Twelfth of Ater
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If you take the time to pay attention to various vendors of little trinkets along shores, something may catch your eye. Lustrous shells, with inked patterns, perhaps even embossed. The pedlar might insist they're genuine "ink-ivory" caught in the nearby shores, and will ask for an obscenely high price.

If you'd go in one of the Nexus's1 dens, among the clay tablets of Apadeleon and the carvings of Mika, somewhere in the bottom drawer you'd find something similar to ink-ivory, but much greater in size. Most would overlook it, mistaking it for some decoration. I don't doubt that you would see the fractal patterns of history inlaid there, and that you'd understand why it's earned its place there.


Those are the relics of seabed critters. There are uncountable colonies of ink-crabs, which are rife near settled shores or shipwrecks. I had the luck of seeing some living colonies. They feed on culture, on the history and traditions, in the small customs of those who inhabit the land. While the colonies that survive today swarm chaotically, like Peyre herself, the remains that enfold the seabed with dentine stay proof to the countless generations before them.

A few weeks after I met Kylix2, she introduced me to a wonderful individual—"Grandpa Claws"3. She found him buried in some rubble, while looking for bluebells.

Despite his timeless appearance, I found out that he is only a few centuries old. He is of odd circumstances; He got forsaken by his colony in some forsaken place, but didn't die from the lack of civilization. In the first years, he found this strange as well.

Then, his shell begun to emboss itself. Not with any of of the dull patterns hundreds of young crabs often got before maturity, but sweet and enchanting geometries, full of dance and laughter. After a few decades, the abstract shapes started to entwine, turning his shell into a canvass.

Ink-crabs, I've been told, never see the "'em landlubbers". Most of them live at that blurry boundary between sentience and sapience, only beginning to understand their own nature at about a dozen decades. But almost none live so long, from what I've seen. The empty shells on the sea bottom are only a few inches wide, with a sad little pattern. Of course, many of them in one place would make a great depiction of the changing aeons, but never alone.

However, Claws was familiar with the settlement that nurtured him. "I was lucky," he said to me while recounting the intricate seismic calendar, "my people are gifted." They had an amazing system for predicting earthquakes, and for the first time since I came in this world, no mention of gods. The system had its faults, but it never failed in predicting a dangerous earthquake.

"They found me when I was still crawling in the crevices." The embossments on his shell, despite being as smooth as any other crab's shell, had something strange about them. "I thought that was it, when I saw the sharp metal in their hands." It was somewhat reminiscent of scrimshaw. "But then, I was still young. I still didn't know a knife from a chisel."

Mentio was a flourishing metropolis. "They knew the waters and the stones." It wasn't enough, though. Perhaps if they knew of the Ways, the Nexus… Their scholars were the best in a thousand miles, but in a thousand miles there was no other village or city.
"A few years ago, the city was shaking." And, I think, the people crying desperately for something to save them from the slight inconvenience of a false prediction.

A single digit missed after the radix point was enough.

"I hope I'll go back."

Then, Kylix gently took me aside and chided me for bringing the caverns up. When I asked why, she told me that Mentia won't be any time soon.

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