The Madness of Scyria

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  • Look:
This is a mid-sized volume of papyrus bound in dark green leather. A title is etched upon the front cover. It is open to page one of nine. You estimate its value at about forty gold.
It looks about a quarter of a dimin long, one and seventeen twentieths dimins wide, and two and nine twentieths dimins tall. It weighs about four fifths of a dekan.
  • Info:
The commands 'open <item>', 'close <item>', and 'turn page [in <item>] [to <number>]' may be used with it. The Madness of Scyria was created by Chaos; the source code was last updated Sun Aug 02 13:00:50 2009. The material leather was created by Lost Souls; the source code was last updated Sun Jul 12 19:30:01 2009. The material papyrus was created by Lost Souls; the source code was last updated Sun Jul 12 19:30:00 2009.
Spoiler warning: information below includes details, such as solutions to puzzles or quest procedures, that you may prefer to discover on your own.

The writing is in Graecan, and reads:

The Madness of Scyria
by Antecinthos of Athens
in the seventeenth year
of the reign of Menicles

    This work is dedicated to Athena Promachos, who guides the hands
of our warriors with wisdom.

    The young men of today use the phrases "Scyros take you!" and
"as dead as Scyria" in the most casual of ways, caring little for
the meaning of these figures of speech, or for the harrowings that
prefigured them.  The deeds of heroes and the battles fought, songs
are sung of these, but who cares to sing of the dark days that gave
heroes their purpose?  In this way we forget the madness of Scyria,
and by so doing we invite its resurgence.  Listen to me when I tell
you that this must never be permitted.  Though the very remembrance
of that to which I will now bear witness is itself a new suffering,
what follows was all beheld with my own eyes, and for the sake of
Athens and of Graeca I am compelled to set down these words of grim

    For longer than living memory, Scyria had been a city much like
any other in Graeca.  Its farms and herds prospered in one year and
waned in another; its lords were sometimes wise, sometimes foolish.
It raided this neighbor and traded with that, and it sent learned men
to the symposia and soldiers to the phalanxes, upholding the twin
pillars which have made us great above all peoples.  It had its patron
deity, Scyros of the blades, whose particular gifts made the products
of its weaponmakers well-valued.  Being known for his taste for blood
in the sacrifices which he required of his people, Scyros was not
regarded as the most noble of gods, but neither was he accounted the
least.  There was little enough to remark upon about the people or
polis of Scyria.

    This changed with Atheterpae, the ninety-third Paragon of Scyros.
The Paragon was something like a high priest, something like a martial
champion; the first had been the great prophet of Scyros, Agahaldar.
The Paragon effectively ruled Scyria, though most often with the advice
and intermediation of the civil bureaucracy -- a crucial necessity,
since Scyros ordained that a challenge for the position would be made
every year.  The Scyrians generally said that this kept their city
fresh and vital, while those ruled by hereditary kings and princes
often enough stagnated, or suffered from the burdens of many years of
their rulers' monomanias.  Those kings and princes, for their part,
were heard to say that it was very nearly impossible to conduct affairs
of state with Scyria, not knowing with whom one would be treating from
one season to the next.

    Whatever the benefits and drawbacks of the Paragonship as a
political system, Scyria's fortunes were not greatly swayed by it
until Atheterpae, a chandler's daughter, challenged Tlephocleas, the
ninety-second Paragon, defeated him, and ascended the Throne of Blades.
Within months, she had changed Scyrian society beyond all recognition,
somehow bringing to the entire citizenry a mad obsession with blades,
cutting, and most of all, proving themselves "keener" than all other
peoples.  Almost immediately, Scyrian raids against their neighbors
became alarmingly frequent and fierce, with the Scyrians deploying an
ever-growing array of fearsome edged weapons, whose cruel and
excessive use they gloried in.  Amidst many of these raiding parties
were weird, lethal creatures like animated collections of razors and
swords that fought without fatigue or mercy.  Traders visiting Scyria
emerged vowing never to return, bearing tales of abhorrent sacrifices
and the eerie hostility of the people -- that, or they did not emerge
at all.  The withering of trade was of no great importance to Scyria,
not with plunder to replace it.  More quickly than any of us could
have imagined possible, Scyria reforged itself into a killing machine
of brutal efficiency.

    One opinion of how this came to be is that some lurking madness
in Atheterpae's mind found its twin in the divine consciousness of
Scyros, bringing both to full fruition.  Certainly the transformation
of the city could hardly have happened without a god's exertions, and
the strange creatures fighting alongside Scyria's warriors could only
have been the creations, servants, or children of Scyros.  A deific
hand is also visible in the armaments those warriors employed; most
could have been produced by a mortal smith, but the deadly eldritch
powers displayed by some are not so readily explained.  Whether the
mentality that truly drove these events was mortal or divine, however,
there is no question that it was deeply, irrevocably insane.

    I myself saw good men hung from the trees where they had been
flayed alive, each subtle differentiation of flesh painstakingly cut
away from the next.  I saw herds of livestock that I can only describe
as having been sorted -- by which I mean that all the brains were in
one pile, all the hearts in another, all the livers in a third, and
so on.  I saw women... about whom I will say no more in this life.

    Graeca's response to Scyria's suddenly escalated depredations was
familiar; cities called to allies for aid, fortified their defenses,
and readied themselves to beat back the Scyrians until their resolve
softened and they returned to their fields.  We had no idea what it
was that we faced, or how tragically inadequate our time-worn ways
could prove.  Graeca was awakened from its dreamy complacence by the
choking stink of burning cities.  We only realized that a mad god
desired our destruction when Laresia, Cyrens, and Agastane had been
razed to the ground -- or "separated", as it pleased the Scyrians to
call it.

    Our brothers and sisters of these cities, heroes among them, fought
well, fought bravely, and were cut down in their battle skirts.  They
have their own tales.  Remember them.  Sing their songs.  Never forget.

    The Pantarchic Council met, and Scyria was expelled from our ranks,
allowing the phalanxes to be deployed against it.  The wrath of the
gods themselves was roused: priests of every civic deity were to be
heard exhorting citizens to take up arms.  The few surviving priests
of Laren, Cyrena, and Agastos were at the forefront; their gods were
furious, outraged, Scyros and the Scyrians apparently having employed
means obscure but most foul to interdict the gods' protection of their
cities.  This war now raged on the divine plane as well as that of men.
All of us set aside our squabbles, for the moment, to face the greater
enemy.  Were the day not so dark, the sight of the full might of Graeca
marching forth in terrible purpose would have been one to uplift any
native son's heart.

    The Scyrians met us on the field of battle with awe-inspiring
ferocity and horrific weapons.  They fought like dervishes, like
madmen, with their weird, inhuman cohorts beside them.

    We met the Scyrians on the field of battle with tempered anger,
strategy, and cunning.  We fought like soldiers, like men, like
Graecans, with our brothers beside us.

    We bled.  We died.  We had our fathers' swords shattered in our
hands by weapons lambent with arcane power.  We saw each other cut
to crimson wrack on the twisted blades of mindless engines of death.
We bound the wounds of our once-mighty who had faced the earthly
agent of a mad god and been tossed aside like broken toys.

    We perservered.  We fought on.  And we won.

    The songs of these battles and the heroes who fell in them are
many, and need no recounting here.  We suffered agonies, but we had
the victory.  We dragged down Atheterpae, at heartbreaking cost, and
stopped her breath in her throat.  The Scyrians were broken and in
disarray, though they still harassed us at all turns.

    What followed thereafter exceeds the understanding of a simple
military man like myself, but I will describe it as well as I may.

    When the armies of Graeca captured Scyria, we received orders
to escort a large party of priests into the heart of the city.  Each
civic deity of Graeca had at least three representatives in this
procession.  I was in the phalanx that brought them into the great
temple of Scyros, which was called Cis, where we made our way to the
innermost chamber, the sanctum.

    The priests formed a circle there, one priest of each god.  The
brethren of each stood behind him, and they remained this way for some
time, with a strange light coming upon them.  The air seemed to grow
thick and heavy, filled with a sense of looming threat, like the slow,
distant approach of a storm -- a storm made up of all the lightnings
of Zeus, wielded by the cruel and vengeful hands of Hades.  Now and
then a priest would fall to the ground, and one of those who had stood
behind him would take his place.  Then came a moment in which I felt
as if I were being turned inside out so that I contained the world
entire, a moment where I felt I understood something of the utmost
importance which I have never since been able to express.

    My next memory is of waking with spots dancing before my eyes and
the skin of my face burning as if I had stood in the sun all day.
More priests had fallen, and several lay dead, but I was told that we
had succeeded: that the gods, acting both through their priests and
beyond them, had slain Scyros, if it may be truthfully and without
blasphemy said that an immortal god might be slain.  And in fact I
perceived that something had changed; it was as if I had been hearing
a distant wailing, so faint that I barely noticed it even as it set
my teeth on edge, which now had ceased.  Gone, as well, was the
picking at our flanks by the remnants of the Scyrians -- when we came
upon any, their blade-creatures were nowhere to be found, none of
their weapons had any power beyond that of a sharp edge, and the
men and women themselves were dull-witted and barely able to talk,
suitable only as slaves for the most menial of work.

    So it was that the madness of Scyria was excised from the world.
With it passed the innocence of Graeca.  The priests will not like
what I say now, but the question must be asked: if one god can go
mad, cannot another?  Doubt not that I love Athena, as you certainly
love the god of your city.  Think you that the people of Scyria loved
Scyros less?  If anything, they loved him too much, and this was their
doom and ours.

    In such a world, there is nothing but our own vigilance to keep
the terrors I have walked through from returning.  Remember.  Tell
your children.  Never forget.
End of spoiler information.

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