Against that positivism which stops before phenomena, saying “there are only facts,” I should say: no, it is precisely facts that do not exist, only interpretations…
Entering the solar, Torquaz preferred not to reminisce on the past, rather enjoying his pitiful present. The only choice we have when miserable is acceptance. It does make things easier, giving you the illusion of righteousness. After entering the House itself, he had to climb the complex web of towers that spread all over Alethor’s Hill, from which the brothers of his order were watching the realm. As he did, he could feel an unpleasant liquid spreading below his ragged cape. Blood. That all day had been an accomplishment of its own. I live day by day. After all, I am a survivor.
Being entirely flayed had many disadvantages, excluding his lost future that once waited for him ahead of his multiple successes. These difficulties included a sheer hatred of stairs, of any sort of extended walking, and of all physical activity. On the other hand, Torquaz had learned how to cope with his distress by rewarding himself after overcoming adversity, such as walking down the entire Imperial City. Whores will do. Something that often surprised him was his stubborn morality. By reason of insanity, he had learned to readjust his morality – at the right time of course. Without it, I would hate to look at myself in the mirror. Dantena van Torquaz is proud of who he was, and who he now is. This is perhaps why he had joined the Night’s Watch – or perhaps not. Like every bastard alive, he had his dream. Or shall he confess, he had his obsession. Revenge has something sweet to it. Without a purpose, he would have to kill himself out of boredom. Unfortunately for many, suicide had never been an option for the man known as Dantena van Torquaz.
His lorship, Major Sebastian Melogre, had been a colleague of Torquaz during the wars in Kesh. Curiously back then, Torquaz had never considered serving under this ambitious and materialistic officer. If the Keshian wars had failed, he would have probably been disgraced alongside the flayed Torquaz. In a cruel manner, the quasi victory of Fredegar saw many war criminals pardoned. Both Melogre and Torquaz had been charged with treason, barely surviving the dungeon in the ashpits, and both rebuilt their lives as brothers of misfortune. However, Melogre had been struck by divine luck, and now acted as superior of the Imperial City’s Night Watch.
His office was modest, yet fairly chaotic. War trophies decorated its every corner, from the bear skin on the floor, Keshian blades, Jackals’ heads to the chimney on which his Imperial Pardon was elegantly shining. A real kingsman. Sitting next to his desk, Sebastian Melogre nonchalantly observed his paperwork, a cup of wine in his left hand, a dagger on the other. Having more than likely noticed Torquaz’s arrival, Melogre didn’t show any sign of interest at his brother-at-arms’ entrance.
Already broken by his walk, Torquaz didn’t want to become reckless too soon in this early evening, and he powerlessly chose to wait. After colonel Melogre finished to read his document, he skillfully performed a flower with his dagger, before switching to a new paper. This time, Torquaz taped the floor with his cane, catching the attention he wanted.
“Sergeant-chief Torquaz,’ Melogre said, his smug and satisfied face fixing Torquaz.”
Originating from the Crownlands, Major Sebastian Melogre had a lean and handsome face, twisted by a cynical smile he had never renounced to. His sapphire eyes fixed him, and his happy demeanor wasn’t reassuring. He could charm a lady, but I can see the madness. No one comes untainted from the ashpits. No one but the man known as the Unscarred.
“Sir’ Torquaz politely answered, trying to contain his annoyance.
– ‘Have you been drinking, sergeant?’ Melogre asked, faking a worried expression.
– No sir,’ Torquaz answered, questioning Melogre’s thoughts with a commendable stoicism.
‘- Is your sister sound and safe?’ Melogre pursued, tensing Torquaz’s fist below his cape.
‘- She was when I last saw her,’ Torquaz bluntly answered. She better still be. If you want to play this game, I shall…
– And when was that?’ Melogre’ smile almost infuriated Torquaz, whose hand reached his own dagger.
– ‘This very morning, Melogre,’, Torquaz’s voice had nothing polite.”
Melogre’s grin intensified as he executed a double flower, displaying his skill with a knife. I shall bring you with me if you touched her.
“Well, Torquaz,’ Melogre cheerfully laughed, cruel as he always was. ‘How to you explain your delay? You are an hour late, sergeant-in-chief.”
All of sudden relaxing, Torquaz backed off, releasing the pommel of his hidden knife, having realized his idiocy, before adding:
“I… Had to walk, sir. His Majesty’s Own couldn’t afford to produce an efficient carriage swiftfully enough to bring me here. Therefore, I had to walk after complaining to the City Watch, for lack of funding from the Crown.”
His smile widening, Major Melogre consulted a large tome that Torquaz knew really well. Shining, The Code of the Watcher, vol. 4: Behavioral Punishments, Third Edition was a unfinishable read that officers and soldiers alike dreaded. Only Major Sebastian Melogre appreciated overcoming its wide complexity.
“Three lashes per hour, says Armagnac van Vicemeirk the first grandmaster of the Night’s Watch,” Melogre read out loud, almost passionate in his lecture. “But that was during the Second Age. In our civilized Third Age, Major Sebastian van Melogre says two lashes.’ Bam! After shutting his tome, Melogre rose his head, almost compassionate. ‘Hopefully, it is a mere triviality for Dantena van Torquaz, the Unscarred of Shyrpal”.
Unimpressed, Torquaz realized how much he reviled his codependency with Melogre.
Removing his cloak at once, Torquaz revealed his white and greasy hair, shadowed by his pale and flayed skin, his equally altered eyes and ears making him more monster than man. Emotionless since his Silencing, Torquaz replied, blood falling on his chin.
“Despite the exhausting duties of the day, I shall accept the punishment instantly.
– There will be no need for that’, Melogre interrupted. ‘I shall whip you in front of the Wach only after your mission. It is a vital importance that you complete it as swiftly as possible.”
Dropping his empty glass on the desk, Melogre seized a unsealed document and offered it to Torquaz.
“You have THREE days. Dismissed”, Major Melogre concluded.
Having processed his sudden frustration, Torquaz had realized he wouldn’t discuss his misfortune today, before he accepted the Imperial order in Melogre’s hand.
Having left Melogre, lord Torquaz reached his chambers’s chair, awaiting the creature hiding in the darkness to emerge. Crook, his accursed hound, approached, its red eyes betraying its camouflaging and dark fur. Bare-chested, Torquaz looked at himself with disgust. Once bearing the perfect body of an Illyrian god, the disgraced Watcher in the Dark struggled to breathe in, his flayed skin burning under the cold embrace of the wind. Checking the opened window of his chambers, Torquaz cursed himself, for the pain forbid him to stand and close it, silencing the howling of the city.
Resting his chin on his palm, Torquaz began reading the content of the letter, signed by the eigth masters of the Iron Circle itself. The Empire’s highest authority after the dying monarch himself, the Iron Circle ruled over the hundred realms of the Known World, dispatching orders to thousands of officials. Unpopular in many layers of society, the Night Watch usually took its underhanded orders from the local governors, the Day Watches, or the Legion itself. So the imperial government itself is requesting us to do their bidding. Interesting, Torquaz thought, surprised even though he had a gorgeous view on the Imperial Palace from the window of his chambers.
Taking the strength to stand, he continued reading, while Crook described its habitual circle, nervous and roaring, in the back of the room. Walking towards the slapping window, lord Torquaz stared at the white palace across the city. Close but so faraway, Aldorel, the inner city in which the Nobles resided, displayed its golden towers reaching the sky’s blessings, exactly like the House of Wanders accursed the world like a hundred thorns.
Lowering his gaze down on the letter, he remembered hearing of the assassin chroniclers branded the Sinistros a few weeks earlier. Once stuck in the provinces, Slayers seemed to plague the urban areas in these dark ages. Murderers who committed atrocities out of nowhere, Slayers did become a real issue with the administrative barrage between Watches across the Empire. Having an anonymous outlaw on the loose in the Imperial City itself represented a grave danger to its thousands of citizens. Seasoned when heroes were green, lord Torquaz could see through this case fairly easily. They let the Night’s Watch handle it because they refused to have a killer on the run in the symbol of the nation, its capital city needed to remain pure. So let’s catch Sinistros lad to ensure society’s future. They would end this Witchhunt completely ignoring the dark side of the city. They would praise Major Melogre’ staff, but after hanging the Sinistros they would applaud the officials who signed the papers, the eight honorary members of Iron Circle. Getting tangled with propaganda matters is a poor struck of luck, Torquaz believed, while petting Crook and conjuring it back to its dark slumber. Seizing his grey cloak, Torquaz hid his disgusting flayed face under the hood, and prepared to descend into the ugly side of the Empire.
There was indeed a darkness in that imperial city. Knowing the hardships his duties laid in front of him, the man known as Dantena van Torquaz prepared himself to walk in the dirty streets, for his future rested beneath the denied shadow of a great empire.