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Found 6 results

  1. Previously... The Architect's Ascension: Part IV Arama sprinted through the windy passages, narrow alleys, and cobbled streets of vast Illaryian. Then she jumped onto a roof and caught sight of Ristoro hurrying through the thoroughfare far ahead. She rushed on across the roofs, leaping the gaps, landing with only a soft thud, her cloak floating out behind her. Arama rushed on across the roofs, leaping the gaps, landing with only a soft thud, her cloak floating out behind her. Suddenly Ristoro heard something above him. He looked up and he saw a shadow watching him coolly from the roofs far above. Now he was even more afraid of the ragazza who had followed him so quickly and found him without erring far in the depths of the greatest city in the realm. He looked up and he saw a shadow watching him coolly from the roofs far above. He couldn’t outrun her, and he knew he didn’t stand a chance in a fight—he didn’t want to kill her anyway! What could he do? There was a bridge. At least Ristoro knew how to swim! He threw off his sword and sprung over the side, landing in the canal below with a splash. Arama knew the canals like the back of her hand. With one deep breath she plunged off the rooftop, tucking her dagger in her sleeve. The canal here was deep and narrow. Arama landed on the other side of the bridge, pitching far below the depths of the water. She spread out her arms to slow her fall. In another second Arama had Ristoro’s doublet in her hand. She lifted him up against the wall on the side of the canal, but she had to let him go to get a breath of air. Ristoro scrambled up onto the cobblestones, but now he was in a cortile with only one entrance, where Arama De Cioto now stood. Ristoro Moccenigo shook in an almost unreasonable fear. Now he was in a cortile with only one entrance, where Arama De Cioto now stood. “Cieli! Just get it over with!” he screamed, petrified. "Just get it over with!" Ristoro screamed. “Stolto, does it look like I have a blade in my hand?” Arama answered with affected dryness, showing her outstretched and empty palms to him. “Così,” Ristoro started nervously. “You aren’t here to seppellire a blade in me?” “No,” she said sweetly. “I just want you to talk. Why didn’t you answer the question Luca asked you?” “You want to kill my fratello and not me?” Ristoro asked, unable to swallow his saliva. For reply, Arama’s eyes glittered. “It’s no use, there’s no point! Ilazio already told the De Fioris that–” “I know,” Arama said, a perturbed glimmer passing across her face. She hadn’t really known that. So it really was too late. She grit her teeth. They just had to ride it out. It sounded like a very dangerous storm. It was time to be brash and reckless. “Vedo, you probably know what Ilazio wants to do,” Ristoro said in a very low voice. “He’ll kill you and il nostro caro Rego!” he warned. “Let him do it,” Arama replied brazenly. “If he kills me it wouldn't matter. But he can’t prove anything he says.” “You, like Signore di Carlo, underestimate mio brother. I’ve seen his plans and correspondences, De Cioto!” “It doesn’t matter what he knows,” Arama smiled thoughtfully, “it matters what he can show, what he can get people to believe. It's not the first time he’s spread false rumors. He would never live another day if he assassinated the Rego.” Arama looked defiantly at the waters of the canal behind her. “Then, I believe,” Ristoro answered, “he will kill you.” A sharp hiss echoed throughout il cortile. Both Ristoro and Arama were caught off guard. They both paused, without further discussion, each searching the dim backstreet courtyard for signs of any intruder. Arama let her knife slip down into her palm again. Then all of a sudden, a shadowy figure, contrasted by a drawn sword with golden hilt engravings, leapt from a window in the stone building behind them, landing beside Ristoro who immediately began to back away. A shadowy figure, contrasted by a drawn sword with golden hilt engravings, leapt from a window in the stone building behind them. The shadowy figure pushed back his hood. Ilazio Moccenigo had heard every last word. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. “Buona serata,” I greeted gruffly, my sword pointed at the two traitors. One had succeeded before in obstructing my plans, but questa notte, I would ensure that they both failed. I began moving towards them, then stopped as I saw a flash of metal. Arama drew a hidden dagger from within her clothes. “Certo, buona serata!” Arama had drawn a hidden dagger from within her clothes, but she didn’t stand a chance against my long, sharp blade. Then, when Ristoro tossed her his sword from the bridge where he had left it, although she caught it deftly in the air with her other hand, I could tell that she was more accustomed to fighting come una assassina rather than a proper duelist. Ristoro tossed her his sword from the bridge where he had left it. Her arms seemed to be shaking slightly, and her footwork was like a tigress ready to pounce upon her foe from behind, not from ahead. But she was light and agile, and playing right into her strengths, Arama ran for it, quickly scaling the walls of il cortile until she reached the roof above. In return, I gave chase. She was light and agile. I could hear Arama’s breath from above me as she silenziosamente prepared to leap across to the nearest roof. She would never make it. “Don’t!” I yelled from the roof below her feet which I was quickly pulling myself up onto. “What do you care if I do?” Arama murmured in reply, but before she got a chance to, I grabbed one of her moving feet, rolling onto the roof beside her. Arama was about to jump to the other side of the street. Arama threw herself down beside me and I spun out of the way just in time. I felt her knife sound against the terracotta altana as it dug deep into the spot where my chest had been a moment before. Her dagger was stuck there now. Arama swept her feet at me as I leapt up and took a better stance upon the roof, but she was too far away. She had to hold up her sword to me. I had the advantage now, but I was still waiting for something unexpected. So far, only I have delivered soprese. Arama stood on the defensive, frustration written on her visage. But I wouldn’t commit. “You want me dead,” I smiled at her eagerly, “not the other way around.” “I wanted to get out of here,” Arama whispered sulkily, pulling her mask below her mouth to breathe, “you wouldn’t let me get away. So if you don’t want me dead, climb down, or let me jump.” “Letting you make that jump? Not if I don’t want you dead. But maybe I do, so go ahead.” Arama made a gesture. “But I’m not putting away my sword. Do you think I am some stolto like my brother, to just let you kill me?” Arama laughed. “Tell me again why you’re mad at me?” she asked. “You killed my father,” I hissed, “and your Rego will pay, just like you, stupida girl. You think life is nothing? You take your own and others pretty carelessly.” “Don’t become careless with yours,” the girl replied, sweeping at me at last with the edge of her sword. Our blades met with my parry and swift counterstrike. Before Arama could recover, I struck out again, the force behind my blade driving her back along the steep roofline. We drove quietly back and forth at each other, our swords ringing through the otherwise silent night. With efficiency, I contrived to drive her back with each of our moves, using forces similar to those which balanced a crane in my father’s constructions to turn everything to my advantage. Arama’s strikes became more wild and her defense mere seconds from la morte. She was still smiling though. Infine! There was a gap, a risky manovra with ricche ricompense. I lunged, hoping my feet would not slip on a loose tile, my glittering sword striking true. Time seemed to slow. A shuddered breath escaped the lips of mia avversaria. I did not wait to see my vittoria. Quickly, I retracted my blade and swung, using shear impact to dislodge the sword from her clammy hands. Then I mercilessly shoved her off the narrow roofline while she looked down at the ever growing blood stains on her fancy clothes. My sword had gone through the chainmail that she wore beneath her dress. Only one image clouded my thoughts, the image of her shocked, and forse scared, expression followed with ragged breaths and dripping blood, an image branded into me. Ristoro backed away from the crumpled, limp form that ended on the cobblestones below. “Ilazio?” he said, his voice filled with discomfort and uncertainty. He shuddered again as I dropped to the cobbled streets below, this time with my gold-inlaid sword sheathed. Mio fratello looked confused, his eyes going back and forth between my demented visage and the bleeding corpse that was Arama di Athena De Cioto. Finally making up his mind, he darted for l’ingresso del cortile. I simply turned and watched as he scurried away. My attention then shifted back to the velvet liquid running freely through the cracks in the cobbles. More blood would flow, abbastanza presto. I unsheathed my sword slowly, letting its ring echo, while I walked over to the shuddering figure, covered in her own blood. No, not quite a corpse yet. The fall had only been about a story, and she knew how to land, although she must have been very bruised. My sword had only pierced her side, not her heart. Not yet. “I'm not afraid of you,” Arama whispered, looking up at me kindly, her breath increasing in pace and raggedness as I descended upon her like a ravenous Mitgardian wolf. I stood over her, the tip of my blade less than a millimeter above her beating heart. The girl still struggled like wounded prey, trying to back away. Maybe she did have another dagger, but she couldn’t use it now. She was dizzy and sick. Arama could barely lift her head, she was so weak. My sword followed, forcing her to concede. Arama let herself drop onto the stones, looking around, to make sure that I was the only one with her. She saw through a black haze, my sword hanging above her. Her last knife dropped from her hand. “Tell Luca I love him,” she said, whispering, wincing and hiding her face behind her arm. I craved that! I was overjoyed to hear it, my entire case proven by its denier! In my mind her guilt was sealed now. But… still. My heart rate increased, breaths ragged as the maledetta below me. Soon, every rag of the vendetta I wanted would be mine! I roughly grasped Arama and bent my sword down to her throat, prepared to strike home. Suddenly her unusually neat hair, wandering in wisps below her half drawn hood, was the same hue as Aurelia’s. I shook my head, scowling fiercely—this was not the time for doubts. Did my padre look this way before di incontrare la morte? I must, I must kill her! As I looked down at her, the image flashed again, then images of mio papà coursed through me. “Go ahead, I guess it was always coming to this,” Arama shrugged, tears falling down upon her stomach and mixing with sangue. I lifted my sword arm up once again, this time to kill! I made a bloodthirsty roar—but then I immediately dropped my blade to the blood-stained pavement. “Bene! I can’t,” I said at last through ragged breath. I staggered away from Arama. “This isn’t what I wanted.” “Che cosa?” she asked meekly. Her arm lowered from her face, and she looked at me with a tired, scared and confused question in her eyes. “I saw him, mio padre in my mind. Revenge won’t bring him back from la morte. It’s only a path of destruction… per tutti!” I said, facing away from the girl who had almost become a corpse. My breath was still coming rapidly, my heartbeats deafening every other sound. I was on the verge of spinning round, of doing it, and of taking my own destruction too if I had to! But I forced myself to speak, and mio voce came from a different person, a body, not a mind. “Arama, I just realized… what you did was horrible, but if I killed you now, just for vengeance, to satisfy myself… that would be horrible too!” I cried. I faced Arama De Cioto again and walked over to her, leaning in close to her teary face, where she had placed her palm and left a stain of blood. Then I whispered into her ear, pleading with her even though she was completely in my power, “Just take my forgiveness and go!” “I’ll love you for this,” Arama replied with a sudden merry feeling waving over her body. She pushed me away from her with her arm and closed her eyes, taking in a rasping breath. That confused me. She loved Luca di Carli! Would she betray him this easily? Is that what she meant? Maybe she just used the word carelessly… or maybe Luca was just like Prince Råiden to her. Would she betray him because I let her live even though it was my deepest desire to slit her very throat, simply because I couldn’t, I really couldn’t, kill her? She pushed herself off the stonework, one hand stopping her blood from flowing too freely, supporting herself on the wall with her other hand. I could tell her whole body was jarred by her fall. Maybe she had some broken bones. She still might die—was it crueler to leave her here than to run my sword through her side again? “No, wait, Arama,” something inside of me twisted, “I… I can’t let you go like this. Non c’è modo…” She looked at me with confusion in her eyes. “Why not?” she asked doubtfully. “You might die before you found help. That would just be more cruelty,” I said, looking boldly at her, as frankly as I could, although something rebelled in my stomach. “I never wanted to be cruel or evil! I can’t bear death, Arama. I don’t really want to return murder for murder.” I hung my head, my fists clenching and unclenching convulsively. Arama looked at me blankly. “Che bene,” she murmured. “I thought you wanted to kill me.” “I did.” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Arama’s head throbbed profusely. She reached underneath the uncomfortable blankets placed on top of her and winced as she located the wound. So it had happened in verità, it wasn’t a dream. She hurt all over anyway, so it wasn’t like a surprise. Arama growled at the pain. He had told her, “You might die before you get help. That would just be but more cruelty,” before helping her to a farmacista. “You’re really thinking this through,” she had almost retorted. But she couldn’t understand what he was thinking. How could anyone change at such a moment? Maybe after you killed someone, then you might repent. But this was really weird. Although Ilazio had saved her life, and been very emotional about it too, now he seemed rather cold to her. She had made a few attempts at light conversazione to distract herself from her pain, pain that the brooding man sitting on the stool opposite her bed had caused and didn’t seem to care that she was suffering, and he had all but ignored her. How could he care for her all of the sudden? To help save her life, to give her food and water, and even do his best to make her comfortable. Arama tried to see through the man. She had met one or two pacifisti before, tame people, but she had never heard their stories. Was this how it happened? She didn't understand. These thoughts only made the throbbing worse. Arama’s head sagged back against the soft pillow, darkness enclosing her as her tired eyelids fluttered and then shut. Her breath came normally now. “Grazie,” she muttered in her sleep. “Molto grazie.” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.
  2. Previously... I am so excited to present this story and LEGO collaboration for Guilds of Historica, and of course, specifically for the glory of Varlyrio . Huge thanks to TalusMoonbreaker, my only collaborator this time, for all the work as we wrote the story together and helped with tips in building and planning all of this! I hope you like it! It certainly gives me a trembling, nervious sensation just reading or writing it! Note that any Italian included is superfluous in terms of the thread of the story. If you don't understand the meaning of the words, don't worry, the sentence should still make sense as the Italian is used mainly just for exclamations! Also, while it would be neat to have read or to go read the previous story linked above, it's not essential to follow the story here below :) . Feel free to get a cup of coffee before sitting down to read the whole thing, or read the story by chapter! The title to each part leads to the individual topic on Eurobricks, and the photo links to flickr so you can see the build better. P.S. And while you're reading, you might want a soundtrack to get your blood stirring... Sarah Schachner did an incredible job on almost all of this exotic AC: Origins soundtrack, so I recommend it to go with the flow of the tale! Hope you enjoy reading, and let me know any thoughts, or questions if someone has some :) ! The Architect's Ascension Part I: Le Gesta Oscure di Ilazio Moccenigo The sun was beginning to set over the capital city of Illaryian. I remembered, my father had died on a similar evening a few weeks ago. Soon, the wrongful death of mio papà would be avenged. I then began to roll up various papers, including legal documents, records, and schematics, and put up the volumes that I had borrowed during my vaste research, for con fortuna, Ristoro would have concluded a deal on the streets below. Before I left, I suddenly heard a rustle. Was I caught? Was all this, weeks upon weeks of tracking, plotting, and investigating, for nought? “Vindur,” I whispered softly. “Sei tu?” “Sì!” hissed an excited voice from behind. I gave a slight smile. The Kolgari informant had once again proven himself. ! The Kolgari informant. “Signore, your theory about the Rego’s relationship to the De Cioto girl is correct. One source cited having seen her, peering over the balcony when sua amante declared the late Staffen Conzaga, his former ally, traitor to Varlyrio.” “What about Ristoro?” I inquired. “Usually you report to him, certo?” “Questo era importante,” the Kolgari replied, smiling from underneath his dark hood. I passed him a substantially hefty bag in return. If this failed, coin would be the least of my troubles. It faintly clinked as it passed between us, then the spy swiftly left like the wind. So, that’s how Signore Conzaga had died. The death of my fellow triumvirate, Prince Råiden the Tiger, was not the first conspiracy that Arama and her Rego had orchestrated… Earlier, Ristoro had informed me that an assassino had been sent after Alesio De Fiori, like Signore Conzaga, a former ally that assisted in the removal of the Amancios but was later betrayed. Additionally, Cadgie, another Fiori, had died around the same time. More treachery. Luca had not gained the throne through popularity, but through betrayal! His own citizens had cast shame upon the House of Cioto too. I checked the area again, making sure that only shadows had perused the otherwise empty floor, then left to discover what Ristoro had caught questa volta. Perhaps instead of wasting his time partying, he should have worked in the trade of dangerous secrets, I mused to myself. The dusk was turning to night, perfetto for maintaining my secrecy. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. I slowly closed the door to the ancient library, the façade dating to an earlier design style, locking it with a key that Ristoro had seen forged by me. His knowledge of the Varlyrian underworld was impressive, again making me wonder at his thus squandered life. Leaning against a large vase, Ristoro held several long, leather tubes in his hands. He was smiling come un demone. “Here are the architectural plans that you fancied, fratello, straight from the vaults of Gli Archivi Reale. Those crafters of sharp steel and famed vintners have served us eagerly and well.” “Molto bene,” I whispered back. “Soon Ristoro, we strike, for everything is in place. Per papà!” The blueprint was complete. This was no longer just about the Rego: there was now more to it, a deeper conspiracy. Ristoro, however, would not be privy to this additional act of my planned vendetta… .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Part II: Il Pentimento di un Padre Ristoro did not know where to begin. He had promised himself, and Ilazio, that he would apologize to Aurelia and become a better father. He sighed. It had seemed so easy when he’d fallen in love with Marsilia back in Veniera. Of course, he hadn’t known then that suo amore even had a daughter. As he looked along the canal, the most beautiful in Caglaveri, from his vantage point upon Il Ponte dei Monaci, he sighed. How could he ever make it up to them? His papà, the once renowned Brabantio Moccenigo, architect of Varlyrio, had planted flowering trees along the edge of the stone streets that rose from the calm water. “I know I haven’t been the best padre,” Ristoro began. Aurelia immediately interrupted, replying emotionlessly, “You’ve never been mio padre.” Ristoro scowled involuntarily. “So, you love your bloodthirsty uncle more than me?” “I… I saw you at il Baile di Ziccardi. With her,” she told him quietly. “Oh,” Ristoro said, embarrassed, regretting the enjoyment that he had gotten out of that evening. “And Zio found you drunk.” “Zio Ilazio è un traditore. I know he’s treated you like a true father would, Aurelia, but he’s dangerous. He has already brought molto vergogna upon us. Who knows what schemes that crazed architect will devise next?!” Aurelia just stared at him, emptiness in her eyes. She seemed to do that frequently, Ristoro noted, as if she expected him to understand her senza parole. Marsilia could be persuaded—deep down she still loved him despite his sins—but Aurelia, he did not know if he could ever convince her that he truly wanted to be her papà. Ristoro got onto his knees and grasped Aurelia’s still hands, his head hung in shame. “I understand… I have been a horrific padre, a terrible husband, and… and a wretch. I lost mio papà, I squandered any opportunity to learn from him, for your nonno to be mine father. But, Aurelia, I, in tutta sincerità, hope that that same fate never befalls you!” He looked up, tears streaming from his eyes. “I apologise, mia figlia, Aurelia. I will be, prometto, a better father, a better husband, and a better man.” He stood up, his gaze focused on the sun setting over the beautiful canal. “Even though I believe tuo zio, mio fratello Ilazio to be mad, he helped me realize this truth and for that, I am forever in his gratitude.” At that, Aurelia gave a slight smile. Taking her small hand, Ristoro led his daughter off of the bridge to retire for the night. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Later that night, Ristoro returned to the same bridge. The moonlight shone brightly over the dark, crystaline waters of Il Canale Grande. If he was to reunite his famiglia, Ilazio must not succeed with his dastardly plan concerning the Rego, Luca di Carlo, who was not responsible for the death of their padre. All of Varlyrio, even many of the Kolgari in their subterranean estates, would hunt and destroy them if Ilazio ever obtained his vengeance. By Sana Argenta, the Rego must know before it is too late! L’architetto will strike soon, and strike to kill! .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Part III: Il Tradimento di Ristoro “Il mio Rego,” a page called out from the hallway of the beauteous palazzo. “A man by the name of Signore Ristoro Domingo Moccenigo is here to see you, shall I let him in?” Luca di Carli jumped up from his desk piled with boring reports from all over the guild and opened the door slightly. “Certamente!” he replied cheerfully. “Plucky compagni, those Moccenigos. I would be glad if they were miei amici.” But Luca knew that they weren’t, and had no reason to be, his friends, and he had no idea what to expect from this Moccenigo. He reflected with an uneasy feeling in his stomach that, at least, most of his limited reports suggested that this one was less prone to violence and backstabbing than a certain other Moccenigo who he had reason to know. So Luca desperately hoped that this would turn out better than his last encounter with a Moccenigo. Either way, the young Rego suddenly wished that he still was in possession of the Kolgari medallion that had saved him once. In another moment a loud knock sounded in the room, the noise of an impatient hand on the wooden door. Luca di Carli opened the door once more, all the way this time, courteously inviting Ristoro Domingo Moccenigo into his ornately furnished room with a casual sweep of his hand. The young page made a hand signal to the Rego, letting him know that guards would be on hand, before departing, leaving him with the brightly-dressed Moccenigo. Ristoro Moccenigo looked around nervously. The Rego just sat at his desk chair, waiting for the man to speak. Luca twisted his mouth thoughtfully, half amused and half suspicious at the demure behavior of his visitor. “Mio signore,” Moccenigo gulped at last. “My brother intends to kill you.” Luca looked at the fellow peculiarly, trying to keep his simulated gape from turning into a smile. “Davvero?” “He has been planning it over the course of the last month—he wants vengeance, signore… for nostro padre!” “I already know that,” Luca grinned dryly, putting one of his boots up against the wall, “but nevertheless, grazie.” “Prego! You take my warnings for granted, mio Rego?” Ristoro warned, taken partially aback by the Rego’s careless ennui. Luca laughed. “Sempre! Your brother already killed me once, Ristoro!” Luca remarked, smiling keenly and then biting his lip. “Didn’t he tell you? But if you have dates, times, anything that could help me to stay safe from him, I’ll need that.” He looked at Ristoro momentarily with a questioning gaze. “I would be very obliged for anything of that sort.” “I will, prometto, tell you anything I know, or can learn, my Rego, but you must be careful! Ilazio does not share much with me, and every moment I know that your life is in more danger.” Ristoro then bowed, said addio, and then knocked on the door, without taking his gaze off the Rego’s cool face, to be escorted out by the page. Even if Luca di Carlo was as politically treacherous as their informants said, Ristoro was certain that the Rego had not slain his father. That was all a part of his brother’s madness. He stepped out with another bow, and Luca merrily called out an addio to him as he passed out of earshot following quickly after the affable page. Politics in Varlyrio was like playing roulette with daggers, so why disturb the delicate balance of the realm, a realm of knives? There was nothing more that Ristoro could do for the Rego at the moment, or he might get too involved and go down with the suction of someone else’s fall. Ristoro didn’t want that. He had a daughter that he wanted to take care of, and he had learned that it was hard to do so from a dungeon… let alone if he was dead. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. I had dressed in simple garb to blend in with the crowds milling about the streets of Illaryian. Because anyone seeing a hooded figure in broad daylight would assume mischief, I occasionally darted my eyes to make sure no guardie, assassini, or other miscreants snuck up on me as I waited in the doorway of a steel warehouse near the city wall. The door opened and a serving girl dressed in a dirty smock came out. She whispered into my ear, “The lords have read your message. They wish to speak with you.” That was odd—I had specifically stated in my note that I would only speak with them after my plan had succeeded, in case any spie were among them or lest they should seek to betray me. My last vendetta with the De Cioto ragazza had left me cautious of my allies. I was shocked, then, to see a representative of the Conzaga famiglia, recognizable from the crest on his lavish doublet, partly hidden by a simple, brown cloak, in the De Fiori warehouse. “We would be honored if you would join us,” Alesio De Fiori said after taking a sip from a glass filled with a new batch of Conzaga wine, finely aged like the great Fiori himself. “It is so good to meet you at last, your proposition is most intriguing, Signore Ilazio Moccenigo.” “We would be honored if you would join us,” Alesio De Fiori said, after taking a sip of wine. “I am duly sorry about your father, Moccenigo, we all miss him. I too look forward to this alleanza,” Conzaga interjected and raised his glass in respect for my papà, Brabantio Moccenigo, who I had planned and built great wonders with when he still roamed la terra. “When the news reaches the far corners of Varlyrio, many others will flock to our banner,” Alesio said with satisfaction, for the wine or my vendetta I could not tell. Either way, I gave a slight smile to those gathered in the warehouse. “Uomini, I must bid you addio. Fortune calls,” I said, before returning to the backstreets of Illaryian. La mia vendetta pianificata was coming along so well, and this time I had left no option unthought of, no circumstance up to chance. Soon, it would all unfold. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. The door to the Rego’s personal room suddenly flew open. Luca looked up to see a panting Ristoro, quickly followed by the apologetic page. Di Carli held up a hand to stop him. He whispered quickly in the page’s ear and the young fellow rushed away. “Ristoro! Come va? What news of your dear fratello?” Luca leaned back against the wall and ran his hand through his shoulder length hair. “My Rego, it is urgent, he will strike soon, and to kill!” Ristoro said rapidly, breathing harshly. “Mio Rego, he knows something that you wouldn’t want anyone in all Varlyrio to know! That you dare not let anyone in all Varlyrio know.” Luca nodded encouragingly. “Bene?” “He knows that you spend time with the De Cioto girl, Luca di Carlo…” Luca started. “And so do you!” he said, smiling cleverly and talking calmly, as though it wasn’t the horrible surprise that it was, but rather something of a consequential nature. Moccenigo pursed his lips. “And he has struck a deal.” “Un accordo,” Luca mused, still grinning. “Please explain, Moccenigo, if you’d be so kind.” “I know not mio Rego! Ilazio’s message was cryptic, qualcosa about assassini, vintners, and forgers, but signore, I wouldn’t…” Ristoro stopped as a quick rap sounded upon the door. “Come in,” the Rego called, apparently ignoring the unfinished sentence for the moment. Vintners and blacksmiths? Luca knew who that might be! If he were right, those were powerful famiglia. The Moccenigos were becoming dangerous: should he even trust this Ristoro Domingo, a well known mascalzone dissipato? What if his information was all a ruse? He smiled with worried surprise as soon as he saw who the page had admitted into his quarters. “Salve, you came at last! Take a seat,” he said grimly to the newcomer. “Bene, Signore Moccenigo, you mentioned un accordo?” “Sì,” Ristoro replied nervously. He didn’t like the look of the newcomer, a slim girl, lavishly dressed and wearing a mischievous smile in her suspicious eyes. Ristoro couldn’t see the face della ragazza except those eyes, but he felt sure that she was frowning at him thoughtfully. She didn’t seem at all surprised at who she found all of a sudden in the Rego’s room. “But, where is your brother?” Luca di Carli asked. “It would be simplest to find him and bring him at once, to give account of his actions directly.” Such treachery as this could cost him dearly. Luca had let Ilazio Moccenigo escape once already. Ristoro swallowed, his eyes darting between di Carlo and la ragazza. Now he realized who the girl was. Beninteso! It was Arama De Cioto! “I… I know not my Rego,” Moccenigo stammered hastily, backing out towards the door while Arama glanced at him with a questioning smile. He thought he saw her hand near her boot. Was there a knife there? Did she reach for it as a simple precaution, or for a preemptive move? Ristoro didn’t want to know. “Sfortunatamente, mio Rego,” he said, nodding hastily and jumping up and down on his feet, “I must take my leave! At once!” Luca watched as the anxious Moccenigo left without another word. He had no chance or time to try to stop him. He whirled off the wall, turning to the girl leaning over the cluttered desk, and quietly whispered, “Arama! The Moccenigos know that we’re together!” “I heard that,” Arama half smiled and half laughed. “But do you think they have any proof? Could they convince anyone? Could they convince the De Fioris or the Conzagas?” Arama was trembling with earnestness. Luca knew that this thrill of the conspiracy was what she loved, and the more that was on the line, the more she loved it. She had gambled with his life before. But at least she had won her gamble. “I don’t know,” Luca said softly. “Non lo so, Arama.” “I’m gonna follow him then,” Arama said. “It’s our last chance. I wanna kill Ilazio—and I need to know where he is.” Arama drew her knife out of her boot and tossed it up into her other hand. She kissed her hand and pressed it against Luca’s cheek and he also felt the cold steel against it, and then she spun around and pushed off the slightly ajar door as she dashed towards the stairwell down which Ristoro Moccenigo had fled. As she leapt down the stairs the girl left her friend the Rego and Arama di Athena De Cioto behind. Only a nameless assassin remained, with a hood over her hair, a cloth above her nose, and a cloak wrapped around her body… and a dagger in her hand. Meanwhile Luca sat down on his cushioned chair, his eyes gazing out the stained glass windows at the skyline of Illaryian. He hoped Arama di Athena De Cioto would be safe. She had always been safe before, he reminded himself, no matter what conspiracy she got herself into—but that did not stop him from worrying. Now it looked like they didn’t stand a chance: would it really help to kill another person? What if Moccenigo killed her? Luca jumped out of the chair and put his hands against the window. He felt it tremble at the blow. He would make all of Varlyrio trembled like that! All he needed was a chance. He didn’t know if he wanted Arama to succeed or to fail. But he knew she would succeed: she always did. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Part IV: Il Rimpianto del Vendicatore Arama sprinted through the windy passages, narrow alleys, and cobbled streets of vast Illaryian. Then she jumped onto a roof and caught sight of Ristoro hurrying through the thoroughfare far ahead. She rushed on across the roofs, leaping the gaps, landing with only a soft thud, her cloak floating out behind her. Arama rushed on across the roofs, leaping the gaps, landing with only a soft thud, her cloak floating out behind her. Suddenly Ristoro heard something above him. He looked up and he saw a shadow watching him coolly from the roofs far above. Now he was even more afraid of the ragazza who had followed him so quickly and found him without erring far in the depths of the greatest city in the realm. He looked up and he saw a shadow watching him coolly from the roofs far above. He couldn’t outrun her, and he knew he didn’t stand a chance in a fight—he didn’t want to kill her anyway! What could he do? There was a bridge. At least Ristoro knew how to swim! He threw off his sword and sprung over the side, landing in the canal below with a splash. Arama knew the canals like the back of her hand. With one deep breath she plunged off the rooftop, tucking her dagger in her sleeve. The canal here was deep and narrow. Arama landed on the other side of the bridge, pitching far below the depths of the water. She spread out her arms to slow her fall. In another second Arama had Ristoro’s doublet in her hand. She lifted him up against the wall on the side of the canal, but she had to let him go to get a breath of air. Ristoro scrambled up onto the cobblestones, but now he was in a cortile with only one entrance, where Arama De Cioto now stood. Ristoro Moccenigo shook in an almost unreasonable fear. Now he was in a cortile with only one entrance, where Arama De Cioto now stood. “Cieli! Just get it over with!” he screamed, petrified. "Just get it over with!" Ristoro screamed. “Stolto, does it look like I have a blade in my hand?” Arama answered with affected dryness, showing her outstretched and empty palms to him. “Così,” Ristoro started nervously. “You aren’t here to seppellire a blade in me?” “No,” she said sweetly. “I just want you to talk. Why didn’t you answer the question Luca asked you?” “You want to kill my fratello and not me?” Ristoro asked, unable to swallow his saliva. For reply, Arama’s eyes glittered. “It’s no use, there’s no point! Ilazio already told the De Fioris that–” “I know,” Arama said, a perturbed glimmer passing across her face. She hadn’t really known that. So it really was too late. She grit her teeth. They just had to ride it out. It sounded like a very dangerous storm. It was time to be brash and reckless. “Vedo, you probably know what Ilazio wants to do,” Ristoro said in a very low voice. “He’ll kill you and il nostro caro Rego!” he warned. “Let him do it,” Arama replied brazenly. “If he kills me it wouldn't matter. But he can’t prove anything he says.” “You, like Signore di Carlo, underestimate mio brother. I’ve seen his plans and correspondences, De Cioto!” “It doesn’t matter what he knows,” Arama smiled thoughtfully, “it matters what he can show, what he can get people to believe. It's not the first time he’s spread false rumors. He would never live another day if he assassinated the Rego.” Arama looked defiantly at the waters of the canal behind her. “Then, I believe,” Ristoro answered, “he will kill you.” A sharp hiss echoed throughout il cortile. Both Ristoro and Arama were caught off guard. They both paused, without further discussion, each searching the dim backstreet courtyard for signs of any intruder. Arama let her knife slip down into her palm again. Then all of a sudden, a shadowy figure, contrasted by a drawn sword with golden hilt engravings, leapt from a window in the stone building behind them, landing beside Ristoro who immediately began to back away. A shadowy figure, contrasted by a drawn sword with golden hilt engravings, leapt from a window in the stone building behind them. The shadowy figure pushed back his hood. Ilazio Moccenigo had heard every last word. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. “Buona serata,” I greeted gruffly, my sword pointed at the two traitors. One had succeeded before in obstructing my plans, but questa notte, I would ensure that they both failed. I began moving towards them, then stopped as I saw a flash of metal. Arama drew a hidden dagger from within her clothes. “Certo, buona serata!” Arama had drawn a hidden dagger from within her clothes, but she didn’t stand a chance against my long, sharp blade. Then, when Ristoro tossed her his sword from the bridge where he had left it, although she caught it deftly in the air with her other hand, I could tell that she was more accustomed to fighting come una assassina rather than a proper duelist. Ristoro tossed her his sword from the bridge where he had left it. Her arms seemed to be shaking slightly, and her footwork was like a tigress ready to pounce upon her foe from behind, not from ahead. But she was light and agile, and playing right into her strengths, Arama ran for it, quickly scaling the walls of il cortile until she reached the roof above. In return, I gave chase. She was light and agile. I could hear Arama’s breath from above me as she silenziosamente prepared to leap across to the nearest roof. She would never make it. “Don’t!” I yelled from the roof below her feet which I was quickly pulling myself up onto. “What do you care if I do?” Arama murmured in reply, but before she got a chance to, I grabbed one of her moving feet, rolling onto the roof beside her. Arama was about to jump to the other side of the street. Arama threw herself down beside me and I spun out of the way just in time. I felt her knife sound against the terracotta altana as it dug deep into the spot where my chest had been a moment before. Her dagger was stuck there now. Arama swept her feet at me as I leapt up and took a better stance upon the roof, but she was too far away. She had to hold up her sword to me. I had the advantage now, but I was still waiting for something unexpected. So far, only I have delivered soprese. Arama stood on the defensive, frustration written on her visage. But I wouldn’t commit. “You want me dead,” I smiled at her eagerly, “not the other way around.” “I wanted to get out of here,” Arama whispered sulkily, pulling her mask below her mouth to breathe, “you wouldn’t let me get away. So if you don’t want me dead, climb down, or let me jump.” “Letting you make that jump? Not if I don’t want you dead. But maybe I do, so go ahead.” Arama made a gesture. “But I’m not putting away my sword. Do you think I am some stolto like my brother, to just let you kill me?” Arama laughed. “Tell me again why you’re mad at me?” she asked. “You killed my father,” I hissed, “and your Rego will pay, just like you, stupida girl. You think life is nothing? You take your own and others pretty carelessly.” “Don’t become careless with yours,” the girl replied, sweeping at me at last with the edge of her sword. Our blades met with my parry and swift counterstrike. Before Arama could recover, I struck out again, the force behind my blade driving her back along the steep roofline. We drove quietly back and forth at each other, our swords ringing through the otherwise silent night. With efficiency, I contrived to drive her back with each of our moves, using forces similar to those which balanced a crane in my father’s constructions to turn everything to my advantage. Arama’s strikes became more wild and her defense mere seconds from la morte. She was still smiling though. Infine! There was a gap, a risky manovra with ricche ricompense. I lunged, hoping my feet would not slip on a loose tile, my glittering sword striking true. Time seemed to slow. A shuddered breath escaped the lips of mia avversaria. I did not wait to see my vittoria. Quickly, I retracted my blade and swung, using shear impact to dislodge the sword from her clammy hands. Then I mercilessly shoved her off the narrow roofline while she looked down at the ever growing blood stains on her fancy clothes. My sword had gone through the chainmail that she wore beneath her dress. Only one image clouded my thoughts, the image of her shocked, and forse scared, expression followed with ragged breaths and dripping blood, an image branded into me. Ristoro backed away from the crumpled, limp form that ended on the cobblestones below. “Ilazio?” he said, his voice filled with discomfort and uncertainty. He shuddered again as I dropped to the cobbled streets below, this time with my gold-inlaid sword sheathed. Mio fratello looked confused, his eyes going back and forth between my demented visage and the bleeding corpse that was Arama di Athena De Cioto. Finally making up his mind, he darted for l’ingresso del cortile. I simply turned and watched as he scurried away. My attention then shifted back to the velvet liquid running freely through the cracks in the cobbles. More blood would flow, abbastanza presto. I unsheathed my sword slowly, letting its ring echo, while I walked over to the shuddering figure, covered in her own blood. No, not quite a corpse yet. The fall had only been about a story, and she knew how to land, although she must have been very bruised. My sword had only pierced her side, not her heart. Not yet. “I'm not afraid of you,” Arama whispered, looking up at me kindly, her breath increasing in pace and raggedness as I descended upon her like a ravenous Mitgardian wolf. I stood over her, the tip of my blade less than a millimeter above her beating heart. The girl still struggled like wounded prey, trying to back away. Maybe she did have another dagger, but she couldn’t use it now. She was dizzy and sick. Arama could barely lift her head, she was so weak. My sword followed, forcing her to concede. Arama let herself drop onto the stones, looking around, to make sure that I was the only one with her. She saw through a black haze, my sword hanging above her. Her last knife dropped from her hand. “Tell Luca I love him,” she said, whispering, wincing and hiding her face behind her arm. I craved that! I was overjoyed to hear it, my entire case proven by its denier! In my mind her guilt was sealed now. But… still. My heart rate increased, breaths ragged as the maledetta below me. Soon, every rag of the vendetta I wanted would be mine! I roughly grasped Arama and bent my sword down to her throat, prepared to strike home. Suddenly her unusually neat hair, wandering in wisps below her half drawn hood, was the same hue as Aurelia’s. I shook my head, scowling fiercely—this was not the time for doubts. Did my padre look this way before di incontrare la morte? I must, I must kill her! As I looked down at her, the image flashed again, then images of mio papà coursed through me. “Go ahead, I guess it was always coming to this,” Arama shrugged, tears falling down upon her stomach and mixing with sangue. I lifted my sword arm up once again, this time to kill! I made a bloodthirsty roar—but then I immediately dropped my blade to the blood-stained pavement. “Bene! I can’t,” I said at last through ragged breath. I staggered away from Arama. “This isn’t what I wanted.” “Che cosa?” she asked meekly. Her arm lowered from her face, and she looked at me with a tired, scared and confused question in her eyes. “I saw him, mio padre in my mind. Revenge won’t bring him back from la morte. It’s only a path of destruction… per tutti!” I said, facing away from the girl who had almost become a corpse. My breath was still coming rapidly, my heartbeats deafening every other sound. I was on the verge of spinning round, of doing it, and of taking my own destruction too if I had to! But I forced myself to speak, and mio voce came from a different person, a body, not a mind. “Arama, I just realized… what you did was horrible, but if I killed you now, just for vengeance, to satisfy myself… that would be horrible too!” I cried. I faced Arama De Cioto again and walked over to her, leaning in close to her teary face, where she had placed her palm and left a stain of blood. Then I whispered into her ear, pleading with her even though she was completely in my power, “Just take my forgiveness and go!” “I’ll love you for this,” Arama replied with a sudden merry feeling waving over her body. She pushed me away from her with her arm and closed her eyes, taking in a rasping breath. That confused me. She loved Luca di Carli! Would she betray him this easily? Is that what she meant? Maybe she just used the word carelessly… or maybe Luca was just like Prince Råiden to her. Would she betray him because I let her live even though it was my deepest desire to slit her very throat, simply because I couldn’t, I really couldn’t, kill her? She pushed herself off the stonework, one hand stopping her blood from flowing too freely, supporting herself on the wall with her other hand. I could tell her whole body was jarred by her fall. Maybe she had some broken bones. She still might die—was it crueler to leave her here than to run my sword through her side again? “No, wait, Arama,” something inside of me twisted, “I… I can’t let you go like this. Non c’è modo…” She looked at me with confusion in her eyes. “Why not?” she asked doubtfully. “You might die before you found help. That would just be more cruelty,” I said, looking boldly at her, as frankly as I could, although something rebelled in my stomach. “I never wanted to be cruel or evil! I can’t bear death, Arama. I don’t really want to return murder for murder.” I hung my head, my fists clenching and unclenching convulsively. Arama looked at me blankly. “Che bene,” she murmured. “I thought you wanted to kill me.” “I did.” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Arama’s head throbbed profusely. She reached underneath the uncomfortable blankets placed on top of her and winced as she located the wound. So it had happened in verità, it wasn’t a dream. She hurt all over anyway, so it wasn’t like a surprise. Arama growled at the pain. He had told her, “You might die before you get help. That would just be but more cruelty,” before helping her to a farmacista. “You’re really thinking this through,” she had almost retorted. But she couldn’t understand what he was thinking. How could anyone change at such a moment? Maybe after you killed someone, then you might repent. But this was really weird. Although Ilazio had saved her life, and been very emotional about it too, now he seemed rather cold to her. She had made a few attempts at light conversazione to distract herself from her pain, pain that the brooding man sitting on the stool opposite her bed had caused and didn’t seem to care that she was suffering, and he had all but ignored her. How could he care for her all of the sudden? To help save her life, to give her food and water, and even do his best to make her comfortable. Arama tried to see through the man. She had met one or two pacifisti before, tame people, but she had never heard their stories. Was this how it happened? She didn't understand. These thoughts only made the throbbing worse. Arama’s head sagged back against the soft pillow, darkness enclosing her as her tired eyelids fluttered and then shut. Her breath came normally now. “Grazie,” she muttered in her sleep. “Molto grazie.” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Part V: La Confessione dell’Assassina Never while she lies before me, crippled and at the death’s door, shall I strike down another soul with blood in vendetta. I knew not why I made this oath to myself. What did I owe her anyways? I hadn’t meant for it to be so brutal. Maybe I had gotten carried away a little. It had almost all gone wrong. I shook my head, vacating the chair that I had occupied the entire serata. I needed to clear my thoughts. “Ilazio?” a weak voice called out as I gently opened the door. I looked behind me at the pale figure sitting up in the infermeria bed, Arama. She seemed enervated, but at least she was alive. I gave a slight smile, closed the door, and walked across the room towards her. “Che cosa?” I whispered. “You saved me. Perché?” she asked. “E allora? That doesn’t mean that I particularly like you,” I responded gruffly. “That’s not the point,” Arama said, looking extra pale and even trembling a little. “Maybe you should be Rego. If you really mean to be like this.” I looked at her, shocked, shaking my head in denial. She had done it for me! This wasn’t the first time today that my weeks of planning had turned out pretty differently from what I expected. But it was all the same in the end. It had to be. I would play my cards all the way. “No,” I said coolly. “Then what is it you want from me? You’ve been sitting there, su quella sedia, all night!” Arama swallowed, frustrated. “I can’t give you anything, more than that.” “No? Non voglio niente. I don’t want that. Nothing, I’ve repented of my vendetta. Mio papà can rest now, riposare in pace. You should too,” I answered ruefully, exasperated. “I don’t offer it for you, and I certainly don’t offer it for myself,” Arama begged, looking even more fragile than before. “But you can’t do it without me,” Arama grinned. “Lo sai.” “Perhaps I could have. Perhaps I didn’t want to. Buona Notte.” I gave a twinge of a smile as I left for the night. It turned out it was even easier this way. This was one maniera to gain vengeance over the dastardly Rego without even shedding blood. My month of hard work, research, and desperate secrecy would pay off soon… and both promesse could be preserved. You didn’t need to shed blood to kill. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Arama De Cioto was eating from a small bowl of porridge when Ilazio entered the following morning. She thought it was delicious even though she knew it tasted horrible. She looked less pale and more determined to Ilazio. He was surprised she hadn’t left. “Sicché?” she questioned indifferently as he closed the door. “Indeed,” he replied calmly despite the severity of his words. “Hai ragione. Luca has only, besides his peace with the Kolgari, caused turmoil and death per la nostra gilda. The last Rego was possibly killed off at sea and look where that got us. If I am to assume the Regoship, I want to do so with popular support. Nessuna violenza.” Arama sighed, bit her tongue, and stared at Ilazio. “You and me, we could do it,” she said. Ilazio shrugged. “At least we could try. If you really mean it. If you don’t mind what people think of you.” “I need you to swear,” Arama said through her teeth. “Swear what? I’ve already sworn in my heart. You think I could have stopped myself from killing you if I hadn’t barred myself with an oath under the moon last night? I will never shed blood again.” Ilazio closed his eyes. “I will become Rego because Varlyrio needs me. That’s never what I wanted. I just wanted to avenge my father! But you’re right. There’s something better for me to do. We need peace, justice, and friendship. I’ll give that, I swear!” Ilazio Moccenigo lifted up his hand and shook it at the roof. Then he sank back onto the sedia. “If we can, I mean. I swear I’ll never stop trying: by Sana Argenta!” Arama looked at him with her mouth ajar. “Bene… I,” she paused, not sure how to continue. This was betrayal, but it was for the best. Everything she had done with Luca, what had it gotten them? Now it hurt to think of the people who were gone—all gone forever, and it was her fault. Did she think it was all a game? What had she done? Whatever it was, she didn’t want to do it anymore. “I agree,” she said at last. She took a breath. Her headache vanished magically and even though she was in physical pain, she had never felt so light and happy before. And it would be fun to do Luca a favor he never imagined. She wondered if he’d appreciate this. But who cared? It didn’t really matter whether Luca understood it or not. It wasn’t up to him. She tried not to laugh. She knew it would hurt her stomach. “This costs me nothing, but everything for you,” Ilazio remarked. This arrangement only seemed to benefit him, ma forse she had some ragione occulto. “What do you want this for?” “Maybe I need to repent too,” Arama countered, both to herself and to Ilazio. “I found out something last night. There are two kinds of hearts. And I have both—at least I think I do.” She winked at Ilazio. Ilazio nodded as he gathered his cloak about himself, preparing to leave. “Then it’s settled. Due giorni and I will return here. If you’ve left, you must come too, at this hour. Then, we will present our case to le famiglie di importanza. Rest well, mia compagna ancora di nella conspirazione.” “This is treason,” Arama grinned. Ilazio grinned cautiously back at her. He would watch her carefully. “Al demone with treason or patriotism!” they both said together. Arama swallowed back her laugh. “Which one even is this?” Ilazio added thoughtfully. “Non lo so,” Arama murmured. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Luca di Carli, Rego of Varlyrio, was writing a letter to be sent to the Queen Ylspeth who demanded tidings detailing the recent assassination attempt, and regarding the death of the famous Tiger Prince, Råiden Tígrisdýrið, when Arama di Athena De Cioto limped in without knocking di mattina presto. “Arama!” he said, curious and alarmed at seeing her bloodstained clothes and pale face. She hadn’t bothered to change. Luca knew she liked going around all bloody and dirty. “Cosa! What happened this time? You can’t dream how anxious I’ve been; I sent out your brother looking for you with a trusted band of guards.” Arama grunted, wincing as she collapsed into the nearest chair. She smiled at him coyly, looking out from under her eyelashes with a resigned but merry expression. Luca leaned over the desk, rolling his eyes as he spilled ink on the letter to the Queen—he would probably just leave it that way, it was kind of artistic—and helped Arama into a sitting position. “Stab wound,” she replied, somehow nonchalantly. He frowned trying to repress any amusement. “Posso vedere. Why don’t you explain, per favore?” “Ilazio ambushed me,” she replied, licking her lips thoughtfully before confiding more. She knew, for one thing, that Ilazio’s agent was watching her from the other room. Well, he was wasting his time. Apparently Ilazio’s pacifism didn’t stop him from worrying about getting killed by someone else. “And he didn’t murder you like he murdered me?” Luca questioned ironically. “Oh, sorry, of course,” he apologized when Arama laughed. But there was something strange about her laugh, a pensive air to her face. Luca guessed that it wasn’t very comfortable for her to laugh at the moment. “Dispiace, didn’t mean to make you laugh,” he said apologetically. “It’ll make me live longer—maybe,” she said. “But no, he’s not dead either.” She smiled at Luca’s astonished look. “You flatter me,” she remarked bashfully. “What? All he cares about is revenge.” “Maybe… not all,” she said slowly. “Do you know what he cares about?” Luca quizzed her, leaning back against the table and accidentally putting his hand on the wet ink. “Accidenti!” Arama didn’t make any remarks. She seemed a little sad, her eyes lazily gazing out the window instead of at Luca. “Arama, you seem… distracted?” he said, concerned. Before, when he had seen her injured, she just wanted to fight. Now, she seemed perfectly happy, or at least perfectly normal. “That’s strange,” Luca accidentally muttered out loud. Arama looked distracted, gazing out of the window instead of at Luca. Arama nodded in affirmation, flinching, but both of them knew that it was a lie. It was… actually, pretty normal… that was what Luca found strange. “Well, it seems the Moccenigos aren’t a threat to us anymore. They know how to kill us but they still can’t. His last attempt on la mia vita has discouraged him, bene?” he said triumphantly, expecting Arama to tease him in return, but instead he disappointingly received nothing. He laughed. “Get some rest. Servo, fetch un dottore, per favore, to attend to her wounds.” “Sì, mio Rego,” the servant replied, bowing in deference. “We don’t really need to worry if all the world sees us together now, ehi?” “I don’t know, Luca,” Arama said hesitantly, “better not to be so reckless.” Luca nodded and gave a slight smile to Arama as she was carried out of the office. He sighed and then began adding some more artistic blotches to the report for Queen Ylspeth. Later, when little Arama De Cioto was more herself, he would find out the details of her disastrous fight with Moccenigo. Everything happened the way she wanted it to happen, he knew that pretty well. He grinned and shook his head. “Sempre impresionante,” he muttered. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Due giorni dopo, I went back to the farmacista to get Arama. We talked about the complicated details, safe exile, how she would get Luca to go with her, riservatezza delle informazioni, extenuating deals. The point was, I had to treat her fairly, and it was pretty tough to arrange it with the De Fioris and the Conzagas, but we did. She would be safe whatever happened, and Luca would be too. As for me, I made sure there was no way anybody else could take the spot I wanted. If things were going to change, I would be the next Rego. Arama was inflexible on that point… and so was I. And without us, nothing could happen. So we got what we wanted. And now it was all up to Arama di Athena De Cioto. I was shocked at the way she chose to do it. What was she thinking? I wasn’t ever going to kill another man, and she believed that. I think she became a little infatuated. She had some pretty terrible mood swings. One second she seemed to be drifting in the sky with joy, and the next hour she would be so sad and silent, I really started to worry for her. Would she do what she had agreed to do? I was committed to make sure that it happened peacefully, or it didn’t happen at all. Fortunately, la ragazza had an idea for how to accomplish that. All we needed was to get the most powerful famiglie of Illaryian on our side… That was what we were about to do, in the most brutal, inconceivable way possible. Arama was going to confess. I helped her limp to the sala conferenze, arranged with some of the most important famiglie of Varylrio, who all together would easily be able to sway the populace. If Arama told the truth… Would she really do it? Once we arrived, I left Arama on a couch in the antechamber. She asked me for a knife and I refused to give her one. “You don’t trust me?” she said, and she almost sounded hurt. “I’m trusting you.” “You don’t have to,” I said wistfully. “But knives aren’t for peaceful people.” Arama’s eyes fell on my one. I took off the belt and the knife and tossed it out the window. “There.” “I can get a knife if I want one,” Arama said. “You don’t want one,” I said, looking at her keenly. She smiled. Before I proceeded into the designated room, guarded all round by faithful De Fiori mercenaries, I tucked my father’s last written words into my pocket and I looked at the girl on the couch one last time. “Ilazio?” she asked weakly. I wondered at how she was planning on giving a speech in this state. “I need…” “Che cosa?” I replied “I need to know what we’re gonna do once I tell them. There are some things that I… I’m not proud of, segreti. I tell them to everyone, and we have to have a plan, how’m I gonna get out if they don’t keep their side of the deal? You bet they’ll want me dead,” she whispered. “They’ll want me dead very badly.” I smiled at her sadly. “I think they’ll know that you’ve changed now. Why else would you be telling them?” “That’s not good enough.” Ilazio sucked on his lip. “Then turn around and leave when you’re done. I’ll give you time to get away. You have to go get Luca, stay safe with the Royal Guards for now.” Arama nodded disconsolately. Those gathered nodded their heads towards me and many whispered greetings or condolences for my father as I entered the room. We began without any pointless delay. “You know what you’re here for. We made a deal. Anyone not know what it involves? Does anyone dissent?” “We’re waiting,” Alesio said, almost coldly. “It’s your turn, Moccenigo.” “Where’s the assassin?” a young man asked. He was a Lord of Baiamonte. I wasn’t scared of him. I nodded. “No one will touch her until she’s done. Then she leaves in peace.” “In pace? Why should she live? Shouldn’t you have killed the assassina the first time?” one of the younger nobles voiced mockingly. It was the same Baiamonte. “Do you think I am an assassin?” I asked calmly. The Lord of Baiamonte blinked at me. The Lord of Baiamonte blinked. “Leave her to me,” I said. “I broke her spirit, isn’t that enough? You know the deal. Violence is what characterized the last Rego’s reign, and the one before that. And the Baiamontes’... but it’s a foolish path. You’ll see that if you wait a moment. If we are to gain the support of the cittadini, we must use a different tact,” I replied coolly. The young noble laughed. He shook his head. “You’re weak, Moccenigo.” I smiled, and looked at the rest. Then I laughed. “Weak? What’s the use of power,” I said, “if you don’t know how to control it?” I advanced towards the insolent ragazzo. Even though I was shorter than him, he seemed to back away as I approached. I advanced towards the insolent ragazzo. “Mio padre aveva l'adagio, ‘Those who are weak give in to their impulses, but those who are strong resist.’ I could have easily killed her, Baiamonte. But we need her,” I said softly, mio voce cutting him like ice. “And everyone here will do as I say in this matter, until the crown of Varlyrio is on my brow, or until I myself am killed.” Silence filled the air of the sala conferenze. “Arama di Athena De Cioto,” I said quietly, “venire.” A gasp ran through the room, and I even felt a few hands stiffen around their swords. “This is your assissina?” Alesio said sharply. “What’s next, Ilazio Moccenigo?” I smiled at the cunning man with the patch. “Ascoltare.” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. A servant walked in, helping Arama, who looked much paler and weaker than when we had arrived, to a nearby chair. I went to stand next to her, while De Fiori, Conzaga, and others stood motionless in their places. “Pronta?” I asked quietly. She nodded in affirmation. The same ragazzo who had made un pazzo of himself earlier, unwisely decided to speak up again. “Signori, I thought you said this was una assassina? Certamente, di Carlo couldn’t have any use for this weakling?” Arama bent over and whispered to me, “Perhaps you should have given me that knife.” She grinned at the young Baiamonte. “Perhaps, if you would let her speak, then you’d think differently,” Conzaga replied to him. The ragazzo frowned. Then, he nodded politely in the direction of Arama. “Signorina, per favore inizia.” Arama took a deep breath. Then she got up out of the chair, grabbed it by the top bar, and whirled it around an inch in front of Lord Baiamonte’s face, all in one smooth movement. She set it back down and leaned against it in the center of the room. Fire lit up her eyes. “Now maybe you’ll believe what I say,” she said, biting her lip harshly. I offered assistance but she picked up the chair in between me and her. I saw the pain in her eyes that her physical effort was making, but although her arms trembled, the chair never wavered until she set it back down beside her. Ilazio about to offer Arama assistance. “Arama, we know the part you played before the coronation, and afterwards,” Alesio said slowly. “None of us here bear you any goodwill. It’s about Luca di Carli, Rego régnant, that we need to know. Is it true? What did he care about Brabantio Moccenigo? About the Tiger of Illaryian?” Arama stood there shakily for a few moments, whether from fear or because of her wounds, I know not, but then she opened her mouth and the story came out in a quick torrent, like she didn’t want them to even understand her. But they did. “And about Cadgie De Fiori, Capri, Staffen Conzaga, other names I don’t need to say. The De Fiori backed Luca di Carli to replace old Supano Amancio, my cognato, by secretly murdering him at sea, or something like that. I backed Luca too, and I backstabbed some of you. But it wasn’t just me. Staffen Conzaga was killed by Luca soon afterwards by recommendation of Signore De Fiori.” Alesio gasped and glared at her. He hadn’t expected her to tell that. She knew too much. He looked at the Conzaga watching him bitterly and said pertly, “Staffen Conzaga was a traitor. He had plans that wouldn’t have left the realm in pace for another month. What do you say to that?” “Staffen Conzaga was a traitor. He had plans that wouldn’t have left the realm in pace for another month." Arama smiled and sighed, sitting backwards on the chair. “Of course it was justified to the Guardia Reale as tradimento on Staffen’s part. My brother was captain of the guard then. Each of you can believe it or not—I do, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t kill him. And because Alesio knew too much, we sent un assassino after him, but he failed; however, the ruffiani we sent after Cadgie succeeded. Maybe I should have gone myself. But we had Capri sequestrato in the confusion, and the Conzaga ragazza too. Then, to make Luca look favorable in the eyes of la popolazione and to the De Fiori, we made as though I was behind all of the murders and kidnappings.” Alesio stared at Arama with his one good eye. “Luca and Alesio stormed the Amancio Palazzo to find Capri, and I was injured. Then, Luca di Carli’s position was a sure one, but if anyone knew that the De Cioto’s were close to him, that could end it all. Your father, Moccenigo played the part of ricatto. That,” Arama said and she shook her head, “wasn’t very wise. But he almost got revenge… after he was dead. You know, Ilazio Moccenigo. The Tiger had to pay the price for peace with the Kolgari. It was his life for that of a thousand other Varlyrians and Elves. He was my friend, and I miss him, but it was a sacrifice he might have made himself, if he could have. He had a noble soul.” Arama confesses. I stopped Arama short. She was leaning against the back of the chair with her head now. “Luca didn’t know I had killed your father,” she murmured. I started and tears irrepressibly sprang into my eyes. “He didn’t know?” Arama just shook her head, crying into her sleeve which she viciously wiped across her eyes. “What does it matter now, hadn’t you forgiven him?” she said gently. “Of course,” I exhaled. Lord Baiamonte looked at me in confusion. “Well, the kidnapping of mio cugino Fiorello, which we orchestrated in the dead of night, was a tricky piece of work. Ilazio, we entrapped you in the trap that you had set for the Rego. But it wasn’t really a sequestro at all, it was just a scary serenata for my little cousin.” Arama took a deep breath. “I did most of this. I told Luca some things, and I didn’t tell him others. Then you almost killed him. You would have if it hadn’t been for me. And he actually pardoned you, Moccenigo. I had him pardon you.” Arama looked to her left to see me watching her intently. I helped her out of the chair and whispered, “Grazie.” Arama shot me one slow look. “I was joking,” she said, limping towards the door in a sudden hurry. “I was about to kill you.” “Lo so, I meant thank you for what you just did,” I said again. “It was brave, Arama,” I whispered into her ear. “Grazie.” Arama grabbed the door and pulled it open. “Arrivederci,” she said, holding onto it for one instant. Then she pushed off and ran down faster than I thought she could go, down the stairs, through the room, over the rail, and into the street. There was an awful silence in the sala di conferenze. I called the guards to close the doors. “So,” Conzaga said, “most of what you suspected was just so. It seemed like there was a surprise in there for you too, though, Ilazio Moccenigo. How do you know that what she said was true?” “The same way I know that what you all promised me was true,” I smiled cleverly. “You don’t have any other options.” Then, the great De Fiori stood forward. “We know your demands, Moccenigo. We are tired of the rule of this domineering di Carli. Let us hear the response of all present here. We all want peace, and we need to work together if there is to be no bloodshed. What about the Royal Guard?” “They’re taken care of,” I said, nodding. “If you bring the populace to our cause, gentiluomini, I will do all the rest.” I waited in suspense to hear their response. Alesio de Fiori went first. “As you all fully know, Ilazio Moccenigo, the son of the unfortunately deceased Signore Brabantio, possa riposare in pace, has offered us a plan to take down the Rego.” Those faithful made the signs of Sana Argenta; the bucket of water and the sword. Alesio looked at them with a wise and almost scornful look. “Signore Moccenigo,” he spoke again, giving a slight nod in my direction, “we had already prepared our course of action, seeing you have fulfilled your first part, we of the famiglie di Illaryian gathered here on this fine morning have all agreed to put all our influence and wealth behind you until you’re crowned. But we work together in this. We can’t do it without you… but you can’t do it without us.” “We will have our eyes on you,” Conzaga said slowly. “Your position as Rego will be dependent on us. Do what you will, but betray us…” Conzaga looked around at his fellow conspirators. “And there will be a civil war. Or perhaps only a dagger in your back. We here are not pacifisti.” Baiamonte laughed. “Viva la Gilda!” I said coolly. “Viva la Gilda!” several others muttered. Those with wine glasses, filled with red Conzaga wine, naturalmente, raised them and took a long sip. I waited until they had finished questo rituale. “In our correspondences Signore De Fiori, I did not explain all of i dettagli,” I said to the nobles gathering closer around me. “Listen. This is how it shall be done…” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Part VI: La Sfilata del Nuovo Rego I stood waiting behind the closed main doors to L’Arco della Vittoria that guarded the ingress to La Via Grande which led directly to the Palazzo Reale. Even through the thick stones, I could hear the roar of the people. Behind me, Il Guardia Reale, headed by Arama’s brother, Aluysio De Cioto, who was frowning in distrust, obviously not interested in serving a new Rego and only doing this for his sister, stood at attention. Then, a herald with a horn stopped next to me and whispered, “Shall we begin, mio Rego?” “Avviare,” I commanded, motioning for my entourage to follow. The gates began to open, letting light and the noise of the crowds seep into il cortile outside the main gate. Triumphantly, the horns blared, and with that, we began marching towards the Palazzo Reale and the end of the old era had begun. Luca di Carlo was a Rego without a supporter. In fact, I was worried for Arama. I looked back briefly at the Captain of the Royal Guard. Wasn’t he supposed to be with his sister? She wouldn’t be safe all by herself. I bit my lip and felt myself shrug involuntarily. As we paraded along the strada, I heard many cries of, “Viva Varlyrio! Viva la Gilda! Viva il Rego!” I simply smiled as I walked past the crowds. Then all of a sudden at one point I saw Arama. For some ragione, she was standing next to Ristoro and Aurelia. I grinned and waved at mio nipote and Arama, who both seemed to be enjoying themselves. Arama smiled sweetly back at me. Ristoro, gave a slight nod, but otherwise frowned. Even though he was part of why I had succeeded, he seemed to not want to celebrate the frutti del suo lavoro. I made a mental note: I would deal with mio fratello later. A slight glance backwards revealed that Arama had left. Non era preoccupante. If she could make it through the crowd alive she would go to Luca. That was where I wanted her to be. There with her fellow murderer, Luca di Carlo… A kilometer later and we had finally arrived at L’Arco dei Rego Varlyrio where many ufficiali and members of the powerful famiglie stood haughtily before the impressive gates. Alesio de Fiori walked out from among them and quitened the gathered throng of Varlyrians from across the guild. I wondered if this brought him back to when he had worked to get di Carlo in power, which worked out disastrously for his family. I, on the other hand, intended to honor our alleanza. I had no choice, for now. “Amici, my fellow Varlyrians,” Alesio smiled, “we are gathered here on this most momentous occasione to witness a new era of our history! As you all have been made aware, our previous Rego, Luca di Carlo, betrayed us.” I felt Aluysio De Cioto staring at my back and my hand tightened around my sword. I had told Arama that it was only for ceremony. It was the same one that had cut through her side days ago. Alesio continued, “His closest accomplice was una assassina. Arama di Athena De Cioto!” I smiled slowly. It wasn’t my fault if there were others who didn’t keep their part of the alleanza, was it? I’m afraid that every word Arama had said had been used against her, and perhaps, her name was the most vilified in all Illaryian on this day, even above that of Luca di Carlo, the treacherous Rego who the people wanted no more of. I thought she was lucky to have escaped with her life… so far. There were guards, not the Royal Guard, on their way to the Palazzo Reale right now. They would keep her safe: and they would make sure she didn’t escape. I hadn’t explained to the powerful families how to get the populace on our side. They had used the weapons that Arama herself had provided. Did she think a word was going to stop anyone from getting what they wanted? She had confessed herself that it hadn’t stopped her. Another powerful family head was speaking now. “…aided in the death of the Tiger of Illaryian! He betrayed his allies who made him the popular Rego that he was!” There was a pause and an ominous murmur ran through the crowd. Most of them had already heard rumors, but this was real. “That is all about to change. I present to you, the architect of Varlyrio, Ilazio Moccenigo, son of the famed Brabantio Moccenigo, cui anima requiescat in pace, and now Rego of Varlyrio!” The throng cheered joyfully, joined by glorious fanfare from the trumpeter. I then took off my feathered hat and kneeled before Alesio De Fiori as he placed a wreath upon my head. It was heavy to wear, and perhaps an uneasy quiver ran through me. But I would do what was right. For Varlyrio! I stood and turned to face the crowd as their king. Ilazio turned to face the crowd as their king. “Viva il Rego!” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. “Viva il Rego!” Luca rolled over and jumped out of the comfortable cushions. He had lain down in full clothes, and now he thought he heard a ruckus outside his window in the streets below. He pulled up his cuffs and leaned out over the street. “Viva Ilazio Moccenigo! Viva il Rego di Varlyrio!” Suddenly a girl caught his eye. It was Arama! He started. What under heaven was this? Arama looked back and forth, but there was no way to get into the palazzo quickly. She looked up with decision in her eyes. Arama looked up at Luca di Carli with decision in her eyes. “No, Arama, you’re mad, you can’t do it, hurting like that,” Luca said to himself, bending farther out of the window. She was climbing up! “If you fall you’ll die!” Luca called out. “So will the person I fall on,” Arama said impertinently. She skipped in through the window and Luca put his arm around her to help her in safely. “You always keep my heart in my throat,” he said, taking a deep breath and tossing himself back onto his bed. “‘Viva Ilazio?’ What is this?” “This means we have to go,” Arama whispered back at him. She looked at the window. “What?” “The same way I came in,” she said. “Arama, why are they calling Ilazio Rego?” “Because he is,” Arama said lightly, acting as if Varlyrio wasn’t crumbling under their feet, “don’t worry, I guess he’ll make a good one. Quick, throw a hood on.” “I don’t carry those things around here,” Luca said with a little disdain. “Then good thing I brought one for you,” Arama grinned. “Quick, cut your hair, the populace wants you dead.” “Che cosa? And you?” Luca asked with a worried look. “And me,” Arama whispered. “Accidenti. What about the Royal Guard?” “I don’t know!” Arama cried urgently. “Aluysio was supposed to be here! It must have been the Conzagas with a false message. It just makes it that much more dangerous for us. Listen!” Arama cropped off his hair with a knife she had brought. “They’re breaking in below!” Luca threw a cloak around himself and jerked the hood on and Arama pulled hers farther over her face. Arama nodded to the window. “I’ll go first,” she said. “No, neither of you will go, I think.” “Accidenti!” Luca’s sword flashed out of his cloak and Arama’s fingers curled around the blade of her dagger. “Hello there,” a dark voice suddenly muttered from behind. Arama spun around, her hand disconnecting from Luca’s. Suddenly she relaxed a little and breathed out tensely. It was Ilazio, dressed handsomely in a velvet cape and plumed hat, alone or so it appeared. Luca dragged his sword across the floor up to Ilazio Moccenigo’s collar. Moccenigo didn’t have a sword in his hands. Arama whispered into Luca’s ear. He frowned and his eyes met Ilazio’s cool ones. Did he have any choice? “Trust in me,” Arama whispered. Luca nodded ever so slightly at Ilazio and pulled back his sword, looking at Arama warily out of the corner of his eyes, his hopes extinguished. This was his last chance, and he was throwing it to the wind. What if the girl was wrong? What if the girl was right? Arama clasped her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek. Ilazio stood out of the way, leaving a space open to pass out through the door. “Signore di Carlo, Signorina di Athena De Cioto, buongiorno,” he said, nodding his head politely, displaying a certain charm usually reserved for gaining new contracts. “If you will follow me.” Ilazio was their last option beside the mob. But maybe, maybe if they killed him now they could make it through the window and be lost forever, a pair of incogniti. “Don’t,” Arama whispered forcefully into Luca’s ear through his hood. Ilazio just smiled slowly. He followed after the pair, although Luca was looking back at him and still had his hand wrapped tightly around the hilt of his blade. Then suddenly, Ilazio stood back. “Stop there!” Era una dichiarazione, non una interrogare. The pair halted, Arama willingly, even giving a slight smile to Luca, who swallowed and looked up at Ilazio suspiciously from under his brow. Then Ilazio just let his limbs relax and smiled kindly at Arama. There was a complacent glimmer in his eyes, and Arama saw it, but it was too late. Ilazio merely said in a calm and lulling voice, “Guardie, accompagnaci.” A contingent of Il Nouvo Guardia Reale, numbering around thirty, jumped out of every crevice and hallway to surround the pair, and Ilazio almost laughed as he stared Arama right in the eyes. He made a simple hand gesture and the guards seized Luca di Carli and Arama De Cioto as he escaped the enclosing circle. “Take them to the dungeon.” Arama’s knife flew up and she was about to hurl it… but she couldn’t. Did she really want to hurt someone else? Was it really worth it? What would it get her? Revenge? She looked about with scared eyes. And suddenly her knife was knocked to the floor, a pair of rough arms were around her, and it was too late. Luca looked at Arama with a doubtful smile. Her reaction sent a sudden thrill into his heart. “Aren’t you taking this too far, Arama?” “I don’t…” Arama faltered. Then she turned down her eyes from looking into Ilazio’s hard ones and her voice fell… “I don’t know.” A wave of fear washed through Luca’s body. Now what? Was this how it would all end? .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Part VII: L'Astuzia Superiore? “Ilazio! Traitor!” Arama said in disbelief, reproach in her voice. She screamed as the guards dragged her and Luca, the former Rego, who showed no emotion towards his surroundings, lost in deep thought, further into the depths of the remote Varlyrian castello. Panic surged through her. “What are you going to do with us?” He could throw her from the top of the tallest peak in the west. They could both die with their bodies left in pieces at the base of the rocks. Ilazio didn’t answer. Luca stared at Arama in shock. For the first time he heard her speak to Ilazio as though she knew him, like she had an understanding with him. What had she done? “What do you mean ‘traitor?’” he said coolly. Was she even on his side? Tears welled into Arama’s eyes, and for the first time a burst of fury passed over her. She shook her arms and jerked herself out of the hands of the guards until at last her wrists were red with the chaffing of the hard rivets and she fell upon her face on the hard stone flags. She turned her face up and looked at Ilazio Moccenigo piteously. Arama cringing behind Luca. “You promised Luca and me amnesty,” she said and her voice broke. “What did it all mean to you then? Nothing?” Her lip trembled. “Che?” Luca looked at her curiously. “I did,” the new Rego replied calmly. “You and Luca are safe from the popolazione, who would have torn both of you into pieces, and they are safe from your deception.” “My deception?” Arama cried, turning herself over and pushing herself up with her hands. “Moccenigo, what about peace?” “Oh, there will be pace now.” Arama looked so hurt, Ilazio felt sorry for her again now. But he didn’t show it. He just slowly pushed open the heavy metal door overlooking the neighboring towers. Arama looking out over the desert wasteland. There from the tallest stone tower, hung from an over jutting beam of wood, sagged a rope, upon which swung a noble looking guard, with the epaulets of the Captain of the Rego’s Old Guard. It was Aluysio De Cioto. The pale blue sky behind him stretched out far over the desert, and a cold wind whipped through the stony chamber. Aluysio De Cioto, hanging between the desert and the sky. “What about no bloodshed,” Arama asked, terrified and trembling, kneeling in front of Ilazio, Luca’s hand keeping her up. Her eyelids quivered with tears for her brother. “There are other ways to kill,” Ilazio smiled and he looked at her with cold, hard eyes. “As far as I can see,” he said, “this is only fair.” Arama knew it was. She had used the same tactics when she had betrayed Råiden and Brabantio for Luca. She had begged her brother to swear allegiance to Ilazio, to support the new Rego—but he had refused. She looked at Ilazio Moccenigo mutely. Did she see remorse in the repentful man’s eyes, or just cold calculation, the same he had used to cut her down on the rooftops? She felt something pressed over her eyes. “Arrivederci, Luca di Carlo e Arama di Athena De Cioto,” Ilazio said in a calm voice. She felt a rope wrapped about her neck and then she heard the tramp of the guard filing towards the wall. “Pronto!” Arama cringed and a low cry of fear escaped her. She only knew one thing: she wasn’t ready to die! Ilazio put his hand on her shoulder and lifted her up to her feet. She leaned sickly against the wall as her blindfold fell from her eyes. “Take them below, and keep them there,” Ilazio said with a smile, “safe.” Arama opened her eyes with a bitter, painful feeling of relief and regret. She was breathing hard. Luca put his hand into her hair, and she twisted her head to look at Ilazio one last time. “Addio, Arama,” Ilazio said. And with that, the pair were dragged beyond the sight of Ilazio Moccenigo, deep within the vaults of the old desert castle of the west. Luca and Arama were thrown into the same cell, deep beneath the surface of the sand. The architect of their ruin had traded them blow for blow. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Back in Illaryian, in the unfinished Palazzo Vincenzo, as the newly crowned Rego of Varlyrio, I wandered the halls that mio padre had prowled at night when he first discovered the secrets that had led me here, secrets now known across all of Varlyrio. The Chiaro boy had brought me my crown in good time, once it had been removed from Luca di Carlo’s brow, and I had personally conveyed the late Rego and Arama De Cioto far out into the west, together with several other dangerous traditori politici. It had been necessary to lock the pair up in the strongest, deepest castle in the realm, far away across the mountains in the wastelands, for even there, they could still cause caos if given the chance, and I was afraid that wouldn't take much. The rest of the traditori would never trouble Varlyrio again… that was certain. I gave a slight smile as I looked off into the sunset towards La Tigre di Illaryian. Although there still remained mia famiglia to restore, that could wait; for my vendetta had succeeded. I was satisfied! It was the same feeling I had received after my first commission, aided by my wise and shrewd father, that I won against the dastardly Edmondo Ziccardi, albeit narrowly and through un piccolo legal knothole. Even though those responsible for la morte di mio papà were still alive, I felt better this way! Perhaps it would do them good. Maybe, I had a thing or due to learn from mio nipote, Aurelia. I could never completely abstain from shedding blood, but rule with giustizia e il mio ingegno; my blade would only shine bright red when it was required to maintain the peace of the realm, and perhaps to construct a better Varlyrio. I laughed. No Rego could do that, even Sana Argenta herself hadn’t been able to quell the storms that bashed our guild… but one could hope. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.
  3. Henchmen4Hire

    Athena [Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel]

    •I used a lot of [1x2 Round Plates] to give Athena a "softer" vibe. •The "tooth plates" came in handy again to give her an hourglass shape and the vest. •Used the round plates to give her buttcheeks. Whatever, it works lol https://www.artstation.com/artwork/oOObBm
  4. Following builds: Pieces of a Puzzle (Ayrlego) Arriving at Mooreton Bay (Bregir) Undercover for the Final Piece (Bregir) In the cabin of the HMHV Athena, Montoya and Cooke are discussing the recent batch of mail. C: "Say, Doctor, do you remember Thomas Ferguson?" M: "An old shipmate of yours, if I am not mistaken? Some story with a fortress…" C: "Quite so - he has finally gotten a command, albeit a temporary one. With New Terra opening up, the Admiralty is recommissioning a number of old vessels, and Tom writes me that he has received orders to assume command of the horrible old Ironsides. Apparently she is being despatched for the colonies." M: "Horrible old Ironsides?" C: "Well, that's what she's known as in the service. You see, she is possibly the smallest, and most definitely the oldest, postship in the service." M: "Postship? Will she be delivering mail, you think?" C: "Now Doctor… A postship is a ship above twenty guns, but not quite frigate size, commanded by a POST-captain." M: "Hmm, I doubt anyone ever explained me that before…" C: "Not above a dozen times…" M: "Perhaps I should attend better…" C: "Perhaps… She is built like a brick wall, scantlings like a 74. Finest oak. Unfortunately, she handles like one too." M: "Scantlings?" C: "Her sides, Isaac. She started her career as a galleon, back before they razeed her in '04. She is clad in thick oaken timber, and when she was up against a Carnian 18-pounder privateer in '99, not a single shot pierced her! That's how she got her name." M: "18 pounds seems like very little for a privateer…" C shakes his head to himself. M: "Pray, what do you mean "razeed", my friend?" C: "Cutting down her upper works - the fore- and aft-castle. Brings down her centre of gravity, making her stiffer and more stable. Her rigging is rather old-fashioned, though." M: "Old-fashioned?" C: "No topgallants, lateen on the mizzen. Rather under-rigged, really. Slow in anything but a strong gale and useless on a bowline…" M: "Fascinating, I am sure. Will we have the pleasure of meeting him, you think?" C: "Only time will show…" __________________________________________________________________________________________ Just a small freebuild to propel the story and drop a few hints as to things to come. C&C welcome.
  5. Mpyromaxos

    [MOC] Invoke the Gods

    Hello guys, this is my latest moc for a greek contest (fantasy - epic theme). Tell me your opinion and thoughts about it! This is my first big Moc, so.. be gentle! Tnk you and enjoy it! __________________________________________________________________________________ “Invoke the gods” (ask the help of the gods) “Χρῲ τοις Θεοίς..” (Νa επικaλείσaι τους θεούς.) Solon (Greek: Σόλων; c. 638 – c. 558 BC) In Greek mythology, Poseidon is the god of the land and the sea, rivers, sources and drinking water .. With his trident could both create rough seas and calm waters.. His symbols were the trident, fish and occasionally the horse or the bull.. According to legend.. the Poseidon seduced Medusa in the temple of Athena.. the goddess was so furious with it.. so she transformed Medusa into monster.. The ugliness was such.. that whoever looked at her face.. turned into stone .. Medusa wanted to revenge Poseidon now.. so she kills the priestesses and the soldiers who guard the temple .. Their only hope now is to seek the help of the gods.. But to be heard by the gods, they need a sacrifice.. Hermes.. the messenger of the Gods, is there and waiting to hear the invocation to the gods and to carry the message ..
  6. Cooke was in high spirits - This was the kind of sailing he was made for - Cracking on through the waves at nine knots two fathoms under every conceivable scrap of sail. The HMHV Athena was heeling over, and the frequent spray of sea water reached as far as her main mast each time she broke a wave. Cooke we driving her hard, just this side of reckless, and he loved it. So did the crew - After weeks of lying moored in King's Harbour, keeping harbour watch and working hard on shore, they were now back were they felt at home. Familiar duties, meals, and watches that to most landsmen would seem insufferable, was their way of life - and they loved it despite Cooke constantly calling for sail trimmers to get that extra half a knot. Currently, most of them had a respite. It was nearing noon, and Cooke was occupied with his sextant, measuring the angle of the sun at its highest, a daily ceremony that would mark the start of a new naval day and allow him to lay down his latitude with the utmost accuracy. A landsman might have remarked that with the coast of Cocovia clear on the starboard side, this was perfectly superfluous. One had simply to keep it there, and they would invariably reach Quinnsville, their destination, in due time. In fact, Montoya had done so, but surprisingly (to Montoya), Cooke had not attended to his arguments and instead suggested that he should retire to the main-top from where he might spot some curious birds. Right ahead, some wreckage had been spotted, and some of the crew where now exercising the chasers, running out the starboard nine pounder to fire at an empty barrel. This was a procedure they had done countless times, and they were already expert gunners, yet they never seemed to tire from the joy of the great guns firing and hitting true to their mark. On the fore top-gallant yard, a midshipman and a seamen were in the progress of shaking out the last reef in the top-gallant as the wind had dropped slightly, and Cooke believed she would carry it. The HMHV Athena is a snow-rigged sloop-of-war, formerly of the Royal Navy. Originally built in Oleon, but captured at the onset of the last war, she had been Cooke's first independent command and allowed him a small fortune in prize money, as well as several chances to distinguish himself as an enterprising commander, none of which he had passed over. However, during the peace, the Athena had been sold out of the service and Cooke set ashore on half pay. Recently, Montoya had inherited a considerable sum and purchased the Athena, and had now outfitted her for an expedition to the new world. The crown had caught news of this expedition and offered its support, assigning a contingent of Royal Marines, protection from impressment of its crew, and access to ports and supplies, in return for claim to any land discovered. Therefore, the Athena now carried the designation HMHV: Her Majesty's Hired Vessel. She is armed with four 18 pounder carronades per broadside and four long bronze nines for chasers. The long range chasers enable her to harass an enemy from afar with swift and accurate fire during a chase, often allowing her to take weaker enemies, or escape from stronger, without significant damage. And while the carronades are ineffective in long range engagements, they give her the punch of a much larger vessel, if she manages to close with the enemy. Cooke had recently received orders from the Crown, which was the reason for all this cracking on. Not only had his appointment as military governor of King's Harbour been confirmed, but he had also been appointed Military Commander for Cocovia. A rank in navy terms comparable to commodore, and only in very few cases bestowed upon a mere commander, not yet even of post-rank yet. It should be of no surprise that Cooke was both excited and nervous to do a good job. This might well be his best chance for a promotion to post-captain, and perhaps the command of a frigate he had always seen as the pinnacle of naval enterprise. Currently, this new command included only a few forts, a gunboatand the HMHV Athena, plus whatever the mayor of Quinnsville had at his disposition, but his orders had also told him that a mixed battalion of cavalry and infantry was despatched for Cocovia. Therefore, the Athena was stretching out towards the East-coast of Cocovia and Quinnsvilleto discuss military dispositions with Sir Thomas Smaugton, the mayor of the settlement, and to get at better insight in the tactical situation there. At the same time, he would circumnavigate Cocovia to survey all possible landing sites and vantage points, as they may prove to be of tactical importance at a later time. _____________________________________________ Thanks for looking and reading - I hope you enjoyed it - I am quite happy with how this vessel came out, but C&C is always welcome - I would like my next one to be even better. The pictures are a bit potato, but they were taken in the rush of pacing everything up and moving out. I would have preferred a better background and I struggled abit with the sunlight, but I hope you can still enjoy the moc. There are a few more detail and overview shots in flickr. While the landsman might take her for a brig, she is actually snow-rigged, due to the small trysail-mast just abaft the mainmast. I think the Athena is best fitting for a 4A, but thoughts on this is welcome too. I am not going to license her for quite some time, as I will be using her for story purposes, rather than risk losing her in the MRCA. Plus, having her sail around wouldn't fit with my story.