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…
Shining upon his tired eyes, the sunlight revealed the Green Pavillion, accompanied by the gentle voice of a woman playing the lyre. Her interpretation of The Ballad of Kel, the Last Dragon had nothing original, but its quality remained commendable, considering the song’s wide popularity.
Noticing Gamorein, the Gathering’ fat herald, praising his own accomplishments to a group of wealthy Thyrian merchants, lord Torquaz muttered his disapprobation. Since when are the Flintshire guilds trading with the Thyrians?
An incredibly short and ridiculously fat arrivist, Gamorein was a high-ranking employee of the trading company owned by the Flintshire Clan, the richest corporation in the Imperial Order. Not entirely surprised, Torquaz supposed the Flintshire’s investments had something to do with the southern political strife, but he preferred not to analyze his surroundings. He had a slayer to catch.
Progressing within the Green Pavillion, Torquaz recognized the greed and the opulence of its members. None was highborne, remaining low-born but wealthy, while as merchants their power mirrored that of the noble houses. Hopefully, they were easier to blame than the nobles and their inner workings could be breached easily. The greedy is easy to pin. Noticing fel beverages and pipes, lord Torquaz promised himself to bring these pigs to justice after he was done with the Sinistros Slayer.
Thinking of a way to approach Gamorein, Torquaz saw him come at him first, seemingly jovial as he jumped around exposing his wealth to the world. He has always been an expert manipulator displaying his success to equally despicable worms. A man not to underestimate, for he owns half of the tourneys in the Empire.
His wide red-beard displayed golden rings and his thick neck carried a dragonglass medallion. What a fancy man! His little eyes fixated Torquaz, and unlike the rest of his body they couldn’t lie.
“My my,’ he said with an almost convincing surprise. ‘Is it not First Sword Torquaz himself!’
‘- Was,’ Torquaz corrected, giving Gamorein his most hypocritical smile. ‘How are you, friend‘.
‘- Better now that I see you, dear’, the herald pursued. ‘Have you come to watch this afternoon’s melee? We have a good summer this time!’
‘- I don’t doubt it. I am happy for you friend, summer tourneys tend to have higher budgets, but they rarely have the same winter tension.’
‘Very true,’ Gamorein agreed. ‘This summer we have your old rival Melrag who might finally earn his First Sword. Avalan Den is still trying to surpass the Kingkiller. A few try to become Daegoln, but we all know how imitators end up. You will like this, we even have a practitioner of the Ravenclaw style. A Torquaz nostalgic I believe. That Bryce Hollmajen is good and he is proving that your fencing is still relevant. Far from your league I know, but equally popular than you. He’s from the West, and he’s a gorgeous fella. Unlike you he takes the time to address the mob. Squires cheer for him and maidens wet themselves when he looks at them.’
‘Good for him’, Torquaz wasn’t sincere when he said these words. ‘But unfortunately, I don’t have any business with the tourney. I came to ask you a favour, friend.’
Noticing Gamorein’s eyebrows frowning, Torquaz read his thoughts like an open book. We are finally talking, bastard.
Smiling, the Gathering’s host spoke with an overly dramatic tone:
“Of course, dear. Maybe we should go on the balcony, so we can enjoy the melee. It starts soon.
– Thank you, friend“, Torquaz lied while following him, his cane taping the wooden floor, while everyone’s eyes followed his shattered steps. Tac, tac. Despite their pointless debates, the merchants listened attentively to the cane. Everyone knew the man known as Dantena van Torquaz. All knew what happened to those who broke the Imperial law.
Outside the Green Pavillion, the acclamation roared upon the pair who emerged on the balcony. Gamorein has a timely precision, Torquaz remembered. Below their platform, a dozen combattants stretched or performed their basics, awaiting for the bells to ring. Of course, the herald needed to do his job, and opening his arms wider than ever, Gamorein’s voice brought the silence upon the clamor.
“Welcome, friends of the Gathering!”
Observing his surroundings, lord Torquaz deemed this Gathering’ summer a success, considering the thousands eyes and shut mouths assisting to today’s melee.
“Yesterday, he have promised you a marvelous battle between the heroes of our time. Today, I bring upon you the Sword of the Mantis, Elijah Sarak’j.”
A sophisticated title for a simple man, Torquaz thought by looking at the wild fighter saluting the crowd. Either a fool, or a snake, he estimated by watching Sarak’j moving in his ragged clothing, demonstrating acrobatic strikes with his longsword.
“I bring upon you, Avalan Den, honorary second ky’ai of the Prime Knights”.
For Avalan Den, the cheers were more obvious. A recurring customer, Den received multiple First Swords, but only during mediocre seasons. Torquaz acknowledged his skill and his growth, for each time Den fought his swordplay had greatly improved. I fought him at my prime, when he was thirteen. Every year Den had returned, driven by an obsession called perfectionism. Even Torquaz didn’t doubt that Avalen Den would become a great swordsman one day. Physically, he had grown as well. Handsome and manly, he carried both elegance and vigor, always elegant with his gear – a black leather armour which allowed speed and resistance, while his famed double swords caught the sunlight in his hands.
And the names went on and on, when Torquaz supposed that the two favourites of this afternoon poll were Sarak’j and Den. Until the last competitor removed his cape. Her cape.
“And finally, I bring upon you Morgan Flintshire.”
As she revealed her fairness to the crowd, the mysterious raven-haired beauty, dressed in extravagant and lustful attire, showed her weapons one by one. Three broadswords rested on her back, while she carried a claymore folded in her scabbard, both hands resting on its pommel. Tattooed on her belly and naked legs, she was a splendor to behold. Actually, Torquaz realized she might be one of the most beautiful women he ever saw. So this is one of the Flintshire daughters… It is the first time I see someone worthy of her family’s reputation. The Flintshire Clan was ruled by its family, composed mostly of allegedly magnificent women, daughters of the Flintshire tycoon, the Gathering’s owner.
“Friends of the Gathering,’ Gamorein’s voice became almost supernatural, the voice of a folkloric mage thundering upon a zealot assembly. “Our peace has come to a dreadful price, many are our friends who have fallen for the Dark Marquis and the Keshians!” Screams of hatred echoed. Many have suffered indeed, and many became rich, Torquaz almost wanted to pointed out. “Peace is our treasure, friends of the Gathering. Yet, it is thanks to a storm of swords and a clash of kings that our empire has reached his current height. My purpose, as Herald of the Gathering, is to remind us of the glory of war.” And to become richer, Torquaz would have added. “Today, we live the war of our time. Let the drums of legend thunder upon us.” Perfectly synchronized, the drums resonated. Almost like a battle, Torquaz noticed. Without its reality. The clamor reached new heights before Gamorein yelled, synchronized with his audience.
“Heroes of our time, I wish you…”
He let the mob complete his trademark battle cry:
“Good fortune in the wars to come!”
The bells rang, and the fight began.
Now that the blades clashing with each other resonated in the Capital City with all the Empire focused on the arena, Gamorein turned towards lord Torquaz, and said, friendly as ever:
“Shall we talk now, you wretched piece of shit?”