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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Brazen Cutter of the Multiverse

This is an old piece of writing I did 10 years ago for Saum’s 30th. I wrote it for her and am sharing it today for her birthday. It’s rough and has adult themes. It is all fiction set in a D&D Planescape universe (or multiverse if you’re so inclined).

In the Multiverse, not many people strike you as anything memorable. I have been around the Outlands, through the great barriers and traveled to places inhospitable to most beings. I’m not invincible by any means; I’ve just been around long enough to learn a few tricks of my own.

One doesn’t make it far without taking a few berks along the way. I’m a mage and a damn good one! I’ve liberated some poor sods that had too much to carry, by my own judgment. Fools easily part with their loot, and those that don’t won’t live long enough to tell their story. I’ve amassed various spells designed to keep a poor sod down. I fought in a Blood War or two. I have basically been around the planes; and I have had the pleasure to travel with good company.

From time to time, you run across someone equal to yourself. And if you’re unlucky you run across someone who can outdo your most powerful tricks. Myself, I am of noble birth from a plane that is nowhere near Prime. My parents lords of their own realm. I have many siblings that are next in line for the thrown, but that didn’t stop me from getting a first rate education on the Multiverse. I was privileged, but I was not spoiled. I have to watch my own neck from jealous brotherly and sisterly love. My name is Randal and I have twenty siblings from a plane of Chaos.

At two hundred twenty-three, I came of age. My father, mother and older siblings took me hunting in a primal plane where they are worshiped as Gods. I suppose a cutter on Prime has no choice but being perceived that way, but even Gods have danger when primes fear you. We hunted the large-horned beasts that breathed the green-crystal flame. The ceremony initially consists of hand to hand combat and ends with a special knowledge; not everyone who tries survives. I camped in the wooded forest of the 300-foot trees, slowly honing my skills by playing with and trapping medium-sized beasts until I felt I was ready.

I searched for three years, tracking my own gigantic beast. They only awoke every 100 years during a period of the rainy season, but I was getting experienced. I found the lair of one of the waking ones and set my traps. When it awoke, I jumped on its back. For three days I rode it, until under exhaustion, it bucked me off. My arm scorched under that flaming breath, but I managed to roll and climb back on. Under the rush of the moment, I managed to finally get control of the movement, eventually driving it to the ground. For weeks I rode it as steed. Our goal was not death, but control and once gained, one obtained certain knowledge and powers that were needed to be able to survive in the Multiverse. Once I controlled the creature, I gained the ability to control time.

Upon completing my quest, I became Ta’hari – a temporal mage of Chaos. This was the knowledge of our bloodline. This was our coming of age to leap into and survive in the Multiverse.

My first travels took me to distant lands. Eventually, I traveled to Sigel, picked over a sod or two and landed a companion. We put ourselves up for hire and landed some jink traveling about. In time, I had a home on the donut itself, but I never stayed long enough to call it home.

My ambition was to gather enough knowledge to cut myself my own plane out in the Outlands. Most sods would never gain the knowledge to know this could even be done, but to some, the knowledge exists to make it happen. I was gathering items and spells that changed time and matter to create and destroy both. I had gathered knowledge to create new spells themselves. To some, I was a danger and was hunted because of it; to others I was a source of knowledge and was hunted for it. But one learns quickly to survive, or one doesn’t.

My partner, Johand, was on an entirely different path. He wanted to find the ultimate warrior skills. He wanted to be a master of arms in all of the planes. Jo stopped at nothing, saying no knowledge was too remote. He trained on the planes and on Prime. He even drug me into the Blood Wars for a while as a mercenary. He could swing a blade faster than the unaided eye could see, and I used my power of time to study it for a while. He taught me many things, but most of all to trust no one. Do not trust them to keep their word; do not trust them to stay alive. He entered the book on our second tour of the Blood Wars. You see, in the Blood Wars, no one fights fairly. People grow limbs, stop time, create inhospitable battlefields, and when things get rough, their friends arrive. It was pure Hell, when it wasn’t, pure Abyss.

It was on this tour when Johand died that I decided I had had enough. It just wasn’t worth it anymore. I had gained all the knowledge I was going to get from this bunch and had enough cunning to jump ranks when the time was right. That’s when I met her.

Her beauty immediately struck me. Long flowing hair and eyes that would enchant anyone – no everyone that she came in contact with. It was a long time ago and my memory is sketchy in certain aspects, but some things I will never forget … as long as I live.

Her name was Saumya she told me, only after we had traveled for a time. Information is always currency and the only way I got that bit was after several encounters with the netherworld beasts. Anyway, it’s probably not her real name.

I met her on the planes of the Abyss; she was haggling over the cost of an enchanted weapon with some pit fiend. I swear she was ready to get that bastard’s first born, if they have such things; she was getting the better of that creature in its own home.

She was gorgeous, drop dead, but not in the book sense. What a site to be seen, the sharpest curved blade at her side I’ve ever come to encounter with. She had this shimmering blood-red cloak that concealed the many different sized pouches that hung from ropes and belts strung around her. She had a wicked smile, the kind that let you know you were going to have a good time, no bub needed.

I had initially planed to rob her of her purchase. I watched the jink slide to the fiend, just before he ended up in the Dead Book. I tell you no lie – with the very sword she was purchasing from the bastard, right through his own bone box before he could gate a single friend for help. The movement was so eloquent that I watched the ballet through wide eyes. That’s the way she ran it, it was her show. I started to wonder if I was getting in over my head, but I was experienced, and she was just a young thing. I followed her through a plane or two in the Abyss to the place where she gated, and quickly had to cast a spell to keep it open. I followed after a brief time, just enough for her to get out of sight of the gate.

We ended up in Sigel where I followed her for a bit, traveling between the crowds. I had her in my sights; she was my mark to be had. My blade ready, round a corner into an alley, I put the dagger to her head and asked for the sword. That’s the way I planed it, anyhow. I failed to see the dagger in her own hand. I failed to notice her perception of me. I failed to prevent myself being thrown to the ground and that dagger of hers rush to my own bone box. I thought for a moment I was a goner. I felt like such the berk. Never underestimate a cutter that can handle a good pit fiend, that’s what I learned that day.

I was blessed with good looks since the day I was born. Not to mention the fact that I have a certain magical ability and a good strong body, skin strong as bark and good regenerative powers – there’s not much I am afraid of, though maybe I should be. I looked up at those amber eyes of hers, catlike, squinting at me. She made me feel the edge of that blade, cut me a bit, as much as I can be. But we caught a glance of each other – held a moment in time, and mated right there in that very alley.

I could have gated out of there, I could have frozen time itself, but I don’t think I could have escaped her. She had a way of looking, as if to mark you though time itself; as if she could track you down through the ungatable planes. She was a delicious beast and our friendship was made in that instant. Though she did steal for a time, she was no thief. What her skill was, I was never sure, but she was mightily skillful, in everything she did. That’s why one could never tell.

We hid out in one of my safe-houses, I know she had a place there, but doesn’t everyone have a few areas to hole up in? The next week or two I helped her gather supplies, spell components, weapons. She was after some treasures of sorts to strengthen her position with some demon lord. Some creature that had something she wanted, and she wanted it badly. That’s how we ended up traveling together for a while. There was something she needed and she was good, talented, at getting what she needed to get what she wanted. We gathered dust, soil, wings, skin, metals, jewels – all kinds of stuff. We had each other every night for a month, and I hooked her up with some associates in the guild to gather some of it. Hey, they were my friends and it was better seeing a good fair price go through than having some of my people end up in the Dead Book.

One night, during a procession on a day of festival, when the Doom Guard was on patrol in the Sensates quarter in large numbers, we entered the hive. I had the displeasure of ending up there once for a bit of time, swearing I would never return again, but she said that was the way – and sure enough the gate was there. I don’t fear much anymore, since gathering so much magic, I even have a spell or two that works in Sigel, but I’ll slit you gullet before that knowledge makes it to a living soul. Away we went off to the Astral and we have the scars to prove it; well she does.

I could spend an eternity describing her. Built like a warrior, the woman could ride. Beast or man, sometimes they were both; she had a talent I couldn’t begin to understand. We bought winged beasts that traveled that plane … off to the realm of the Astral Mages.

I should have known we were running into trouble when time stood still, but being a temporal mage, I don’t always notice such things as being that out of the ordinary; occupational hazard. I enveloped her into the temporal stasis and we walked right into one of the biggest traps I’ve ever lain eyes on. We entered into a bubble of reality that I felt for sure would end my days, or forever trap me without seeing anyone again.

I’m telling you, I’ve never met a woman like her. For when encountering several demons, dragons and Baatezu, all bearing down upon us, she merely opened her pack and drew a gemstone. The ocean-blue stone had the coolest sheen to it. It seemed to sparkle in the same way her blue eyes did. She covered my eyes and I raised them over her hand to meet her own. The blood red eyes were intent on our greeting party. With a few words in a tongue I had never heard before – and I pride myself on my education – I saw those creatures getting closer, but they shrunk in size as they did. They were flying right at us as I drew my huge two-handed sword. I was ready for them. A spell of binding prepared, as if it would be any good, and my trusty magical sword. They kept shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. (What magic works on a magical beast?) They flew right into that stone. Right into it! A few more words and she showed it to me. There they were, flying in a blue land. She told me the stone was a plane unto itself, and those creatures had gated right into it. It was not magic but another plane that existed in that stone, with the stone being the only gate in and out. An ocean and air plane – and they were in it.

After a time, I came to understand that the stone had been created by a God she bedded some time ago. In fact, it was given to her as part of a quest. What were we after, anyway? Those creatures were what we came for and that was it – we were gone. She was like that. I never understood what we were after on all of these different planes and lands we traveled into together, but I couldn’t complain. I was growing quite rich. I had gathered spells and power, jink and the cant alike. I learned how to read the body language of Baatezu and skeletons. The two of us were unstoppable.

She was the most beautiful woman I’ve had, her appearance gypsy-like. She had long flowing hair, which one never saw unless they bedded her, the rest of the time it was bound and concealed. She had these eyes that would change color; I was never sure if they gave away her mood or she used them to throw you off. She had a sly, wicked smile that meant trouble whenever you saw it, usually before she took some small berk for all his possessions, including his life. She wore a leather suit over her curved body – it could conform its shape to expose or protect her smooth brown skin. She had leggings full of loops. Between them, she had ropes, belts, pouches, swords and daggers – as well as some things you’ve never seen before and will never see again as long as you travel. I saw this clothing of hers stand up to the ripping of razor vine, without loosing a stitch. It took the full force of a dragon’s breath and didn’t leave a mark. Everything about this woman was enchanted – everything had its use. Her gloves grew hard as stone while she fought; soft as skin as she fucked. Her boots had both the ability to conceal deadly weapons, and also gave her flight.

There was nothing about this woman that wasn’t more enchanted than I could have ever guessed. I had wondered how someone as beautiful and dangerous could have lived so long, but she was a real cutter through and through.

I once asked her how she came about with all of her things. After several years I found out, through trial and error, that she had grown in Sigel. (Well I’m pretty sure.) For a right of passage among her people, they would gate them to a plane with no possessions, not even clothing! When they returned alive, they had come of age. She had been gated to a far off plane on Prime, one that I had never heard of, but there are so many. She honed her skills she learned as a young child. She grew powerful enough to control the weather. After a time, even matter. She took the pants off some warrior berk from one of the Outlands after leaving him with the look of ecstasy still on his face. She traveled and fought many a berk and cutter alike for some time before coming across her shirt-like armor in the Beastlands. Those poor sods need something to conform to their ever-changing body shape.

At some festival, of some kind of renaissance on her 30th birthday, she acquired the boots. That was the only case she had tasked a local craftsman to build them to her own specifications, with certain austerious practices, whatever that means, and had them fabricated according to her design. Then she bestowed upon them some kind of primal magic she learned there, which gave them their power.

She continued to hone her skills and eventually gated off that realm. I never did learn how she gathered the rest of her possessions, but I’m sure some poor sod lost in those deals. She traveled to others places and gathered power until she attracted the eye of some god. That encounter left her permanently changed. Her eyes were a present from the god, although I believe her beauty was nothing to be unnoticed before that. The god had loved her for some time; then bestowed upon her a lifespan that would end upon her choosing. I’m sure he or she gave her some other gifts, but I’ve never been able to learn the full tale. I don’t even know the god’s name.

For a generation we traveled together, gathering and slaying beasts, demons and the like. One day I awoke to find a note, saying she was ready to complete her quest and was off to deal with some demon lord. That was the last I saw of her, but not the last I had heard. Being a temporal being I have my ways, I found out later that she had indeed been successful in her quest, whatever it was. She had managed to create a new plane, and destroy an old one! In fact, she was involved in the Blood Wars herself and prevented an unbalance of the Multiverse. I had heard she now rules her own plane somewhere, in the Outlands, but that tale I’m not too sure about.

That’s the reward I get; she now has what I’ve been after all of my life. Maybe she stole some of that knowledge from me, but I’m sure she had ways of her own.

From time to time I will receive word of her. A note, a marking of her passing found upon my travels. She has even become legend in some circles and it is said that her presence is invited by the Lady of Pain herself from time to time as an honored guest, as all plane lords are. I swear I saw her once, a few years back or a few years in the future, either way around, peering at me from some shadow. As I approached, she was nowhere to be found.

Of all the riffraff you run into in the Multiverse, she’s one I’d like to know again. She stole my heart that one. I can never forget those eyes, that manner of movement, the technique of battle, or the style of wit. Had I known how much my life would be empty afterwards, I would have cut that throat … but I know it never would have been successful.

There are some you meet in the worlds, on the planes, some which stand out more than the rest. Some that make meaning out of the plan only a few are privy to seeing. Where does meaning exist when you’re trying to keep your skin, keep your wit, keep yourself out of the Dead Book? I had a taste of meaning with that one. I have met others, but no one comes close to being legendary like her.

For a time, I tried to track down the path of her life. I killed and questioned demons and fiends to find what became of her. I traveled and took upon quests for various gods and lords in exchange for scraps of information. But not much could ever be found, except that she’s not in the Dead Book yet. If our paths do cross, I’ll take better hold next time, as if I’ll have a choice.

Now that you know my tale, there’s something I have to tell you. Remember those spells that work, anywhere? Well this scroll is going to kill you now. I wanted my tale to be known to someone, but you won’t live to share it. It is only to be known for an instant. Only as the fleeting thought of death, just as she has fleeted from my life. This is as much as you get. Sorry berk, may you have better luck in your next life.

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