18 May 2007
“You know, I’ve been tracking down experts on matters of the supernatural for a few decades now, which probably doesn’t sound long to you.” Jeremiah lifted the poker from the fire and watched as it started to cool. “But in that time, I’ve noticed that most beings who know a lot about human interactions with magic are eager to talk about it. So imagine my surprise when I go to find spirits who know about people that can degrade magic itself, and they don’t want to say a word!”
“Fuck off,” the naga growled. Jeremiah turned to face her, holding up the poker. The woman was hanging upside down, her arms bound behind her back, a metal stake stabbed through the fleshiest part of her tail and holding her to the ceiling.
“It’s amazing how people always find a way to get that one out, no matter how bad things are for them. Don’t you think?” The naga responded by spitting at him. Jeremiah stabbed the still-glowing poker into her side. The naga hissed but managed not to scream. “They really do train you well in Iravati. I’ll have to visit some time, learn some other stuff. But why all this effort? Why not just tell me what you know? Do you have some kind of arrangement to keep quiet about them?”
“I have nothing to say about them! They are a blight upon the world and that is all I care to know!” The naga gasped for air. These outbursts were growing more difficult.
“Now I doubt that very much.” He set the poker back in the fire and began testing his knives. “The rivers tell me your city has had notable dealings with beings like the ones I seek, and you’re a herald tasked with knowing what comes and goes. Are the rivers wrong?”
“None of their kind come to Iravati. Not in my lifetime.”
“Do you know the last time one did?”
“It was…centuries ago, I think. It severed Iravati…from the world of man.”
“How?” Jeremiah walked to the naga and grabbed her by the hair. She took a sharp breath, but said nothing as he pulled her face closer and showed her the knife in his other hand. “What do they do? Are they all the same?”
“You’re not going to get more than that from her,” a voice said from behind him. Jeremiah turned to find a dog sitting next to the fire.
“Are you the famous Hound?”
“I am a hound. Word has it you only speak English and Aquan, and The Hound considers both languages beneath him.”
“And why should I take the word of a knockoff dog, when all the rivers speak of Iravati and its connection to the magic destroyers?”
“Iravati is a victim, which the rivers know well. The Anchors, however, are the purview of my Mistress. You are dabbling in matters far beyond your ken.” The dog howled, and the room shook. The walls melted, and beyond them lay a great landscape of roads and trails, pathways marked in the very fabric of the world. He could make out hundreds of gates, some closed, and some open, each situated directly on a path. Jeremiah looked around in every direction. “We can give you the information you seek. For a price.”
“So this naga is no longer useful to me?”
“That naga was never useful to you.”
Jeremiah considered these words for a moment before swinging the blade and slicing open her throat. He let go of her hair and walked away as she sputtered and gasped, the ichor flowing over her face and dropping in loud plops on the ground. He wiped the blade clean on his pant leg as he approached the dog.
“What is this price?”
“There was a mishap. Some beings useful to the Mistress have wandered off. Simply retrieve them and bring them to the Crossroads, and she will tell you more about the Anchors.”
“That sounds like work suited for you more than I.”
“There is very little separating us in the eyes of gods. Do you want your information or not, Riverborn?”
“Very well. Tell me about these lost beings.”