Hinterlands, part XI - Carceri

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Just SurvivingHinterlands, part XI - CarceriCopyright © 2000 by Sheula Ralom'pa

3rd Guild of AccordantI met this charming young half-elf at a ceremony at the Festhall a fortnight ago. He is very tall, with wonderful hazel eyes and auburn hair. I actually don't have time to write about that, as at this very moment I hear a knock at my room door. I think my housing has run out. Time to buy…. er, I mean rent another inn. Also time for the Carceri trip.

3rd Hive of AccordantThe road so far has been very bleak looking with two plateaus on either side of me. They are pretty tall, but I can still see where the top is. The path I am walking on is wide, with some shrubbery on the sides of the road, but occasional twigs and other dead things flying about. It looks too depressing for a body to walk around on too long. I see occasional semi-eroded steps on the sides of the plateaus; they look too old and worn to be used safely. I also have a strange feeling about ascending them, a threat can be felt. Right where I sit, the path starts taking a downward turn, and can be easily slid down upon. I lann that will save me some legwork and let me get a good view. I've taken a good chunk of leather and flattened it, attached strips, made sure it is hard and steady enough to carry me for a while. Walking down a little more, the path gets just too steep to walk along, and my hunch proves to be right.

I slid for quite a time, perhaps twenty full minutes. For the most part, the view never changed, the plateaus were just higher than before. The whole ordeal was quite dizzying, but it also reminded me of games I played in childhood, so a bit of fun was had as well. I am sitting on a rather large rock right now, but I don't see anything else of note.

After a while, the land just disappears over the horizon, but it still has that gray-beige tone, unnatural as it is.

3rd Low of AccordantYesterday I tried to ascend a step formation and I got quite far, until I came to what seemed like a ledge. Pulled my head over and saw a structure-building of some kind, but when I tried to pull the rest of my body up, it was as if I hit something hard, and my head was throbbing from the effects. It didn't help that I tumbled a good 30 feet from the impact. I looked up and nothing was there. I simply don't know what bobbed me. After some more walking, the amount of trees has decreased and the soil below my feet looks different, more metallic I figure. Probably from the head injury, could be seeing things. Still have a while to go from the looks of it, so the next entry will come when there's something more significant.

4th Market of AccordantWell, after three more days of walking, I got to a cliff-edge. It was an amazing sight. At the break, at least a hundred feet below me was a vast valley completely different from the area I was standing on. It had lush plant life, normal soil color, looked completely healthy. The valley was vast, many miles on and on with the same conditions. The plateaus were still at both sides, but seemed less threatening. Then in an epiphany of sorts, I saw the city. The sensation was strange, but I welcomed it; I felt like I had been looking over the same land only a second before, and it was empty. Now I saw a bustling town, with tall buildings, and sounds I had become accustomed to in Sigil radiating deeply from all areas. Toward the rightmost plateau was an industrial area with one visibly large factory puffing out mounds of smoke. There the structures were covered in soot, and noises of construction and business could be heard. Toward the middle the buildings were shorter, but I saw the greatest gathering of life there, and assumed it was the center. I saw several buildings there rivaling the height of the factory. They all looked clean and orderly. Towards the left was a more green section, with small quiet housing-type buildings. There were several parks in that area as well. Several well constructed roads raced through the burg connecting this with that. Deciding to investigate, a quick jump and a feather-fall fit the situation nicely.

4th Guild of AccordantRight now I am sitting at a tree just outside of town. I truly did not know the nature of the inhabitants here, nor of the respectability of the land. I walked around for quite a while invisibly, monitoring the people. I am surprised that I see nothing different from a bustling city in any other part of the outlands. A variety of races, some I have never seen before, but they could just be tieflings, living in normal respectable homes, going to work, spending money, going home, an ordinary day. Tomorrow I plan to walk around visible. The type of dress is a bit different, and I do want to blend in, so I plan to disguise myself and buy some clothes at a respectable looking shop I saw near the main factory.

The population of the city is not as high as one might think, looking at the sheer size of the thing from above. The amount of things I learned just today was amazing. The city attracts traders from many places, unfortunately none I have heard of. There is an incredible lack of recreational facilities though, and that may present a problem. The only such place is in the industrial sector, and is run by two giant telepathic slugs. These monstrosities detected me, even though no one else had. The encounter was very enigmatic. The message I got in my head said that I had a high roof. That makes no sense, even coming from someone barmy. My kip in Sigil is rather small, with only enough room for me. It stretches maybe a foot or so above my head [giving some visitors problems]. Unless this is some sort of symbolism, I completely fail to grasp the point of this message; I better put it out of my mind though. Can't have that sort of inconsequential thing bothering me.

4th Clerk of AccordantAll right, yesterday I got myself some of the proper clothes, and of all things, a job. When I marched in the store, under guise of an old dwarf, the proprietor demanded to see my status octogram. When I replied that I lost it, she cursed and directed me to a building about three blocks from her location. I had observed it previously and it appeared to be deserted. Once I walked in, the interior surprised me. There were people, sitting on the floor, with all sorts of instruments in their hands. It almost looked like they were preparing for mass torture sessions. Some looked proper, others looked like barmies, collapsed in the middle of the Hive, unable to even get to the Gatehouse. A particularly disgusting one ushered me forward, at first politely, then seeing me struggle, and she grabbed me, plunking me down on the filthy floor. Before I realized what was happening, a small area on the back of my head was shaved of hair, leaving me with a most atypical appearance. A more proper one then approached, and promptly placed a stamp in the newly shaved area. A large cart was shoved into my hands, filled with black papers. I was then shoved out the door, with no indication of what to do or where to go. As of right now, I am homeless. When I passed the residential area to get back to this tree, a small boy rushed up - he looked to be human. Grabbing four papers out of the cart, he tossed a single copper coin at me. Finished writing, I am going to sleep in the cart.

4th Low of AccordantI've discovered the most wondrous thing! These people have nothing in the sense of art. I was making a crane out of the paper in the cart, and a woman about my age approached. She remarked that it was very beautiful, and offered to buy it from me for 5 copper coins. I gladly sold it, and not a turn later, came four more just like her. I folded several more cranes in a manner of minutes. Thusly I made 20 coppers, more than I had the previous day doubled. I feel quite elated; maybe if I save up enough I will be able to do some proper investigating.

This is about four hours or so after the previous entry. I am quite perplexed. I spotted a man lying unconscious as I was passing by the bazaar, hoping to get a position to sell my cranes and other paper things. There I saw him, just sprawled on the floor, with nobody stopping to take a look at him. As I bent down, I noticed he was bleeding. The entire top of his head looked like it was jack-knifed. The skin was hanging obtusely to one side, most of his hair still attached. Checking his pulse, I saw he was still alive. I pulled him to a nearby tree, and after I begged some water from a boy passing by, he managed to revive a little. Looked terrified to see me though. He's resting, but he won't say a word. The first thing he did once he awakened was to check his pocket. He had a small pouch, which he emptied. It was full of gold, at least 50 or 60 small gold coins. He eyed me suspiciously, but seemed to breathe a sigh of relief once he saw all of it was there. I will continue trying to work. Earlier I passed by the cliff that I feather-fell off, and it seemed much higher going up than going down.

4th Void of AccordantI woke up to see the man I had helped standing over me. He murmured thanks and handed me a water container. I drank quickly, and asked him what had happened. This is an approximation of our conversation.

Me: What happened?

Qqo: You should have known better than to try for your limit. It was high though, higher than I expected. Poor girl. Always trying to make the most of yourself. You need to know when to stop, this has happened to you too many times.

Me: It has? What is your name?

Qqo: Don't remember your own brother, eh? Qhqa! I knew this could happen. The Leader warns against such attempts, you know! You've heard him. You are one of his supporters after all; you were at the rally last kardon. What came over you? You've always respected and encouraged the limits. Our father said "Qhqa, Qqo, follow the Leader, he will lead you well" and now you've gone astray!

I decided to remain silent and respect this barmy, as I'd be better off with him than without him. Some time later I woke up with him standing over me again. I felt the top of my head, it was ripe and bloody. Qqo told me I had hit my limit again, that I better stop selling things. I promised, but the strands of a plan were already forming in my head.

1st Clerk of RetribusI am quite proud of myself, the plan worked nicely. That same night I did a climb up the cliff. It took a while, but I managed to get up there. Once I was up, I did a quick Stone to Mud, then Mud to Ash. I cleared out an opening for myself, then sealed it with Ash to Stone. I hid in there for 2 days, and I heard many footsteps around me, but I managed to outsmart them, I did. Now I am safely at an Inn in Hopeless, ready for the trip to the Waste Hinterlands.

3rd Lady of RetribusWhat a barmy, overconfident, brainless sod I am… I thought I got away. That's what they made me believe. I was still sitting under that tree the whole time. I woke up in the job building just yesterday, and I looked down at myself. It was like I hadn't eaten in a week... all gaunt and skeletal. Forcing some stale bread into my mouth, the lady who shaved my head snarled through her teeth… dirty rotten teeth. She told me to never disobey the leader. The leader would see me through. Then she laughed. Oh did she laugh. I'm very hungry, but I must show strength. Strength of mind, strength of body. That will get me through this.

3rd Market of RetribusNow for sure I am out, at least I think so… I made sure I was invisible to all the bodies in the city, and then I tried the climb. After about a hundred feet up the sheer cliff side, I hit my head. On what, I don't know, but it sounded hollow and brittle. My eyes clouded, I was tearing, and my head felt like it was split in half. I felt a trickle of blood go down my neck. I tried to keep climbing, but I couldn't. At that same moment, I started pulling myself up with almost un-imaginable determination to a very small clearing on the rock. There I sat, starving, almost hopeless to reach the top. Then something incredible happened, I don't know quite how to describe it. Looking straight up, the sky started falling. The clouds got bigger and bigger until they covered me with their beigeness, I was choking. It stopped just seconds from my face, when I looked down to shield myself. Giving up everything, I stood up, ready to crash into the infinite top of the sky and end this cruel nightmare. Then I realized I had still so much to experience, to do, to see. With re-energized hope, I looked up to the cliff face, and saw the top only a foot above me. I keep looking back, but no one is coming after me. I think… I think I should still keep looking back. I fear to follow the leader.

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