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We were back in Sigil. There were still tasks I needed to complete before I attempted to reach the Fortress of Regrets.
In particular, I remembered that Ravel had 'branchings' here in Sigil, that I had already met. It was possible that she was not actually dead. I hurried to old Mebbeth, in Ragpicker's Square, who I knew to be a piece of Ravel.
As I entered, Mebbeth looked up, her face ashen... she looked ill. As I watched, creases spread across the folds of her face like cracks, and her gray eyes flickered, as if having trouble focusing on me.
"Mebbeth, are you all right?"
"Aye..." She smiled weakly, and her voice was scratchy, as if trying to force its way past layers of dust. When she spoke, it was like an echo. "I have... a little longer..."
"Mebbeth... did you *know* you were Ravel?"
She took a deep breath... her words came slowly, her voice rattling in her throat. "Mayhap... Mebbeth has forgotten herself many times over... I have dreamed that I was someone else..." Each word was heavier than the last, as if centuries of weight were pressing down on them. Her body seemed to shift slightly, as if wanting to *relax,* let go.
"How could you not know who you are?"
"How is it *ye* do not know yerself?" Mebbeth licked her lips. "Many things... even bits of the self... they fall through memory's cracks, shadows of things forgotten, these memory thing-pieces, maybe bad... maybe good."
"But why Mebbeth? Why the disguise when you could have been Ravel again?"
"Here, in this place, all I did was the mendin' of things and bodies, settin' bones, deliverin' babes... in all these things, I was content." She sighed. "As for being that *other,* that Ravel..." She licked her lips again. "I think... ye take for granted what a comfort it would be, oft times, to misplace a memory or two."
"I wasn't sure if you would be here, Mebbeth, after what happened..."
Mebbeth nodded - every movement was pained. "Aye, my precious one..." She winced as she took a breath. "Seeing ye here... it is like an echo. Little time remains... the threads, these Ravels... they are unraveling as we speak."
"Are you in pain?"
She nodded. "Yes... yet it is the irony which hurts the most..." She gave a sickly smile. "An act of kindness, thrice repaid... it is the way of the Planes that my few acts of kindness should be the death of me." She laughed softly. "Yet I have no regrets..."
"I have questions, Mebbeth. Can you t--"
She held up her hand to silence me. "Precious man... I would have ye hear me, this last time..."
"Precious man..." She sighed. "All's I wished to do was set the Lady free of her Cage... for ye, all's I wished for ye was to *live*... and for me daughter, I..." She sighed. "There is a saying on the Planes... that a hag's kindness is crueler... than her hate, and poisons all it touches..." I thought to myself, that we had seen the truth of that. But that was only a momentary thought, and unworthy of the Ravel I had come to know. I shared my true thoughts with the sliver of Ravel before me.
"I'm sorry things turned out as it did. If I could have saved you, I --"
"I am dying now..." She blinked her rheumy eyes. "My end... it's traveling from all of time's directions, all of Ravel's threads are unraveling..." She coughed. "Yet..." Her gray eyes locked upon me. "Mayhap not all is lost... one of my black-barbed seeds from the maze... did ye bring one with ye?"
"Ah..." She took the seed gingerly, and she slipped it into her graying locks. "So the Unity-of-Rings is served..." With a flickering glance, she raised her hand and beckoned me to come closer. I stepped close to her, kneeled down.
She whispered something softly under her breath, then clasped my head in her hands and placed a paper-thin kiss upon my forehead. I closed my eyes as her lips touched my skin...
"May the Planes receive you kindly, Mebbeth." I murmured.
When I opened my eyes, Mebbeth was gone. The tears I did not know I had when I stood over Ravel's body flowed freely now, running down my cheeks.
I still had one more errand. I returned to the Clerk's Ward, to get permission for Iannis the advocate to experience the sensory stone his daughter Deionarra left at the Festhall. When I saw Iannis, to tell him he had permission, we had little to say to one another. I left as quickly as possible.
As I was leaving the advocate's home, someone I saw standing across the street brought a thought to mind. There wasn't a lot I could do for Morte, but there was something
I walked over to the beautiful, seductively attired prostitute, a far cry from those I saw in the Hive. She smelled of expensive perfumes, and the lines of her face were subtly accentuated with lightly painted lines of soft, warm colors. She smiled as I approached her and curtseyed gracefully. "Greetings, good sir. Seeking to quench a lust Mistress Grace's Brothel cannot satisfy, I hope?"
"I'm not, but I think Morte here might be..."
The young woman examined Morte critically for a time, then nodded.
"Yes... yes, I think I could do that. Well, I could certainly come up with... something. All for the same fee, of course - a petty five hundred commons."
"Of course. Here you are..."
"All right! Thanks, chief!" Morte turned to follow the woman away.
I led the rest of the group to get rooms at a local inn. Somewhat later, Morte came bobbing dizzily into my room. He was coated with a glossy sheen -- as if he had been waxed and buffed -- and had a red smudge on his crown in the shape of a pair of lips. Morte seemed only dimly aware of my presence, and alternated between giggling to himself and sighing pleasantly.
The next day, it was time that I faced my enemy, for what I
hoped would bring an end, one way or another, to my immortality.
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