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The next day we entered the catacombs. Stone faces were inset into the walls. Flowing water had left tracks beneath the eyes of these faces, so it did indeed appear that they were weeping.
We started by examining tombs to the left of the entrance. We first ran into ghouls, nasty eaters of flesh of the dead. Then we found cranium rats. It really is true that with enough of them in one place they can cast spells. We also came across vargouilles, which are little more than two wings attached to a human-like head.
We found some treasure in the tombs, but nothing of any real interest. By mid-day we had seen almost everything to the left of the entrance, and I decided to try my luck on the other side.
We were walking down another of the damp stone corridors when one of the twisted stone faces on the walls called out to me in a creaking stone voice that sounded like the shifting of boulders.
"Immortal regard me. I am Glyve. I would have words with you. " As shocking as being addressed by stone was, I was even more shocked at the knowledge displayed.
"How did you know I'm immortal?"
"I see... a burning purpose... within your shell. I see... many things in the falling... dust of these... tunnels. You lack... something essential... and that keeps you... from death's sweet embrace."
"What did you want to say to me?"
"Listen: This place holds... much danger for you. Treachery awaits you... on the surface... and your way is... long and winding. At the end... you will find... what you have sought... but you may not ... want it then." I wondered how it could know this.
"Are you some sort of oracle?"
"Oracle? No... I observe. That is all."
"In that case, perhaps you can answer some questions I had..."
"What... did you want... to know?"
"Tell me of yourself. How did you come to be in this situation?"
"I was once... a respected leader... of my community... in the Lower Ward. A petty lord... sought to increase his power... at the expense of my people... my friends... my relatives... and friends and I spoke... against him."
"And then... he captured us... one by one... and bound our spirits and senses... into these screaming faces... under the Ditch... where all filth in Sigil... comes eventually. And then... he let the polluted waters above... flow through our mouths... and noses... and eyes." I felt sorry for Glyve. Forgotten, alone, doomed to unending existence. My offer came readily.
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"I am cursed to... remain here until... fresh water passes my lips... There is a ... magical flask of water... in the ... Drowned Nations. Bring it to me... and give me a taste of it... and I shall tell you... of someone... who can help you unlock... its full potential... and you shall never... lack for water... again."
"Through the Dead Nations... where the dead walk ... and rule... or through the Warrens of Thought... where Many-as-One holds sway... Neither is without... its risks." I understood him to be referring to an area the undead ruled, like the ghouls we had already run into, or a region I took to be dominated by cranium rats.
"What can you tell me of the catacombs around us?"
"The catacombs were carved... eons ago... to house the dead of the city... who did not wish ... the tender ministrations of the Dustmen. They have become... the refuse ground of the city... where dwell monsters barely seen... where humans prowl like... scavengers among the scavengers. Many-as-One patrols these tunnels... and has turned many against ... their natures. The Dead Nations... prowl as well... guarding against... the depredations of ... the humans ... who come among them."
We left the stone face behind, continuing forward. The tomb at the end of this corridor contained little other than traps, so we backtracked, and tried another way. We found another tomb full of traps, but a surprise was awaiting me on the body of one of Pharod's scavengers.
It was an arm a severed arm as hard as a wooden club. It looked like it was severed cleanly at the shoulder (most likely by a scythe blade), and even though it looked many decades old, it was more petrified than rotted. It had an unhealthy gray pallor and was covered with scars. Intricate tattoos decorated its surface, spiraling up from the wrist all the way to the remains of the shoulder.
Upon closer inspection, I knew for a fact that the arm was mine. How long it had been lying around waiting for me was anyone's guess.
I remembered Barkis, barkeep at the Smoldering Corpse, mentioning a tattoo parlor near the bar. He had said the proprietor dealt in special tattoos. He might know something about the tattoos on this arm. He might even have done them. I thought it was important enough to interrupt Pharod's search for a while.
The tattoo parlor wasn't too hard to find, practically next to the bar. I went inside alone. Memories stretching over only a few days, and already I had learned caution. I wasn't sure I trusted Morte, and if I was going to find out any more about my past, I wanted to decide what to tell my companions.
As I entered, I saw a tall creature with a shock of white hair. Its skin had a greenish cast, and a pair of goat horns protruded from its forehead. It was dressed in long flowing robes. I realized I was looking at a Dabus, although this was the first one I had seen which wasn't floating.
I greeted him. The dabus waited patiently, its hands tucked into its sleeves. A series of symbols materialized above its head, then dissipated and a question mark appeared. I realized it was talking in symbolic pictures, rebuses.
I asked the dabus several questions, trying to get a feel for the rebuses that appeared above its head. It was extremely patient throughout my 'discussion,' giving me easy sentences to translate. After a few minutes, I started to get the hang of it... it felt like I had done this before.
I was about to ask his name, but I suddenly realized I already knew the dabus' name -- his name was 'Fell.' As if in response, the dabus inclined his head slightly, and a lone symbol appeared above its head. It was blurry at first, then resolved into a white oval with a black lightning bolt through it.
"I feel like I know you, Fell." Fell bowed reverently, and a stream of symbols swirled about his head, rotating clockwise, then counterclockwise. It took me a moment to translate.
(This is the first time and not the first time you have come to this place.)
I asked if he knew who I was. Another series of symbols materialized quickly and sharply into focus above Fell's head. The translation came to me just as quickly and sharply as the symbols themselves... as if I had translated the exact same string many times before.
(Yes. But I am not permitted to tell your story.)
Great. I asked why not. For a moment, there was no response from Fell, then a stream of rebuses appeared, as if trickling out of Fell's mind.
(My apologies, I cannot. I cannot change the nature of a man.) I couldn't explain why, but the last sentence sent a crawling sensation through my skull.
"'Nature of a man?' What does that mean?" The symbols that appeared above Fell almost mirrored the previous stream.
(My apologies. I cannot say.) So much for that.
"What is this place?" A slow train of symbols materialized around Fell's head... the symbols took several moments to resolve, starting with simple lines, then fleshing themselves out into breath-taking colors.
(This is where I tattoo color and life upon flesh and bone.)
"Can you tell me anything about these tattoos on my body?" Fell studied my body for a moment, walking around me. He mirrored each symbol as he examined it, then returned to face me.
(I know them. None are by my hand.) I asked if he could tell me about any of them anyway. Fell nodded, symbols appearing around him like fireflies.
(The ones upon your back were scribed with a careful hand and are directions for a mind that forgets itself. The symbol that lies upon your left shoulder is the mark of torment.)
"Torment?" The symbol sharpened, gaining edges that were almost painful to my eyes.
(It is *torment.* It is that which draws all tormented souls to you.) Fell nodded at my left arm, at my shoulder. (The flesh knows it suffers even when the mind has forgotten. And so you wear the rune always.) Now for what I had brought with me.
"Did you do the tattoos on this dismembered arm I found, Fell?" Fell examined it for a moment, tracing the patterns with his finger. He then looked up, and a series of rebuses formed, hazy at first, then came sharply into focus.
(The arm is yours. The tattoos are mine. One tattoo speaks of a time when your path was shared by four others.)
"What four others?" Four strings of symbols swirled from Fell's head, matching the pattern upon the dismembered arm.
(They speak of four. Shall I tell you their hearts?) I motioned him to go on. The symbols swirled before me, and I pieced them together.
(One unloved who loves one who does not love.)
(One who does not see what others see and sees what others do not.)
(One who is familiar and bound with duty.)
(One who is a slave and his chains are words.)
As I finished translating, the four strings seemed to form themselves into links, and they merged into a chain... the chain bent until it was a symbol I recognized, the symbol of torment on my arm.
"You mentioned that there were other tattoos on the arm? What others?" Fell examined the arm again, tracing the other faded tattoos upon its surface. As he did, they each appeared as a symbol above his head, hazy at first, then coming into focus sharply. He turned to face me.
(Ones forgotten, now remembered. You may wear them again if you wish.)
Fell's special talent allowed him to make magical tattoos, which could be worn or taken off at will. Besides his stock of ready made tattoos, I found he could make new tattoos based on my experiences, and from the dismembered arm I had brought. He showed me in his picture-language the tattoos he could create based on the arm, and explained them to me.
A tattoo which he termed the Tattoo of the Lost Incarnation told of the experiences of one of my past incarnations... the symbols and tales were unfamiliar to me, but it seemed to tell of a time when I was lost and abandoned on the streets of the Hive, barely able to make a living robbing and stealing from others I encountered. The crimes the lost incarnation committed eventually drove him to seek shelter in the Weeping Stone catacombs, where he survived for almost a year.
Another, the Tattoo of Wasting Darkness, from the same time, told of when I was seeking shelter beneath the streets and was forced to live as a shadow might, hiding from detection by the Sigil authorities and trying to conceal myself from the more dangerous inhabitants of the Weeping Stone catacombs.
The last which told of this time was the Tattoo of the Weeping Stones, when the catacombs beneath Sigil's streets were my second home. It told of my travelling down into the tombs, living in darkness, and coming to learn the nature of why the stones beneath Sigil weep.
I examined his other tattoos for a while, and resolved to come back and make a purchase when I had more time and jink. Outside, I rejoined the others. Typically, Morte had to make a joke.
"I knew you'd be back, chief! Finally realized you needed
me, huh?" I remained silent on what I had learned inside,
little enough that it was.
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