Chapter 16

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The stone was cold against the moist warm room around him. The pillar was sculpted into a stand, three stubs held the platform in place for a thick foundation to hold his little project. A crystal was on top, held up by golden tonsils holding it in front of him.

Nazar lightly tapped the crystal with his golden toothpicks. His clinking at the crystal echoed. It was an unnatural noise. A mixture between music and unnecessary clatter, heat traveled in waves of unison with the sound.

The stone table had cylindrical designs to it. Like small lines along the canyon side, the small channels would flow the crystal's energy like a valley side river would. The aether poured across the table like a slow moving waterfall. It illuminated the room, and lit across Nazar's amber brown eyes to illuminate his complete and utter focus.

There was a knock on the door, "master," the boy on the other side said.

Nazar let out a sigh. He stood up straight. The crystal's light dimmed as he turned away. "Come in," he responded.

The boy stepped inside. Black hair and black eyes, he was thirteen years old with a crooked nose and dark birthmark covering the bottom half of his cheek. "Its sunrise," Skah said. "You've been working all night."

Nazar twirled his thickly loose black hair. How long did that take?

Every night he felt so close. Just one small detail away from unlocking another great discovery. The complexities of aether coding was akin to exploring a vast ocean of language. As a student it felt gloriously infinite to him, now the infinity was belittling.

There never seemed to be enough time. He could always be on the verge of another cipher but never grasp it. Time moved faster as he touched upon more complicated languages. It was mocking him. So much for him to do with so few years available in his life.

Nazar was reaching his thirties. The stress on his cheeks and forehead were far beyond his years. He still retained the handsome shape of a young man, but never showed interest in giving time for men or women. He concerned himself with other things. Nazar feared he would wither away into death before he could ever find any more accomplishment through his aether work.

This was why he finally took up two students. To leave behind some sense of legacy before his body withered away into its death.

Nazar looked over to Skah, "did you decipher the codex I left you?"

"Yes," Skah said quickly. "But um, here's the thing. I actually deciphered it a few days ago. You were so focused on your work, you told me to leave you until you finished..."

Nazar blinked at him, "how long since I left you that assignment?"

"Twenty days ago..."

Nazar sat back on his desk, "twenty days... Almost a month and I still haven't..."

He made no progress after twenty days of work. A common anomaly for scholars shifting through crystals was the passage of time. It took so much focus to get the exact language of the codex correct, scholars could lose years of their lives in an instant trying to rediscover a single cipher.

Nazar shook his head, forcing himself not to dwell on the lost time. "The assignment, did you and Vigi just sit idle after you finished it?"

"Of course not," Skah said shaking his head hard. He had a knack for over expressing his emotions. "As soon as we finished, we competed on how to expand the cipher. We've been rather creative while you were busy with your work."

Nazar let out a breath of air, relieved that he at least wasn't failing as a teacher. Skah said, "but the reason I needed to interrupt, was because the borderline crystals were glowing." He pointed to the crystal at the edge of his desk. It was tied around with copper wire, extending out of his room and into the ground. "It seems we have deviants coming to our city."

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