Part 6: Journal of The Nameless One: Part 4Journal of The Nameless One: Part 4
The Mortuary (Music)
There was no time to waste. Luckily I had the self-control to keep together and brush myself off casually, and the few Dustmen that glanced my way didn't pay me any mind. Odd what you can get away with if you just keep your back straight, head high, and face blank.
Morte whistled a merry tune. That's right, just keep it casual.
I descended the levels of the Mortuary, the choking fumes of smoke and char giving way to the iron-sharp tang of blood and formaldehyde, and that faded behind to the musty smell of a tomb. The air was still stale here, but it could've been an autumn breeze to me by now.
Even here the halls of the Mortuary were guarded by the dead: four large skeletons surrounded a central chamber, swaying stiffly as I passed. My presence didn't register to their dull senses, and I passed without consequence. Certainly it would be a bit more... comforting... to hire real guards, but then again, free labor is free labor, and the silence of the skeletal sentinels allowed peace for the Dustmen's meditations.
A flicker of blue from one of the side chambers caught my eye, and my head whipped around to face... nothing. I blinked. Perhaps it was my imagination. It was a misty blur after all, perhaps something in the corner of my vision.
But still... throughout this building there had been nothing but the dying hues of crimson and earthen brown, laced with black and touched with the occasional glint of metal scalpels. Blue was worth investigating, if only for a few minutes.
"Chief, where are you going? The entrance is this way!"
"One minute, Morte, I think I saw something here," I walked into the memorial hall.
"Gods damn it, can't you just stick with the tour group for-" his voice ground to a halt.
The chamber was dim and drab as all the others, yet the metal and stone were softer somehow, more gentle. The sharp planes and worn, rough walls in the rest of the Mortuary were the carvings of a careless hand and the design of a cruel mind. The other chambers were concerned with function rather than form, and were rough and sharp with age.
But here, the chamber was clean and well-kept. The stones were polished smooth to a tender softness, and the last trailing wisps of incense from the braziers gave off a sweet aroma, exotic as winter blossoms. No doubt the braziers would soon be cleaned and refilled. Lamps surrounded the marble tomb: elegant, with no expense spared. Yet it still possessed a certain humility that spoke of a loving hand, one that still wouldn't let go.
The plaque simply read, "Deionarra," a name that was hauntingly familiar.
The air suddenly grew cold.
"You..." the icy hiss seemed to resonate throughout the entire chamber. The flames dimmed, the incense snuffed out and the last dying wisps of sweet smoke snaked through the air. I looked around, trembling, the chill finally touching my bare skin.
A blue and white mist unfolded on the steps to the tomb, and a cold fog billowed outward as a woman's visage coalesced before my eyes. She was strikingly beautiful, with long, white flowing hair cascading down her pale shoulders. Her gown stirred in an unfelt breeze, soft and blue as the winter sky. Her face was smooth, tender, but where tranquility should have been there was a twisted snarl of fury.
"You! What is it that brings you here?! Have you come to see first-hand the misery you have wrought? Perhaps in death I still hold some shred of use for you...?" Her voice dropped bitterly, tinged with both self-mockery and want, "...'my Love.'"
I stared. "Who… are you?" The mist surrounding her was cold as frost.
The anger vanished from her face, replaced with pleading as the spectre leaned forward, her hands outstretched, "How can it be that the thieves of the mind continue to steal my name from your memory? Do you not remember me, my Love?" Her voice grew desperate, "Think... the name Deionarra must evoke some memory within you."
That itch along my scalp pricked at me. I worked to embrace it, snatch it, pull it up by the roots, but to no effect. One thing became clear, though. The ghost was indeed familiar, "I think I feel the stirrings of memory... tell me more. Perhaps your words shall chase the shadows from my mind, Deionarra."
Her voice was jubilant, "Oh, at last the fates show mercy! Even death cannot chase me from your mind, my Love! Do you not see? Your memories shall return! Tell me how I can help you, and I shall!"
"Do you know who I am?"
"You are one both blessed and cursed, my Love. And you are one who is never far from my thoughts and heart," she replied softly, the looked up, her eyes crystal blue, "The nature of your curse should be apparent. Look at you. Death rejects you. Your memories have abandoned you. Do you not pause and wonder why?"
"Memories aside... and assuming death has rejected me... why is that a curse?"
Deionarra shook her head sadly, "I do not doubt your ability to rise from the dead. I do believe that every incarnation weakens your thoughts and memories. You claim you have lost your memory. Perhaps it is a side effect of countless deaths? If so, what more will you lose in successive deaths? If you lose your mind, you will not even know enough to realize that you cannot die. You shall truly be doomed."
I felt it then, deep within. Whereas my flesh was painted over with countless scars, layers upon layers of them, the wounds within me were less apparent. There was a hollowness there, in the back of my mind, in the center of my chest. It was as if there was a rough cut in the very essence of this vessel, and when I poked through, a yawning void stretched on the other side, terrifying and endless. Somewhere, somehow, my life was bound to my body in unbreakable shackles. The true horror of my immortality hit me then, and I looked up to the spirit, "'Countless deaths?' How long has this been going on?"
"I do not truly know. Except that it has gone on long enough," Deionarra's voice was cutting. She was saying I had to die, "I know that you once claimed you loved me and that you would love me until death claimed us both. I believed that, never knowing the truth of who you were, what you were." Her eyes slid away from me, skirting around the forbidden.
"Then what am I?" the frustration made me hoarse, "What am I, Deionarra?"
"You... I... cannot..." She suddenly froze, and she spoke slowly, carefully, as if her own voice frightened her. "The truth is this: you are one who dies many deaths. These deaths have given the knowing of all things mortal, and in your hand lies the spark of life... and death. Those that die near you carry a trace of themselves that you can bring forth..."
As Deionarra spoke the words, a crawling sensation welled up in the back of my skull... and I suddenly felt compelled to look at my hand. As I lifted it up to look at it, I could SEE the blood coursing sluggishly through my arm, pouring into my muscles, and in turn, giving strength to my bones...
And I knew, Deionarra was right. I suddenly remembered how to coax the dimmest spark of life from a body, and bring it forth... the thought as I write it even now both horrifies and intrigues me.
I almost reached out to touch the tomb, to try to undo what injustice was done to this poor spectre, but I knew in the back of my mind it was impossible. Yes, she was linked to me, somehow. I could feel the conduit through which I could pour back her essence, share a spark of my life to revive her. But her body lay too cold, too distant from me when she died. The channel had been severed, and only a vestigial remnant remained.
"The Eternal Boundary separates us, my love. For now and forever," her voice was saddened. Perhaps she knew what it was I had just tried. "It is a barrier I fear you shall never cross, my Love. It is the barrier between your life and what remains of mine..."
Distant footsteps echoed down the hall. I tensed, then looked back to her, "Deionarra, I am in danger. Can you guide me to a place of safety? I shall return as soon as I can to speak to you again."
"In danger?" Deionarra looked concerned. "Of course, my Love. I will aid you any way I can..." She closed her eyes for a moment, and an ethereal zephyr passed through her body, stirring her hair. After a moment, the breeze died, and her eyes slowly opened. "Perhaps there is a way."
"I sense that this place holds many doors shrouded from mortal eyes. Perhaps you could use one of these portals as a means of escape."
"Portals?" I blinked.
"Portals are holes in existence, leading to destinations in the inner and outer planes... if you could find the proper key, you could escape through one of them."
"Key?" I was thoroughly confused. The footsteps were coming nearer.
Deionarra looked down the hall as well, "Portals will reveal themselves when you have the proper 'key.' Unfortunately, these keys can be almost anything... an emotion, a piece of wood, a dagger of silvered glass, a scrap of cloth, a tune you hum to yourself... I fear that the Dustmen are the only ones who would know the keys you could use to leave their halls, my Love."
The footsteps faded away. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then again, I could always claim I came here to pay my respects to Deionarra if I were caught.
I shook my head, "Thank you, Deionarra, I'll do my best to find one." I turned to leave.
"Hold a moment," she circled around, floating to face me. The cold air billowed about her and I shivered, "I learned much when I traveled with you, my Love, and what you have lost, I have retained. I have not divulged all that I know to you. My sight is clear... whilst you fumble in the darkness for a spark of thought." Her eyes were bright now, eager, willing to help.
I smiled in gratitude, and she seemed elated. She still loved me then, more deeply than anything. Dhall was right. Passions bound us to this plane, and if Deionarra were ever to achieve peace, I must either join her, or she must learn to forget me as I have her, "And what is it your sight sees that I do not?"
"Time itself relaxes its hold as the chill of oblivion slowly claims us, my Love. Glimpses of things yet to come swarm across my vision. I see you, my Love. I see you as you are now, and..." Deionarra grew quiet. Her face was placid, expressionless, and her eyes shut as if she were in a trance.
"What is it? What do you see?"
"I see what lies ahead for you. It ripples through the planes, stemming outward from this point. Shall I speak of what I see?" she intoned.
"Tell me. Please."
"First, I require a promise. Promise you will return. That you will find some means to save me or join me." I hesitated a moment, suddenly skeptical. True, perhaps I needed to die, perhaps I needed to set things right. Footsteps echoed down the hall once more, but it wasn't panic that drove me. I centered myself, grew calm, and looked Deionarra in the eye to make a vow.
"I swear I will find some means to save you or join you, Deionarra."
She nodded, smiled, more than satisfied, "This is what my eyes see, my Love, unfettered by the shackles of time..."
"You shall meet enemies three, but none more dangerous than yourself in your full glory. They are shades of evil, of good, and of neutrality given life and twisted by the laws of the planes."
"You shall come to a prison built of regrets and sorrow, where the shadows themselves have gone mad. There you will be asked to make a terrible sacrifice, my Love. For the matter to be laid to rest, you must destroy that which keeps you alive and be immortal no longer."
Deionarra's eyes snapped open, and her face grew desperate again, pleading, wearing her torment as a veil, "I know that you must die... while you still can. The circle must come to a close, my Love. You were not meant for this life. You must find that which was taken from you and travel beyond, into the lands of the dead."
I nodded, "Thank you. Farewell, Deionarra."
"I shall wait for you in death's halls, my Love." She smiled, but there was only sadness in it. She closed her eyes, and with an ethereal whisper, faded. The mist cleared.
"You back with me, chief? You kind of drifted out on me there." Morte's sharp voice was a sudden jab that brought me back. He sounded nervous.
"No, I'm fine. Do you know who that spirit was? "
Morte's eyes widened a moment, then he cocked his head casually, "Eh? Spirit? What spirit?"
"That spectre I was talking to. "
Morte turned away from me and looked down the hall, uninterested, "Look chief, if you're going barmy again now..."
"The woman in the blue dress, surrounded by cold mist," was I going mad? "Her name was Deionarra."
That got Morte's attention, "You were rattling your bone-box with some woman? Where?" Morte looked around, excited. "What did she look like?"
"She was right on top of the bier. Didn't you see her?"
His grin was a little too wide as he spoke, somehow, "Eh... no, you just kind of drifted out for a bit there, just stood there, statue-like. I was a little worried you'd gone addled on me again."
I blinked. Somehow, I couldn't believe what Morte was saying. The mist was as real as I could tell.
"No, I'm fine... I think. Let's move on," I shivered. It was cold.