The north entrance of the Church of Money wasn’t any busier than your average mall and not nearly as intimidating as the market I saw from the chapel doorway. As I left, I could finally see what Horn Point looked like – and I wasn’t expecting a weird cross between the industrial revolution and medieval fantasy. This place looked a little like the 1800s, with its billowing smoke factories and horse-drawn carriages. But those views would be interrupted with squat, thatch-roofed, stone buildings. Walking down the street, I could occasionally catch glimpses of a castle on a hill that overlooked the town. Most of the people walking about wore something that vaguely resembled Victorian dress, except those who worked as guards, adventurers, or something similar.
Twenty minutes later, I saw a few people dressed in Asian-looking robes. Two individuals were walking together, conversing, while five others circled them, clearing a path and acting as bodyguards. For the most part, other people tolerated the behavior as if it was normal and their due. I asked a man, standing in a doorway wearing an apron, about it.
“Don’t bother the elders unless you think you can challenge all their students and win. If you’re interested in the sects, you can go to their front gates and inquire. They post when they will have tournaments and accept students – providing you pass their tests. Doesn’t look like there will be a fight today; guess I’ll go back to work.” Then he went back into his shop.
I looked in his doorway and saw that he was working on some chairs; it looked like he was adding cushions. I shrugged, thinking that at least he talked to me, and continued going down the street.
As I continued, the buildings shifted more towards medieval than industrial. Things started getting stranger too. Instead of horses as mounts, more fantastic things became more common. Giant lizards, wolves, and cats were more frequent than other things, and the most unusual was when a pair of riders landed on a flat-roofed building on a matched set of griffins. That was unusual even for the residents as there was quite a bit of animated conversation suddenly on the street.
It wasn’t safe to walk in the street, as riders, wagons, and carriages expected the pedestrians to give way and didn’t slow or stop for them. I soon learned to stay to the sides and walkways like the other pedestrians, a lesson driven home when I watched a drunken man stumble out of a building right into the path of a heavily laden wagon. He exploded into motes of light after being trampled under the horses’ hooves and then the wagon wheels. The driver didn’t slow or stop, but I did hear him curse the man, and the people on the street didn’t even bat an eye. One brave pedestrian dashed into the traffic, grabbed a canvas bag, and was back on the sidewalk before the next vehicle caught her in the street. The drunkard’s clothes and belongings stayed on the road, trampled by the ongoing traffic. Soon there wasn’t any sign that the man ever existed.
I lost myself in thought as I continued towards The Weather Vane after seeing that. Life has a very different value when death has little lasting consequence. There must be other significant skews in values and laws. Since death doesn’t have a long-term impact, I’ll bet that theft is a more severe crime. Rape is likely still serious, but I’ll bet that prostitution isn’t a crime. It seems that most morality crimes aren’t likely to be serious except in those communities that chose to make it so – ones where children and their beliefs would be impacted – wait, I haven’t seen any children. Are they not allowed into Nirvana, or is it something else I am missing? I’m going to have to ask about that too.
That was when I was cresting a small hill and saw a rooftop covered with weather vanes. There were at least fifty sticking up at all heights – some were even poking out at odd angles from the walls. It looked like this building was three stories tall, and I could see a stone wall along the alleyway between buildings, most likely closing off a yard for The Weather Vane. Guess I didn’t get lost! I waited for a lull in traffic and then dashed across the street.
When I got across the street, an old geezer was sitting in a chair by the door – and he was laughing at me. I don’t know what I did that was so funny. I snapped at him, “Hey, old man, what’s so funny?”
“You are boy! Why didn’t you take the tunnel instead of risking the road?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You see those little buildings with the strip of yellow bricks about half-way up the wall?”
“Sure, I’ve seen a couple. What about them?”
“Wizzard of Oz.”
“The ‘Wizard of Oz’ – follow the yellow brick road.” Shaking his head, “You must be REALLY fresh meat. Each of those little buildings has stairs that lead down to a tunnel under the highway so you can cross without dodging traffic. Get it now?”
Nodding my head, he smiles at me and says, “This one’s free. This place is filled with pop culture references – some so old that they aren’t pop culture anymore. Anyway, the references always mean something – and they are always relevant in some way.
You’re early if you’re here for the ‘Dearly Departed’ meeting. It doesn’t start until 7pm and it costs a silver to get in. You can get your questions answered there by those willing instead of bumbling around the tavern floor and annoying those who don’t feel like telling you shit. Plus, you’re less likely to get snookered, though you should always be wary of taking anything in Nirvana at face value. She likes to mock us.”
“Nirvana – she’s a she.”
“Oh. Thanks. Maybe I can get one more for free? Why do you appear to be old?”
“Oh? Maybe you aren’t as stupid as I thought. Hmm, It’s probably exactly what you are thinking. People automatically associate wisdom and experience with age – they’re still biased. Who wants advice from some 20-year-old, know-it-all? Get Grandpa to tell ya!” He starts cackling again.
I nod, open the iron-bound oak door, and enter The Weather Vane.