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Tieing Loose Ends
The public sensoriums, while interesting, was not leading me anywhere. I decided to go back to the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts to fulfill some errands.
I found Juliette, and briefly explained the fiasco her plan to turn her lover jealous had become. I suggested she might want to try openly talking about her relationship with him. She promised to try, but I had my doubts.
I found Dolora, and gave her the keys to her heart — literally. I had learned something of her nature from her creator, Merriman, that she was a magical construct, and asked her for more information.
“Merriman never told me much regarding my construction. I know little of the inner workings of my body, much as you likely know little of yours. Outwardly, though, I am a human woman in all respects… save for the texture and temperature of my flesh. Does that satisfy your curiosity?”
“What about your mind, your emotions?”
“Its functions are as much a mystery to me as any human's. When I first came to this place, I did not understand emotions, nor have any of my own. I have… feelings… now, though I am only beginning to understand them.”
“What do the keys do, exactly?”
“I can only assume that Merriman made the keys so that there would be no risk of me drawing away from him before he had tired of his experiment. Now that they are in my possession, I am free to develop and possess my own emotions.”
I also asked her if she knew anything of the silent prostitute. She replied, “Yes. Her name is Ecco. Her voice — and in fact her every means of communication — was stolen and destroyed. Ecco’s words once wooed away the paramour of the godling Paramisha. Paramisha, in a jealous rage, tore away Ecco’s voice, sealed it within a crystal vial, and hurled it into a megogalamdraga’s maw. Ecco’s voice is forever lost to her; only another, new voice could return to her the ability to communicate once more. I know this because I spoke to Paramisha’s paramour myself, once.”
I next went to Ecco, and asked if she couldn’t speak because her voice had been stolen. When she nodded, I revealed I had acquired a Fiend’s Tongue at the Curiosity shop, with her in mind. I told her I needed to place it in her mouth, that I had been told this would allow her to regain the ability to communicate. I asked her to trust me, and attempt the experiment.
She nodded and took the bottle from me. She gingerly picked out the severed tongue from the briny solution and, after staring at it for a moment in disgust, placed it into her mouth… suddenly, her eyes widened, and there was a burst of reddish light from between her lips!
I anxiously asked if she was all right. Ecco opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it once more… and spoke! “I… I can speak again! Oh, joy! I than — damn thee to the darkest of pits, thou stench-ridden worm! kneel before me in supplication, insect!”
Morte yelled out, “Yikes!” Ecco yelped and covered her mouth with both hands… her eyes were wide with panic.
“It must be… the Fiend’s Tongue…” I said.
She slowly took her hands away from her mouth, nodding. “It seems I must devour thy frail shell and consign thy soul to the abyss for all eternity! thou shalt serve in my battle-thrall ‘ til the planes grind to a halt! thou art mine, mine, mi—” Ecco shut her mouth again, and began to softly, quietly weep.
I remembered something, another item at the Curiosity Shop, and told Ecco I would obtain help and quickly return. Of course, when I entered the shop to purchase the item, Vrischika, sensing my need, raised the price. Helpless, I had to pay what she asked.
I returned to the brothel, found Ecco again, and said, “Try using these Deva’s Tears… they should soothe the tongue’s cursing.”
She nodded, smiling, and took the vial from me. Ecco placed a few of the sparkling blue drops onto her tongue: “I… I believe the Tears are working. Yes… they are! I can speak in my own voice once more — oh, how I thank you!” Ecco squeezed my hand and bowed her head gratefully, her eyes welling with tears of joy.
It took her several minutes before she was ready to talk to me again, so great was her happiness. When she did, she said, “Well… I've been without the ability to speak for so long. Most patrons came to me seeking someone to listen, someone attentive and capable of understanding them that they could speak to, free of interruption and the like. Now that I can speak once more, I wonder if the time has come for me to move on… leave the Brothel, and become a Sensate.”
I also asked if she knew of Ravel Puzzlewell. Ecco nodded, and lowered her voice: “In fact, I do… not only does she exist, she has children!”
I nearly shouted, “She what?”
“One of them is here, at times… Kesai-Serris. She is a child of Ravel's, though she is loathe to accept the fact. Who could blame her?” She paused for a moment, thinking. “I have never gotten her to admit it, though I am sure ’tis true.”
I didn’t see how this information could benefit me, and it would doubtless hurt Kesai to question her. I thanked Ecco for her help, and moved off.
I recalled the small toy I had bought, and since the Modrons were still in the brothel I talked to one of them, asking what the toy could be. It replied that it was a portal cube, and that it could be activated by arranging its limbs to the proper position. Unfortunately, it didn’t know what the proper position was.
I examined the toy carefully. It was a replica of a cube-like mechanical creature with huge eyes on one of its faces. The toy had two legs, two arms, two folding wings, and at least eighteen points of articulation.
The intricacy of the toy was incredible; its joints were composed of tiny gears, cogs, pulleys, and swivel joints, and there were even tiny springs on the legs that helped support the feet. There was a little switch on the back that moved the eyes back and forth, and the wings were made of some tissue-like metal that folded up neatly when the wings were flush with the body. Despite the toy’s awkward shape, it rested easily on any surface, no matter how uneven.
As I gazed at the toy, I tried to remember something, anything, about my childhood. Nothing came to me, but I found a peculiar mood had settled over me. I regarded the toy with the eyes of a small child.
Then I picked the toy up, and moved the arms and made sword-fighting noises. The toy clicked and whirred as I moved its clockwork joints. Within moments, the tiny cube had vanquished every imaginary opponent I had sent against it, and settled back to its normal position.
I then waved its arms and made cheering noises. Hordes of imaginary creatures from across the Planes cheered the cube’s victory. I could almost see a tiny oily tear brimming on one of its eyes… it was a hero, the greatest cube ever to roam the Planes, and everyone loved it. In my mind, Fall-From-Grace and Annah hugged it and showered it with kisses.
I sighed, the mood suddenly broken. I noticed Morte staring at me. When he saw my look, he shook his head.
I cocked my head as if listening, and said, “What’s that, cube hero? ‘Morte’s a stupid skull?’ Why, yes he is, isn’t he, cube hero?”
Morte indignantly replied, “Hey! It didn’t say that!”
“Yes, it did! It said it just now!”
“Wh —?! Gimme that thing!”
The tattered persona of a child I might once have been prompted me to petulantly reply, “No, it’s mine. He only wants to hang out with me anyway. Don’t you, cube hero? Yes, you do!”
Morte ground out, “I. Just. Want. To. Hold. It. For. A. Second.”
“But you don’t have any hands.”
“I'll hold it in my teeth.”
I didn’t think it would be wise to let Morte anywhere near the toy. “No, I think not.”
“I'm gonna smash that modron cube to bits.”
I started to put it away, then remembered the toy had made a pop while I had been playing with it. I concentrated, and recalled it happened when I bent the left knee. I bent the knee, then tried moving other limbs. I heard a soft whir when I extended the left wing. I quickly found that moving the right wing caused a hmmmms sound. I rotated the right arm, when suddenly there was a blinding white light…