ACT I – OLD FRIENDS
– I didn’t do it – the elf seemed to be confident about his answer.
All that Tulio could have heard from him for the last twenty or so minutes was denying. And when the interrogator asked about acquaintance between Tulio and the elf, he already knew the answer.
– I don’t know this estramor.
Good man. All these years of being secretive had at least bare fruit this one time today. But it won’t be long until they are finished with the elf and come asking question to him. Tulio took a peek towards the jailor and the interrogator standing next to him. It was Bertoldo Liviani himself, Tulio’s recent employer. The fact that Liviani was the one performing the interrogation instead of a government official only made matters worse. But it was also a proof for Tulio, that things in his homeland were wretched as they come.
– Enough for now – said Bertoldo turning around – Mestre Ventura, for your atrocious betrayal you should be punished with death. How do you plea?
– Is this how court looks now?
– You arrived here on a silver platter, and you brought this upon yourself. You’re in jail because of treason and the governor assigned me do the talking thanks to our differences. It really wasn’t hard to convince him after what you’ve done! You wronged many people in your life, but of all you wronged me the most. I should kill you outright, but it gives me great pleasure to see you in this pitiful position.
– Look, Bertie…
A powerful blow to Tulio’s mouth almost made him unconscious.
– You know better to not call me like that. As I was saying, you betrayed Catriona. I was gracious enough to overlook a few mishaps from you, like taking my property as it were yours. But not only you did not stop stealing from me, you wanted to throw this island into anarchy.
– Sure… – Tulio spat a bit of blood on the floor – Your idea of instigating both sides against each other is way better. Let’s have an ongoing civil war, because you profit from it.
– Once I thought that we share this idea. But then you took my coin away from me. Later you took the woman I wanted away from me. And now you tried to take my power that I have over this island away from me.
– Kaylin was not for the taking, she just preferred my wit over your foolishness.
For a second Tulio thought that another blow will hit his face, but surprisingly Bertoldo did nothing but stare. That moment of silence seemed to be never ending.
– So maybe she liked you the most – Bertoldo continued – But how on Eora did you manage to convince her into helping you? ‘Tis beyond me. Doesn’t matter now, since she’s dead.
Tulio suddenly felt a terrible pain in his heart. None of this should ever happen. He brought the doom upon a girl he cared about, maybe it wasn’t love, but she did mean a lot to him.
– This was a mistake – for the first time Tulio’s response was emotional – These pirates I hired were supposed to only sack the headquarters of the Crimson Market in Port Augusta…
– But luckily some of my loyal employees warned me about this so I could prepare. If it wasn’t for me the whole city could’ve been at risk! Had the attack commence a few hours later, the damage we took would’ve been naught!
– As I said, this was a mistake…
– Kaylin Aloi died on the streets, from the canon fire. We all saw the body, but it disappeared before I could reach it. Care to explain?
– Ask your elven friend over there – Tulio pointed towards the other prisoner.
The jailor accompanying Bertoldo prodded the elf, but all he got out of him were some words in a foreign language, probably curse words. The raiders did have some time on the streets so it would be plausible for them to meddle with her body. But to what purpose?
– He’s a useless piece of **** – Bertoldo didn’t even look in his direction
– We did nothing to this woman you speak of! – the elf suddenly screamed – We were in retreat and the canons did also hit my mates! My name is Mess Îer, 31st of His Name, and I respect the fallen unlike you and your lot!
– Is that so? – Bertoldo sighed – I guess now it matters not. Well then, I think this concludes our meeting. Tomorrow morning both of you will be sent to The Shackles and subsequently sold to the highest bidder to spend the rest of your miserable lives as slaves. Hope you enjoy the company of orlans, Tulio.
– Really? – Tulio giggled – Didn’t realize your mum’s there, Bertie!
A powerful blow knocked Tulio unconscious.
ACT II – NEW FRIENDS
– Wake up.
Tulio felt like after a three day long revelry during Inestu, the Summer Rising. A gentle breeze and the hum of the ocean reached him through the window of his cell. Yet, the voice calling to him was strangely amicable.
– Wake up, mate! – the voice hastened – We haven’t got much time.
Opening his eyes made him feel even more dizzy for a bit, but when the vision gained more focus he saw a close friend.
– Right, back on your feet – said the dwarf – We gotta get you outta here, pronto.
– Am I still in jail? What time is it?
– It’s almost midnight – with one strong move Lorenzo picked Tulio up and helped him back on his feet. For an established rogue and wannabe illusionist he still was one hardy dwarf.
– Took you long enough… how did you get here?
– Now’s not the time for chatter, mate. Here, hold this.
Lorenzo handed to him a small backpack. Inside was a pair of clean clothes, some food and water, and something that looked like an egg. More questions arose in Tulio’s head but considering the surroundings and his last talk with Liviani, he concurred. Just as the two of them were leaving his cell, Mess Îer, 31st of His Name jumped to the doors of his cell and caught Tulio to the extent of his arm.
– You ain’t gonna leave me here, are you?
Lorenzo gave Tulio a freezing look, but something deep inside his head ordered him to answer.
– Mess Îer, 31st of His Name, eh? What are ya, royalty?
– Laugh all you want, but know this: you would like to have me as an ally. From what I hear you are pretty much done for on this island. And any other in the vicinity as a matter of fact.
– I see, so you would see me flee someplace safe?
– Damn it, boy – Lorenzo whispered, but it sounded like a silent shout – This is what I’m already trying to do.
– Deadfire Archipelago – Mess Îer said – I will gladly take you there. An ideal place for misfits like the two of us – Tulio narrowed his eyes as if staring directly to the sun – Like me, that is.
For a minute it seemed like the elf would have to stay put and accept his fate with The Shackles, as Lorenzo was trying to pull Tulio the other way. Suddenly Tulio felt another need in his head to keep talking and that’s when he realized that this was no ordinary pirate.
– You’re a cipher…
A need to keep talking slowly started to fade.
– Would like to help – Tulio continued – but your crewmates killed someone I held dear.
– You hired us in the first place, and your plan backfired. Believe me that I had nothing to do with it. But now I could use my powers for your advantage. Please, don’t leave me here, another victim of your misdoings.
Suddenly, as if someone said a proper code-word, Lorenzo pushed Tulio away and took a step forward to the prison cell door of the elven cipher.
– If that’s gonna help us get going – Lorenzo took out a massive keyring from his colourful garment and started browsing through the keys. With a resonant clank the door opened and Mess Îer rushed outside the cell, huge smile on his face.
Lorenzo led the way through a hidden passage in the wall. It figures, Tulio thought to himself, that this dwarven crook would know such a safe route in and out of a penitentiary. In matter of minutes they were outside the prison walls and heading towards the harbor. Just as Tulio realized that there would still be patrols about the city, Lorenzo suddenly took a turn to a dark alley and entered another misleading corridor. They emerged on the other side of the guardhouse, hearing soldiers talking about events of yesterday.
– Had this “Bewildering Spectacle” scroll here somewhere – Lorenzo murmured as he went through his pockets – Wait for it…
– Why wait? – asked Mess Îer
A sudden wave of energy from elf’s palm made soldiers look the other way with stupor. At first Tulio thought that such powers are impressive. Had he such an ally from the start, maybe everything could have been better. Maybe Kaylin would still be alive. Guilt befallen upon Tulio, when once again he realized what has happened due to his dissent. But remorse would have to wait, as they approached the dock with two ships anchored.
ACT 3 – NO FRIENDS
– All right! – Lorenzo made a peculiar smile – We’re here. This ship on the left will take you to Neketaka in the Deadfire Archipelago, but you already know that, don’t you, cipher boy?
– This is true – Mess Îer returned the smile – I know that ship, we encountered it a few times and asked for a toll. Been trying to reach it since you sank our frigate.
– So we’re going to aumaua territory? – asked Tulio.
– The final destination will be elsewhere. From Neketaka it will be easy to reach Dunnage, where Príncipi sen Patrena reside. They are outcasts, people without homeland. My own people were in decline since their exile from a land north-east from here, so what would be a better place for us to go?
– Time will tell – Tulio gave the elf a nod – Fine, go ahead and board the ship. I’ll say my goodbyes to my friend here and I’ll catch up with you in a minute.
– Thank you, friends.
Mess Îer smiled sincerely to them both, and boarded the ship on the left side of the dock. As he left, Lorenzo gave Tulio a nudge.
– Listen, mate – said Lorenzo – Do as you wish, but listen to me beforehand. I found and secured Kaylin’s body, so Bertie can’t have it. She died from canon fire, but according to my sources it came from a coalition ship, not from the Gwanblaidhes.
– Are you sure? – Tulio’s eyes widened.
– Yes, also that’s the reason why I ultimately released pointy ears – the dwarf made a gesture in the direction of a ship soon leaving for Deadfire.
– Great. Not only Liviani killed the girl, but he framed me in laying waste to the city. Things couldn’t gone worse for us…
– Yeah, well next thing in the morn am gonna ship Kaylin’s body to Aedyr, to her family. And I’ll toss a letter about all the circumstances, so if we’re lucky Aedyrans will come to Catriona to tidy things up, if you know what I mean. Of course I’ll hafta leave as well, no point sitting longer in this hellhole.
– Where’ll you go?
– The Republics, probably – a wide smile appeared on his face.
– It figures. Maybe I should do the same.
– There’s no ship to the Republics here and now, and you hafta disappear as soon as possible. They will be looking for you!
– And the other ship? Where is it heading?
– Some place called New Heomar, it’s in the Eastern Reach – Lorenzo scratched his temple as if thinking – The Dyrwood is some rebellious colony of the Aedyr Empire.
– So, what’s with the egg?
– Oh, this is why I’m no longer an apprentice in Tower of the Sun. I took it. Among many other things. It’s a dragon egg! I have no idea what currency you’ll need once you set foot, so sell it. It will be a good start!
– Thank you, Lorenzo. Guess it’s time to part ways.
– One more thing! – Lorenzo hit himself in the forehead as if punishing himself for bad memory. From one of his many pockets he took out an envelope with Tulio’s name on it.
– A letter for me?
– It was on Kaylin when I found her.
Tulio opened the envelope, an unpleasant feeling clutching his throat.
It seems like we had the world at our feet just yesterday. But you know things are not going well recently and Bertie is becoming ever vengeful. I think we should leave this life behind and start a new one elsewhere, just the two of us, far away from all of this. I hear there are giving land to kith willing to settle in someplace overseas called Gilded Vale. Please see me as soon as possible, we’ll talk more.
– Have you read it? – he asked the dwarf.
– Now why would I do that? – Lorenzo’s genuine smile revealed all his teeth, some of which apparently more shiny then others. Suddenly his expression changed to more respectable. – Apologies, didn’t mean any offence.
– Relax, there’ll be plenty of time for mourning once I’m out of here, and you know what to do afterwards. Don’t be shy to seek me out, if you ever head east, all right?
– I’ll keep that in mind. Farewell, Tulio.
– Farewell, Lorenzo, and thank you.
– We had it good while it lasted, eh?
None had the courage to admit their little revolution was a failure, so the two embraced and Tulio ventured into the darkness. His footsteps led him to the ship on the right side of the dock. Lorenzo stood there alone for a couple more minutes gazing eastwards. The sun would rise soon and take his friend away, probably for him never to return.
– Bona ventura, Tulio.
* * *
– Let’s check by those outcroppings.
With one swing of the torch Calisca dazed the wolf long enough for Tulio to give it the killing blow with his sabre. When the beast fell dead on the ground a tiny obsidian wyrm sat on it as if boasting with pride for what he or she accomplished. Tulio had no idea what to think of Saverio’s behaviour, but the wyrm’s affection to him was undisputable. He saved that thought for later, because springberries were now in his sight.
– I got it on good authority you’re some kind of troublemaker. Or at least you were in your old life – Calisca’s ability to ask a question without it being a question in the first place was just the inevitable small-talk that Tulio was expecting ever since he got on that caravan from New Heomar to Gilded Vale.
– That’s why they put me in jail – he responded casually picking the springberries as if they were talking about weather. Maybe that will make her less interested in him?
– Yeah? How is it you happen to come here?
– I got loose. Far as I know they’re still looking for me.
– Well, we’ve all got things we’d like to leave behind. Gods know I do, I’ll tell you that. Here’s hoping they never track us down – Calisca took a breath in her surroundings – Been a long time since I’ve been this way. But I always did like it. Lord Raedric’s offer… makes a girl think, I’ll give him that. You here to settle, like the rest of the lot?
– I hadn’t given it much thought.
– No harm in that. Might as well see the place first. So you must have some other plan in mind for coming this way?
Suddenly all the memories of his life spent on Catriona came back to him. All the things he did, the good, the bad, the questionable. All the people that were more or less important to him at some point: Kaylin, Lorenzo, Bertoldo, even that elven cipher. Wonder what happened to the poor sod.
– Probably the same things I did before.
Tulio and Saverio in front of the Charred Barrel in Brackenbury district, Defiance Bay