Day 61: A Jar of Ancient Secrets

Shup was dying to see what was in the jar. Before Cale would open its cork stopper to reveal its secrets, he insisted on sketching a picture of it from several angles and having Shup transcribe the lettering. Bold lines ringed the top and bottom of the jar, bordering a lavishly detailed garden scene. Only once before had Shup witnessed such a work, where the figures and animals seemed to move and change, and it was on one of the most powerful artifacts in the world—a kyngeffren.

“Is this a geffren?” asked Shup.

“It’s not,” said Cale. “And that’s what makes this artifact so unusual. It’s deeply rooted in the Vine, and it requires no assistance—no family bond to keep it there.” His drawing grew into a mural as he turned the pot and continued sketching. “The text is ancient Elam, but it predates all the dialects I know, and I can barely read any of it.”

“But you think it contains something special?” asked Shup.

“As near as I can tell, this holds a secret from the first elders of Elam, the Wizards of Laveroan. We’ll be the first to see its contents for at least a few thousand years.”

The mural grew longer and the inscription started to repeat.

“Hey,” said Shup. “I think what you’ve drawn is longer than the pot’s circumference, but the scene hasn’t started to repeat yet.”

“Correct,” said Cale. “Look how I can turn it back where I started, more than a complete turn ago.” He turned the jar. “The scene is still there, but it would seem to go on forever as I turn it.” He had turned it several times around and the scene still didn’t repeat itself. “I think this pot exists beyond our perceivable world, and by turning it, I am bringing parts of it into our world and moving other parts out.”

“That… that seems impossible,” said Shup.

“Why do you think they call it ‘magic?’” said Cale.

“I don’t know,” said Shup. “It has a different character than magic.”

The way Cale looked at him, Shup couldn’t tell if he was amused or impressed. “Well, I think I’m going to call this good.” He had chained together three sheets of parchment to extend the sketch.

“Can we look inside now?” asked Shup.

Cale chuckled. “How would you go about opening it?”

“If I’d known there was a quiz, I would have skipped class,” said Shup. He rubbed his chin. “Would you use a broaching spell? Maybe bring pressure on the cork’s ties to the Vine?”

Cale reached over to a countertop behind him. “Or maybe a butterknife,” he said, brandishing the crude silverware. Shup stuck his tongue out and buzzed his lips while Cale stuck the butterknife between the cork’s side and the jar, prying carefully. In a few minutes he had it loose and pulled it free.

Melodious tones came from inside the jar.

“Quick,” said Cale. He handed Shup parchment and a sketching pencil. “You know music. Write down these sounds.”

Shup obeyed, first drawing a quick grid and instructing Cale to draw more while he worked. The sounds were magnificent, altering Shup’s perception of everything around him, as if the notes wove meaning into all of existence, shining the light of truth upon the manifest providence of it all to elicit beauty with objectives of goodness.

There were many notes not in their scale, so Shup had to scrawl some improvisations into the grid to record them. He scratched the notes with obsessed vigor, losing himself in some deep, emotional strength. When the music ended, he felt like he could fix the world.

He sat poised, waiting for more, not daring to move for some time. When he finally set the pencil down, he looked up at Cale who looked like someone surveying the distant plains and mountains.

“That was amazing,” said Shup.

Cale wagged his head as if searching for the voice that just spoke to him. He finally locked in on Shup. “Did you get it?”

“Every note, I think,” Shup said. Looking at the scene on the jar Shup realized he saw the music in it. “Look.”

“I know,” said Cale. “I can’t describe it, but I see it, too.”

“What does it mean?” asked Shup.

“It means the other elders are going to be mad they weren’t here to listen to it.”

“Indeed,” said Shup. “I’ve never been so touched by music, and I’ll never forget that feeling, but I have no idea how to reproduce it with any known instruments.”

“That’s it!” said Cale.

“What? What is it?”

“We’ve been looking for a suitable mission for you, but none have fit so far. How would you like to take on the project of experimenting and inventing new instruments to reproduce what you heard? You’re the only one with the necessary knowledge who heard it. There is no one else who can do it. What do you say?”

Shup smiled. And smiled and smiled.

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