Knight of the Scroll

The Last Rites
Dariusz Zawadzki

Research Journal – Emory Dryden – Knight of the Scroll

The City of Corinth. Gilead. 9th of Arrowspan, 1165 VA

I find a growing sense of unease as I work with this strange recording. The elaborate sequence of investigation, research, espionage and skulduggery required to obtain it lend themselves to a certain expectation of menace and import.  I should be above such ‘dramatization’ of the facts at my advanced age, but I must admit — this case has all the trappings of boiler-plate pulp. Two of my best agents perished while retrieving the object, and the third suffers from a wasting disease – sallow of skin, and characterized by an almost constant discharge of dark purple mucus.  He was delirious when we recovered him, and was unable to give any coherent report of his activities investigating that abandoned manor.

Clutched in his hands, however, was a stone box. Small, not much larger than a travel valise — it was immediately obvious that is was of Arkanic fabrication. The Precursor civilization had some ability to create objects of passing durability and strength with the consistency of stone, but the the weight of birch. And inside the case, a marvel. The marvel that has consumed my studies for the past several days.

I recognized it immediately. A multi-faceted green gem, enclosed in a half-moon of white stone. An Arkanic recording crystal! My excitement blazed, and my hands shook as I took it out of the case. The written language of the Precursors is incredibly difficult to decipher, months can be required for scholars to translate even a small passage – but a recording of their spoken language can be made plain with a simple enchantment. These ‘sound crystals’ are incredibly rare, finding one justified the loss of my agents.

I set to work immediately. The enchantment worked as expected, and I soon found myself listening to the words of a Precursor, dead for thousands of years. I copied the words onto parchment, my hand flying to catch every word. I paid little attention to the narrative, simply copying each word as quickly and carefully as I could to ensure accuracy. A scholar must exercise restraint in all of his processes. I listened to the recording five times, checking that every word was correct. The recording is sadly brief, but it did allow me to be absolutely certain that I had completed the task correctly. Only then did I allow myself to read the words.

Teon? Teon the First-Singer? The Lightkeeper? Did I dare believe it? That these words were spoken by the leader of the entire Precursor civilization; it beggared credibility. I spent the next three days performing every test I could devise to determine the authenticity of the case and its contents. In every examination there is a potential for error, but I do not believe I made any. The sound crystal was legitimate.

Greg Guillemin

Which brings me to the present moment. And my unease.

The dying words of Teon. They tell us so much, so many small glimpses into the world of long ago — and final confirmation of the Arkanic society’s origin! But that is not what concerns me, it is when he speaks of the death of his people, the end of the Precursors.

And what is his fixation on his left hand? I can only assume that Teon was delirious, or had some sort of psychological malady.

It is dusk. I am due to turn in my report on this matter to Legion Command tomorrow, they will not be put off any longer. I have kept them at bay with my reputation, keeping all knowledge of this recording to myself. But tomorrow I must share my findings — and the feeling of dismay creeps up ever stronger in my soul.

What have I found here? Why do the words fill me with such dread? When I sleep they hang in the air around me, like a cage of ink.

Begin again, Scholar Dryden. Piece by piece. Assume nothing.

I will use this journal to codify my hypotheses, and sort through my ruminations. Calm and plain, for my eyes only — then at dawn I will take my conclusions, and present them in my report.

Begin again.

Impressions of the Speaker: The Arkanic language is an oddity. Rhythmic and focused, but with a strange undercurrent – as if the speaker is humming a harmony to every word. When written, the complexity of the symbology and mathematics at work are staggering — but when spoken, it seems to hover on the edge of sensibility. As mentioned earlier, a simple Translation Enchantment is sufficient to make the words understandable– but I find myself listening again and again to Teon’s words in their original form.

The words are alien, but I find myself deeply affected by them. Teon is clearly in great pain, but there remains a quiet beauty to his speech. I compare it in my thoughts to an oboe, old and showing the impression of many careful stains in the wood. The moments where his reverie lingers on his lost companion Jalyx, his tone lightens before dipping again into the morose chords of his tale.

The beginning  and the end of the recording, his words show clear signs of hysteria. His words crowd together, speaking too fast. Towards the end of his tale, his words grow further and further apart — until he falls silent for several minutes. When he speaks again, it is with great terror and desperation, referring to the removal [?] of his left hand. I have listened carefully to the silent minutes several times, but can detect no sounds other than a low sigh, which I presume to be Teon’s labored breathing. In the dark hours of the night, I half convince myself that I can hear a slight scratching sound on the recording — but my daylight ears can detect no such noise. I attribute this to a simple trick of my distracted imagination.

But taken all together, his words leave a clear impression. A learned, gentle man caught at the darkest of moments. I would not presume an unwelcome familiarity to such an august personage, but I must add: I like Teon. I sadly believe that much of the recording is a result of his delusions, or the pain of his mortal wound — but I still find his plight deeply affecting. It would not be wrong to say I grieve for his passing. Strange, I admit. This recording seems to come from the end of the Arkanic Civilization, which our scholars place around -1564 VA. This means that Teon has been dead for 2,729 years. But I am [perhaps?] the first to hear his valediction.

I mourn him, as if he had passed days ago. I will not mention this in my formal report, it is not germane or pertinent.

Origin of the Precursors:  It seems clear from Teon’s words that the Arkanic race came from not only another planet, but perhaps an entirely different dimension. This flies in the face of much of current scholarly hypotheses. Also, the brief mentions of their sound-based technology is fascinating.  I am not a specialist in that field, but I hope that these brief allusions will be illuminating to my colleagues.

I am uncertain about his description of how our world ‘pulled’ his ship into its orbit. Perhaps this is the memory of a child in danger and stress — being recollected by a dying man. I was startled to hear him use the name of our planet, Aufero, with practiced ease. I have never studied the origin of our world’s nomenclature, but I shall make it a point of study when time presents — but how remarkable that the planet has carried its name for nearly 3000 years.

The End of the Precursor Civilization: Here, Teon is maddeningly vague. Clearly it was a subject of great distress, but I wish he could have been more specific.  What is this Machine that he refers to, exactly? It is clear that it was constructed as some sort of implement of war to battle the ‘Dark One’ that destroyed their home world — but what was it? If it was as potent as described, how can no signs of it remain? Something created by the Precursors’ own hands, that brought down their entire civilization — surely some relic must have endured for our study.

Side note. Teon refers to the ‘Dark One’ several times, but is strangely inconsistent about his usage. Initially it seems to refer to a Death-figure, similar to the depiction in many of our current cultures. But then he attributes the destruction of his home world to this being’s forces. Regardless, this Dark One seems to be a major figure in the culture/religion of the Arkanic people — I must cross reference this with the iconography of the murals found in the Gryphon Ruins near Quorum. So much study, so many new avenues opened by this simple recording!

Inconsistencies: There are several portions of the recording that do not seem to bear up to scrutiny. Without further knowledge of the events surrounding Teon’s death, I am unable to know whether to attribute these inconsistencies to his delirium, or to perhaps some sort of metaphorical meaning.

At the beginning of the narration, Teon insists that he brought the darkness with him from the Precursor’s Home. He seems to be drawing some sort of connection between this darkness and the ‘evil’ in his left hand.  This evil seems to be the influence that lead him to creating the Machine, and the ultimate destruction of his civilization.

But then he speaks of the tree.  And my credulity is overtaxed.

I can stomach the idea that somehow he survived a fall from several miles height in the atmosphere, the physical might of the Arkanic’s is referenced in several bits of lore from that period. But, the idea that a root of a tree maliciously grew into a spike in the exact place where he would land is absurd. Even if we accept the thesis that somehow the tree has sentience enough to  do so, and the foresight to prepare this trap in advance — that Teon’s falling body could somehow manage to fall exactly onto that spot is simply unbelievable. The odds against it are astronomical.

Once again, I must return to the speaker’s state of mind. He was a man at the end of his life, in a great deal of pain — remembering another moment of incalculable trauma.

But, accepting Teon’s story at face value for the moment — I am still left with several broken chains of reasoning. He claims that he brought evil with him — and the root’s placement through the left side of his chest is not lost on me — but somehow the tree germinated that seed of evil into a blue flower. When Teon is saved by Jalyx, he takes pains to mention that the flower ‘disappeared somewhere in my chest.’

So, the tree was evil, and Teon brought evil, and the flower was evil and the flower was evil and the flower was evil and the flower was evil and the flower was evil and the flower was evil and the flower was evil, but somehow it took hold of him, leading to the evil in his left hand — and the downfall of his race?

So much is unclear, if only he could have spoken more plainly — or if I had the wit to decipher his warning.

Ah, but I must remember to keep a proper skeptical outlook — as much as I feel empathy for this being’s plight, I am sadly making my way to the conclusion that he was mad when he recorded these words.

Summation:

Dozed off for a moment, only a bare hour or two before dawn. Must forge ahead.

Gustave Doré
Plate XX – “Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat,” circa 1867-69

I find his description here most chilling.

“That was the curse, the horror of it all. I can see it now. The shining cities, the bridges of purest white, the towers of glass rose again — but everything we built, everything I built had in it a flaw. A shadow. Twisted lines carefully placed by my left hand.  Note by note we sang, but each verse hid a darker chord.”

How horrible. To find every work of your hand turned to your downfall. And for the present time, where Arkanic relics are of supreme value this is a most unsettling thought. Many of our cities are built on or near Arkanic ruins — and much of our mechanical lore is developed from recovered technology. Crudely, all admit. We do not have the spark of genius and mastery that they did — but every year we grow more clever in our copies and begin to make our own innovations.

If what Teon said was true – if everything the Precursors built had a flaw, a ‘shadow’- then we may be marching our way down a path lined with bones.

I find myself at a loss. What can I possibly report to my superiors? I can conclude nothing from this recording, but it suggests so much — so much that my soul tells me is of vast import. We discovered this recording as part of a different investigation. Reports of a manor in the hills south of Carroway, a place of horror. The local populace filled my agents’ ears with tales of demonic forces, lost children, sickness and death. Could there be a connection between the mnr—-

My quill stutters as I write. I know I just had a thought, but I can feel its absence in my mind. What is happening?

I scan my eyes along the words I have written, but I skip over the previous paragraph. At first absently, then with a growing feeling of dread. Something is keeping me from reading what I wrte–

No. Calm yourself, Dryden. You are a Knight of the Scroll – your mind is your blade. Kept sharp and keen in service of the Legion. I know not what I have stumbled on, but I MUst remain calm. I am the master of my own will. I am the master of my mind.

Begin again.

Write only what you know. You are in danger, Scholar Dryden.

My name is Emory Dryden.

I sit in my study in the East Tower. I am left-handed, and have to hold the quill carefully to avoid getting ink on my palm. The fire has died to embers. There is a brown plate to my right with a stale piece of bread on it.

It is two hours before dawn, by my estimation.

I can remember my training, and my years of service in the Legion.  The Iron Legion of Gilead. The surplice that I wear is a faded green, the color of my order. The Knights of the Scroll. Those that rise above the rank and file of the Legion join one of four chivalric orders. The Scroll, the Bow, the Sword, the Wand.  The Scroll is the order tasked with military intelligence — espionage and research.

I am studying a recording. A recording recovered frm aaaa

I am sitting at my table, in the center of my chamber. The fire has died to embers. The brown plate, the stale bread.

My name is Emory Dryden.  I am a Knight of the Scroll.

My mind is my weapon. I will not surrender.

There is something inside me. The plate is brown. I must remain calm. The bread is stale. I must keep writing. I am sitting at my table. Understand and defeat this enemy. The fire has died to embers.

The words. The words of Teon. They have infected my mind. Somehow, I don’t knowwwwwww. The plate is brown and my surplice is green and the bread is stale and the fire has died to embers. Is this what he meant? It isn’t over. The plate, the green, the stale fire has died. Is this the Dark ooooooo—- the green plate fire has died of stale, the fire green plate has stalled and died, I am Emory Dryden I am Emory Dryden and I am a Knight of the Scroll -fire plate stale green brown died embers, embers the embers, the embers the EMBERS I must fire stale bread, stale bread must fire embers burn, embers burn, embers burn, embers burn——-the plate the bread me the tower the embers the knight the night the hand the left the right the stale the end the fall the flwr–

it isn’t over

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2 thoughts on “Knight of the Scroll

  1. Pingback: What am I even doing? « Spell/Sword

  2. Pingback: Short Story Spamtown | Spell/Sword

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