Post by HED on Jul 27, 2013 11:11:07 GMT
Piero dala Vachio, Rogue from Varantium
Port de Iachia, Varantium, Holy Dominion
Piero dala Vachio walked casually down Market Street, the leather cap he had pulled snugly over his head shading his eyes from the late afternoon sun. Porto de Iachia was not a large city, but being in the northeast of Varantium it had dodged most of the war that brought the rest of the region to ruin. What this meant to Piero was a crowded marketplace, and that meant plenty of adults to hide between. He passed by a cart of pears and, flashing a smile to the merchant’s young daughter, casually took one of the fruits for his own. As he walked away he tugged his cap down.
“Hey, kid!” The merchant shouted. “You gotta pay for that!”
The boy set off running as he heard the words, dodging between the legs of the crowd. The fruit merchant, a stout man but not a slow one, chased after him. Piero ran out of the crowd and down an alley, hoping the merchant wouldn’t see him do so. His cousin, Georgio, was there waiting for him. Much to their mutual disappointment, the merchant followed the boys. The alley was a dead end, with a stone wall at the end, but Piero was quite the climber, and Georgio even better, and the stones provided excellent platforms for little hands and feet. The merchant tried to follow, to no avail. Piero took one last look at the merchant, who was shouting obscenities at him, before turning and running. Right into someone.
“You should look where you’re going, boy,” the man said, kneeling down and helping Piero to his feet. “Don’t want to get hurt.”
Piero wiped some dirt from his face before looking up. “Uncle Dom?”
“That boy is a menace!” The merchant called from below. “I’ll get the Wardens to teach him a lesson! That I will!”
“Watch your tongue.” Domenico dala Vachio replied. He took a gold coin from his pocket and flipped it down. “That should cover whatever you think he stole.”
The merchant caught the coin, bit it, and then slipped it in his pocket. He turned away, grumbling. Dom lead Piero and Georgio away, down a cobblestone road.
“Papa, what are you doing here?” Georgio asked.
“Is that any way to speak to your father?” Dom smacked him lightly on the ear. “ I know your habits better than you think. Uncle Bastian sent me to get you two. Some sort of impromptu family gathering.”
“Impromptu?” Piero asked.
“Unplanned. Pay more attention to your tutors.” Dom explained. “So, what’d you take?”
Piero pulled the pear from his pocket.
“Ah, give it here then.” Piero gave the fruit to his Uncle, who took a bite before tossing it back. “Let’s get along, now.”
“Uncle Dom, why is there a family gathering?”
“I think they found your mother.”
After leaving the kids outside, with the other little ones, Dom hurried into to the entrance hall of the manor. The dala Vachio family manor had once been grand, but time and taxes had taken their toll. Now the only thing grand about it was the size. But still, it was friendly, it was home. Dom quickly threw his coat on top of a table in the hall as he approached the dining hall, where the rest of them had gathered. Taking a moment to catch his breath, Dom smoothed back his hair and pushed the door open.
“---can’t believe Chiara would do such a thing.” Dom caught Paolina Caccini in the middle of her sentence.
“I wouldn’t be that surprised, milady.” Dom’s responded, as he settled into a chair. “She was always a bitch, if you ask me.”
“Watch what you say about my sister, you-”
“Enough!” Bastian shouted. Dom noted that his older brother’s eyes were red, though from exhaustion or tears he could not tell. “Paolina, I’m as surprised my wife’s behavior as you are. But I saw her with my own eyes.”
“Bastian, the baby, is it...?”
“The incident forced its birth early. It is alive, remarkably, though not well. Doctor Bernardi tends to it upstairs.” Bastian paused before continuing. “I gathered the family to warn you. You remember what the Wardens did to the Puccini family after Mercurio’s transgressions.”
“You want us to leave?” Lorenzo, Dom’s brother and the eldest of the three, said incredulously. “Bastian, our family has lived in this area for generations. And you expect us to just back up and leave?”
“What choice do we have?”A Fancy Estate, Faloran Republic
Piero popped an olive into his mouth, chewing a bit and spitting out the pit. He grabbed a glass of wine from the table and made his way through the crowd, doing his best to look aimless. The wedding was a crowded affair, filled with the wealthy and the important. Piero was neither of those, but he was charming and more than a little clever, and so had found his way inside anyways. Spying his friend, he downed the wine and set the glass on another table. He made his over, past a fat man who was already drunk, and to his friend, who was very much sober.
“Ah, Marco, my friend!” Piero said, pulling him in for a hug. Piero found it unreciprocated.
“Give us a moment, will you?” Marco said, dismissing the couple he had been talking with a moment before. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Piero, what the fuck are you doing here?”
“Oh, don’t get all excited.” Piero replied. “A wedding this fancy was an invitation I couldn’t turn down.”
“You weren’t invited!” Marco’s whisper was getting less hushed. He was a big fellow, and already his hair was greying. He was Piero’s best friend, too.
“Don’t sweat the details. You’ve been complaining all week that you don’t have any friends here.” Piero said. “I’ve just saved you from being bored out of your mind.”
Marco sighed. “Just keep a low profile, okay?”
“I’m all about low profile. I even dressed for the occasion.” Piero gestured at his suit, before looking about. “Now, where is the lucky couple?”
“Don’t you dare-”
“I’m not going to talk to them. Indulge my curiosity.”
“There.” Marco nodded to Piero’s left. He turned around to look.
“Shit.” Piero whispered, spying the newly married couple.
“Piero, what did you do?”
“I might have slept with his fiancée a few weeks ago.” Piero said coyly.
“I’ve got to get out of here. Before he-” As Piero spoke, the groom turned his head and made eye contact with Piero. “-sees me.”
The groom started angrily shouting as Piero took off sprinting through the crowd. Marco, at a loss for what to do, followed after. They took off out of the grand ballroom and into a hallway, and then off into a stairwell. Piero could hear a group following after them. Marco was struggling to keep up as Piero jumped onto the landing below and ran into the entrance hall. The servants, surprised at the mad dash, hurried out of his way as he pushed through the main doors. Piero, Marco just behind him, ran straight through the garden. Behind them was a group of the scarier looking friends of the groom. The two friends crashed through a bush and found themselves on the edge of a river. A decent drop awaited them.
“Jump.” Piero said to Marco.
“You can’t be serious?” Marco said, struggling to catch his breath.
Piero dove into the river.
“Damn it.” Marco said, before following suit.
Piero climbed ashore down river. Evidently, the party had given up the chase. He quite liked the spot, as it was both secluded and beautiful. He stripped off my of his close, laying them on rocks to dry before lying on the sandy river bed, a smile on his face. Marco, on the other hand, came out of the water gasping for breath, his expensive suit soaked, and collapsed on the sand. Piero chuckled at his friend.
“My mother was right.” Marco declared. “You are a bad influence.”
“Don’t be silly. That was fun.” Piero said, pushing himself up and looking at Marco. “Wasn’t it?”
“...yeah.” Marco admitted. “You see the look on his face? I’ve never seen a man angrier in my life.”
“I’d be mad if I were him too. The girl was quite the beauty.” Piero declared. “A bit unenthusiastic in bed, though. Not that he’d know.”
“Perhaps you aren’t as skilled between the sheets as you’d like to think.”
“Ask your mother, she can vouch for me.”
“I’ll be too busy with your-” Marco caught himself. Bringing up Piero’s mother was a sure way to kill the conversation. “Sisters.”
“Fuck off, man.” Piero said playfully, throwing sand at Marco.
“Ah, I’m never going to get invited back to that place am I?” Marco said. “And I was going to spend the night there.”
“You can crash at my place.” Piero offered.
“That place is crowded enough as it is. I’ll rent a room, somewhere.” Marco sat up. “Say, how are we going to get back into town?”
“We walk.” Piero answered.
“Couldn’t have brought a horse or something?”
“I don’t like horses. Besides, a walk will do you good.” Piero stood up and went to get his clothes. “Sun will be setting soon. We best get started.”
Post by Timeon on Aug 1, 2013 14:28:10 GMT
Sabria, Capital of the Republic.
A few months after crashing the wedding, Piero dala Vachio was strolling through the streets of Sabria. Built of white stone, with elegant columns lining most public buildings, Sabria was widely considered a jewel of humanity. Tiled roofs sloped gently down upon most homes, each tile arranged with an artisan's care. Most squares opened up to series of benches, fountains and trees. Flocks of birds criss-crossed the skies of blue, white and gold, dancing between rays of light breaking through the clouds.
Several aqueducts converged around the city, supplying water from the surrounding hills. In addition, Sabria was built between two great lakes. Water was one thing it had in abundance. Stopping at a fountain, Piero washed his hands and face. People milled about him, discussing pleasantries, gossip and politics. The bustle of city life was stressful and difficult around the world, it was said, except in Sabria.
Enjoying his stroll, Piero resolved to go buy sweetbread from the Carter family, who ran Sabria's most popular bakery. Their bakery was just off the plaza before the Senate, and as Piero walked towards it, he could hear a lot of angry shouting. No doubt there was another demonstration in front of the Senate. Which group organized it, he could not guess. Last week it had been the monarchists, crying out their support for the so-called Gustavius Tremeier Victurio III, the last true heir of the First Faloran Imperium. Piero had only remembered the name because many in his family supported Gustavius. They did so because they were from Varantium, and were somewhat conservative like that.
It was the sort of rubbish that Piero could not really care less about. It was on par with horses, and he did not like horses.
The Carter bakery was open, but empty, which was strange. Master Carter stood by the door, a hunted look to him.
"Piero? What are you doing here?"
"I've come to buy sweetbread." Piero said, feeling confused. "Obviously."
Master Carter beckoned towards the square with his head.
"No." Carter said, shaking his head. "It's Senator Dorman Hector. He's trying to pass a law against immigrants. Like you, Piero."
"Well, good think my family already moved here." Piero said, choosing sweetbreads from the display.
"It's unfair, Piero!" Carter said, clenching his fist. "Most of the government came from Varantium after Shatterbridge, you know. But because they've been here two generations they think that new arrivals aren't really Faloran."
"How's your son by the way? He's in the navy isn't he?" Piero asked, tossing a few coins into Carter's hand.
Piero was already outside, and started to head home. When he drew near to his neighbourhood, he could hear shouting and screaming. That finally caused some worry in him, and he sped up his pace. Arriving in the slums on the edge of the city, he could see thugs roughing their way into crowds of Varantium-born Falorans. His aunt Paolina Caccini was the first familiar face he saw. She was being pushed around by two men with weapons, who looked like they could be soldiers wearing only parts of their uniform. He began to jog towards them, not sure what he was going to do.
Then he saw his cousins, amongst them Georgio, being led away with their hands bound. A company of soldiers was leading them away.
Post by HED on Aug 6, 2013 0:50:10 GMT
Well, this was nothing good.
“What the fuck is going on here?” Piero blurted out, approaching his Aunt Paolina.
“Damn dommies were disrespecting Senator Hector.” One of the ‘soldiers’ spat. ‘Dommies’ was what they called immigrants from the Dominion. “We’re keeping the peace, is all.”
“This hardly looks peaceful to me.” Piero said.
“Not our fault.”
“Bullshit!” Paolina said. “Gustavius won’t stand for you treating the people of his empire like this!”
“Uncle Gus can’t do shit for you now.” The other soldier shot back.
“Damn, a dommie and a Monarchist.” The first said. “You’re all kinds of trouble.”
“Look, look, look, brothers, calm down, I’m sure this is just a big misunderstanding.” Piero said. “Why don’t you and your fellows let these people go and we can hash this out over drinks?”
“Let these bastard have it, Piero!” Georgio shouted as he was dragged away.
“These dommies know you?” the first soldier asked.
“That’s a damned dommie accent if I ever heard one.” the other replied.
“...I’ll be on my way now.” Piero said.
He turned to go, only to be grabbed by one of the soldiers. Piero felt his hands being bound behind his back before being shoved into the larger group of prisoners, the one that included his cousins. His aunt received similar treatment. Besides Georgio, Piero had many cousins and while not all were present, there were more than enough to provide company. He tried to take the indignity in stride but the bindings were tight and uncomfortable, causing him to grimace. The soldiers began leading them away.
“Great job sticking up for your family,” One of Georgio’s older sisters hissed.
“Vendramina, forgive me for trying to avoid a place in the dungeon.” Piero snapped. “What the fuck did you all do?”
Nobody had an answer to give. It seemed that the soldiers had been most unexpected by all of them. Piero noticed a look on Georgio’s face that seemed to belie his innocence, but he was in little mood to throw accusations. He began whistling the Faloran national anthem as they were escorted to the detention center. Piero could tell it annoyed the guards, and so he continued to do so.
After a few hours, a guard escorted Piero out of his cell and removed his chains. They handed him back his coin purse, though he swore it felt lighter than before. He stretched out his limbs and headed out the front doors. Piero found Marco waiting for him outside. He gave his friend a grateful hug.
“Brother, am I glad to see you.” Piero said. “You have something to do with getting me out of here?”
“That I do. My family holds some sway, you know.” Marco explained. “Most of the rest of your family is already out. You took a bit longer. Seems you have some prior offenses that made them reluctant.”
“I didn’t do anything this time, Marco. I swear.” Piero insisted. “You said most of my family is out?”
“Seems they trumped up some prostitution charges for Vendramina,”
“Oh, she’ll get out of here eventually. She’s Senator del Sera’s favorite.” Piero quipped. Marco rolled his eyes. “Anyone else?”
“Seems Georgio was the only one they actually had evidence against. Not even my vouching for him would turn their hearts.” Marco explained. “Everyone else is out. Your aunt Paolina made it hard for herself though. Kept mouthing off at the guards.”
“That she would.” Piero nodded. “What they got Georgio on?”
“Espionage, conspiracy against the state, what not.” Marco explained. “Bullshit, probably, but you know how the city guard is about immigrants. Old and new.”
“You’re telling me.” Piero said, as they passed a bar. “I could go far a drink.”
Piero smiled, and put his arm around his friend’s shoulder as they walked into the bar.
Post by Timeon on Aug 10, 2013 19:59:11 GMT
Piero only had ten minutes worth of drinking and trying to unwind before his father Bastian assaulted his peace and quiet. He was obviously alongside uncle Domenico, who probably expected Piero to help him get his son back.
"Georgio needs our help." uncle Domenico said, eyes resting on Piero.
"Thank you for your help, Marco, as always." Bastian said more gracefully, bowing slightly to Marco. In answer, Marco raised his flagon in a salute.
Piero dala Vachio began to feel distinctly uncomfortable.
"Father, what do you want?"
"Like Dom said. Georgio needs our help. The Falorans are going to try and press him into military service. A friend of mine in the barracks said so. There's going to be a train of prisoners and dissidents leaving Sabria tomorrow. They're going to try take him to the shipyards in Midium."
"It's barbaric, it's essentially slavery!" Marco said, looking between Bastian and Dom. "I'll try get involved again, but-"
"There's nothing you can do, son." Bastian rested his hands on Marco's shoulders. "Go home, you've done enough. Tell your family that the dala Vachios will always be in their debt."
With a hesitant look towards Piero, Marco sighed and then left the bar. Piero was left awkwardly looking at his elders, and decided to have another swig of ale. Bastian pulled him off his seat and shook him about slightly.
"Pull yourself together, Piero. We're going to need you."
"Need me for what?"
"We need to organize a demonstration." Bastian said with finality. "Block the trail of prisoners from leaving Sabria."
"You want me to do it?"
"You're good with bullshit, Piero. I'll try to rally the people in our area, but you need to do your bit to stir up trouble too. Make a scene, do something, anything. People are afraid, but they need to be angry instead. Do you understand?"
"Hey." uncle Dom said, brows furrowed. "Brother, we can get help from the Emperor, Gustavius."
With a frustrated groan, Bastian rounded on his brother.
"That boy is not emperor, and not everyone in this family is a monarchist, Dom. Besides, Armant Freic lets nobody in his mansion. Nobody who lives to tell the tale, anyway."
"Come on. It's my son we're talking about." Dom shot back, waving his hands expressively. "And address the Emperor by his imperial name. He is no longer Armant Freic. He is Gustavius the Third."
"Whatever." Bastian turned away from Dom. "Piero, we need to get Georgio out of prison before it is too late. That's all that matters. Family."
Post by HED on Aug 11, 2013 0:41:44 GMT
“Family, hmm?” Piero muttered, taking another sip of his drink.
"Piero, for once in your life, can you please just do what I say?" Bastian growled.
"Did you ever stop to think that maybe," Piero said. “Just maybe, Georgio brought this on himself?”
“Piero, please-” Bastian tried to interrupt his son.
“The guard has him locked up, with evidence this time. Marco said so.” Piero continued, standing up. “Maybe this is all his fault for getting himself caught?”
“What your fucking mouth, you little bitch.” Dom said. Piero didn’t avert his gaze from his father.
“Watch your own, Dom. I will deal with my son.” Bastian replied.
“Deal with yourself, asshole,” Piero said, pushing past his father and walking out of the bar.
“Piero!” Bastian shouted after him, to no avail. “Damn it.”
“Excuse me.” the bartender. “Somebody is paying for those drinks.”
Dom leered at Bastian.
Piero sighed as he knocked on the large wooden door. A slit opened up, and he could see a pair of eyes looking out at him. The slit closed, followed by the sound of opening locks. The door swung open and Piero stepped inside. He was led down the hall, to an office. A thuggish looking man frisked him for weapons before letting him inside. Piero sat down in a plush chair across from a middle-aged man. Vicenzo Mazzei was one of Sabria’s wealthiest men and, as was one of the most poorly kept secrets, one of the city’s most influential crime bosses.
“Piero, my condolences.” He said. “I heard about Georgio. A shame.”
“Yeah, real shame.” Piero responded, diverting his gaze.
“Now, then, what are you here for?” He asked. “I thought you said you were out?”
“That was then.” Piero said. “I need your guys to make some trouble at the prisoner march.”
“A riot, Piero?” Mazzei mused. “Riots are tricky, riots are expensive.”
“Just make it happen, okay?” Piero snapped.
“And what would I get in exchange?” He asked.
“That favor you wanted?” Piero said. “I’ll do it.”
“Piero, my boy...” Mazzei smiled, shaking Piero’s hand. “Welcome back to the family.”
Post by Timeon on Aug 17, 2013 22:46:46 GMT
Sabria, Capital of the Republic.
I have too many family members. Piero dala Vachio thought, as he stood amidst a crowd.
A cold wind swept the streets of Sabria. Piero pulled his clothes tighter around him, his body trembling as the chilly air invaded his personal space. The crowd had gathered along one of the main avenues of Sabria, a highway which led into the countryside, towards the north. It was along here that the indentured labourers would march towards Midium, drafted from the ranks of petty criminals and illegal immigrants. Whatever Georgio had been accused of, he had gotten himself into a world of trouble. A life in the military would be tough on a slob like him.
After thirty terribly uncomfortable minutes, the prisoners appeared around a street corner, being marched into the main avenue by a procession of Republican soldiers. The crowds on either side booed and yelled, cursing the Senate for its cruelties. All the people who had assembled here probably had family members or loved ones amongst the prisoners. It was a volatile situation - a situation which Piero had ensured would lead to disaster, thanks to Mazzei.
When the prisoners passed by Piero, Piero glimpsed over shoulders, looking for a sign of Georgio. He was sure he saw him, eventually, but only for a second.
"No slavery in Jovinium!" a chant began to arise. "Freedom for all!"
"No slavery in Jovinium!"
It was not slavery, of course - at least not literally. Piero wondered if Mazzei was responsible for starting the chant. He probably was.
Something made a loud bang - a rifle? Somebody screamed. The crowd fell silent for a single moment only. Piero looked up, seeing a man on the rooftops, only to vanish seconds later.
You're going to cause a riot... with murder?
The crowd erupted into a roar, people on either side of the avenue surging against the soldiers, pouring forward. Prisoners were freed, only to join the chaos. More gunpowder exploded around Piero, as violence engulfed Sabria. There had never been a riot like this, not with such open violence, not in recent times.
For a moment, Piero dala Vachio was not sure what to do. Rush forward, and try find Georgio? Run away, to be safe from firearms and hooves?
A shout rang down the avenue, a company of riders approaching the violence. At their head was a young hawk-faced man, flying a flag - the standard of the first Faloran Empire. It was probably Armant Freic.
"Hold, people of Jovinium! This is not the way!"
At first, nobody listened. But then another shout went up.
"It's Gustavius! Long live the Emperor!"
Armant Freic smiled, his horse rearing triumphantly. Another shot fired, from who, it was impossible to tell. Piero was sandwiched between two people, and he knew he might be caught in the crossfire again unless he acted fast - with or without Georgio.
Post by HED on Aug 26, 2013 17:23:33 GMT
Piero hesitated only a second longer. Georgio was his family, and he wouldn’t abandon him to this chaos. If he were to be shot in the crossfire… well, he’d deal with that later. He dove off into the crowd, pushing against the masses of people. Sometimes, making his way through prove easily, with people either moving aside or having weak footing for Piero to shift. But mostly, he moved slowly. He was running to the spot where he thought he’d seen Georgio, but in the back of his mind he knew there was no guarantee that it had even been his cousin in the first place, or if he’d still be in that area. He felt he had to try. Piero felt something close around his arm, a hand, and pull him back.
“Let go!” Piero said, turning to face the man holding him. He recognized him from Mazzei’s office. Another man took hold of his free arm. “What the fuck?”
The two enforcers dragged Piero out of the crowd, as he thrashed about and cried for help. Normally that would have worked to get him free, but his shouts were lost in the noise of the crowd. He was not a strong man, at least not strong each to break free from the grasps of Mazzei’s men. He was taken into a back alley and through a door, into a dark room with only three chairs occupying it. He was thrown into one chair and tied to it by one of the men while the other locked the door. Then his two kidnappers sat in their own chairs, staring at him.
“What the fuck is going on here?” Piero’s voice was hoarse from screaming.
“The boss didn’t want you getting yourself killed.”
“Least not before you do the job for him.”
“We’re going to sit here until that riot all done with. Any questions?”
Piero glared at the floor. There wasn’t much he could do.
Post by Timeon on Sept 7, 2013 6:44:28 GMT
As the noise outside began to quiet down, the door opened. A man dressed in red and black walked in, a feathered cap atop his head. He pushed up a chair, lifted Piero's head up, and stuck his lower lip out in a pitying fashion.
"Your cousin is fine."
"You just made my day!"
"And now, you're about to make mine." the feather cap gentleman explained.
"I'm not that kind of guy." Piero answered truthfully, and faked a sad sigh.
"I think you are." the feather cap gentleman retorted. "So here's how it's going to go. You owe Mazzei a lot. It is time to do that favour Mazzei has been waiting on. A favour only you can fulfil, because, Piero, you are Piero. Not because you have any special skills or talents, mind you. Simply because you are Piero dala Vachio. The only member of your family stupid enough to work for Mazzei. And you are the nephew of Lorenzo dala Vachio."
Piero stuck his jaw out, squinted, and pretended to look deep in thought for a few moments.
"The fuck you talking about?"
"I'm talking." the feather cap gentleman elaborated, rising to his feet and sticking his hands on his hips. "About the fact that Lorenzo dala Vachio has contacts in Lunium, back from when your family lived in the Dominion. Your uncle is involved in a small drug trade in the middle of a war zone. You know about Lunium, don't you?"
"Well, if I did not know about Lunium, I would be a terrible history student. Which I am. But I know about it anyway."
"Good." the feather cap gentleman said. "You are going to smuggle a package into Lunium, using your uncle's network. I want you to do this in person. If you fail, I will undo Georgio dala Vachio's rescue. As a start. Also, don't open the package. Just find the chief quartermaster and tell him he's got a gift from Mazzei."
"What's your name by the way?" Piero asked.
"My name is-"
"Excuse me, but I didn't ask for your life story."
The feather cap gentleman pouted.
Lunium - the last Dominion controlled city on the isle of Jovinium. It had been under siege by the Republic for decades, but no matter how hard the Republic tried, they simply could not take it down. The Malvernians controlled Lunium's coastal waters, and so, Lunium could always resupply itself, and get reinforcements. It was a massive thorn in the side of the Republic.
"So, when do I start?" Piero piped up happily.
"Now." the feather cap gentleman said, shoving a package into Piero's gentle hands.
Post by HED on Sept 17, 2013 21:52:59 GMT
The door of the dala Vachio household as Piero pushed the door open, moonlight streaming through from outside. He slipped inside, removing his boots, his coat and his cap. He kept the package tucked tightly under his arm. Piero tiptoed down the hall, trying not to wake any of his family, many members of which lived in this house. He turned into the dining room on his way to the stairs, and to his surprise he found his uncle Dom sitting in a chair, dimly illuminated by candlelight.
“...hello?” Piero’s voice was at a whisper.
“There was a riot at the prisoner transfer,” Dom said. “Georgio got free. He’s sleeping now.”
“I hadn’t heard about any riots. I was out fishing.”
“No such luck.”
“What’s in the box?” Dom said, spying the package.
“Nothing.” Piero said at once.
“Nothing?” Dom said, arching an eyebrow.
“Empty boxes are useful. Never know when you’ll want to put something in one.”
“You have something you like to put into a box?”
“Depends on what you mean by that.” Piero said. “Did you stay up for something, or…?”
“I wanted to apologize about what I said to you the other day. Family shouldn’t talk to family like that.” Dom stood up and walked over to Piero, offering a hand. “Are we good?”
Piero shook his hand. “Say, speaking of family, when does Uncle Lorenzo get him.”
“Tomorrow morning, why?”
“Been a while, is all. It’ll be nice to see him.” Piero paused to yawn. “I’m going to sleep now, if that’s okay.”
“Of course, of course.” Dom said. “See you in the morning.”
The table was large, crowded and wonderful as the whole of the dala Vachio family ate brunch to celebrate the return of Lorenzo dala Vachio. Not that it was an uncommon occurrence for him be gone and come back, but they had missed the chance to celebrate his birthday with him due to his being away, so they made this an occasion. Piero was sandwiched between two female relatives. On his left was Vendramina, who had arrived late due to her early morning ‘commitments’, and on the left Aurelia, his youngest sibling. She had been weak of body since birth, and something of a cripple, but her heart and mind were among the strongest Piero knew, and her tongue sharper than most. Piero arranged for a meeting with his uncle afterwards, pulling him aside into an empty hall.
“Uncle, how was your trip?” Piero said, then lowered his voice. “Lunium's weather nice this time of year.”
Lorenzo scowled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do. I need to get there, to Lunium, and I think you can help me with that.”
“Why in the world would you want to go there?”
“I have a debt to repay.” Piero said. “Nothing too much, a little gambling here, a little there, I don’t have the money to pay the guy. Says that if I can do him a favor in Lunium my debt is as good as paid.”
“And why would I help you indulge in such loathsome practice?”
“Come on, Uncle,” Piero said, his voice light-hearted. “We’re family. Family helps family.”
Lorenzo looked around, then turned back to Piero. “Meet me on the dock at midnight.”
Post by Timeon on Sept 27, 2013 15:16:53 GMT
"You see Piero, it's actually quite simple."
An awkward silence. Lorenzo was waiting for him to say something, even though there was nothing to say.
"Yeah?" Piero prodded.
"Well!" Lorenzo continued, rubbing his hands. "Lunium has withstood this decades-long siege because it's a port city. But the Republic can't attack it by sea, because the Malvernians claim its territorial waters as their own. Why? Because they want Lunium for themselves. The result? Lunium remains Dominion controlled. And it also means that a smuggler such as myself can work out a deal with Lunium's port authorities, and smuggle in drugs and supplies. It's an extremely profitable business."
"So, in a sense, you're part of the reason Lunium still exists." Piero pointed out helpfully.
Lorenzo looked thoughtful for a moment.
"I suppose you're quite right."
Piero looked around. They were indeed at the docks, for Sabria was built beside a great river, leading into one of Jovinium's largest lakes. It was a river that could be navigated to sail directly to Lunium, too.
"So, uncle. Any advice for the journey? A ship to lend me, perhaps?"
"Not so fast, kid." Lorenzo said, leaning in with furrowed brows. "You still owe me an explanation. What's this debt you need to repay?"
"Doesn't matter. But if I don't repay it, Georgio is in trouble too. Please, don't press me on this issue."
With a nod, Lorenzo pointed sideways, towards a little river skiff that was moored not a few feet away.
"That belongs to one of my fellow smugglers, but I paid him off for it. Which means you owe me a favour too. I've got some things you need to deliver to the port master of Lunium once you get there, alright? I've written a couple of letters and some instructions for you, so you'll know how to get into the city without being murdered in the process. If the Republic stops and questions you while you're sailing the river, just say you're trying to get to Cyrae. Everything you need is aboard the ship already."
Everything was happening so quickly.
"Any questions?" Lorenzo asked. Piero opened his mouth, but Lorenzo interrupted him. "Thought not. Don't tell anybody I endorsed this shitty adventure of yours, alright?"
Post by HED on Nov 7, 2013 4:06:31 GMT
Piero landed the skiff in the dead of night, near the main road to Lunium, as per his uncle’s instructions. It had taken him much longer than expected, as he had not any idea how to sail. Perseverance had rewarded him, and after no less than fifteen near-death experiences he was nearly there. All he had to go was trust his uncle did his work with the most trustworthy drug dealers you could find. Piero slung a sack containing his various things, including both Uncle Lorenzo’s and Mazzei’s packages, onto his back and started up the hill.
The port master, his uncle’s instructions explained, could not risk running his drug trade through the port itself. Piero was therefore to make his way to a small shack outside the cities walls, where guards would not be looking for anyone. There he would meet someone who would sneak him into the city. Lorenzo’s letters would, if all went according to plan, keep him out of the dungeons - or worse. Piero did not like to think about the worse.
He found the shack after a good half hour of walking. Like the instructions had promised, it was hidden fairly well in amongst some trees. Light came through the clouded glass window, which Piero assumed was a good sign. With some trepidation, he walked up to the door and knocked. He could hear some muffled noises from inside, before the door creaked open. An old lady peered out at him from the crack in the door.
“Who is it?” the old lady asked.
“Umm,” Piero paused, trying to recall the phrase left to him in the instructions. “My wagon broke, and my horse has run off. I’m looking for an open bed and some warm porridge.”
“Well, I’m afraid that-” The lady said, then stopped. “Oh! Yes, yes come in.”
She swung the door open wide, and Piero stepped inside. He could see that the shack was fairly bare-bones. A candle sat on the table, illuminating the room. A rug sat on the floor, which the old lady pulled at, revealing a trap door. She opened the door, and motioned to Piero to climb down. Hesitating for a moment, he complied. The cellar was cramped, but there was a bed. He set his things down on the floor.
“Now you get a good night of sleep.” The lady said. “Lucia will be here to collect you in the morning.”
“Good night!” The trap door closed with a thud.
Post by Timeon on Nov 16, 2013 2:22:57 GMT
Outside Lunium, the last Dominion city on Jovinium.
Piero dala Vachio was awoken by twittering. Not the twittering of birds, but the twittering of an old woman. At least it distracted him from remembering his weird dreams. His dreams were generally unpleasant, and not in entertaining ways. Fortunately, the old woman had taken his attention away from such things, leaving him with just a bad mood instead. She was standing over him with a tray, steam rising from it.
"It's too early." he said, clutching his pillow, torn between throwing it at her or smothering his face in it.
"It's never too early for porridge." the old woman answered wisely, and in his heart, Piero knew it to be true. Resigned to his destiny, Piero sat up and accepted the tray of porridge.
"Is it cold outside?"
It was February, after all. Not as cold as Varantium would be at this time of year, but they were not far from mountains, and it had often snowed during the last leg of the journey.
"Cold? My boy, you just need some more meat on your bones, and then you will be warm. Stay here forever, and you will never be cold again."
Piero paused with his spoon halfway to his mouth. He dared not raise an eyebrow, lest it alert the crone to his confusion, and warn her of his weakness.
"I must dress, and I am a shy man. I will be upstairs soon."
The crone twittered as she left.
Piero ate the porridge and went back to sleep. Or at least he tried. The woman returned soon, with more porridge.
"It's never a bad time for-"
Piero threw the pillow, but he missed.
"A nervous twitch." he said apologetically.
"Lucia is here." the old woman said, putting the tray down at the foot of Piero's shitty bed. "You are a petulant man. I resist you."
Then the woman was gone. Piero dared to rise from his bed, wearing the same dirty clothes he had been wearing for the past few weeks. Fortunately his sense of smell had been burned away long ago, to be awakened only in the presence of food superior to porridge. He was unharmed.
After eating his second helping of porridge, he ascended the trapdoor, and up into the inn. He found a soldier staring at him, his hand on the pommel of his sword. He was clad in leather and chain, and not the good kind.
"The old woman made me do it." Piero said instinctively, and looked to the windows. They were small, small enough only for a midget to climb through. It was no good.
"I am Lucia." the soldier said in a musical accent from across the sea. He had a moustache.
"You are not how I imagined you."
"That is because I am mysterious. Come." Lucia held out a gloved hand prettily. "Let us go where we must. You have packages. I have transportation. We make a fine duo, you and I. Let us forge ahead."
Piero dala Vachio shrugged and fetched his backpack, then let Lucia lead him out of the shack by the hand. Then Lucia held his hand up to the sky triumphantly, as they stepped beyond the warmth and into the cold greyness of a typical February afternoon. What Piero dala Vachio had failed to see at night was now easy to see by day.
He could see Lunium, not much further down the River Jorryn. Even at first glance, he could see why it had not been taken, even after decades of siege. Lunium's walls were gigantic, larger even than the walls of the Old Capital of Varantium. They had turned yellowish with time and wear, and rose to hide the city of Lunium itself from the outside world, for the most part. It was not Lunium's walls which had served best to keep it safe from Republican artillery, Piero could tell. What helped Lunium most was that it had been built on a peninsula, with sheer cliffs to either side. Only a narrow stretch of land beside the River Jorryn allowed for a land assault, and that was no-man's land, Piero could see. The earth before Lunium's walls was scorched and dead, no doubt the result of the prolonged war.
And the great walls of Lunium had not gone unscathed, either. They were cracked and broken, pockmarked by a generation of artillery fire. It was a miracle that they were still standing - or was it?
An unearthly groan rang from the city. In response, roars and explosions rocked the countryside. Piero looked south of the River Jorryn, and saw that a makeshift town had been built amidst the ridges and hills. It was the siege encampment, built to outlast Lunium. The roars and explosions sounded from it, and Piero quickly realised it was the sound of artillery. Shells and balls of steel crashed into Lunium's walls, doing little visible harm.
Another sound from Lunium reverberated in response. A shadow rose up from behind the walls, slick and dark. The cracks in the walls began to close.
"I had heard the tales-" Piero started.
"Oh yes. That is her, yes." Lucia was saying, looking at the shadow as it receded from Lunium's walls. "Lunium's guardian, she is. One of the Dominion's greatest spirits. She keeps the city alive."
"Is she friendly? Can she be... seduced?" Piero said half-jokingly.
Lucia gave Piero a queer look, and tapped a finger to his nose. Piero was not sure what it meant, but what he did know was that it was time to move.
"We are going to do some scouting. When night falls again, we are going to use the River, dear Piero. The River leads under the city walls. There is a portcullis, of course, and the passage under the walls is long, airless, cold and almost always lethal. However, you are fortunate, for you are in the company of Lucia, one of this land's greatest swimmers."
"So." Piero said. "How do I get in?"
"There is a little passage under the walls, a side-passage, to bypass the portcullis. Still underwater, but there are some air pockets, where you may rest. Lucia will lead you to them. Once we are beyond, we will get into the walls, and say the passwords and magic words, and show our packages to the guards. They will understand. Are you ready, Piero?"
"Okay." Lucia said, and started walking down towards the river.
"What are we scouting for?" Piero called, though not loudly enough to disturb the birds and bees.
"A herb." Lucia called back. "It makes a man stiff, and sells very well behind those walls!"
Post by HED on Nov 17, 2013 3:45:40 GMT
Lucia had a high quota to be fulfilled before Piero could continue his journey. He received little assistance at first, as Lucia scouted out the area to ensure they were not discovered They finished collecting the herb, priapermint as the locales called it, as the sun finished setting. Soon, they reached the river’s edge and prepared for the passage. Lucia stuffed the herb into a leather pouch, which he then stuffed into his pants to hid. He turned to Piero, who was looking at him funny, and frowned in confusion.
“Something is disturbing you?”
“It’s, err, nothing.” Piero responded awkwardly.
“That is a good sound to mine ears.” Lucia said, patting him on the shoulder. “Do you have any more questions for me before the swim?”
“Just one.” Piero said. “Isn’t Lucia a woman’s name.”
“It was went to be.” Lucia said, sighing sadly. “My mother was blind and stubborn. Thus I am Lucia, and my sister is Luigi. You’ll meet her on the other side.”
As odd as Lucia had been, his words not been any exaggeration. The trip was treacherous, and his swimming skills were indeed great. Piero’s skills, in comparison, were lacking. Multiple times Piero had found himself overwhelmed by need for air, and had been dragged into an air pocket by Lucia. Indeed, the feminine-named aquatic smuggler was becoming increasingly annoyed with his escortee. He was politely trying to hide that fact, but Piero could hear it in his voice as they found themselves in an pocket.
“This is the last pocket before our destination,” Lucia said. “It isn’t much further, so please do not start drowning again.”
“Solid advice, hadn’t thought about that.”
Lucia rolled his eyes and plunged under the water again. Taking a deep breath, Piero followed. He had been quite fond of swimming at home, both as a hobby and as a way to escape from angry fathers and brothers and fiancés and the like. But the water here was cold and dirty, and he did not like it. It told him that his stay in Lunium would be as unpleasant as he had feared. Piero followed Lucia further and deeper, until the air began to strain at his lungs.
A small beam of light drifted through the water ahead of them, and then Lucia began to head upwards. Piero enthusiastically did the same, and broke through to the surface gasping and flailing his limbs about. Lucia shushed him, and pulled himself up onto a cold stone walkway. Piero swam over and was pulled out of the water. He looked around as he caught his breath, taking his bearings.
They were is a dimly lit stone corridor, illuminated by a single torch. The landing he rested upon was small, as was the room in general. The room appeared to have been deliberately constructed, but he could see no exit or entrance besides the watery path he had just taken. Lucia walked into a small indent on the the wall, and pulled on a hook on the ceiling. After a few tugs the trap door opened, and light streamed in. Piero was becoming sick of trap doors.
Lucia led Piero out of the small alley they found themselves in, and into a larger corridor. Lucia was acting like nothing was the matter, but Piero found it hard not to shiver. Both were soaking wet, and though Piero liked to think he made the look work for him it was still uncomfortable. He did his best to stand up straight and proud as they approached the exit from the wall. As expected, a pair of guards stood waiting for them. The two duos stared at each other expectantly as the distance between them narrowed.
“Who goes there?” One of the guards asked. His tone was less inquisitive and more rehearsed.
“Long time no see.” Lucia said in response. “We are but good citizens of Lunium, done with our tour of the great walls.
“What do you have there?” The other asked, looking at their packages.
“Souvenirs, for our family.” Piero said, as he had been instructed.
The guards nodded to each other and then stood aside. The conversation had proceeded as expected, and they were now through to Lunium proper. Now the threats they faced were no great than any other denizen of the city. Of course, the consequences for getting caught would be greater, but they were no more likely to be caught in the first place. Which is not to say that they had no need to be careful; after all, a city under siege can hardly afford to slack on discipline.
Lucia led Piero down a dirty back street, past the beggars and the lame. It was not so unlike the street he lived on back in Sabria, except that it was slightly more crowded. Piero kept his things clutched tightly, well aware of the kinds of criminals that made streets like this their place of business. He could not afford to lose Mazzei’s package, nor his Uncle’s. Piero grimaced at the realization that he had been reduced to being a delivery boy. Lucia stopped in front of a door, which he unlocked from a key from his pocket.
Following Lucia inside, Piero could see that it was a small but decently furnished home. Not the home of a wealthy man, or at least not the home of one who liked to flaunt their riches, but it was comfortable. Certainly nicer than the old woman’s shack. He sank lazily into a wooden chair, but straightened up as a woman came into the room from another. The woman greeted Lucia warmly, and they exchanged some whispered words. She look a long look at Piero, and then exited the room.
“Luigi will provide for you some things, new clothes and some food, and instructs to get you to your place of stay.” Lucia said. “Do not contact me again until you can swim at least half as good as Lucia.”
The door slammed shut, and Lucia was gone from Piero’s life as suddenly as he had entered it. Piero stood and, feeling uncomfortably moist, removed his shirt and his shoes. He kicked them into the corner, careful to avoid the carpet. He would have removed his trousers, but it was not yet their time. His limbs were stiff from so much swimming, and so he began to stretch. As he did so, Luigi returned from the other room, carrying a change of clothes for him. There was an awkward pause as Piero continued to stretch and Luigi ogled him.
“No shirt, no shoes, no service.” Luigi said, with a joking tone, breaking the silence.
“Better give me your clothes then.”
“What?” Luigi said, forgetting herself. “Oh, right, yes. These clothes. For you.”
“My name is Piero, by the way. Piero dala Vachio.” Piero said, grabbing the garments from her. “Thank you, Luigi.“
“Call me Lulu.” She said. “No matter how often I tell him no to call me Luigi, he refuses. He thinks I’m insulting mother’s memory.”
“Well, Lulu, you have my dearest thanks.” Piero said, looking into her eyes.
She smiled at him, then glanced down for a moment and awkwardly shuffled away. “There’s food ready for you in the kitchen when your done changing.”
Piero changed into the new clothing, happy to shed his soaked outfit. He had not worn fine clothing while leaving Sabria, understanding they were likely to be ruined. The garments fit well enough. Piero walked into the kitchen as Luigi set down a loaf of bread on a small table and took a seat, pushing the dark hair out of her eyes. He smiled as he spied fish on the table next to bread and took a seat next to her. They ate, and talked for a while, and Piero was glad to have a conversation partner that was friendly, and not strange and confusing like the other people he had encountered since leaving Sabria.
“It’s getting late. I’ll write some directions for you,” Lulu said, getting up and walking to the other side of the room. She pulled out a map of the city. “Who are you here to see?”
“I have a package for the port master, and another for the chief quartermaster.” Piero stood up himself, having finished his meal.
“And where are you staying?”
“I didn’t actually have any planned for that.” Piero answered honestly.
“Oh?” She said. “There’s a good inn a few blocks from here. Well, not a good one, but all things considered…”
“Why can’t I just stay here?” Piero asked, getting close to her. “I’m not an unwanted guest, am I?”
“No! Its just…” Lulu answered quickly. “We only have the one bedroom. And, Lucia wouldn’t like for me to let anyone stay here.”
“Lucia doesn’t seem to care what you’d like him to do. Why should you do what he wants?”
“He’s my brother.” She whispered.
“I think,” Piero said. “You should do what you want.”
The Port Quarter, Lunium
The next day
Piero shielded his eyes as he stepped into the bright sun that shone on the port that day. He had wished to first deliver Mazzei’s package to the quartermaster, but Lulu had informed him that the quartermaster would be a difficult to get a hold of before the afternoon. Instead, she had given him directions to the port master. In exchange, he had given her… well, it was not the time to dwell on past adventures. He had certainly had a night far more enjoyable than the night before.
The port master’s office was on the end of the street. His name was Petrus Porticho, a portly man that was, he was told, well regarded in the local community for being tough on crime. From a certain point of view, that was not incorrect. He had no tolerance for crime of any kind in his port that he did not get a cut of. Piero set off to the office at a brisk pace. He was certain there would be no trouble on the way there.
Post by Timeon on Dec 5, 2013 1:44:05 GMT
Petrus Porticho's office was as peculiar as Lunium's port. The port was actually just a few stone piers - beneath Lunium itself. Lunium was built on a rocky peninsula, and the port was therefore beneath a series of cliffs and walls, accessible only via a rope and mechanism drawn lift, and many flights of narrow stairs. The office was not at the bottom, fortunately. It was built into the cliff, accessible from several doors along the many stairs. Piero walked down to the nearest door, sometimes watching as loose pebbles tumbled down into the gulf below. He did not fancy slipping.
He knocked and waited. After a few minutes, he knocked again. When nobody answered, he cursed the Archons and also any other mildly related sources of irritation in his life, and descended the next set of stairs. Of course he kept looking down, at the waves smashing against the smooth sides of Lunium like a child throwing a tantrum - except children aren't the sea. The next door proved luckier. It creaked open and a yellowed eye leered out.
"Hi." Piero attempted. "I have a package for Petrus Porticho. A portly man, I am told."
"That he is." The yellow eye blinked. "Why didn't you try the door at the top?"
"There's a door at the top?" Piero asked.
"Nevermind." The door opened.
Piero walked into the offices of Petrus Porticho, package in hand. A little stunted man with yellow eyes shook his hand and led him through a lavishly decorated hall, sitting him down in some sort of common area. Piero was offered wine, and he accepted. When he was sufficiently drunk, Petrus Porticho finally showed up. He was certainly portly, and Piero was half expecting him to be a woman, given Lunium's peculiarities. But Petrus Porticho was in fact a fat man, wearing fat people clothes, and a little hat. He sat down across from Piero.
"You have a package for me?"
"Yes." Piero said, pushing the little box across the table and drinking some more wine.
The fat man opened the package, and pulled out a little bottle. He gaped in surprise, sniffed the bottle, and then laughed.
"Lorenzo, that clever crab! He always delivers! Thank you, boy. Here's a reward for your efforts."
Piero gladly accepted the bag of coin that was handed over to him. He peered in, and noted they were silver pieces - all stamped with some sort of worm symbol. Dominion money would get him in trouble in the Republic. It would be no good outside these walls, unless Lorenzo helped him exchange them.
"When my men saw you come into the city, I had you followed. I was worried you might be one of Mazzei's goons." the portly man chuckled, his belly smacking the table rhythmically. "That bastard."
Oh, shit, Piero thought.
"Yeah, what a bastard."
"You know of Mazzei?" Petrus Porticho asked, squinting suspiciously. He stroked his chins.
"Everyone in Sabria knows of Mazzei." Piero answered quickly.
"Yes. I am sure." Petrus grunted, opening the bottle that Piero had delivered to him. The fat man drank it down and gasped suddenly in relief. "Mazzei is bad for business. Lorenzo is not. I have a letter I need you to get to your uncle, to warn him. Things are getting bad in here, and Mazzei is behind it. I'm going to need some special shipments from Lorenzo. That understood?"
Post by HED on Feb 2, 2014 8:13:29 GMT
"Of course, yes, sounds good." Piero said, snatching the letter from Petrus' hand. "I'll deliver this as soon as I'm back in Sabria."
"One of Lorenzo's men smuggled you into the city, yes?" Porticho asked. "His men are good, but mine are better. Shall I have them arrange an exit for you?"
"No, not yet." Piero responded. "I still have business left to conduct."
The fat man arched his eyebrow. "Business? Not Lorenzo's, I trust?"
"No, this is for Ma-" Piero caught himself saying Mazzei. Talking business while drunk had proven to be a bad idea. "-own interests."
"I see. Curious accent you have there."
"What about my accent?"
"Nothing." He decided to move on. "You should know, I don't like people having business in my town that doesn't go through my organization."
"Oh, no! Not that sort of business." Piero said, trying to cover his tracks. "I just want to see the sights, taste the food, sample the-"
"Women?" the fat man interjected.
"That's the idea."
"Ah, to be young and foolish." Petrus Porticho stared wistfully into the distance. "Well, when you want to leave, come back and I'll arrange something for you. That's a promise."
"It is appreciated." Piero stood and bowed. "By your leave."
"Try not to have too much fun." Porticho smiled a gross grin, watching Piero stumble out of the room.