It took over a decade to escape the thief-city, yet here I am, less than five years later, back walking its patchwork streets. And all because of the death of someone as close to a friend as I have. But dying isn't natural causes for a god, and I can't help needing to know what happened.
I used to be Rax Darkthorn, the best knowhound in this city. Haven't worn the name in a while, but I feel the persona returning with every step.
Nexi, the thief-city, doesn't exist anywhere that can be explained, and some claim it doesn't exist at all. Best I can understand, it sits in its own little dimension, touching a number of others as it feels like. Some residents stumbled here on their own, and some were swifted by the city itself, whatever its reasons. The first time I came here was the latter. This time... well, I might be the first to come here by choice, without a way out.
She hasn't changed, the dullness of what passes for a sky looming over her festering husk. Each street differs from the last, the difference sometimes between buildings, as wooden-walled taverns neighbour red-stoned houses, which stand next to metallic buildings of a material I can't even identify, all acquired by the city in the same way as its residents, sometimes along with them. Waking one morning to find your house wasn't where it had been the night before isn't an uncommon introduction to the city.
There are doors throughout the place, many opening onto solid walls. But if you know the secret of opening them, they can take you anywhere. For a time. Then she'll bring you back. Some door you walk through, or even just a gap between trees, returning you to this prison. This time I actually had to go looking for it.
Now, god may not be the best description of Xerven. He had barely a few hundred followers at his height, and, like so many of the little gods, was neglectful, eventually losing them. Like others, he was reduced to begging for prayers in exchange for miracles, down on the Street of Lost Gods. But he helped me when I first got caught by the city, so the least I owe him is to learn what happened.
I'm still not sure who sent me the news. That the stone found me in the new life where I'd hidden, the new name I wore, would have been enough to bring me here, as much from curiosity as to deal with the implied threat. Of course it could be that the stone told the truth, and that it had been set by Xerven to let me know if he died. Never could tell when inanimate objects were lying. If that's the case, it means Xerven knew he was going to die. And let it happen.
First things first. I need proper currency, and a weapon. Time was, the only weapon I needed was knowledge. Mainly others' knowledge of what I'd do if they crossed me. For now, I need something more substantial.
The little currency I had on my adopted world is of even less value here. I've plenty in my office and caches, assuming I still have my office and caches. But currencies in Nexi can change frequently, so even with those I could be a pauper.
I had a few debts outstanding when I escaped, and I'm sure a couple of my debtors will still be around, so I'll have to walk softly until I can pay them off.
"Hey ho, mirror eyes," comes the voice I've been waiting for. I never could hear Old Meg approach, no matter how doddery she seems. And she seems as decrepit as the first time I saw her, an ancient bag of bones who greets all newcomers, looking to trade rubbish for rubbish, or treasures to her disturbed eyes. Eyes currently focussed on my shaded glasses, maybe in recognition, or maybe just in a daze. "Lookin' ta trade?"
While I've little beyond the clothes on my back, and a few nick-nacks of little worth, she'll see them as exotic valuables. The question is whether she's got anything useful. "What do you have to trade?"
Her eyes light up with the possibility of acquiring new stuff, and she whoops softly under her breath as she drags a large pouch, very nearly a sack, from beneath her rags, holding it open with an expectant smile. Previous experience means I stopped breathing through my nose the moment she went for it. The sight I'll have to live with.
The only contents of any real value, and then by a liberal definition of the term, are a rusty dagger, a pair of boots far too small for me, and a faerie in amber. While the dagger doesn't look like it'd last long in a fight, it may last long enough to avoid a fight. And faeries in amber spheres were devalued before I left.