Part 10: Journal of The Nameless One: Part 7Journal of The Nameless One: Part 7
The first time around wasn't easy, and neither was the second.
My heart beat fitfully at first, pumping cooled blood through my veins, feeding my stiffening muscles. A guttural moan welled up from my throat and my first breath became clogged in my mouth like cotton. I gagged, an odd itch tickled the back of my throat. With a cough the gore that that had trickled into my esophagus spilled from my lips.
The world swam into view, a hideous shade of sickly yellow and gray, and I rolled over, spitting and retching.
"Hai, Scarred One well, hai?"
"Ugh... I feel all stiff," I grunted. I didn't feel like talking much more.
"Damn, chief. Looks like that crazy old scribe wasn't kidding. You just keep on coming back like a Baatorian heat rash. You're invincible!"
And then I vomited.
"Yech. I don't suppose a meal of Avadorn sea figs brings anything to mind? Jolt your memories any?"
I spat out a wad of thickened blood-bile-saliva, "Shut... up, Morte." Ptew. When I looked up, Pox was looming over me as well, nursing a wounded arm, "Morte, please tell me you didn't..."
"Sorry, chief. Just saw him- er... her- uh. Pox here just tore your throat open. How the hells did you expect me to react?" I stood up stiffly, my mind still foggy and mouth still tainted with the salty-metallic tang of blood. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Pox scuttling away. I filed a mental note into the back of my head to apologize to him later. Maybe.
I quickly recovered and continued exploring Sigil with a new wariness in my veins. The bleak wonders of the city were made all the more awe-inspiring standing against the throng of dust-kissed citizens. They walked the streets with shoulders slumped in a weariness of the world, eyes dark-rimmed and tired of the harsh life of the Hive. Yet there was a hardness about these people, an iron-thorned air about the populace that had been tempered into them from a harsh, unloving life.
The spike of obsidian stone that caught my eye stirred something in me. It seemed familiar, like an echo of a forgotten dream. Even from a distance I could tell the surface was marred with countless small scratches, but still it glistened in the sickly noontime light.
I eyed the Dustmen at the entrance to the monument warily. Even though I was no longer on their territory, and even though they were focused on their chanting, I needed to be careful around them. I was an abomination to them. If there was one thing to remember, it might as well be that.
"The True Death awaits..."
"We all seek solace in final rest..."
And there it stood, jutting from the ground, a black stone dagger veined with white and gray and tattooed with countless names. I stepped closer, reading a few. Mishar Akelrun, Pathfinder Garen, Sumali, Fair Farallah, Xixvada the Weeping. Nothing. None of the names etched into the stone meant anything to me. I groaned, cracking my forehead against the cold obsidian.
Two things came about from the moronic act. First, it hurt like the Nine Hells.
Second, a voice piped up behind me, "Hideous, isn't it?"
I looked up to face a man of middle height and years. He was stout, with a thick, bullish neck. His shoulders were hunched, as if a great weight were pressing down on them, and he stared at the monument impatiently.
"I dunno, I think it catches the eye," Morte idly floated about, reading names from the surrounding walls, "Kinda like when an inch-long splinter lodges in someone's bum."
"What is it?"
The man looked to me, eyes wide. Apparently they were naturally large, gifting him with an unsettling gaze. "It's a tombstone for the Planes." He scoffed. "Graveyards of names are scratched on that rock. Can only hope my name's the one that'll split this stone in 'twain." He pointed at the base of the monolith. "'Quentin,' right there, hammered in just hard enough to send the damned thing crashing down."
I ran my hand along the cold stone surface, "The Dustmen."
"Aye," Quentin smiled ruefully, and gestured, "The Dusties scratch the names of the dead on the monument here, and on the walls of this place. Not enough space by my reckoning, but no matter. They do their best. Can barely read half the names."
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
Quentin shrugged, "Reading the new arrivals. Try and find a new one every day, try and remember if I knew 'em, nothing more."
I turned about, taking in the countless etchings, "And the Dustmen record all the names of the dead on this monument? All?"
"Aye, they scratch 'em on this rock... and scratch 'em on the walls in this place, too." Quentin scoffed. "I don't know why they take the trouble to take a counting of the dead... the Dusties have more care for the living."
Morte snickered, "Well they aren't exactly drinking from a full glass, the Dusties."
Quentin nodded, "Aye... y'know about the Dustmen mourners that come to this place? They aren't mourning the dead, see, they're mourning the living. You can barely get a word in them edgewise without 'em asking to mourn some poor living berk for ye."
Another name. Noradya Kalik Avadal. The name was etched into a small corner, covered with so many other names that it was almost unreadable. Idly I wondered if I knew her, sometime in the distant past. "But why do they mourn the living?" I muttered to myself.
Quentin overheard, "You got me there, cutter." He shrugged. "Might want to put the question t'them. Seems to me the dead are thrice-worth the pity of any poor sod living in this pit." He nodded at the monument. "Every name on there is blest in my book, it is."
That ache again: that small, infinitely deep hollowness in my core, dwarfing the void where my memories should have been. The dull ache in my chest was an old wound, I knew, but it came from no knife or spear. I closed my eyes, mentally probing that rough-edged slit, dipped a bit in, and found that terrible, yawning void again. Grander than the tallest mountain, darker than the deepest sea.
My eyes snapped open, and I slid my hand along the stone with a newfound reverence, the scratches rough under my fingers. Perhaps one day my name would be laid to rest here.
"What's in a name, anyway?" I huffed.
"Nothing special, I say. Just something the innkeeper hollers at you when he wants your tab paid," Quentin sighed.
I wanted to believe him.