Editors note: I will remind anyone who was or wasn’t in the game that this is based, firstly on what I can remember and secondly, it’s from Joes point of view and he’s what Nabokov or Gene Wolfe might call an unreliable narrator.
Now the sea is the natural enemy of all living things, that’s just simple truth. But this story ain’t about that. This story's about love.
Yep, old Fiddlin' Joe done took a di-rect hit from that fat boy with the wings. Love. It can happen in an instant I tell you. One minute you're strokin' somebodies eggs, the next they're forcing your eye back into your head and well, after that, it’s just music, sweet sweet music.
This tale begins, as many of mine do, with me addressing myself in my own head. (You'll know by now its mah habit to do this.)
"Fiddlin' Joe" says I, cept in this case it was more like "FIDDLIN' JOE. KILL. KILL. KILL THESE MOTHERFUCKERS." On account I was homi-cidaly insane at the time.
Well I've had numerous madnesses in all kinds ah situations but this one was raw eggwhite so far as inconvenience goes. You're probably wonderin' 'Joe, how in the hell did you go crazy again? Didn't you just finish up with one of your melancholic tides?'
I can't deny, it was that old religion that got me. I was expedition bound into the Mind o' Vorn. That god whose eye ah rode and who, ahm pretty sure, saved me from the brink of certain and overwhelming destruction after I briefly became the Pirate Queen.
Well this story aint about that either. Suffice to say old Joe found himself about as beat up as its possible to be, he was drowned and smashed and full of arrows and GODDAMMN SEAWATER (how the hell I didn't realise that the sea was against us all I'll never know, this was before ah became enlightened in that regard) and he was fixin to die.
Nack was cryin' of course. That boy must have been scared as hell thinkin' about life without Old Fiddlin' Joe. I swear he wouldn't last a day without me. Anyway, there I was bleedin ichor and salt and the light was pretty much gone and then something incredible happened. I heard a mighty noise, like gigantic stones fallin and rollin, or like a big old temple tumbling down, and then ah heard a mighty laughter, some terrifying eldritch sound like an awful impossible thing from outside every world I understand. And this laughter was long and low like the sound of the stones and it seemed to go on and on, like whoever the hell it was had seen one hell of a joke ah tell you. Then the laughter dies away and what happens?
A VORN-DAMMIT MIRACLE that’s what! Ah was raised from the dead! And I'll see you one better, ah'm invulnerable to boot! Well that aint quite fair, you can bash old Joe about same as you ever could, it’s just ah get up faster and better than before. Mah capacity for self-renewal seems quite unbound.
Well what would you think if a thing like that happened to you? There was only one thing could be behind it: VORN. That sombre old coot took quite a likin' to me ah reckon, must a' been his grim laughter came chasin' me outta the dark and back to life. "Joe" ah reckon he said "Joe you get back up there and git back to work! I aint done with you yet boy!"
So by various strange travails that how I came to be back up in Vorns skull. Ah knew there was witches in there and aint no-one no-how gets any comfort when they's full of Witches. Witches is itchey and it’s their nature to be so, as is well known, so I set out to remove em'.
Well we took a detour from Vorns main skull area, at my advice I’m afraid, and ended up god-knows where in another of those moth-er-fuck-ing undergound siege situations that you and I know and hate so well. Just grindin' through corridors and back, surrounded by these fancy-boy high-talkin' city folk. It was about that time ah got de-oculated, for what ahm sure is not the first time, and cursed to boot with a homicidal madness urgin' me to kill just about whomever ah could reach.
Kinda lucky for everyone Old joe's never been able to hit shit all so by the time it wore off turned out ah hadn’t killed anyone ah liked at least. Still had one blind eye runnin about on mah body like an insect pal, but I didn't mind it much, sweet little fellah really.
Bout time ah came to mah senses I was in the midst of being accosted by curiously impersonal thieves. Didn't think much of em' and didn't make much of em'. Fifty seconds later they was dead and Joe had a brand new garrotte. Just then ah heard a familiar sound, that old boy Nack callin' for help.
Well most everyone was dead when ah arrived on the scene, which makes somthin' of a change for me to tell the truth. That fellah Nack was in combat with some kind of obese spawn about as big as a peddlars house. He was flingin' jars of holy water at it, runnin back and forth and shootin and hell, you know how he likes to go about things, at high speed mostly. I jumps up on the roof just like the bug I am and gets ready to dash behind this thing to rescue who it crushed.
Well Nack fucks that one up, he kills this thing too damn quickly and it starts runnin' away. That means in its sad and desperate retreat its fixin to run right back over those boys it already put down! Well now Nack just had to kill that thing even faster before it got there and crushed em'.
Ah certainly would have helped but like ah said, ah have never been able to hit shit at all. Why ah've jumped from the ceiling directly above an unarmoured man whilst wielding a magic spear and that fellah didn't even know ah was there and ah still didn't hit shit. Ah stabbed a daemon the size of a shed in the back and ah still didn't hit shit. Violence is not amongst mah primary talents. Or secondary really.
Well Nack kills that thing just in time, but its still filling the corridor there and I have to squeeeezzze past like a chigger in a boothole just to traverse this grotesque arrangement. Found our two guys there, an Elf looked like some kind of Forest enthusiast and another fellah named Joe. Ah was busy stuffing these unconscious guys back in between the monster and the wall like a card in a doorlock when who should appear but more of those goddammn ratboys, urban types y'know?
Now this is some kinda challengin' arrangement of circumstances. Behind me is this passage just about as full of monster as anythin' can be, in front is some kinda bottomless tube about ten feet across and on the other side of that is an advancing foe.
Ah was out numbered and trapped but by Vorn that’s just the way old Joe likes it so "Joe" says I "old Fiddlin' Joe, you just grab this old monster and pretend like it’s still alive and in the midst of gobblin you up, that at least might buy you some time."
Hearin' good advice for the first time in a long time, that just what ah did. But I'll be dammed if I didn't feel some strange vibration from within, as if the beast really still was alive!
It musta lended credence to my pathetic cried for aid, those Rodentia bought it hook, line and sinker and settled down to watch old Joe get eaten alive. Seein as this might be mah final performance ah determined to give it mah all, not too hard as the vibrations from inside this alien thing were growing more and more perspicuous. You won't be lying if you say I was unnerved to say the least.
Now ah don't have fingernails, being nowhere of the mammalian kind, but if ah did ah tell you they would be broke and full of splinters from the bottom of old Joes idea barrel just about now. This thing keeps shakin and squirming and shuddering and here I am fakin' being eaten by it not knownin' what the hell is about to happen.
Well the thing gave birth all right. To an Elf!
It was only that dammn fool Malice Afor-Thort, he had arrived at the other end of the obstruction and got busy carvin himself some kind of tunnel of flesh within the beast. Up he popped with his head on wrong (he was disadvantaged in that way at the time: combat damage) and no sooner has he arrived than he springs straight into violent action and whup whup go his arrows across that pit. And Nack too! Whup whup and two more arrows fly.
No-one coulda been more surprised than I was by a dead monster shitting elves and arrows but ah see those boys haven't killed shit at all so "Joe, old Fiddlin' Joe", thinks I "why don't you just lend these boys some aid of the platonic kind, the shapes that is. You know, solids" and ah grabs my old bag of trusty marbles and flings it after them.
Well those rat boys must a been on some kinda uneven footing cause I head one of em slip and skitter and go right down that tube. The rest ran, defeated by spheres, and that’s not the first time ah've seen that happen. Spheres of every kind is dangerous and you should always have some about you at all times and pay attention to any you find, ah reckon ah've killen men with spheres four or five times overall.
Now Malice sees the rear of them and, well, seeing a fellahs be-hind always imbued that Elf with some rare spirit of martial nooooooobility. Ah'v never seem him so brave as when hiding behind someone, and doubly so if they be runnin from him. He wastes no time at all, he’s right off after those rats, backwards, on account of his head bein' on wrong.
Now rats can count as well as you or I and pretty soon they realised they was five or so folks bein chased by just one, and that one odd indeed and arguably fleein somehow from them as he advanced, you see his back was to them and his fore aft, on account of the head. Well they work this out and chase him right back. Handy thing about havin your head on backwards is you can run away from someone at full tilt and still blind fire upon them. Didn't do much good but one hell of a thing to see. Ah wont forget that in a hurry.
This is what you'd call a tactical cat-as-tro-feee. Half of our boys was still down, the path to rearwards was pretty much monster n' mazes and we was outnumbered to the fore, and badly wounded too. Well not me, like I said ah bounce right back so ah was feelin' chipper as always, but others aint so blessed.
Well we take that shaft. Now I don't want to hear no VORN-DAMMNED SNIGGERIN' about the number of times ah got to say the word 'shaft' when I relate these events. Whether its climbing the shaft, riggin the shaft, greasing the shaft or toppin' the shaft, thats what is was ah tell you, a cee-lindrical smooth-bore vertical tube about ten feet wide. A shaft. And there aint nothin' funny about that.
We tie everyone we can up just like old spiders would and we get busy climbing that thing. That crow fellah ah met earlier when ah trapped him in a bag, then hired ta stab things for me, what was his name? Corvus? Sorvex? Somethin' like that, well he turned up outta nowhere and lended a hand. We start draggin' those wounded colleagues up the shaft. Ah take some time ta grease that shaft up good behind us to prevent those rats comin' after us.
(It still aint funny, y'hear?)
Now its about this time that ah went regrettably and momentarily insane again. There was some kind of vorn-dammed brain moth up in that shaft and it hodooed me good. I made quite the spectacle leapin' from the wall and attempting to hurl mahself to mah doom. It's regrettable that Nack wus in one of his moods, that monk had dammn well utterly-re-fused to tie hisself to anyone else at all. Just picked up a bleeding priest in one hand and strong armed his way up into the dark. So when-and-as ah fell it was up to the rope to catch me, which it did, and that Crow I mentioned grabbed me and prevented me from further execution of mah doom. (What was his name? Vorcus? Rorvus? You did good boy whoever the hell you were!)
Nack didnt waste much time punchin' that moth to pieces and soon I regained my equanimity and we proceeded on.
We reached the top of this shaft and it bent over somewhat, allowin' us to walk. Its about this time ah found the first sign of mah Love. We came upon some spheres y' see. (They truly are a shape o' portent and meaning). Now these particular spheres were some of the most bea-uutiful and re-markable objects that ah ever saw. They was white as milk, but shined like pearls, strange storms of liquid whiteness moved within and its clear they were alive somehow. Now you've heard mah advice above and ah just had to have one, ah picked up the first one that ah saw and stowed it neatly away, there was a keen pleasure in me for posessin' such a thing. But there weren't only one of these, they was scattered all about and draped in the most strange and seductive veil o' liquid green. It was some kind of strange wonderland ah tell you.
We continued onwards, ascending ever up. Now, it's the nature of this cube-like world that it kinda shrinks within itself, the deeper that you go, the less space there is for things to just be. So, if you should proceed directly down for a long long while, like we had, then move only a little in some direction, as we did, then proceed directly up as we were doing now, you can never be quite sure where you'll end up. You might come back close to where you started, you might not. This was on mah mind as we pushed through networks of secreted doors, climbin' ever on.
(There is nothin' ah like so much in life as openin' a secret door from the wrong side why it just tells everythin' about an individuals character that they already discover'd the secret in fact and are simply exfiltrating through another’s maze. Every time it happens ah consider it a small victory.)
Daylight! And not before time! We came up into some kind of building with windows that let in the light. There was more of those strange spheres around, some even more remarkable, with patterns of black movin' in the white storms. Not knowin' which of numerous doors to take we continued on up, well it had worked pretty good so far, and I'm glad we did because it was there that ah met her.
'Who's that old Fiddlin Joe?' ah hear you ask. Well just about the most the most beautiful, most wonderful, most deee-lectibel, whitest, plumpest egg-layin girl you ever did meet. And smart too! Not only was this a woman of staggern' attractive capacity but in addition she had made herrself master of those mystic arts and expert in the occlusions of the sky. She was the whole package ah tell you. This girl had it goin on.
Of course she was surprised to see Old Fiddlin' Joe emergin' from a trap door in her observatory. There was a moment of awkwardness ah'll admit. It aint always like the movies you know? But ah pulled mah self together and thought to mahself "Joe, Old Fiddlin' Joe, you dammn well don’t let this opportunity for love slip through yer finger hear? You know you've got that song o passion somewhere deep within' it just never came out till now', its just the time wasn't right, but by Vorn you let this girl go you will never forgive yourself!"
Well that’s just what ah did. Ah turned on the old charm somethin' wicked, ah can't remember exactly what ah said, that’s often how it goes when you've in love, the minutes just seem to drift away, but ah did detect some kinda softnin' in her responses. You can never be too sure with the ladies, women is curious creatures, bein' huge and swollen with eggs most of the time, and this girl guarded her emotions. She played it cool, well so did I. We bantered somewhat. But ah saw by looks and sign that mah attentions were havin' some effect. For one mah ambulatory eye scampered up her pearly white flesh, she pretended not to notice, but ah was emboldened to say the least.
Ah coudn't belive it at first. "Joe" ah thought "Joe could this girl really be into you?" Ah wanted to believe it, but first there was the matter of havin broken into her house from below and stolen her egg.
Yep, they was her eggs we found, one of which ah took. All comin' together now aint it?
Well I tried not to mention it, played it off. In addition ah had Nack and Malice and Corvex? Vercox? and that fresh priest fellah there crampin mah style somethin' awful, ah wanted nothin' more for them to leave us both alone but ah had excuses to make and lies to tell. Turned out she wanted some Woodcuttin' fella a continent away brought to justice. Well I would have been happy to help her out but the others seemed ambivalent. She woulda turned back Malices head too, but no dice with that fellah' he never did like anyone holdin' an advantage over him whether his head was on right or not.
She did tell me her name though (ah charmed it outta her), Izildris.
It was about now our strength of purpose set into what seemed like irrevocable decay. Just about no-one at all could decide on what to do at all the only unifyin' factors were booze and sleep so we bid farewell to Izildris (ah promised mahself ah would come back soon) and went to get drunk.
(We were in some kinda messed-up northern city it seems, one ruined by war. Osc-something ah think. Ta give you some impression of the town, I if old Joe had took up his loose change purse and hurled it into the street, well that would been the new central bank of this place, and if a some kinda bug had scampered up on top of that purse ah’ve no doubt it woulda been elected Mayor.
It was poor is what ahm sayin’)
Now ah don't remember exactly what happened when ah started drinkin. Ah do recall one very interesting gentlemen who possessed a deep theory on the nature of the world and its complexities, which he related to me. Now he claimed that the reason that the world was the way it was, was simply time, if ah recall correctly it was simply that too much time had happened overall and that there being nowhere for all the time to go, it just build up and kind of accreted in the relatively small area of the world. And that’s why the world was just full of stuff and things and riven with tunnels and strange connections. Ah'm not sure of the conclusion to his argument as a soon went to sleep holdin Izildris's egg but no doubt it was a good one.
Yep ah still had that egg. Ah know it was wrong to have it but there didn't seem to be any space in that conversation we had to work in that ah had it. She would have been upset no doubt.
Ah woke up some time in the early evening and realised what ah'd done. Ah decided there and then that ah would re-turn that egg to the woman ah loved. It was the right thing to do dammit! Ah was just gonna break into her house and secrete it away without wakin' her up but, as chance would have it mah erstwhile colleagues were set on goin the same way. They knew Izildris had the power of giving fortunes, being as acquainted with the celestial sphere as she was, and were determined to attain one for themselves.
Well ah was pissed off to tell the truth as ah was convinced they were gonna cramp mah style once again, but it gave me the excuse ah needed to turn up at her doorstep, fiddle in hand.
While those fools where negotiating in customary fashion (i.e. like retarded dogs with a stolen bone) ah took the opportunity to return that egg. Ah felt a hell of a lot better about it to tell the truth. By the time ah came back they had concluded their discussion.
Now Izildris goes down the line, deliverin’ the future. She saves me to last. She leans in close to me and says "You will narrowly escape death by water."
Well ah knew it! It was the GODDAMMN SEA. That thing had always been out to get me and now ah knew we saw eye-to-eye on that as well! Ah knew mah chance would soon be gone so ah turns to here and says "Do you like music?"
She admits she might.
You know it was already too late for this girl. Ah admit I am some kinda roguish devil at the best of times but you put a fiddle in mah hands and dammit ah become a god-dammed demegorgon of seduction. She had no chance ah tell you. Pretty soon mah sweet flat-picken fiddle is playin over the scene, well she was quite put out ah tell you. Ah turns to mah boys and says "Now you boys get the HELL outta here you hear? This is between the lady and mahself."
They got the hint alright and got straight outta that place.
A gentlemen never discloses the secrets of his love but ah tell you that tower became such a scene of sexual intensity it would dammn near burn yer eyes out. We coulda melted through the floor. Ah say you that action was hot!
Came abouts time ah had to leave. Ah promised to return some day but adventure called me, you know how it is. Turns out we had finally decided on a course of deed, that is: to GET BACK that other Eye of Vorn, out in the desert somewhere. Well you know ah always like a full set of anything and if its fer Vorn there ain't nothin' ah wont do. It does trouble me though. Firstly to get there we were gonna have to take the GOD DAMMED SEA, and second that thing is a sphere and like ah said, you never quite know with those.
Ahm pretty sure there was some other stuff, like we found a dead dragon and wrassled up a mountain full of avalanche-giants, but that’s just passing trade on the dammn Cube-World, you can't take a goddammn step without kickin' up some mystery or another. You just gotta block that stuff out.
It weren't hard, all through that stuff ah was just thinkin' "Izildris, Izildris, Izildris."