Part 27: Journal of The Nameless One: Part 22Journal of The Nameless One: Part 22
The Smoldering Corpse Bar (Music)
"This is your fault, you know that?" Morte scowled, clicking his jaw.
"Me?! But- you- Morte! You were the one who was practically cheering so the whole block could hear!"
"Tch, hey. I told you we shouldn't try tricking the big ugly armed gentleman. Just ask politely, you know. No need to lie like a street harlot at the sight of a silver piece. Speaking of which-"
I grabbed him before he could make an exit, "Oh no. You got us into this."
Morte clicked his teeth, "Now's not the time to point fingers, chief. I mean, you've got me at a disadvantage."
I scoffed, "We aren't leaving until this dies down. We'll just have to hole up here for a while. I'm not going to risk you getting smashed against a wall."
"Fine," he said. I let him go, and he calmly floated alongside me, "But we're going to be in here a while. I mean, if you just went out there and let them take a few pieces out of you, they might calm down and forget this ever happened."
I tried keep from punching him, "That could work, but I don't know if I could still heal up if they tore me limb from limb."
"There's always a first time, isn't it?"
I grumbled and made my way to the back of the bar, leaning against a support pillar.
At my side was a man, standing stock still. He wasn't moving a muscle. On closer examination, it appeared that he wasn't even breathing -- just standing. His eye sockets were empty holes in his face. Contained within their bounds was a flat gray light that seemed to dance with possibility. Looking into the sockets, the eerie, empty feeling of a limitless void shivered through me, as if I had gazed into a sliver of eternity. The head slowly swiveled toward me (no muscles appeared to move under his skin as he turned), and he spoke in a pure, bell-like tone: "Well met, wanderer. You have forgotten again, haven't you?"
I blinked "Do you know me, stranger?"
As he opened his mouth, that feeling of eternity swept over me again -- inside his mouth, I could see no tongue, no teeth. It was almost as if this man were a shell surrounding an illimitable expanse. "I have spoken with you before, and always you forget. Your endless quest to discover yourself ends always in your amnesia. You draw close to the truth and recoil. Let us hope that you have the strength to endure your existence."
I stood up eagerly now. Finally, someone who could give me some answers! "What do you know of me? How do you know this?"
He waved one hand, flicking his fingers delicately, "I know that you, like a fly, rise up from the wreckage of your old shell, buzz about for a time, and curl up and die at the window of truth. You bumble about the pane, seeking the light without any plan to your actions, and fall exhausted when you fail. You alight on others to feed from them for a time, and move on with no regard to them. I have watched you come here and listened to your words, and watched you move away no wiser. Will you learn from your mistakes, seeker?"
I bit my lip, trying to tolerate his haughty tone, "Who are you?"
"I am O." For some reason, when he spoke his name, it sounded like he was speaking of much more than a single letter -- as if the speaking of his name contained untold possibilities and nuances. No human tongue could ever create such a sound.
I swayed a little in wonder, "What sort of a name is that?"
"It is my name. It is the name of a portion of eternity. I am a letter in the divine alphabet. Understanding me leads to understanding existence. I am writ in the true names of half of everything. My being encompasses truth. I am mathematic, organic, metaphysic."
"So what does that mean?"
"The divine alphabet is writ in the name of everything that exists, from the seed at the hearts of the elemental planes to the core of the Great Beyond. My brothers/sisters" (a single word translated into the two in my mind) "and I reach across all that is, was, or ever shall be. We are thought, and reality, and concept, and the unimaginable."
Fascinating. "Tell me about the Great Beyond."
He shook his head, "You would not understand. No mortal possibly could. It is beyond the powers of comprehension of all but the most powerful of powers, and once they understand, they move beyond the veil of mortal comprehension. I can explain it no more than that. Perhaps, sometime, you will understand."
"So what are you doing here?" I really did wonder what could possibly interest a being as powerful as this.
"Why, I am watching the ebb and flow of mortality." He swept his hand, taking in the whole bar.
I looked about at the smattering of people here, if they could be called that. The eerie, the dingy, and the demonic were the patrons of this bar, "And what do you see?"
There was something sure about his movements, something about the way he moved his hands that seemed to outline a petty thing, "You mortals are like wasps. You build your lives/nests from the slimmest of branches, and when the wind shakes your home/life free, you seek to sting the wind to death. Instead of realizing your foolish mistakes, attempting to repair the damage you have caused yourselves, and learning from your experience, you bring harm to any who have the misfortune to blunder near you in your time of pain and distress. My advice to you -- and to all mortals: Stop acting like an insect and start acting sentient." He seemed amused as a boy looking down at a bug.
"The patrons of this place are varied, yet all mortal. Like all mortals, their concerns are limited, with the potential of blossoming into actual Truth. I can tell you this, though: You may find a companion dear to your heart here - at least as dear as your heart will allow. You will need him on your journey."
I blinked, "What do you know of that?"
He smiled thinly, "I know that your journey takes you far beyond your journal quest, to the very edges of existence. You will struggle for your life and your very spirit... and I do not tell you any more regarding this."
I shook my head, "You seem to know much."
"As much as a piece of the very essence of the multiverse can know."
I looked him in the eye, that eerie dancing glow flicking in his boundless sockets, "Then that means you know all the secrets of existence, doesn't it?"
He shook his head, "I know parts of many of them. Without a connection to my brothers/sisters, I am but a letter. Alone, I am a symbol. Combined, we are language and power."
"So you don't know the secrets of existence?"
He stood up stiffly, "I did not say that. A letter is still a powerful force, even on its own. Allow me to show you." He opened his mouth wider, and wider still. The mask of his face tore around his eyes, mouth, and nose, revealing that hint of eternity I had glimpsed earlier. I was lost in it, adrift in it... a part of it. When I returned to my mundane senses - I realized that O had vanished. Yet somehow, my horizons had expanded. Enlightenment had brushed me, however briefly, across the brow.
"That was... indescribable."
I staggered. I may be chatting up everyone in this damn bar, but this morsel of Truth, at least, was more than worth it. Still dizzy, I braced my hands on a table where an old man sat, contemplating a small cup of tea.
He was old. His dry, yellow skin had the scars of one who had traveled everywhere and never rested long in any one place. His pinched face was inhumanly angular, and his ears swept out from his skull, tapering to points. He wore a loose-fitting orange tunic, and a strange, shimmering blade was strapped across his back. The blade looked to be a two-pronged glaive, made of some metal whose surface swirled like a film of oil on a pond.
Dak'kon Theme (music)
The man turned to me, his eyes like polished coal. He stared through me, and for a moment, I wondered if he might have been blind. The weapon suddenly turned a dead, flat black, mirroring the man's eyes.
I blinked, "Are you all right?"
He said nothing for a moment, merely searching my face with his eyes. "Hail... traveler." His voice was quiet and somber, like a wind whispering through the branches of a great tree.
I returned the odd greeting, "Hail."
The man met my gaze, his eyes burrowing into mine. His weapon drained of its black color, resuming its shimmering I had noticed before I spoke to him. "Your eyes have the weight of one who has traveled far to be in this place."
I shrugged, "You could say that."
The man's gaze didn't waver from mine. "I am known as Dak'kon." The emphasis he placed on the word known struck me as odd... yet familiar at the same time. "You... are not known to me."
"And you are not known to me, either."
"We are beneath the same sky in this matter, then." Dak'kon was silent for a moment, still studying me with his coal-black eyes. "The Planes number many infinities, yet you are here. I would know why you have come to this city."
"I'm looking for answers... there's much I don't know, and I've forgotten even more."
He nodded, gesturing to the seat next to him, "Speak your questions. I will hear you."
I sat down. The metal of the stool was warm, like every other surface in this bar, "Your features are... unfamiliar to me. What are you?"
"A githzerai," he said simply.
"A githzerai is one of the People," again without an ounce more than absolutely necessary.
I blinked, "One of the people?"
"A githzerai," as flat as before.
"Yes, but what are the githzerai, exactly?"
Dak'kon was silent for a moment, then spoke. "Our history does not need to be made known to you. We would bleed to death on time's blade before I recited a fraction of the histories of our People."
I chuckled, "I don't need to know your histories... but I would know of your people as they are now."
Dak'kon paused. "Know this and accept it as an answer: We are the People who make our home upon the shifting plane of Limbo." With a deft motion, Dak'kon slipped the blade from his back and held it before him.
His voice took on a smooth, grand tone. There was a sureness there that he lacked before, strong and willful, "There, we mold the matter of Limbo with our minds. We forge cities with our thoughts." As I watched, a series of rippling waves of metal began to roll forth from the center of the blade. The pitch and crest of the waves matched the inflections in Dak'kon's voice. "In its chaos we dwell, with only our knowing to preserve us. We are the githzerai."
I gazed at his weapon, "What is that blade you have... it moved, shifted in response to your voice."
"It is a karach blade. It is an object that lets others know the rank of the wielder."
"Karach? What does that mean?"
Dak'kon fell silent for a moment, as if searching for the correct words. "In your tongue, the closest translation is 'chaos matter.' The People may shape it with their thoughts. Karach is not shaped by heat, but by knowing oneself. It is a mirror that reflects the will of the wielder on its surface and in its edge. When one knows themselves, the blade is strong -- harder and stronger than steel. When one does not know themselves, the blade is as water -- formless and weak."
"What rank does the blade signify?"
He slung the weapon over his back again, "The blade is a symbol carried by the zerth. A zerth is one who knows the words of Zerthimon, he who founded our race. He knew the githzerai before they knew themselves. He defined the People. He gave them one mind. In knowing the words of Zerthimon, they know themselves."
"You seem to place a special emphasis on 'knowing.' What do you mean?" I asked, musing over his odd manner of speech.
"All things, whether structure or flesh -- their existence is defined by their knowing of themselves."
"And if a man does not know himself?"
"When a mind does not know itself, it is flawed. When a mind is flawed, the man is flawed. When a man is flawed, that which he touches is flawed." Dak'kon paused. Clearly he was a man of few words normally, "It is said that what a flawed man sees, his hands make broken."
"Do you know yourself?"
Dak'kon fell silent. His coal black eyes took on the same distance that I noticed when I first spoke.
"I ask again: Do you know yourself?"
When Dak'kon spoke again, his voice had changed; his words echoed, like a great stone dropped into a chasm. It looked like he was forcing the words from his chest. "It is not my will that you know this."
"I apologize, I meant no offense," I tried changing the subject, "Have you been in the city long?"
"I have traveled through it many times. It is known by the name 'Sigil.' Among the People, it is known as the city that does not know itself," he said simply.
"It doesn't know itself? What do you mean?"
"The city exists, but it does not know itself. In not knowing itself, its existence is flawed."
"You speak as if the city is alive."
"It may not be aware and know itself in the sense that you or I might know ourselves, but it lives. It grows, changes, and touches the minds of all that live here."
I cocked my head, "Why did you say the city does not know itself?"
"The city exists in opposition to itself. It has set itself apart from the planes, yet it seeks to be everywhere at once. Its walls are doors, yet it keeps these doors locked. Such an existence tells of a thing that does not know itself. In not knowing itself, it is flawed," his voice was disapproving.
"What if the city is not flawed, and you just do not know the reasons for its contradictions? There is order in everything. Perhaps there is an underlying pattern that you cannot perceive."
His voice was sure and knowing, "To your question, a question: What if the city is flawed, and you see its contradictions all around you?"
"To your question, a question:" I countered, "You claim this city's existence is flawed. You have accepted this rather than explore the possibility that something greater may exist. That suggests you are flawed... and that you do not search for knowledge, but only for a convenient answer."
Dak'kon fell silent. "There is no knowing the answer to the questions we have asked. Yet the city exists. That is all."
"Yet I would maintain that we know ourselves by the questions we ask and the ones we do not. If we cease asking questions and accept only what we can perceive..."
"Then we will cease to know ourselves." Dak'kon's voice had changed slightly, become heavier. "Such words have been spoken before. I have heard them and know them."
I leaned back in surprise, "Where have you heard them?"
"The words are mine. Once, I knew them and knew their meaning. I had forgotten them until you spoke." Dak'kon's gaze traveled through me, and his blade stopped shimmering, bleeding of all color until it was translucent. There was a moment of silence, then Dak'kon looked up at me. "I would travel your path with you."
I grunted, "I- don't think that's a good idea right now. I'm afraid I'm in a bit of trouble currently." Would the thugs storm the bar? I hoped I wouldn't be responsible for a slaughter. Then again, by the look of it the patrons were hard as nails. They may be able to take care of themselves.
Dak'kon's gaze changed. It looked as if he was looking past me once again, "I am old, yet I have traveled far. The arts of war are known to me. The tides of this city are known to me. Where you stab in the dark, my blade strikes true. Doors locked to your hand are corridors to mine. In knowing these things through me, you will become strong. I would walk your path with you."
"No," I said, shaking my head, "I can't allow someone to get hurt by my own mistakes." Or Morte's.
"I would have you hear me." Before I could turn to leave, Dak'kon spoke again. I was finding it difficult to turn away as long as I held his attention. "You are a stranger to this city. In not knowing it, the city is a danger to you. Two blades carry more weight than one, even when left in their scabbards." As he spoke, his blade shifted to its original dead black once again.
Reluctantly I nodded. "If you insist, then I accept. An extra blade would be welcome."
"Your path is mine." Strangely enough, his voice echoed, as if he were speaking from across a great distance.
It was time to spill some blood.