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  • Writer's pictureAdam Anders

The Tale of Kedalion's Kiln


Born inordinately small, the boy Kedalion grew into a giant of a man. They say it was on account of his smallness that he kindled his gift into an inferno. It manifested as strength. He hid it, of course, such were the times; it was necessary for survival. Before the coming of the floods, those with the gift were few. Nonetheless, his family knew, for he was convinced his talents would spread to them, to his child in particular. It was this belief that saw him fall victim to hubris, but fate had an even hand.

Convinced his son would bear his gift, Kedalion encouraged him to attempt feats of inordinate strength, as was child’s play for himself. 

In the first trial, he was to break a handful of kindling wood with his bare hands. He succeeded. In the second trial, he was to carry a cauldron of water across his home without spilling a drop. He succeeded. It was during the third trial – an attempt at literally defying the fate of Sisyphus – that the child fell victim to Kedalion’s conviction that the boulder could be stopped, or at the very least, avoided. Kedalion arguably suffered the crueler fate, for his heart was crushed, yet he was condemned to continue living.

Feeble for the first time, Kedalion left his family and all he knew, and wandered towards the dark horizon in the hopes he might fall off the edge of the earth. But nothing can be overcome, without first traversing mountains. For mountains have a way of guiding us; their ancient faces having seen the passing of ages, a wisdom flows about and within them. It was in the tall and ragged coastal mountains that Kedalion’s grief turned into a search for solace. And it was in those very mountains that solace would be provided.

It was a late winter night when he found the cave. The air was sullen with snow that was wet but still cold on the skin. The entrance was low, forcing him to stoop upon entering. Leaving the outside world, he faded into the darkness.

The cave was warm, warmer than Kedalion expected. The inky black seeped into the recesses of the cave as his eyes adjusted to the viscera of the earth. The faint smell of brimstone wafted up from somewhere behind him. Turning, he noticed a quivering golden crack in the cave wall. He took a tentative step towards it. It wavered, then disappeared. He froze. His heartbeat filled his ears as his heavy breath joined the shadows. Then, a flicker. A golden vein fluttered before him. His heart jumped. This could be it, he thought. The answer for a demi-god such as himself must be this: a river of gold awaiting discovery in the heart of the mountain. Another tentative step, and it was gone.  

He leaned headfirst into the darkness. Emptiness greeted him. He reached out. Air. But it was moving. A light flashed at his eyes. Blinking himself out of confusion he saw the light flicker from a wide crack in the cave wall. It drew him forward.

The faint glow pulled him into a labyrinthian hollow, deeper and deeper within the mountain. Following the widening tunnel, the light grew with every corner, dancing across the grey stone. Many twists and turns finally brought him to a den of sorts: a wide opening in the very bowels of the mountain. There, within the far wall, lay the source of the light. A golden fire burned in a natural hearth. Like a hypnotist, it seized his consciousness. He was rooted, like the mountain itself, to the earth beneath his feet.

Kedalion watched the fire until he slept. When he slept, the fire watched over him. But symbiosis was impossible for Kedalion, for he did not yet understand his gift. So, though he had shelter, he found food and drink wanting. 

Leaving the cave became a necessity, as did tools for living – something he had not foreseen. His attempts to fashion the required implements from the forest’s wood met with failure. Frustrated, Kedalion holed up in his cave – the golden hearth his only source of comfort.

Tossing and turning one evening, Kedalion rolled over a stone that had seemingly crumbled from the wall of the cave. Disturbing his already disturbed sleep, he tossed it with some bitterness at the fire. It bounced against the burning back wall beyond the flame and landed near the mouth of the hearth. A glow grew within the hollow. A luminance filled the cave like the sky set alight by a sunset after an ocean’s thunderstorm. Kedalion watched the mountain’s stone with wide-eyed fascination. It shifted, changing shape, slipping, until it fell forth onto the ground before him. He circled it and watched it cool until its surface shimmered in the firelight. He picked it up. It wasn’t heavy. One side was sharp; that gave him an idea. Holding it firm he tapped the sharp end against the cavern wall. Several more chunks fell loose; the smelted piece remained sharp. Carefully chipping off a longer chunk, he held one end in the fire. It reacted just as the first piece. When it burned bright as the sun, he removed it from the hearth and pushed it hard against the ground. It bent, and Kedalion had the beginnings of a hammer to accompany his rudimentary knife.


And so it was that Kedalion learned he could smith rock from inside the mountain. His first tools were crude, but they allowed him to fashion the implements he needed to survive in isolation. With time, he created a proper forge – anvil, double-handed hammer and all – and he used it to hone his craft. And honing it desperately needed.

For when he created large cutting tools, in order to be better able to gather wood, the blades were too brittle.

When he created farming tools, in order to plant his own food, the blades were too soft.

When he created piercing tools, in order to hunt, the blades were too dull.

And with each tool, his hammer and anvil soon rusted, requiring that he forge them anew.

It was only when he created simple art – arm bands he would have given to his son; necklaces he would have given to his wife – that his creations held firm. And so, he created many of these, for, like children, they gave him a sense of having given himself to something new and beautiful. In this way, Kedalion, alone and isolated inside a distant mountain, clung to his former fatherhood. But solace was not forthcoming.


It so happened that at this time, Man met the consequences of generations of insensitivity to the earth, and, having borne all that she could, Gaia cleansed herself. Her waters rose, coastlines were altered, and the inhabitants that could, ran inland to save themselves. Amongst these refugees, were those with the gift. It was they who fled to the mountains, knowing those ancient structures would endure. And it was they who found the cave.


The voices echoed off the labyrinthian walls. They caught Kedalion’s ear as he approached from outside, returning as he was from gathering berries. He froze. The voices dimmed, then grew louder. The sound of clinking metal echoed. Kedalion set off at a sprint.

Running through the twisting passages, his footsteps sounded like impetuous rainfall. Jagged stone corners crumbled as they met his furious mass hurtling past. Narrow archways were widened as he charged towards his violated sanctuary. He burst into his den and saw them. A handful of individuals huddled around his fire, casting long shadows. He paused only for a moment. His forging hammer was in his hands within the space of a breath.

“Get out!” he bellowed.

The room was still but for Kedalion’s heaving chest. As he eyed them, he tightened the grip on his hammer. There were six, three men and three women, none too young, none too old, all still and unperturbed. Some of them looked at each other.

“Get out of my cave!” Kedalion boomed.

One of the taller men stepped forward. Shadows from the fire danced across his face with glee. His hair waved as he approached, like the branches of willows in a gentle wind. He smiled, though that seemed to be his natural expression. It annoyed Kedalion.

“You have the gift,” he said.

Kedalion roared at him and swung his long-armed hammer. It swooshed as it passed through emptiness. The man now stood next to him.

“I can teach you,” he whispered.

Kedalion made to elbow him but missed. He swiped at the intruder, unable to make contact, screaming louder with every swing. At last, his hammer hit something. Kedalion looked up from his rage to see the upper handle firmly in the man’s fist. He tried to jerk it free. It was immovable. Kedalion lunged forehead-first in an attempt to ram his opponent with his head. His neck muscles tensed as his motion was brought to a sudden stop. The man held Kedalion’s head in place with the tip of his finger. The man gave a slight push with it and Kedalion flew backwards, slamming into the cave wall. Rock crumbled around him.

The man approached and extended his hand. 

“My name is Yoake Tetsu,” he said.

Kedalion eyed him from under his brow, breathing heavily. Yoake stood motionless, hand still extended. In a flash, Kedalion grabbed it and stood. Yoake hadn’t flinched. 

“What do you know?” Kedalion said in a low growl.

Yoake smiled, as if to a child, still gripping his hand. “We are martial artists, and our art is a conduit for the gift. We need weapons that reflect that. You could forge such weapons with your talents.” Kedalion’s eyes shot to his anvil and then back to Yoake. “Shed your worries,” Yoake continued, apparently clairvoyant, “you cannot forge anything in your state. Your soul is in turmoil; only when you find peace will we both have what we want.”

Kedalion pushed past him. “You know nothing of me or my gift.” He stooped and retrieved his hammer. “Now, get out.”

Yoake watched him for a moment, then nodded to his crew, and they left.


Kedalion remained by his hearth for a long time. Hunger finally drove him outside. There, Yoake and his gang of martial artists had set up camp. Furious, but too weak to act on his anger, Kedalion returned to his cave. Time passed in naps. When a nagging pressure at the side of his head became an unbearable migraine, he rose to find water. Dizzy from dehydration, he barely made it out of his labyrinth. When the cool mountain air engulfed him, he swayed and stumbled forward. An exposed root brought the giant down to earth.

The first sensation that followed was that of water touching his lips. Coughing, he regained consciousness. Yoake crouched next to him. He told him he had something to show him.

Leading him back to the hearth, Yoake sat in the middle of the den and placed his palms on the ground. 

“Forge me a cup,” he said. Kedalion hesitated. “You owe me that much for saving your life.”

And Kedalion did so while Yoake continued to sit, eyes closed, palms down on the floor.

When the cup was ready, a rumbling followed. A perfect circle manifested slowly before Yoake. The floor within it then crumbled in on itself. Yoake motioned at the cup and it floated into the hole.

“This is a well. Its waters are infused with millennia of pure universal energy. Drink, and you will heal.” And with that, the cup appeared before Kedalion, brimming with shimmering, dark water. Kedalion drank and health was restored to him. He stared at the cup, then the well, and then at Yoake with incredulity. Yoake only smiled, stood, and left.

It was some time before Kedalion left his cave again, amazed as he was by the infinite millennial well and his newfound energy. When he did, he found Yoake and his partisans sitting at their camp.

“Teach me,” he said to Yoake.

“I have,” he replied without looking up.

“I can’t do what you do.”

“Not yet. But you have the foundation.”

“My gift?” Kedalion asked.

Yoake glanced at him and shook his head. “More fundamental than that,” he said.

Kedalion considered his words. “My muscles, my body.” Yoake raised an eyebrow. Then it hit him. “My health,” he said.

“You are nothing without it,” Yoake replied, standing. “Your gift is nothing, if you neglect the conduit through which it passes. You have your first lesson, now, forge me a blade.”

Kedalion did as instructed and brought it to Yoake. The martial artist examined it and promptly smashed it against a nearby rock, shattering it.

“It needs more layers, to remove the impurities,” he told Kedalion.

The giant returned to his forge, surprised but encouraged at the thought. He had not folded the metal previously and thought that may have been the missing technique. Smelting the mountain’s ore until it was white hot, he folded it once and then hammered it into a blade shape afterwards. When he brought the finished product to Yoake, the martial artist examined it, and promptly smashed it against a nearby tree, splintering it. Kedalion left, bent out of shape.

It was hunger that brought him back to the gang. Wondering how they sustained themselves he watched them from the entrance to his cave. When his stomach was growling loud enough for the others to notice, one approached.

The man placed his upright palms together and nodded at him. “My name is Doron.” Kedalion gave a curt nod. “You’re hungry.”

“What of it?” he replied.

“We have food, but we need to cook it.”

“Can’t you make fire?”

“The wood’s too wet.”

Kedalion knew immediately what he needed to do. Though he wanted to hesitate, his hunger forced him to act. In a bowl he had forged, he soon brought the group burning coals he had heated in his hearth. His contribution was gratefully received by a woman who introduced herself as Grace. She gave Kedalion some of the food in return. 

As he ate, Yoake approached him.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” the sage said with a smile.

Kedalion nodded with his mouth full.

“What do you feel?” Yoake then asked.

Kedalion stopped chewing and turned his focus inwards. A feeling of gratitude emerged from a curtain of ignorance. He glanced at the individuals sitting around what was now a campfire and smiled, satisfied he had contributed to something beyond himself. Yoake was smiling back at him.

It was then that Kedalion also noticed the silence. All of them ate; none of them spoke. When he searched their faces for clarification, he found pleasure. So, he sought to find the same. In reflecting on his senses, he discerned countless positive impressions, and found joy in them.

Among the sensations he enjoyed was the sight and sound of the fire before him. His forging arm twitched and when he finished he returned to his forge. After placing the mountain ore in the hearth, the wait passed slowly. With his mind a-flux, he sought out Yoake. Unable to find him, one of his colleagues approached. 

“Can I help you find something?”

“Yoake.”

“He’s climbed to the mountain peak to meditate,” the man replied. Kedalion sighed. “Perhaps I can help instead?” the man offered.

“I need forging advice,” Kedalion replied.

“Use your intuition.”

“Huh? No, you see it’s the ore—”

“Just follow your gut.”

Kedalion huffed and returned to his forge. Perhaps it was his frustration, perhaps he had actually listened, but watching the ore take on its clarion color, he dismissed his worries. When he removed the metal, he began his hammering without thought. He folded the metal once and hammered away. But he did not stop there. He folded it again, giving his all and hammered it flat, and then relying on nothing but his senses, he did the same, twice more. When he raised the orange blade, he looked around. The bucket he had made to take water from the infinite well caught his eye. He stabbed the liquid with the sword and watched the steam rise.

“Impressive,” Yoake’s voice made him jump. “I heard you were looking for me,” he said as he approached and took the blade up and examined it.

“I was—,” before he could finish, Yoake whipped the blade against the mountain wall, cracking it down the middle.

“You’re learning. Try again,” Yoake said.

And Kedalion repeated the process, bending the metal six times now, putting everything he had learned into each fold. When finished, he brought it to Yoake. The martial artist examined it and promptly hurled it against the ground, bending the blade. Kedalion kicked over his bucket of water and left his cave.

After the mountain air had cooled his head, he sought out Yoake. When he found him, he asked how many more times he’d have to fold the metal until it was ready, Yoake responded with a mischievous smirk. 

“There’s something lucky about the number 1000 for martial artists,” he said.

Standing in the spitting rain, one of the crew named Aletheia appeared at his side. She told him she could help him find the truth, if he was true to himself, first. Only then would he know where the problem lay.

“I’m in no mood,” he said, shaking his head.

“That’s a start,” she responded. He only glanced at her before continuing to brood at the mountain landscape before them. “Why are you in no mood?” she asked.

He sighed heavily through his nose. After a moment, he mumbled, “I’m frustrated.”

“Why?” she asked.

His eyes glazed over as he considered the truest answer. When it came to him he returned to his cave and was not seen again for three days.

Kedalion emerged at dawn on the third day, forging hammer in hand. He interacted with no one, until he came to Aletheia’s side. It was then he whispered, “Because I can do nothing with my gift, and I feel I’m nothing because of it.”

When he said the words, his rusting forging hammer fell from his hands. He inhaled deeply.

“There,” she pointed at him, “Are you nothing right now?”

He stared at her with an intense focus before his eyes slowly shifted to everything on the mountainside.

“No,” he breathed.

“The sun above the clouds is the same sun,” she said. “Though the mountains and rivers below are all different, each is happy in its unity, and variety.”

Kedalion nodded and returned to his forge.

When he forged a new hammer, he began on a blade; folded the metal eight times and cooled it, he saw rivers swirl in the blade and ran to Yoake.

The martial arts master examined the blade as Kedalion spoke. 

“Rivers are in constant motion, and yet they can always be found in the same place,” he said and then grabbed the blade back and tossed it away. “Teach me that.”

A knowing smile spread slowly across Yoake’s face.

And so Kedalion learned to meditate, and the giant became a mountain. Contemporaneously, his gift took on a new added character of telekinesis – like that of the martial artists.

When he folded the next blade nine times, he thrust it into the water from the infinite well, himself in an infinite state.

Yoake examined the blade. He held it up, then out, he twisted his wrist, and swung it expertly.

“This is a blade worthy of a demigod,” he said, “but it is not for me. My energy cannot circulate through it. A blade must be a conduit for the bearer of the gift.” He placed it carefully next to the mat of straw Kedalion came to sleep on.

“What does it need?” Kedalion asked.

“Only you can answer that.”

For forty days Kedalion meditated on creation. For forty nights he forged blades. Ore leapt willingly from the mountain walls as he used the newfound character of his gift. No fingers chafed, no muscles strained; day upon patient day, his den grew as he chipped away at the mountain walls. But the newly forged blades did nothing. They shone, dead on his floor. When his forge expanded into the labyrinthian passages, he stopped. He had taken all he dared from the mountain walls, and echoes now rung deafeningly in the hollow corners of his abode.

On the final night he sat staring at all he had created. Pride swelled in him, father as he was to his makings. And it was then he saw the problem.

The next days were spent with the martial artists. Each sunrise and moonset with one of them. Sustained by water from his well, he took the familiarity he gained from each individual and worked it into a blade, folding it once more than usual.

When he had forged a blade for each friend, he presented it to them. And every one of them found their energy could flow through their blade. This made the blades inordinately powerful.

Kedalion presented Yoake with his blade before the hearth in the forge. Ite rang out like water crashing into the bottomless sea.

“You folded it ten times,” he said.

“Over a thousand layers,” Kedalion replied.

Yoake examined his sword closely. “But that’s not all,” he said. Kedalion only smiled. Yoake looked around the den. Something was missing. “Your creations – the armbands and necklaces you made…”

“What I made was never really mine, anyway. They all had their own roles to play.”

And so Kedalion atoned for the death of his child and found solace in a quiet life of free servitude.


 


Adam Anders is a Canadian writer and teacher, living in Warsaw, Poland. Once upon a time, he worked as a scholar of the Roman Army, having earned a PhD in Ancient History. Now, he teaches History, Media Studies, and Creative Writing at a private high school.


He holds an ALM in Creative Writing & Literature from Harvard University’s Extension School. His short stories have been published in The Opiate, The Writing Disorder, and The Wilderness House Literary Review. Always seeking solace in nature, in his summers he sails the seas, and in winter, he skis.

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