Transcript – Marionette

[The Pensive Tower theme plays]

Scroll & Dagger presents
The Pensive Tower
Episode Twenty Seven: Marionette

[A click, and the strange whirring of the venoscribe begins]

This is the memory of Zara Hewin, human, aged-

[The door is thrown open, revealing Szelia, who is breathing heavily.]

Szelia! What in the Depths are you playing at?

Paxton! I have had a day and a half, so just back off!

[Szelia slams the door closed behind her.]

… Alright. Just give me a minute and we can talk about this.

[The venoscribe clicks off, then back on again.]

This is the memory of Szelia T’Fari. Diman, aged twenty-eight, identified as female. Memory regards…

A run in I had in a bookshop in downtown Elalton.

Inscribed straight from source on the twenty-third of Chillintine, 730.

We Begin.

Right, so… uh, where to begin. Umm… You remember I was looking into the curiosity shop that was mentioned in that Corporal SinLeop’s donation?

Errm, Dayle’s Curiosities.

That’s the one. So, a friend of mine has a sister who lives in Zalatan and I was able to get in touch with her to ask about that shop.

Didn’t we try contacting them regarding the Corporal’s donation?

We did. We had no luck, and no wonder because it closed down a couple of years ago, and the woman who owned it moved away.

Madam Dayle?

Exactly. And guess where she moved to?

Well, I mean, I haven’t the faintest idea.

Here! She moved to Elalton City. And I was able to find out her full name.

Why did you-?

Her name is Jalissa Dayle!

… Alright, so what?

Oh come on, you know the name! Remember that Inscription from Baretree last year?

Umm… Oh, wait, yes! Her mother owned an inn on the Pascorrean Coast. There was that strange group who stayed with them.


But didn’t she go missing?

She did. Turns out she resurfaced in Zalatan about ten years back running a curiosity shop.

I see. Well that’s all very interesting but I still don’t understand wh-

So I went down to see if I could have a chat with her.

You did what!?

What? That’s part of the job.

Our job is to make inquiries and acquire clarification. We are documenters, not investigators!

Excuse me, I was acquiring clarification! Madam Dayle is directly connected with two donations that you’ve Inscribed. Is that not a person worth following up with?

[he huffs] Well…

Oh come off it! You’ve followed up with others for less.

Alright, you’ve made your point. What happened next?

Right, um… The first thing I had to figure out was where to find her. I went to the Registry Office to see if I could look up a current address. Turns out, Madam Dayle opened a new shop downtown, a used bookshop called “Yesterday’s Books.” So, I got the address and I took a rickshaw to the lower wards.

It was as busy as it always is when I got there. The sidewalks were so packed that a lot of people were having to walk in the road, which was causing havoc for the carts and steam-wagons that were trying to get by.

It took a bit of pushing and shoving, but I was finally able to find my way to Pann Road and then the right side street that took me up to Berenard Lane, which was where the shop was.

I think if I hadn’t been looking for it I might have missed it. It wasn’t exactly small, it reached at least three storeys, but it was painfully narrow, like it had been crushed between the two buildings on either side.

The front window was fogged up with what might have been a century’s worth of grime, so much of it that I couldn’t make out what was on the other side.

But there was an “Open” sign on the door so I went in.

There was a soft tinkling of a bell as I opened the door. It was very quiet, eerily so. Books were packed onto the shelves, and still more were piled in stacks all around the floor. The air was thick with dust that drifted slowly through the air, pooling in the sunlight that shone faintly into the shop through the windows.

It was so quiet I swear I could hear the dust settling on the furniture. I was almost afraid to speak.

There was no one else in there. I looked around the shelves, thinking maybe I’d find someone tucked away somewhere, but there was no one. I continued on into the shop. It went back a lot further than I might have expected. Thinking about it, it seems impossible that it went back as far as it did. I know a lot of buildings on that road do go pretty far back but it looked like it stretched nearly a mile.

Probably just seemed that way because it was so dark in there.

Anyway, I finally found a desk, right at the back of the shop. Unlike every other surface in that place, there were no books on top of it, just one of those old service bells. I didn’t think anywhere still used them but there it was. So, I gave it a push.

The soft tinkling of it was so sharp in the quiet of the shop that it actually made me flinch. It seemed to echo in that place, the sound of it hanging in the air along with the dust.

And then, suddenly, she was there.

It was like she just emerged out of thin air, the strangest looking person I think I’ve ever met in my life.

At first glance, I thought she was a canrian. She had the same long, narrow jaw and sharp teeth. But then I noticed that her ears were too long and her nose was too pointed. She had a thick head of auburn hair, tied back with a leather cord into a bushy tail.

The way she looked at me, she looked amused, like I was reminding her of something funny.

Obviously this wasn’t Madam Dayle so I asked if the shop’s owner was around. This strange woman said no she wasn’t, she was away on holiday and she was minding the place while she was gone.

She introduced herself as Alokia, and asked if there was anything that she could do to help.

I told her I had been hoping to speak with Madam Dayle in relation to a few memories that had been donated to the Pensive Tower.

As soon as I said that, Alokia’s ears seemed to prick up. Her expression wasn’t one of mild amusement anymore but she instead looked genuinely interested.

Without another word, she ducked down behind the counter and I could hear her muttering to herself as she moved things around. I have no idea what language it was but it certainly didn’t sound like Sentish.

After a few thumps that sounded like some pretty thick books, Alokia reappeared above the counter, holding a book that, much like everything else in the shop, looked positively ancient. It was so old that the book’s cover had completely faded away.

Alokia said that Jalissa had left a few instructions before she’d left on her holiday. One of which was that if anyone from the Pensive Tower came by then she was to give them this book.

She passed it over to me with a kind of reverence.

I asked what the book was, to which she shrugged.

“I don’t bother with questions,” was all she said before turning and disappearing into a back room.

I turned my attention to the book in my hands. It was bound in leather that was so old that much of it had flaked away. The pages were not in much better condition. Some were so faded that I couldn’t even begin to guess what had once been written there.

From what I was able to gather from a quick skim, it was a collection of histories about various organisations that have existed in the Federation. Very interesting, sure, but… I couldn’t see why Madam Dayle would have left it for one of us to pick up.

I was still leafing through the book while I was thinking about this. Yes, I was being careful with the pages so I wouldn’t damage anything. Anyway, I turned one page and there it was. A small cloth bookmark. I might have thought it had been left in the book by accident if it wasn’t for the fact that it looked like it had been made this century.

It was pale green with a single word embroidered in gold thread. “Careful”. That was the word. Nothing else.

I had no idea what that was about but I quickly forgot all about it when I saw what was on the page that had been marked.

Right there, right at the top of the page, was a symbol I knew immediately, even though I’d never seen it before. A coiling, snake-like creature with arms and legs, with thunderbolts jutting out from it.

Like those tattoos in Corporal SinLeop’s memory?

Exactly! So, obviously I was curious. I mean, those creeps followed that poor man all the way across Sangland, because of some ring. Maybe there was something in this book that would explain why.

And I’m sure there was a good reason why you didn’t bring it back here so it could be studied in the Tower?

Paxton, I’m trying to tell my story.

Now, fortunately, even though the place was a bit stuffy, there were a few reading tables in the shop.

I found one which was only moderately covered in books, gently placed them on the floor to make some space, and then sat down.

The light in the place was, unsurprisingly, far too dim and gloomy to properly read. Luckily, I still have a bit of a green glass candle, so I lit that and stood it in one of the ink wells. Then I turned back to the marked page.

I did have another look at the bookmark first, just to see if there was anything about it that might give me some clue as to what it meant. I assume it was from Madam Dayle but was it just a bookmark she owned or was she giving us a message? And if so, what about? What did we need to be careful of?

In the end, I couldn’t figure out anything more about it, so I put the cloth strip aside and turned my attention back to the book itself.

I had been right to think it was old. With the lettering and syntax used, I’d guess it was a form of Sentish used between two to three hundred years ago. It was still legible though.

I began reading. It turns out that the symbol actually has quite an interesting history. Its first recorded usage was during the first century of the Federation but there were references to the symbol being linked to a cult that was active during the later days of the Dark Age. Not much about them from those days, obviously, only that they were known as the Vag’Aialaké which, correct me if I’m wrong, roughly translates as “Those who carry the Storm.”

My Ittilic is a little rusty, I’m happy to take your word for that.

From the look of it, a new church was set up during the first century who then co-opted the symbol for their own use.

I see. So, who were they? What was their church dedicated to?

If that book was to be believed, it looks like they were dedicated to dragon worship.

I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I could have sworn you said dragon worship-

-dragon worship. That’s right, I did.

You can’t be serious.

Well, people believe all sorts of things. The Three aren’t the only gods in the world, you know. And dragons have been in mythology since forever, makes sense that some would see them as divine beings.

Anyway, I’d reached down into my bag to grab my notebook, but by the time I was sat back up, some of the pages had flipped over so I’d lost my place. I was annoyed but it wasn’t too much of a problem. I remembered roughly where my page was so I began flipping my way back through.

Nothing really caught my eye, a few more old religious icons, some symbols associated with secret societies, that is until I was nearly back at my original page.

I didn’t even process it at first, just flipped right by it, but then I realised what I’d just seen and turned back to the page. It was water damaged and faded so I couldn’t make out anything written there but the symbol depicted on it was still clear enough to tell what it was. A bright red blood drop at the centre of a white disc.

Wait, why does that sound familiar?

I know what you mean, I couldn’t remember either but it rang a bell. So, I got up to see if I could find Alokia. I thought maybe she might know what the symbol was connected with, or at least point me in the direction of another book that might hold answers.

But she was gone.

I went to the desk, rang the bell again but this time she didn’t appear. After a few minutes, I tried peeking into the back room, but there was no sign of her.

Somewhat annoyed, I went back to my table. I thought I’d just jot some notes down on what I’d found already and then maybe have a look around the shop to see if I could find any other books on old symbols or religious icons, though I knew my chances of finding anything in that mess would be low.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance. There was someone waiting at my table when I sat down. She was human with very pale skin, kind of like yours. I think she was a Gell. Her hair was auburn too, like Alokia’s, but hers had been styled into neat curls while Alokia’s was more bushy. The strangest thing about her, at least I thought so at first, was she dressed like she was going to a fancy party, in a big poofy evening gown with a thick silver necklace hanging around her throat.

She introduced herself as Alayne SinDreda and asked me if I worked at the Pensive Tower.

A little confused, I said that yes I did. She smiled at that. Her smile was… strange. It was too wide, showed too many teeth. And then I noticed that her eyes were oddly lightless. I don’t mean colourless, she had vivid green eyes that reflected the light of my glass candle. I mean it was like I was looking into a pair of glass eyes. The colour was there but there was no… life behind them.

She told me that she was working on behalf of Ser Rehmand duCosst, a noted collector from up north in Brana. And there was a piece of information stored in the Tower that he would be interested in acquiring.

I told her that the Library was open to the public, he needed only to make an appointment. She laughed then, a chilly, empty sort of laugh that echoed unpleasantly in the shop. She reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of paper that looked like it had been torn from a notebook. On it was written a name and a date. She said that that was the memory that this Ser Rehmand wanted and she would need to take the memory with her. Ser Rehmand wanted it for his private collection.

Before I could answer, my eyes flicked downwards to the table, where the little green cloth bookmark still lay, the golden word “Careful” glinted up at me through the gloom.

I looked back at Miss SinDreda. I didn’t know if it was my imagination, but it looked like her smile had got wider. I kept calm and told her firmly that that wouldn’t work. Memories were consigned to the Tower Library and were not to be removed and if this Ser Rehmand wanted to view it then he would have to make an appointment, but what she was asking was impossible.

I was expecting annoyance, or at the very least, polite anger, but her face remained unchanged. For what must have been a full minute. She just stared at me. I felt like I was pinned to my seat by her gaze.

I finally made up my mind to just leave and was about to stand up and then I heard the click. I looked down to see the barrel of a pistol pointed at me from across the table.

“It is possible,” she said, her voice sounding suddenly tinny, like it was coming from a long way off. “And you will make sure it happens. We will go now.”

She gestured for me to stand and, when I did, she also stood. At least, that’s the best way I can think of to describe what she did. She didn’t so much push herself up with her legs, it looked more like she was pulled upright by her shoulders. Like she was a puppet being lifted up by invisible strings.

With her right behind me, I slowly made my way back towards the front of the shop. It seemed a lot quicker to get back through the shop than it had to get in, though that may just have been down to the stress.

I hoped that Alokia would reappear, that anyone would appear and save me, but no one came. The shop remained deserted.

The bell tinkled again as the door opened. The street was a lot busier than it had been when I’d gone in. For a moment I thought about calling for help from one of the passers-by, but something metallic jabbed me in the back which convinced me that would probably not be a smart idea. Not yet anyway.

So instead, I waited for a chance to catch her off guard.

I knew I had to do it before we got to the Lake El Ferry. If she made it onto the island, then she’d have no trouble following me into the Tower.

But there were so many people in the street now, it wasn’t like I could just make a run for it. I knew that we would have to turn up onto Main Street and, if I could time it right, then… that was when I’d be able to make my move.

I got it just right.

As we turned onto the main road, I was able to swing my arm out and catch the barrel of the pistol with the back of my hand. It might have hurt someone like you but, thanks to my scales, I barely felt it. There was a flash and a bang and people screamed. I didn’t stick around to watch what happened, I was already running. There’s a tea shop on the waterfront where I’m on good terms with the owner. I knew if I could get there, he’d shelter me long enough for me to make an apovox call to the lawkeepers, though I was hoping the gunshot already had them on their way.

I didn’t even know if that creepy woman was even chasing after me, I didn’t want to risk looking back to find out until I reached the tea shop.

Unfortunately, it seemed Alayne SinDreda wasn’t going to let me go so easily. I had no sooner turned onto the Waterfront Road then she was there, right in front of me, standing still as a statue, her abnormal smile still spread across her face.

As quick as I could, I changed direction, running back the way I came, thinking to cut through Bakers Lane but she was there waiting for me. I don’t know how, she could not have passed me. That dress she was wearing should have slowed her down to barely more than a brisk walk but she seemed to move like lightning.

Twice more I changed direction, thinking to try another route, and both times she was there, smiling that eerie smile, raising an arm as if beckoning me to join her, like we were old friends out for a casual walk.

I don’t mind saying I was scared by now. I was running out of ideas for places to go, and I wasn’t just worried about her following me to the Tower anymore. There was clearly something more going on with this woman, but I had no idea what. I still don’t.

But I had one more place I knew I could go.

There’s a blind alley up near Guren Street but the wall’s low enough that you can jump over it and get to a road that meets the waterfront near the Ferry Station.

By some grace of the Three, Alayne wasn’t already there waiting for me, the alley was empty. I breathed a sigh of relief and, in spite of myself, I turned to quickly check if she was behind me. Mercifully there was no sign of her. I turned back and immediately saw an auburn-haired head right in front of me. I was about to lash out in a panic but I stopped myself when I realised it wasn’t my pursuer. It was Alokia, looking at me with one eyebrow cocked in mild amusement.

“You were warned to be careful,” she said.

I didn’t even bother pretending to care what she meant by that. I was too relieved to see her and started babbling about what had been happening to me. Alokia smirked and held up a hand to stop my rambling.

“This was bound to happen sooner or later,” she said, “it’s honestly past due that they make some kind of move.”

This meant nothing to me but before I could even ask about it, Alokia reached out and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Best to get you out of harm’s way,” she said, “but bear in mind this is a one-time thing. I’m going to be too busy to step in every time They try to lay a claim to Science.”

I had opened my mouth to finally ask what she was talking about but I was suddenly aware of a roiling, shifting feeling in my stomach. I felt like I was being plunged into ice water that was only an inch deep and then falling out the other side.

And then I was here. On the island.


I don’t know how, but one second I was there in the city and the next I was standing alone, right next to the Ferry Station here on Tower Island.

But, that’s impossible!

Well, not impossible. Black glass candles can do it.

Did you see her light a black glass candle?

… No.

Well she probably didn’t use one then!

Hey, don’t get snippy with me, I’m just telling you what happened. Unless you think I’m making this up.

No, no. I know you wouldn’t lie about this.

[Short pause]

Have you ever read about anything like this in the Library?

I don’t believe so. But there’s a lot in there that I’ve never even seen.

Paxton, what am I going to do?! That thing is probably still out there!

Just calm down. We should go speak with the High Librarian, there are protocols in place for if a member of Tower staff is threatened.

[Paxton stands up, his chair screeching.]

We’ll go now. On the way we can track down the memory of Rehmand duCosst. I think I should perhaps give it a reread in light of all this.

Oh, what was the memory she wanted? Do you remember?

Oh, I don’t have to. Sorry, I forgot to mention. When we left, I picked up the page she gave me. Here.

[She passes him the paper.]

“Mallen Gorwyn,” memory donated on the 9th of Kalla, 727.

Ring any bells?

None at all. I’ll ask the librarians, see if they can track this down. Inscription Complete.

[The venoscribe clicks, and the whirring stops.]

[The end theme plays and the Announcer recites the credits.]