Vinyr Half-A-Man

Anarch's picture

 You want the tale of Vinyr Half-A-Man, yeah? As I recall, I said I might be able to recount this tale for ya if'n you had a reasonable amount o' jink to cover the costs of the telling... and I do declare, this jink be eminently reasonable. So sit yerself down, draw up a mug, and prepare to be amazed! Or at least, enlightened.Here's how the whistle spins, berk. Chant is, there's a Prime world some time ago – might've been centuries, might've been millenia, ain't none quite rightly sure – and an elven empire “up in the Northlands”, whatever that might mean. Bringers o' civilization and all that rot. Now this Northlandish empire's got two Great Houses in it, one greater than 'tother, right? And this is how it stays, elves being elves.Into the Northlands comes a charismatic half-elf, name of Vinyr, only the elves (being elves) call him “Half-A-Man” seeing as how he ain't trueblood, y'know. Vinyr's a rabble-rouser, all right, takes up with the lesser of the two Great Houses, and begins preaching a gospel of something or other. Might've been religious, might've been ambitious, ain't none to say. Anyways, Vinyr Half-A-Man stirs up a 'loth-load of trouble, so much so that the lesser Great House begins to crumble under the strain. Sure enough, the lesser Great House eventually falls apart – and as it does, the greater Great House leaps on its dying kin and tears itself apart in the process. Upshot is that the whole damn Northlands falls into ruin and that's the end of it.Yeah, yeah, I know. Same ol' same ol'. Here's where the story gets interesting.There's a boychild from the lesser Great House that survived the calamity, see, and he begins to wonder about this strange visitor Vinyr Half-A-Man who seemed to instigate all the troubles. He mucks about, begins to put things together. Things like how Vinyr had no provenance. Things like how he simply disappeared – in a puff of smoke, no less! – when the Great Houses fell. Things like how he hadn't just lain the seeds of destruction in the lesser Great House (that much was obvious) but had also carefully, gently, placed the seeds of ambition and greed in the hearts of the greater Great House so that it too would fall and everyone would be dead.Well, this by itself don't mean much. But he catches the eye of a survivor of a third Great House, one that had been destroyed previously in the machinations of the two Northlandish ones. This survivor admits that the third house had sworn vengeance on their two ravagers, had even sent an envoy to the Cage looking for an expert in betrayal to help them exact their due. And thus in turn the two elvish survivors catch the eye of a third – the Rule of Threes again, berk – but this one's different. A planewalker from some years back, name of Cantus or Cantrius or some such. Cantirius, he's making what the greybeards call a “documentary”, something like a living mimir, looking at manifestations of betrayal across the planes. So up the lemon tree hops our Contraeus, seeking out these two elflords, and between them they put yet more together.Things like: ain't no-one ever heard of Vinyr before or after – not even in the Cage. Things like: that third house never even paid him for his work. Things like: ain't no-one remembers Vinyr the same way. Some recall him missing his left ear, some him missing his right, some have him two-eared but one-eyed, some have him with two sparkling blue eyes and golden hair, some have him black-haired and black-eyed... ain't none can agree. Ever-changing was our boy Vinyr, and careless besides: where a true master of treachery would stay all in the shadows, never to be seen again, Vinyr's out front and center, calling the shots.After a while, Kantobolos (or whatever the Abyss his name was) begins to suspect two things: first is that Vinyr is young, or at least foolish. Seems plausible that such a youngling, so desperate or daft as to disappear in a puff of smoke, might've left in too much a hurry to clean his mess. 'tother is more interesting, more intriguing: the “documentary” notes that there's a rumored race devoted entirely to treachery called the Vinythri or somesuch, and the Vinyr-Vinythri similarity seems too large to be coincidence for young and foolish. So off to the Northlands they traipse, the two survivors and Contrarius, hunting for the remnants of Vinyr, the Vinythri, or maybe just a really good betrayal.Shush, you. Yes, all this is screed, and ain't none of it worth the reasonable jink you done pay me. But here? Here's where I earn my keep.Ask any graybeard, he'll tell you that Contanus disappeared some decades ago, never to be heard from again. Leastaways, if you can ask after his correct name. Me, I can't. Never had a head for names, in case you hadn't noticed; always found they got in the way of a good story. And really, isn't the story what you've paid to hear?Oh, right: the greybeard's gonna tella you that Count Annulus disappeared.And that's true.He'll tell you Conniptius was researching treachery. He'll note that chant is one o' the cutter's “living mimirs” supposedly resurfaced in Excelsior a few years back, and the resulting dust-up nearly dragged the whole bleedin' gate-town over to Bedlam.And that's true too, or near enough.He'll stroke that magnificent grey beard of his – can't abide facial hair meself, for obvious reasons – and tell you that ain't none can tell you what was on those “living mimirs” nor why Excelsior was turned upside barmy by fiends, vagabonds, knights o' the post and other unsavory characters for love of such silliness.And that, me lovelies, is dead wrong.'Cause I know.And now that you've proffered a reasonable sum, you shall too.Here's the dark of it: Cuntarius and his two merrie elflords head on up to the Northlands, just as the chant would have it. There, amidst the barbarians and the ruins, they manage to locate the kip of the high-ups of the lesser of the two Great Houses. [Want me to repeat that? No? Good. Genitives are a bloody pain in your language, I tell you what.] And there, some inspired guesswork leads them to the erstwhile villa of one Vinyr Half-A-Man, still relatively preserved lo these many centuries.Preserved, and trapped. The two li'l lemons bit it within the first five minutes. Written into the dead-book before their ink weren't hardly dry, as me ol' gaffer used to say. But our canny planewalkin' friend, he perseveres – in part because he is canny and he is a planewalker and he ain't fallin' for none of these obvious traps – and he stumbles upon what Vinyr done left behind:Maps.And what maps, me lovely berks. Maps to change the multiverse.See, this Vinyr Half-A-Man really was a member of that Vinythid race. They done flourished aeons ago – I mean, ago, y'know? – and they're about the only ones to ever escape the Red Prison. They've got themselves pretty outposts down on Agathys, just a how-d'ye-do from Apomps and his ever-so-hygienic sprogs, and here's the beautiful thing: Vinyr's got a route all marked, pretty as you please, leading out from Agathys through to this Prime.And not just one route out of the Prison, neither: hundreds. Maybe thousands. Cantrius didn't have time to count'em all, because he'd realized what he'd just found......oh, don't yawn at me, berk. Don't you... you paid good garnish for this, don't tell me you don't understand?OK, look: he found a roadmap. Out of Carceri. The Red Prison. And not just a single exit neither, but hundreds if not thousands of little cracks through which the luckless prisoners and petitioners might wander. Might escape. Now you think about it: if you had that information, what would you do? You can't sell it, the Greek Pantheon would come down on you like Zeus on a pretty virgin with a bodice o' grapes; you can't hide it neither, because where would be safer than the place you just despoiled? And of course, no matter what you do, you can't get anywhere near a skulltwister since one peek and your brain's gonna be served up as a tasty treat to someone, whether 'leth, 'loth, or simple brainsucker. About the only thing's safe to do would be to dunk yourself in the Styx, but we all know what would happen then... well maybe you don't, but canny bashers do, and Cantus was no fool.In short, our boy Comicus was screwed six ways from Succubus Day, same as anyone what finds that which they're not supposed to find.So he did the only thing he could do:He disappeared.Damned if I know where. Damned if anyone does. And no amount of jink, reasonable or otherwise, can make me say different; I can't vouch what I don't know, and I've no desire to peel such an amiable customer. But what I can tell you is this: he recorded those maps into several living mimirs and scattered them about the Wheel. Why, I've no idea. We can speculate all day (and believe me, I have), all's I know is that they're out there and they might even be accurate, who knows? The screed alone's enough to send adventurers like yourselves into a tizzy, and an actual sighting of one o' them silver beauties... well, let's just say they're still getting the screams out of the woodwork in Excelsior and leave it at that, hmm?So there ya go: everything I know about Vinyr Half-A-Man and then some. Yeah, I embellished a little, but hey, what's to argue in the service of a good story? - Deep Athelas, tout extraordinaire, as recorded by Mervyn Smallhander

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