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At an inn, we settled into our now customary sleeping arrangements. I shared a room with Morte. Dak'kon and Annah were together. Fall-From-Grace, who up to now had taken a room by herself, agreed to share it with Nordom.
I went into Fall-From-Grace's room to talk to her, pretending not to hear Morte's comments. Once I entered her room, I tried to ignore Nordom, who was in the corner, talking to his crossbows or the clicking was his crossbows talking to him, I wasn't quite sure which. I decided to start by asking about something I had wondered since I had met Fall-From-Grace.
"How did you come by the name 'Fall-From-Grace?'"
"The meaning of names is a complicated subject. There is much to be said, and a great deal that is better left unsaid."
"Is Fall-From-Grace your real name?"
"Perhaps." She smiled slightly. "Perhaps not. There are names which are given and names which are earned. Who is to say which is the real one?" The subject of names was something I had given considerable thought to recently. There was almost nothing I wouldn't give to know my first name, that carried by my first incarnation.
"I think the name which is given carries the greater weight."
"That may be so. Why do you think that?"
"Because it is how people perceive you. And their perceptions may outweigh your understanding of yourself."
Grace nodded. "Your point is well-taken." So far she had avoided answering my question.
"So why are you called Fall-From-Grace?"
"Would it matter?" She smiled. "It is a given name," throwing my own answer back at me.
"It matters to me. I would like to know how you came to be called that."
"I have fallen from my people... some would say risen from my people, perhaps, but 'fall' *feels* more right to me." She looked at me questioningly. "Does that make sense?"
"Yes, it does. After all, 'fall' carries with it an underlying sense of loss."
Fall-From-Grace was silent for a moment, then nodded thoughtfully. "Yes... perhaps that is why it felt as it did. I... came to terms with the loss long ago, but the name has remained." Came to terms? Although she obviously had much practice in hiding her emotions, I had thought to detect a trace of anguish at times behind her words.
"Are you sure you've come to terms with it?"
Fall-From-Grace met my gaze, and I was once again struck by the brilliant shade of blue of her eyes... it was turbulent, like the ocean before a storm. "I had thought so. Yet, in speaking to you, you have caused me to realize some things." She smiled. "You have my thanks."
"Well, if you want to talk about it, let me know, all right?"
She nodded. "You are most kind. I will do so." She was a fiend, what was commonly thought of as evil incarnate, at least by birth. I wondered what she thought of her people.
"And you are a tanar'ri?"
"That is correct. I am a lesser tanar'ri, more specifically, a succubus." She gave a soft sigh. "I'm afraid we're a little too common in the Lower Planes and elsewhere for our own good. Most of my race spend their time seducing mortals with various pleasures of the flesh."
"I'd like to think that I have distanced myself from that... it is ultimately a trivial and non-productive way for one to spend one's time here in the multiverse. There is much more to life, wouldn't you agree?" I was curious how she had accomplished this distancing from her origins.
"How did you end up in Sigil?"
"It is a long tale, and not as interesting as some would make it out to be." She sighed. "It is intertwined in other tales of war and slavery - it is not a pleasant tale."
"I would still hear it."
"Very well... know my past is not a long one, at least by tanar'ri standards. The tanar'ri are a race of the Abyss, a staggered series of Planes filled with chaos and evil hearts. I grew up upon the first plane of the Abyss. My mother was a succubus herself - as I'm sure you are aware, succubi tempt mortals to bring their souls to the Abyss. My mother was among the finest, seducing countless mortal men to their eternal damnation. She now dwells in the Abyss, selling her children into slavery."
"Your mother sold you into slavery?"
"Yes, she sold me to the baatezu, the blood enemies of the tanar'ri. I think she rather expected that they would kill me -- despite her knowledge of other subjects, she knows little of their culture and the delight they take in tormenting others."
"How did you escape?"
"The baatezu are a proud species. The thought a tanar'ri could best them at anything was intolerable to them. So I challenged one of the proudest of the balor to a contest of improvisation, and my tanar'ri nature afforded me an advantage - you see, the tanar'ri are creatures of chaos, wild and unpredictable. The baatezu are more cunning, with orderly hearts. They understand improvisation, but they are not its best practitioners. And thus, I won my freedom - and my path brought me to Sigil." Vrischika, the owner of the Curiosity Shop, had told me a different version of this tale.
"Vrischika doesn't seem to care for you much."
"No, she does not. I do not blame her. Vrischika is a tanar'ri - a fiend, like I, but of a different sort - an alu-fiend. To understand Vrischika, you must understand that tanar'ri culture is chaos, and chaos by nature, cares nothing for fairness or justice. Alu-fiends are viewed as being... extraneous. Without purpose. In many ways, it is worse than a death sentence."
"What was that she was saying about you being a baatezu camp follower?"
"Surely you remember what I told you about my past?" Fall-From-Grace took on a curious expression... she seemed to be studying me for a moment, trying to read my features. She spoke, and her voice was quieter than normal. "Does it matter?" It mattered, but not because I had any remaining doubts about her. I felt concern over her, and wished some idea of what she had endured in the past.
"To me, yes. I'd like to know who I am traveling with."
"In answer to your question, I will tell you this: the baatezu are not human. Their lusts lie in power, not for the flesh, and they care nothing for raping or rutting as humans do when they hold another human prisoner. The torments of the baatezu are far more subtle and far more damaging than *any* violation of the flesh, and the scars last far longer. Is that what you wished to know?"
"Yes. I just wanted to know who it was I was traveling with."
"I thought you knew already." Fall-from-Grace inclined her head slightly. "I was mistaken."
Fall-From-Grace then asked me why I was asking questions about the night-hag Ravel. I smiled slightly, since it wasn't often sides switched and I was the one being interrogated. Ravel was an essential part of the enigma which was my past.
"I intend to seek her out."
Grace raised an eyebrow. "Truly? I find myself compelled to ask why."
"I need information that she has."
"Is this information available from no one else?"
"I suspect that only Ravel possesses the knowledge I need." Grace rested her hand lightly on my arm, and a trace of concern was in her voice when she replied.
"Consider this - if Ravel does indeed exist, then she is extremely powerful and cunning. If a fraction of the stories of her activities are true, then she is a creature that has discovered new meanings of evil. To search for her is not a quest to be undertaken lightly."
"I realize that."
"Well, I have never met a myth. This should be quite the outing." She smiled. "Don't you ever try doing anything boring?"
"I try not to... do you know anything else about Ravel?"
"She was said to be one of the hags of the Gray Waste, and that she was believed to possess powers and a cunning far beyond those of her sisters. She came to Sigil long ago, and in addition to the evils she committed during her stay, rumor has it that her actions threatened the Cage itself. Now she primarily exists only as fiction, a figure in children's stories." Grace paused. "I imagine the Lady of Pain dealt with her as all threats to Sigil are dealt with." I knew Ravel had been mazed. I still didn't know much of her home, though.
"What is the Gray Waste?"
"A blighted plane that lies effectively 'between' Baator and the Abyss. It is frequently a battleground in the Blood War."
"Can you teach me anything of the Art, Grace?" I had been curious of the magic she wielded since I saw it demonstrated in Rubikon.
Fall-From-Grace shook her head slightly. "No, I do not believe so. The Art... and the disciplines I practice are different."
"My 'powers,' as you see them, stem from my faith, not from manipulating energies as the Art does. The Art is a *mechanism* by which the power of the multiverse may be harnessed, through gestures, rituals and devices. My 'powers' come to me through a different means. My faith and the nature of my belief allows some of the multiverse to reveal itself to me."
"The nature of your belief? What do you believe in?"
"I believe in *Experience.* I believe there is a truth to the multiverse... even if that truth is that there is no truth at all. I believe that the Planes are meant to be experienced, and the more one experiences, in traveling, in joy, in pain, in merriment or in suffering, the more the multiverse reveals itself to you..."
"And the more you are revealed to yourself. My belief in the nature of Experience allows me to..." She paused for a moment, thinking. "I suppose the best explanation is that my faith allows me to *see* things differently. When you see the multiverse in such a way, you learn how to 'change' things - mending wounds, seeing a person's heart, and so on - just by willing them to happen."
"Do you believe in Experience because of what happened to you with the baatezu?"
Fall-From-Grace nodded. "I have thought long upon that, and I believe so, yes." She looked at me questioningly. "I think it is because I am content what I have become, and I do not think it would have been possible without experiencing the multiverse as I did." I believed she was being too modest, implying she was only the product of her experiences.
"I don't think it has anything to do with you experiencing the multiverse... I think it's how you dealt with the experience that was important." Fall-From-Grace nodded slowly at my words; she seemed thoughtful.
"There is truth in what you say."
"I think there would have been many others who, when subjected to the experiences you were, would have crumbled. You *learned* from it, and you became stronger. It shows great strength of will and of character." Fall-From-Grace was looking at me silently.
"...and I admire that about you. Not only the strength, but the ability to see such horrors as a way of becoming a better person takes a strength *few* possess." Fall-From-Grace smiled, then nodded.
"I thank you. Your words are insightful and kind. But I fear that my strength of character is not as strong as it would seem. Yet I try to treat each experience as a new opportunity for learning."
"Do you ever use weapons?"
"No... there is seldom the need, and I find that I cannot bear the touch of cold iron or even steel for long periods of time. In any event, I have a number of... natural defenses that tend to discourage attackers."
"The kiss of a succubus is lethal to mortals - though they rarely realize the danger until their death is almost upon them." Fall-From-Grace sighed. "I can resort to it when the need arises." I felt relaxed enough with her answers to bring up a question personal to both of us.
"To be honest, I am curious as to your feelings about me."
Grace gave a slight smile. "A lady must have her secrets." She had reached the limits of how close she was willing to allow me. I suspected she had already allowed me closer than she had let anyone else, at least for a long time. I wondered at the reason she kept up her barriers. Partly, it must be scars due to her past. Also the knowledge that her kiss would kill a mortal man, although I wondered if it would affect an immortal
"I'd like to know your thoughts on my situation, then." She was silent a moment, then replied with a question.
"Do you know anything that might prove helpful?"
"Well, shadows keep coming to kill me -- I have a feeling they're following me, but I don't know why."
"Shadows?" Fall-From-Grace was silent for a moment. "Shadows are shades of the dead. They do not tend to hunt, they tend to lie in wait for victims. Curious."
"Well, I think there's someone out to murder me... so much so I built a tomb trap to try and kill them. According to an inscription in the tomb, he's been coming after me... for, well, as long as my incarnations can remember, it seems."
"Then... whoever the killer is, he's lived a very long time to have pursued you so long." She tapped her chin for a moment. "Could the killer be immortal as well?"
"Do you have any idea who or what I might be?"
Grace frowned in thought. "I freely admit that you are something of an enigma." She smiled. "But I find such mysteries intriguing. Shall we attempt to puzzle out your situation?"
"First, while it is possible that you are a tiefling or some rare crossbreed, my guess is that you are human... or were at one time."
"All right... go on."
"Your appearance is approximately a male in his early thirties - the stitching and scar tissue make an exact determination difficult."
"Tell me about it... go on."
"The key to your past is your memory, and it seems that certain locations, events and people trigger seemingly forgotten memories. It would seem to be in your best interests to visit as many locations as possible and speak to as many others as possible... in short, experience your universe as much as possible."
"A Sensates' advice, eh?" Fall-from-Grace replied with a bemused smile.
"I would not advise it if I did not practice it. And if you did not already know it to be true." I was interested in her insights about my companions, and asked her about Morte.
"Morte is most peculiar... I have seen a great deal in my life, but nothing quite like him. He behaves somewhat like a mimir. Granted, there's no denying he is knowledgeable, but he has a certain..." She sniffed the air and wrinkled her nose. "...Baatorian smell about him." She hesitated, as if picking her words carefully. "But he's not a baatezu... at least of any variety I've encountered. The smell alone, however, makes me treat the skull with caution."
"And Morte is a mimir?"
"I don't believe so. Morte lacks the silvery metal that mimirs customarily have. And he seems to have an attitude of his own. Such qualities are not present in conventional mimirs." Grace shrugged slightly. "He *may* be one, but he's unlike any I've ever encountered."
"I don't believe Morte is a mimir, either."
"Perhaps there is some test to verify his authenticity... but I would not do one if you value him as a friend. If you do, then you must accept what he has told you." I still didn't entirely trust Morte. I thought he had my best interests in mind, but what he and I thought of as my best interests didn't necessarily intersect. In addition, he seemed inherently incapable of telling the absolute truth about anything. I asked about Annah next.
"She is strong and capable, and she is quite passionate. I almost wish I had met her long ago and asked her to come to the Brothel... perhaps things might have been different." Grace studied me for a moment. "What do you think of her?" She wasn't the only one with barriers, and I deflected her question.
"I think she doesn't care for you very much."
"I would agree..." Grace smiled. "But I shall not let you dodge my question so easily. What do you think of her?" Grace wouldn't give up, and I felt more comfortable talking to her than anyone I could remem- well, that was a short time, but I needed to talk to someone.
"Well, I think I could fall in love with her." I looked away from Grace as I said this, since she was someone who I could imagine falling in love with as well.
"You might wish to tell her so," she said in a level voice, not acknowledging in any way my discomfort.
"I don't know... I seem to leave this *wreckage* wherever I go, with Deionarra especially, and the lives of others I've touched. It might be best to leave well enough alone."
"Deionarra was the woman in the sensory stone of longing was she not? The one who loved your previous incarnation?" I hesitated to answer Grace. I also felt uncomfortable talking about Deionarra, since I felt much closer to Deionarra, or at least the shade that was all that was left of her, after experiencing the sensory stone.
"Yes, she was. I did something terrible to her, but I know not what."
"To that, I would say this - love may move the Planes themselves when it is strong and true, and there is nothing truer in all of my experiences than the truth one *feels* about another." I decided this was enough talk about the women in my life, and I proceeded to ask her opinion of another of my companions.
"Dak'kon?" Grace raised an eyebrow. "He's most uncommon for a githzerai." I already likely knew what she would say, but I was curious how perceptive she was regarding him.
"Really? In what way?"
"Well, he obeys you. That alone would mark him as a pariah among his people. His entire race were once slaves, and even the *reminder* of servitude to them is... distasteful." I decided to tell her briefly how that came to be.
"Yes, he made a promise to me long ago to serve me until I died. It was after I saved his life, and he did not know that I was immortal."
"Truly? As a githzerai... he must be suffering, indeed. How did you save his life?"
"After he fell from Shra'kt'lor, one of my previous incarnations came to him as he lay dying in Limbo and gave him the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon, that religious text he has."
"If I may ask, do you know *why* the incarnation saved his life?"
"I think I saved him because of his *karach* blade."
"Curious," said Fall-From-Grace. "You know, a blade that reflects the will of the wielder is a potent weapon if the wielder knows himself."
"Perhaps that is why I saved him, then. Is there anything else you can tell me about Dak'kon?"
"Dak'kon approaches everything in an orderly fashion. Again, most curious for a githzerai. They tend to be unpredictable - they follow their impulses rather than plan." This was something I hadn't consciously noticed before. I wondered if it was a result of his slavery?
"He seems a most pious githzerai and a steadfast ally." Finally, I asked her regarding my newest companion, the former modron.
"Nordom is a rogue modron. Even though some traces of chaos have worked their way into his system, he is still an extremely logical, ordered creature. This logic can be of great help in one's travels. Furthermore, if he perceives you as a leader, then he will be unquestioningly loyal." Great, another slave, I thought as she continued.
"Troubles may arise should Nordom be faced with any social situation requiring etiquette... such things are not well understood, even by normal modrons." She paused. "I would offer you some advice concerning Nordom, if you would hear it."
"Of course. What is it?"
"Nordom's existence has been shaken - the more you help him make sense of his situation, his place in this party's hierarchy, and what led him to the state he is now may help him to focus himself better. It is a thought."
I considered her advice, and decided I might as well talk to Nordom now. I was uncomfortable at the thought his nature could force him to unquestioning loyalty to me, but that didn't mean I was going to abandon him. Perhaps in time his individuality would more fully develop, and he would be capable of making his own choices.
Nordom had left the room while I was talking to Grace, although
I was sure he was not sensitive enough to have left to give us
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