Part 90: InterludeInterlude:
The Tavern of Broken Dreams (Music)
Scii-Tavakis is displeased, and in her displeasure would've impaled Factor Epetrius if it weren't for Shara Six-Blades looming over her shoulder.
"What is this tripe?" she snarls, "First you say he was a Godsman, and now you say he is a Sensate. Which is it?!"
"What does it matter?" Epetrius quips sharply, "He was both or neither, depending on how you look at it."
"Some of us have money on this!" Scii-Tavakis snaps back, "I have twenty gold that he was a Godsman, ye sand-born sod!"
"Perhaps you could consider the Faction he joined first," Oudilin adds diplomatically, "After all, the Godsmen seems more sensible a faction for the Nameless One."
"'Nay, 'e was a Sensate before that one! Another incarnation 'twas!" G'mir throws in, "And can someone untie me from this damn table?!"
"Split the difference," Scales-of-Three adds as he arranges the gold coins he had been counting into a pile. He scribbles in his ledger, "Or refund all the bets. It is only fair."
"Well... I am still going to keep a little off the top as a service charge for setting up the wagers..." a rogue replies.
"No you don't you sticky-fingered blaggard!"
"Shut up, yeh sod! I want ta hear about th' flamin' feller!"
"Be silent, all of you!" Epetrius snaps as he shuts the chaos-bound tome, which had taken on a smell not unlike rancid oil, "By the eighty thousand eight-hundred and ninety-four threads of my robes, you are all barmy as a pack of slaadi... the lot of you! And as my part of the tale is finished we might as well allow me to step down so I might mediate this disp-"
Epetrius' words die in the air as a booming shriek echoes from across the room:
For half a moment the crowd stands, dumbfounded, a hundred heads turning toward the shriek. It is then that, looking up through the window like a group of prairie dogs the throng gasps, screams, and panics collectively. A shadow casts itself against the pale blue night sky... looming and growing larger by the moment.
You're able to snatch your drink and scramble over the bar just in time, careful not to spill a drop.
The shock of stone and steel rippling across the wall comes first, and then the thunderous crack of a dozen windows shattering, their shards pelting down upon the crowd. The squeal of metal scraping against metal, the crack of splintering wood and wounded screams trails the initial shock like a ribbon. Patrons tumble from the second tier, screaming and flailing through the air as the section is obliterated.
The crowd parts, crushing patrons against the walls and stampeding over tables as the bow of the ship pierces through, its sides gouged by mortar. The hull is strong, however, and even as the ship squeals through the front of the bar there is not a single spot where the vessel's surface had been breached.
For twenty spans the ship glides through, prow slashing the air like a needle, ropes and pulleys flailing wildly as they snap like tendons. For another twenty spans it still moves, continually slowing until it screeches to a halt, giving one last quiver as it stops with a heavy groan.
You take a well-earned drink from your mug. Damn, that's good ale.
The silence afterwards is broken by the wails of the wounded and the shifting of rubble. Through a shattered window you spy a large building in the distance with two metal beams atop, crisscrossing as they had fallen against one another. The space encircled by them is a window, and through it a sea of silver-white fog shifts momentarily before the portal winks out of existence.
With a loud clank the heavy iron anchor drops, crashing uselessly onto the ground. The floor shatters under its weight.
"Avast, lads!" a woman's voice cries out as a porthole bursts open, "Looks like we've hit reality!"
Sailors scramble along the deck, dropping ropes so that they might shimmy down. They are draped in blue and gray, sliding down gracefully like a dozen spiders. Their leather shoes pad along the ground softly.
"Jeanette!" Shara Six-Blades snarls, "Damn you, girl! What trouble have you brought upon me now?!"
With that a young woman slides down one of the ropes, her navy-blue coat fluttering behind her. Those peach-colored hands look much too soft to be those of a pirate's, and the lace cuffs at her wrists look too prim and neat. The hat she wears holds three feathers, blue, green, and red, obscuring her face.
She swings her head back, looking up with a mad, pearly grin. The woman is pretty, with a pointed freckled nose and a heart-shaped face framed with light brown curls. Her face would be perfectly girlish if it wasn't for the blue-white eyepatch covering the left side of her face.
"These days the name's Jeanette Dovelle Four-Winds, Shara Six-Blades," she laughs, "I added the last part so that I might beat you in names, at least."
Shara growls, "There is only one thing keeping me from killing you and your damned pirates. You'd best convince me there's more than that."
Jeanette smiles, "How about we call our debt even then?"
"Not good enough."
"Well I added to your bar. You can keep the ship... build around it and add those three decks. It'd double your space and add a magnificent feature, wouldn't you say?"
Shara scoffs, "A vessel protruding from the outer wall of my bar? Preposterous."
"You might be surprised. Besides, by the look of it not a single one of your patrons was killed. Well, except for this one at least," she gives the body a swift kick.
Oudilin's wings flutter, and he massages his joints as if they had been wounded in the panic, "Perhaps you could tell us what led you to crash your vessel into the wall of this establishment?"
"Oh I'm not one for words. For one, I'm a magnificent liar when I do choose to speak. Second, as a Cipher I much prefer action. Like so!" she gives the body another boot, and the poor tiefling at her feet coughs and sputters, groaning in agony at being revived so roughly, "Well la! I was wrong after all! But that just goes to prove my point. Well, that was my good deed for the day, and just in time for supper."
"Then that would be a terrific pity, if you weren't able to continue the tale of the Nameless One..." Oudilin's voice is coy, teasing even as he cradles what looks to be a dislocated shoulder.
As expected, Jeanette's eye widens, "The Nameless One? Well, that indeed is a tale I'll be more than willing to add to!"
With a leap and a bound she steps up to the stage, whipping a rapier from her belt, "I am Jeanette Dovelle Four-Winds, pirate queen of the Silver Sky! Former Captain of the githyanki thoughtskimmer Joren Dell! I've circled the border between Prime Material and Outer Plane, riding on currents of dream and waters of ancient memory! I've fished in the Shimmering Sea Beyond the Pale, and survived the monstrosities that I caught!
"As for how I got here... well, we were delivering a shipment of stray thoughts to an old fence of mine when the githyanki caught up with us. Now, these folks aren't too fond of entrepreneurs who acquire one of their astral vessels through legally questionable (and perhaps morally reprehensible) means, but I digress.
"There we were, surrounded by a dozen githyanki warships, firing bolts of rage and loading cannons full of remose at the Joren Dell. The first salvo tore through the dream-sails, the second damaged our qualia engine. A stray fugue had killed my first mate- alas! A hundred hooks flew at us, honed with hatred (of which the githyanki are not short of, I assure you) and anchored with ropes made of braided nightmares. When they pulled us alongside my crew fought them off valiantly- I couldn't ask for finer salts to sail with! I myself took on twelve of the yellow-skinned gith at once, then insulted another so that he might join in. A good baker's dozen is fond luck, I always say.
"Well we fought off the first wave, flung their broken corpses into the void and sped along as fast as we could through the Astral sea. We were leaking qualia faster than a stuck pig could bleed, when salvation was in sight.
"Aumenaroch... an ancient god of empty spaces. He had been forgotten long ago, his last followers had slit their throats one by one to add to the Silent Song, and that was that. The old Power died with a whimper, and his corpse now floats along the Astral: silent, still, bobbing in the white miasma like a cork until we came along.
"One of the benefits of smuggling stray thoughts, lads, is that you tend to pick up little things here and there that are of great use. In this instance it was knowledge. Aumenaroch's petrified corpse... high as a mountain and pale as pain had a great many portals squirreled away on itself. Much of the divine substances that are so precious about dead gods had been mined away long ago by the greedy gith, so holes were a-plenty for us to fly through.
"I chose one that I knew best, giving it the sign of the four shapes and flew our vessel through as the gith closed in on us. Well needless to say our engine puttered out at that point and the sails had failed, and by sheer skill alone I sailed the rest of the way bouyed with every ounce of will we could muster, bearing the splintered mizzenmast with my teeth. And here we are!"
Epetrius's thin eyebrows furrow, and the lizard perched on his head flicks its tongue, "I have never heard of this god you speak of, and while you seem to be a lady of remarkable talents I find it hard to believe you were able to fight off that number of githyanki."
"You wound me, lad! Every word I just spoke is true as the River of Faith! Well, save the false parts here and there, but at best they were just a mild embellishment or two for the sake of the tale," Jeanette says with a smile, popping open her pouch, "But as I said... collecting stray thoughts always yields lovely little surprises."
With that she pulls an eyeball out by its long, severed optic nerve. It is still wet and glistening, wriggling back and forth as if it had a life of its own, "The Eye of the Nameless One, lads. Take a good look, and let's tell a real tale."