The stronghold, compound, whatever you want to call it, is a really big building for just two people, two owls, and a sponge to inhabit. So quiet….I think I had forgotten what quiet sounds like, just the soft patter of rain outside, echoing through these vast, lonely halls….adrenaline fading, the realization of what had happened to our group could better sink in. Ooze was gone, and Zariel…it was hard to say. Sadness…loneliness…how have I dealt with them in the past? Bob’bi was still around, somewhere, though with how quietly she moves more often than not, it was easy to forget I wasn’t alone. Aside from my owls, but they can’t quite carry on conversations.
As desperate as I was growing for communication, some sort of interaction, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to Bob’bi. I didn’t want to face her yet. The gnome, her plans, Alma’s pain…rain is good to reminisce to. Something about the gentle spray just coaxes memories out, for better or worse. Terror-filled nights lost in the woods, dirt my only protection, losing my family to become a tool for humans, watching everything burn, only to be pulled away at the last second and find myself in the company of the strangest group I’ve ever seen. The tallest, too. Growing up I was so tall next to everyone else. And then there’s Ooze. We may not be the closest group of people ever, but we were a group, weren’t we? Were…now there’s just the rain. There’s no tuba playing. Zariel isn’t yelling at Bob’bi and I for killing things or glancing periodically at Alma and giving praise to Shialla. I suppose I could keep coming up with creative ways to tell Ooze he should consider bathing more, or at all, but he’s not here to pretend I would actually tell him. If Bob’bi is practicing cool acrobatic tricks, I can neither see nor hear her. I couldn’t help but feel I was losing everything I had precariously found…
My thoughts continued to ramble incessantly as I sat along a wall, my face buried in my knees. Aislyn sat on the ground, nudging my leg gently with her beak. I could feel her concern, her gaze. Even Alma was worried, though he didn’t try to touch me. His consideration made me smile briefly. Before, he cared for my health only for Aislyn’s sake. Emotional state was something of another matter. I wrapped my arms tighter around me knees, gripping my shoulders. What now? Investigate the factions with Bob’bi and hope she doesn’t sell Alma to the highest bidder? Try to defy Fate and just leave? Fling dirt at Zariel until he wakes up? That last thought made me smile again. I should probably get up. Darkness feeds thoughts and thoughts can be cruel. Lifting my head, I blinked at the light. Aislyn perked up, immediately hopping up onto my knees and nuzzling my face. I ran my fingers through her feathers and glanced over at Alma. I think he realized I had noticed his concern and was trying to pretend he hadn’t been distressed in the least. Chuckling at his efforts, I stood up, stretching lightly. Aislyn landed on my shoulder as soon as she could, having taken flight as I began to stand. Alma waited until it looked like I was prepared to leave. I nuzzled the bottom of his right wing quickly before heading out. Good thing he’s too tall to peck me while sitting. It’s like having one of my parents riding around on my shoulder.
Now if I were a chaos-cuddling githzerai, where might I be? Not moping in the corner like a loser, that’s for sure. Maybe plotting world domination, but not moping. After wandering for some time, I found her in the chamber of blood. I still didn’t like the feeling of the room. So much evil in one space doesn’t dissipate with haste. I’m not sure what Bob’bi had been doing, but she gave me a rather neutral greeting as I entered. I simply nodded back at her. Should I ask about the gnome now? Address the palpable issue lurking between us? But how to bring it up? I needed to know that Alma would be safe and not much has been done to garner trust. Sure, she hasn’t tried to slit my throat in my sleep yet, but that’s not terribly reassuring.
While I was mulling over what to do, something approached the opening in the wall, soon falling gracelessly with a solid thud. Both investigating, we realized that it was Ooze! How he had returned, tuba clutched in his arms, I couldn’t begin to fathom. Was he even alive? With his strange, greyish skin, it was hard to tell. He could be a zombie. And how did he get the tuba after Bob’bi buried it so deep? Staring in confusion, we debated what to do. He appeared to be breathing fast, raspy breaths. Did zombies breathe? Eventually we decided that letting him explode outside in the rain was probably a bad idea. We dragged him inside and Bob’bi immediately took his tuba, locking it in the secret room that had been left open again. At least it didn’t talk this time.
While Ooze slept (?), his bag started moving. Cautiously, a strange chicken started poking its head out, revealing lizard traits as well. It looked kinda cute in that soulless, I’ll devour your very existence sort of way. Bob’bi promptly stabbed at its head, causing the thing to retreat back inside. I grabbed one of my arrows and stabbed the top of the bag. It could be “cute” in there.
Ooze wasn’t looking very good. Breathing or not, I was starting to lean more towards zombie in my amateur diagnosis. Bob’bi decided to play nurse and feed Ooze some sort of dry rations and poured some water down his throat, likely collected rain water. He immediately started vomiting and screaming in pain. Operation Don’t Make the Orc Explode wasn’t going well. Soon he regained consciousness, though he didn’t seem to quite be all there. He merely asked about his tuba, to which Bob’bi told him she had put it somewhere safe. Appeased, he lumbered off to bed.
Bob’bi then asked me about going back to Sigil. I grew suspicious over what “business” exactly she had to take care of, though there wasn’t anything in particular I wanted to head there for. As much time as I swear had passed already, it had only been five days. I would have to wait another two for the owls’ armour to be ready. Any investigation into the factions could surely wait until then. Upon my declination, Bob’bi also decided to wait. Maybe in two days’ time, Ooze would wake up and be prepared to join us. Not all was what it had been, but it was a start. Leaving the chamber myself, I made myself comfortable and pulled out the large text I was borrowing. Any confrontation could maybe wait until we were back in Sigil. It could be that I’d never hear of the gnome again and was worried for nothing. It seemed unlikely, but hope does unfortunately spring eternal. Such dense content made for slow reading, though Aislyn and Alma couldn’t really understand any of it anyway. Aislyn looked fascinated that these funny scratch marks could mean something to me, looking between the pages and myself, often bobbing and turning her head. Maybe if I were to study magic some more, she could start making out words. Alma didn’t too much like hearing Draconic, but I think he was starting to understand that the language itself does not lead only to pain and death.
About all that broke up reading sessions was occasionally finding that gruel spoon and sleeping. How I’ve missed reading. I wondered if I shouldn’t have picked something more interesting, but it was what I had and more importantly a book. After two days, I was rather tired of gruel. I mixed it with about equal parts of dirt, giving me something rather like warm chocolate pudding with a hint of cardboard. Endlessly better than plain gruel and the dirt gave me energy to remain awake through the long passages in my book. As happy as I was to have so much time to read, I can only read so many pages on tree bark from a plane I’ve never even heard of before.
At some point the little gnome woke up. He speaks strangely now, acting even more docile, if possible. Preparing to return, Bob’bi asked him if he wanted to go back to Sigil and he just cried. I pray she can show half as much compassion for Alma as she seems to for the poor gnome.
As we were about to head towards the portal, Ooze began pleading for his tuba back. Naturally, I’m the only one who can see the door, as was soon pointed out to Ooze. I told him of how the tuba was speaking and that it may be best to leave it where it was for the time being. It was certainly safe in the hidden room. He refused to think about that, caring only to be reunited with his beloved instrument. Unleashing his bardic powers, he told possibly the most painfully beautiful story I’ve ever heard of him receiving his tuba from his parents and it saving his life. I thought of my trowel, my only remaining physical reminder of my own parents. How could I deprive him of such an irreplaceable treasure? But at the same time, if Lothar was indeed speaking through the tuba, I couldn’t possibly let him have it back either. We really didn’t need the archmage poking his nose into our business and following our every move. I tried again to explain my reasoning, but he wouldn’t listen. With a heavy heart, I had to simply leave, needing to be content with knowing at least the tuba was safe. Maybe eventually we could figure out how to get Lothar out of his tuba.
Finally reaching the portal, I opened it for the lot of us. On the other side, the stench was no more. Thank the gods for small favours. Or Bob’bi for removing the corpses. Eh, I’ll thank her when I’m more certain of her intentions. Standing before the door, I remembered we had gotten our scrolls from the temple….the kind I can’t cast…I guess this is what I get for thinking Zariel could just cast it for me…. Bob’bi mentioned that she has some skill that would allow her to cast it for me. It isn’t as reliable as naturally being able to cast it, but she looked confident enough. Maybe I had been eying her more suspiciously thought…or I’m just a paranoid git and it is okay to trust her. About some things. On occasion. When I need to. Gah….either way, I had no other choice now, so I handed over my scroll. She successfully cast the spell on us, but that left the gnome. The whole idea of magic was pretty incredible to him. Digging through his belongings, she found this odd mouthpiece thing that evidently allows one to breathe underwater. That’s sure convenient. I suppose that’s how he arrived here in the first place.
Out the door for more swimming lessons. This time I followed Aislyn’s lead and tried to enjoy the swim. Forget for a moment all that has been troubling me the past few days. Just Aislyn and I, moving about like a couple of land dwellers in water. Seeing the water elementals gliding by, I vaguely wished I could speak Aquan, though I probably didn’t want to hear what they thought of our “swimming.”
Ah, Sigil. Home again, home again. Kinda. I wanted to follow Bob’bi and see what she was up to, but I think she knew that. Well, might as well go get the armour for my owls. Anyone wanting to mess with them will sure have to work for it.
I arrived at Thrain’s, only for him to call me a “lass.” Very friendly of him, but I had the odd feeling that such a title tended to be reserved for women. Noticing the face I was making, he quickly apologized. I suppose to a dwarf, maybe anything without a beard must look like a woman. All that was easily forgotten when he pulled out the armour for my owls and fitted it onto them. They looked bewildered, pecking cautiously at each other’s armour, testing it. Now if I found a way to make them stronger for a more permanent basis, they’d be the most adorable little killing machines I had ever seen. I thanked Thrain for the breastplates and he was still pleased with the notion of starting a line of familiar armour. I mentioned to him the possibility of hiring him to work at the stronghold if we ever get anything up and running over there. Evidently his business has taken a hit as of late, and it’d be nice to help him out. There wasn’t really anything he could do with the opal though he mentioned something about magic. Maybe if I found the right merchant, I could figure something out.
As I was preparing to leave, Thrain stopped me to ask a favour. He said the Godsmen sent too much iron in their last shipment to him and he wanted to return the extra. I had business with them anyway, so returning the iron would be of little consequence. I didn’t think such honesty lived in Sigil, but he assured me he merely wanted to do the right thing. I couldn’t refuse such a simple request and maybe it could help me work my way into the foundry. Thrain feels better about returning the extra iron, the foundry gets their iron back, and I can investigate a little. What could be bad about such a mutually beneficial arrangement?
I was bit nervous to try to infiltrate the foundry alone, should something go amiss. I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Godsmen, or at all really, and didn’t have any way to predict how they might react to my inquiry into their business. I could sure use Bob’bi as backup…or frontup, maybe. I tend to follow her lead and we somehow have become battle buddies, you could say. We flank and kill things while Ooze plays his tuba and Zariel yells at us for killing things. A beautiful system, really. So I can’t quite bring myself to trust her and yet more or less need her around? Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Have I always been so dependent? Neither farming nor being a prize fighter for humans really required anything like this. Well, it’s about time I learned.
I found my way to the foundry, only to see Bob’bi speaking to the guard before me. I considered joining up with her, but decided against it. If nothing else, she appeared to be trying to forge some document right in front of the guard. If, possibly when, that failed, him knowing that we were associated in any way wouldn’t do me any favours. The guard easily saw through whatever paper she presented him and then she left. Moment of truth…taking a deep breath, I walked up to him and smiled. Lying hadn’t worked for Bob’bi, so maybe being honest and friendly would work out. I simply explained what Thrain had told me about there being too much iron in the last shipment and I intended only to return it. Mostly the innocent truth. The guard looked a bit confused, the return of a valuable good not the everyday business. He paused to think a moment before letting me through. Okay, infiltration was going well, just to drop off the iron and look around as well I could. Another guard was to escort me, so I wouldn’t be allowed much time or freedom in looking around, but hopefully I could yet figure out if they had any relation to Talos.
The other guard rather quickly led me to some work area with a pool of molten iron in the middle, in no way interested in any small talk. In the work area, everyone simply went about their forging and casting of various objects. Morale seemed fine, though the work looked hard. If they were being mistreated or had any fear of a lightning deity, they hid it remarkably well. I dropped the iron into the pool before looking around at the workers more. The guard, however, rapidly grew impatient and asked me what I was doing. I apologized, claiming only to be fascinated at their work, never having seen it before. He didn’t question my response, but bade me to follow him back out if there was nothing else I needed to do. In walking the halls both ways, I noticed neither signs nor symbols of Talos, only representation of the Godsmen faction. They could simply be sneaky about their affiliation to Talos, but either way I’d have to come back with a better plan if further digging was required. On my way out, the guard at the gate thanked me for my honesty in returning the extra iron, something a bit rare to find in Sigil indeed. He was actually quite friendly in the end, not very much at all what I might expect to find from a grr faced Talos follower. In the meantime, maybe the other two should be investigated.
The sun was escaping the sky by the time I left. What to do for the evening….I didn’t want to make my way back through the portal, which would require another 500 coppers in breathing spells and finding some lizardman blood. There’s bound to me somewhere around here I could stay for just a night. Maybe they’d let me curl up in the corner at the Temple of Ao? We’re helping them out, after all. Thrimbar isn’t really all that friendly, but it could work. Let him know about the Godsmen, maybe talk to that priest, Fin I think his name was, and see what’s going on with him and Ooze. I don’t think Ooze cares for him as Fin might hope.
Wandering through the darkening city, I made my way to the temple. I ran into Thrimbar just as he was leaving. Evidently Bob’bi had just been by. I wondered what she might have wanted from him, but didn’t ask. I told him instead about what I had and hadn’t seen at the foundry, to which he largely said “Of course it’s not them. That’s why I told you to check out the sensates.” Feeling a bit (lot) sheepish, we discussed books and why scholars are cool for a short while before he left. It’d be nice if he wasn’t so intimidating…or if I was better at talking to people…shooting people in the face is easy, conversing is another matter. Guess I’ve been more of a recluse than I had realized. 20 odd years of little interaction isn’t that long, is it? Glancing over, I saw Fin working on something at his desk. And then left. I’m so wonderfully brave, aren’t I?
Having had enough of investigation into factions and introspection, I went back to Thrain’s shop and asked him if I could stay there. He’s far less scary than the priests and was rather happy with me for returning the iron. As I was hoping, it wasn’t an issue. He had a small area he sometimes sleeps in when he doesn’t feel like returning to his house for the evening. I wasn’t inclined to get mugged, so it was perfect. Before leaving, he thanked me yet again for returning the iron, despite the favour he was now allowing me. What a strange guy to thank me so many times. Maybe it’ll help his reputation or relations with the foundry. That’s a reason to be happy, I supposed. Shrugging, I curled up and read to my owls some more before sleeping. I had left off at a terrible cliffhanger, just about to find out more about the unusual cloud formations in an air plane.
Early the next morning, Thrain returned, again thanking me profusely for helping him, saying I had done him a great favour. Surely giving an elf and his owls shelter for an evening trumps simply returning a small piece of iron? Maybe it’s a dwarf thing. Deciding to continue investigating, I asked Thrain about the Sensates. Apparently they have no leader per say, but I could readily find some to talk to at the Civic Festhall. Sounds like talking my way into and out of things again. Oh Corellon Larethian, grant me the words.
The festhall was significantly larger than I had been anticipating. Walking in I saw a large hall, filled with groups of people conversing. Off to the right were several smaller rooms, many of which held lectures on various skills and classes. I wasn’t standing there gawking long when a man approached me. He was rather friendly, plenty happy to answer my questions about what Sensates do. Evidently their faction strives to experience as many things as possible. Maybe he was didn’t mind answering my questions for the experience of it. I asked him many questions about Talos, probably too directly. Sensates, it would appear, are more inclined to pick a deity, worship them for a while, and then pick another, repeating the process. My new acquaintance here had little interest in Talos, getting struck by lightning being good enough for him. He mistook my inquiry as personal interest, a notion I had a difficult time discouraging without blurting out the real reason for my presence. Fortunately, he didn’t much care who I wanted to follow, as each path leads to an experience regardless of which one might choose. He then very much surprised me by recommending I visit a brothel, where they just “talk.” At first I wondered if he wasn’t mocking me, but he sincerely insisted upon what he had said. He recommended I speak with Fall From Grace, the owner of the brothel. Come to think of it, didn’t Thrimbar mention her before? If I had recalled her name sooner, I could have simply asked Thrain for directions. Though maybe the last thing I need to be doing is asking an old man for directions to a brothel….would it have killed her to name is something else..?
While I was lost in thought, he had begun staring at my owls. Eventually, he asked how I came to have two owls, especially one so large. Not caring to share the gory details, I tried to pass it off as an experience I had felt would be interesting. When in doubt, fall back on what they’re inclined to understand…right? Maybe. He didn’t question my answer, too focused mayhap on his next request: to pet Alma. Hmmm…let a human pet my excessively large, traumatized owl who hates humans…what could possibly go wrong? Thus, I had to decline. He was disappointed, but understood. Or he thought he understood. I don’t suppose most assume that animals they see have been tortured and killed before. I thanked him for his information and left.
Shortly thereafter, I regrettably realized that I never asked for directions to the establishment in question. Maybe I thought it’d be nearby, both involving Sensates? Backtracking to the Festhall, I entered to see the man I had been speaking to had already departed. If he’s off to find another elf with a three foot tall owl, I wish him luck. I guess I was quite lucky the first time to not get surrounded and have everyone shouting weird requests. Most pertained to my owls, especially Alma. The wanted to touch his feathers or beak or have him land on their arm. I considered offering to have him rip their faces off, but that might attract more attention than I really wanted. One man enthusiastically asked me to punch him in the face as hard as I could, a tempting request indeed. I think someone gave up asking and tried touching Alma’s for which he indignantly yelled at them. I swore the requests of phrases for him to utter would never cease. I would have to talk to him later about using his vocal cords in public, or rather not. The last thing I need is word getting out that my giant owl, who already stands out plenty, can also speak the common language. Hooting, hooting is good. Eventually, I managed to get directions out of someone without shooting anyone or removing any faces. I pray I will never have to return to this place…
I finally arrived at Lady Grace’s establishment, only to find it closed for the day. On one hand, I was annoyed, but on the other I was quite glad to not have to talk to any more Sensates for the day. I turned around to find Ooze and Bob’bi walking towards me. Ooze somehow got his tuba back and Bob’bi’s arm was much shinier and more metallic than I recall it being prior. With the irritation from the hordes of Sensates, the building being closed, fear for Alma higher than normal due to him having spoken, I found I didn’t care too much how Bob’bi might take my questioning. I promptly asked her what happened to her arm and what her future plans regarding the gnome were. She excitedly explained with more detail than I had any interest about the “upgrade,” eventually including that once her arm was complete, she had no other plans for the gnome. I expressed disbelief, but she maintained her statement. After possibly staring her down for a while, I conceded. I then asked her to apologize to Alma, which confused her more than what made sense to me. She couldn’t see how her actions could possibly have hurt him, but did apologize for any injury she may have caused. Her bewilderment was distressing enough in its own right. How could she not see the obvious connection? She did, however, honestly seem to mean him no harm. Even a casual drop of his relation to that lab could put him back in the dead book, if owls went there too, with how crazed that gnome is. For the time being, I had little choice but to accept it. Not meaning harm and not causing it are two very different things, but for now he was as safe as I could hope for. Besides, as of late, I feel stronger somehow. My bow feels stronger, like magic pours through it. Maybe I worry too much. I won’t encourage trouble if I can avoid as much, but if I should find it, mayhap it won’t be my owls that need fear for their lives.
Ooze was mad at me for not giving back his tuba, oddly not at the one who took it in the first place. Maybe he was too afraid of Bob’bi to yell at her for it? Regardless, I insisted upon my previous rationalization. He continued to be unreasonable. Why had I missed these people again? Turning towards an inn, I thought of Zariel, hoping he would recover soon. He at least I felt more comfortable around, not so much at the mercy of a githzerai’s whims, if I should come to stand between her and something she desired, and the bumbling stupidity of an orc. As we walked, Ooze continued to grumble at me before eventually falling into a grumpy silence. I wasn’t terribly sorry for refusing to return it to him, regardless of what trouble he had gone to in order to retrieve it. Though I had felt bad for him, having that tuba around must be causing more harm than good.
Arriving at the inn, each shared what they had been up to since we had parted. It sounded like Bob’bi came to about the same conclusion I had about the foundry. Ooze spoke more about how he was able to sell that dragon Thrimbar had given him to Fin for 4,000 coppers. I felt a pang of regret in my chest at his excited words. If I had spoken to him before, maybe I could have helped him see the extent of Ooze’s…affection. Fin seems earnest, though Ooze appears to feel entirely differently, even if based on this incident alone. He doesn’t talk about him or plan to spend any time together so much as just arrange what he wants, running as soon as he can. It saddened me to think he would so abuse the poor man’s love for him. While I may not know too much about appraisal, that dragon couldn’t have been worth nearly so much. I’ll have to speak with him on the matter when I can. If he hasn’t figured out the truth yet, may I find the words to break it to him as gently as possible.
Curling up, I ran my fingers through Aislyn’s feathers as she stood watch. When my hand approached her face, she nuzzled my fingers with her beak, hooting softly. I smiled at what I think was part suggestion part order to sleep. Nearby, Bob’bi started her music box up, the gentle, relaxing melody washing over the room until sleep took my hand and led me away.
The following day, we returned to the brothel as a group. Fall From Grace was expecting us somehow or another. Though she said little on the topic, her relations with Thrimbar appeared strained. Ooze, true to form, began making inappropriate comments to her. I smacked him in the back of the head, needing to jump some, and told him to behave himself. I shouldn’t be surprised he wouldn’t know how to address a lady. I may not be good at talking to people, but I can at least usually figure out what not to say.
Lady Grace gave us leave to explore the area as we pleased. As I walked past her, I noticed an odd aura about her, though I wasn’t sure what it was. I think she noticed my slight pause, smiling and nodding at me. Blinking rapidly a couple times, I returned the gesture and continued on.
Not far down the hall, Ooze began playing his tuba. A woman with a red veil and snake hair exited her room, leaning slightly against the doorway as she listened to Ooze play. Bob’bi walked over and played her music box, Ooze following the tune this time. The veiled woman began dreamily speaking, answering any questions she was asked. Recently there had been a new patron who had rather aggressively promoted Talos to the extent that Lady Grace forbade his return. Possibly too hopeful, I asked if this patron was an Anarchist. She mumbled a noncommittal response before slumping onto the ground, fast asleep. Indeed, nearly everyone was sprawled across the ground, taking deep, slow breaths. Lady Grace poked her head out from around the corner, chastising them for putting everyone to sleep, but thanking them for the new experience regardless.
Bob’bi soon began sneaking around, “relieving” anyone she could of their excess possessions. Sighing at her antics, I merely looked around for anything that might suggest a relation to Talos. I doubted that they were involved as Thrimbar so suspected, but looking couldn’t hurt. There wasn’t much honest activity that could be done aside from looking anyway.
I was looking at the plants in the central courtyard when Bob’bi approached me. She said there was an interesting storyteller she thought I should go talk to, though the odd look on her face made me pause. Whatever story she might have heard, she didn’t quite seem to know what to think about it. Either way, there wasn’t much else to do here. Might as well talk to one of the few left awake. I agreed to go and Bob’bi pointed out the storyteller’s room. Carefully stepping over the bodies littering the floor, I made my way over to the indicated room.
Poking my head into the room, I saw a woman sitting at a desk, scribbling away on some paper, occasionally dipping her pen into a nearby well without looking up. When she didn’t notice me, I simply greeted her. She jumped slightly at the noise, her gaze flying towards me. Surprise fading from her eyes, she soon donned a smile and bade me to enter. As I walked up to her desk, she quickly finished what she had been writing prior to my interruption. Not bothering to set the pen down, she turned back to me, excitement flashing across her face. Awkwardly, I informed her of the ink getting comfy on her nose. Entirely unsurprised, she produced a handkerchief and wiped her face off. Having ink adorn her face seems rather commonplace for her. I wonder why Bob’bi hadn’t said anything. Maybe she hadn’t noticed. She is used to having spots, I should imagine.
With the battle of the ink coming to an end, her gaze again fell upon me as she asked me for a story. The first story that came to mind was when I had been rather young and decided to start my own garden deep in the forest to impress my parents, learning part of their trade on my own. It wasn’t until the sky grew dark and a storm began blowing in that I realized I was terribly lost. I hid in the hollow of a tree with an overhang of dirt and roots, so finding my current love of sweet soil.
All the while I spoke, the storyteller furiously wrote, trying to capture all she could of my tale. When she finished, she thanked me and began telling a story of her own. One day a man walking through the forest was met by a young girl, a sort of faerie or guardian of the forest. She asked the man to stop murdering her trees, but he only responded “what you call murder, I call survival.” Bound to his duty to serve and protect his people, he couldn’t spare the trees. Returning to his home, he found everyone had been turned into wooden statues. Horrified, he confronted the girl. She merely said she had freed him from his duty to the people. Wood fears neither the cold nor absence of food. The man came to happily live with the girl in the forest. Such is the danger of the dutiful man.
When she finished, I thanked her for her story and asked how the man could forgive her so easily for what she did to his people. She replied that he was simply a very dutiful man, putting that above all else. I wondered if this could somehow relate to my companions or myself, but did any of us truly put duty before all else? Before I left, I recommended that she try eating dirt sometime, though perhaps not from Sigil. Laughing, she agreed to consider it.
Leaving her room, I saw Bob’bi heading outside, probably hoping to be out of sight before everyone woke up and questioned the weight of their pockets. I started to follow her when Ooze hopped over to me, oddly giddy. I immediately grew suspicious, as he hasn’t been too willing to talk to me since the incident with his tuba. I questioned him on his sudden change of heart and he waved it off as the simple past. I woman then stepped forward with a hopeful look in her eyes. Refraining from stepping backwards was more difficult than I care to admit to. Evidently she’s always wanted to touch an elf’s ears. Being somewhat of a rarity in Sigil, that’s where I came in. Thank you Ooze for notifying her of my presence……I really didn’t want some strange woman touching my ears. Not the worst part she could’ve picked, but bad enough! “But would it really hurt anything?” I thought cringing. She wasn’t really asking for much and at least it didn’t involve my owls this time. Could I really refuse such a simple request on solely my own possibly unreasonable discomfort? “Yes!” part of me screamed, watching her big eyes staring at me, her fingers twining restlessly together. Ooze towering over us to the side, looking thoroughly amused and pleased with himself. If that sensible part had corporal form, it would have forcibly pulled me from the hall before foolish empathy could agree.
“Too late,” it thought, hearing my affirmative echo in the quiet hall. Without hesitation, she stepped too close, fingers barely grazing the upper edge of my sensitive ears, running up and down a couple times before warm hands enclosed fully over them, thumbs taking the opportunity to caress the back. My fingers twitched, fighting the urge to shove her as far from me as I could, to grab my bow or summon magic to my palm. I stared down at my fists, watching as I clenched them, not wanting to look at the woman in front of me or at what Ooze might be doing, what secrets his face might betray as mine burned. Warmth ghosted over my ears in mockery of a lover’s touch, in the same endless moment so craved by such couples. Slowly, she returned to her previous position and my hands flew to cover my violated ears, shield them, and remove unwanted lingering sensation. I think she said something, but I couldn’t be sure. I asked her not to grope me anywhere else, I think softly. She smiled and said it wasn’t that kind of brothel, but maybe another time. No, no, I think not. Never. I bade her a quick farewell, as was only proper to a lady, regardless of what had transpired. I wanted to say something to Lady Grace, apologize for our presence, following Thrimbar’s accusations, something, but I had had enough. Passing her with but a nod, I exited, trying to force a slow gait and failing. I don’t think I was quite running. That’s something, right?
Curse me, curse my way of thinking, curse my inability to refuse people, curse the sensitivity of elven ears. In my haste, Alma and Aislyn had taken flight at some point, though I know not when. I crouched by the wall near the door, again covering my ears, and took a deep breath of air not perfumed. I’m not sure where Bob’bi was. Probably staring at me with her dark eyes, as she is wont to do. Discerning weakness, wondering idly what broke the elf this time, caring for wellbeing, who knew what it was those eyes saw. The feeling of the unwanted touch almost having faded, I lifted my head and looked at my owls, who had settled near me again. Aislyn hooted when our eyes made contact and I pet the top of her head. She hooted contently, moving so I’d pet along her wing too. I smiled at her before taking another deep breath and stood up, moving my hair off my shoulders for Alma and Aislyn’s perching pleasure. There will be time later to regret my actions. For now, there’s one faction left to check out.