Part 116: The Eye of the Nameless One: Part 17The Eye of the Nameless One: Part 17
Dolora was busy with another client by the time I returned. To my grave misfortune, it was a Guvner, and one prone to long-winded and intricate debates on the histories of empires long forgotten by everyone else. Apparently Dolora, with a sense of logic and education that exceeds most, was one of his favorites. They'd be talking late into the night.
Thankfully every night Grace arranges for savory hors'dourves to be delivered from the Civic Festhall for the benefit of her late-night guests, so we won't be going hungry while we wait.
"I must simply disagree, my dear Dolora. The root cause for the shattering of the Compact of the Rose lies in the Fourth Dynasty, and builds up progressively through the three thousand years that followed. But to start from the beginning..."
Frustration turns the spicy half-shell mollusks into ash my mouth. I wander the brothel, making small talk and trying to tease out what I could about the silent prostitute.
"You mean Ecco? She's a dear. Quiet." Vivian frowned. "That may be part of the charm. There is all manner of speculation as to why she is silent, but I think t'was that her heart was most horribly broken."
"Oh, Ecco! Yes, she's a mysterious one, isn't she?! Do you know that she never speaks? Truly!" Nenny leaned in and lowered her voice. "I think she was emotionally wounded, so badly that she may never speak again!"
"Oh, 'tis Ecco thou speak of," Juliet sighed, "They say she is sworn never to speak again, for one reason or another. I cannot imagine why anyone would do such a thing."
"Yes... 'Ecco.' I knew another Ecco, once, though her name was written differently. I know nothing of this girl, though. Ask Dolora of her. She made friends of an old lover of Ecco's, I have heard," Marissa hissed from behind her veil.
"Yes, that's Ecco. She's very sweet, but so quiet. I understand that she said something, once, which caused some great tragedy... and because of that, she'll never speak again." Kesai shrugged, smiling. "An interesting enough story, but I don't know if it's true. Try asking Dolora... I've seen her talking to an ex-lover of Ecco, back from a time when Ecco was speaking."
It was late and I was exhausted by the time the paunchy little man finally left. Dolora looked crisp and cool as usual, refined and distant.
Her eyes flashed the moment I approached. "Did you find him? Has he agreed to return the keys to my heart?"
"Yes... I have the keys to your heart. Here they are."
"At last..." As she took the keys from my grasp, her hand brushed against mine - her skin is dry, but icy to the touch, like cold metal. "These will be of great use to me. I thank you."
I looked at her curiously, "I was hoping to learn more about your nature."
Dolora blinked. "Merriman never told me much regarding my construction. I know little of the inner workings of my body, much as you likely know little of yours. Outwardly, though, I am a human woman in all respects... save for the texture and temperature of my flesh. Does that satisfy your curiosity?"
"What about your mind, your emotions?"
"Its functions are as much a mystery to me as any human's. When I first came to this place, I did not understand emotions, nor have any of my own. I have... feelings... now, though I am only beginning to understand them."
"What do the keys do, exactly?"
"I can only assume that Merriman made the keys so that there would be no risk of me drawing away from him before he had tired of his experiment. Now that they are in my possession, I am free to develop and possess my own emotions."
I nodded, satisfied, "What can you tell me about the silent prostitute?"
"Yes. Her name is Ecco. Her voice - and in fact her every means of communication - was stolen and destroyed. Ecco's words once wooed away the paramour of the godling Paramisha. Paramisha, in a jealous rage, tore away Ecco's voice, sealed it within a crystal vial, and hurled it into a megogalamdraga's maw. Ecco's voice is forever lost to her; only another, new voice could return to her the ability to communicate once more. I know this because I spoke to Paramisha's parmour myself, once."
As much as I would've liked to continue the conversation, the night had grown late and I had to leave. The girls were already cleaning off their makeup and loosening dresses. I bid a hasty farewell and wished Dolora the best of luck, promising I'd return the next day.
Ecco curtsied at my approach, her carefully painted lips forming the slightest of smiles. She was as pretty as any of the girls here, with coppery skin and a shapely body wrapped in translucent white cloth. It left just enough to the imagination.
"Is your name 'Ecco?'"
She nodded, smiling pleasantly.
"May I ask why you can't communicate?"
She sighed softly and nodded. I had the impression that many had asked, but she was glad to try to answer. I can imagine that most of her conversations are tragically unidirectional.
"Are you silent because of a broken heart?"
She smiled pleasantly, then shook her head.
"Do you know the word that will undo the multiverse if it's spoken?"
Her eyes widened in surprise... then she gave a beaming smile, rolling her eyes and shaking her head.
That one was bizarre enough to be true in Sigil. I had to admit, it was rather disappointing that it wasn't. "Are you emotionally wounded? Is that why you can't speak?"
She looked at me strangely and shook her head slowly...
"Did your voice cause someone's death or some other tragedy?"
She paused at this, opened her mouth, then frowned. After a moment, she shook her head.
"Have you sworn never to speak for one reason or another?"
She scowled and shook her head.
Hmm. That would definitely be unbecoming of a Sensate. "Was your voice stolen?"
She nodded vigorously, clasping her hands together and smiling at me.
"Do you know of any way to get your voice back?"
She shook her head, her face wrought with frustration, then looked at me pleadingly, as if expecting an answer.
"I swear I'll look for a way to return your voice," I vowed.
Ecco nodded to me slowly, smiling at me with eyes full of gratitude.
Well. There was only one place I could think of to start looking.
"Ah!" Vrischika's lips peeled back to reveal a predatory smile, "If it isn't my favorite man!" She glanced at Fall-From-Grace, "And my least favorite woman."
"We're looking for something that can restore speech to someone who's had her voice stolen."
Her smile grew wider, "Whatever you wish, Vrischika can provide," she pointed at what appeared to be a tongue floating in a jar of brine, one of the exotic items behind the glass counter. It was pink and rubbery, pale from pickling and age. "This is a fiend's tongue... a cornugon's, I think, but who really knows? It's said that, placed into the mouth of any living thing, it will give the ability of speech, even if there was none before. I'm selling this oddity for only sixty-six coppers, should you want it."
Ecco looked at me hopefully as I approached her, biting her lower lip.
"I've gotten this Fiend's Tongue for you..."
She raised her eyebrow and gave me a skeptical look.
"I'm told that, should you place it in your mouth, you'll regain the ability to communicate."
She nodded and took the bottle from me. She gingerly picked out the severed tongue from the briny solution and, after staring at it for a moment in disgust, placed it into her mouth... suddenly, her eyes widened, and a burst of reddish light bloomed from between her lips.
"Are you all right?"
Ecco opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it once more... and spoke! "I... I can speak again! Oh, joy! I than-DAMN THEE TO THE DARKEST OF PITS, THOU STENCH-RIDDEN WORM! KNEEL BEFORE ME IN SUPPLICATION, INSECT!"
"Yikes!" Morte hid behind me.
I blinked, "Eh?"
Ecco yelped and covered her mouth with both hands... her eyes were wide with panic.
"It must be... the Fiend's Tongue..."
She slowly took her hands away from her mouth, nodding. "It seems I must DEVOUR THY FRAIL SHELL AND CONSIGN THY SOUL TO THE ABYSS FOR ALL ETERNITY! THOU SHALT SERVE IN MY BATTLE-THRALL 'TIL THE PLANES GRIND TO A HALT! THOU ART MINE, MINE, MI-" Ecco shut her mouth again, and began to softly, quietly weep.
"Wait... I think I might be able to find a way to help you at Vrischika's curiosity shop... she has to have some way to cure you."
Ecco nodded and produced a slip of paper from her clothes... a promissory note in the amount of one thousand commons, which the possessor could collect upon from the Brothel. She gave me a questioning glance.
"Yes... this will be more than enough. I'll be back when I have the solution, Ecco."
"Back again? And so soon, kitling!" Vrischika grinned. Her fingers must've been itching for gold already, "What do you need?"
"The, uh... Fiend's Tongue didn't exactly work as advertised. I need some way to soothe it."
Vrischika nodded, and pointed to a small glass phial labeled as 'Deva's Tears.' "These were collected from a deva who was captured during a Blood War skirmish. The fiends tormented the imprisoned angel for eons before he at last escaped - this small bottle holds the twelve tears he shed in that time. It is said their touch will soothe the most savage anger... even that of a fiend's tongue." Vrischika smiled cruelly. "Their price is but nine hundred and ninety-nine copper commons."
I examined the tag, then looked at the others. Where the other paper tags were beginning to fade yellow with age, this one was fresh and new. I wouldn't be surprised if the ink was still wet.
"I remember seeing this. It was only a hundred commons before I went to Ecco with the Fiend's Tongue."
"Supply and demand, kitling. I have the supply, you have the demand. This is a much fairer trade."
"Count yourself fortunate," Fall-From-Grace murmured in my ear, "that she is not a baatezu."
Couldn't disagree with that, "I have this thousand-common promissory note from the Brothel..."
Vrischika frowned slightly, examining the note. "Well... I suppose I can have Standish fetch it, later. Very well; here you are." She handed me the item. "Please, enjoy your newest acquisition."
Ecco nodded as I approached her, a hopeful look in her eyes.
"I've brought you these Deva's Tears... they should soothe the tongue's cursing."
She nodded, smiling, and took the vial from me. Ecco placed a few of the sparkling blue drops onto her tongue: "I... I believe the Tears are working. Yes... they are! I can speak in my own voice once more - oh, how I thank you!" Ecco squeezed my hand and bowed her head gratefully, her eyes welling with tears of joy. She really had a sweet voice, like the chiming of bells.
"Do you know anything about Ravel Puzzlewell? I've heard you have reason to believe that she still lives."
Ecco nodded, and lowered her voice: "In fact, I do... not only does she exist, she has children!"
I nodded. Any children might be sufficient to act as a 'piece' of her that might open the portal, "Where would I find them?"
"One of them is here, at times... Kesai-Serris. She is a child of Ravel's, though she is loathe to accept the fact. Who could blame her?" She paused for a moment, thinking. "I have never gotten her to admit it, though I am sure 'tis true."