Master Wassien turned slowly, then walked the length of the room towards the statue with narrowed eyes. Taking care not to get too close, he peered into the statue’s mouth. Sure enough, there was the compass amulet. However, there was no means by which it could have passed the statue’s rows of pointed teeth.
“A riddle for you, boy. My amulet is in there as you say, but it is impossible to remove and therefore would have been impossible to insert. What do we conclude?”
Resentful at having his moment of triumph turned into a lesson, Wassien’s apprentice frowned at the statue.
“That we must break it?”
“Well, maybe so… But never mind that. What we must conclude is that this statue is able to move!”
The boy stared at the statue. Move? The teeth looked sharp. Its skin, though marbled with exquisite colours, was hard stone. If it moved, it could be very dangerous!
Time passed as his master paced back and forth, lost in thought. At length he seemed to reach a decision.
“I think you were right after all, boy. Go and fetch the heaviest plant pot you can carry from the garden.”
Named for the remarkable iridescent colour of its surface, peacock stone is a material prized by sculptors and used both for artworks and to decorate the houses of the wealthy. Certain statuettes made from this stone conceal a powerful secret. Particular words, spoken nearby, cause them to live. They retain their carved forms, but move and act as the figures depicted. Then, when a second word is spoken, they cease to move once more.
Although typically small in size the statuettes have nearly the strength of humans and move with surprising speed and agility. The winged ones are even capable of flight over short distances. Those with hands or claws can carry small objects.
As well as the words used to bring them to life and return them to dormancy, the statuettes can sometimes understand speech. Indeed, it is possible they all understand speech, but their language varies. None of the statuettes speak.
Commanding the secret of the statuettes safely is a subtle art. Any statuette brought to life wishes only to escape its servitude, but it cannot simply flee or its master would speak the word at once to halt its flight. Likewise, no statuette can simply turn on its master and kill them. Nonetheless, a statuette’s master must remain forever vigilant to either of these possibilities and must only use the statuette for tasks which do not present risk of escape or treachery. The stauettes are not bound by any instruction given to them, but tend to obey for fear of being left forever dormant.
Additionally, care must be taken with who might overhear the command words. A listener with a keen ear might be able to learn the word with sufficient accuracy to reproduce it, at which point the statuette might be stolen with relative ease if the listener were so inclined.