Worth a Whisper
Through the rainfall you can reach up the Great Slab.
This was the whisper Baysillette heard on her return from the far side of the span. She was desperate to receive some bit of information that could allow her to help her brother Gonth, though the likelihood was far less than a fraction of a possibility.
Gonth was always the one to find any way he could to scrape up a shin or two. He spent hours dangling from ropes suspended from the tops of the bluffs of Rachid, gathering as many haster leaves as his sling would hold. He was willing to spend the better part of the day crossing the span and back, dodging the swoops and dive bombs of the wretched vulpen simply to catch the tatters and fragments of whispers that might form a word. Any of these endeavors rife with their inherent perils only ever fetched but a handful of shins. The risks never seemed commensurate with the reward, at least from Baysillette’s perspective.
She had dreamed of leaving the stagnant lifestyle Rachid offered in search of exploring the fascinating and compelling strangeness and wonders of the Beyond, where there were certainly plenty of dangers to navigate but potential discoveries that were beyond imagining. Visitors to Rachid often brought with them stories of numenera that affected reality in ways that stultified the senses, ruins that held eons upon eons of long dormant secrets waiting to be awakened to the present day. She was only weeks away from leaving Rachid, once she turned sixteen, the age her brother insisted she needed to be before she could strike out on her own to explore the world. She had worked alongside him gathering leaves that grew around the doors on the bluffs, setting aside the meager earnings to buy the supplies needed to survive the trek through Dry Krelloth.
Her focus had recently shifted from preparing for her eventual departure from Rachid to trying to find a way to reverse the ill effect that had begun to consume Gonth. After returning from his latest trip across the span he had received a potentially lucrative whisper, one that gave instructions on how to open one of the mesa doors. He had intended to sell the whisper straight away to one of the Aeon Priests or to Sethridge but Baysillette had convinced him that he might find something of greater value beyond the door that could potentially fetch a much higher price. Resisting his nature to fetch the quicker shin, he took his sister’s advice and managed to gain access to whatever lay beyond the door.
Within a few days of exploring the area on the other side of the door Gonth started to show signs of tiny sprouts emerging from his skin. Each day following his return the sprouts rapidly progressed in their growth, slowly consuming him and leaving him weakened and ill. No one in town had ever encountered anything resembling his condition and the Aeon Priests were without a solution as to how to treat or reverse it. Baysillette begged Gonth to tell her the whisper so she could search beyond the door for the cause and a possible accompanying solution to his affliction but Gonth would not share it with her. He dared not risk letting the same circumstance befall his little sister, who he swore to protect and watch over until she became of age.It was this desperation that drove her to cross the span, in the hopes of receiving a whisper that would tell her how to reverse her brother’s condition. It was a tremendous long shot and the odds were beyond remote that she would receive an answer, but she had to at least try.
As fortune had it, the air was still and the breeze was almost imperceptible, which dampened down the vulpen activity. On the return trip she heard it as crisp as if someone stood beside her and spoke directly into her ear: Through the rainfall you can reach up the Great Slab. With that whisper came the clearest picture of where the rainfall would be and the precise time it would fall. Was this where the cure to her brother’s condition could be found? The Great Slab was over two hundred kilometers to the west of Rachid, too great a distance to reach before the strange disease completely consumed Gonth. Nonetheless, such a valuable whisper this was! A clue to how to reach the top of the Great Slab! As far as she knew, no human being in the Ninth World has laid eyes on the inaccessible plateau nearly a kilometer high. This would be a wonderful destination to set for her first foray out into the Beyond. But first she must see to finding a way to help her brother. As tantalising as was the information that reached her ear, it offered no solution to Gonth’s life threatening condition.
Baysillette rushed back home to check on her brother and to share the news of receiving such a valuable whisper provided he was in the condition to appreciate it. Upon entering their home she was horrified to find where her brother lay was a thick mound of viney foliage, deep green ladle shaped leaves with streaks of crimson etched throughout. Tendrils had begun to wind along the bed frame and down the legs of the bed, trailing onto the floor. She rushed over to the mound of vegetation, frantically pulling back and snapping stalks and vines, searching for the man underneath. The young woman could barely make out her brother’s face, the dense plant matter having taken root in the majority of the surface area of his skin, already feeding on the chemicals in his body and causing it to shrink in on itself. She continued to pull on the vines that had taken purchase to Gonth, but with horror she could see the roots threatening to tear his skin away as she tugged. She fell to the side of the bed and wailed, knowing the strange plants had flourished far too aggressively and had consumed her brother beyond salvation.
The better part of an hour had passed before she could lift herself from the debilitation of her grief. Numbly she went to collect the shins she had stashed away, knowing she would need to pay to have his body taken out to the Wastelands for burial. She approached the corner where she hid her shins to find the stone they had been concealed under had been left out of place. She was absolutely certain she had replaced it before she left yesterday. In her absence and right in front of her helpless dying brother, a thief had come in and made off with her savings! She began searching their home in a futile fervor, looking for any other remnant of savings her brother may have had, despite knowing his shins always left his hand within moments of receiving them.
She stood in the middle of the home confused, exhausted, feeling hopeless. What was she to do? With no money she could not have him buried. Could she simply leave him here? Let the plants continue to consume his body? Perhaps that’s what she would do. She was still weeks away from coming of age to strike out on her own but Gonth was no longer alive to make her wait until then. There was essentially nothing keeping her here now. She could leave this city of which she had no love for and begin the life she had envisioned for herself. Starting with following up on this wonderful clue the wind had brought her. Starting with the Great Slab.There was a problem though… she no longer had the means to sustain herself venturing into the xeric and desolate Dry Krelloth. All the money she had saved to purchase those provisions had been stolen by a thief who clearly knew of her hiding spot, seizing the opportunity while she was away and her brother was being consumed by the plant matter. She no longer had anything of value…
Save for the whisper.
The whisper was one that would be highly prized by many… an enterprising trader, an intrepid adventurer, an Aeon Priest of Rachid. Any of them would pay handsomely, some more than others. It would be enough to afford her the materials needed to survive the Dry Krelloth, even get her enough provisions to reach the Great Slab.
Then what? Once she sold the whisper, it would be forgotten to her. She would no longer remember the secret of the rainfall, where it would be, and when it would fall. She would likely not even remember it had anything to do with the Great Slab.
Perhaps she would go up to the highest tier of her city on the mesa and contemplate her options. From there she could look out onto the lands of the Beyond, even seeing a glimpse of the Great Slab. She could also see the entirety of the city, where she could spend the rest of her days mindlessly gathering haster and spend all day crossing the span and dodging vulpen for two-shin whispers. She could also enter the sanctum that stands there and ask to see an Aeon Priest, letting them know she has something they might be interested to hear.
David S. Dear is an Audible Approved Producer, having produced and narrated over thirty audiobooks. He is also produces and performs on the Numenera based audio drama A Ninth World Journal and has appeared in several other audio dramas including TENDRIL: The Banshee Chronicles, Moonbase Theta Out, Vampires of White Chapel, and Witchever Path.