Lizard folk in disguise
True Lies that are Told
“Right now, we need to rest,” Rosa protested. “Adrissa almost lost her head, Myrai almost lost everything else. Everyone needs a night’s rest.”
“The remains of the keep should be sufficient to protect us for an evening,” The Blade said. “But what are the odds of new guardians appearing?”
“Slim,” I said as a shook my head. “But its not like we have much of a choice. Not at night with this cold.”
Doxx frowned and huffed, “No. No, we don’t. Let’s get comfortable.”
Together we moved back to the remains of the keep, leaning on each other. On the way I summoned Gossamer to scout ahead. One look at all of us, and the familiar didn’t even make a quip, and quickly flew to scout ahead. What Goss found was a small room on the second floor that required some rope work to reach, as the connecting hall had collapsed, isolating it from the stairs. It was a bit of work to climb up into, but no one else was going to get to us either.
Doxx, Rosa, and I lay out our bedrolls, while The Blade wrapped themselves in a blanket. Soon Bookshelf erected the dome to protect us from the cold and hide us from prying eyes, while the warforged, and The Blade kept watch. I lay on my bedroll, and peeled off my leggings, so I could better clean the gash through my thigh. I knew the fiend’s blade had torn right through the muscles, but fortunately didn’t sever anything. So with a number of white strands, I was able to heal my wounds, which freed Rosa to do the same for the others.
She had just finished with Adrissa and had turned her attention to The Blade who half heartedly waved her off. While she dealt with the hand slaps of the elf, Adrissa came over to me and sat down on the foot of the bedroll.
“Does it hurt?” she asked looking as muscle rejoined, and skin started to close around the gaping wound. Blood poured out of the wound, and onto a cloth I had set there expecting it. The power to heal was a marvelous one, but it aways seemed that it left extra blood behind as the body was put back to working order. I had now healed myself and others enough to know this as a fact, and I was clueless on why.
“Quite. But once the wound closes it fades quickly enough,” I said as I pulled on a strand to clean away the blood from my skin, leaving no trace of a scar behind.
Adrissa looked at my leg with a thoughtful look before saying, “Does it aways prevent scars?”
“Hmm? No…not always. If the wound is old enough there will be a scar, but fresh ones usually don’t.” I turned to look at her, and realized she was running her fingers around her neckline. “It doesn’t look like it will in your case either.”
Adrissa sighed, and her shoulders slumped a bit. “Good,” she said quietly. She then looked at me and asked, “You’ve fought a lot. Do you have any scars?”
I thought a second, as I cradled my leather leggings and started to use some light strands to mend the rents in the material. “From fighting, I’ve been fortunate, I guess. I only have barest hint of one from a crossbow, knocking me off a roof,” and I pointed to a spot on the lowest part of the ribs on my right. “But its faded away mostly. The worst wound I ever had however didn’t leave on behind, though by all rights it should have.”
“An accident?” Adrissa asked.
I shifted uncomfortably and sighed before answering, “I made a bargain to save someone I loved. And that bargain was to let fiends…hurt me.” I said swallowing around a lump that suddenly appeared in my throat. “Fiends like that marilith. But part of the bargain was that they would heal me and leave me unmarked. And they carried it out to the letter.” I looked down and grimaced. “But make no mistake, you can get hurt plenty, to the brink of death even, and healing magic can cover it up.”
“Can I ask what they did?”
I looked at Adrissa in the eyes in sorrow, “After ten days of pain, only the worst remained in my memories. But having healers there only encouraged them to take me within a heart beat of death with the wounds they caused. But most people in that situation pass out, their minds unable to cope with the pain. They wouldn’t let me do that, and instead let me scream or just stare in horror when I could no longer do so. All for their entertainment.” I spat.
“Well…I have heard a lot of explanations, and truth be told the only one that seemed to make any sense is that they were… ‘born’ to do it.” I was quiet for a moment and I stopped Adrissa short with “I experienced things that should be left to the realms of nightmares. They aren’t bedtime conversations really.”
Adrissa nodded but changed her question, “So if you made a bargain like that, why would bargain with Twisted Mirth?”
And there it was. It was the real question in the back of my mind too. I remembered how the malebranche slid a contract in front of me, ink dry with Markel’s and my name throughout its length. How that contract nearly broke me, because no mortal was ever really meant to survive that many horrors of pain in a brief time. How following two contracts to the letter, ended up with Markel dying slowly with no one lifting a finger to help. How good intentions in spirit was trumped by the letter of a contract. Knowing all this, why would I make a deal with a fiend like a night hag, and one who was great auntie no less, the most dangerous and cunning of their kind.
The night hags were powerful, and they commanded respect because of the knowledge they held in their worm-ridden skulls. Even the rulers of Baator and the Abyss paid them heed, each one searching for knowledge only in their grasp. Rarely could they ever be held to account for the misery they created. The only one that I heard that might have been was one called Ravel Puzzlewell, who was sent to the mazes by The Lady of Pain, in my home Sigil. But even then, some whispered that it was all by her design, and that she could leave anytime she wanted. And while she wasn’t heard from again, it didn’t make anyone feel confident she was gone.
It was that knowledge that made them shrewd bargainers, and the negotiations were always tilted in their favor. They had no reason ever to say yes, and if you insulted them with a poor offering, you might not ever obtain what you wanted from them. It left one with little to work with negotiations, while they could ask for the moon or stars…or more personal things. And any bargain struck, always turned out for the worse for the seeker. So Twisted Mirth wasn’t wrong; when there was something that the hag wanted from a mortal, it was the closest thing to an even bargain you might see. But even then, it was still tilted in their favor.
So why do it? Why take this risk? Is knowing more about this Teiazaam and what Jade wanted with me worth it? Did it help me somehow avoiding them or forcing them somehow to leave things alone. Was it even about me, or more about my absent father instead, and I was just a pawn in some immortal game where the stakes were unclear, and if I even had an interest in the outcome.
All of this assumed that Twisted Mirth knew anything at all. She may be a great auntie, but did that mean she knew what was going on in the Abyss at all? This being the farthest known reach of the multiverse I had ever seen or heard of.
“Because knowledge is worth something,” I said. “And knowing why Jade is willing to send a marilith after me might enough to survive.” I looked at the camp and then at Adrissa, “The only reason I’m not in pieces being delivered to Jade, is because of everyone here. But you all shouldn’t have to be obligated to fight for me, just because you were nearby.”
“Honey, you could say the same about us,” Rosa said, finishing tending to The Blade. “You didn’t know someone was looking for you, so its not like you could have prevented it dear.”
“Knowledge is not worth every price,” The Blade grumbled. “Shortcuts like that never get you what you want or need.”
“Ever the purist,” Doxx snorted, as she lay on her back in her bed roll. “Sometime bargains like that are the only way to get ahead. It’s not like your opponents are following some silly code of honor.”
“That might be a matter of who you are bargaining with,” Bookshelf said quietly. “Buying it from a sometimes ally is better than a sometimes enemy.”
“It is her decision. Question might be does she have anything that is worth a trade.” Sage said. “You still need to sleep; its many hours till dawn. Rest while you can.”
“Wait for me!” a young girl with golden hair yelled chasing after the tiefling.
“Come on! If you are going to have a birthday, you need to celebrate it properly!” Elsina shouted back.
I’m…I’m dreaming. I know I am! Why am I here again?
Stopping at stall, the tiefling makes a bargain by pointing at the same candy over and over again, each time getting a different price.
That’s right. A candy vendor run by Chaosmen…but I was surprised she had money.
The tiefling handed the girl a bright red hard candy and popped another into her own mouth.
“Ho..ho..hot,” the golden haired one said.
“And sweet! Spicy cinnamon!” the tiefling giggled.
Nearby a man breaks from a crowd running from a stall, with some prize in his arms. A woman with long and wild black hair turns with interest.
Why am I seeing this?!? I want to forget this memory. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!
The woman close her eyes and a wicked smile slowly spread across her face. She took a pair of steps and drew a pair of swords as she danced toward the knight of the post running with his goods.
No! Stop her! Stop her! Don’t let Pentar ki—
The little girl dove towards the woman’s legs and managed to trip her. The woman opened her eyes and glared at the little girl. She stumbled on, and managed to with a single slice, cut the head of the knight of the post with a single cut.
The tiefling stood there in shock, as the black-haired woman turned on her heel, and raised her sword high and brought it down on the golden haired girl laying in the dirt of the road. The tiefling, Elsina screamed at the sight of her friend being slaughtered in front of her.
Wait…that’s…that’s…not what happened. She died! I’m alive!
The body of the golden-haired girl lay unmoving in the street, when suddenly a nimbus of light surrounded her. The crowd wasn’t just hushed, but frozen as was the wild haired woman, as a figure stepped out of it. It stood twice the height of the people around it, clad in grey, sporting a set of wings that were white, flecked with grey feathers. It was a beacon of light in the dusty crowd its light blanketing the street as it emerged from the crowd. As it walked it made a gesture, and it turned and lay a hand on the tiefling’s head.
“I’m sorry to grant your wish. But it is necessary. Blessed is your passing. So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith, may Death grant you peace Elisna.”
There was a flash, and sound of metal cutting flesh and bone, and Elisna’s head slowly fell to the earth.
This didn’t happen! I didn’t…she didn’t…there was no…what’s going on!
The angel, turned and looked at me as it shrank and drew a cloth hood over its head, its golden prescence now growing to a blinding light, until I could no longer see anything.
My eyes fluttered open, and instead of the ground with my companions, I found myself once again floating on my back in a firmament of
lights. The strands held me a loft caressing my bare skin. And once again the patterns of silver in my skin were different; more complex than before. But something was different. The presence of the construct was missing, its voice in my head empty.
I willed myself upright and shook my head, trying to clear it. Why was I here? Why now? How badly did that marilith actually hurt me? I didn’t really have any sense of time or time passing when it spoke.
It wasn’t in my head, instead the voice was softly reverberated in my bones and strands around me. I was about to open my mouth when I realized another distinction. No ‘Element Myrai.’ Just my name.
Looking around gave me nothing more to latch onto, and I was about to speak when the voice echoed through me.
“I suppose it…is overdue we talk…my daughter.”
And Pentar would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that meddling angel...or wait. Didn't she? Hard to tell wtih Pentar.