Part 76: The Whisper-Mad Tome of The Nameless One: Part 11The Whisper-Mad Tome of The Nameless One: Part 11
"So... if these prostitutes peddle dialogue... am I sampling their 'wares' by talking to them?"
Morte bobbed beside me, "Eh, if it isn't pillowy and covered in honey, I wouldn't call 'em wares."
The dark-haired young woman in the first room was staring listlessly off into space, sighing miserably and occasionally picking at the seams of her green velvet gown. It was difficult to discern whether she was depressed or simply bored. Jewelry jingled at her wrists and emerald cloth hugged her shapely figure, especially accentuating her breasts. She would've been pretty if it weren't for the fact that her eyes were half-lidded in petulant longing.
"Greetings. Lady Grace has asked that I speak to each of you in turn."
She gave me only the briefest of glances before staring off into the distance once more. "Greetings, yes... I am named Juliette. How may I... oh, never thou mind. Leave me be, please." She gave an exasperated sigh.
"Oh, nothing at all. Only that I spend my days gazing into the face of mediocrity, seeing if anything can erase its dreadful, tedious passage."
"Is your life so tedious?"
"Alas, it is." She sighed again, closing her eyes and massaging her temples. "Dreadfully boring!"
I chuckled, "I'm certain I could add some excitement to your life ..."
"No, no... 'tis kind of thee to offer, though. I am already with a man, sir, and I do love him dearly. 'Tis just that I wish..." She tapped her finger against her chin. "...something more of our liaison."
"Is the relationship lacking, then?"
"The only thing it lacks is excitement, sir. Our families took the news of our courtship splendidly, his siblings love my siblings, and our friends think our union to be blessed by the Powers themselves. All fine and good, but things are going..." She frowned. "...so smoothly. 'Tis not right to have such a trouble-free courtship."
"I don't know about that..."
"Dost thou not? Hast thou ever had such a courtship?" She glanced briefly at me. "T'would seem that thy life is filled with a variety of problems, judging by the pallor of thy skin.""
A face flickered in my memory, of a pale ivory-haired woman, her sea-blue gown whipped by an unfelt wind, "I can't remember any courtships I have had. The remnants of the ones I have encountered suggest that I may have had some problems."
Juliette ignored me and continued, groaning, "'Tis just that all my friends have such interesting relationships... ones fraught with turmoil, feuding families, daggers at one another's backs, poison, mad siblings and irate fathers with large swords. I have a lover whose family loves me and whom the world loves." She sighed again. "A great source of annoyance. How I wish I could formulate some way to spice things up..."
Morte floated close to me, whispering: "I feel sorry for her lover. He doesn't know how bad he has it. A chit like this is nothing but trouble."
"That doesn't sound wise, Juliette. Relish what you have."
"I wish to experience troubles, though. I wish to experience the up and downs of courtship... but with him, no other. Ah, such a thing is love. It can be as dull as a club, and is of no use to an aspiring Sensate."
"What did you have in mind to spice things up?"
"I am not sure. Some element of danger. Or jealousy. Something intense."
"I can pretend to be a jealous suitor, if you want."
Juliette glanced at me, then scoffed. "Oh, I highly doubt th- hmm. Actually, that idea 'tis not half as addled as I had first thought. Thou dost certainly look dangerous enough." She looked me in the eye, as if appraising a horse. "Art thou as rugged and tough as thy appearance would indicate?"
I grinned, "They don't make them any tougher than me, I assure you."
"Thou shalt do this for me, then?"
"Yes, I'll do it."
"Excellent! My love, Montague, may be found within the Civic Festhall. I thank thee!"
She came gliding down the hall when I first met her, tall, elegant, with her sharp features and a regal demeanor, a striking example of aristocratic beauty. Her clothes appeared to be spun of silver thread, and a small phial dangled from her necklace. Flame-haired and commanding, the prostitute was perfumed with an exotic, erotic scent that seemed to draw me towards her. That aroma dominated the air without overwhelming my senses, as if it were her entourage.
She looked me over, arching an eyebrow with what I sensed to be disdain. "Greetings. My name is Vivian; am I to presume I am being summoned?"
"No, Lady Grace just asked me to talk to each of you in turn..."
She nodded imperiously. "Go on, then."
"What's that incredible smell?"
She smiled at me. "I thank you for your compliment... but I assure you, this particular aroma is a bland and paltry odor in comparison to my personal scent." She sighed.
"Your... 'personal' scent?"
"Yes, I have a particular scent that seems to have gone... wandering. 'Tis somewhat... difficult to keep in one place. I hope that someone did not take it by accident... though you never know, with the 'ladies' around here." She frowned. "So... by any chance you have smelled it somewhere?"
"You smell quite nice right now, you know..."
She scowled for a moment, then in an instant smiled at me. "Yes, yes, and I thank you for your compliment... but I assure you, this particular aroma is nothing to my personal scent."
"How can a scent go wandering?"
Vivian shook her head. "I had meant to infer that it had been taken. The 'ladies' here are a bit jealous, at times, and have been known to take my various perfumes for themselves. This time, though, someone has absconded with my own, personal, scent... I worked on that scent, perfected it, and now poof! 'Tis gone! I need not bear such annoyances!" Vivian stomped her feet: "I want that scent back, and I want it now!"
Tch. Women. "How would you know it if you found it?"
"You would know it by smell, I assure you. 'Tis quite striking, especially to men."
"I can help you..."
Vivian seemed dubious. "Are you certain? I do not wish to impose."
"No imposition. I am pleased to help such a lovely woman as yourself."
Annah mumbled something angrily; and my ear twitched at the words "piking" and "idjit-stick."
Vivian smiled and nodded to me. "You are too kind. Very well... if you run across it, please let me know. I am somewhat anxious to get it back. A one-of-a-kind scent, really."
The petite, attractive young woman was smiling blissfully and humming to herself. Her wide, pale blue eyes seemed to constantly drink in her surroundings as she looked about. Her arms were tucked at her hips, which moved to an unheard beat, swaying back and forth slightly as if she were humming in her head. Such a restless, perky girl.
She curtsied gratefully and looked up to me, smiling. "Well met, good sir! I'm Nenny! And how are you this fine d-?" She suddenly noticed my scars and placed a gloved hand over her mouth. "Oh my! You're hurt!" She blinked. "All over!"
Morte spun around me, mocking the girl's obviousness. "Powers above, chief... she's right! I never noticed before... you're covered in scars!"
"They're all old scars," I reassured her, "I'm fine."
She nodded quietly, lowering her hand.
"So I was hoping we could t-"
"Huh?" She couldn't seem to tear her eyes from my scars. "Oh, how shameful of me! Don't mind my rude staring! I am named Nenny," she made another little curtsy. "And it is my great pleasure to welcome you to our Brothel for the Slating of Intellectual Lusts." She returned to staring at my body. "You have tattoos under those scars, too! What's that one?" She pointed to one of my tattoos.
"Looks fascinating! Look at the way the lines of ink...I think that's ink..." She squinted, then reached out to touch my skin.
I let her. Nenny's hands were delicate as they caressed the wound-puckered flesh. Her fingers were adept at drinking in the sensations.
"I think that's ink." She traced a finger around the edge of the tattoo. "Is it ink? And what a pattern! Look at the way the lines intersect here." She touched the center of the tattoo. "That's simply amazing..." She pursed her lips and frowned in disappointment. "I could make it out better if there weren't so many scars..."
"There's nothing to be done about the scars; they're permanent."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry... pox on me for even mentioning them!" She cringed. "But I have to know... are you absolutely sure you're all right? I'm looking at you, and I can't help but believe that you're not in some pain."
I shrugged, "I have amnesia, but that is all."
"Amnesia?" Nenny blinked, then brightened. "Loss of memory! You are so lucky," she chimed perkily. "Everything must be so new to you."
"That's... an angle I hadn't considered."
Nenny clapped her hands delightedly. "I'm so pleased I could open your mind to that idea! I've heard that's what being a Sensate is all about... bringing new experiences to others."
"I'm trying find Vivian's scent... do you know where it might be?"
"Hmm." Nenny frowned deeply. "I... uh..."
"Oh, I just can't! I can't say anything bad about anyone! I'm just no good at it!"
"It's not bad to point out a thief, Nenny."
"Oh, but I don't know if she's a thief..." Nenny bit her lip and looked at me with pleading eyes, as if she just wished I'd leave the topic alone.
"Look, why don't you try and say something not nice about her."
"Oh, all right." Nenny put her hands on her hips and frowned deeply, almost exaggeratedly. I had to resist the temptation to laugh. "Ooooooh, I dislike her very, very much." She paused for a moment, then looked at me out of the corner of her eye, as if gauging my reaction. "Was that convincing?"
This... was going to take a while. "No, not really."
Nenny frowned. "I knew I wouldn't be any good at this!" She looked up at me, depressed. "Do you know how hard it is to say bad things about someone?! It feels so wrong."
"Why don't you practice on me, Nenny?"
"I suppose I could try..." She looked dubious. "You big mean nasty brute!" She put her hands on her hips. "Meanie!" She looked at me. "How was that?"
"Put more accent on 'brute.'"
"You big mean nasty brute!"
"Better. Now hit me."
Nenny clamped her hands over her mouth, looking shocked. "Oh, I couldn't! I musn't!" She blinked. "How does one hit somebody, anyway?"
"Go ahead. Do it lightly, if you have to. Remember: I'm a mean, nasty brute. I deserve it."
Nenny slapped me; I barely felt it. She still looked shocked and frightened that she hurt me. "Oh, I'm sorry! Did that hurt? Tell me you're okay!"
"Don't break character, Nenny. Come on; show me what you've got. You can say something bad... just let it all out."
"Oh... I mean, oh!" Nenny drew her tiny frame to its full height, balled her hands into fists, put them on her hips, and scrunched up her face in a cute scowl. "Oh, damned be you! You deserved that for all the indignities you put me through! Going out late at night," Her eyes roamed up and down my body. "Getting into fights and getting all scarred up! What are the kids going to think, hmm?!"
"What?!" Nenny's fury rose another notch. "Have you forgotten our children?! Are you so sodden with drink that you can't even remember that we have children?!" Nenny threw up her hands in exasperation. "You're hopeless, clueless and a lot of other 'lesses' I won't mention right now."
"Excellent," I said approvingly.
"Oh, don't you 'excellent' me, like I'm some backlicker looking for your approval! I am my own woman, and this woman is about to walk out of your life unless I get some solid commitment!"
"All right... that's enough out of you, Nenny."
Nenny punched me. I barely felt it. "Take this." She punched me again. "And this!" She punched me again, promptly turning into a little fist-flailing whirlwind.
"Okay, okay... ow!" I yelped when she started pinching, "time to let go of the anger."
Nenny sighed tiredly and rubbed her hands. "Whew. That was easier than I thought!"
"And I'm sure I'll do better next time! I'm so excited to have learned something new... thank you!"
"So, I don't suppose you can tell me who took Vivian's scent?"
"Maybe... I saw that mean, mean Marissa sneaking out of Vivian's room one night. Now I'm not saying she took it, but I know Marissa's not a very nice person, and that sure sounds suspicious, huh? I'd go ask her about it." Nenny nodded at me.
"Well, chief. You made a right banshee out of her," Morte cackled as we left Nenny's room.
"Next time I'll just send Annah on the girl," I smirked.
The striking young woman had skin the color of burnished copper. A translucent white dress, held precariously by golden clasps, was draped carefully over her shapely form like two silver-white streams of milk curving around her breasts.
The woman nodded and smiled briefly, but offered nothing else. The scent of her hair, sweetly perfumed, filled my nostrils.
"Who are you?"
She smiled and curtsied, but offered no response.
"Can you speak?"
She shook her head and smiled sadly at me.
Morte laughed, "I love this chit already!"
I batted him away and continued, "Can you write, then, or pantomime? I'm supposed to talk to each of Grace's students."
The girl pouted, shaking her head. That was all.
"May I ask why you can't communicate?"
She sighed softly and nodded.
"Why-" I started, but sighed. Hopefully this would be enough for Fall-From-Grace.
My shin cracked against a table. Biting back a curse, I continued bumbling through the darkened room. I would've left long ago if it weren't for the sound of quiet breathing, or the cruel chuckle that came from the shadows. Circling around I squinted at the figure behind a partition, I could barely able to make out a shapely female form in the darkness. She turned to me, but I could see nothing of her face.
"Hello. Lady Grace sent me to speak to each of you."
The figure answered in a voice that was slow and deadly, like a steel dagger drawn across stone: "Yes? Come to speak with Marissa, have you? Quite rude of you to enter a darkened room, storming behind my partition like so... rude, and foolhardy." I could hear a faint whispering sound, like a slight breeze... or the hissing of serpents.
Morte whispered quietly, "Whoah... creepy chit."
"My apologies, my lady... I wasn't sure if someone was here."
The woman gave a slight hmph. "But it would seem there is someone in this room, wouldn't it? Shall you be on your way, then?"
"Why is it so dark in here?"
"To prevent any unwanted... and embarrassing... casualties. Now what is it that you want?"
"I was told you were seen sneaking away from Vivian's chambers, recently... is that connected with her missing scent, somehow?"
Marissa said nothing, though an angry hissing issued from the darkness around her. "Yes, I've been known to creep into Vivian's chamber for some of her perfumes... though I doubt you'll meet another here who hasn't. If you're implying that I've got her personal scent, well... feel free to sniff around. You'll not find it on me or in my chambers, I assure you. Perhaps whoever took my Crimson Veil took Vivian's scent, as well."
"Your veil has been stolen?"
"My veil... my Crimson Veil. Have you seen it, perchance?"
"No... what's it for? Is it just a normal veil?"
Marissa sighed quietly. "Not, not quite. It aids me in communication... face to face communication, that is."
"Why do you need to hide your face?"
"Enough with these asinine questions!" she growled, "Now get out!"