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I left the mausoleum, and re-entered the Mortuary, seeking out the blind zombie again. I used my 'Stories Bones Tell' ability, and asked if he was Xachariah.
"Wha... you!" The zombie seemed shocked, but gladdened. "By the Lady's Gaze..." His tone took on a sense of wonder. "Aren't you *dead,* cutter?" I asked who he really was.
"So, it's hard to peel away this filthy shroudskin an see ol' Xachariah the Fool beneath? It is I, cutter. Blessed be the Powers, I thought never to see you again... but you've changed too, as far as my ears can tell... have you been making poor choices again?" Xachariah wheezed from his throat hole. "Be you dead, too?"
"It's a long tale... but no, I'm not dead."
"Well, cutter, I suppose being dead's not something one would doubt, though how can you talk to me? Your voice is as clear as a knife..."
"What are your doing here? "
"I am a stable hand in the most lifeless place of all. Be it that I could pass beyond the Eternal Boundary and have a Plane to call my home, but much of my soul was squandered, and now I am here."
"What's it like being a zombie?"
"It's honest work..." The stitching came undone from Xachariah's mouth and the flesh around his lips peeled back in a smile. "...I care little for it."
"What led you to this state? "
His voice dropped, as if ashamed. "It's a hard path following in your footsteps, cutter, and many terrible things did I see. I took to drink, and became half-sodden with the stuff. Once, when I was sodding drunk, I signed my body off to the Dusties. Fate decided ta kick me when I was down, and I died shortly afterward."
"What can you tell me about my previous life?"
"Why? Have you forgotten yourself?"
"In a manner of speaking... yes."
"Well... you were a strange one, always suspicious and watching for something... reckon somebody like you had got enough enemies in yer lifetimes. And there was no denying that anybody who messed with you ended up in the black chapters of the dead book."
"Anything else? Any specifics "
"You could be damnably ruthless, too... like when you made me sign that contract, or abandoned that one mewling chit on Avernus. We had a Balor of a time, as well. None of us ever even entertained the notion to jump ship on your watch, son."
"At your core, you looked at what happened to you like taking territory in a war; everything was like a battle to you, and you were the most ruthless bastard I ever near met. Naught else mattered except for solving that goal. Poor Deionarra with her sobbing and pleading with you didn't sway you none, the gith warning you about your strategies, and poor Xachariah just trying to hold on when we hit the Planes. You were tough like you couldn't die, but we were only human. Now I guess we're all in the dead book... or in and out of it, so to speak."
"You left something when you left us, cutter... you left Dak'kon without a master, and the skull without a friend. Me? You stabbed something so deep inside me, it never came out when I was alive. Caused my blood to run cold, it did, that thing sitting like a lump of lead in my chest." I asked him to tell me about Deionarra.
"That feisty chit-who-would-be-a-soldier swore she'd follow you to Baator and back, and by the Powers, she was so addled by the thought of you without her she did just that. Cared little for me or the gith, and a bare little it was. She was wild with heart poison for you, she was, proof she was barmy. I don't understand what the womenfolk saw in yer scarred mug, but it set their blood a-boil. She was some rich scut from the Clerk's Ward, and you needed something from her, and the only price was that she came with you."
"What did I want from her?"
"One of the darks I never did bring to light, cutter. Perhaps you tell me?"
"What can you tell me of the gith?" After the discussion I just had with Dak'kon, I didn't fear that anything Xachariah said would hurt him further.
"Grim-lookin' gith... unfriendly and silent, like all their kind. Didn't trust that gith a lick, I didn't. See, cutter, them spindly giths care only about two things: keeping out of slavery and killing them squid-headed illithids. Everything else is just lower down the slope, and he didn't give a damn about any of us other than you." I also asked about Morte, interested in his perspective to see if he shared my suspicions.
"That filthy-talking skull was hankering for a bruising, so it was! Always smarting off, it was, and making fun of my condition!"
"You you were a blind archer? "
"That I was. You truly have forgotten, haven't you? All men see with more than their eyes, cutter... some of them better than others. I sensed the hearts of my foes - *your* foes - and my arrows always struck true. Ah, those were some times..."
"Do you know what happened to my journal? "
"That scrapbook that you'd stitched together outta yer own flesh and had more pages than I had years in my life?! Good fortune indeed if you've lost that ghoulish book! Always scribbling in it, you were, and it smelled a fright. It was like you were afraid that at any moment someone would take it away... you wrote in it 'til skin tore from your fingers and I wondered if you were trying to spill out your brain box through your pen. Sometimes we would hold up for days while you wrote. I hated that infernal book. It seemed to hold you by the heart, and not in a kind way. The last I saw of it, cutter, it was in your possession. If you don't carry it, I don't know where on the Planes it could be." Before I left, Xachariah asked for a favor. His voice dropped, as if ashamed.
"I made some mistakes, some damned bad ones to be sure, and one of my biggest was signing that Dustman contract. If I hadn't been so sodden with bub, I never woulda done it. I regret it, and I was hoping you could set it aright."
"Way I reckon, this body's gonna last a long time... and every day's too long to me. Couldja maybe gut me again, cutter... for old time's sake? The thought of spending another batch of years here in the Mortuary with these whitefaces is a mighty cold one. Can you see fit to put me back in the Dead Book where I belong?"
"If that is your wish..." I gutted him, and Xachariah fell to the floor with a heavy thud. There was a faint hiss from the body, and I saw the chest heave once, then with a faint rattle, the corpse went silent.
"Rest in peace, Xachariah."
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