Part 130: Sensory Stone of the Nameless One: Part 7Sensory Stone of the Nameless One: Part 7
"It's a prison?"
Annah's tail flicked in annoyance, "'s what I just said, innit?"
"How big is it?"
"Looks like 'twas used as a mine long ago," Annah continued, "All th' tunnels 'ave these rails an' rusted carts. Old tools jus' gatherin' dust now."
"Oh Powers above, not the Curst prison, chief," Morte shook his head, "The city is on the edge of Carceri... once they put 'em in this hole they sure as hell do everything they can to keep them here."
"How many guards, Annah?"
"Enough ta paint yeh red from eyes t' arse ten times o'er, I'd say," she scoffed, "Unless yeh have somethin' new in yer bag o' tricks."
"You know, I might just have that."
Annah explained the layout. The entire complex was just a pair of long tunnels flanked with small alcoves dug out by miners long ago. It was there that the dozens of guards squirreled themselves. A barred-off branch lay off to the far north, but the entrance to the prison proper arced to the west. If we were going to start somewhere, might as well storm the prison.
It was almost insulting how easy it was. Once you claw your way through the black-barbed maze of an ancient night hag, flesh and steel are as much a barrier as a screen of beads.
Just brush 'em aside.
Men fell to spell and blade. Limb flew apart in wet bursts and scraps of armor scattered along the stone floor like fallen leaves. Mentally I screened out the screams, the blood, the waste. Few were innocent in Curst, and I was glad for that. It saved me the trouble of having to sift through the bodies of sinners and count the saints.
One-eyed, white-haired, long scar from temple to cheek. Knife to the throat.
Moldy-mouthed and black-toothed, lips flecked with foam. Decapitation.
Twelve thugs in the armor of city guards. Impaled with blades of ice.
The stragglers scuttled away, terror fueling their flight. Metal boots slipped on icy ground and hands grasped at whatever support stood close by: a frost-coated wall, a crystalline spike stained with blood, impaled corpses still twitching like grim fruit sprouting from those branches of cold glass.
My breath misted out in front of me as I wove laces of unbeing. In battle the world slipped away, purpose the only thing guiding my limbs. When the clangor of fighting died down, the shrill cry of the prison alarm began to sound like a chorus heralding our coming.
The last of them fell, twitching under a blade of karach. He was spitting, growling curses too filthy to name, and Dak'kon silenced him with a quick, merciful twist of the blade.
Welp, entering a prison was always the easy part.
Prison bars blocked the portal, each heavily thorned and gray-white like bone. I gripped the smooth middle of one, gave it a tug. It rattled in my grip, but not by much.
"Any idea how to open this, Annah?"
"T'chah. Stand aside."
Five minutes of probing, twisting, and clicking later, we were in.
For the first time in my life, I knew serenity.
A tender light filled the grimy chamber with the softness of quiet afternoons and warm sunrises. Motes of dust danced along those rays. There, on the bier, was the deva: a being with skin of the purest ivory and hair of blinding white. His wings were charred, the feathers destroyed, yet he still radiated peace and love. He stood as if in meditation, taking no notice of our presence, holding his arms out to either side. Chains held his forearms tightly, attached to the dais on which he stood.
"I've been looking for you, deva."
He raised his head and rested his gaze upon me. His voice was pure and melodic, "What is it you wish of me, mortal? Speak your mind and leave me to my memories of paradise." Immediately his face tightened and changed into a frown.
His gaze turned to Morte. "The stench of Baator lies thick about you, skull."
"You don't smell any better. When was the last time you bathed?"
"A deva... yet those chains do not seem to bind him so much as smother his mind..." Grace breathed.
"The chains do not hold him. Belief chains him," Dak'kon murmured.
He looked back to me with a stern countenance, "You keep foul company, mortal... but ask your questions of me, and leave me to my memories of paradise."
"Who are you?"
"I am Trias the Condemned, Trias the Wounded, Elysium's lost child, a general of the Hosts of the Upper Planes," a shadow passed over his face as he became lost in his own thoughts. "Never again shall I see the Upper Planes, I fear, the ordered beauty of Arcadia, the vistas of Elysium, the Seven Mounts of Mount Celestia... all the ugliness contained in these Lower Planes is effaced there, where it is truly possible to believe in redemption. Too many look only to the Lower Planes for their inspiration and aid, I fear..."
"I have heard rumors of a plague that emerged when they opened this prison. Are you at the heart of this?"
The soft rebuke rang clear in his voice, "It is their own doing. In forging these chains for me to wear, they tempered the links with bitterness and betrayal. Their short-sightedness has been their downfall; had they heeded my warnings, this would not have happened." A great sadness filled his eyes. "My heart pities them."
"How did you get here?
"Betrayed, in the town known for betrayals. I thought I could spark the light of goodness here, set a few souls free of the traps they created for themselves. Instead, I found myself ensnared, quite against my will, by my former cohorts, bound up in this lightless bubble beneath the earth." He looked to me then, his eyes pale and white, "You are not from these accursed lands, mortal. Why have you come here?"
"Ravel the hag told me to seek you."
"Ravel... Ravel..." the name echoed throughout the chamber, and I shuddered. Dead she might be, but part of me was still afraid that her spirit might answer the call, "Her name strikes sparks in my memory, but... no, it is gone. These chains are like the murky waters of the Styx - the longer they remain, the less I remember. Should I be freed, I could answer your questions to your satisfaction."
Dak'kon was right. Belief chains him.
"What can you tell me of those chains?"
"These chains are of such a make that they bind me without binding. They drown memories, slowing holding them beneath a stagnant river so that my knowledge slips and ebbs. I cannot break them with my strength... only an immortal divine force, an act of justice and mercy may shatter them."
"How can you be freed, then?"
"An act of kindness done to me shall set me free. My sword - my soul - is an agent of such kindness. Fetch the blade for me and strike my chains off. It is kept somewhere in this prison, in a locked and guarded chamber. I know the combination to the entrance." He spoke three arcane syllables that burned into my memory. "Free me, and I should be... in your debt. Perhaps I can aid you in what you seek."
"You know of what I seek?"
Trias smiled, sadly. "No. But you wear the marks of it upon your face and carry it within your heart. Should these chains be lifted from me... then I should be able to divine your purpose more deeply, guide you more truly. Until then..." The deva shrugged. "Until then I cannot even give you the benefit of good advice. These chains smother memory and instinct."