The Shadows of the Coliseum

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…

Friedrich Nietzsche

A delicate medley had carried Torquaz’s attention from the melee and Gamorein towards an androgynous young man, walking behind both of them on the balcony. Dodging the merchants with agile steps, this youthful lad couldn’t fool the man known as Dantena van Torquaz. Dressed as a jester, the smiling and mocking teenager approached the pair, just if he were observing them for a while now. After catching Gamorein’s attention, he jumped backwards, wandering into the Pavillion.

Disguised like a foolish harlequin, the boyish man had pale blonde hair – so blonde they seemed colourless and definitely not white – and anyone wouldn’t pay attention to this eccentric fool-looking brat. For instance, the merchant lords didn’t seem to really notice him walk among them. Of course, they laughed at him, mocking the harlequin and calling him a ‘fool’, a ‘jester’ and a ‘lowborn scum’. Answering to them with cheerful laugher, Rohan’s attention was focused on Torquaz. Two liars can read through their same masquerade. But he is of another calibre. Does anyone know who Rohan of the Imperial Guard really is? 

Gamorein noticed Torquaz’s worried stare, and reacted accordingly:

“- Yes, his Grace, lord Rohan, has granted us his presence, but he didn’t seem to enjoy the Red Tower, and preferred to parade as a jester in the Green Pavillion instead.”

Probably noticing all the lawbreaking that has been taking place within the last ten minutes. 

“- So, Torquaz, what do you want from me?” Gamorein hadn’t forgotten the oath Torquaz forced upon him over a decade ago. “I am in your debt, I know.’

‘- I would say so for the least, you bastard’, Torquaz angrily put. ‘You orchestrated the operation which had the consequences we both know. You got rich, I got flayed. The only reason why you are alive is that I knew it wouldn’t change my fate. Back then, the Empire was fairly susceptible when it came to treason.’

‘- We were young Torquaz, and you would be lying to me, and to yourself, if you pretend you didn’t endorse my plan. We took Shimeh alongside the God of the Sword himself, and the war ended a year later.’

‘- You are not the target of my vengeance, you fat worm,’ Torquaz added. ‘Not because I sympathize with you, but because I hold the truth that could shut down your life, and all of this.’

Waving towards the melee, Torquaz noticed that most of the fighters got knock out, but a handful. Of course, Den and Sarak’j still stood, clashing with each other, while the Flintshire girl overpowered a man twice her size. Staring back at Gamorein, Torquaz said:

“I don’t think sir Flintshire is the sort of man to lose a good investment, such as the Gathering, without bleeding the market. I don’t question much the outcome of your career if it were to happen.”

Sweating out of agitation, Gamorein knew that Torquaz would follow through if he didn’t serve his interest at anytime. Therefore, he lowered his head and backed off, saying:

“What do you want?”

Facing the short man with all the vigor his crippled body beheld, Torquaz answered honestly:

“- Have you heard of a madman known as Sinistros the Slayer?”

Taking a moment to think, Gamorein granted Torquaz’s request:

“- When this season’s announcements were made, duelists from the Four Corners of Civilization answered the call, along with their followers. You might not be surprised, but most had a shady background. Anyhow, it would seem the Greyfallows have a note from the slayer, one that they keep locked in their brewery. This might narrow down your suspects.”

Obviously knowing more than he revealed, Gamorein indeed didn’t surprise lord Torquaz. Apparently, the murderer had a specific way of killing, which could be decrypted in that note. Why hiding it from the investigation? Why is the Iron Circle involved in a murder case? 

“I hope I don’t see you in a long time, dear’ Gamorein spat on the floor, before turning back to the melee. “But before, would you join me and gamble? I bet you one copper on Den.’

‘- I take the bet, friend. One copper on the Flintshire girl. Also, I hope to see you again very soon for your own sake. I don’t wish for you to become useless to His Majesty’s Night Watch.”

Without turning back, Torquaz engulfed himself back in the Pavillion, convinced of the outcome of this afternoon’s melee. Leaving behind the scheming of the Thyrians and the guilds, the Watcher contained his disgust at this new generation of fighters. If one of them is the woman slayer, I’ll break him myself.

Emerging from the underground within the Broken Sword’s tavern – where the laugher and the drinking was worthy of its happy hour, a damsel dancing dressed as a pirate and singing along the City’s vermin -, Torquaz held his breath when the jester, Rohan, awaited him, sitting on the back table and smoking a pipe. He stole it from the merchants. Ignoring the innkeeper like he had earlier that day, Torquaz shivered when the jester waved at him, subtly ordering him to join his table.

Obeying without question, lord Torquaz saw Rohan’s mouth forming a crescent, nothing like the smile all wanted to read.

“Your Grace,’ Torquaz sat.

‘- Dantena,’ the jester’s crystalline voice almost sang. ‘It has been awhile. Nostalgic of your golden days?’

‘- Yes, Your Grace’, Torquaz confessed, knowing lying wouldn’t work on this one.

“Well, you may go on your way. Beware of the dark waters you are diving into. The Crown is personally concerned by this madman, and when its iron circle is agitating, the fate of thousands hangs in the balance.”

Taking the riddle as an advice, lord Torquaz respectfully nodded, before opening his mouth. Before he could speak, Rohan had already finished, and he moved back up, offering him his pipe.

“No thank you, Your Grace’, Torquaz hesitantly refused the drug.

“You should have thanked me for advising you, sergeant. You’re welcome, then.’ He dismissed Torquaz’ attempt to answer with his hand, before continuing: “If you succeed, I might consider giving back a future for you and your beloved sister, our sweet Sixtina.”

And like that, Rohan left him in the inn, hiding in the crowds outside, before jumping on the window from which Torquaz was still following his every move. Still sitting, Torquaz wondered if he had been busted trying to keep up with the jester’s exit.

“I heard you bet on the Flintshire!’ Rohan laughed. ‘Can you hear the mob? You were right, she won. I just earned a thousand gold!” Then he vanished.

Thoughtful, Torquaz felt his heart racing. Could I fear this man? 

In the end, it didn’t matter, for lord Torquaz had a slayer to understand. For that, he left the tavern, hiding his albinos hair under his hood, and stopping a carriage to join the Greyfallow Brewery, the nobles’ hemicycle, where the Greyfallow Family ruled from the shadows.

I wonder why the Greyfallow bother to hide intelligence from the Iron Circle? After all, they are at the head the second most powerful dark guild in the Crownlands.

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