What's all this barmy stuff?
Want to find out what has been forgotten in the Styx?
Not enough barminess for you?
the Barmy Shorts
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was dark, at least, but since most nights are in fact dark, that's not really a significant detail as far as our tale goes. The storm wasn't very much more than a bit of extra hot air blowing out of the Foundry, raining various flavours of cinders on the joyful residents of the Lower Ward. They weren't very happy about it, but like the fact that the night was dark, that detail really has no effect on our tale.
Now then. On this night, which was dark, the Gatehouse sat in a remote corner of Sigil - the pulses of insane brain waves radiating out of the building's ancient walls in a happy, content manner. Some called it the Wytching Hour. Others called it Too Sodding Late To Be Awake. It was a special night, for others. It was the anniversary of Lammus Pointe's death, just another sod that got flayed by the Lady. This was important to the Gatehouse's barmies. Lammus was one of them, for a long, long time.
The candles blazed in one of the vaulted, inner chambers of the great asylum. There sat in a corner, opposite a high window through which streamed the dimmed twilight that danced on the room's stones, a woman - surrounded by a nicely sized crowd of orphans and streetwalkers. Behind them sat the older Bleakers - watching the woman sitting between the candles, with quiet grins on their faces. It was chilly, and a slight draft blew - the motley little bunch huddled together closely, chittering their teeth under a few heavy blankets brought in by the Gatehouse staff for the occassion. They may not care about anything, but they still cared about people. They had a taste for the aesthetic, too - and Eve's story never got old, as it echoed continuosly in their barmy ears, year after year.
The children, a dirty, ragged little bunch of critters that could have easily skittered out of the metaphorical cracks in society, looked back and forth with wide, gleeful eyes. Though most were young, they were all quite hardened to the horrors of the city - but each bore an expression of awe and wonder, each's ears held no echoes. A void that Eve planned to fill. Eve sat inside a small semicircle of candles, her back against a wall.
The vague candlight played across her still rather youngish features. Her deeply tanned tiefling skin made her face look almost completely black in the candlelight. She blinked her green catlike eyes thrice, and carefully pushed a few locks of renegade black hair back to their proper places inside of her hood. She licked at her dry lips and squinted out at her assembled audience. One might say that she purred. A long, green silk dress billowed out around her - the same dress she had worn every night on Lammus's anniversary, for the past nine years. The dress played about her healthy young body, which as a whole quirked more than slightly as her lips parted to begin the tale which she had told for the past nine year, always on a night like this. A cold mist came from her mouth, as she began to speak, and she pulled her thick cloak tighter around her. The children pushed together, trying to keep eachother warm.
The Bleakers nodded, and she began to tell the tale in the same silky voice she told it in every year. Like a cat rubbing affectionately against it's owners legs, her words cooed in the ears of children and aged Bleakers alike.
"This is the tenth anniversary of Lammus's death," she began. Her audience was grinning already. "Many times has the Foundry poured ashes on the poor sod's grave, many times have others fallen at the same blades to join him, dead in the streets. Lammus was a good man, and those of us who knew him can attest to it. This is the tale of his death, but more importantly, of his legacy."
"It was a cold day, like this, ten years ago. A pretty little girl, not older than fifteen years of age, was waiting about outside of Marla the Widow's Marriage Lycences, Counseling, and Intimyte Massages, which still stands just a few small blocks from here. She had an off white sundress on, with gold trim. Blonde curls bounced happily on her shoulders, her freckled face grinning at the world," Eve smirked, "She had one very small, silver spiky bit on her left shoulder, and her neck was bedecked with nice jewelry. She wore knee high leather boots, which were mostly concealed by the dress. Her milky white, freshly washed skin almost casted a reflection of the Foundry. And there, coming up the road, was Lammus Pointe."
The little boys sitting in the front squirmed under her warm gaze and curious half grin. Her white teeth shimmered in the candle light, and her green eyes seemed glazed over with nostalgia. She winked at one boy, who then broke into giggles. He was quickly hushed by the others, as she continued.
"Lammus was much taller, and surely older than the girl outside of Marla's. He was twenty two when he died, that day. A scrawny Bleaker, he was, but the nicest cutter you ever could meet. He stood at an awkward height of over two meters, nearly a full head taller than everyone else. He nearly always wore a bewildered, lovable look on his face - he would blink out at the world through his thick specs, remove them, wipe them off, and wander off aimlessly, books under his arms. His face was always ink blotted, as it was when he died, as he couldn't help chewing on the wrong side of his pens. His face was always slightly rough with a short beard - though he never shaved, it never grew thick. His whispy, reddish brown hair stood on end, and constantly got in his eyes - such that he once braided it and tied the braids in a bun. It never occured to him to just cut it. He blinked his innocent brown eyes and sidled up to the girl, several leather volumes tucked under arm and tied with his own belt. He kept his pants up with a bit of string. He blushed slightly, and spoke. I remember it exactly as the girl related it to me, so long ago.
'Er, hello,' he said, his face turning slightly pink.
'Lammus m'dear, there you are!' said the girl, running up to him with her arms open. Lammus smiled nervously, not knowing whether to drop the books so he could hug her back, or what. He just sort of stood there, frozen in mid step. The poor lad. She hugged him, and he turned more red. She took him by the hand before he was able to say otherwise, and led him into Marla's.
'Um, er. I'm not sure about this,' he said, the girl leading him around like an old woman walking her dog.
'Yes you are, you love me, don't you?' she pouted, and he tried not to melt.
'Well, er, yes, but...'
'Oh Lammus, you'll have plenty of time for your stories and your barmies once we're married. Don't you worry now.'
"Lammus was a storyteller, a bit of a historian, and a caretaker to us barmies," grinned Eve. One of the Bleakers sighed, a tear in his eye. "He loved nothing more than sitting quietly in this very corner, on nights just like this one, reading his tales of Sigil's past to the children under Bleaker care by candlelight. That was when he felt most content, when he didn't mind being awkword or clumsy. Unfortunately, it was one of the very characters that he loved best from his stories that eventually lead him to his death." The children looked at eachother, and huddled closer together. There was another slight draft, and the candle flames flickered. Wax was dripping on the floor. "As I was saying...
'Yes,' said Lammus, 'I suppose. You'll be at the Gatehouse more, I hope?'
The girl shrugged, 'I'd go anywhere to be with you, m'dear.'
Lammus grinned. He really did love her, I think.
'Um, one moment, though. Before I go through with this, I really, really need to go and finish off some old business, er.'
The girl wasn't happy. She wanted to get married. 'Mmm? Whatever do you mean?'
'It's another girl, isn't it. I'll bet it's that Bequi girl, you always looked at her funny.'
'That's because everytime I deliver her lunch she says she's going to devour my brain. I wouldn't like that. Barmy vampires. But yes, it is another girl. I have to go say goodbye.'
'Weeell... go quickly, okay?' She put her hands on her hips, and sighed. Lammus turned to walk away. 'No kiss goodbye?' she said indignantly. She regretted it later. He turned and kissed her lightly on the forehead, looked quickly to make sure he had all of his books, and walked out."
"Don't do it! Don't go!" yelled a Bleaker, who had broken into tears.
"Er, calm down, it'll be okay, lad," said an older one.
Eve grinned. She liked to get a good response from her audience, even after they'd heard the story year after year. She traced one of the spiral tatoos on her arm, waiting for the disturbance to pass.
"He did go. Lammus went outside, and down several streets, and through a portal, the existance of which only he knew about. He was in the Lady's Ward, in Petitioner's Square. He sighed, adjusted his glasses, and walked down several streets. In an alley, after passing several dabus, he saw her in the distance. He rushed to keep up with her fleeting image, the story goes, quickly flipping through one of his larger books. She stopped at the end of a main thoroughfare, which was at the moment completely empty, and he stood behind her, calling out.
'Wait!' he shouted.
The Lady of Pain turned around to look at poor Lammus Pointe, who started to sweat.
'Er, I just thought I should say, er, I'm getting married, but, er, I'll always love you...'
Local legend has it that the Lady grinned slightly and even hesitated before flaying Lammus Pointe, but that's just people trying to be nice, I say. He was torn between women in the heart, and then torn by a women in the flesh. Torn to very, very small pieces."
The children gasped, and several began to sob quietly into the coats of their neighbors. The Bleakers stood stone faced, in quiet salute to the dead.
"It was about an hour before the girl began to get worried. She wandered the streets in search of her lost love for the rest of the night. She slept in a gutter, woke up, and searched for him for the rest of that day. She followed this same routine until the latest Death Census was released, the Death Census being the monthly report sent out from the Mortuary composed of the names, dates, and apparant causes of death of the month's corpses. Lammus was near the top. Someone even gave him a Drummerhaven award, which is given to people who die for such stupid reasons that it's a blessing they can't spread their genes to the next generation. This broke the girl's heart... the Lady of Pain.
'What's she got that I don't?' she asked out loud.
'More spiky bits, for one,' commented a bystander. The girl scowled at him, and broke into tears.
It was that night, the night she read of his death, that she was given some slight relief from her mourning. It was when Lammus Pointe's ghost appeared. It sidled up from a side street, as tall as he was, dressed as he was when he died. It even stumbled. It saw her, and froze.
'Lammus?' She gasped, and got up to run and hug him. When she did, all she felt was a cold unlike any other - the icy deadness that belonged only to those few damned enough to be unable to find respite in the afterlife. She shivered, still holding his icy shade, and shed a single tear - which froze to her cheek.
'Er,' stuttered the ghost, playing with a book. It was the latest copy of Where to Finde Thee Lady onne aye Normalle Daye: A Gyde for thee Suicydal.
'Lammus, my dear, Lammus! Tell me why you are so cold!'
'I'm sorry,' his ghostly voice echoed through the dead streets, at exactly the same hour as I tell you this story. 'I'm sorry.' His shade began to fade.
'No, Lammus, no! Don't go!' screamed the girl, breaking into fits.
'I won't... I have to tell someone else I'm sorry, too...' and off went the ghost of Lammus Pointe, to relive his death, as he would do year after year. The girl went to the Gatehouse, where she told her story to those ears that would listen," she gestured to the assembled Bleakers, "They believed her. She has lived here since, and though noone else has seen Lammus's allegged ghost, his screams are occasionally heard at this witching hour, on his anniversary, on that street in the Lady's Ward - and the girl claims he haunts her still. I believe her."
The candles all flickered out, with a burst of air - and a lumbering figure hopped out of a shadow with a "Woobelyoobelyargh!"
The children broke into fittfull screaming. The Bleakers chuckled to themselves and followed the escaping children off to their cells to tuck them in. Their screams filled the halls, echoing. Of coarse, screams in the Gatehouse don't affect anything very much, so noone came out to see what was the matter. Eve relit a candle, and nodded to the lumbering thing before her.
"Thank you, my dear Phineas," she said, gathering her dress up, "A lovely touch." She extended a gloved hand to the Bleaknik. He took it, and helped her up.
"Thank you. I so enjoy my work," said the fensir. "If you'll excuse me. I have the early morning show to put on now. Very dark and haunting, as always, Eve. You should join us sometime."
"Perhaps," she grinned, "Goodnite."
The fensir wandered off, and Eve went over to one of the high, thin windows. She blew a kiss up at the ghostly figure standing outside. A single tear fell from her left eye, and froze on her cheek.
All content copyright 1999 Jeremiah Golden or credited authors.