Of Old Things

Antelokes and an odd scholar scratch at the surface of Syka's past.

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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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Of Old Things

Postby Antelokes on May 20th, 2022, 8:57 pm

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45th Spring, 522 AV


A thick layer of steel gray clouds hung in the air threatening rain. It was a credible threat, as rain in Syka came frequently, like clockwork. In fact, it was probably more consistent than clockwork would be in this wet climate. The rain was a part of that. For the moment though, conditions were as dry as they ever got in Falyndar. So, the young smith Antelokes kept about his work, although not without the occasional wary glance skyward.

The forge was burning coal, and it was burning hot. He’d spent much of his morning at the bellows to make sure the temperature was right. As a result, he’d developed a dull ache in his back. With a grunt, Antelokes rolled his shoulders and stretched to ease the pain. It would go away soon enough, it always did. Old timers complained about back pains that didn’t leave them so easily, but that was something he’d never experienced, and so he didn’t worry about it.

A stonework crucible—the same color as the clouds—sat on top of the forge. Antelokes cast a critical eye on its contents. Inside was a mixture of copper and tin, mixing together to make bronze. He had the mold ready for it, but he didn’t want to remove the mixture from the heat too soon. The individual metals needed to melt together completely to form a homogenous alloy. Bronze was an excellent material, but if he made it poorly than it would hardly do its job. And Antelokes wouldn’t dare show his face around Syka if he became known for distributing low quality product. Better to take the extra time to be sure, just in case.

Antelokes checked the mold for the umpteenth time, making sure no foreign materials had fallen in that could affect the final pour. He would need to grind and polish it anyways of course. The mold was basic, and even the best molds never turned out a completely finished item. Still, he liked to be meticulous. Unlike some people who tended to work here…

Antelokes shot a derisive glance at a pile of half-finished projects on one of the workbenches. The results of Artik’s last drunken run at the forge. The man didn’t tend to clean up after himself while intoxicated. Still, despite his failings the man was good. As good as just about anybody with a hammer and anvil. He didn’t show it off much, but Artik had real skill. With a shake of his head and a sigh, Antelokes turned away from Artik’s mess and checked his bronze again. It looked about ready. A voice called out from behind the young man, startling him.

“You are the smith yes? The newer one?” The voice was close. The speaker must have come quite near to him before calling out a greeting.

“Yes, that I am,” Antelokes answered, turning around. His eyes widened in surprise seeing the question’s source. The voice was that of a man, but this man’s skin was scaled, like that of the alchemist T’aidell. He also bore blue markings around his eyes. “My name is Antelokes. What’s yours?” he asked, overcoming his surprise and reaching out to shake the man’s hand.

“My name is Kajuntar, though you may call me Kajun.” Kajun took a few seconds to notice the outstretched hand in front of him, but once he did so he shook it lightly. “I spoke with my colleague, T’aidell, and she mentioned you.” Antelokes raised an eyebrow.

“Did she?” he replied. “I’ve talked with her before, yes. What did she say?”

“She said that you were ignorant and easy to lead along,” Kajun said in a matter of fact tone. He continued, barely pausing to let the previous statement sink in. “She also said that you displayed an interest in the geological sciences. That is why I came here. Is this true?”

Once again, Antelokes widened his eyes in surprise. Well, at least he knew T’aidell wasn’t one to hide her true judgements. There was something to be said for that.

“She said I was ignorant?” he asked, a little offended.
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Of Old Things

Postby Antelokes on May 27th, 2022, 11:48 pm

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The scaled man cocked his head at the question.

“Yes, she did say you were ignorant. Is that surprising? Few people here possess any great scholarly training, though I have met some. I wouldn’t usually expect someone of your age and profession to be an exception to the norm. Would you disagree?” Again, there was no malice in Kajun’s words, though from most people’s lips Antelokes might take it as an insult.

“I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of things I don’t know, but I wouldn’t say I’m any worse than most folks. And I learn as fast as anyone,” Antelokes answered.

“Of course, ignorance is surprisingly common, especially for a place that was once such a great center of research. Sad, is it not? What has happened to Pavena? And T’aidell did not disparage your ability to learn. She called you ignorant, not stupid. In fact, that’s part of why I have come to you.” Kajun wrang his hands together in front of him in what might have been a nervous gesture. “Much of my research touches upon geology, the field that I understand you expressed some interest in. Normally I do not ask for favors, but I find myself in the position where some of the physical demands of the work have become demanding for a single researcher…”

“You want me to help you?” Antelokes asked.

“If you wish to explore your interest in geology, then your help is not something I would turn away.” Kajun conceded.

Antelokes considered the offer. This man was interesting, and he was always interested in learning more. Extra labor wasn’t exactly something he looked forward to though. Glancing back at his crucible of molten bronze, Antelokes pressed his lips together.

Ignorant! he thought. He couldn’t prove anyone wrong about that accusation if all he ever did was stick to what he knew. Antelokes made a decision.

“I’ll help,” he said, “but give me a minute. I need to finish this first. We can talk while I work if you’d like.” Antelokes checked the mold again, then retrieved a large pair of tongs for moving the crucible.

“Oh, of course!” Kajuntar said. He watched with interest as Antelokes carefully picked up the crucible with the tongs.

“Tell me Kajun,” Antelokes asked as he slowly moved the crucible to the mold, taking great care to keep it level. “You mentioned you do research. What is it that you study, or is it geology in general?”

Kajuntar replied, though he notably maintained a safe distance between himself fand the working smith. It was probably a wise decision.

“Geology fascinates me, though my interests are not confined to those, of course. I also have a penchant for history, old things. There is much we can learn from old things.”

“You must be right at home here in Syka then, eh?” said Antelokes, tilting the crucible to pour the bronze into the casting mold. “As I understand it, there are plenty of old things around here, though I haven’t gotten the chance to see many of them myself. I’m not exactly a jungle explorer you see.”

“That’s just the issue!” Kajuntar said, enthusiasm creeping into his voice. “There is history here, plenty of it. The problem is finding it. The jungle and the wear of time have undoubtedly destroyed much and hidden what they cannot destroy. That makes things more difficult, but not impossible.” Antelokes finished with the first mold, then moved on to the second. Repeating the process.
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Of Old Things

Postby Antelokes on May 27th, 2022, 11:51 pm

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“That would make things difficult,” Antelokes said as he poured the rest of the bronze. Placing the crucible aside, he examined the filled molds. They looked fine enough now, but voids often formed in such pieces. He would need to check later. “How then do you go about your history Kajun?”

“There is little I can do about the things that are destroyed, but what is merely hidden can be uncovered,” said the scaled man. “Some things are magical and are not disrupted so easily by the forces of time. Others, like the records civilizations leave written in stone, persist much longer than the more ephemeral things people tend to build.” Kajuntar smiled. “That is part of my interest in geology. The stones around us can tell us a story, if we only care to listen.”

As Kajuntar spoke, Antelokes moved about the forge, cleaning the tools and properly storing them in case of rain. He even did so with the things Artik had left out. He would confront the man about it later, if he managed to catch him in a sober enough moment to listen. As he finished, he replied.

“And what story would they tell? What history would impact a stone well enough to be distinguished later?” Antelokes wiped the soot off his hands with a cloth. While he did succeed in staining the cloth with an impressive amount of black residue, the dark color on his hands changed little.

“There is more written in stone than you would imagine,” Kajun said, almost defensively, “though it is not written as plainly as many people have the patience to read. It takes effort.”

“Then effort we will give,” Antelokes said with a smile. He put away the last of the tools. “Shall we be off then?”

They set off along Syka’s cobbled pathway, following the coastline South towards Treasure point, which Kajuntar named as their destination. Where the path pressed against the jungle, the trees and foliage loomed above them like the parapets of some great wall. Seeing the grandiosity of the wilderness here, Antelokes struggled to imagine Syka ever being more civilized than it was now. Even the simple structures the people here had managed to build felt ephemeral, transient compared to the thick, imposing trees that dominated the coastal landscape.

As they walked, Antelokes and Kajuntar spoke.

“Tell me, Antelokes. What motivation spurred you to come to Pavena? The history? The magic? The scenery?” Antelokes let the question sit in the air for a few moments, considering his answer.

“Syka,” he corrected, “we call it Syka. And I’m not sure… I don’t think I was going to any place in particular.” Kajuntar cocked his head.

“Going away from something then? That is understandable, though you chose quite a place to end up, if you don’t mind me saying.”

“I don’t,” Antelokes said, “you’re right. It isn’t like anywhere I ever imagined myself living, though I chose about the worst time to land here, didn’t I?”

“Perhaps. I have noticed the strangeness about the settlement, and I have heard of the curses many here have experienced. I am sorry, if you are one such affected.” Antelokes didn’t answer at first, walking in silence. He had been affected. Either that, or he had started to go insane. He liked to believe it was the former.

“I have not escaped the ailment, no,” he said eventually. “Though my lot is not by far the worst of those that affect the settlement. I may count myself lucky for that.”
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Of Old Things

Postby Antelokes on May 27th, 2022, 11:55 pm

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They walked for some time longer before Kajuntar spoke up again.

“What do you know about the history of this place? Pavena— or Syka as you call it now?”

“I know little,” Antelokes said. “I know that people lived here a long time ago, and now they don’t. I know they left some things behind, and that we don’t understand it.”

“You are not wrong,” Kajun said, “though little specific. There is much to understand about the past, and we benefit greatly by familiarizing ourselves with it.” Antelokes frowned.

“I’m not sure I agree. What matters most is the present, is it not? It’s how we interact with, well, everything. The future also we can change through our efforts now, but the past is static. It’s just there.” This time Kajuntar frowned.

“Now it is my turn to disagree,” he replied. “The past is much more important than you imply. History informs the present and defines the conditions in which we live. It gives us knowledge and purpose. Without history, we are actors without a play. Our understanding of the past is incredibly important.”

“Maybe you’re right…” Antelokes said, “though my concerns still rest primarily with what is now, and what is to come. Maybe I can be convinced otherwise.”

“If you can be convinced, then you shall be,” Kajun declared, confident. “The fruits of study quickly make themselves known to those who practice them.”

“Maybe,” Antelokes replied. As they continued to follow the cobbled path, a few odd details drew his eye. The foliage along the sides of the path hung limp and low, speckled with more browns than usual for the vibrant rainforest. That was odd. In spring of all seasons too, not that the jungle seemed to rely on that cycle quite as much as other places did.

A faint breeze brushed past Antelokes, carrying with it the sickly sweet scent of rot, far stronger than he’d smelt around Syka before. Antelokes moved to the edge of the cobbled path, peering at the sick looking greenery, examining it as a possible source for the smell. Perhaps the jungle had been struck by some kind of disease?

Antelokes lightly brushed his hand across the surface of the leaves, and his fingers came away wet with a filmy slime. The plants were rotting where they stood. Antelokes took a quick step back, disgusted. Through the leaves and stalks he could see insects moving. Hordes of ants and beetles swarming over the decomposing mass of plant material.

“Kajun, look here!” he called. However, as he turned, his companion was not there. A spear of panic pierced the young man’s chest, but it was quickly replaced by the cold suspicion that this wasn’t real. It was likely one of his visions.

Face hardening, Antelokes strode back to the edge of the path. Sure enough, the rotting plants and crawling insects were still there. Glancing down, Antelokes saw that several large centipedes were creeping out of the foliage and onto the cobbled path. With a few deft steps he gave them plenty of space. Carefully, Antelokes began to walk further along the path, watching the jungle closely. Every living thing seemed to be rotting, and he saw no animals larger than the bugs that were more and more starting to overwhelm the decomposing plant life.

The smell grew stronger, and though he knew it was nothing but an illusion, Antelokes covered his nose with his hand all the same to avoid gagging. He came upon a large tree that had grown close to the pathway. The tree’s surface looked to be covered with some sort of rancid patina. He had the overwhelming desire to touch it.

Against better judgement, the young blacksmith pressed his hand against the surface of the tree. As his palm pressed against the moist surface, a huge chunk of bark sloughed off the tree and fell to the ground like ice tearing itself free from a glacier. Beneath, a writhing mass of worms and larvae writhed in response to their sudden exposure to sunlight. Antelokes snapped his hand back as if it had been bitten by a snake.

The breeze swept past Antelokes again, carrying its terrible smell. This time though, there was a voice in the wind. It was like a thousand whispers all forming the same words. The sound while faint penetrated Antelokes’ ears like a parasite.

Rotten, rotten, rotten. All of it is ROTTEN.” There was a faint melody to the words, like when a child couldn’t quite decide if they wanted to sing or not while they mumbled nonsense to themselves.

Antelokes backpedaled into the center of the cobbled path, putting what little distance he could between himself and the jungle. He spun around warily, looking for the source of the voice. There was another gust of wind. Another nauseating wave of smells. With it the voice came again.

“You know what happens with rotten things, yes? They induce DISEASE.” As the voice cleared itself from his ears, another sound took its place. It was a fearsome howl from somewhere out in the jungle. The deepest instincts in Antelokes’ mind told him to run. That was the sound of a predator, a being with teeth and claws and an urge to kill. There was a pained quality to that howl though. A twisted anguish that came through in its terrible cry. Antelokes shivered despite the heat.
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Of Old Things

Postby Antelokes on May 27th, 2022, 11:58 pm

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Antelokes was tense, standing on the balls of his feet with his fists clenched.

This isn’t real. It isn’t real. All of it is fake… he repeated to himself internally. He found that he still could not convince the deepest recesses of his mind of that fact, and he could not resist the adrenalin rushing through his veins. He felt a cloud of flies surround him, and he batted them away from his face.

The devilish breeze came again.

“It is all rotten, it is all diseased. The land, the people, the place you call Syka, all of it rotten. And you know what must be done to things that are rotten, don’t you LITTLE ONE?”

Antelokes’ shiver worsened. That voice struck him to the core and unnerved him more than even the dead plants or the insects. An audible buzzing rose from the jungle, coming from all sides and with a depth that implied millions of tiny wings beating in insectoid unison.

“Things that are rotten, things that are diseased, should be cleansed. They should be BURNED!

With those last words the breeze picked, up, whirling into a gale of acrid scent and disembodied rage. The wind howled through the forest, and as it did so blazing fires leapt into existence where nary a spark had been before. Hungry flames burst from the trunks of trees, splitting the wood and eagerly consuming the rotten fuel. Greasy, smoke-heavy fire crawled across the jungle floor like a mold, immolating the dead plants with astonishing alacrity and much more heat than any natural flame would have.

As the fire raged around Antelokes, casting a dark plume of smoke high into the air, some conscious corner of his brain realized he was shaking, but not from fear or disgust or any appropriate emotion. His frame was heaving with laughter. He was wide eyed, open mouthed, teeth bared laughing! The world was on fire around him, and for some reason Antelokes couldn’t find it anything except amusing.

The air shimmered around him, and the flames disappeared, replaced by the bright greenery of Syka’s normal extraordinary jungle, with no trace of the rot from the vision or any more than the normal number of insects. As the last vestiges of the vision washed away, the last trickle of laughter tore itself from Antelokes’ lips. As it did so, he collapsed to the ground, all energy leaking from his limbs.

He landed heavily on one knee, leaning forward and supporting himself with both hands. With a flurry of footsteps, Kajuntar was by his side, though the scaled scholar appeared unsure of what to do.

“Antelokes! What happened? Were you bitten by something? Are you dehydrated, or something of the sort? Do you need help?”

Breathing heavily, the young man was unable to respond at first as he struggled to compose himself. Eventually, he pulled his wits together.

“I’m fine, I’m fine…” he managed to say.

“Are you sure?” Kajun replied, worry in his tone.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Antelokes said. “It was just my curse, as we were taking about before. But it’s over now. Like I said, mine is far from the worst of the lot.” Looking up Antelokes tried to flash a comforting smile, but apparently it wasn’t very good, as Kajuntar seemed unconvinced.

Antelokes moved to rise to his feet, but as he did so he felt a small disturbance under his hand where it was pressed into the smooth stone of the cobbled path. As he stood, he picked it up and brought it near to his eye. The sun glinted off of a small rectangular model of a shield.

Kajuntar approached, curiosity quickly overtaking the man’s worry.

“What is that?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”
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