Part 107: The Eye of the Nameless One: Part 11The Eye of the Nameless One: Part 11
Don't be under any delusions that being a Sensate is all fun and games. Sure, I've heard that there are, occasionally, orgies of feasting and wine and sensuality that would make the most severe hedonist blush. But pleasure is only a sliver of experience that can be found in the multiverse.
For breakfast I had sat down to a clacking mass of claws in a ceramic bowl. The bits clacked, their motions quickening with the casual prod of a fork. With each spasm the snapping tips would flick a speck of blood-colored sauce across the table. When an order comes with a free antidote you know it's going to be bad, but it was one of those obligations as a Sensate.
"Attention: Fall-From-Grace. I wish to address your body," Nordom chirped in his sexless drone.
"Pardon me?" Fall-From-Grace raised a coy eyebrow as she lowered her tea.
"Your body. Your form. Your reason for selecting it. Why?"
A smile crept at the edge of her lips, "Why... I suppose I find it comforting. Besides, I rather like the wings."
"It would be more practical for you to assume the form of a modron. It is 13.27% more efficient. Give or take +5.2%."
"Why, Nordom, are you trying to court me?" Her tone was teasing, and edged on being flirtatious.
"It was not my intention to initiate legal action against you."
Do modrons blush? I was tempted to ask Morte, but he seemed as amicable towards Nordom as my breakfast was to me.
"I have heard of you..." a woman murmured behind me. I turned around, and just as I looked away one of the critters snapped down on my fingertip, drawing blood.
I swallowed the oath that came to my lips and tried to smile. What came out was more grimace than grin, "Greetings. And you are...?"
She was incredibly attractive; sharp-featured and smooth-skinned, with an earth-colored gown that served to accentuate her pale flesh and gray-black hair. There was some intangible aura about her that made me want to speak to her, and I had to bite down on my tongue to stop the bumbling words on its tip that would've passed my lips otherwise. I stood up, and she glanced at me coyly, then gave a knowing smile.
"I am Unfulfilled-Desire. You want something... yesss?" She hissed the 'yes', drawing it out slowly, sensually, from between her teeth. Her voice was breathy, with a whisper of a slur, "I can help. Name your desire, and I shall provide it."
"I looooove the Festhall," Morte beamed.
The woman ignored Morte, her eyes locked with mine. She smiled, awaiting my response.
"What do you have that I might want?"
"All that you might want lies within my reach. What little I do not possess, I can obtain. Speak your desire..."
"I want my memories returned - all of them."
She smiled. "Much may be forgotten in a lifetime... and much more, in several lifetimes. I can help you." She studied my face closely, "Come into my parlor... and we shall negotiate."
I looked back to the others. Annah's lips were pulled back into a disapproving scowl, but she said nothing.
Unfulfilled-Desire's apartments reminded me of a dusty old antique in the corner of a store. Well-decorated, skillfully done in technical terms, but bland and half-forgotten in the broader scheme of things. Compared to her, the furnishings melted away into indistinct and ever more irrelevant surroundings.
"Explain to me the ways in which you want these memories. Speak to me your craving, and I shall speak to you of the price."
"What proof do you have that you could return them to me?"
She stood still, but suddenly her hand was touching my forehead, a finger dragging along my temple. "Only this..." and the fog in my head began to peel away, briefly, enough to catch a glimpse of remembrance... but before I could focus on the memory, the mists rolled back in. The renewed obscurity was thick and cloying, leaving me frustrated as if I had been on the edge of a sneeze. "Only this. Only tell me why you desire it, speak to me your craving, and I shall speak to you of the price..."
"I want them back... is that not enough?"
Her smile hardened. "You must give your desire voice and emotion, or it is as dust to me. You must convince me that you truly desire what I can impart, or it shall not be yours."
I began to describe how I wanted my memories back: the conscientious fear of the unknown, the thirst of curiosity and the terror of potential sins, peeled back raw and bleeding and revealed anew.
As I spoke her smile faded, and Unfulfilled-Desire leaned forward attentively, her eyes ravaging my features as I continued. Her presence compelled me to speak more than I normally would, and after a few moments, her eyes fluttered closed as she gave a sharp intake of breath. Suddenly, the desire for my memories began to wane... my want slowly drained out of me, leaving only a sense of cold emptiness in its wake as it bled out. She opened her eyes again as I stopped speaking.
"What is wrong, traveler? Do you no longer want your memories returned to you...?"
"No... I mean, yes... what have you done to me?"
She seemed perplexed. "Whatever do you mean?" Despite her innocent demeanor, I was certain that something unnatural had occurred. She had somehow siphoned off some part of my desire - stolen it away for some ghastly collection of wants, or perhaps to feed upon. Had I finished speaking of my desire, I was certain it would have been lost forever.
"Come, now; is there something else you want, then? Tell me of it..."
"I'd... best not. Farewell, Unfulfilled-Desire."
If Able Ponder-Thought was right, the Fraternity of Order was the best place to head to for help on translating this journal.
The closest one I could find lived just a few blocks down from the Civic Festhall. The crest of the Faction was emblazoned on his door, and every citizen I asked pointed to this house as that of the most prominent Guvner in the neighborhood.
It was more a library than a home. I walked down the thin alley of bookshelves, which smelled dry and musty and sharp with age, like an old wine. Past the aisle was the advocate's office proper, with benches lined for petitioners for his aid. You'd think that a member of a faction composed entirely of librarians and lawyers would be old and crotchety. I know I did, and I wasn't disappointed.
He was dressed in soft blue robes covered with intricate designs, wrinkled and worn despite their opulence. He looked older than his years, somewhere between middle-age and early sixties as far as I could tell. The worry lines made an exact determination difficult. Everything about him seemed to sag, and he seemed to lean on his cane not because he was weak, but because he felt he needed to.
As I approached, the man turned slowly towards me; as he did, a cold chill ran up my spine. The terrible sense that I knew this man, or did at one time, wormed its way in the back of my mind.
The man squinted, as if trying to place me. "Yes? Is there something that I can help you with?"
"Are you a Guvner? I've been asking around."
He nodded, studying me with a frown. "I am Iannis. Were you looking for me?"
"I don't know... what is this place?"
"I am an advocate. These are my offices." Iannis' voice took on an irritated edge. "Do you seek counsel? If not, perhaps you had best test your curiosity elsewhere."
"An advocate? What's that?"
Morte broke in with a whisper, floating up beside me. "He's saying he's a lawyer. A counselor. One of those berks who rattle their bone-boxes at the courts."
Iannis' frown deepened. "An advocate provides counsel, helps others navigate the labyrinths of Sigil's legal system, arranges legacies for citizens to insure that their property is divided as they choose upon death, defend those in Sigil's courts who have been wrongly accused..." He paused. "Did you need help in any of these areas?"
"They are contracts that are deliverable at the death of the client. They provide specifics on how a person's possessions are to be divided upon the event of their demise. I have also heard them called wills."
"Are they anything like Dustman contracts?"
"Oh my, no! The Dustman contracts, while they are deliverable at the time of the client's death, bequeath the client's body to the Dustmen; not a pleasant business at all, but some who are poor of means find the Dustman contract to be a means of support... "
I dropped the subject, "Have we met before?"
Iannis leaned in with a heavy squint, frowning in thought. The wrinkles on his face became more pronounced as he did so. Age had placed a heavy toll on him. "No... yet you seem familiar..."
He continued to study my features, then shook his head. "I will concede that there is something familiar about you, sir, and I apologize for any insult my failing memory may be giving you at this moment... I have been preoccupied for some time now. Have we met before?"
"I think so. I can't really remember myself."
"Hmmm. Frustrating for us both, it would seem."
"Excuse me for asking, but are you all right?"
Iannis sighed. "I do not wish to burden you any further... as I mentioned to you before, I lost my daughter not long ago. There was also the fire... but that is another matter."
I nodded. That chill grew sharp and sent needles along my back, but I asked anyway. "Tell me more about your daughter."
Instantly, Iannis seemed to collapse into himself. "Yes..." His businesslike facade drained from his face, to be replaced with cold despair. "My daughter, Deionarra, passed away some time ago..."
I stood, dumb and still as a cold chill lanced into my bones. My lips parted in shock, my eyes widened. Deionarra. I could almost hear the tender whispers and half-slurred murmurs of passion, feel the shy blushes and heavy caresses. There was a cold emptiness from the echo of memory, barren of love and bound with ruthless deception.
Iannis may have said something, but I found it hard to listen.
"Tell," I swallowed, doing my best to pull my mind together, "Tell me about her. What was she like?"
"Deionarra? She was... young. She had recently joined the Society of Sensation, the Sensates... not an unpleasant faction, but she had also met someone there... she followed him on a journey and there, she died. Her bod..." He looked pained. "I was not even able to recover her body..."
"You say she was a Sensate?"
"Yes... " He became slightly more animated, as if warming himself on a precious memory. "She had joined them because of her gift... and the fact there was so much about the multiverse that she wanted to experience. The Sensates lend themselves readily to the sharing of experience and sensation."
"Oh, yes..." Iannis nodded. "My daughter had the blood of an oracle running in her veins, but it was a unreliable talent. At times, she could predict events before they took place... she had 'Sight;' she could see through time itself, sift through the threads of fate..."
"Do you know anything about this man she journeyed with?" I bit my tongue, both afraid and eager to know if he remembered.
"Little. I barely even knew of his existence until she had departed. By then, it was too late to have known him."
"Do you know where she went on this journey?"
"She never said. I am not certain she was capable of saying where they had gone. It must have been a... terrible place."
"How did she die?"
"I do not know... her body was never recovered." Iannis' face turned blood-red and his hands clenched into fists. "And that is perhaps the most maddening part of this misery... I will never know what possessed her to run off like that, what happened to her, nor where her body lies now!"
"Forgive me for asking, but how do you know she's dead if you never saw the body?"
"It is most curious... I went to the Dustmen to see if they had found her body, and they directed me to one of their faction outside the Dustman monument... a Dustman named 'Death-of-Names,' I believe. He is said to be an oracle of sorts, concerning those who have died. He told me my daughter had died."
I nodded, "I saw a woman named Deionarra interred in the Mortuary memorial hall."
"Yes, I arranged for a bier to be placed in the memorial hall. There is no body there, of course, but I hoped the bier would serve as a marker by which she may find her way home."
I couldn't bear to tell him of the state she was in now, and shifted the conversation to other matters, "I see. Tell me about this fire."
"There is nothing much to say about the matter... it was a strange, localized fire. I cannot imagine what would have been precious in the documents that were burned, but someone must have wanted them destroyed."
"Any luck in locating the person responsible?"
"No, neither the Harmonium nor the Mercykillers have had any fortune in locating the person responsible."
"Can you tell me what was burned?"
"A number of old legacies were burned, and some mementos and other keepsakes of value only to me."
"Actually, I have come to collect the legacy of a young woman..."
"Indeed? Very well... do you remember the legacy in question?"
I bit my lip, suddenly hesitant. The legacy number Deionarra spoke of in her sensory stone was fresh in my mind. As much as I tried to forget the details, the entire memory had been carved across my memory, leaving bleeding runnels and gaping wounds. "The young woman's legacy is '687-KS.'"
"That..." His eyes widened as I named the legacy. "My daughter's legacy... ?!" He looked shocked. "How do you know my daughter?!"
"I don't know. I'm hoping the legacy can answer that."
"Why would..." Iannis seemed at a loss for words. "Who are you, sir, that my daughter would have left a legacy for you?"
"It is possible that I knew her once... and have forgotten her."
Iannis studied my features more intently. "You do seem familiar, somehow..."
"Perhaps if you got the legacy, it might answer some questions for us both."
"Of course, of course... hold a moment, and I shall return presently."
"Very well. I will wait."
He shuffled off, cane clacking with each step. He was quick about digging it up. How many times had he stared at the locked legacy, aching to know what was inside but legally bound to protect it for whoever would come to claim its contents?
"All the articles are accounted for..." Iannis held three scrolls in his hands. He stared at the items, almost hypnotized. "Here you are. If I may... may I read them, sir?"
"Let me read them first, then I shall decide."
"Of course..." Iannis seemed broken. "But please, I beg you, I have very little left to remember my daughter by..."
"I shall not forget. I will return after I have read them," I promised. As much as I wanted to ease this poor man's troubles, I needed to take care and protect others from my past. I unrolled the scroll.
If you are reading this, then the tragedy I have Seen has come to pass. I have died, and you have remained to suffer the loss.
Know this, my Love... I know why you were forced to shield your feelings from me. You sought to protect me from the terrible burden you carry with you. The distance you kept between us was your way of protecting me, and the brief moments when we were alone and you let your feelings be known, that was when I knew you cared for me. Carry no regrets with you, carry no guilt, for I came with you on your haunted journey of my own accord, and no matter how death came for me, I know that you did everything in your power to save me.
Our lives are intertwined my Love, and death shall not be a wall between us.
For my Sight has seen what is to come, only in staccato segments, but it is enough for me to know that we will be separated for a time, but we shall be reconciled again. Thus, do not see my death as a farewell, but only as an interval before we meet again. Carry my ring with you, and these other pieces of me, and think of me. Keep me in your mind and heart, and that will be the beacon that brings us together.
I slid the ring onto my finger, cold to the touch yet strangely comforting. The pale azure-white gem pulsed with a soft light.
She looks up to me with the shy blush of a maiden, on this day that she had been the bud of her fantasies. Many times I had apologized, promising I'd make it up to her eventually, and each time she held my callused hands in hers... soft and pale as milk.
"All I need is you, my love," she would say, and deep in her heart she would mean it. There was no need for flowers or lace, pretty gowns or grooms. The touch of our hands and the vows on our lips would be enough. She had always set aside her dreams for me.
I counted on it.
Only a few scattered Sensates sit in attendance, and those few only because they had heard secondhand. There had been no time to send out invitations. The lecture hall had been the only spare room I was able to find for the ceremony, and even by a non-Sensate's standards the surroundings were austere. She'd been eating out of my hand for weeks now. There was no need for anything too fancy.
I blinked off the vestige of the memory to see Iannis standing nervously, both hands tight on the handle of his staff.
"Here's Deionarra's legacy, as I promised."
Iannis took the scroll and studied it. There was a long silence, then he slowly looked up at me. "You... meant very much to my daughter. She was willing to give up her life for you."
"I believe that is the case."
Iannis handed the scroll back to me. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate your kindness."
"It is the least I can do," I paused, "Iannis... the man your daughter left with... I believe the man was me. But I have forgotten much."
"You?!" Iannis looked me up and down. "You are the one... and you say you have forgotten?!" Iannis drew himself up; he looked as if he were squaring himself for a battle. "Is that what she died for... for the love of you! And you have forgotten... but the incident was not so long ago. How can this be?"
"I have a strange condition... I lose myself... for a time. Anything you can tell me about myself or your daughter would be invaluable."
"Countless liars have I known in my tenure in this city." Iannis studied me intently. "You do not strike me as one of them... at least on this matter." He sighed. "If you truly do not remember, then whatever befell you and my daughter on your journey must have left deep scars."
"I am inclined to agree."
"Then I ask your word on this: If your memory returns, and you discover what has happened to my daughter, return to me so that my mind may at last be at rest on this matter."
"I will do that," I vowed.
"Very well, then. Now leave. I wish to be alone with my thoughts."
There were only so many revelations the old man could bear in one day, but I knew that if I left now I may not have been able to bring myself to come back. "Before I go Iannis, there is a sensory stone in the sensorium that contains a fragment of your daughter's experiences."
Even as the words left my tongue they sounded sleazy, inviting Iannis to pry in on his daughter's most intimate of memories. But by how his eyes blazed with hope, I knew it was the right decision.
"There is? But in which one...? You must tell me!"
"It is in one of the Private Sensoriums... if you are not a Sensate, you could not gain access."
He thought for a moment. "I must find a way... perhaps they would make an exception for her father..."
"If you wanted, I could speak to someone. I'm certain they would make an exception in your case."
Iannis looked relieved. "If you could, I would be most grateful."
"I will see what I can do. Farewell."
As always, Splinter dominated the atrium of the Civic Festhall, stoic yet attentive. His eyes slid over to me once more.
"Greetings, traveler. How may We assist?"
"Greetings, Splinter. I've come to petition on behalf of a man, Iannis, whom I was hoping you would grant temporary access to the private sensorium..."
"And for what reason would We allow such a thing?" There was neither dismissal or approval in his voice, just the firmness of resolution.
"Because one of the stones there contains a fragment of his daughter's experiences. She died far from home not having seen him in a long while, and he mourns her loss deeply."
Splinter nodded, mulled it over for a moment, then nodded again. "Yes, We shall allow this Iannis to enter the private Sensorium -- well-escorted, of course. You may tell him he has permission."
Iannis turned as I entered and his eyes lit up hopefully. "Ah! At last! Were you able to convince them to grant me access to their sensorium?"
"Yes. They agreed to give you access to your daughter's sensory stone."
"You... I... thank you, good sir, thank you! I am in your debt!"
"It was no trouble, Iannis. Please, go see the experiences of your daughter. I think they might ease your troubles."