The following morning, daylight broke upon clear skies and Sarkan prepared to journey northwest towards home. Terrified of drawing attention with the reflective silver disk, he had taken advantage of the night’s rain and covered the Asciso Obis with a fine wet clay from a quickly receding puddle. It was not perfect, but the sun-warmed metal dried the concealment quickly and the clay bonded well. The Sipordus now hung from its chain around the peasant’s neck.
Sarkan doubted the acolytes would bother to come after him, unless they somehow discovered he had taken the Sipordus. But there was no doubt instructions would be sent to the Nobles with orders to reallocate his assigned land to others, with a corresponding increase in demanded quota of course. Would his actions burden a family already unable to meet the ridiculously high output required by the higher caste? Those that could not meet the quota were required to pay penalty taxes, ensuring they would never profit from the meager wages and thus remain locked in perpetual poverty. It was just one more of a long list of injustices intended to control the lower castes. No, the Priesthood would not actively seek his death. They knew that without land he would simply end up begging on the street or working for some other peasant that could not afford to pay a livable wage. Without a noble education or references, further options were limited. They were all trapped in a prison of open air.
[i]You should relax, though this rage will be useful in the future. For now you will only tire yourself with such wasted energy.[/i]
“Stay out of my head, spirit,” Sarkan muttered as he negotiated an area of particularly rocky terrain.
[i]I do not read your thoughts, but I can sense the essence of your emotions. I have interpreted many souls throughout my centuries locked in the Obis as they passed on the sands above, and I have become quite adept at it. But sight and sound have returned to me through your touch… a sensation I have long awaited.[/i]
“It is hard to imagine being trapped alone for so many years. You must have the patience of a hundred desert cats.”
Daecora was far from alone. Though she had told Sarkan the spirits were condemned to oblivion, every presence captured by the Obis existed alongside her – in one form or another. For centuries her world had consisted of the blackest darkness imaginable with the spiteful energies of constrained spirits circling about her. The spirits did not know who or what they once were, only malice and hatred and a desire to strike out and consume the beacons of consciousness around them. Some had been men; some had been demon, all of various degrees of power. The weak were absorbed by the strong, and the strong became stronger. Daecora would have suffered the same fate had she not recognized the Ocul Tritae and uttered the preservation incantation at the last moment.
If the fool Lhatar had spent more time studying the priceless texts entrusted to the Oaiti Temple instead of enjoying the company of his consorts he might have saved himself as well, given the chance. How ironic the raiders had considered him the greater threat and practiced the foresight to silence him through beheading. The incantation only provided a buffer, however, and the very gift of singular self-awareness it granted within the Obis threatened to bring the recombinant spirits down on her. As time passed and the spirits became increasingly powerful, it took considerably more focus to prevent her detection. That would soon cease to be a problem.
The notes had been scattered across countless manuscripts that sought to provide instruction in the use of the Ocul Tritae, but once Daecora located the key pieces of information, the true nature of the artifacts had become clear. Even she might have been fooled if she had not happened across a set of conflicting notations. The incantation before the death of her body had been a last, desperate hope, as she knew the spell was never intended to hold for more than a few days. And the Oberis disks had absorbed far more malefic essence through the ages than the old Acheronian mage who created them could ever have dreamed.
It was late afternoon when Sarkan arrived at the Styx. It was time. Daecora allowed him a few moments to race into the waters and cool himself from the relentless desert sun. A crocodile splashed into the river from the opposite bank, encouraging Sarkan to make his swim brief.
[i]Take the Obis and wash it clean. It is time to release me so that we can begin your transformation soon.[/i]
With a weary eye on the water before him, Sarkan complied. As he cleared the dirt from the Obis, he marveled at the smooth silver. It was remarkably unmolested by dents and scratches. No one would ever suspect the artifact was countless centuries old. He returned to shore and placed the Obis upon an immense rock that formed a natural sloping dais.
[i]Remove the Sipordus from the chain, and place it in the center. It will align along the three protrusions.[/i]
The outer edges of obsidian locked the Sipordus around the inside perimeter of the indentation, while the central portion of emerald loops sat firmly around the three silver nodes at the center of the Obis.
[i]I am going to impose four words in your mind, and you must recite them as you rotate the Sipordus. Direction does not matter, but you must be sure you start reciting the words exactly as you begin and continue until the rotation comes full circle. Do you understand?[/i]
“What happens if I do this wrong?” Sarkan asked with some concern. He was also hesitant at the prospect of getting it right. Daecora still had not explained her declaration the night before — that he must die in order to become stronger for their journey. When he questioned her she spoke only in vague terms of the arcane and told him not to worry so much.
[i]I cannot be sure, but the spell holding me is fragile and I cannot afford any mistakes. The danger is only to me. Your spirit is far too pure for the Obis to react to you.[/i] In truth, performing the ritual incorrectly would be something equivalent to opening the gates of all hells, but this was not something Daecora intended to make known.
Sarkan hesitated. “How do I know this is not a trick — that your promises of an independent life are only meant to have me perform this act and trap myself in your prison?”
[i]While you will release my spirit from the Obis, I still need the Ascero Obis to purify my spirit and become whole again. If I choose to show myself to you after this is done, you will understand. Without your help, I can accomplish nothing. I am bound to you Sarkan.[/i]
Sarkan scanned the horizon as he considered her words, and finally leaned over the Obis. “Let’s get this over with.” His mind flooded with the foreign phrase as Daecora spoke the incantation. As he focused on the pronunciations he began to turn the Sipordus and spoke aloud: “Sir’of ox’i’me mu’los aro’ce’ad.”
The runes upon the Obis emitted a searing white radiance. Sarkan could feel the Sipordus turn under his grasp as he continued speaking the incantation, though no seams were discernible on the surface of the Obis. As the rotation completed, the runes returned to their crimson hue.
Sarkan looked around him and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He stepped away from the Obis and closed his eyes, turning his attention inward. He could sense nothing, not even the shadow-presence he had come to associate with the spirit.
“Daecora?” he asked the wind.
A relieved and contented sigh greeted him through his mind, transitioning to pleased laughter. Suddenly he felt the release of overwhelming tension as though it were his own; exhilaration at freedom lost and regained. The shadow-presence returned, but now it was much stronger and pervasive in his mind, almost as though it were standing beside him. It sent a chill through his blood.
[i]You did well.[/i]
“Did I? It doesn’t seem you are in any better predicament.”
[i]Oh but you are wrong, simple one. I am free of the Obis. Free to roam about the world anew. And free to start you on your journey.[/i]
Sarkan swallowed hard. “Does that mean you are going to kill me now?”
[i]Do not be foolish. I said that you would die, not that I would kill you. Death is simply a state of being, as I tried to explain to you before. In time, you will understand. Now, the Styx is quite deep here. Toss the Obis into the river.[/i]
“What? I thought you required both to be purified.”
[i]We will, but I am free of that hellish prison and we will not need it for sometime. It will only draw unwanted attention to you. When the time is right, locating it again will be trivial for me. No matter where it may lie.[/i]
“If it is so easy, why can you not locate the Ascero Obis?” Sarkan scoffed.
[i]Because I did not spend eight hundred years becoming attuned to its presence, simple one. The Oberis are twin artifacts, but they possess unique personalities. My arcane bonds to the Asciso have not been completely severed. But I am free enough, I assure you. Now, be rid of it.[/i]
Sarkan removed the Sipordus, replacing the chain and returning the artifact around his neck. Hefting the Obis from the rock, he walked to the water’s edge. Bracing himself, he flung the Obis far from shore where it vanished beneath the surface in the swirling current.