Ristdex / Index Page
Rist followed the cold blue shimmery-flickery thing, the wisp that the dark lady had sent ahead to lead him to the place she wanted him to go. The wisp seemed to enjoy playing games with Rist and led him up and around various heaps and piles, across debris-strewn alleys back and forth for the better part of several hours until the fat, orange bulk of Bireo was finally setting in the West and the vast yellow-green curve of Shuubra was only just beginning to rise in the East. The world-sized moon they were on was caught between the sun and the gas giant it orbited; what some astrologers often deemed an auspicious time. The shadows grew fuzzy and indistinct as they usually did under the mingled orange and green light. Rist only paused long enough to bow twice and mumble a brief mantra to the rising arc of the Great Mother Shuubra, who watched over all her moon-children so that Father Bireo wouldn’t eat them. Most things passed in and back out of Rist’s mind, but for some reason he held onto stories, myths and superstitions. Especially the ones he managed to overhear amongst the various merchants in the Botanica-Souk or along the Wet Wharves where the few still functional ships plied the unhappy seas stretching away East from the ruins of Talibarr. Sometimes Rist would climb up to the areas outlined with burning braziers filled with incense and trash where the traders came to bargain with the remnants of those who still inhabited the Broken Towers or infested the Lower Precincts.
The wisp stung Rist on his backside. Without a sound Rist let go of his momentary reverie and got back to the task at hand. He followed the wisp past sheared-off columns of heavy stone, down deserted corridors and passages, across desiccated gardens and through long abandoned parkland grown into thick forests prowled by all manner of hunter, scavenger and worse. But Rist did not fear. He followed the dark lady’s wisp. He was her servant; no one would dare to attack him for fear of incurring her wrath. Or so he thought.
The wisp came to a stop before an impressively baroque arch of polymerized concrete set with massive sheets of fossil river-bed mud forming natural bas reliefs. The orb-lamps nearby were either dead or gave off a strange blue radiance that only made it harder to see. There were no beetles crawling over the walls at either side of the arch, though there were ranks of statues set within niches and arranged in alternating tiers that diminished in height as they piled one atop the other all the way up to the azure gloom that faded into blackness in every direction. Rist had never seen this place before. He wasn’t sure what to make of it and lacked the words if he had in any case. The wisp jumped up and down impatiently from just past the arch then disappeared with a tiny popping noise.
Rist rubbed his scraggly chin. He struggled to recall what the dark lady had told him to do but couldn’t remember so he decided to go inside and see if he could find someone to ask for help. Not that anyone would ever help out a drijj, but they might help out a professional. Rist smiled grotesquely. He rather liked the sound of that word, it made his ears twitch as if he was being tickled and that was a very rare feeling indeed.
Rist looked all around him. All on his own now he had no way to prove that he was working for a client. He wasn’t sure that the owners of the place would be too terribly happy to let a drijj wander around either. Most people tended to kill drijj on sight, tossing their mangy bodies onto the burning braziers with lots of extra incense.
“Might I help you?” asked a sleekly alabaster woman trailing hundreds of diaphanous veils as though they were dirty flames or flickering shadows.
“Please yes. Rist not pest. No no no. Am professional. On job.”
“You work for someone little drijj?”
“Yes-yes. Rist work for … lady. Am to get shiny-shiny for her, bring back. Oh, now Rist remember-“ he shoved both of his filthy hands palm upwards before him and waited for the blue wisp to appear like it was supposed to.
“Yes?” drawled the pale lady in veils.
“It not work.” Rist was honestly perplexed.
“And what would I be likely to see if your little trick did work?”
“Lady send along a little wisp-thing, small blue–“
“You are the courier?” the alabaster woman stared at Rist in utter disbelief then she started to laugh softly, her voice like tiny silver bells in the distance.
“How utterly marvelous. Sheer genius. Do tell your mistress that I applaud both her sheer audacity and unparalleled wit when you give her the- –what did you call it again my little friend?”
“Shiny-shiny? Rist to bring shiny-shiny to lady. Rist a professional. Not pest. Not bad-thing. You give shiny-shiny to Rist now?”
“But of course little Rist.” She made a discrete gesture and deftly pulled a small foil-wrapped cube from out of nowhere and handed it to Rist. The foil was slightly warm to his touch but the white lady’s fingers were as cold as any ice he had ever felt.
“There you go little one. Fair travels to you. I doubt very much that we shall see one another ever again. A pity that. I think you would have made an excellent servant, with a little modification…but alas, you are already marked by another. Good evening little Rist, and good luck.”
The alabaster woman smiled slightly as she bowed, turned and gracefully walked away into the darker, deeper parts of the enclosed forest that Rist could only make out the barest details of from his low vantage point just at the edge of the murky blueness coming in past the baroque arch from the orb-lamps outside. He slid the shiny-shiny into his special pouch, next to the lucky pigeon-killing shard and his cracked marble. Not sure if he ought to bow or not, this only being his second outing as a professional, Rist decided to half bow and then run away with as much dignity as he could muster, which being a drijj such as he was meant none at all.
Rist ran for all he was worth. Where earlier he had scampered and played with the fickle wisp as it led him on a meandering, winding route to their destination now Rist had to get back to the dark lady as quickly as possible. Instinct kicked into high gear and the little drijj picked his way past exposed sink-holes, along the edge of sludge-slurries that were once elegant boulevards, across makeshift bridges and through the maze-like rat-warrens, grub-shafts and worm-tunnels that extended beneath the owl-haunted forests of the old parklands that even Rist didn’t consciously know were there. His mind was blank. His heart beat evenly. Instinct and intuition merged into a dynamic motive force that propelled the tiny figure back to his client along the fastest, safest, clearest route possible.
He was able to make it back to the broken ledge overlooking the esplanade where he had met the dark lady in less time than it took for Mother Shuubra to fill half the night sky. Rist looked around the ledge area. It was dark. Empty. There was no sign of the lady.
To be Continued...