know then about geology?”

“Geology?” Antelokes asked.

“The study of the ground beneath our feet, the way the land is shaped and the reasons it came to be that way. The composition of stone and dirt and sand. Are you telling me you know nothing of this? Your patron god has some part to play in the forces that drive it .”

Antelokes didn’t know anything about this. He knew a little about ores—he had worked with them in his father’s old metalsmithing forge—but had never dedicated any study to what T’aidell described. If Ivak were involved in it though… that piqued his interest. These fake visions supposedly came from Ivak. Understanding more about the real god’s domain might help him analyze and better understand the origin of his affliction.

“I don’t know much of this,” he said. “Can you teach me? Show me Ivak’s role?” T’aidell smiled, wider this time than before. Antelokes felt as if he’d fallen into a carefully prepared snare.

“I could teach you, but you won’t learn anything from me unless the first lesson I teach you is how to learn for yourself. If you want to know more, show initiative. Find four different stones. They must be fundamentally and completely distinct from one another in composition and type. Note where you found them. Try to guess what you can about them, then bring them to me and I will tell you if you are right.” Antelokes stared directly into her eyes, trying to guess if she was playing a joke on him or not. In the end he decided she was serious.

“Fine. I’ll do it.”

“Good,” she answered. T’aidell then approached and examined the metal plate—which was now just about complete. “The part looks fine. Let it air cool naturally. I’ll be back to pick it up.” Without another word, the odd woman turned on her heel and left, heading back towards the main body of the Syka colony. Antelokes was left staring after her. Conversation with T’aidell seemed almost as strange as the visions were. They were a good deal more pleasant though, but that wasn’t saying much.

He was interrupted by a peal of off-key singing approaching from the other direction. Artik was back—and the older smith seemed to have gotten more alcohol somewhere.

“Hey kid!” he called, “I hope you got some nails done. I caught wind that a couple more people are gonna be by later to pick some up!” Antelokes cursed, glancing back at the unfinished nail rods.

There really was no rest for the weary.



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A Peculiar Customer

Postby Cleon on May 29th, 2022, 3:13 pm

Image





Grade Award!

Antelokes:

Skills:


Arcanology: 1
Blacksmithing: 2
Geology: 1
Observation: 5
Socialization: 5


Lores:

Artik: Appearance & Mannerisms
Artik: Plays practical jokes
Artik: Drunken Lout
Blacksmithing: Drawing out an iron ingot
T’aidell: Appearance & Mannerisms
T’aidell: All business
Arcanology: Rumor of Alchemy
Blacksmithing: Sizing nails with a hot cut
Blacksmithing: Cutting out nails
Curse: The lies of a false Ivak
Blacksmithing: Pounding metal flat
Geology: The study of rocks, minerals, and land formations
T’aidell’s task: Collect four different kinds of rock



Notes: I always enjoy reading your writing, and it was a joy to grade this. I look forward to seeing more threads from you.

Feel free to pm me with questions or concerns about your grade, and don’t forget to edit your grade request! :)
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