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…
Magic could only be tempered by knowledge. Conjuring in particular required specific incantations and mind tricks contained in tomes only a dozen of libraries contained. His Majesty’s Citadel had deployed its troops across the City all day to gather every single Conjuring scroll in every single bookstore. All had been contained in chests, and all were piled up, and now burned in a smoke rising from the Chimera Plaza into the grey sky.
Watching from a rooftop, the man known as Dantena van Torquaz expected the bells to ring Curfew in a few minutes. Circling in the sky, crows sang for horror. Burnt knowledge, precious arcane and secrets that could also save thousands of lives vanished into the grey clouds. The Empire shall rest beneath the weightlessness of this lost treasure.
Thinking to himself, lord Torquaz wondered if the choices he had made these last three days were worth the loss of the arcane. He had plunged the underworld into turmoil, and the Greyfallows and the House of Red and Black fought in a turf war, spreading rivers of blood in the Narrows. He had awakened a blood witch from her slumber, still feeling her aura in the rising Fog. He had discovered secret alchemic experiments in the Imperial sewers. All of it for his sister. A lovely young woman who didn’t bother to practice horsemanship. How many hundreds needed to die so the Torquaz name could live on?
Focusing on Sinistros, he recalled the hatred of the slayer’s eyes. This murderer truly wanted the Empire to burn. Honest, Torquaz knew the Imperial order didn’t deserve better. Yet. He continued. He endured its injustice, spread it, knowing it kept the greatest numbers mostly safe. Life was now evaluated in terms of logic and numbers. Sometimes, Dantena believed he was playing the role of Ismair valenKel. Sometimes, he believed to be the Last Dragon. He sometimes thought he was Kel.
His cape snapped under the winds when Florian rose in his shadow.
“We have him, the boy said.”
Finally. Dantena had caught the Slayer.
Without their source of sanity, every single conjurer in the City were forced to flee to find conjuring libraries. At every gate of the city, guards had been watching, arresting every suspect all day. There wasn’t enough trees near the City to hang the dark wizards guilty of blood magic, and the gallows were full.
“Who? Torquaz cared to ask.
– Brian Greyfallow.”
It was obvious. Everything pointed in his direction. Everyone pointed lord Watcher Torquaz in Brian Greyfallow’s direction. And deep down, only Dantena knew it wasn’t him. Or could he be the Sinistros? Could I have become so weak?
“Where is he held?
– The House of Wanders, master, his squire bowed.”
“God bless you my son, Dantena said to the hunchback.”
Giggling like the halfwit he was, Sandor the gatekeeper opened the gates, and the cripple who was Torquaz struggled to engulf himself in the thousand thorns of the House. Deep beneath the brightlight rays, in the dark cells of the Night Watch’s headquarters, sat Brian Greyfallow, hands and legs chained, a metal gag preventing to use magic.
When lord Torquaz entered the cell, he ordered two Watchers to remove the gag from the youthful dark mage, and he took the time to observe him. Young, handsome, Brian had a lean face, an athletic body, and despite the bruises of his arrest he still carried the dazzling charms of the Westerling. His pale grey eyes stared back at Torquaz’s red pupils.
A mere shadow of who I used to be…
Sitting in front of him, lord Torquaz rested his hands on the dragonglass table that separated them.
“Brian Greyfallow, heir to one of the largest dark guilds in the Empire and recent First Sword of the summer Gathering, do you want the good or the bad news first?”
Brian answered with a grin, followed by a sarcastic laugh.
“I shall start with the bad. Melrag of the Forest just passed away. Your contestant in the finals didn’t survive the poison you used on the Ravenclaw spear you wielded. This is the bad news. He was a good man, and I will miss him. Do you want the good news?” No answer. “Well, the whoreson that you are is finished. You have been sentenced to the Bloodwell in the ashpit, as the Sinistros Slayer. You are guilty of eight uses of blood magic and eleven murders on the imperial scale.”
Brian shoulders agitated and when Torquaz thought he was breaking down the madman laughed.
“You really think so? Do you know how the game is played, or not? By sunrise I will be released. My father…
- Your father has been hanged for corruption, and your uncle, Wilem Greyfallow, is one the run. His guild was dismantled,” Torquaz checked the mana clock ticking above him, “two hours ago. The Greyfallow Brewery is in flames. We used your case to blackmail your father who confessed the crimes of your uncle. No honour amongst thieves. Especially those who sell their colleagues secrets to the Citadel. We tortured a few of your uncle’s henchmen to get enough confessions to hang Gerart Greyfallow, who is feeding the crows as we speak. Your house has fallen, and your heirship is being devoured by your family’s worst enemies, the House of Red and Black. Again, the House wins. So, this is not a game. This is… your new world. For the rest of your miserable days…”
Brian’s eyes widened. Looking down, his head bowed in despair. A silent despair. The one that Torquaz called acceptation. It wouldn’t last of course. In the next few days the tears and the drama of existence shall occupy the young man’s mind. Until the Bloodwell eats his soul and body for a thousand years. Then he has the time to think about his mistakes.
“The reason why you are here is to tell me why? You can maybe help your case if you cooperate? Why did you try to fight me?”
Brian cursed, bloody mucus running from his noise.
“It was never about you. I wanted to fuck the Empire! You were just an excuse, nothing more! Who cares about Dantena van Torquaz anymore? They will sing my name in both glory and fear longer than for you!”
These words impacted Dantena more than he hoped they could. Could he be right? Why do I care? Do I still want to be famed? Why? Is it still about the name? Is this my true curse as an immortal wraith.. To witness my own fall into oblivion?
“I have surpassed the Dark Marquis himself!” Brian Greyfallow laughed. “You say eleven women? I have at least the double in this City! More in the Westerlands and at least the same in the Roseroad! And do you know what I have accomplished?” Saliva fell from his lips. “I have created a perfect woman! One that can always be taken! One that I can always torment! I have saved lives! With only one immortal whore, I don’t need to kill anymore! If I get bored I can still rise another one from the dead! Yes…”
The man known as Dantena van Torquaz shivered. Youth these days… The world is going mad… Is magic actually dead? But the Sinistros seemed to be so much more than a mere slayer. Even though Brian Greyfallow’ reach as a slayer seemed unmatched, if his confession contained truth, the Sinistros gave Torquaz the impression of following a path… a cause.
“You have not surpassed the Dark Marquis, you insolent brat,” Torquaz voice thundered. “Ghodfrost van Lubaqq died out of his own foolishness, but he believed in something and I am pretty sure he fell a smile on his face. He was my friend once, and I only stood with men who could stand with themselves. You are the product of a hundred years of decadence, and you haven’t accomplished anything but taking basic advantage of your family’s resources. And you did so foolishly, with great incompetence. This is why your name is no more. Rest assured. Your body will remain for another thousand years, slowly melting in the Bloodwell. Vailar vial Kalgar, ser.
- Fuck you Torquaz. I hope you die screaming!
Pitiful, you should know I cannot die. Guards, bring this thing out of my sight!”
The two Watchers arrived and before Brian could protest his iron mask gagged him, and they dragged his youthful body to his cell. He would be deported before Sunrise. To the ashpits. To the Black Temple of Cirpal.
The door didn’t slammed behind, as Lord Major Sebastian van Melogre entered, followed by a fat and wealthy looking man. Bold and smug, Sigismund van Edalav bore the entitlement of a crime lord powerful enough to walk as a guest in the House of Wanders.
Rising helped with his cane, Dantena van Torquaz knew the effects of his potions all wearied off. Sigismund van Edalav casually smiled, while Sebastian Melogre appeared as charming and evil as always. How ironic was it that the House of Red and Black and the House of Wanders two heads walked side by side in an interrogation cell? This is the Imperial Order…
“Well done, Torquaz, it was Sebastian Melogre who spoke first. Mission accomplished. In three days and two nights, you have arrested the Sinistros Slayer. Congratulations.
- And thanks to you, Sigismund added, the Greyfallows are out of business’, he turned to Melogre. I am glad a new collaboration can be established in pure trust.”
Melogre waved his hands, and his own squires ran in the cell, bringing ales and cups to celebrate. Despite being obviously invited, lord Watcher Torquaz observed both of them with disgust. Keeping his disdain to himself, he said out loud:
“Brian was a cutthroat and a slayer, but he wasn’t the Sinistros.”
Both men looked at him with annoyance, especially Melogre.
“How can you spit at your own triumph sergeant? I know you are keen on suffering, but this is…
- The fool doesn’t understand the saying: Vailar vial Kalgar.
Me neither, Sebastian laughed.
Good fortune in your wars, Sigismund translated.
Thank you, milord, Torquaz said before shifting back to Melogre. It is basic Illyran. A language every eldar’nei studies at any academy. And the Sinistros Slayer was a confirmed practitioner of the Red Tongue, and language that not a dozen sin’dorei comprehend. Can’t you…
Enough, Melogre interrupted him. The case is closed, and I am too tired to whip you now. So come back to me at Sunrise, when I am done with lord Sigismund here.
Sebastian this is…
The orders come from above, sergeant. Dismissed.”
That was it.
Looking at the Fog vanishing outside, lord Torquaz glanced at the sunrise, and the wake of the City. Protest would probably erupt as the noble struggle to keep appearances over the latest scandals. And the beggars would fight for justice, while the gallant would slay them to keep the noble ladies safe. The order would be maintained, thanks to the Sinistros’ arrest and the downfall of the Greyfallow Brewery. Hangings, gallows, beheadings, heads, spikes, walls, order, peace. The man known as Dantena van Torquaz could smell the stank of the Imperial City.
“Come in,’ lord Torquaz said.
The wooded door opened, and Crook’s ghost roared as a blonde harlequin entered. A voluptuous woman she was indeed, dressed as a jester and wearing tight and colourful leather clothing. Wearing the makeup of a fool, the girl was a member of the Wit, Saint Rohan’s own House of Laughers. Despite the red smile her makeup displayed, she had a sad face and sad brown eyes. She carried a doll, and she reminded Dantena of his sister.
“Lord Torquaz, she said with a crystalline voice. “I have been authorized to enter the House of Wanders by His Grace, Saint Rohan of His Majesty’s Imperial Guard. He sends his regards, and offers you what was promised.”
She laid the doll on Torquaz’s desk.
“Go to the Smiling Gleeman’s inn and present this. We will bring you to Norman Silvertongue, and to your revenge.”
She humbly bowed and left, leaving Torquaz alone, alone in the dark, darkest side of the great empire he worked for.
Is is worth protecting?