Archon's Awakening

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Chapter 3: Rox

3

It was a small room that Rox retreated to when he arrived in Alevenia. He enjoyed being by himself more as of late. The gem he carried kept him more than enough company on its own. He had been sitting in his room for two days now, alone but for the gem. He had found it nearly five years ago in the tunnels below the ancient ruins that stretched to the south of Raxid. It was an unattractive gem when he first saw it; dull and black with no prominent features to be seen, and yet something had compelled him to pick it up. When he did it came alive with light that illuminated the tunnels. It was then that he heard the voice for the first time.

“Where are we? Who are you?” The voice spoke. Rox, startled, dropped the gem, its light once again vanishing into nothingness. He stood there, staring at the gem, trying to figure out what it was he had just heard. As curiosity began to outweigh caution, Rox picked up the gem again. The tunnels blazed once more with radiant light, and once more Rox heard the voice. “Where are we? Who are you?”

Rox’s response came in the form of a thought. “I’m Rox. We’re in the tunnels beneath the ruins. What is this voice I’m hearing?”

“What we are is not your concern. You must take us to our host immediately.” The voice answered.

“Who is your host?”

“We do not know. Our host is the reason we are here. The host gives us strength. You must find our host.”

Rox became weary of the exchange. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on here. I’m just going to put you back down where I found you.” Rox motioned to toss the gem back into the pile of rubble where he found it.

“No! You must not! Bring us to our host now or suffer the consequences.”

Rox began to feel flushed. He could feel his temperature rising quickly, as if the blood flowing in his veins was on fire. Without a second thought, he threw the gem away. The tunnel darkened and Rox began to cool down. He took a deep breath before turning around to head out of the tunnel.

Suddenly, a deafening trill invaded his head. The heat within his veins returned, and it was all he could do not to scream.

“We told you there were consequences. We are part of you now. Pick us up and your agony will end. Do it not, and you will die in this tunnel.”

Rox had no other choice. He picked the gem up and instantly felt the heat dissipate and the trill in his head fade. “Ok, you win. It could take a while to find your host since you can’t tell me who it is, though.”

These are acceptable terms for us. In the interim, however, you will be our new host. You must not throw us away again. Ever.”

“I won’t. I’ll help you find your host no matter how long it takes. How will I know when I find this host of yours?”

“We will know. We will sense when we are close. Now get us out of these tunnels.”

Rox sat alone in his room at Alevenia’s Hall of Orientation, clutching his gem, awaiting the arrival of the rest of the apprentices. Today the group from Inquilaris would arrive, and all the apprentices and accompanying magisters were to be down at the harbor when they did. Rox stood and carefully dropped the gem into a tiny pocket he had cut for it in the inner lining of his robe. He ran his fingers through his short blonde hair, adjusted his robes, and took a deep breath before opening the door.

He emerged from his room and out into the hallway. It stretched to his right and left, with plenty of small rooms on either side. He needed to go to the right, towards the common room, and then a bit further past to the exit. Alevenia was a huge city, and the oldest one on the continent. It is said that the Archons founded this city after they landed here inside the meteor that destroyed Ultimo Eventu. They later moved on to found the Capital further north, away from the volcano that had almost destroyed Alevenia.

Rox approached the street outside and started weighing his options. He had enough time to get in a Savior outside the city and run along the outskirts, heading southwest, taking in the sights and crossing over Sarrela’s Beach and into the harbor. His other option was to ride the Skyline, the public transport system in Alevenia. Large vessels each big enough to transport fifty people hovered below a dual set of large round pipes, the air around them covered in a dense fog. All throughout the city ran these pipes, providing transport to every area to its citizens.

He decided he would take the Skyline. He hated the idea of carrying the gem onto a skyrider full of people, but the Saviors never seemed to respond well to Rox since he found the gem. The voice from the gem had become impatient over the last year, and Rox was finding it harder and harder to respond to it with just his thoughts. He would occasionally yell out obscenities when the voice was becoming too unbearable, and whoever was around him at the time looked at him as if he were insane. He arrived at the Skyline terminal and climbed the many stairs up to the boarding platform across the street. Luckily for him a skyrider had just arrived and was exchanging passengers old for new. He reached the top of the stairs and stole a glance down towards the city, scanning the many people in the street. Rox turned towards the skyrider, boarded, and found a seat near the back. It would be a half hour ride or so to the harbor from here. He would just need to sit here and mind his own business and he’d be fine. He clutched his gem through his robes.

What are you doing now? Are we going to find our host?” A voice said, silent and insistent. Rox looked around, still wondering if anyone else could hear the voice in his head.

“No. I’m going to the harbor to welcome the entourage from Inquilaris.” Rox thought.

“So our host is at this harbor then?”

Rox looked around again, tensing up at the voice’s assiduity, and responded as calmly as he could manage in his thoughts. “No, I don’t think your host will be at the harbor. This is something I have to do. You’ll just need to be more patient.”

“We have been patient. Our patience is running very thin.”

Rox closed his eyes, his head starting to ache. “Why are you doing this? Tell me.”

“You are becoming insufficient as a host.”

Rox opened his eyes and looked around for something to focus his attention on. The skyrider had turned south and to Rox’s right he could see the looming Mt. Shannifort in the distance, the smallest wisp of a plume at its summit. The volcano had been mostly inactive for several thousand years. Its last major eruption had driven the Archons and their budding society to where the Capital stands now. The evidence of that eruption lay scattered across the whole of the city. From the skyrider he could see hollow lava tubes, repurposed to distribute water and waste to various parts of the city. A refinement plant and nitrogen processing facility tipped two of the tubes in the eastern outskirts of the city. They would learn more about that later, he knew. They had been a vital part of Alevenia’s restoration after the eruption.

“Why am I insufficient? It’s been fine so far, hasn’t it?”

“It had been, yes. Now there are more of us and your body cannot keep up with our energy demands. You will slowly begin to wither away in mind and body, reserving all of your energy for us. You will become dormant.”

“What do you mean dormant?”

“We mean that you will no longer be you. You will become motionless and thoughtless. Your body and mind will continue to age for eternity, and they will only regenerate when we deem them necessary to carry out our will. And if we do regenerate you, Rox will be a shell. You will be a vessel with no memory of who you are.”

Rox had heard enough. He wanted to be rid of this gem forget everything about the last five years. “Just leave me alone!” Rox shouted out loud. Several people on the skyrider turned to look at him, the all too familiar look appearing on their faces. Rox sat in silence for the rest of the ride, ignoring the incessant nagging from the voice.

The skyrider pulled in to its destination and exchanged its passengers. Rox started down the staircase on the harbor side of the platform. It was from the river that the citizens of a proto-Alevenia took refuge as they watched the lava gush from the mountain. There was enough lava flowing that by the end of the eruption there was a new land bridge, cutting off the Serpent River’s tail. The Archons moved to the Capital, leaving a small group of appointed magisters behind to rebuild and improve the city so that if another such eruption occurred they would be protected. That is how the senate of magisters was born. Every large city founded after that point had been appointed sixteen magisters to oversee the city and all matters of import, and each magister had four mages in their charge to see to minor matters.

The ship was just pulling in as Rox got to the docks. He saw the rest of his team already standing next to the pier where the ship would moor. Rox hung back to watch in solitude. He wanted to hold his stone, a compulsion that had developed over the last two years, but he knew this was not the time or place. It would cause too much of a spectacle out in the open like this. He sat down on a wooden guard rail and waited for the passengers to descend the gangplank.

Is the host on that ship?” The voice returned unbidden.

“I very much doubt it. I’m welcoming the apprentices from Inquilaris. Go away.” Rox thought curtly.

“Welcoming, huh? Then what are you doing all the way back here? Why not go stand with your teammates?”

Rox was tired of this arguing, it served no purpose to fight this battle. “I have responsibilities that don’t concern you right now. Please go away for just a bit.”

“I will not go away until you find our host. You should check all the ships here immediately.”

“Get out of my head!”

A few people standing near him turned and gave him a confused stare. Was that out loud again? Damn it…

Rox couldn’t be here any longer. He turned around to go to the area where the orientation would be held. He knew he’d be scolded for not welcoming the new group but he didn’t care. Once orientation was over he’d be able to go back to his room, alone but for the gem once again.

He turned a corner and suddenly the trill returned, making his head fell like it would explode. His eyes felt like they were ready to burst from their sockets. He stumbled forward and found a small alley to duck into. He shrunk down against a wall, holding his head in his arms, trying to make the trilling stop. Then, as quickly as it came, the trill was gone.

“That was just a reminder of what can happen at any moment if we are displeased.”

He stood up and stepped back out into the street and saw the other groups turn the corner now. He spun on a heel and started walking ahead of them. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. This latest demonstration from the gem was about all he could take.

They got to the square where their orientation would be given. It was a large open area, large columns of limestone spiraled up all around the square on three sides. Along the fourth side was an immaculate, unobstructed view of Mt. Shannifort far across the river. He walked in that direction, where the magisters had set up a small podium to give their introductions.

“Apprentices! Welcome to Alevenia! I understand some of you have been here for a couple of days already. I hope our city has provided you with every comfort you require. I am Magister Renzo, and the men and women behind me you will be introduced to in good time. I will be your judge over the next two years. At the end of those years you will be judged on how much knowledge you have gained. You will be judged on your understanding of the land surrounding Alevenia, how we survive here, how we thrive. And last but not least you will be judged specifically on your knowledge of this city’s Pursuit. Your Pursuit here will take place in the cavernous laboratory that resides within Mt. Shannifort.”

“There you will be given numerous samples of rock from all over the continent. You will be given all the tools required to study these rocks. Your job will be to identify these rocks, be able to discuss their different properties, and be able to identify what part of the continent each rock comes from based on their chemical composition. This will occur in the last year of your training here. Before that, we will need to study the planet and understand how and why these rocks form, under what conditions, and how the ever looming Coil plays its part in their identification.”

“I’m sure some if not all of you have questions to ask, but they can wait until morning. Our first day will be spent getting to know each other. I will be present, as well as my fellow magisters you see here, and the ones that are not present. For those of you that have been in the city, feel free to spend the night where you are and meet in the Hall of Orientation in the morning. Apprentices from Inquilaris? You will accompany me to the apprentice quarters where rooms have been prepared for you. You may do as you wish in the city, but you must also be at the Hall of Orientation in the morning. Shall we get going?”

Rox waited for some of the people to clear out, hoping to catch magister Renzo or one of the others alone. He intended to ask about the gem he carried and sooner rather than later. He spotted magister Renzo falling behind the crowd to talk to a passerby. Rox saw his opportunity for a private conversation and started towards him.

Do not talk to him about us.” The voice warned, “Unless he is our host, which he is not, you will keep quiet.”

Rox rolled his eyes as he continued to walk forward, ignoring the voice’s demand.

“You’re making a big mistake.”

Rox marched forward, his constitution stronger than the gem in his hidden pocket. He was determined to find out what this gem was. He was only a few more steps away from magister Renzo now and the old man turned towards him in anticipation.

“Good afternoon, young man. What would you have of me?” The kindly magister studied Rox, looking deep in his eyes. Rox didn’t know what to say. All the words that he was just composing in his head had vanished in a blur, replaced once again by the deafening trill. He started to shake violently and a pressure built in his head so fast it brought him to his knees.

“I can’t do this anymore! Help me!” He wailed on the ground, wrapping his arms around his head to try to evict the pressure that had manifested there. “Help me, please. My head…”

The last thing he remembered was magister Renzo calling for help as he knelt down to cradle Rox’s his head in his lap. His world started darkening at the edges of his vision, slowly collapsing down until all that was there were magister Renzo’s eyes looking forlornly back at him. Just before his vision was lost, the voice uttered one final warning.

Don’t ever try and show me to someone again, or you will see the full extent of the wrath we are capable of. You will bring us to our host, and only our host. ”

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