Solo Pale Echoes

Antelokes seeks refuge in memories of better times.

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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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Pale Echoes

Postby Antelokes on May 14th, 2022, 7:23 pm

71st of Spring

71st of Spring

Sweat dripped from Antelokes’ brow as he crouched over a large stone where it lay in the sand. Adjusting his hands to get a better grip, the young man lifted with his legs, managing to stand and lifting the stone. Then, with considerably more effort, he heaved the stone up to chest height. His arms and shoulders shook with the subtle vibrations of muscle under tension, and he shuffled a little on his feet to balance the weight. He gritted his teeth. His feet were pressed deeper into the beach’s loose sand by the considerable weight of the stone, and his fingers ached from the force required to keep it steady.

Antelokes took one halting step forward, then another. His strides were short, but he slowly managed to find a walking rhythm with the weight in his hands. Slowly, the blacksmith paced out the distance he had appointed for himself to walk. Several steps short of the mark, (a stick he’d laid out on the sand) he considered calling it good. After a brief pause in his progress, the moment of weakness passed and he berated himself for the notion. Several more steps carried him to his goal. With a grunt and a heave, Antelokes thrust the stone farther up into the air while simultaneously dropping his body below it. He let his shoulders lock with the stone held over his head and his legs bent. His limbs complained under the pressure, and he blinked the sweat out of his eyes.

With one last push of exertion, Antelokes rose to his full height, the stone held far over his head. With a sigh of mixed triumph and relief, he dropped the weight, pushing it forward while stepping backward to avoid its path. The large stone fell to the ground with a dull thump. Antelokes soon joined it, collapsing to the beach to sit, breathing heavily. He wiped the sweat from his face with his forearm.

He'd been here for much of the last bell. The forge work today had been frustrating. It was one of those days where the metal seemed to be fighting him, snapping, warping, and just not responding to his attempts to shape it how he wanted. After spending most of the day throwing himself at his work to little avail, he’d been eager to go and do something simple and difficult. Tests of physical strength fit the bill.

It had taken some time to find a stone of the right weight. Too light, and it wasn’t hard enough. Too heavy, and you couldn’t do anything meaningful with it. Eventually he’d found something serviceable though, after some time searching. Maybe it would be worth it to construct something metal of the right weight? He could be sure that the weight was distributed evenly in that case.

Just as the blacksmith had begun to consider this thought, he felt an odd shape poking into his backside where he sat. He hadn’t noticed it in his initial exhaustion upon sitting, but now it was becoming uncomfortable. Thinking it was just an odd shaped stone in the sand, he moved to swipe it away with his hand. However, his fingers brushed against a much more refined, artificial texture. He frowned, then rose to his feet—ignoring the protests from his legs—to examine what he had inadvertently sit on.
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Pale Echoes

Postby Antelokes on May 16th, 2022, 8:38 pm

Timestamp

Brushing away a thin layer of sand, Antelokes uncovered what looked to be a tightly woven braid of leather cords, its length interspersed with several small loops. Lifting it from the sand, he held it in the sun to examine it, confused. The intricate pattern clearly indicated that this was a product of skilled workmanship, but what was it doing buried on the beach?

Settling himself back into his makeshift sand-seat, Antelokes gave the item a closer examination. The sunlight glinted off of metal, drawing his eye. There was a small metallic ‘X’ shape strung onto one of the loops. Each end of the object had a small metallic bit attached as well. A clasp, maybe? Then this was a bracelet. Perhaps somebody had lost it on the beach. Curious about the workings of the clasp, Antelokes fiddled with it, then wound the bracelet around his own wrist. With a gentle press, the two ends of the clasp slid together with a low click.

The bracelet sat comfortably on his wrist, and the clasp worked with astonishing smoothness. Surely somebody would be looking for a fine piece like this if it were lost. Antelokes tried to release the clasp, not wanting to wear some trinket that wasn’t his, but the mechanism wouldn’t let go. It felt as if it had fused together into a single solid piece. He frowned. Turning his wrist over and running his fingers across the bracelet’s length. He tugged at it and tried to roll it, seeing if he could find some way to remove it. He did not.

Eventually, Antelokes ran his fingers across the silvery metal ‘X.’ It was smooth and polished. A very impressive piece of metalsmithing. Casting items could be tough, and he himself had only received a little instruction on the matter—

In a fleeting fraction of the blink of an eye, the sunny Sykan beach fell away. The weariness left Antelokes’ limbs, and the warm aura of bright sunlight fled his face. Instead, this scene was replaced by that of a forge.

It was a familiar forge. Very familiar. The very same one wherein he had passed the majority of his adolescence. Was this a vision?

In this moment, Antelokes was a several fingerwidths shorter. His hair was longer, and his limbs were more wiry. Wearing gloves and bearing metal tools, Antelokes’ younger self carried a small melting pot. It was filled with a bright viscous liquid. Molten bronze. Nervous, slow, and deliberate, he held the container over a stone pouring cup, tilting it. A thin stream of material poured from the container into the pouring cup and attached mold apparatus. He watched as the warmly glowing liquid drained from the pouring cup to flow along the narrow channel of the sprue, eventually filling a small stone mold in the shape of a key. Young Antelokes stopped pouring, staring at the molten bronze as if willing it to cool faster so he could test the fruits of his labors.

A voice interrupted his reverie. It was deep, gentle, and it sounded like home.

“Well done.”

Father! The thought blazed through Antelokes’ mind like a bolt of lightning. He let go of the bracelet and its ‘X’ charm, and the forge faded away. His awareness returned to the present, the Sykan beach. He threw both of his hands to the sand as if to steady himself, though he was already sitting. His breathing, which had begun to normalize after his earlier exercise, grew faster and heavier once again. That was no vision—or if it was it was of a different sort than those that his curse inflicted upon him.

That scene was real. It had happened exactly like that, so far as Antelokes could tell. He’d been learning to work with casting metals in molds. Learning from his father…

A tear formed in the young man’s eye. Growing until it began to roll down his cheek. He brushed it away. That had happened back when his old man had been in good health. Before he’d been claimed by madness.

The memory had been so vivid, so real. Antelokes had never experienced anything like that before. The closest thing to it were his visions, and those tended to include a lot more torment.

Antelokes’ eyes fell onto the bracelet. Could it have done this? Syka was a strange place full of strange things, something like this wasn’t outside the realm of possibility, and the memory had come to life as he’d been touching the ‘X.’ Maybe there was some mystical element to the device.

Fiddling with the bracelet again, Antelokes was once again unable to remove it. Frowning, he rose to his feet. He knew nothing of magic. He didn’t like the idea of having something stuck on his wrist that he didn’t understand. There were many people in Syka more knowledgeable than he. Surely one of them could help.

Standing, Antelokes left his exercise stone lying in the sand, striding off towards the Syka commons.
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Pale Echoes

Postby Antelokes on May 16th, 2022, 8:42 pm

Timestamp

As Antelokes came up into the small cluster of buildings that formed Syka’s core, he considered who to approach. Matthias seemed a sound option. The older man was knowledgeable and had a steady head on his shoulders. He would know what to do. However, just as Antelokes took a step towards the founder’s home, he was met face to face by a strikingly fearsome visage.

The figure’s sharp features were known to Antelokes. It was Ivak’s face, but this being was not Ivak. He refused to believe it was. The expression was too cruel, too predatory, and there was an unsettling emptiness behind those eyes.

“Hello,” said the false Ivak, flashing an unnerving smile. “What are you doing, little Azenth?”

A mask of contempt fell across Antelokes’ features. He met false Ivak’s gaze. He had seen this figure many times in his visions, and it had been the primary driver of his torments. Still though, a worm of doubt wriggled in his chest. This was the face of the being he paid homage to, of the being to which he owed much. Visiting mortals was not anathema to Ivak, and he hoped to see the real god again, eventually. Could he have read the figure’s face wrong, was this the real Ivak? He answered the question posed to him with caution.

“I go to learn, to ask questions,” he said. The maybe-Ivak raised an eyebrow.

“Learning? Questions? Of what do you seek to learn?”

“Of memories,” Antelokes answered, still cautious.

“Why do you seek to know of memories?” said the Ivak figure, his voice mocking. “What have you worth remembering? A pathetic life in stinking cities surrounded by fools.” False then. Those were not words the true Ivak would speak. A bolt of vitriol shot through Antelokes.

“My father is worth remembering!” he spat. The false Ivak chuckled.

“Worth remembering for amusement perhaps. Do you seek to entertain yourself with the ramblings of a madman?”

“My father was a great man!”

“Your father was a lunatic who died a pathetic death. You may yet do the same, if his example is one you revere so much,” said the false Ivak with acid in his voice. At his words, reality appeared to twist around Antelokes, colors shifting in a sickening mix of hues. “See your future, son of Maltios, should you tread the path of legacy!”

The nauseating display resolved itself into a cohesive image again, and now the false Ivak and Antelokes stood in a muddy hollow. The air stank, and a small drove of pigs wandered around. With a start, Antelokes noticed a human crawling through the mud with them. It rooted around on all fours with its face buried in the slimy earth.

Antelokes’ stomach twisted when the figure raised its head. It was him, but older, with more lines on his face and a wild unkempt beard. Then, the face changed. Now it looked like his father, shockingly similar to how he’d appeared in the final months of his madness, before his death, albeit more feral. Then it was Antelokes again, then once again his father.

“You two are the same!” hissed the false Ivak. “And you are both pathetic!”

There was something deeply unsettling about seeing his own face—devoid of reason or humanity—in such an animalistic state. He shuddered. Antelokes squeezed his eyes shut. This was a false vision. It was a lie, and nothing more. This was not his future.

The false Ivak chuckled, and there was something detestable in the sound. Antelokes opened his eyes. The vision was gone. No false Ivak, no images predicting some horrific future. Antelokes released a pent up breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He shot a look towards Matthias’ home then shook his head. He was no longer in the mood for a chat with the founder.

He turned and began walking toward the Tidepool bar.

Antelokes needed a drink.
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Pale Echoes

Postby Antelokes on May 16th, 2022, 8:45 pm

Timestamp

In little time Antelokes was sitting at the bar, nursing a mug of Stu’s rum. He stared out across the ocean, gaze unfocused. He twisted the bracelet around his wrist absentmindedly. He couldn’t get that vision out of his head. The image of the animalistic man. The man that supposedly he would become was burned into his brain. Antelokes resented the implication. He didn’t like leaving things up to chance, or even up to others if he could. He liked to drive his own life and his own destiny. The thought of losing control of his own mind, of having his faculties fail him slowly… well, it wasn’t pleasant.

He knew that the vision was false. All of them had been, and this one was no different. Plus, even his father’s worst days had not been anything near the unsettling image the false Ivak had shown him. In reality it had been a slow process, as bit by bit the man faded away into a pale nervous echo of who he had been before. While less horrific, the truth was no less sad.

As he twisted the bracelet around his wrist, Antelokes’ fingers brushed across the ‘X’ again. He paused, filled with a sudden desire to see more memories. His father was dead, but the other memory had shown Antelokes the man’s voice. What was to prevent him from reliving better days?

Back on the beach, the ‘X’ had worked when he’d touched it. He did so again, closing the charm between his thumb and forefinger. He cast his mind back, and sure enough, the world faded away, just as it had before…

He relived a bright, happy memory. One that had stood out in his mind even without the aid of this magic bracelet. It was optimistic, and playful, and upbeat, and everything that Antelokes had missed for the past few years.

His father’s face shone like burnished gold. The man’s voice resonated like some great instrument, the words he spoke dripping with wisdom and wit.

By the time Antelokes let go of the charm, tears were streaming from his eyes. A sharp gust of wind thick with sea spray stung his face, reminding him of the present and the disappointment of reality. Antelokes resented the intrusion.

He drank deep from his rum, then closed his fingers back around the charm. He cast his mind back to another memory, more confident with the device now. He retreated from the world, nestling himself in the comforting confines of his own past once again.
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Pale Echoes

Postby Antelokes on May 16th, 2022, 8:47 pm

Timestamp

By the time the sun set Antelokes had lost track of how many memories he had used the charm to return to. Each time one ended, he cast his mind back again just as quickly, living in the present only long enough to drink, or to ask Stu to refill his mug, handing over a silver Miza each time. The tears had now dried on his cheeks, though his eyes were still red and his face was flushed.

The contrast between the joyful memories and mundane present had a numbing effect on the young blacksmith, further heightened by the alcohol. His gaze acquired a faraway cast. His head drooped forward, and his shoulders sagged. His hands were constantly either playing across the bracelet and the ‘X’ charm on it or were gripping the mug of rum.

Antelokes was not in the habit of drinking so heavily, but this night proved an exception. His fingers had lost some of their dexterity, and he was fumbling at his bracelet when a large, hairy, blonde figure sat heavily in the seat next to him. Antelokes paused but didn’t speak to the man or meet his eyes.

Artik (the man), waved down Stu.

“How many has the kid had?” he asked, gesturing at Antelokes and his rum. Stu held up three fingers. Artik grunted. “Guess I’ll have to catch up then.” The older blacksmith ordered a rum himself, then leaned against the bar next to the younger one. “Bad night?” he asked.

Antelokes stopped fumbling with the bracelet when he was addressed. He didn’t raise his head to look at Artik though.

“Maybe,” he said, voice slurred and rough. “Not sure.” Artik grunted again in acknowledgement.

“That sounds about right.”

Stu came with Artik’s rum, and the Svefra wasted no time in draining it. The two blacksmiths sat in silence, and while the air between them could not be said to be warm and friendly, it was companionable. They did not speak, but Antelokes did not again use the charm to return to his memories. Some time later, the tears returned to the younger man’s eys. Artik did not acknowledge them, but he seemed to understand.

The two men—as different as oil and water—sat together until long after the stars emerged in the sky. When he fell asleep that night, Antelokes dreamed of better days.
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