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…
Leaving in their wake of corpses, The Keshian Wars also forged many dreadful realities – worse than Torquaz’ flayed body. Ruined by the war extravagance, the Kingdom of Temeros fell into utter chaos. Ranking as one of the greatest allies of the Empire, the beloved Kingdom of Temeros, whose approval mattered more to the Emperor than his own wife’s – led the first military power of the Known World. And yet, wars were expansive, so costly that they had weakened its ruling dynasty, the House of Fulgam. Discredited, the Temerian king has, by his weakness, allowed the rise of the most powerful magus of the Third Age: Dark Marquis Ghodfrost van Lubaqq.
Gifted with an unhealthy appetite for magic books, the Dark Marquis had crafted deadfolk to complete his feudal army. The war was triggered by an assault on holy grounds – the Sapphire Tree of Kovan. A tree of such holiness that both the tyrannical Emperor Arius and his ally, High King Conrad, have decided to gather their forces to march upon the northern realms. Lubaqq’s Heresy engulfed the Kingdom of Ashenguard, devastated the Imperial Order’s western territory, and left half of Temeros a wasteland.
‘Hopefully’ for the Known World, the Dark Marquis had fallen from his nefarious grace, but his legacy still haunted the Four Corners of Civilization. The mists still rise every night, lord Torquaz recalled. Using the strangest and purest fel energies, the Marquis’ dark influence invaded the silence of every single night. Ever since, only two organizations had retained their right of use of practical magic. The first of these two conglomerates were the Five Orders – the prestigious guilds in which every contestant from the Gathering recklessly strived to join.The second wasn’t as glamorous, but was equally vital to order to be maintained. Of course, Torquaz didn’t deny the power of His Majesty’s Night Watch.
In this day and age, the Dark Marquis still haunted the man known as Dantena van Torquaz. Grieving for his ‘second worst’ mistake, Torquaz had blinded himself to the path taken his sworn brother and childhood brother: rising and falling forever known as the most dangerous dark magus of his time, Ghodfrost van Lubaqq.
A crazed education produces the most deluded madmen.
Crushed under his memories, lord Torquaz walked down the stairs. Bold and valiant, Lord Captain Paragon had politely declined following his guest into the rotten dungeons below the Citadel: the Saint Alethor Asylum – a heavily guarded hell where the worst and most twisted were left to be forgotten from history. Equally awful than the Ashpits, the Underthing has something more ‘mental’ to it. Indeed, it is originally the first imperial asylum – its outlaws were crafty enough to know the law and escape the Bloodwell.
Thinking of ashpits and asylums, lord Torquaz composed his thoughts with melancholy, and… remorse:
“Before the last war I have hoped to return to my wife, my son and my land. To become the hero they awaited, fearless and kind, respected, loved, not feared and loyal. After the last war I’ve returned a traitor, a coward, dreaded but despised. I am the lonely villain who lost his wife, his son and his domain. I am the man known as Dantena van Torquaz“.
Down the underneath of the Citadel, remnants of what was a hospital rot on top of the sewers and the catacombs of the Capital City. The Alethor Asylum was permanently invaded by the mists, which sealed the minds of the patients, trapping them in a torturous loop. Only the Watchers were allowed to bear Dragonglass Amulets, which enabled them to walk freely through the Fog.
Walking through the twisted corridors, lord Torquaz looked around him, the Fog not active on his red eyes. Bodies of once dangerous murderers, rapists and slayers were frozen in torpor, barely walking in their cells – cages more likely. Apart from the rumbles of the insane, only Torquaz’ cane echoed in these buried halls. Tac, tac. In this instance, lord Torquaz didn’t feel at ease. None of these lunatics would dread him, too busy focused on their own darkness. A naked man, probably one of these fallen dark lord who had reigned for months over terrorized cities – tied nods in his beard, eating his skin with his three black teeth.
“Seven thunderbolts,’ he said. ‘I got struck by seven thunderbolts! It was the magus, I knew it. I shouldn’t have trusted him. Seven thunderbolts. Cunts! Seven cunts!”
Another cell from the corridor held a bearded and castrated giant, who drew naked women on his wall using his rations of food to perfume his bed. Torquaz presumed he might have been a bandit king who plagued the Seven Roads for a few weeks. How could I possibly know…
Actually, lord Torquaz realized how familiar these faces were, when he recognized the third patient from the corridor, a child. Or was it a child? Displaying the features of a little girl grown into a young woman – fated to be uselessly attractive -, that Babette used to be the daughter of a powerful highborne who served her brothers to the latter – as pork soup. Dressed in her leather cloak, she gazed at her own reflection in an unbreakable Dragonglass mirror, smiling and acting as any young highborne girl would. She could be Sixtina, if I didn’t prove she slit the throat of her brothers to feed them to her father. At six, she tried blood magic to get her father’s love eternally, stopping him to abuse her and her mother. Who was the monster in the story? The brothers won’t care in Lord Edalav’s privy anymore.
Discovered by lord Torquaz, these three outlaws – poisoner and alchemist Nerus Marks, sellsword Glenn Rwat and Babette von Edalav – were few cases that lord Torquaz would always remember. Looking into their souls is like drowning in an abyss, Torquaz recalled. Wandering if he should dive again into the pit by catching Sinistros, Torquaz convinced himself that someone had to do it. Someone blinded to any sort light, who chooses to follow his Creed instead of falling for his demons. Only a man like me, one who awaits Death.
The last cell had been designed in a dreadful fashion – one that His Majesty’s Own Treasury was willing to spend thousands of golds on. Trapped in Dragonclay, the patient was bound and gagged in a perpetual immobility, sealed on a Dragonbone Seat. Sitting on a frozen throne, the Dark Witch Magda Balgruf was bound to eternal silence, her mouth tied by clay. Nothing could come out from her jail, and Lord Captain Paragon seemed to have taken his Asylum’s Keeper’s duty even more seriously than his already perfect Citadel’s Administrator office. Out of what has been supposed to be an incomparable beauty, the trapped corpse of a witch muttered what Torquaz saw as mockeries behind her clay gag. She feels my fear, she knows I am here.
A voice suddenly echoed in his wake, and in the shadow he casted, Torquaz felt a shiver:
“Torquaz-eldar, I have arrived.”
His squire’s childish silhouette, in which his spiky and shaggy hair hid the face, moved stealthy in the darkness, squatting like a squirrel.
“Florian, how nice of you to have arrived so late,” lord Torquaz replied, while pressing on his Dragonglass Amulet. “You are right on time to assist me in this, prepare yourself, she isn’t like the other fools.”
Mmmhg. Shivering again, Torquaz’s attention shifted to the clay gag that slowly retracted itself, cracking upon a soft skin and red and sensual lips, the ones of the dangerous magna, Magda al’Balgruf, a beautiful woman he didn’t want to see the face, leaving it blindfolded. She finds pleasure in her captivity. How can you reason such a… goddess. I have seen her do her sorcery before. Good men fell to her, and became monsters, soul less slaves of the Dark Marquis. Her powers are beyond my understanding. Surely a First Ky’ai Magus could match her par on par, but I am defenseless against her spellcraft.
“Who is the gorgeous man foolish enough to ear my voice,’ her delicious voice said, igniting the lust even in the man known as Dantena van Torquaz.”
She moved below her prison, the gag sealing more than just her words. Parts of her arms were exposed, revealing black leather gloves and her dark boots, her red smile so innocent he frightened Torquaz himself.
“Are you sure of yourself, eldar?’ Florian inquired, a quiet concern questionning Torquaz despite in the squire’s childish voice.
“I don’t know anymore why I am still alive, so how can I be sure that I am even talking to the University’s top sin’dorei, First Sword of 1463 Winter’s Gathering, First Ky’ai of the Threaders Order, and pitiful oathbreaker Magda al’Balgruf in pathetic person.
– Is it not Torquaz Lightbringer himself?’ the red lips said. ‘Last time I saw you, you displayed least life than our first encounter. I have killed you then. You were so handsome in Kesh, riding at the front of the vanguard. But when I saw you at Hestavian, you were… decaying. Hiding under your white cloak, and your helmet, I recall how they called you. Bloodless of Tyria. What name do you go by now, deadfella, and what do you want from me?”
Tempted to gag her again, lord Torquaz forced himself to say:
“I have a slayer to catch.”
It is all a bad dream I’ve never wake up from.
Indeed, once the man known as Dantena van Torquaz had acted as White Cloak of the Eternal Fire Church, a position he had envied when participating at the Gatherings. Coordinator of many purges, lord Torquaz had become a warmaster during the Heresy Wars against the Dark Marquis. Only beginning his descent thirteen years ago, in 1466, Torquaz recalled his fears when he gazed at the firecamps prior to the final stand of Hestavian. That battle had probably the worse Torquaz had ever participated at. Fortunately, he had already been silenced and the Keshian failures had erased his empathy. It was also his last battle fighting alongside the High King of Temerians, Conrad von Fulgam, lord protector of the West and so on… a king he shared the table when a younger Ghodfrost van Lubaqq inflamed their dreams of glory. Leaving his golden days behind, lord Torquaz struggled to appreciate his present. Why am I still alive? Do I have any choice than following my creed, it is the only way to keep going head straight. I am bound to serve this world for the rest of eternity.
“Do you really, Dantena?’ she pursued, her eye shining through the breach in the Dragonclay. The eye of a cat, deceptive and charming, stared disdainfully attractive at Torquaz. “I can see what haunts you, show me Dantena. Only then, I’ll tell you how to find the Slayer you seek. Let me see… lord Torquaz.’