Part 95: InterludeInterlude:
The Tavern of Broken Dreams (Music)
Drumming your fingers along the countertop you wait for supper to arrive. Fresh dragon-steaks, you had been promised, with a red wine sauce, but the service is lagging.
You can't blame the staff, of course. A third had been gravely injured, and another third are sifting through the rubble and tending to the wounded. Even though the flow of ale has slowed sobriety is slow in coming, and even then it is muted by the overly boisterous telling of Jeanette Dovelle Four-Winds' part of the tale.
"Absurd!" Epetrius snaps sharply, "how could an eye of all things be a record for anything?"
"La! But you're not a particularly clever one, are you?" Jeanette exclaims over the Guvner's sputtering, "There are many myths about eyes lad, about how they're the window to the soul, or how the retina records the images of the last moments of one's life. And considering how frequently The Nameless One has danced on both sides of the Great Veil, this eye has images a-plenty, all laid over one another like slivers o' glass.
"A-sides," Jeanette grins, "This one had been found on the Astral, whipped by winds of thought and currents of dream. In its immortality it had taken on a life of its own, and drawn together and preserved ancient memories of The Nameless One before they evaporated into nothingness in the White Void. At least, so's my theory."
Oudilin tests his newly healed shoulder, swinging it back and forth as he holds his lyre in the other hand. You'd think that without the strum of his music the tale would've dulled, but Jeanette's bombastic ways are more than enough to fill up that void. The deva sets right an overturned seat, resting the lyre on one knee, "How exactly did you come across this eye, then?"
"Ah, but that is a story in and of itself, lad!" she flicks the eye in the air like a coin, optic nerve wriggling and flailing as if it were a snake's tail, "There we were on the Isle of Fading Thoughts, where memories go to die. A select few poor sods lose their way when they fall into the Deep Sleep, and wander the Astral a-while before reaching the Outer Planes. Those that are caught on the Isle are held by its morticians: a sorry lot, lanky and long-limbed like garden spiders. There they embalm these souls rather than their bodies, and ornament them with ancient crystallized thoughts: the honey-sweetness of a first kiss, an echo of springtime blooming throughout Elysium and the perfumed scent of its wildflowers. And there upon its crests and cliffs the dead are buried in caskets of fading dreams.
"Well, what better place to plunder, I say! That night we traveled, the Joren Dell, its sails swelled fat with the winds of memory, its keel buoyed by currents of lost and dying beliefs. We sailed along the lee of the Isle, a small void where stray thoughts were few. We rode a little eddy of dying faith (not so little these days, thanks to the efforts of the Athar) and found ourselves in a cove, populated only by fat worms that fed on the mental detritus of the planes. Disgusting things really; taste like jellied bilgewater.
"When we disembarked I took a party of twelve others with me. As I said, baker's dozen is fond luck! With my coterie behind me I went and plundered the catacombs for ancient treasures.
"I was just examining a fat little sensation (must've been a thousand years old and the size of a robin's egg) of a poet's satisfaction at finally completing his masterwork after two decades o' scourin' the planes for the right words. T'was then that a squeak caught our attention, and this little jigger launched itself at us," she holds up the eye for emphasis, "Thing yearned for a socket to bury itself in after being without a skull to call a home for countless centuries, and it immediately started nudging itself at the forehead o' my boatswain.
"Well he shrieked like a banshee 'e did, and dropped a pile of old joys and sorrows. The joys bounced, that was no matter... but the lamentations shattered against the floor like glass and heaved up this horrible cloud o' elegies, and the stench of that awakened the morticians."
"They shuddered and rose, limbs snapping into place like bones set a-right, and as my companions led a merry chase down the halls with arms laden with treasures I stood in the rear, fending the monstrosities off one by one, my rapier slashing their limbs and carving my name across their night-black hides.
"Well one stray shot from 'em took my eye, but 'twas a fine price for the rousing battle they offered! I ran back, the blood and fluid spilling from my empty socket like gelatinous tears. By the time I made it back to the Joren Dell the sails were a-ready and the anchor was hoisted, and all I needed was a rope ladder to make my escape. I swung from that brittle ladder among the silver void, breathing the must of the forgotten, dancing among the silver threads of memory and laughing at fate itself. Ah the freedom and wonder of bein' a pirate! A grand afternoon to be sure, and by the time I climbed back in lunch was ready. Stroganoff, if I recall."
"That is ridiculous and you, girl, are just making up lies again!" Factor Epetrius growls, stabbing a pointed finger at Jeanette. The lizard perched on his cap flicks out a tongue, as if to taunt the girl, "Nowhere in the libraries of Sigil, not among all the maps of the Astral Plane and the books of such, is this Isle mentioned!"
Jeanette laughs, as if the answer were obvious, and bends over. Her hands are placed on her knees and she smiles as she speaks in a soft, kind voice, as if addressing a child, "Oh good Guvner, me boy. O' course the name isn't mentioned in your books. The name itself has been forgotten and buried on the Isle itself. An' the fact that you know nothin' of it just proves me point really. If'n ye really want to see the name though, I keep it in a box in me holds. Ha!"
Epetrius' lips pull back in a growl, as if he were to say something else, but he merely rubs his temples and shakes his head in frustration.
You raise an eye as a heavy plate clacks against the counter. Your dragon-steak, medium-rare, fairly dripping in a reddish gravy. The savory scent of it makes your mouth water, and the barmaid smiles as your coin clinks into her palm.
"Now, as for this one," Jeanette indicates the eye which has now perched on her shoulder like a fawning parrot, "We didn't realize it at first but it had hitched a ride on the Joren Dell, squirreling away in the holds and suddenly shy for some reason. We laid out traps for a month and tried luring it out with a mash of honey and shavings of star-crossed love, but in the end I was able to coax the thing out with a slice of slow agony harvested from an Inquisitor's scalpels. Thing seems to find itself bound to pain, as the Nameless One hisself once was."
Jeanette sighs before continuing, "I tried giving it a wee home in me own skull once... now I tell you, it hurts like a trip through the Nine Hells and isn't half as friendly, but past the headaches it fed me plenty o' flashes o' memory for me to piece together what happened with the Nameless One. And if'n ye sods think that things were bad with Ignus then, ye'd want to hear what happens next..."