Part 60: InterludeInterlude:
Tavern of Broken Dreams (Music)
"Stop it! Just stoppit!" G'mir howls, and his thrashing rattles the table he is responsible for propping up, "This is stupid! You're stupid! 'Tis absolute and utter nonsense! Every last word!
"Oi can't unnerstand a single word!"
"Wait... the Lady eats cats?"
"This is madness! Who in their right mind would let a barmy addle-coved Xaositect perform a telling?!" Scii-tavakis snarls from her table.
"I would," a piercing, crisp voice calls out from the crowd.
He is a tall man, slim and sharp with a honed, pointed face. A lizard perches on the rounded cap covering his head, and a pair of smoked-glass spectacles obscure his eyes. A dozen necklaces, earrings, and other hangings jingle from his robes as he walks, his limbs cutting the air with each step. In his hand he holds a simple staff, nothing more than a slim, perfectly straight length of wood. It clacks as he approaches the stage in even intervals: quick, precise, and metronomic. Immediately the audience is hypnotized by his slight but imposing figure.
"Xoraskavitt," he chides sharply. Everything about this man is sharp and angular, "Now I gave you a chance to tell the tale proper. Hand over the journal."
"I hAve iNFinite poweR. AnoTHer has infiNIte power. otHers havE inFinite POwer. I cAN cause mYseLf to HaVe iNfiNite poWER..." the mephit rolls on the ground, foaming at the lips as it clutches the tome.
"I said hand it," the man snaps, snatching at the book. It transforms into a slim scroll and with a firm shake the mephit slips free. Xoraskavitt tumbles about on the stage, murmuring gibberish, but more quietly.
"Now," the man clears his throat and stands up tall, "I must apologize and explain in full detail. I am Factor Epetrius of the Fraternity of Order, Twenty-Fifth of Two Hundred and Twelve Keepers of the Keys of the Eighteenth Great Library in Mechanus and High Scribe to the Libris Occultis on the Prime World of Tedrecon."
"A Guvner?" Mikon slurs, clearly well into the drink now, "Odd company for a Guvner to keep, a mephit and a Chaosman, at that."
Factor Epetrius purses his lips slightly. "Yes, I must say it is an odd pairing of sorts. Xoraskavitt is a handful. When he isn't chewing my wallpaper or urinating on my notes he spends much of his time stuffed in a blue glass bottle." He sighs, "Yet somehow he manages to escape, and I have little energy left to catch him and put him back in."
"A most odd-looking journal, that," Oudilin fiddles with the strings of his lyre, tuning them to his liking, "A thing of Chaos to be sure. Perhaps craft from the formless matter of Limbo, and scribed with the blood of madmen. How that fell into your hands must be a truly fascinating tale."
Epetrius nods, his voice crisp, "Indeed. That in itself is an interesting tale. It was near a quarter-turning ago- and by that I mean of the central wheel of Mechanus, without a doubt the most precise timekeeping device in the planes. Remarkable device really, with no detectable margin of error. My office, in fact, rests on a quarternary cog and has a stunning view of the turning-"
"Ach, yer worse than th' deva," a voice snaps somewhere near the front row.
Epetrius crosses his arms, "Madam, if you would prefer I could have Xoraskavitt relate his version of the events again. No? Very well. As I was saying, and this is relevant mind you, Mechanus is a plane of precision and order, and since I had an excellent view of the workings of the central cogs I noticed one day, to my shock, that my clock was off by two thousandths of a measure."
"Now I was aghast of course, and examined the timepiece itself. The thing was modron-craft and by such accounts the warranty shouldn't have expired for another three hundred and eighteen years, two months, and five days, give or take. Initially there seemed to be nothing wrong, and I had just begun to take apart the entire thing to examine the finer mechanisms when a commotion outside confirmed that just the opposite had occured, something quite impossible.
"You see, it was not my clock that had been malfunctioning (and I do wish I had discovered this earlier, for it was quite an expensive clock) but rather Mechanus itself that was off. Well the Modrons scuttled about not quite understanding what to do as such an event had never occured before, had never been anticipated, and as such no protocols had been written to handle this case.
"Instead, it fell to the Fraternity of Order to take initiative and help sort things out. The Library staff was reduced to a bare minimum as everyone available rushed to investigate the source of the error and correct it as quickly as possible, since it was compounding by the minute.
"I had been scouring one of the peripheral cogs, and within two hours, fifty-two minutes, and twelve seconds from the start of the search (again, this is merely an approximation), I had discovered this tome wedged tightly between two gears. The damn thing had resisted the crushing forces of the gears of Mechanus, and awed beyond all reasoning I took it back to the Library as Mechanus reasserted itself.
"Of course, the Modrons were very unhappy about the whole affair, especially when I kept the tome on my shelf and examined it every chance I could get. It was exactly ten days later that five Pentadrones knocked on the door of my office while I had been sitting down to tea and indulging in two little square-shaped scones. They were under orders to expunge the tome out of Mechanus entirely. Apparently the order had been given to the Pentadrones by a Decaton, who was informed of such by a Nonaton. The Nonaton in turn was under the direction of an Octon, who recieved the order from a Septon. The Septon had relayed a Hexton's message who had been under orders from a Quinton, who was chided quite fiercely (in Modron terms, at least) by a Quarton. The Quarton had been in a mood since the order had come directly from one of the four Secundi due to the urgency of the matter."
Epetrius gives a dry chuckle, "So you can see, this matter really had the entire hierarchy rather disoriented."
The crowd remains silent.
Epetrius clears his throat and continues, "Well. In any case, I had sought to study the tome and tease apart what secrets it held, and doing so meant that I had to move much of my equipment to the Courthouse in Sigil. It was cramped, dusty, and quite frankly the view is quite foul. But if I could study this enigma it was worth it.
"To my frustration, the text resisted all form of probing, translation, divination, and analysis. I shouldn't have been surprised of course, but every spell I threw at it simply fizzled or was utterly useless.
"So I turned to the Xaositects, and thank the Powers they were willing to help me on one of their mad whims. For the price of a moldy potato carved in the shape of a Bariur's nose, they gave me Xoraskavitt, who they swore up and down and by their eyes and arse that he could translate anything chaos-written."
"Did it work?" Oudilin strums his lyre, the strings sweet and freshly-tuned.
Epetrius purses his lips, "A thought experiment: Pretend that you are trying to inspect an insect under a magnification device. It is a species who holds in its belly something that will unlock the secrets of the Multiverse, and the only lenses you are handed are hunks of irregularly-shaped granite. That is what it is like working with this mephit."
The Guvner sighs, "But nonetheless we were able to piece it together over the months, and in that time I've grown somewhat fond of the creature. The tome is maddening to read and the words continuously shift if they aren't phasing in and out and through existence, but I can manage now, thanks to Xoraskavitt's help. Though quite frankly, sometimes I think the Xaositects had the richer end of the deal."
With that, the Guvner flips open the multihued book (which at the moment is giving off a slight smoky scent) and pierces a page with a firm finger, "Now, allow me to continue our tale..."