But to their surprise, their benefactor’s master called them to his lair, with Mondavi and Bernoulli in tow. With the wrath of a Merchant Prince of Vodacce hanging over their heads, the heroes had little choice but to travel with Séraphine and her porte magic to Dionna, individual quests for vengeance against the digger placed upon hold. They were greeted graciously by their host, their wounds tended by an eerily silent, masked doctor, and advised that their departure would not be possible.
Uncertain of what the night would hold, the Heroes cleaned themselves and were dressed in the sort of finely-tailored clothing an Imperial Montaigne courtier would envy, and readied for…
Soldi, 27 Tertius, 1668; Dionna, Vodacce; A Dungeon
Three figures stood in the dank dungeons beneath Villanova Towers.
One, a lady of Montaigne, stood silent with her head down in a subservient pose, awaiting him to call upon her to speak. She had traveled the roads of the Montaigne court, and beyond, and she’d known dangerous men. Even with the power her sorcery gave her, he was the most dangerous of all she’d known. Even her father’s ambitions and command of his portion of the world, and the dangerousness it lent him, was like a guttering candle to this man’s blazing bonfire.
The second, a man cloaked in darkness and wearing a disconcerting mask, strode about the two tables that held their tightly-bound prisoners. Both had long since ceased their screams of agony under his careful ministrations, yet a pain beyond that which most men could endure showed upon each of their faces. They had both already passed out four times, and each time, the cloaked man had applied his herbs and potions to awaken them again. With but a word, their pain could increase, continue, or cease. He did not care which, he only lived to serve his Master.
Who, being the third figure standing within the dungeon cell, watched the calculatedly cruel tortures of his prisoners with a smile upon his face as he directed the Doctor in each slice, each cut. He stepped slowly to Bernoulli’s side.
“I’ve heard many tales of your cruelty. You delight in the pain of others. You take pleasure in inflicting such upon those who displease you. I wonder where all of your sensibilities lie when you are on the receiving end, eh, Vittore? You are less than a man, and you could never lead the Bernoulli once your doddering fool of a father passes on to his just rewards. It’s better for you that you lie on my Doctor’s table now, rather than face me in the political arena within a year or two. You are not yet my enemy, but if you were to become so in the future, I grant that the mercy you’d receive would be much less tender than that which I offer you here and now. And I assure you that, unlike yourself, I take no great pleasure in the pain of others. I merely understand that in order to succeed, one must be willing to do… anything.”
The woman glanced up at his words, biting her lower lip slightly as she gazed at him. As he turned towards her, her head spun.
“My lovely lady, I have one more bit of work for you before you return home as my eyes and ears.”
He pulled a bone tube from his belt, beneath his cloak.
“Deliver this to the Eisen general in Mondavi. It is our dear friend Alcide’s command to begin burning the countryside. You must make it disappear after its delivery. In a few days, the people of Mondavi will be begging for deliverance in the absence of their beloved leader.”
Her fingertips lingered on the leather that covered his hands when she took the tube from him, and she could feel a shiver run through her body. This was power. This was command. This was a man who would, and could, do anything to unite his nation.
“And you,” he said, turning from her to the second man lying upon a table, “Don Mondavi. Your home was assailed by the same Eisen raiders that will lay waste to your people. Your men were killed, your wife slain before your very eyes. And what did you do? Why, you fled. Very much like the coward you’ve always portrayed yourself to be. I saw through your act long ago, when I witnessed that duel in Numa. But now, when they find your body upon the shores of Mondavi, eaten by fish from your attempt to escape across the waters, all will view you finally just as you wished to be seen. You will never have that chance you desperately sought to prove yourself as something more than a coward.”
He turned back to the Doctor.
“The men are waiting to take his body. Finish him, and make sure there are no marks upon his body. He must look as though he drowned. And when you are done, there is one more thing this night that needs to be finished. You know where you’ll find him.”
The Doctor nodded silently.
“And now,” Giovanni Villanova said to the occupants of his dungeon, “If you will all excuse me, I must dress. I’ve a dinner to attend.”