[Mock-Fiction] III - In Amore et Bellum

Note: Please read the Formal Notice movella. It should be on the list on the right hand side.

Protest piece. Third in the series after 'I - Requiescat in Pace' & 'II - Memento Mori'. Enjoy x

Cover by Secrets Unfold

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5. Three - From the Inside

 

Three months passed by like a breeze, and the mercenaries came back with little loss and much gain. As expected. Richard walked through the Masyaf market place, not doing anything in particular. Rogue had said over and over again that Lodovico Smith would attack Masyaf. It had been nearly five months, and there was no outright attack.

Any moment now, she kept saying, Any moment now…

Richard had no luck with Myra Castelle when the mercenaries had been away. She was indeed upset by the fact that Rogue had left her century behind, along with two others. Myra had spent a full length of the masked woman’s absence standing by the trench and overseeing its completion. Only… Myra was not as merry as her mistress. No singing, just the constant grunts of frustration of the workers. She scowled a whole lot, also, whenever Richard approached.

 

Perhaps that’s why he was so surprised when he saw her pacing towards him from the other end of the market.

Don’t smile, he told himself, Do not smile.

But he couldn’t help it: Richard smiled. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen – tall, slim, and her long blonde hair pulled back in an unfussy bun – and her hard-to-get attitude made her all the more alluring.

Salve!” he said.

She scowled, “Don’t look so smug. I have an important matter to discuss.”
Richard sobered immediately, “Of course. How may I help you, signora?”
Myra bent her head to a side, “Your accent’s funny,” she commented.

“Uh…”

“Anyway,” she said, “There’s a little… disturbance in the barracks, Maestro.”
“Disturbance? How so?” Richard walked on, Myra following beside him.

Myra hesitated, “…The mistress has not been herself, of late.”
“Not herself?”
Maestro, please. I cannot explain, and I do not wish to incur a false accusation. It would of great help if you went to the barracks personally and investigated… She has become quite, um… just, not herself.”

Bene, I will go and see what I can do, signora,” Richard inclined his head a little and walked away from Myra; feeling a mixture of happiness and dark, dark feelings.

 

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

 

As Richard neared the barracks, he knew immediately that something was indeed wrong. The mercenaries were all out – practicing swordplay in pairs or groups – but there was no sign of Rogue. The night was beginning to set over the sand dunes, and it was unusual to see the condotierri still out. Plus, today was Friday. Friday was karoke night – unless something had changed – and the mercenaries would have never slipped up that opportunity.

 

Richard approached one of the German tribunes.

Buona sera,” he said, “What is going on?”
The German turned to him, his face beaded with sweat, and said, “The Lady wishes us to train harder,” he replied in a thick, guttaral accent. Though his tone was very firm, it had a hint of doubt in it. It seemed to say: She wants us to train harder, but this is not the way she usually does it…

Grazie, is she within the barracks?”
“In her study, I think.”
Richard nodded and made his way to the barracks; almost having a seizure when he’d entered. The otherwise bare mess hall had been transformed into… into… something else. The cold grey stone walls had paper on them, and the floor was covered in a Persian rug. The cushions that were used as seats when eating had been replaced by expensive high-backed, velvet covered chairs, and a long dining table stretched from one end to the other. An illuminating, but tacky chandeliar hung from the ceiling.

 

Surely, she didn’t take my comment about civilisation to heart…? thought Richard.

 

He shook his head and moved away from the mess hall, ascending the stairs. Again, Richard was getting the feeling that he’d walked into the wrong barracks, perhaps within another realm. A Narnia. The stairs had been polished, and the banister shined, paintings and photographs clung to the wall.

Something is definitely wrong…

Richard approached the study and hesitated.

Whatever happened to Rogue, it cannot be good… What if this is the worng time?

Richard shook off the feeling and decided that dealing with this matter was more important. He knocked twice and opened the door.

 

Rogue looked up from her desk – her mask catching the soft light – and said, “Il Mentore, I was not expecting you.”
Buona sera,” said Richard, looking about the too-tidy-for-Rogue room uneasily.

“I’m fine, how are you?”
Richard furrowed his brows at her, but swept aside the remark, “Bene. I just stopped by to ask a few–” Richard peered at the desk, just registering the large pile of paper. He paused, “…What are you doing?”
“Just completing some paperwork.”

Richard’s jaw tightened. Rogue didn’t do paperwork. Not to save her life. Rogue was a scatter-brain – she could never keep focus on such a huge pile of paper. She left paperwork to servants that were posing as admin staff.

“Rogue,” he said, suspicion and ill-tidings building in his gut, “Stand up, please. Come here.”

The masked woman regarded him, and then stood up, striding towards him.

She’s not even walking like her old self.

Maestro…?”

“Rogue,” he said, pausing thoughtfully, “What’s my name?”

Even with her face covered, the woman looked taken aback. Her hand twitched over the heavy Damascus at her side.

“Uh…” she said.

 

He’d had enough. Richard exploded.

 

Richard ripped his sword out of its scabbard, and the woman posing as Rogue did the same. Richard took a step forward and the woman cowered.

“Who are you?” he asked angrily, “Who are you and what have you done with the real Midnight Rogue?”
The woman stood hunched over, the sword held in a very unprofessional manner, and said, “What are you…?”
“Don’t play dumb with me!” Richard snapped.

The woman paused, the poker-faced mask mocking Richard, and then she straightened and let out a laugh. It was proud and defiant, but it had fear in it also.

That’s good, thought Richard.

“So… you aren’t as silly as they say,” she said, “Why don’t you just stand down and admit defeat?”
It was Richard’s turn to laugh, “Admit defeat? To you? You can’t even hold that sword properly.”

“The UAF will defeat you.”

“Spare me your nonsense.”

 

The woman charged, the sword significantly heavy in her hands, and Richard flicked it away almost lazily. The Damascus spiralled into a bookshelf, there was a crash as books rained down, sliced in half, ruined.

I’m never going  to hear the end of it from Rogue! thought Richard, shaking his head, Assuming she’s still alive, that is…

The imposter backed up, and Richard pounced on her. He caught her in a sleeper hold.

“You can’t do this!” she rasped.

“Watch me.”
“You… kill me… and your precious Brotherhood is at an end!” spots danced before the imposter’s eyes, “UAF supporters within a fifty mile radius will know of my death!”

“Who said I was going to kill you?” said Richard bitterly, “You won’t die – yet.”

There was a lot of struggling and begging, but the woman finally passed out.

 

Richard removed the mask and wrenched the sword out of the destroyed bookshelf. He grimaced at both items. He took out a slim cell phone from his pocket and dialled a number. He wouldn’t have resorted to this usually. Technological communication in all forms were completely unreliable. Conversations could be tapped, emails could be hacked, and letters could be read by unwanted eyes. Ancient methods of messaging were by far more desirable. But this was an emergency.

The phone clicked and Richard said, “Signora, if you are still in Masyaf, then bring the soldiers. We need to gather the mercenaries, and investigate further. An imposter has been with you, posing as your leader. Rogue has either been kidnapped or killed.”

There was a pause on the other end, and then, “How the hell did you get my number?” asked a very flustered Myra, the phone’s static adding to her frustration.

Richard surpressed a smile, “I’ll explain later. Now – we have more important matters to handle.”

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