The 16th of Ymiden 718
Indirectly continued from here, sort of
It had taken him a long, long time, but Oberan the First had finally found a doctor worth their salt. A doctor, though awfully young, had seemingly recognized the described symptoms, and who had been willing to meet the patient whenever it suited them best. A doctor who did live in a shithole once populated by pirates in a far off corner of Idalos, but distance was of no importance to Oberan. He had traveled so far to find someone capable, and he had. He wouldn’t let this opportunity slip past just because they lived in a far off city. No, his friend needed all the help he could get, and this was literally the only option they had left, except for letting him die in agony, neither other Oberan any wiser as to what killed him.
He’d hurried back home as fast as he could, running the entire time. His joy at having finally found a solution fueled his thrill, which in turn fueled his physical abilities. He didn’t stop once. He just ran and ran and ran and ran, taking no breaks for food or water or excreting waste. Not for sleep or exhaustion or for desiring some contact with mortals. He needed to get back as fast as possible, so that was exactly what he did.
Imagine his surprise when he returned to a house in ruin, to an Oberan bruised and black, and to a sick Oberan with completely ginger hair. The latter looked worse for the wear, as was to be expected, but the signs of fatigue he showed were worse than he had figured. Had the sickness progressed that much?
When Oberan the Second explained the situation however, helped along by additions made by Oberan the Third in between outcries of “Cuckoo”, “Tyranny”, “ten thousand golden nel bounty” and “Free Market”. Evidently, this mystery illness was even worse than he had thought. They had to make haste to the Pirate City!
All three of them agreed, and even the being known as the Spirit of Humanity concurred, claiming that the Goddess of Blood and the God of Time resided there, oppressing the poor unwitting slaves. Second tore open a door in space and time, saying the smugglers’ roads –be they real, mythical, physical or not—were under his purview. This sneak passage he’d created would reduce the distance travelled to only twelve parsecs, he said. Neither First or Third knew what that meant, but the details would have to wait until later.
The trio of Oberans stepped into the doorway and began walking, the landscape around them becoming vague and foggy, as if they were looking through frosted glass. Second explained they were in the World Between now, a World between Worlds, a reality that linked other realities together. From this location one could navigate the different realities and dimensions. And, he added, if one was familiar enough with this place, they could move from one location to another without stepping foot into others. People in the World Between could not interact with the different realities however, despite being able to observe them. Moreover, the adjacent realities could not interact with the World Between. With this Oberan the Second could more or less vanish from reality and appear somewhere else, be it a mile, one thousand miles, or a foot away.
First wondered why he hadn’t used this when getting in that kerfuffle with the Spirit of Humanity.
It answered haughtily, sneering that it could neutralize all divine powers when manifesting itself. The explanation was separated in chunks as the Spirit had to effectively wrestle away control from Third to speak, and Third was exerting all his willpower and focus to keep the being in check.
All questions answered, the thee were off, beginning their journey through the World Between, Second leading the way and setting the pace. The World responded to his presence and his will, warping and changing to appeal to his whim. The blurry reality they’d come from was reduced to nothing more than bright streaks flashing by as they walked, incomprehensible speeds being reached under the influence of their guide.
It felt as if they’d just left when they arrived, coming to a stop and leaving through an Astral Doorway created by Second’s abilities. Without him, First realized, they would have never been able to leave the World Between, unable to access the different realities and alternate dimensions and timelines. They would have been cut off from everything they knew, stuck in a World where time worked in a way they did not comprehend. Worst case scenario, they might have to abandon Third in there if he proved uncurable and close to being taken over.
Also, First thought, wouldn’t it have been better for Second to have gone looking for help rather than him?
Pirate City was still the bona fide shithole he remembered it being. The whole damn city was built out of the stranded shipwrecks of pirate vessels, stranded not on land, but on top of each other. Once this area of the ocean had been known as a danger zone by sailors, long ago. Some said it had been a maelstrom reaching to the bottom of the ocean, pulling ships in from afar with its treacherous currents, then cracking them in pieces on the ocean floor. Others said it was “simply” an area of the sea where ships couldn’t float, where the water could hold up what it usually did. Vessels sunk as if they were made out of rock, and ended up below the waves. Others still told of a great sea monster that dwelled there –a humongous serpent, a gigantic octopus, a monstrous shark, or a massive swarm of termites.
Either way, the ships never made it far when they entered the area, no matter what side was chosen to approach it from. However, as this Shorts’ Rectangle --named after the famous and explorer Erza Shorts, oft credited with mapping most of the known world and its trading routes, who reported the first incident of the disappearing ships—was located near several important trading routes, separating them and forcing traders to take the long route around, many a reckless soul had tried to save some time by cutting through the Rectangle, causing it to slowly fill up more and more. Ships piled on ships, and before long a mountain of wrecks reached all the way up, breaking through the waves.
The predecessors of these fools, outlaws and fugitives, wanted men and women, criminals and scum, had seen fit to try and build a city on top of it, using the wood of their own ships to do so. They had succeeded, some would say, though its structure certainly wasn’t safe. And yet, the city had stood the test of time, growing larger and larger in recent arcs as more and more refugees set up shop. It was a safe haven for them and seagulls both, with the latter coating most surfaces in their excrement.
It was a literal shithole of a city, but at least it didn’t dance on the waves.
Second asked for First to lead the way, and he obliged gladly, swiftly guiding the three of them through the wooden streets of Pirate City, choosing the shortest possible route he could think of. He led them over decrepit walkways made out of rotting wood, nary two boards wide, each step feeling as if the wood would snap and break, sending them to crash down into the lower levels. Those housed the slums of this city, and while the normal areas were already this bad, the slums were worse. The doctor lived on the upper levels though, the residential areas for the rich. They were made from imported hardwood that was expensive to both chop and transport, but were able to withstand the weather and the elements in a superior capacity. He led them up narrow staircases for this reason, going up and up and up, through marketplaces made out of upper decks, over shortcuts that once were main masts, under tunnels that resembled the hull of different ships. He maneuvered them expertly through the maze-like streets of the patchwork city, always going up and up, always keeping an eye on the upper levels.
They stopped in front of a large building that bore more resemblance to a large ship than a mansion, complete with sleek hull, a working rudder, and even strung up sails. On the mast there was a crows nest. To reach the front door, the trio had to ascend another winding staircase.
All rich people lived in such houses, First explained to his befuddled companions, as they did not trust the foundation of the city. Should the structure collapse, they were safe inside their boat-houses, floating on the waves. Of course, if the myths about the Shorts’ Rectangle were true, a ship wouldn’t save them. Nevertheless, it was a practice all rich participated in, and they hired commoners to serve as both servants and crew. The safety associated with this job made working for a rich family a very desirable occupation. As was to be expected however, the positions offered were limited and the requirements were steep.
Oberan, Oberan and Oberan found themselves in a rather subdued and spartan interior, for a rich man’s boat-mansion, that is. The first room they entered was a receptionist’s counter, where a receptionist greeted them. He was not tall, and his face sported two dark eyes, a neat goatee, a slightly impolite smirk, and long black hair. The oberan asked whether they had an appointment, and when Oberan the First confirmed they indeed had. The receptionist oberan nodded, paged through a tome, placed his finger on a written line, nodded again, and glanced at a mechanical object placed on the desk. He told them to wait for a while, which they did until the receptionist spoke again.
“Please follow me,”
the oberan said, “Doctor Doubt will see you now.”