Of Old Things II

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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 II

Postby Antelokes on May 29th, 2022, 3:15 am

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... (cont. from "Of Old Things")


Antelokes ran his thumb over the surface of the little model shield, feeling the subtle indentations in the trinket’s surface. Kajuntar approached, peering over Antelokes’ shoulder at the object.

“What is it? Did you find something interesting?” the Verusk asked, cocking his head at the little trinket in the blacksmith’s hands. Antelokes turned it over to inspect it more closely.

“I did find something. Time will tell if it is interesting or no,” said Antelokes. Curious. There was a small loop attached to the little model. Recognition sparked in the young man’s eyes, and he glanced at the bracelet he wore. The ‘X’ charm the bracelet held had a very similar attachment. In fact, the shield and the ‘X’ were about the same size as well, and they appeared to be made from the same metallic alloy.

“Most things are interesting if you know where to look,” Kajun interjected. Antelokes fingered the bracelet, examining how the ‘X’ charm was attached. He carefully attached the little model of the shield, looping it in next to the other bauble.

As he secured the second charm, a heavy weight immediately fell across his right arm. A great shield had formed there, tall and wide enough to cover much of his body. It was elliptical, in the in the shape of a long oval and concave inward.

Antelokes stared at his arm with its new shield in shock.

“Well. Some things are interesting in more obvious ways,” Kajuntar said. “I would guess you have run across a relic from old Pavena.”

“It seems so,” Antelokes replied, bewildered. The shield looked in every aspect just like the little one that formed the charm except for in color and material. It seemed to be built from smooth wood and leather, with a metal rim stout shield boss in the center. The outer surface of the shield was painted dark maroon.

He turned his arm, trying to see the shield from every angle. With his left hand he struck it a few times. It seemed stout and dependable, so far as he could tell.

“A great many things from times past turn up around here,” Kajuntar remarked, himself examining the shield.

“Strange though that it would be on such a well travelled path,” replied Antelokes. Kajuntar shrugged.

“Pavena does not always behave in the way we expect her to. For just that reason it is so interesting to learn about her. Treasure Point is known for just such occurrences. Peculiar items have a habit of turning up there. It is something more than pure probability, and I have seen little evidence of any great density of structures or population in the area. I believe the phenomenon is of a somewhat more… magical… nature.” Antelokes raised his eyebrow at this, letting his shield arm fall to his side.

“And so that is the object of your study today, then?” he asked.

“In part, yes. A greater understanding in that area is a wonderful goal, though there is much information to be gleaned even if I do not make progress in that particular area. Shall we continue to walk?”

Antelokes and Kajuntar resumed their stride along the cobbled path.
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Of Old Things II

Postby Antelokes on May 29th, 2022, 5:03 am

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A gentle sea breeze ruffled Antelokes’ hair as he walked. He fought off a bout of shivers, remembering the recent unsettling vision and the foul breeze that had been so central to it. This one seemed more natural though. Its smells were more pleasant, and it carried no threatening words. Antelokes found he prefered it when the wind didn’t imply violence.

As his mind drifted away from the shield on his arm, it disappeared again. With another thought, it reappeared. With some experimentation, Antelokes found he could summon or dismiss the shield from the bracelet with a thought. That was quite convenient. A shield of that size would be unwieldy and difficult to carry around otherwise. He didn’t often find himself in situations requiring a shield (and he hoped not to), but if such protection were ever necessary, it would be great comfort to have it so close at hand. Danger often came at unexpected times, so if the unfortunate occasion ever came up, Antelokes imagined that such a shield would be quite a boon.

With a few more minutes of walking, Antelokes and Kajuntar emerged onto the white sandy beach of Treasure point. Gulls whirled high in the air, screaming as gulls tend to do and contributing an off kilter melody to the backdrop of crashing waves.

Antelokes looked to Kajuntar, questioning.

“Well then. What sort of work is this? How do we go about it?”

“There are many facets to what I do, and not all of them take place in the field,” Kajun explained. “Many of the important parts here I will do alone, since for many things you do not know enough to be useful.”

Antelokes sighed. Kajuntar really had a way with words, didn’t he? The man was right though. There wasn’t really much that the blacksmith knew that he could contribute to the Verusk’s task.

“There are parts for which I will be useful though, yes?” he asked.

“Of course!” Kajuntar responded. “I will hopefully have samples to return to the settlement, and an extra pair of eyes—properly directed—is quite a gift for any researcher.” Antelokes was getting flashbacks to his days as an apprentice, when many of his tasks had been the hard, boring manual labor that didn’t require much skill, but were unpleasant enough to be worth giving to an apprentice. Considering Kajuntar’s work, the “samples” they collected were likely to be rocks. What was it with these scaley people and making him carry around rocks? T’aidell had done the same thing. He really needed to stop volunteering for extra assignments like this.

None of those thoughts escaped his mouth though. Instead he spoke,

“If its eyes you need, than I have eyes to lend. What are we looking for?” Kajuntar smiled.

“Patterns! You should always look for patterns. Patterns that look like they don’t belong, and patterns that look like they do. The world is written in patterns. They can tell us the age of certain formations, and they can tell us about the conditions that have affected certain formations throughout their lifetimes, as well as a great many other things. With luck, we will be able to discern something of this place's past.”
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Of Old Things II

Postby Antelokes on May 29th, 2022, 4:27 pm

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“What patterns should I look for then?” Antelokes asked, striding out further onto the beach. Kajuntar seemed to consider this for several moments, following him and tapping his chin with his finger.

“There are a many many patterns worth noting, and they manifest in a myriad of different ways, all telling slightly different stories. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to educate you properly as to their meanings and how to recognize them. Most are difficult to recognize without having seen them firsthand at least once, on some scale. Perhaps I can point out to you things that are noteworthy, so that you can seek repetitions on the same pattern.”

“Watch and learn, then,” Antelokes summarized, a hint of glibness in his voice.

“Is that not what you should always be doing? But yes, watch, and learn. Also, if you can, look for evidences of artificial construction. Many of those signs can be distinguished more easily than natural ones, though in conditions like those here around Pavena—”

“Syka,” Antelokes corrected.

“Yes, Syka. In these conditions, many evidences of old structures pass beneath scrutiny with astonishing frequency. It is always possible for you to find something that those before—however well trained they were—did not.” Antelokes nodded in response. He wasn’t exactly sure what to look for, but he could try. Plus, the location was scenic enough to be worth the time here. He loved the forge, but he had been spending a great deal of his time there lately. It was nice to introduce some variety, especially with someone as… unique… as Kajuntar was.

The Verusk began to make his way towards a large rocky outcropping some distance away, and Antelokes followed suit. He scanned his eyes across the beach, from where the jungle butted up against the sands to where the waves rolled in with frothing swells. Antelokes spoke.

“You’ve mentioned several times now how difficult it is to find relics from Pavena here, as if it would be easier somewhere else. Why?”

“Well,” Kajuntar began, “you must consider the forces that might work to oppose the discovery of such ruins, or objects.” Antelokes stiffened.

‘There are forces that oppose such discoveries? Why, what do they want? Have they any influence in Syka?”

“What? Oh, I see.” Kajuntar chuckled. “I refer not to people or intelligent forces.” Antelokes lowered his eyes, cringing a little at his mistake. The Verusk continued. “I am not aware of any individuals with such motivations, though I cannot be certain that they do not exist. No, I refer to natural forces. Elements of the environment here in Falyndar that make archaeology difficult.”

“Like what?” Antelokes asked, looking back at Kajun.

“There are many,” he explained. “The climate here is warm and humid. This is not ideal for the preservation of historical artifacts. Wood, paper, cloth… almost anything built from organic material will rot."

Rot, rot, ROT!

The word echoed through Antelokes’ mind, hearkening back to the vision he had seen less than an hour ago. He shoved the unwanted train of thought into the back of his mind, ignoring it.

“Most of Syka is built from wood,” Antelokes observed.

“Yes,” Kajuntar replied, “and if everyone left your settlement today without building it any further, there would be but a few evidences of the colony’s existence left for future historians to study.”

“That’s comforting,” Antelokes commented dryly.
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Of Old Things II

Postby Antelokes on May 29th, 2022, 6:17 pm

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“Forgive me, I do not see exactly why that would be comforting,” Kajuntar said, oblivious to the sarcasm as he picked his way around a stony tidepool. Antelokes did the same, pausing for a few seconds before he continued speaking.

“You mentioned paper as well. I don’t imagine you can find too many books or histories then, can you?” Kajuntar paused.

“I have had access to certain histories that grant me a degree of knowledge that would otherwise be difficult to obtain, but recovering texts from the sites themselves can be challenging. That isn’t to say it does not happen though. Pavena boasted a high level of engineering and magical acumen. It would not be unheard of for troves of texts and information to survive, despite the inherent difficulties of the climate.”

Antelokes took a moment to process this information, considering.

“Direct texts are difficult to find, so that’s why it’s so important to look for information left behind in stone, and from large structures,” ventured Antelokes. Kajuntar nodded, though a bit reluctantly.

“In part, yes. Though remember that even stone is not left untouched by the passage of time. Water, wind, plant growth, geological activity… a great many things can affect even the sturdiest of stone structures.”

“But they do last longer than anything else,” Antelokes said.

“Nearly anything, yes. Monumental architecture is particularly useful for analysis,” said Kajuntar. “However, Falyndar has tools other than erosion that make the work difficult.”

“Like?” Antelokes prompted.

“Like the jungle itself,” Kajuntar continued. “This place is home to an incredibly dense layer of biological material. It hides everything! Look at the jungle, for example.” Antelokes did so. “How far into the jungle can you see?” Kajun asked. The young blacksmith shrugged.

“A couple dozen yards? A little more, a little less.”

“Exactly,” said Kajuntar. “And that is here, at the edge of the jungle where it is thinnest. In the deepest depths it is even more dense, and eyesight is more limited. Even if you managed to construct walkable paths through old Pavena’s thoroughfares, you could waltz right past an archaeological treasure trove and not notice a thing! Furthermore, even when things are closer, the vegetation will often grow overtop it, hiding it from view and making it quite a challenge to notice in the first place without a great deal of good fortune. While the rangers from your settlement have uncovered certain noteworthy sites, in all likelihood the majority are yet hidden.” Antelokes frowned.

“I don’t like that.”

“Why not? Isn’t it exciting?”

“Exciting, perhaps. But exciting means dangerous. You said yourself that it isn’t uncommon for magic to be tied up in these old things?”

“Yes, of course,” Kajuntar said. He was frowning now as well, not completely understanding Antelokes’ concern.

“Magic that goes unseen, magic we don’t understand, that sounds dangerous to me. I don’t like going to sleep knowing there’s a knife hidden in my bedding, but not knowing where it is.”

“Perhaps…” Kajuntar admitted slowly, “but does that not make the study of history all the more important? If for no other reason, to understand the dangers left behind by the people who preceded us in this place?”

“Perhaps,” it was Antelokes’ turn to admit.
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Of Old Things II

Postby Antelokes on May 29th, 2022, 11:26 pm

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As they walked, Antelokes’ eye caught a particular disturbance in sand by the surf. Maybe it was because of the earlier discussion of patterns he had shared with Kajuntar earlier, or maybe it was just a function of the sun’s angle that made it more noticeable, but by whatever means, the young blacksmith’s attention was called to a set of lines in the wet sand and frothy waters that didn’t look quite normal.

“Just a moment,” Antelokes said before striking off towards the ocean.

“What is it? Did you see something?” Kajuntar asked from behind.

“Maybe,” Antelokes replied, rushing to the thing he’d seen, not wanting to lose track of where it was. He reached the spot in the sand where he thought he’d seen something, but from this angle nothing particularly stood out. Antelokes dropped to one knee, barely noticing as the rushing foam of an incoming wave soaked that pant leg. He ran his hands through the sand, digging into the beach and feeling for anything unusual that his eyes could not see. As the water from the wave began to wash back out to sea, it flowed through his hands and the sand like a primitive sluice. Digging and sifting with both hands, Antelokes searched for whatever must have caused the straight lines and sharp angles he’d glimpsed from farther up the beach.

Has it been washed away? he thought, or was it maybe even some trick of the light? Antelokes paused when the thought crossed his mind that it could even be some figment from one of his visions. It was true that he couldn’t really trust his own eyes too far anymore.

As he approached the verge of giving up on this particular search, his probing fingers struck a smooth surface. Excitedly, the young man redoubled his efforts, digging down to place more of his hands on the surface and to get a feel for its shape and size. It felt roughly rectangular, and not too large. Gripping it by its edges and ignoring the rushing water around his feet and arms, Antelokes pulled the object out of the watery sand, fighting the suction force of the earth as it struggled not to give up its prize.

Soon enough though, Antelokes pulled a rectangular package out of the surf. It was covered in oilcloth, pulled taught and tightly secured by several lengths of twine. Turning the package over in his hands, droplets of glittering water fell from the cloth freely, a testament to its waterproofing. Whether or not that impressive capability had stemmed off the submergence in the ocean itself remained to be seen.

“I found something!” Antelokes called out, trudging out of the foamy surf and back up onto the proper white sand of the beach. The dry grains clung to his wet feet. There was a note of triumph on Antelokes’ face as he held the package in the air above his head.

Kajuntar turned to face him from where he’d been crouched near a stony formation some distance down the shoreline. It seemed the Verusk had left him to his find rather than followed him to it.

“You did?” he asked. The scaly man’s eyes found the package, rectangular and so obviously artificial as it was. “Oh, you certainly did.”

“It doesn’t look that old,” Antelokes said, examining it in his hands. “Maybe it fell off a ship and washed up here? Or it was lost by some other visitor to the beach?”

“That is possible…” Kajuntar said, speculatively. “Though appearance can be deceptive with regard to age. Especially in this place. Treasure point yields many curiosities that tend to defy expectations. I would make sure of what you found before making assumptions.”

“Yes, of course,” said Antelokes. He set the package down on the outcropping Kajuntar had been studying, and sat down next to it. With a sigh, Kajun joined the blacksmith.

Antelokes inspected the package, paying special attention to the strings binding it closed. On one, he found a little metal charm, like the shield and the ‘X’ he had found previously. This one was an array of tiny cylinders. Vials, maybe?

With a furrowed brow, Antelokes ran his fingers across the strings, looking for the knots that held them. When he found them, he cursed in frustration. The water had caused the strings to swell, making the knots incredibly tight. He picked at them, but to no avail.

“Kajun,” he said, “do you have a knife?”

“I do,” replied the Verusk, “though cutting at historical artifacts is not normally considered good practice…”

“We don’t know this is a historical artifact yet,” Antelokes said. “I just want to open it to see what it is, as you recommended.”

With a slight hesitation, Kajuntar handed Antelokes a small utility knife, eyeing the blacksmith as he took it. Careful not to puncture the oilcloth, Antelokes worked the tip of the blade under the strings and cut them one by one. He slipped the charm with the cylinders off its string and onto his bracelet. There was no immediate effect. Antelokes shrugged. Perhaps he would discover one later, or perhaps there was nothing magical about that trinket. For the moment though, his attention was fixed on the package.

No longer bound, he was able to slip the oilcloth from its contents, unwrapping it carefully and slowly. A sharp his sounded through the air as the package was revealed, its source a set of quick inward breaths from both Antelokes and Kajuntar. The package was a book.
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Of Old Things II

Postby Antelokes on May 30th, 2022, 12:29 am

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Antelokes had seen books before. Of course he had. The earliest years of his life had been spent in a city of scholars. Back there it would have been impressive to go any significant length of time without seeing a book. Later, as he passed his adolescence in Sunberth, books had been a bit rarer. Still, they hadn’t been completely absent from his life, and he’d seen his share of journals and heavy ledgers there. This book however, was clearly, hands down, unquestionably the strangest and finest book he could remember seeing, and it wasn’t close.

The tome was hefty and solid. The covers and spine were bound in fine black leather. As he ran the pads of his fingers along the spine and cover, Antelokes found that deep channels had been etched into the book. Designs, probably. They were an array of circles, surrounded by a miasma of other lines and symbols that fit together in some picture the blacksmith couldn’t seem to decipher, though he spent almost a minute trying to make some sense out of the patterns.

On closer examination, the leather cover wasn’t of a uniform color. Thin veins of violet ran through the surface like marbling through a steak. These veins were cool to the touch, noticeably of a different texture to the leather around them. How such a feat was achieved, Antelokes didn’t know.

As he turned the book onto its side, he found that the violet veins even continued across the outside edge of the pages, which were otherwise painted silver. Opening the book with a gentle hand, Antelokes found the cream colored pages were also marbled with the violet veins, flowing behind the dark inky letters and illustrations.

The young man had just turned his attention to these illustrations when the book burst to life in his hand. He swore he could see the pages curl and flex just before the book snapped shut with a crack, pinching the tips of Antelokes’ fingers before he could extract them.

“What the—” he said, yanking his hands back away from the book, just as the tome began to vibrate.

Tremors ran through the pages, the bindings, the leather, all in a myriad of frequency and pitch. In a few seconds, the vibrations all seemed to coalesce together, producing the sound of a quiet hum. This hum continued for just a few heartbeats before it broke out into a voice. It was clear as if spoken from the lips of a man, though to Antelokes’ senses it was clearly coming from the vibrating components of this book.

“Does one seek to learn my secrets unprompted?” the voice said, rich and imposing despite its source.

Antelokes met Kajuntar’s eyes, which were as wide as dinner plates. After a few moments lost for words at this odd occurrence, Antelokes responded.

“I found this book. I tried to read the book. Is there fault there?” The book resumed its humming—as if thinking—before answering.

“I am the book. My secrets are no common secrets. They are not to be read unprompted.” Once again Antelokes met Kajun’s eyes, but the Verusk seemed just as lost as he was.

“You are the book?” he said. “You’re a magical book?” The book vibrated its answer back.

“A magical book, a book of magic, a guide to the arcane… there are many titles other beings would apply to me, and many of them are true.” Tilting his head, Antelokes phrased his next question very carefully.

“To whom do you belong, book of magic?” At this, the book started to vibrate, fiercer and stronger than before. When it spoke, it spoke in a cacophony of whispers, vibrations upon vibrations overlapping with each other.

“Silas, silas, SILAS, Silas, silas, SILAS!” the book said, all at once. then the vibrations, calmed, gentling and coalescing into a single voice once again. “That is what was, that was who was, but now is none. Now I am but me, and what was is now not, is no longer what now is.” Glancing back to his Verusk companion, Kajuntar seemed to be processing this information, an analytical look on his face. Antelokes gave voice to his own interpretation of the book’s words.

“You used to belong to someone named Silas, but now you do not. At the moment you do not belong to anyone. Is that correct?” The book hummed again.

“Possession possession… this I am to none… as you say, as you say. My secrets are known to none. Some have unlocked the knowledge, though I was not their key. Oh no. No no.” By now, Kajuntar’s face had acquired a worried cast. Antelokes pressed the book.

“Your secrets, your knowledge, the things written on your pages. What are they?” The book’s humming grew more excited.

“My secrets? The secrets I guard? The secrets I could tell? They are identity. They are change itself. They are the mechanisms by which one thing becomes another, and by which one can become a master of all these things, making them what they are through whim and will.” The book’s vibrated words sparked something in Antelokes’ memory. Something else that was explained to him recently. The book continued before he could give voice to his suspicion. “My secret… is alchemy.”

Kajuntar’s worried expression grew more severe. Antelokes’ heartbeat quickened with excitement. The book vibrated to itself in satisfaction.
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Of Old Things II

Postby Antelokes on May 30th, 2022, 1:40 am

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Kajuntar caught his gaze.

“Antelokes,” he said. “Alchemy is serious magic. A discipline often described as dangerous. Perhaps it would be wise to treat the book very carefully. Perhaps to pass on to T’aidell—”

“You’re a book of alchemy” Antelokes interrupted, addressing the book. He spared a brief glance for Kajunar. Apologies could come later. His interest was piqued.

“That title is one I have borne, yes, yes. Knowledge that could conduce someone to such a practice is knowledge that I hold.”

“Then what of this, book of alchemy. You belonged to no one, but were lost in the ocean. I found you and brought you out into the air where you could once again speak. By such action, you have become mine. Do you dispute this?” The book hummed for a few moments before responding.

“By the laws of men, this logic is not unsound.” Antelokes glanced at Kajuntar, who hesitated before saying,

“The right of discovery is yours, yes, but I would urge you to be very careful Antelokes. Magic is not a safe thing, and in the histories alchemy is never called the safest of the magics!”

“I work with fire for a living, Kajun,” Antelokes responded. “My profession is a testament to the fact that function precedes safety in importance.” Kajuntar did not voice any more protests, though the concern in his eyes was not subtle. Again, Antelokes addressed the dark, violet marbled book.

“As mine, your secrets would become mine, yes? From you I could learn the things you described. Mastery over change, identity, all of that?” The book’s humming grew discordant, conveying a mood of agitation.

“Secrets secrets… A teller tells no secrets, for what a teller tells is told, and what is told is not a secret, for a secret is to hold,” the book spoke liltingly, proud. Antelokes frowned.

“Explain yourself. Can you not use plain language?” he said. The agitated vibrations did not abate.

“Magic is not simple, neither is it plain. If your ears can hear my words, let them hear. If your mind can comprehend, let it do so. But I am not a book for children, and I am not a book for fools. I do not divulge my secrets unprompted, and uninvited guests shall not grace my pages.”

“I should get an invitation then,” Antelokes said, a note of challenge in his voice. “What do I have to do? How does one earn the trust of a book?”

“What is not offered freely can be dangerous to seize,” mumbled Kajuntar.

“Few things worthwhile are offered freely,” countered Antelokes. “Knowledge the least of these. You said yourself the jungle hides history from you. You described Falyndar as a force to oppose your scholarship. You exert yourself and scrap for what you learn, do you not?”

“You are correct…” Kajuntar said, still concerned from the tone in his voice.

“Trust? Trust is a fool’s gambit, though secrets may be shared with those brought into confidence. To share a secret, I must be confident that you would not betray it. Trust is foolish faith. But if I know you are worthy of what I know… well then you may have opportunity to learn from me.” Antelokes raised an eyebrow.

“That can be done. That I can show you.” Antelokes looked to Kajuntar. “Kajun, this book does not seem to me like a new thing.”

“Neither does it to me,” replied the Verusk.

“Perhaps there is something to be gleaned from its history, from what it knows?” said Antelokes.

“I am sure there is,” Kajuntar said, “though I will leave the task of communicating with the tome to you, if you don’t mind. Just tell me if it tells you anything of particular note that I might be interested in.”

“Of course,” Antelokes said with a nod.

“And I for my part will see what I can learn of this Silas,” Kajuntar said. “I do not know what legacy he left besides this book, but perhaps it would be worth a study.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Antelokes said with a smile.

“Plans plans plans…” the book hummed through vibrations in a singsong voice. “So many plans…”
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