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  1. Previously... Hey guys, here's my second Guilds of Historica wonder, this time for the glory of Varlyrio! This is the first part of a huge collab series that we got together, so stay tuned for more . At the end I'll make one post with the whole story for easy reading, but for the meantime, here's the first instalment! Hope you like it! The Tiger of Illaryian: Part I On the outskirts of Illaryian, for countless thousands of centuries, there has stood a towering statue of a giant stone tiger. Perched atop the tall and elegant Royal Arabesque Mansion, this tiger’s claws scratch the very sky. More than one traveler has come to cringe beneath the looming giant in the dark and gloomy night, at least half convinced that it was some gigantic immortal tiger hound, coming to steal their souls. But not the pair of travelers that stood upon the Tiger of Illaryian this night. “Che bella notte!” murmured a wistful girlish voice. “Luca? Are you happy that you are Rego?” Arama looked into the young man’s bright green eyes as he leaned back against the foot of the giant stone statue. She took his hand in hers, caressing it lightly. Luca di Carli cast his eyes about the sandy outskirts of the city before replying. From the roofs of the old mansion they had a beautiful moonlit view of the entire city of Illaryian, all the way out to the boundless sea in the east. “Why do you want me to talk?” Luca answered in a detached way. “You have qualcosa to tell me.” “Può essere,” she hesitated demurely. He looked back at her at last, with keen interest. “Scommetto!” he said. “Let’s go up to the top!” Arama responded without answering directly, blushing beneath the black hood that was wrapped around her pretty face. She took a deep breath and looked at Luca expectantly. He smiled a dashing smile and put his hands together for her to step in. In just another second they were both crawling across the broad back of the statue, making their way further and further over the edge of the mansion. Now a light mist crept in and began to cover the city in its haze, so that the ground beneath them was lost in its swirling depths. Arama gasped and sat down on the brow of the tiger. “This is the perfect place for my story,” she breathed, looking at the buildings around her with a feeling of excitement and freedom pulsing through her veins. The entire world lay there beneath them! Beneath Luca di Carli and Arama di Athena de Cioto! “Accidenti!” Luca slowly stood up by her side and she gave him her hand again to steady him, looking up into his eyes with just a slight glimmer of fright in her own. Luca stood slowly up by her side, and she gave him her hand to steady him. “Don’t try to go up too high, signore,” she murmured, more to herself than to him. “No,” he answered, “no. Don’t push me to go too high, De Cioto.” She laughed and shook her head. “I went to the Sunken City,” she said abruptly. “I know,” frowned Luca, fingering his cloak. He clenched his fist. “I forbade you to go.” “I know. And what you predicted… happened…” Luca looked at her quickly, his eyes wide. “Quasi,” she gulped. “Well?” Luca looked down at his feet, and at the black fog beneath them. “I won’t bother you with all the dettagli. They wanted to kill me, signore.” “The Kolgari?” Arama nodded and swallowed. “Girl! How could you, Arama?” Luca flashed out angrily, dropping her hand and leaping a pace away. “Don’t you care if Varlyrio is torn apart? I warned you. Arama, it was the one thing I told you that you could not do!” “Attento!” the girl called out, leaning forward on her hands. Truly Luca was standing in a precarious position, on the tiger’s upper jaw, directly overlooking the dark abyss. “Come closer to me,” Arama begged. “That’s why I went to the Sunken City! Luca, the Kolgari Elves are wary. After the terrible fashion in which Supano Amancio treated them they are loath to commit to any allegiance beneath a new sovereign. But now, I have a way!” Her eyes shone and she gingerly rose to her feet too, stretching forth both hands towards di Carli. “What do you mean?” Luca asked mistrustfully. “Oh Luca, listen to what happened!” She snatched up his hands from his side to balance herself. “I was in the Sunken City,” she began. “No matter how I got there. Come ho detto, my life was in the gravest danger, for they had discovered that an infiltrator from the world above had come to the caves, and they scoured the forests and dens to hunt me down. But I was not all alone.” “Who was with you,” Luca asked sharply. “He said, ‘They call me The Tiger.’” Arama looked up into Luca’s eyes, a fiery look on her face. “His name is Prince Råiden Tígrisdýrið.” “Is it, ih! Why were you with this Råiden?” said Luca coldly. “He met us as we drew near to the city. His eyes danced when he saw me—Luca, he fell in love with me,” Arama’s eyes danced merrily too. Luca vouchsafed no reply. “But Luca,” Arama said eagerly, grabbing his cold cheeks, and making him sit down by her side, “this Kolgari is from high circles. Circles of elves. Don’t you see? He saved my life. Sì!” she stopped Luca’s mouth, “They poisoned me with their magic, they found me, and I was bleeding to death. Then The Tiger convinced them all, every one of them, to let me leave in the morning.” “But you were bleeding to death!” mocked Luca. Arama laughed and threw back her hood, tossing her hair over her back. “I was in the land of the Kolgari, the most famous magicians in the Guilds! I don’t think anyone else would have cared if I had died, but Råiden took me secretly to an ancient shrine, a beautiful enchanting place, Luca. There he put my hand upon an amulet with a muttered pronouncement, and bene signore, faint and dying one moment, in the next I promettere, I felt healthier and happier than I ever had before in my life, and all my blood came back into me, and my wound disappeared completely. See, here is the scar, all that is left of a deadly wound! That amulet, Rego, is worth more than all of the Kolgari.” “Now suddenly I do not understand why any Kolgari ever die,” commented the Rego ironically. Arama bent over and put her lips to his ear, “Po signore, the amulet can only save humans.” “But who is this Prince Råiden to you?” Luca asked coolly. “Certo, he is my dearest love… when I am with him,” Arama smiled coyly. “Don’t you see you grande idiota! He is the key to the Kolgari. Listen to my plan! I have never made a better one…” Arama hunkered down and cast her hood back over her head, for the night was cold, the mist had slowly vanished, and she would not have been seen by anyone else for all the world… But as for that, it was too late. Not so far off, in the Palazzo Vincenzo—a new mansion under construction on the outskirts of Illaryian, with a charming view of the ancient stone tiger monument—a lone architect still wandered the half built corridors and roofs. But for a while now he had ceased wandering. “Sana Argenta! Tis the Rego,” he murmured keenly, as he knelt down in the shadows behind an empty window and watched the pair of figures on the head of the Tiger of Illaryian. “And that… that is the figure of una signorina—puh! if she is a signorina.” Signore Brabantio Moccenigo, for it was he, put his hand to his forehead and squinted to catch a glimpse of the girl's face beneath her hood, but the moon was to her back, and with an exclamation of disappointment he grabbed the windowsill. “There is something here,” Brabantio muttered. “Qualcosa that is not right. And if only I could use this qualche cosa to my advantage!” Suddenly the girl upon the tiger’s brow laughed and threw back her hood with a gesture, shaking her hair in the wind. Signore Moccenigo gasped. “By Sana Argenta…” was all that he murmured, “It is Arama De Cioto!” .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Brabantio Moccenigo followed the cloak-and-dagger pair to more than one of their secret reunions. From then on he was their shadow, a dark and sinister shadow, cunning and scrupulous, learning dark secrets and deadly proofs. Brabantio only failed to take into account one thing. If he was dead, none of it could possibly do him any good… One fateful evening as Signore Moccenigo’s plans at last began to fall into place, a little before the sun also fell into its place beneath the horizon, Arama di Athena De Cioto sat out in a wide field upon the grass with Luca di Carli’s arms around her waist. The field was an abandoned one, but even so she was wrapped up closely in a black mantle and hood, and the Rego also was cautiously disguised, so that none should recognize them. But Signore Moccenigo knew their faces and their names, without even seeing them, for he had dogged them there. As he lay hidden behind a small and ruined stone wall he pondered the measures he had taken to ensure success. Was everything completely ready? Had any little detail been overlooked? That very pomeriggio he had finished writing the letters. Already one was in the hands of no one less than Prince Råiden Tígrisdýrið, with directions to open it at once. Moccenigo thought himself very clever for having sought out such a delicate ally, and in the brief letter he promised to send more, which should be opened only if he himself by any chance died. In reality he knew that Råiden would never open the second letter. It was nothing but leverage. He would give it to him at the same time as he sent out the other letter to the Rego. Yes, that was an excellent plan. They would not dare to trouble him—for if any ill befell him they would only end up in worse problems, dalla padella alla brace. Brabantio leaned over the wall to cast a quick glance at the merrily chatting pair. Only he knew the horrible surprise which was in store for them soon. “As you sow you shall reap,” he murmured beneath his breath, forgetting how his adages might always cut two ways. What he fully expected to reap was nothing more nor less than a full king's ransom once they bought him off! He was made for life, and his family would share in the good fortune, although he was not so rash as to let them share in the obvious dangers. Yes, everything was working to perfection. Ricatto had never been so easy! Arama De Cioto was bored. Luca was still vacillating about her plan, and she was sure that he was wasting his time. She rolled over in the grass. “No, I don’t want to be Rego myself,” she grinned, rolling her eyes at Luca as he asked her for the hundredth time. “Then let me be,” admonished di Carli, running his hand through the girl's long hair beneath her hood. Suddenly Arama’s whole attitude changed. What was that? No, it was already gone, but she had seen it clearly. It was someone’s face, watching them from over the low wall to their left! She rolled over in the grass again, her heart in her throat, so that she could look up into the Rego’s face. “I… I have to go, Luca,” she said uneasily, scrambling to her feet and kissing the Rego’s hand. “Le mie scuse, sorry! Addio!” She walked slowly backwards, watching Luca’s baffled face, until she got around the corner of a wall. Then she turned and ran. She ran around in a half circle, as fast as she could, until she found herself watching the wall from which they had been watched. There was no one there! But to the left there was a man on his feet, walking swiftly towards the Northern Gate of Illaryian. He was the only person on the horizon. She crept after him. If he was going to go far she would need a horse… but then she didn’t really need to know where he was going, if she could only get close enough she would see the coat of arms upon the man's breast coat, perhaps even recognize his face. Arama clenched her fists and grasped the hilt of her knife. As the man entered a tavern stable to search for his horse she saw the sigil upon his sleeve. The house of Moccenigo! She would be there before the clocks struck midnight, and she guaranteed that whichever Moccenigo this was, his life would not be a long one. “Kiss your soul goodbye,” she murmured softly into the air, as she wheeled round and hurried off into the night. But after all the sun was high in the sky the next day when a dark figure rode up to a halt before the beautiful Villa Moccenigo in Porto Caglaveri. “I am here before him,” muttered the masked figure, slipping off the horse and leading it around to a picket. “Aspettami,” she whispered to the horse. Arama had been riding through the night here and there, following the mysterious Moccenigo wherever he went, until at last he left Illaryian completely behind, and divining that he was at last headed for La Villa Moccenigo, she put the spurs into her horse and reached her destination before him. All was prepared now. But she had to make sure that her move was a final one. There could be no loose ends, lest for lack of caution the house of di Carli come tumbling to the ground, and the house of De Cioto along with it. With a bound she was over the fence into the Moccenigo Villa grounds. Arama looked up at an open window on the second floor and a look of determination flitted across her face beneath the mask. All was dark within that room, although in others candlelight was visible behind the curtains. “That is where I must look, scommetto,” she said hoarsely. She sprang swiftly up onto the wall, climbing with agility from sill to sill and from corbel to corbel until she reached the window on the second storey. With one quick glance inside she pushed it open and slipped in. She closed the window after her. Arama stood in a darkened study filled with bookshelves and counters, with a beautiful desk right beside the large sash window through which she had entered. “Ehi!” she whistled beneath her breath, rushing over to the desk upon which lay certain opened papers and letters. “Brabantio Moccenigo,” she purred threateningly, reading his name from off a dozen papers. She paled as she hastily looked more closely over the first one that came to her hand. “Accidenti! he knows far too much! Meno male I am in time!” she cried in a fierce undertone. With a bound she reached the door. It was a private study. “Tis locked! Che fortuna! The secret is still safe, these letters prove themselves to be the only ones that he has written, and they could not have been perused by any other within the house. He would not have allowed them in. No, he would not have left the papers exposed were it not a safe room, where no one but himself ever entered.” With a rough hand the infiltrator spilled the other papers about upon the floor and searched the drawers carefully for more evidence—but besides the two letters upon the desk, one of which had been addressed to the Rego, and the other to an anonymous individual, there was nothing whatsoever to interest her. Still, for precautions sake Arama seized several important blueprints, documents relating to the construction of a Cattedrale in Caglaveri, and other architectural papers. She shoved them all into her bag and hid behind the broad and heavy curtains with a grim smile. Across her back was slung a light crossbow and a full quiver, and the crossbow was already loaded… “Signore Brabantio!” exclaimed the masked figure suddenly, hearing a horse gallop into the yard without. Arama spun swiftly round and looked down towards the entrance. A lacchè was opening the gate for a tall man upon a handsome white horse. Even in the distance Arama recognized him at once. She closed her eyes briefly and felt that she could still see that face peering over the low stone wall at Luca di Carli and at her. She grit her teeth and shifted uneasily behind the curtain. Then suddenly a calmness took over her frame, and she felt that she was no longer even Arama di Athena De Cioto: she was only a nameless assassin now. With a cool pert look upon her face she watched as Brabantio Moccenigo exited the building again with a hurried step and remounted his horse. Then she opened the window with a gentle movement, stepped out onto the roof again, and followed him. .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.