What's all this barmy stuff?
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In Excelsior it is not uncommon to see beautiful maidens in white sweep by muttering about swans and crowns, or the clink of a glowing paladin as he strides purposely down the street to the laborus task of removing his armour and taking a bath. The streets are paved with gold, the walks are silver cobbles, and any horse in town better be sodding careful so that nature doesn't make it go from trusted steed to overnight sacrifice. The place, in short, gleams of more holy cleanness then a Cipher with a brass tub and a steam mephit. But as the eye glances across the crowd - the maiden having accidentally bumped the paladin who's now crying about how he'll never get the bump out and why was she carrying a trumpet around anyway? - something other then the overbearing glow and shine stick out, as if everywhere you see the brilliance of gold filigree or silver crafting, there are no belching smoke stacks, fires of Baator smithies, or even a simple smudge of ash. In the warm glow of Excelsior people get by with soggy half warm half cold soup before they'll light a fire that might leave some dirty soot. Soot isn't very holy at all. And if some sod might ask if they might just bring in silver and gold craftings from Tradegate, they've never seen how a bright shiny spoon brought to Excelsior, in the light of the silver cobbles and sparkling white glow, looks dull and bent and lifeless as a barmy who's found his spoon isn't shiny anymore.
What a sod new to the burg usually won't see, after getting hit by a paladin for obviously not being good and lawful, which translates as hasn't had a bath in a week and doesn't even know what laundry /is/, they won't see the small little man sitting out front of a shop in a rocking chair, patiently staring at the sky. Excelsior's one and only silversmith, he says gold is to cheeky for it's own good, The-Gleam-of-Glitter is the only smith the locals can stand for five minutes without having to take a bath, because he never makes a mess, or even fires up a forge or pumps on the one accordion contraption that goes woosh, woosh, but simply sits in his chair looking at the light in the sky. A wizened old hound archon with fur so gray it has a silver shine of it's own, it's doubtful if Gleam could even pick up a hammer, let alone smash it really hard down on a piece of metal that hasn't been heated by a forge or wooshed on by an accordion contraption. Instead he sits there every day in the light, which he says is good for his old bones, a slightly puzzled grin on his houndish face and dark colored, silver rimmed glasses over his eyes. Always clothed in a respectable white vest and breeches with silver trimmings, he gets a nods from the passers by for being so obviously holy, but there always a little puzzled by the blindingly silver light that reflects out from his hands.
The true dark of the matter is that Gleam is a truly patient silversmith, managing to slowly mold silver in the slow heat of the light of day. A sold beam reflects from the nearby floating keeps that circle the town, hundreds of different sized mirrors places among there balconies and rooftops so that they all reflect onto the porch of Gleam's shop. With a few nudges by lantern archons occasionally, the beams focuses all the light of beautiful Outland's midafternoon right onto Gleam sitting in his chair, carefully holding a piece of silver. He molds and crafts the silver so slowly in the sluggish light, whether a curvy spiky sword or a simple brooch in the shape of a humorous ursinal, that no one ever sees him doing more then holding something shiny in his hands. But come back a week later, Gleam still grinning in his chair, and it looks like he might be polishing something more a spoon shape then it was before. This of course means that The-Gleam-of-Glitter could probably make a sword so powerful, enchanted, and above all really shiny that it could strike fear into a fiend just hearing about it over tea, but Gleam can only finish that when he's finally gotten all the details and highlights just right on the silver brooch, it's sparklingly silver shape showing off a cuddly bear with a pillow, that he's slowly formed in a centuries worth of light.
Where are all the birds, anyway? Surely the ravens have to hang out somewhere, surely the Astral Streakers have to streak home, yes? Where are the silver sparrows, the passenger pigeons, the sympathetics? Where do all of the avians that find themselves in the Market Ward after flying through a portal go, other than to a stall to be sold? Where do those birds that fly in from the Plane of Air go?
The Birdhouse, of coarse.
The Birdhouse is a giant nest of twigs, shiny bits, rags, and - because it's in Sigil - spikey bits, too. Birds have style, too. Stuck nicely in the highest belltower of the Temple of Baphomet, where noone even dares come to bother them, the Birdhouse is the largest collection of little things with beaks and wings on the planar side of an Audabon Society meeting. Feather collectors and admirers of the species are allowed into the high belltowers if they bring an offering of fruit and nuts and worms, and are carried there on special harnasses by the birds themselves. It's really surprising how much a Sigilian pigeon can lift, you know.
Sites of interest include the Birdbath, a two-way portal (the key both ways is a single feather, not consumed in the passage) that sits in a fetid pool of grungy water inside of one of the belfry's larger gargoyle's mouths. Sigilian penguins can be seen diving in and out of the portal with frequency, coming back from a swims on Water to be with their Sigilian brethren, while gullible gulls swoop around inside of the tower and dive for crabs and food that are on Water.
The Birdhouse is kept tidy, but not ruled, by a mysterious entity known only as the Birdman. Constantly wandering Sigil's streets scattering seeds and muttering something about "xip-ah-dee-dŁ-dah", he provides the food and cleaning supplies for the Birdhouse's residents. The Birdman is totally devoted to his birds. He makes daily sacrifices to Baphomet's Temple, so that the birds are allowed to keep their home. Some have said that he keeps a duck on his head, to show his authority over birds, but that is only local legend, most likely forming through the mists of time because some sod told him 'Yer better keep your sodding head ducked or one of those bloody fowl birds is gonna swoop in and make a birdfeeder out of your bonebox'.
in the Abyss
"What ho?" said the sympathetic to the blind man.
"It is not I who is blind, it is I who am mad," said the blind man.
"Very original," coughed the sympathetic.
"It smells," said the blind man.
"It's pretty tasty too, if you'd get down off this rock."
"Like eggs, and bacon."
"Yah, grapes and fruit and such."
"I can tell you're trying to get into my skull," said the blind man, waggling a finger at the bird. He stroked the feathers on it's head, by it's beak. "I know what you're up to."
"Kar-kar!" squaked the sympathetic. "Kaw-kaw, guv."
The blind man shrugged. "What's a pretty bird doing out in nowhere?"
"Eating. Smell that?"
"I think we talked about this before. I wish I could see the food though, I'm blind, sigh."
"Kaw-ahs, I can get you something. There's plenty to go around."
"Naw. I can't eat, the tongue is all blistered. Had a bit of bad boot leather the other day."
"Kaw. Well, good talking to you, old man."
The rolling plains of the Abyss surrounded them on all sides. Black seas of ash and melting corpses, all dead. The blind man sat in untarnished white atop a rock, in the midst of it all, smelling with dead olfactory nerves at the fetid air. The sympathetic flew off in search of a nice meal of recently deceased Tanar'ric eyeballs.
All content copyright 2000 Jeremiah Golden or credited authors.