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The next day we returned to the Civic Festhall. I asked Splinter to take us to the private sensoriums.
Splinter had told me a mage named Quell might be found there as well, someone who knew some of the history regarding the nighthag Ravel Puzzlewell.
I entered a large room; opening off it were smaller rooms, each with a stone holding an experience. In one of the smaller rooms I glimpsed a figure, dressed in robes.
I went into the small room. I saw an older man chewing on something, muttering softly to himself... after a moment, there was a *CRACK* as he crunched down on the object in his mouth, then swallowed it. His bushy, brassy white eyebrows furrowed for a moment, rose, and then furrowed again. "Hmmm..."
I approached him, and offered a greeting.
Without so much as looking at me, the man reached into his tunic, pulled out a puce-colored ball, regarded it curiously for a moment, then popped it into his mouth.
Feeling more than a little annoyed, I loudly repeated, "I said, 'greetings...'"
The man frowned and waved me away, then nodded to himself thoughtfully as he savored the flavor of whatever he had put into his mouth.
Even more loudly, I said, "I've... got some questions..."
The man smirked, bit his thumb at me, then abruptly paused... his cheeks swelled and, with a violent gag, he spat up a large black fly which began to buzz around the chamber.
"Minaurosian candies be *damned!*" he cried, shaking his fist at the insect. He whirled on me. "What?!" In a calmer voice I replied.
"I had questions about you..." He popped a small red candy into his mouth.
"Do you always traipse about molesting puissant mages with your ignorant prattle?! Babbling, blathering, chittering, CHATTERING!" The candy shot from his mouth on 'chattering,' flying in a high arc to land on the floor with a wet *plip.* He stared at it sadly. I started to say something, but he overrode me. "It was so *tasty,* too..." he mewled. He suddenly looked up, snarling.
"SORRY?! As you *should* be, you piking dung-beetle! Mages deserve respect, and bashers like you should know their proper place!" He began to jump up and down. "Proper place! Proper place!" I had not been about to apologize when he cut me off. Perhaps ask if he always acted this childish.
"Calm down, I only mean to ask you some questions..."
"I care *NOT,* you yeasty, beef-witted pig-nut!" His eyes bulged out and he jabbed his finger at me. "Now off with you! OFF! WITH! YOU! And do not return without being prepared to show the proper respect... come bearing tribute - a gift!" He suddenly drew close and whispered from the side of his mouth: "Candies or chocolate would be nice. But nothing common, mind you - bring something *exotic.* Now begone!"
I recalled an item I had seen in Vrischika's Curiosity Shop, a quasit she had claimed to have been polymorphed into chocolate. Despite the inconvenience, I left and purchased it, since the only alternative means I could think of obtaining the information I wanted would be to kidnap Quell and torture it out of him.
Some time later I returned; Quell was still in the private sensorium. I approached him, and told him I had the imported chocolate he wanted.
"Oh?" His demeanor changed in an instant. "Very kind of you, very gentlemanly! May I see?"
He had revealed his weakness to me, and I took advantage of it to repay the trouble he had put me through. It was doubtful he would learn a lesson from what I had in mind, but at least I could get a little revenge. I replied to him, "Actually, no."
He reared back, totally flabbergasted. "WHAT?!"
"I really don't think you deserve it. You've been so rude."
"You... you *what?*" He began hopping about. "Preposterous! Farcical! Ludicrous! *RUDE* would be polymorphing you into a bowl of Baatorian spice-beans, eating you, and then spreading you about Sigil in foul-smelling little puffs from my bum! *THAT* would be most rude, I assure you, and I have been *nothing* of the sort!"
"In any case, you're not getting it until you've apologized."
He immediately became quiet, eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You would let me *see* this gift, first, at least?"
I gave him a just a peek at the chocolate quasit.
The man's skullcap shot into the air with a resounding *pop,* landing straight back on his head. "Oh... oh my. Is that... is that a...?" He licked his lips, reaching gingerly for the chocolate quasit.
"Oh, no. Apology. Now."
He scrunched his face up, biting his lip as he shook his fists silently. Finally, he stopped, brushed off his clothes, and exhaled slowly. "Very well, sir. I apologize." I noticed he had one of his hands behind his back.
Morte floated around behind Quell, and yelled out, "Hey, chief - he's got his fingers crossed!"
"Silence, you gibbering... oh! I mean, why, I'm doing nothing of the sort!" The mage smiled innocently at me, presenting his hands for my inspection.
"Hmm. All right, here: a chocolate quasit."
He took it from my hands. "Oh... quite rare, these are, and most delectable." He bit off a large piece and tucked what was left into his tunic.
"I had some questions "
He frowned at me, licking the last of the chocolate off his fingers. "Who told you to bother me with inane questions?!" He stared at me accusingly. "Come now... what is it that you wish to bother me with, or begone!" He fished a malt-ball from his sleeve and ate it.
Back to one of my original questions, although the remote possibility of him not being Quell didn't bear thinking on. "Who are you?"
"I... am Quell." He held up his hand imperiously, as if to stop me from introducing myself. "...and don't bother to introduce yourself: you must be the most insolent, annoying pest this side of Sigil that I've heard so much about!"
"A true *pleasure* to meet you, and thank the Powers it couldn't have waited until you had curled up and died, thereby sparing me the pain of being forced to banter words with you! I would gladly trade my formidable sorcerous powers for but a minor enchantment that would pierce your thick skull and introduce at least the idea of 'manners!'"
I ignored his tirade, and finally spoke the one question I had wanted to ask him. "What do you know of Ravel Puzzlewell?"
At the mention of her name, he swallowed the candy he was sucking on with a loud *gulp,* wincing in pain. "What to tell?! Why tell at all? Such things, such tales are best left in dusty books and in the attics of old men's minds! Evil, evil! Such a name, such a name... and such dark tales swarm about it, like flies on a corpse."
"Just the same, I need you to tell me." He rolled his eyes, plopping another candy into his mouth.
"She's a night hag, my boy, who came to Sigil... all evil and cackles, she was, alive with her shadow-magic, ready to butt heads with the Lady of Pain. Barmy, barmy barmy old hag... only succeeding in getting herself mazed. She's likely dead, by now."
"Yes, yes, yes..." He seemed uneasy about speaking of her. "Ravel dabbled... no, not dabbled, but *excelled* in all schools of magic. She knew shadow magics, magics of illusion and shadow substance, shadows, residues of dead things."
"How might I find her?"
"Why... why would you *ask* such a thing? Are you *MAD?* What could you possibly want with such an evil creature?"
"She knows something about my past."
"Doubtful... she was mazed many centuries ago. Gone - penned in the dead-book, she is. And even if she were somewhy, *somehow* still clutching to life with her blackened, bloody talons, what could she *possibly* know about *you?* If she wasn't the spitting image of cackling evil, that is, and was even *willing* to help you..."
I had to find out more about my past, and about my enemy. For that, I needed Ravel. "I'll just have to hope she's alive and will help me."
"By Leshe's six teats and her swollen tummy, what a flickering candle of hope hurled into the howling winds of Pandemonium that is! *Flicker-flicker-whooosh!* Don't be any more the fool than you need be!"
"I must still seek her out, whether she's dead or alive."
"So if she's dead - as she most likely is - then what is your plan, may I ask? You have everything all figured out, do you? Quell is just blowing words out of his pits, nonsense, nothing! What *do* you plan to do if she's in the dead-book, eh?"
I had no plan beyond finding her, since I had so little information. With nothing to lose, I asked, "What do you think I should do?"
"The first brilliant question you've asked! Me? *I* think you should give up this clueless idea of entering mazes and chatting with night hags and lope back into whatever crypt you crawled out of! Makes far more sense than fishing for the Lady's anger, it does."
"Can you tell me how to get to her maze?"
"Lunatic! Madman! Addle-cove! Have you not listened to a word I've said?! She's imprisoned in an inter-dimensional *maze* for trying to best the *LADY OF PAIN!* That means she's at least ten times as barmy as you, and at least a hundred times more powerful! She's also most likely dead, dead, dead, thrice-dead and... if by some happenstance she isn't... she'll make *you* dead!"
"I understand, but I really need your help. Can you tell me how to reach her or not?"
Quell went quiet, chewing on his lip. After a moment, he fished around in his tunic for a mint, then plopped it into his mouth. "You're serious? Serious now? Why so serious, so Baator-bent, so mule-stubborn?" He sighed. "Well, born Clueless, die Clueless."
"All mazes have portals; this much I *know* to be true. A way in, a way out... this is how the Lady fashions them. I do not know the portal - its location, or even its form - but I am told its key... is a piece of Ravel."
"A piece of Ravel? But if Ravel is MAZED, then how am I supposed to..."
"Then you'll have to make do. Find something that has Ravel's taint in it, mayhap... that is all I know! All! Bother me no more about it! If you want to go pestering someone about something like that, go to the Brothel of Slating Intellectual Lust -- one of the ladies there is bound to have met someone or know something that'll help."
Ah, that told me what I needed to know. A piece of Ravel, and
I knew where one of Ravel's daughters was to be found, in Fall-From-Grace's
establishment. I still needed a portal, however. It was possible,
I supposed, to actually build one. But the amount of research
involved, the time taken in construction, could fill a mortal
man's lifetime. I had hoped to find Ravel, if she still lived,
in a matter of days.
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