Part 17: Journal of The Nameless One: Part 13Journal of The Nameless One: Part 13
The Mortuary (Music)
Odd how simply dressing up and acting like something else can give you such a unique perspective on things. I shuffled, let my limbs flop about, and wavered back and forth like one of the walking dead. There was a certain monotony to it: dull yet peaceful, even as Morte whizzed past and clicked his tongue in annoyance.
"Come on, chief. You're slower than molasses at a Frost Fair."
At the pace I was going, the stitches were already tugging at my skin and threatening to break. Shuffle, walk. Shuffle, walk.
Yu wunt out, go tuh arch on firzzt fluur, nurthwezzt ruum... Yuh need fungur-bone, shape of crook... the anarchist had said. Finger-bone in the shape of a crook. Got it. An idle hand on one of the stiffening corpses' digits, a little tug, a snap, and there was my key.
Morte was right. Of the guests that milled about all of them were in the finest of clothes. Blue and red silks lit up the Mortuary as far as the eye can see, with splashes of green here and there. The Dustmen's eyes must've ached terribly after being so used to their dull grays and browns.
I ambled past, circled about them and headed to the northern chambers.
Shuffle, step. Shuffle, step.
Morte floated next to the arches. His jaw widened in an exaggerated yawn, not bothering to hide how annoyed and bored he was. I really have got to meet other people.
I pondered silently for a few moments, wondering how this was supposed to work. Ingress had implied that all I needed to do was carry the key with me, but I took the fingerbone in hand anyway, holding it up to the arch. The embalming fluid was drying. The stiches began to tug at my flesh a little harder.
I shuffled a little more quickly to the next arch, and a soft susurration emanated from the hollow space in the wall. The space there twisted with a low roar of wind, warping into a spiral of blue and violet to reveal a dark, hollow room on the other side. I gingerly put one arm forward, my finger passing through that hole in space. I expected it to tingle as my finger passed the thin plane that separated this part of the multiverse from the next, or perhaps a gentle tug. There was, however, nothing that I could feel other than the slightly warmer air of the room beyond and a soft rush of air.
I braced myself.
A moment after I stepped through, the portal winked out of existence behind me.
"Mpppfghhh!" I moaned, and immediately pulled out the green steel knife from my belt and slit the stitches that knit shut my mouth. I panted with relief, licking my lips as a string of pent-up curses caught in my throat.
I looked around as I plucked the last bits of thread from my lips and similarly undid the stitches all over my body. The alcove I found myself in was dimly lit by an unseen light, with but a single sarcophagus in the center of the room. The thing looked like a solid block of stone, and I wondered whether it truly housed a corpse. Was this a small tomb? A memorial? A set of footprints in the thick layer of dust was a sign that one person, at least, had visited within the past century or so.
The glint of coin had caught my eye immediately. A small pile of coppers weighed down a bit of parchment.
The mystery of Pharod's wealth of corpses, once a minor footnote on a sheet torn from a logbook, had grown to become a real problem, it seemed. I felt a little guilty about pocketing the coin, but this Vaxis seemed like he could take care of himself. Frankly, I needed the cash more.
And yet another name. Emoric. Perhaps I should meet this man.
I sighed in relief as the hot air of the Hive kissed my skin. The stench was present as always, thick and noxious, but I breathed it in deep. It was rich in its own way, and it wasn't as if the fumes were going to kill me.
"Well, here we are again, chief. Let's explore the city without you keeping knives in your fleshy parts this time."
I flicked the knife in my hand, and the blunt end cracked against my wrist awkwardly before I could catch it. I was comfortable with the feel of the blade, skilled enough in its motions, but I had come to realize that the people I was up against were stronger than me, faster, and I was neither brutish nor quick enough to take on the multiple enemies I might face.
"Morte, I'll need something more powerful to defend myself with."
He tilted in a shrug of sorts, "It'd be tough to find a good sword hereabouts, but a stout piece of wood, a bone wrapped in rags, a sliver of metal. Take your pick, chief."
I gazed at the sky, breathing in the strange, abstract wonders of the city, "Looks like I'll just have to be more careful then. Let's try heading west now, like Pox and the harlot suggested."
Buildings patched in black and green weedy vines passed by us. As we walked through the Hive, the citizens seemed even dirtier. Each citizen's eyes were more vacant, more forlorn. The houses barely deserved the name: little more than crude huts of patchwork wooden planks and sheets of metal. Those not consumed by the vines were covered with worn, dirty tarps to keep the cold out.
Curious, I reached a hand out and touched one of the vines. The stem was triangular, with a sharp edge to it, and the leaves were stiff and just as keen.
"Ouch!" I pulled my hand away and started sucking on the cut in my knuckle.
"Razorvine, chief. Some old sod brought it in from the lower planes thinking he could grow it on the walls of houses to deter burglars. Heh. Too bad he didn't know it spreads faster than the clap. Can't burn razorvine, and if you cut it a stray branch might swing out and take out an eye. The dabus have a hell of a time pulling the stuff out."
I nodded, adding another thing to the quickly growing list of 'things to never touch in Sigil.'
A few of the citizens were kind enough to point out the direction of Ragpicker's square. As we got closer, though, each person I talked to wore clothes that were a little more ragged. The stink of sweat and unwashed flesh was a little stronger. Further in, the eyes of each citizen glinted a bit more with the spark of madness. It was like the Gatehouse again, but this time without the hope of a warm bed and a bowl of hot soup.
And then we arrived at Ragpicker's Square.