Part 114: The Eye of the Nameless One: Part 15The Eye of the Nameless One: Part 15
"You again." Iannis' eyes were haunted. In the weeks or so since I had last seen him he seemed to have aged several years. His slump was more pronounced, his skin thinner and more pale. Many sleepless nights strung together weighed down his eyes. "What is it you want this time?"
He must've seen Deionarra's sensory stone. I was suddenly hesitant to speak to him in this state, but reminding myself that he had only seen Deionarra's memories rather than my own I approached, "I'm here to pick up a legacy."
"Indeed?" he sounded only mildly interested, "Very well... do you remember the legacy in question?"
"The legacy is number '51-AA,' I believe," I said, reciting the number from the dodecahedron. It was indelibly carved across my memory, given how many times I had pored over that journal in a feeble attempt to stave off the madness of boredom. I have no need to read it again, unless I wanted to reminisce over the doodles and dirty sketches I made with my own blood.
He looked at me in surprise as I named the legacy. "That is extremely old... are you certain... I hope that wasn't one of the ones that were burned... "
"How old is it?"
"Well..." Iannis pondered it for a moment. "Several decades at least."
"Can you check and see if the legacy still exists?"
"Oh, yes, of course... It will take a moment."
"Very well, I will wait."
Iannis returned after a while, nodding. "Yes, fortunately, it was unharmed by the fire. All the articles are safe."
"Could I collect on it? I am the beneficiary."
"Of course.. sign here and here... on the dotted line..."
"There? And there? All right..." I scribbled a little X on each line in lieu of a proper name. Iannis frowned, but it seemed to suffice for him.
"There we are; that should be the last of the paper work. Here are all the items that were in the Vault... one looks like a Foundry receipt, though quite an old one, to be sure. Did the deceased have something commissioned at the Foundry?"
"I don't really know. Perhaps... I'm beginning to think just about anything is possible."
The package he handed over included what looked to be a fossilized piece of bread and a glass eye. Whoa. This was an ancient artifact I had read of in the Godsman libraries... the Stone Gullet of L'phahl the Gross.
I left this to myself for one reason. Might as well make the most of it.
Wow. Utterly revolting.
I really wish I had a glass of water to wash this down. Scraping the last bits of the Gullet off my tongue and swallowing them (thus making no waste of any magic whatsoever) I led us down to the Foundry.
Grace could do nothing for the cramping in my guts. It was either the magic kicking into gear or a mighty case of (ironic) indigestion from eating that on top of a heavy meal. Whatever it was, I was going to be paying the price the whole walk down to the Lower Ward.
I'll just have to rip out my eye and replace it with this new doodad later.
I began to wonder if there were any clerks that weren't old, crotchety men. Nadilin was hunched over his desk, flipping through an old book, "Oh good day to you. Need any help, sir?"
"I'm here to pick up an item."
"Do y'have a receipt? You need a receipt or I can't give you anything."
"Yes, I do," I pulled it out of my pack. The paper was thick, but so old and dry it seemed like it might've cracked like ancient leather if I wasn't more careful.
Nadilin took the receipt from me and scrutinized it carefully. "This thing's over a hundred years old! How'd you come by it?"
"I left it for myself, but I got busy."
"That's a good one, lad. I'll just bet ye were busy!" He laughed to himself, going to the back room to sift through the inventory. "Ah here it is! You're lucky we didn't throw it away - we do, sometimes, or sell it off, when we can prove the customer ain't comin' back for his stuff. Well, here you go. Treat it well, y'hear?"
Nordom examined it curiously, and a lens clicked over one of his eyes.
"Know what it is, Nordom?"
"Negatory," he responded, "Item appears to possess anomalous spatial features encapsulated within itself. Analysis: effect similar to modron cube. Correlation of inverted spatial curvature patterns: 42.0045%."
"So it's some sort of portal, you think?"
"Think- think" he clicked, confused "I think, therefore I am... I think."
Sometimes when you awaken (especially if you're a child, I think) the world of dreams still clings to you, like the cloth of an ill-fitting shirt dragging across your skin. You look up, and see something that fills you with dread. A spiral pattern on the side of a wooden cupboard, the spots of paint that seem to connect themselves into the visage of a mask, or a dark corner untouched by dawn's light. In the back of your mind you know it's just an inert something, but until the last fingers of sleep peel away from your mind you lie, frozen in fear that it's watching you.
That's what I was feeling now.
In the gilded halls of the Sensoriums there was one Stone that I had intentionally avoided. I don't know why I was afraid of it. Its sickly green crystal seemed to pulse like a pus-filled wound. Where the silver bands that bound other sensory stones were delicate, almost chaste in constraining the memories that lay within, the coils of metal around this one were more like a cage trapping the horrors that lay within.
The inscription beneath it read, "The Messenger." The innocuous name made it all the more terrifying, somehow.
As I touched the stone, its green exterior sharpened, clashing, its brightness becoming more than I could bear, so much so that I closed my eyes to shut it out...
The skin along my arms are numb, as if all sensation had bled from them. Tired... so tired. I try and blink, yet the darkness remains; my eyelids feel soft and sluggish, unresponsive. The dirt floor is hard beneath me, and around is the smell of coppery blood and... herbs? Why am I here? I came here to - what? My memory fails me, but a growing panic begins to well up within my chest...
I try to get my bearings with a futile attempt to move my limbs. Why can't I move?
"Ah... awake now, are you? A-questioning all-a-done?" The voice is an old woman's, thick and scratchy, as if it is trying to force its way past a thick layer of dust. Try as I might, I cannot open my eyes and see the woman, but a shiver of fear crawls up my spine. Something is wrong, terribly wrong. I try to respond, but all I can manage is a ragged croak. I can't feel my tongue... my mouth seems blank and hollow. The smell of blood is thick in my nostrils, but why can't I taste it? And my eyes? What's wrong with my eyes?
"Now, a-see me you did, a-spoke you did and poorly, so the price have you paid, hmnnn?" The crone sounds amused, then her tone drops sharply. "No more of your questions; now you will LISTEN, and you will a-member my words, for in minding me, you shall live." She hisses. "Nod if you hear me, or ANOTHER bit shall I a-take."
"A-member me, traveler. A-member me to a stone, one of the pretty glimmers in your Festive hall - use it like a cup, pour what you feel into it, and know this: A-member me to a man who wears a skin of scars n' tattoos, who seeks memories but has miss-placed them; if smart he is, he will know the knowing of ME. Tell him to find me - or if I am not to be found, tell him to come to the glimmer-stone, and we shall speak, my precious man and I." The woman pauses, then hisses again. "NOD if you a-hear me, ragged thing!"
I nod again.
"Ah... pretty, polite to a-listen so long... when he comes to the glimmer-stone, tell the man to speak my name, and your pain shall not have been in vain..." The crone's voice trails off, as if distracted. I try to speak again, but there is only a sick gurgling noise, and flecks of fluid spatter against my lips, trickling down my chin. Instinctively I try to lick them away, but again my tongue doesn't seem to work. What happened? Who is this person? Why am I... the world is growing softer, the sensations bleeding away...
"Ravel! Ravel, it is I!"
Recognition that this was only a sensation, a memory stored within a stone jolted me awake quick enough that I was able to cry out her name. The cry sounded hollow, as if drowned out by the darkness I was slipping into...
There is silence.
"Ahhh... my precious man." There is the slow shuffling of feet, and I feel a sharp pinprick in my left eye; I gasp, and suddenly, barely, I can SEE - with my one and only eye. I lie in a gray hut, upon a dirty floor, where blood, my bright-red blood has seeped into the surrounding gray dust. I curl forward, looking down. The film over my vision clears away a bit with each blink, and I look down. My arms are gone, my legs have been hacked off at the knees. Yet... I feel numbed, and there is no pain... only fear. There is someone above, someone looking down on me...
I look up through my bloody, blurred vision, to see a horrid bluish gray face, grinning with yellowed tusks. "Ravel is pleased - a-wondering I was if this messenger would make it, for weak he was when his bits were placed on my plate..." She holds up a talon in front of me, and impaled on the tip of it is an eyeball - the right one. "Yet to the Festive hall he returned it a-seems, and our time two-together has he shared. And now you have come... success!"
"Ravel... how am I talking to you, if this is someone else's experience?"
"Of stones and experiences and telling will Ravel do, but not the telling of how she speaks to you now." She speaks soothingly. "Many are the branchings and twistings of Ravel, and many are her secrets. I need you, and I need you knowing of this."
"Ravel... I have many questions for you."
The crone shakes her head, my blurred vision seeing three images at once; her grayish hair is like brambles, drifting down her shoulders. "No, only time for answers does Ravel have, and she has no time to a-waste with your guess-questions. Know this, and in the knowing grow strong: you must FIND me, my precious man."
"But how? I do not know --"
"Tchhh! I am beyond knowing, in a Lady's place. Now shhh-and-a-listen to Ravel, for there is much you must do - to find me, a-three things must you do: find the door, know the key, then unlock the key."
"The door is not a finished thing... at least, when I last gazed upon it, hmnnn? But in the passing of time, perhaps now well-wrought it is. Go to the place of forges and steel; perhaps there you will find the door that takes one to me..."
The Foundry... the portal and the key... between his tantrums and his candy-chomping I remembered what Quell had told me. "Ravel, I have retrieved the portal, and I know that the key is a piece of you, but I don't know how to find it -- "
"The key is OF me, is it not... knot? Eh..." The crone hisses, as if trying to gather her thoughts, and my vision blurs again. "No picture is it, no tale, no stone, but the key is something of ME, a labor of my own flesh and blood. Seek it! Lives it does..."
"What do you mean when you say 'unlock the key?'"
"A-knowing the key is NOT enough, so Ravel thinks. Knowing it and unlocking it, two tasks that must be joined... for at times, a thing knows not its nature... but you are no stranger to that..." Ravel cackles, a long, hideous cry that fills my ears with pain...
"Farewell, Ravel..." I murmur. I feel sick trapped in this meat puppet. Deep down my soul screams to feel again, to breathe and shift and move and taste.
"Return - I will give what help I can..." Ravel gives a final smile, a horrible, yellow fanged grin; a blackish tongue darts from her lips and lingers at the edge, teasing. "But in the end, only the one question remains..."
"What do you mean, Ravel?"
"Only one question, this I ask..." Ravel's eyes blaze like fires, the red light turning her face blood-red. "What can change the nature of a man?"
At the question, a tremor passes through, like thunder, and I feel myself burn...
My vision cleared, until I was standing once again before the hideously green stone... it looked different than before, more... horrid, somehow.
Immediately I moved my limbs, flicked my tongue over my teeth and reveled in the fact that I was whole. I've been dismembered so many times before that it should've seemed like a second job, but the stark terror of being in Ravel's clutches so still sent a shiver of dread through me.
"It was one of those stones again, wasn't it, chief?"
I nodded, "I know what to do now. I know how to find Ravel Puzzlewell."