<=Previous | Contents | Next=>
We left the Buried Village, traversing the Hive once again. As we walked Annah made a comment to me.
"Wal, I grew up here. Not a pleasant childhood, mind yeh. "
I told her we were heading for the Mortuary, and let her take the lead. I watched her tail; its twitching was almost hypnotic. And the swaying of her hips led my thoughts to other areas
She glanced back, and noticing my interest, stated, "Yeh like my wee tail? I'll wag it at ya. "
She had managed to make me feel foolish, again. I hurried forward, taking the lead without comment.
As we passed near the Hive market, I greeted Iron Nalls, still searching out nails from the timbers surrounding her. She straightened up and put her hands on her hips.
"Back again, eh? What need ye this --" She suddenly noticed Annah beside me. "Well, cutter... who's yer new friend?"
"Her name's Annah. "
"I can speak for meself, yeh know! I'm Annah, as if it's any business of yers." Annah crossed her arms with a *hmph.* Nalls only smiled and turned her good eye back to me. I smiled in return, and took my leave.
I briefly looked at the stock of another merchant, which was tableware. As I began to move off, she tried to get me to stay.
"Oh, sir, but wait!" She put her hand on my forearm; her touch was light as a feather. "Are you *sure* there's nothing you need? Surely something for your own home, or a gift..." Annah spoke up.
"Aye, he's sure; didn't yeh hear the man?" Annah rolled her eyes. "Fer the love o' the Powers, why don't yeh pry yerself off the sod fer a bit? Yeh're embarrasin' yerself, yeh are." The merchant turned up her cute, button nose.
"Hmph! Are you so jealous that you'd rob a poor merchant of her sale? The good sir is a customer, o Plane-Touched, not some piece of meat to be owned or fought over." With that, she nodded at me. Annah looked horrified, then furious.
"*Jealous?!* Bar that! Watch yer tongue, woman, or I'll split it from yer bone-box an' bury it an' yer corpse on opposite ends o' Sigil, I will!" The merchant, clearly frightened, stepped back a ways. "And yeh!" she turned to me, eyes flashing with rage, and made a disgusted sneer. "Not a *word!* Don't go gettin' any ideas from this addle-coved chit's blatherin', or yeh'll be good an' sorry!"
I quickly moved away before Annah had any reason to make good on her threat to the merchant. I had been busy considering Annah's effect on me. I hadn't considered my effect on her.
We reached the Mortuary, and entered with the excuse that we needed to speak to Dhall. What I really wanted to do was use my new ability to reach the spirit that once inhabited a corpse, and see if there were any of the walking dead who remembered anything about me. I might even encounter a previous companion who had gotten penned into the dead book. Unfortunately, most of the walking dead were so old their spirits were beyond my reach, while the recent dead from the Hive could be expected to know no more than the living I had questioned in the streets.
I found something of interest when I approached a male corpse with the number "331" chiseled into his skull. His eyes and lips were stitched closed, and there was a gaping hole torn in his throat. He smelled *foul.* I used the 'Stories Bones Tell' ability on the corpse.
"Wh-wh..." The zombie was awkwardly getting his voice back, and he sounded alarmed. "Who's there?! Answer me!"
"Can you not see me?" I asked.
"Blind I am, in death as I was in life... now answer me. Who are you?"
"Who are you?" I repeated the question back to him.
"I..." The zombie became silent. "...my name... has fled me. I... can no longer remember who I am."
I turned away in frustration, only to surprise a look of concern on Dak'kon's face. He quickly resumed his impassive expression as I glanced at Morte, but I could detect nothing unusual about the skull. Still, I had my suspicions, and devised a plan to test them.
I headed back to Fell's Tattoo Parlor, only this time I took my companions with me when I entered. Inside, Annah stiffened when she caught sight of Fell.
"We'll draw the Lady's gaze if we stay here, we will." I asked her what was wrong..
"Are yeh daft?!" Annah turned to me... and I suddenly realized she was *frightened.* "Are yeh so pig-eager to dance in the Lady's shadow yeh'll bandy words with this one?! Let's give this place the laugh before we get penned in the dead-book!" I was surprised to see her usual canny self-reliance so suddenly pierced, and asked again what was wrong.
"It's *Fell.*" Annah threw a fearful glance at Fell. "Let's be away, aye? No good'll come of being here, so it won't!"
"He's a dabus who's not a dabus, aye? He walks on the ground..." Annah's voice dropped to a whisper, and she started trembling. "No more questions, let's give this place the laugh, aye?" When I didn't immediately move towards the door, she continued, "Fell's a dabus who angered *Her.* It's said he's a dabus who isn't a dabus, and the time's close when the Lady's gaze'll fall on him, so it will."
"You mean the Lady of Pain?" I realized what was the source of her fear.
"Aye... and heed yer tongue." Annah made a semicircle in the air in front of her as I mentioned the Lady's name. "The dabus work for the Lady, an' she protects them... 'cept Fell." She shuddered. "Let's be away, aye?"
It was important I speak to Fell; I couldn't stop just for Annah. I told her I just needed a few moments to talk to Fell.
Annah grabbed my arm. "Please, nay, nay! No good'll come of it -- anyone speakin' ta Fell could draw the Lady's gaze. I donnae want t'die, I don't!" To my surprise, Annah looked close to tears.
I hesitated, wanting to hold her, but afraid I would be rebuffed. I settled for trying to comfort her using words.
"Annah, no harm will come to you while I'm here -- I promise. I just want to speak to him for a moment." For a minute, Annah just looked at me. Then, something in my gaze seemed to calm her, for she steeled herself.
"I donnae why I..." She shook her head. "Go on, then, talk ta him! I donnae care!" There was an undercurrent of fear in her voice.
I pretended that the last time I was here I could barely understand Fell, and asked Dak'kon to translate for me. I asked Dak'kon to ask Fell if he had done the tattoos on the dismembered arm I had found.
Fell repeated what he had said before, that one tattoo spoke of a time when my path was shared by four others. Dak'kon, rather than translating, remained silent. When I pressed Dak'kon, all he would say was that Fell said the arm was mine, the tattoos his.
I pressed Dak'kon, asking if he had said anything else. Dak'kon was silent for a moment... and suddenly, instinctively, I knew Dak'kon was *lying* to me. He continued on with a dead-level tone.
"The rest of the symbols are not *known* to me."
For Dak'kon to lie to me hurt. I had thought I was getting to know something of him, of the honorable ways of the githzerai; more, I had trusted him. I saw this as a betrayal, and asked, bluntly, why he was lying to me. Dak'kon fell silent again; he did not turn to look at me -- he seemed to be staring at something leagues away.
"The symbols... there is no good in *knowing* the answer to what you ask."
"Since when has *not* knowing the truth of something ever really helped anyone, Dak'kon? The counselor who councils ignorance betrays his station."
"There is truth in your words. That truth... should be *known* to me." Dak'kon was silent for a moment, then he turned to me, his eyes hardened. "The symbols speak of four you have traveled with in the past."
The symbols swirling about Fell formed a pattern I had seen before, describing the four who had travelled with me. Dak'kon, however, continued without looking at Fell.
"The tattoo speaks of four minds. One was a woman, who loved a man who *knew* her and *knew* not love. The other was a blind man, who saw things no mortal eye could see. Another was a familiar, a mage's pet, bought and bound. And the last was a slave."
"Why did you not want to tell me this?"
"The four are bound with a symbol that is *known* to me." A symbol of torment had appeared above Fell, which Dak'kon elaborated on, "The symbol is torment. He says that you have always worn it, for the flesh *knows* that it suffers, even when the mind does not."
Dak'kon refused to say any more about the four, at least not in front of those I hadn't chosen as companions.
I consulted with Fell to purchase some tattoos, but Annah was
still very nervous, her eyes darting about as if expecting the
Lady to break through a wall at any moment, so I cut my bargaining
<=Previous | Contents | Next=>