The scent of perfume clashes with the stench of ale as Danté opens the door to the bordello’s bedroom. “Right this way madam.” Danté’s Efrit accent is a little slurred.
His companion, a lithe human named Clara, smiles, “You was gonna show me more of them tricks, weren’cha.”
“My dear, I will. But I need my instrument…” Danté closes the door behind them and is about to make a quip about his vihuela not being the instrument he has on his mind, when another voice stops him dead; “Still playing with your traveller toys, Danté.” Sitting in the shadows of the room, tossing the stiff, green cavalier hat of a Greencloak Legionnaire captain in his hands, sits a bear of a man. This man rises to his feet and places the hat on his head with practiced flair. Clara shrinks back on the bed, awed, not so much by his size, but by the aura of malice that that clings to him. Danté takes a breath before composing himself and turning away from the door, “Captain Monroe. What a pleasure. I would not have expected you in such an establishment.”
“More fool us,” the captain’s voice is deep and confident, “…this should have been the first place we started looking for you.”
Danté shrugs, “I won’t hold it against you. Next time I’ll find a much better hiding place. Now, count to ten and no peeking.” Danté makes to open the door, but Monroe moves with speed uncharacteristic for a man his size, slamming it shut again. He leans over Danté, “I think this little game is over. Time for you to pay for your crimes.”
Danté continues his tactic of feigned non-nonchalance, hoping Monroe won’t notice the sweat forming on his brow. He saunters into the room, eventually sitting himself on the bed comfortably as if it were his own, “And what crimes would they be?”
Monroe turns to face him, “The worst of all. Disloyalty.”
“And to whom was I disloyal?”
“Your brothers in arms. Men who have bled for you.”
Danté stands and moves to a small decanter of bourbon near where Monroe was originally sitting and pours himself a glass, “Well, then perhaps you and your men might answer the same charge? After all, I was asked to behave in a manner against my principles. One might argue you betrayed me first, no?” Danté takes the time to casually cast his eyes around the room, looking for an exit as he drinks the bourbon.
“Don’t try to worm your way out of this Delarosa. Men are dead because of you. Good men. And don’t even think you’re escaping this building. You’re smart enough to know I’m not here alone. There are a dozen legionnaires out there and not one of them has a quarter of the restraint I have. They’re begging you to try something. Just begging for it.”
Danté puts the glass down and turns to the decanter, leaning on the cabinet, “Well then. It would be a shame to disappoint them all.” In a flourish, Danté spins and tosses the heavy, crystal decanter at Monroe. The human manages to swat it out of the air but the distraction gives Danté enough time to leap over the bed and across the room. The Efrit leaps at the captain but the latter is quick, turning Danté’s momentum to throw him across the room. Monroe strides across to Danté. The Efrit listens to Monroe’s footsteps; he plays possum for a moment before kicking into the Monroe’s knees, springing to his feet and using his own knee to slam the human’s doubled-over face. There is a cry as Monroe falls backwards. Danté leaps over him but his leg is caught and he is dragged backward. A minute of scrappy wrestling follows, with Danté severely outmatched by Monroe in every way. Eventually the human has a thick forearm pressing into Danté’s windpipe, his other arm around Danté’s waist preventing his escape. “Stop struggling and enjoy it. This is going to be the nicest thing that happens to you before the trial, I guarantee it.” Danté’s vision begins to blur as his body convulses, fighting for oxygen.
Suddenly there is a loud crash and Monroe’s grip weakens. Danté feels something wet trickle down his shoulders and, for a moment, he thinks it’s blood. He rises to his feet to see Clara standing behind Monroe with a now broken bourbon decanter in her hand; the sweet liquid itself, as well as the shattered shards of the decanter, rest beneath Monroe’s temporarily unconscious body. Danté smiles, “My sweet lady.” He leaps toward her and kisses her, trying to etch the sensation in his memory. Then he holds her face in his hands, “You should go. Stay with your uncle in the mountains for a few weeks. These men won’t stay here long, but you don’t want to get mixed up with them. Trust me.” He smiles at her and winks before he puts his fingers to his lips, indicating quiet. Danté creeps to the door. He can’t hear anything beyond it but he knows how the Legionnaire’s operate. He straightens up and throws open the door.
The two Legionnaire guards flanking the door turn to salute when it’s opened, expecting Monroe to be emerging. It takes a moment for them to parse that it is Danté exiting the room, and not in bound. “Please, gentlemen,” Danté begins, “no need to salute on my behalf. I think you might actually outrank me now.” They reach for their sabres Danté is quicker; an elbow to the nose of the guard on his right and a punch to the throat of the other. As the left guard held his nose Danté relieves him of his sword, kicking him backward. The guard tumbles down the stairs that lead to the raised walkway they all stood on. Beneath the walkway, in the open tavern below, Danté can see a few Greencloak Legionnaires rushing for those same stairs. He hears a grunt next to him and moves just in time to avoid the other guard’s sabre running him through. Danté spins behind the guard and, with another forceful kick, sends him also stumbling down the stairs into the approaching Legionnaires. Danté glances down the walkway; only other bedrooms, no windows. He looks back at the Greencloaks on the stairs who have now composed themselves and are moments away. ‘Only one way out’, he thinks. Danté tucks the Greencloak’s sabre into his belt and leaps off of the walkway, grasping onto the wagon-wheel chandelier that hangs from the roog. He uses the momentum to swing forward, launching himself to the far end of the tavern near the bar. A heavy-set man with a greying moustache smiles playfully at Danté from behind the bar, “I thought you said today was going to be a good day?” Danté responds only with a shake of the head, catches his breath and watches the Legionnaires race down the stairs. “Now is not the time Harlon. Rum, please.” The man behind the bar hands him a full shot glass and Danté downs it quickly.
“I assume you’ll be fixing up your tab?”
Danté cocks his eye at him, “I promise one day I will.” Harlon shakes his head with mocking reprimand before leaning behind the counter and bringing out a six-stringed vihuela. Danté leans across and kisses the man before jumping onto the bar. He strikes a chord and the vibrations ripple through the space, silencing all in the room. The Greencloaks, about to reach the bar themselves, pause. Danté’s voice takes on a deep echo which, like the note just played, resonates in the chests of those present, “You are fools to come here! My name is Danté Delarosa, and I…” he is cut short as the door at the far end of the tavern flies open. Four Greencloak crossbowmen file in and they fire their bolts at Danté. He swears in Efrit and leaps behind the bar, the bolts finding and destroying bottles of alcohol on the wall abovr him. Without waiting, Danté grabs his vihuela and runs back through the kitchens. He is closely pursued and, when he launches out of the back of the inn, he is met with yet more Legionnaires who had been covering his exits. Not stopping, he sprints through the streets, narrowly keeping ahead of his pursuers. Eventually he finds himself atop a small warehouse on the edge of town. Greenclocks surrounded it on all sides and a few others press in on the roof with him. Monroe pushes through the other guards and stands before Danté, hair still wet from the bourbon. Without a word the captain moves toward him, and Danté’s hand goes to the sabre at his belt. Monroe pauses, but smiles, “You’re no match for me with the blade Danté.”
“Maybe I’ll get lucky.”
Monroe shakes his head and hold out his hand; a nearby Greencloak puts a sabre into it. “If you think I’m going to kill you and give you the easy way out, you don’t know me as well as I thought. You’re going to trial. You’re going to jail. And then you’re going to the chamber. But if you want to play a little before then, well…” Monroe shrugs apathetically before his body twists with practiced athleticism. The borrowed rapier sings through the air and Danté is slow to react. Monroe’s blade goes right through Danté’s and passes through his whole body. Monroe raises an eyebrow. He steps forward and points his sabre at Danté, pressing it through his shoulder. Nothing. No contact. The illusion that looks like Danté Delarosa steps backward, feigning the pain of being run through, before it looks up at Monroe and laughs. A moment later it evaporates into a shower of blue particles which Monroe slahes at angrily, tossing the sabre to the ground, “Find him! He’s here somewhere – do not let him leave the town. Get out there and find him!” He hasn’t even finished his orders before the Greencloaks are quickly dispersing to carry them out. Monroe goes to the edge of the rooftop and casts his furious eye over the streets, hoping in vain to catch a glimpse of that Efrit bastard.