The Tenth Pit simmers, the Tenth Pit boils
In deepest conspiracy the Tenth Pit roils
They plot with the finest, most evil of brains
And conspire to put the universe in chains
Traveling through the phlogiston was as different from journey through wildspace as night was different from day. In wildspace, since the only external light came from the distant stars and whatever fireworlds happened to be nearby, illuminated areas on ship were generally belowdecks (abovedecks the light was wasted on the endless void). As a results, crews usually spent their free time below when travelling through a sphere. In the rainbow ocean, however, the endless nothing which stretched in all directions was brightly colored, and illumination came from without. Belowdecks it was necessarily dark (because open flame would set the phlogiston off) except for those few rooms which had portholes. (Incidentally, the main reason spelljamming ships even had portholes was to let light from the phlogiston in.)
In some ways, though, traveling by spelljammer was the same no matter where it was done. Unless a crewmember was manning the spelljamming helm, no matter what his duties might be, he was going to be left with a lot of free time on his hands.
Tianna, who had no duties whatsoever, was left with more time than most. She decided to discover where they were heading. Although she was by no means a trained navigator, she was well-enough versed with spelljamming that it didn't take her long to work out that the Nightwarder wasn't headed for anywhere near Faeriespace. That particular sphere was in almost exactly the opposite direction.
When she confronted Reanyn about their course, he was unconcerned. "You said that Faeriespace was the last place Windhook was seen. And that word would have to have been at least several weeks old by the time you got it to me."
"So?" she asked.
"He won't be there now."
He looked at her strangely. "Did you think he would be? This is the Raver we're talking about, after all, and even though I personally don't believe in the myth there are a lot of people who do. Mercenaries and killers for the most part. You can bet they'll have combed that sphere for him by now."
Tianna remained unconvinced. "A sphere is a pretty big place."
"Not that big. If he's still there, he's dead by now."
She was getting irritated. Is he giving up already? " You're not even going to look for a trail?"
"Of course I am. But I don't expect to have to go all the way to Faeriespace to find it. The best place to start anything is at the beginning."
And that was all he would say.
They stayed to the center of the 'river', surfacing occasionally to take bearings and measurements. Navigating through the Flow was tricky. There were no star formations to tell precisely what a ship's position was.
The fourth day, when they surfaced, the gigantic ebony shell of a crystal sphere appeared off the starboard bow.
Immediately the Nightwarder abandoned the river and headed for the shell.
Although it looked almost close enough to reach out and touch, it took almost an entire day's journey to reach it. Distances were difficult to judge when the only object the eyes had to measure scale was as incredibly immense as a crystal sphere.
Once they reached it, it was a simple matter for the orc priest to open a portal. And then the Nightwarder passed into the sphere, darkness engulfing it as the portal closed behind.
The ship stopped just inside the shell, lamps being lighted both above and below. Reanyn and the navigator dragged out star charts and began making calculations, then went below to double check their findings. It was cold in this sphere, much colder than the phlogiston had been (temperatures in the rainbow ocean varied slightly in some places, but were for the main part temperate), and the crew quickly bundled up in cloaks and furs.
It was nearly an hour before Reanyn came up on deck again. He barked out a series of coordinates, and the ship gave a whine as it slipped into spelljamming speed.
"What is this place?" Tianna asked. She didn't recognize the star constellations. "Where are we going?"
"This is Weyrspace," he answered her. "We are headed for Windhook's homeworld."
"His homeworld?" Tianna was confused. "How do you know which planet he's from?"
"I'll be very surprised if he's not from Westfall. It's the only human-populated planet in the sphere."
"But what good will his homeworld be to us? You don't seriously expect him to be there, do you?"
"I wouldn't discount the possibility. In any case, it's where the trail will begin."
"And what if he didn't leave a trail?"
Reanyn shook his head. "Everyone leaves a trail."
* * *
Westfall was a small, barren world, sparsely populated and loosely-governed by a mostly-human nation. It was a strange planet, slightly warmer than most but with almost no weather patterns to speak of. The bluish-green fireworld it orbited lent it an unearthly aspect.
The native population, small as it was, was conversant with spelljamming technology (no surprise, since it was originally colonized by human spelljammers) and had a small spelljammer port equipped with facilities for ships with ground-landing capabilities. (In reality, the port was little more than a large mostly-flat area of dusty ground that had been cleared and marked off.) There were three other spelljamming ships already docked: a sleek-looking hammership, a tradesman, and a battered vipership.
The Nightwarder put down without difficulty, and after Reanyn had paid the docking fees to the port authorities (two gold pieces to a bored-looking older man who didn't leave the shade of his hut or even stand when Reanyn approached) he struck out on foot towards the nearest 'city' (a small town located less than half a mile away). The crew remained aboard (goblinkin were not always a welcome sight on human worlds) along with Tianna (who protested bitterly, but was compelled to remain by an impassive Reanyn).
Westfall (the city bore the same name as the world) turned out to be larger than Reanyn had expected. Still it took only a half hour to find what he was looking for. Jarren Windhook was the son of two of the original colonists of Westfall. He had grown up here, and although both his parents had passed away years ago he had a brother, Myfallar, who still lived here on Westfall. A little more digging revealed that Myfallar was something of a sot, and could often be found in one of the taverns on the bad side of town.
It took less than fifteen minutes to find The Spacefarer's Song. The Song was typical of any of a thousand alehouses on a hundred other worlds: a filthy, dark, and rundown tavern filled with the usual scum. Most hovered over their tables, ignoring everyone and everything around them, but there was one young human who sat in the corner, surreptitiously observing everything. Reanyn noted the young man, but his face had not appeared on any wanted posters, so he walked on. He headed straight for the barkeep, a hard-bitten woman of about thrity or so who looked like she was busy doing nothing.
"Myfallar Windhook," he said, flipping her a silver piece.
She caught it deftly. "That's funny, you don't look a thing like him," she said.
"I was told I could find him here."
The silver piece had disappeared into her bodice. "He's been here before," she said. "Maybe he's even here now."
He flipped her another silver piece.
She chuckled. "Well, well. Ain't he the popular one, all of a sudden. He owes you money?"
"It's a private affair."
"Sure, sure." She jerked a thumb. "He's in back, with them others. And you remember, whatever money you might squeeze out of him he already owes to me."
Reanyn was already halfway down the small dark hallway the woman had indicated. There were two toughs lounging near the door at the far end. They stepped into his path as he approached.
"May we be of help?" asked one of them, plainly not interested in helping anyone.
"I'm here to see Windhook," said Reanyn.
"He's busy," grunted the other one, cracking his knuckles loudly. "Come back some other time."
Reanyn stared at them. "Get out of the way."
The larger of the two stepped forward. "Look," he said, poking Reanyn in the chest with a grimy finger, "I don't like elves to begin with, so don't test my patience."
"My friend don't like elves," echoed the other man. "I don't like 'em either."
Reanyn looked from one to another. "You were warned."
Then he went into motion. He siezed the man's arm and pivoted, putting considerable force into the manuever. As the man was lifted bodily off his feet and flung past, Reanyn could hear tendons ripping in his arm.
The man gave a grunt of surprise and pain before connecting with the right-hand wall. He hit head first, his body flopping like a ragdoll, and there was a sound like the crunching of bone.
The second man barely had time to register surprise before Reanyn's right foot lashed out in a graceful arc, catching him with great force on the chin and spinning him in a half circle into the opposite wall.
Reanyn was past them and at the door before the two had slumped to the floor.
It was locked. Reanyn tore it from its hinges and tossed it to the side.
The room within was small, barely more than a closet. Two men were standing near the doorway, each holding a wicked-looking mace, and two more were on the far side of the room, bending over a third, who was tied to a chair.
The two at the door had half turned at the sound of the door being ripped open. They lifted their weapons reflexively as Reanyn entered, but had time to do little else before Reanyn was upon them.
Smoothly Reanyn's arm arced out, gracefully lifting a dagger from the belt of the man on the right in the blink of an eye. As the man looked down in surprise, Reanyn stabbed upward, plunging it into the man's right eye, killing him with his own weapon. Reanyn let go of the dagger for a moment, ducking under a blow the second man swung at him, then reached back, grasping the hilt of the dagger and pulling it free of the first man's eye. Before the second man had time to recover his balance Reanyn had buried the dagger in his throat.
The first man dropped like a stone, without a sound. The second gave a horrible cough, lurched forward a few steps, and fell down face first.
"Not one move!" screamed the shorter of the two men across the room, pressing the point of a dagger into the bound man's throat. "Not one more move! Come any closer and he dies!" The other man had produced a shortsword and was waving it threateningly.
"Tyrinon Flemyr," said Reanyn, recognizing the shorter man from wanted posters. "There's paper on you." That was an understatement. Flemyr was one of the top members of the Tenth Pit, a secret society whose sadistic members were bent on controlling the spaceways. The atrocities Flemyr had committed were too numerous to list. "I'll give you just one chance to surrender."
"Who are you?" shrieked Flemyr.
The two man looked each other. "The Wayfarer?" Flemyr asked, looking back at him.
Reanyn nodded. "Put down the dagger and I'll let you live."
Flemyr giggled. "You must think me mad, Wayfarer. This bloated human," (he gave the bound man a small kick) "is my only ticket out of here."
Reanyn considered the bound man. He didn't look like he was having a good day. He was a little overweight, and it was obvious that he hadn't shaved in a while. His mouth was bloody, as if he had been struck repeatedly (which he probably had, Reanyn thought, knowing Flemyr's methods), and he lolled in his seat as if he were not fully aware of what was going on around him. "That is Myfallar Windhook, then?"
"Who else would it be? You just stay back or I'll gut him like a pig!"
"Put down the dagger," said Reanyn again.
"Forget it!" barked Flemyr, a triumphant grin on his face. "I'm holding all the cards here!"
Reanyn shrugged. "Your choice. The reward is the same whether you’re dead or alive. Incidentally, what does the Tenth Pit want with a second-rate drunk like Myfallar Windhook?"
"Don't play games with me, Wayfarer! It's the Raver we're after, same as you! Now, we're leaving, and you're not going to be stopping us!" Flemyr seized the bound man by his hair and yanked him to his feet, cutting the ropes that held him to the chair.
In that moment, Reanyn moved. He crossed the room in one bound, his hand whipping out as he did so, crushing the sword-wielder's larynx in passing. The man went flying backwards from the force of the blow, his sword slipping from numb fingers as his hands clutched feebly at his throat.
Before Flemyr could put the dagger back to Myfallar's throat Reanyn had seized his wrist, yanking it brutally backwards and to the side. Flemyr screamed as his arm and wrist were broken in five different places.
Holding Flemyr's broken arm firmly behind his back with one hand, Reanyn reached around Flemyr's head with his other, cupping his chin. He gave a yank and Flemyr shrieked once as his neck was broken.
The swordsman had fallen to the floor, his face turning blue and his mouth working silently. A moment later he too was dead.
Reanyn let Flemyr's corpse drop and turned to Myfallar.
"Who are you?" Windhook, a touch of awe in his voice. He hadn't been able to follow Reanyn's movements, as bleary as he was.
"Not important." said Reanyn, cutting the ropes that still bound the man and helping him to sit again. "I'm trying to find your brother."
The man tried to focus. He could barely stand. "That's what these others said. How do I know you'll let me live if I tell you what I know?"
Reanyn shrugged. "You're not wanted and I'm a bounty hunter. I don't kill for pleasure. Good enough?"
"Too bad. Now tell me, when was the last time you saw your brother?"
"Do we have to talk here," asked Myfallar, gesturing at the dead bodies. "I'd feel more comfortable-"
"Right here," Reanyn interrupted. "Now, tell me everything about your brother. Leave nothing out."
* * *
In ten minutes he was on his way again, hoisting the body of Flemyr over one shoulder and leaving a bewildered Myfallar behind.
There was a ripple of surprise as he re-entered the main tavern room with the corpse slung over his shoulder.
"Well, I hope you didn't kill nobody who didn't need killing," said the barkeep, her hands on hips. "And I surely hope you didn't destroy my building."
Reanyn flipped her a gold piece in passing. "Damages," he said. She made it disappear as quickly as she had the first.
He surveyed the room, looking for possible trouble. All was quiet. He wondered if the patrons had even heard anything. It was possible they hadn't; the hallway was fairly long after all. The young man whom he had noted earlier was gone now, though, and for some reason that alarmed him.
It took him a half an hour to find the local constabulary. Flemyr's crimes weren't as well known in this part of the multiverse, and Reanyn was disappointed by the small reward. He couldn't very well lug the corpse across the universe looking for a better place to cash Flemyr in though, so he took what he could get and headed back for the Nightwarder.
But when he got there, he discovered Tianna wasn't aboard.
"Where is the elf?" he asked Keryth, the gnoll first officer.
Keryth shrugged. "Left the ship in search of you. Should we have stopped her?"
Reanyn muttered an oath under his breath. "I'll fetch her back. If she comes back here while I'm gone, lock her in her cabin."
* * *
"Excuse me, are you the Wayfarer?"
Reanyn had searched the city for over two hours now, with no luck. In fact, he was on the verge of abandoning Tianna to her fate when the young boy hesitantly approached him.
"Yes," he answered.
The boy seemed unsure of himself. "there's a man who wants to see you. He gave me a whole silver piece."
"Where do I find him?"
The pointed across the street towards a small cafe. "Over there. He's dressed all in black."
Reanyn crossed the street, stepping into the cafe and looking across the tables. There were very few people; the man in black was seated in the back of the room, his back to the corner.
Beside him sat Tianna.
Reanyn looked him up and down as he approached. He was tall (though it was difficult to tell exactly how tall because he was sitting) with cold blue eyes and dark brown hair. His face was handosme but angular, and he was meticulous in dress and manner.
"I don't know you."
The man smiled. "I'm not surprised. I'm not a criminal."
"And the elf sitting to your right isn't your prisoner?"
The man shook his head. "Hardly that. I persuaded her to stay here with me until you appeared." He stroked her cheek. Strangely enough Tianna did not shy away from his touch. She seemed to be oblivious to what was happening around her. "I am something of an admirer of beautiful women. The scar is lovely, don't you think? I assure you, she was not forced to stay. I even sent people out to find you. Are those the actions of a kidnapper? Think of me as simply watching over your property."
"She's not property." He was looking at her, wondering what kind of drug she'd been given.
"Your ward, then."
"You're a mind bender," Reanyn spoke aloud as he realized it. "You've done something to her mind."
"We prefer the term psionicist," said the man. "I've merely planted a suggestion for her to stay here at this table. It's perfectly safe, I assure you. Her mind isn't damaged in any way. If you want, I can take the suggestion from her."
Reanyn nodded. "Fine then. Do so and we'll be going."
"Just a moment. I think I have something to offer you."
"I understand you and I are looking for the same person."
The man leaned forward. "The Raver."
Reanyn shook his head. "I'm not looking for the Raver. I don't even believe he exists."
The man chuckled. "You seem to be going to a great deal of effort to find someone you don't even believe in. You realize, of course, that there are others on the trail? Barundar and Nym came through here a month ago, questioning Windhook's brother. You know them?"
Reanyn nodded. "Our paths have crossed. We're involved in the same business."
"They are ahead of you. And they are not the only ones. I've heard that Diamond Jill is searching for the Raver too, and of course Cyril Blackthorne's been on his trail for years. There's even rumors Twilight Jack has come back out of retirement. And those are just the bounty hunters."
"Twilight Jack is an assassin," Reanyn pointed out.
"Whole governments are after the Raver. You had an encounter with the Tenth Pit just today - and don't think they plan on forgiving or forgetting anytime soon. The Raver doesn't draw only bounty hunters, Wayfarer; the reward is just too big."
"I'm certain this is going somewhere."
The man smiled. "The point is, you've got competition. Some of which has a clear head start on you. You're going to have to work fast if you want to track down the Raver before they get to him."
"People have been hunting the Raver since before I left the Fleet. In all that time, no-one has even gotten close to him."
"Who's to say? A lot of people who chased after the Raver ended up dead. They didn't die of old age. Maybe more people have gotten close to him than you think. And now, with all the people chasing him..."
"There are always people after the Raver. That doesn't make him real."
"For the price that's on his head, I would think you would be a little more open-minded."
Reanyn shook his head. "All of this is academic. I'm not hunting the Raver."
"But you are searching for a man named Jarren Windhook."
"As am I."
Reanyn looked him up and down. "If you're looking for Windhook, then you don't know where he is. I can think of no other possible way you could be of use to me."
"You just said it yourself - " the man protested, "I'm a mindbender."
"I thought you preferred psionicist. And why would I need someone with your abilities?"
The man shrugged. "I can be very useful. Imagine having someone with you who cannot be lied to, for instance."
"That's presupposing I trust you. And there are other ways of determining whether someone is telling the truth or not."
"I can do more than simply detect lies, Wayfarer. I am, after all one of the more skilled mentalists in the spheres." He extended a hand. "Perhaps my reputation precedes me. My name is Tavras. Wayland Tavras."