Part 149: InterludeInterlude:
The gates of paradise sing as they clink shut. The bells and golden lights of gilded towers resonate their last, and the warmth of Ileron fades as he buttons his shirt. The portal has closed, the swirling visions of the Nameless One and his entourage are gone. There is only the silence, the chill, and the coy smile of Ileron of Sen-Tau as he steps down from the podium.
"That is all I have to say."
A bleak silence fills the air as Ileron joins the rest of the crowd. Aside from Oudilin who sits in his chair at the side of the stage, the other storytellers mingle in the front row: a disparate new clique, no few of its members glancing at another now and again like strange cats still unsure of one another. Ileron gives the rest a disdainful smirk, and stands on his own.
Moments tick by, one after another. Small motions ripple through the crowd, and each time one moves a hundred eyes flick over to stare, seeking the next storyteller. Yet each time it is simply a barmaid taking mugs, or a sod stepping out to use the latrine. It couldn't be much more now, but patience is wearing thin.
A murmur begins to build, and Oudilin licks his lips. "Where is it?" is the question on everyone's lips. "Where's the next piking journal?"
Finally a figure stands, "It is gone."
His voice is hoary and dry with age, and for a moment it is difficult to identify the one who spoke. But he wades forward, hands folded before him as if in prayer. His cloak is the shimmering blue-black of a beetle's shell, its folds long and flowing. Nails laquered blue-green press tip-to-tip, and two feathered fronds sprout from his odd headpiece. The voice belongs to an elderly man two steps from the grave, but the face that spoke those words is smooth and ageless. Those eyes, green as polished emeralds, bear the self-possession and weight of many years.
Oudilin tenses as if struck, and he sounds hoarse as he speaks, "Gone?"
The figure nods, spreading his arms wide. His long sleeves billow out, and the smell of dry incense fills the tavern. The hundred questions and shouts of outrage threaten to fill the air in angry cacophony, yet the silence of a temple, or perhaps the quiet of a mausoleum, keeps the peace.
"Peace, young deva, and allow me to explain. The final journal of The Nameless One is indeed destroyed, but despite this the tale will be told.
"I am Keeper-of-Forgotten-Thoughts, and I hail from a barren space in the Astral where dreams go to die. Long have I traversed the Silver Sea, collecting ancient knowledge long forgotten: thoughts beautiful and vile, grotesque and sublime, legendary and mundane. These I keep, locked away in bottles and vials for all eternity in my shadowed halls.
"It is my duty to preserve and protect, but never to partake, for a forgotten memory remembered vanishes from my collection, and is lost forever in the minds of men."
"But why not share your collection?" Epetrius asks, shocked, "All that knowledge at your fingertips... what use is it moldering in some library?"
Keeper-of-Forgotten-Thoughts shakes his head, "The minds of men are imperfect. A memory in a mind is battered with time. With age the thought warps and rots like old wood: weathered and bent from without, chewed and moldering from within. Oh many have tried to preserve such things... but the written word decays, errors are introduced when what remains is transcribed or translated. Even your sensory stones can only preserve the essence of the memory, never the soul.
"No, it is better for such things to remain lost. Once a memory is forgotten, it cannot be assailed by the edges of time. Only then is it forever pristine."
"But you said you'd share the last of the telling," Oudilin murmurs.
The Keeper nods, "In the past months I have watched, as little by little parts of my collection fled from me with each journal of The Nameless One collected and their knowledge revived. Scraps of thought that were once gone now vanished. True my collection of the tale had always been incomplete, for there are a few select scholars that know alternate details of The Nameless One's journey, perhaps passed down secondhand or third, or through a long string of lips and quills. Yet much of the tale once lay in relative opacity, those details housed safely in my cupboards."
He pulls a vial from his robes, a long glass phylactery spiraled with a metal serpent whose jaws clutch the lid. White-green smoke swirls throughout it, and in the pale light cast by the glow you think you can see movement. Yes... smoky shapes that writhe in the air.
"These final memories of the journal are all that remain. It was once a thing of desperate making, that final journal... a diary scribed from shadowstuff and lamentations, written in tears and bound with sorrow. A thing terrible and beautiful, and the only sage who read it had been so struck by its horrors that he destroyed the thing. This before gouging out his eyes and casting himself into the sea, where the knowledge drowned and made its journey into my hands."
The Keeper sighs, "It seems that if my collection is to be forever incomplete, it is better for such a thing to die a slow death, than remain yearning after its brethren forever."
Slim fingers circle the cap, and long nails click down about the metal. There is a twist, a pop, and the vial is opened.
"Have it and lament, o mortals... the final memory of the journal of the Nameless One."