by William Hohmeister
A shambling zombie escorts The Nameless One – “Nameless” from now on – into the Mortuary on a slab. Nameless remembers faces and events but he has no context to process them. After a while his back starts to hurt, so Nameless gets up from his slab with a groan.
A skull floats over to talk.
“At the risk of being cliché, I am either too drunk or not drunk enough to be talking to you.”
It’s Morte Rictusgrin, the… floating skull. I really can’t emphasize that enough. I imagine Nameless spends some time checking for wires and pinching himself before finally responding:
Nameless: “Who are you?”
Morte: “Me?” The skull seems indignant. “How about *you* start, scabbie? Who are you?”
The body language at play must be incredibly subtle, since Morte has no body.
Nameless: “I asked you first, skull.”
We’re getting off to a bad start, but mom always told Nameless not to talk to strangers. Morte and Nameless eventually get through the introductions – or they would, if Nameless wasn’t… y’know. Name-less. Morte rolls with this, however, and offers to read the scars on Nameless’ back. Nameless has so many scars they can actually double as post-it notes.
Morte: “Say, you got a whole tattoo gallery on your back, berk. Spells out something…” “Looks like directions.” (Morte clears his throat)
“I know you feel like you’ve been drinking a few kegs of Styx wash, but you need to CENTER yourself. Among your posessions is a JOURNAL that’ll shed some light on the dark of the matter. PHAROD can fill you in on the rest of the chant, if he’s not in the dead-book already.
“Don’t lose the journal or we’ll be up the Styx again. And whatever you do, DO NOT tell anyone WHO you are or WHAT happens to you, or they’ll put you on a quick pilgrimage to the crematorium. Do what I tell you: READ the journal, then FIND Pharod.”
Which seems like good advice, except Nameless doesn’t have a journal. He barely has a loincloth. Nameless and Morte agree to try to escape together, as both have qualities the other lacks: Morte knows the Mortuary and isn’t a walking scab with amnesia, and Nameless has hands so he can open doors. It’s a match made in a terrifying necropolis. And Morte is by far the superior fighter. He’s only got 20 HP, but his AC is 2. Compared to Nameless, Morte floats like the butterfly.
They quickly run into an obstacle: the door leading out is locked. Morte instructs Nameless to take a key from a nearby zombie by force. Despite his superior fighting ability, Morte is relunctant to join the fight.
Morte: “All right, you found the scalpel! Now, go get those corpses… and don’t worry, I’ll stay back and provide sound tactical advice.”
Nameless: “Maybe you could *help* me, Morte.”
Morte: “I will be helping you. Good advice is hard to come by.”
Morte: “Human resources can mean a lot of things. I need to know you’re loyal to this company.”
Nameless: “When I attack this corpse, you better be right there with me or you’ll be the next thing that I plunge this scalpel in.”
See? I’m already putting those Charisma points to work with some diplomacy.
The pair leap into action!
“Uh, I know I asked for this, but… could you chew with your mouth closed, Morte?”
Fun fact! Morte’s weapon slot is his “bite.”
Nameless takes the key from the ex-corpse, and the pair makes their way slowly through the Mortuary. Morte reveals he really has a taste for zombies:
Morte: “Pssst… Some advice, chief: I’d keep it quiet from here on – no need to put any more corpses in the dead book than necessary… especially the femmes. Plus, killing them might draw the caretakers here.”
Nameless: “Why do you care about the female corpses?”
Morte: “Wh – are you *serious*? Look, chief, these dead chits are the last chance for a couple of hardy bashers like us. We need to be *chilvarous*…”
Nameless: “Last chance? What are you *talking* about?”
Morte: “Chief, THEY’RE dead, WE’RE dead… see where I’m going? Eh? Eh?”
HOW WOULD THAT EVEN WORK FOR YOU, SKULL?!
Nameless has no interest in zombies, ladies or fellas, but he likes messing with Morte:
Morte: “Psssst. You see the way she was looking at me? Huh? You see that? The way she was following the curve of my occipital bone?”
Nameless: “You mean that blank-eyed beyond-the-grave stare?”
Morte: “Wha – are you BLIND?! She was scouting me out! It was shameless the way she WANTED me.”
Nameless: “Wanted you to go *away*, maybe. She was obviously too distracted by ME to pay attention to some stupid bobbing head with a big mouth.”
Eventually they find Dhall, an ancient, diseased Dustman penning names into a gargantuan book from his floating recliner.
Dhall tells Nameless more about the world. The Mortuary is located in Sigil, and is run by the Dustmen, the faction Dhall works for. Morte and Dhall both have different feelings about the Dustmen – Morte calls them addled death-worshippers – but both agree that, if the Dustmen knew about Nameless, they’d try to stop his regeneration. Probably by fire.
Dhall knows Nameless much better than Nameless himself. Nameless has treated the Mortuary almost as a second home, and many former companions now rest within. The most recent is a woman in the northwest memorial hall. Nameless decides to find her, and at least pay respects – and to see if her name triggers any memories.
Dhall permits Nameless to go, but warns him to be careful. Even if Nameless weren’t a walking blasphemy against Dustmen beliefs, he’s guilty of the most bizarre breaking and entering ever.
Next on PLANESCAPE: Bad medicine! Anarchy! Undead nightmares! And… Escape!
(-ed. – We haven’t decided when Episode 3 will run, nor on what day of the week we will settle into, but this series is greenlit. It will be back once we get a little further ahead with it. There will be an announcement. Our dear friend and not-so-silent partner Jeremy of the seven-month Batman run returns next Wednesday. With a Batman post. Who woulda’ thought? Keep Blogging!)