Jack Dragon, Private Eye

September 10, 2007

Sigil. The City of Doors. Nexus to a countless number of ever-changing realities, the axis about which the multiverse spun, the traveler’s port, the sanctuary of fools.

Sigil. Home to thousands of individuals of different races and colors and forms of sentience. Winged folks, scaled folks, the celestial and the demonic, the boring and the arcane, the new and the old.

Sigil. Ruled by the Lady of Pain. The one spot in all the worlds where the Gods hold no sway. The only true neutral ground. (No pun intended.) No outside forces to keep you downtrodden – no salvation to lift you up.

Sigil. The home of yours truly – Jack Dragon, Private Eye.

It’s a good place for a detective to make a living. Lots of business – the city positively breathes mysteries, and there are plenty who’ll pay good money to have them solved.

And I’m just the type of guy they like to solve them. Skilled. Experienced. Subtle.

Expendable.

It’s handy, not having any connections. Being under the radar is appealing, and a good selling point – but also means that no one is gonna cry if I go missing. Which isn’t the end of the world – just something I need to keep in mind.

Helps remind me that some cases might be more trouble then they’re worth, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to say no.

I had that feeling right now, as a matter of fact. The guy sitting in my office had a nervous look to him – like he was less concerned about having a mystery solved, and more interested in starting me on some sort of Quest. Got to be careful about that ’round here – some folks think that just cause you found out the Evil Overlord was making plans to enslave everyone whose name begins with ‘Wallace’, that means you’re the guy what has to stop him.

Me, I hold to the firm belief that you get what you pay for – and not one cent more.

Anyway. All of this is just to say – I should have known better. Should have kicked the guy right back onto the street, no matter how good the money.

But damn if that money wasn’t good.

“Th-this diamond in advance. And four more like it when the job is done. I shouldn’t need to, ah, shouldn’t need to tell you what they are worth. I’m sure a man of your caliber can tell for himself, yes?”

I nodded. One of my talents – knowing the worth of things. Good when on the job – and good for keeping clients honest. The diamond gleaming pridefully on my desk was worth more than some small kingdoms. Even with prices being what they were, here in Sigil… five of them would mean retirement into luxury, no questions asked. As a rule, I don’t tend to trust those who pay in almost-literally priceless gems… but you get priceless enough, and a rule can be broken.

So, the more fool me, I pocketed the diamond, leaned back, and said, “So, what’s the job?”

“Well, there has been an… hmm. That is, there have been complaints from some of the ministries of trade regarding… well… you see, some of the mercenary companies are concerned about the impact on the Blood War, and… ahhhh, perhaps it is just best you see for yourself, yes?”

The client grew more and more flustered as he spoke, and somehow seemed to manage to avoid answering the question. His white hair was drooping, his teeth were practically chattering – I’d have put money on it being an act, if he wasn’t so damn convincing. Though that, in and of itself, should have been enough to give me pause.

But no, I was already dreaming of gold-plated mansions and a chef that knew a million and one ways to prepare chicken. Lost in my dreams, I simply nodded, and looked on in curiousity as he drew a strange green orb out of his patchwork vest, waved it in a circle, and then he vanished. And so did I.

My first thought was: That shouldn’t have been possible. Before I was able to ponder how he violated one of the most fundamental rules of Sigil, my second thought intruded: Well, balls.

The stench of sulfur threatened to make even my thoroughly broken-in lungs break down into a coughing fit. The heat was just this side of not catching my skin on fire. The sky was red and empty of any sort of welcoming sun.

Welcome to the Infinite Abyss, the worst vacation spot in all the multiverse.

The Abyss was a realm with infinite layers, each one worse than the last. Each was filled with endless hordes of demons, all slavering at the behest of various local rulers, evil deities, demon lords, damned souls – real pleasant folks.

My client and I were on a fire-blasted plain in the middle of, if I had to guess, the 25th layer. Not too popular a place, but usually absent the sort of big baddies that made some of the other layers a one-way ticket to damnation.

But right now, as a matter of fact, it was also absent of… everyone else. I could see some fiendish habitations scattered about, and a pitch-black castle not too far off as the unholy ghost of a crow flies… but no movement, anywhere. Nothing living – or even undead. No demons. Nothing.

“So you can, ah, see the… the problem, yes?”

I threw what I hoped was a withering glare at the man. It seemed to do the job, judging by his face making a good attempt to wither up into a raisin.

“Well, I can see a number of problems. One – we’re in the damn Abyss, and you didn’t see fit to give me a warning. Two – you still haven’t told me what, precisely, you would like me to do. And three – did I mention being on the Abyss yet?”

“It’s… it’s safe, ah, as you can see. We just want you to find out… what happened.”

I sighed. I felt it was a really good sigh, too, but no one gave me a round of applause. That’s life. “You want to know what happened? Fine, I’ll start digging. Best guess to start with is that the local king of the freak show decided to go invade some other poor realm, rounded up his crew, and left his place without any caretakers. Not your everyday event, but still-”

“No- no, you don’t understand. It isn’t just this layer. It’s all of them.”

I closed my eyes. I felt a headache coming on. I knew you couldn’t trust a man who pays in diamonds!

“The demons are gone. All of them. And we want you to find out why.”

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