Part 15: Journal of The Nameless One: Part 11Journal of The Nameless One: Part 11
The day was a little hotter than earlier, the light beating down on the both of us. The air wicked away the sweat that trickled down my body; it would've been dipping and pooling in the puckers and scars of my skin otherwise. Perhaps that was why I went about in a mere loincloth.
I was still seeing symbols and rebuses for a little while after I left the dabus, blinking one eye, then the other to clear my vision. For the moment I allowed Morte to lead the way as we meandered about the city. He led us to the shade of a building.
I should've expected this.
The harlot was a tired-looking woman dressed in a tight leather bodice and leggings. The odor of cheap perfume surrounded her like a cloud, and her face was covered with a mask of crude make-up. She smiled as she saw us approach. "Why doncha stay and chat wit' me a bit, love?"
"Morte..." I snarled out the side of my mouth.
The woman looked coyly at me and shifting her weight, placing both hands on her broad hips. "Now ye look ta be a blood who's lost something. Mayhap I can help ye find it, cutter?" She smiled slightly.
Morte piped up eagerly, "What good fortune! We probably lost what we're looking for back at your kip, miss."
"All I'm missing is a journal, madam," I said dryly.
"Eh?" She seemed confused. "What're ye about?"
If I was going to talk to the odd and outcast of the city, I might as well start here. I changed the tone of my voice, gave a smile light enough that it couldn't have been mistaken for that of a lecher, "Actually, I'm not missing anything, though I do need some information."
"I'm not a tout..." She frowned with a pout, then rubbed two fingers together. "Unless ye've got something ta pay fer my time."
She eyed me up and down, smiling, then gave a pleased giggle, "Oh, fer a handsome basher like yerself... "Three coppers'll be enough t'loosen me tongue. For information, mind you." I laughed. She licked her lips, then frowned. "Other questions of a deeper chant'll cost ye more, though."
I nodded, "Sounds fair. Here's three commons." The coins clinked into her palm as I realized the first thing I had ever bought now was from a whore. I almost laughed out loud.
"Aye, then." She slipped the coins into a pouch, "Now..."
Might as well start with the general questions, "What's of interest around here?"
She put her hands on her hips and pouted. "Depends on yer interest, cutter."
I was uncomfortably aware of how light my pouch was, "Well, I could always use some work."
She laughed. "Ye're asking me? What, ye thinkin' o' becoming one o' the Sisterhood are ye?" She nearly buckled over in laughter... the screeching was similar to a drunken harpy's. Eventually, the gales of laughter subsided, and she took a deep breath. "Ye're... ye're a rich man, ye are."
By the powers! I needed something to scrape the vision of myself spreading my legs for someone out of my mind. I caressed the void again, chill, horrifying. I slipped past the rough-cut edge, touching pure oblivion itself. If I probed any deeper it might've devoured my soul. Perhaps it could've destroyed my essence, leaving me a mindless, doomed shell.
Ah, much better.
I focused on something else, and my chat with Lhar came to mind, "What about the factions? What do you know of them?"
She smiled knowingly. "I jest... 'serve'... the factions, love. I don't deal with them."
"Not even the Dustmen?"
"The Dustmen don't behave like Dusties in my arms, love." She scoffed. "Those bashers speak so much 'bout death, yet they don't say much when they's with me, y'see?"
"Well... I am looking for someone named Pharod."
"Pharod?" the sly smile was wiped from her face, "Now that's one o' the greater darks, love. If ye be wantin' t'know about that blood, that'll be thrice the coppers of a normal asking."
Nine coppers clinked into her palm. The pouch really was getting lighter.
The harlot gave my coins a once over, then shrugged and pocketed them. "What ye be wantin' t'know about ol' Pharod?"
"At that price, anything you can tell me about him."
She shrugged. "Chant is he's a Collector boss. Has a whole bunch o' bloods in his shadow."
"And where can I find him?"
She looked off into the distance "Now, no one knows fer dead sure, but if I were ta suggest a place, love, I'd say Ragpicker's Square, a big ol' heap o' rags and trash three blocks due west o' the Mortuary... all the Collectors stake their kip there. Chances are, Pharod's got his kip there, too."
I nodded, "Thanks for the information. Farewell."
Morte circled around to stop me, "Wait, chief, can you spot me a bit 'o coin... it's... eh... been a long time, it has."
I paused for a moment, the roiling questions in my mind froze to a snap. "I'm not even going to ask how you intend to accomplish this."
The woman broke in. "It's twice the cost fer the mimir... or any other degenerate."
I had heard that word before, "Uh... 'mimir?'"
"Mimir's a talking encyclopedia. That's me, chief- hey! 'Degenerate?!'"
The woman grinned, revealing two rows of dirty teeth. They were splotched black and brown, one or two rotted to nubs.
I winced inside. My mind was still a bit in shock and my tongue slipped, "I see. Well, don't sweat it, Morte. From the looks of her, I'm probably saving you from dying twice."
The prostitute snarled, her face twisting in fury, "May a pox shrivel yer innards! Ye have the stink and fashion sense of a goatherd, and ye're twice as ugly!"
Morte stared, hypnotized, as the harlot let loose a stream of obscenities. At the end of the verbal avalanche, Morte was silent for a moment, then turned to me. "Wow, chief. Got a few more taunts for the ol' arsenal." He turned back to the harlot, who was catching her breath. "I'm also in love."
We left, "And you think we need to talk about my standards?"
He chuckled, "Oh come on, chief. The best you've eyeballed here was a shuffling corpse and a rash-ridden hermaphrodite. I'd like to see you do better."
That's when I saw her.
She was a striking girl, her hair rust-red and short-cut. Her leather armor was a tight, form-fitting piece laced up the middle to show an ample bosom. She met me with tight-pressed lips which quickly twisted in disgust, her eyes widening with shock.
"Ach! I've never seen somethin' so ugly, I've not!"
The girl's right arm was covered with a series of interlocking plates that looked as if they were taken from the skin of some creature, and a horned shoulder piece protected her left arm. Oddly enough, she had a tail, which was flicking back and forth as I watched. I was a head taller than her, but she looked up to me with a scowl, her pretty eyes full of venom and vinegar, "Pike off."
She turned away, then, ignoring me.
"Uh... hello," I said awkwardly, "Who are you?"
The girl sneered, then made an obscene gesture with her tail. "I said pike off, yeh clueless sod," the words came out curled in a thick accent.
"Hey, easy," I said, holding up my hands in a placating gesture, "I just had some questions."
She eyed me warily, a glint of... something in her eyes, "Aye? And what is it yeh want?"
"I, uh..." I paused, "I can't help but notice that you have a tail."
"Do I now?" the girl's eyes widened in mock surprise as she looked at her tail, "So I do! An here I was thinking that it was a trick of me eye. My, aren't yeh a sharp cutter?" She bared her teeth, "Why don't yeh piss off ta whatever hole yeh crawled out of and leave me be?! Me nor me tail is for trade, jig?"
A tiefling, then. She certainly had the temper of a fiend, "All right... I was just cur-"
Morte piped up happily, shooting his tongue even as it salivated at the curve of her breasts. For someone who's made mostly of mouth and stem, I was quickly learning that Morte had more mouth than anything, "It's just as well neither you nor your tail are for sale. You couldn't squeak out a living with 'em, anyway."
She turned pink with fury, hands shooting to the knives strapped to her milk-white thighs, "What are yeh about, yeh blighter?! Say it again!"
"He didn't say anything," I shot a hand out to try to grab Morte, but he floated just out of reach.
"Yeh, that's right, cutter. Rein in that mimir of yers," she calmed down visibly, though still wearing that scowl.
I sighed. I might as well get down to business, then, "I'm looking for someone named Pharod. Do you know where I can find him?"
"Aye, I might. I might say more if yeh sweeten th'question, aye?" She clicked her tongue and rubbed two fingers together. "Jink-jink, aye?"
"She means money."
"Aye..." She glanced at Morte, then shrugged. The girl's temper was quite fickle, "What the skull said. Hard coin."
"All right. How much?"
"How much is it ta yeh t'know, aye?" She studied me, then folded her arms. "C'mon, I haven't got all day, I haven't."
The harlot had needed nine gold for her answers about Pharod, and that took a little charm on my part. I smiled again, standing up straight, confident. My words were like honey, "How about ten? If your information's good enough, it could be more."
"Aye, all right then..." Some of the tension in her melted and she pocketed the money. It was gone so quickly, I had no idea where it vanished to. "Look for him in the Alley spireward from the Mortuary... that's ta the south an' west of the Mortuary, aye?"
I nodded, "South and west of the Mortuary? Thanks, and farewell."
"So... where to now? To find Pharod, that is," I asked Morte as we walked down the street.
He sighed, resigned to the fact we'd be getting straight to business, "The alley south and west of the Mortuary right? Just like the tiefling said."
I shook my head, "I know, but the harlot said we could find Pharod at Ragpicker Square, due west. So did Pox, now that I think about it."
"Come on. Are you gonna trust a common streetwalker and a plague-bearer or are you gonna trust gams-and-melons squeezed in leather there?"
I thought about it. There was something about the tiefling, the way she stood, the way her eyes widened just slightly at the name 'Pharod,' "Hmm. The girl did seem somewhat... interesting."
Morte's grin seemed to split wider, "See? Gams-and-melons it is."
"I thought you said she was ugly."
"I say lots of things."
Age-old smoke and char, the slightest whiff of it was on the air. An old, burned-out building stood square on one side, rusted old walls on the other. It squeezed the street into a narrow alley. A few unkempt thugs stood to one side of the street, leaning nonchalantly. One flicked a knife in the air. Another was idly cleaning his nails with the tip of a dagger.
A particularly ugly one, hair swept up in a crest like a rooster's, approached me with a cocky stride. Puckers and slashes lined his face, a good long cut under his eye had been a hair away from blinding him.
"Greetings, stranger. Looks like you're in Darkalley Shiv territory now. Looks like you've got a purse that could use some lightening. You better pray it's got enough," his unfriendly grin was full of yellowed, grimy teeth. Likely these people knew Pharod.
"I need to talk to your leader," I said.
He cocked his head, "Rotten William? Aye, I'll let you talk to him as soon as you let me look inside that purse."
"Er... no. Pharod."
The man just smiled.
"I think we'll just be going now," I gestured to Morte to back up.
"Nay, nay I don't think you'll be doin' that, cutter..." the thug lunged at me, and with the soft, thick sound of metal sliding into meat he slid a dagger into my belly. I stared dumbly at him. He blinked, then whistled. With that piercing call his friends leapt in, sliding out from the shadows and corners.
A solid punch in the face staggered him as he chipped a couple more teeth. I whipped out the green steel knife I had slid into my belt, and lunged.
The thug was quick on his feet, spinning about to crack me in the side of the head with a fist. I felt a sharp pain in my kidney, and snarled as I spun around and slashed blindly. The rogue gaped, not expecting me to still be standing. It hurt like the nine hells, but my body was used to pain. Hell, I would've been surprised if half my nerves were still intact beneath the scars.
The tip of my blade punched through his temple by sheer dumb luck, sliding six inches into his head. It rocked a couple of strokes as I tugged it out, the teeth and barbs near the handle had caught on the bone. It stirred his brain to mush, and I tore it out with a cracking sound and a spurt of blood and goo.
My skill with the knife was decent, but the thugs poured in one by one, surrounding me. Surrounding Morte.
"Morte! Get the hell away from here! Just run!"
Another thug fell, crimson spurting from his throat, fountaining in multiple small wounds. Morte spat the blood from his tongue, "What, chief? You think I'd leave you?"
"Just GO!" and then a blade found my heart.
"Hghlllfth!" that iron tang was becoming all too familiar as it spilled from my lips. I fell, back arched uncomfortably over the mugger I had just killed. The spines of his armor dug into my back uncomfortably, the wounds in my chest and belly ached as the warm life-blood poured out of me.
In the distance I heard Morte's fading shouts, the yell of the gang as they chased him. Slowly the pain faded, the world grew dim.
I coughed, the words spilling from my lips in a whispered croak.