Chapter 9: Venice By Moonlight

[ Edited due to fatigue induced typoes and oversights, not for 'content'. ]

Ludovico arose late in the evening, lazing in bed for the better part of the day in preparation for his intentions for the night. His manner shifts from the practically feline alternating basking in luxury or sleep to a more intent drive as he rises and dons his leathers and weapons, dressing much like a roguish highwayman for the field once again. Thereupon he exits his borrowed Sanctum in Andorra to find Joseph, his new man at arms, waiting and likewise dressed for combat or incident, as instructed. Beside him is Ruth, the newly acquired gifted peasant girl from Riuta. She is dressed in peasant garb as ever, for as of yet she does not possess much variety in the way of clothing. Sniffing slightly he smiles though there is no warmth in it, nodding his approval, and opening the door and leading them back into the Sanctum. Closing the door behind them, he speaks softly as he follows them deeper within.

“Remember. Stay within the circle until I join you. It will be a few minutes between each of us coming forth. Joseph first, then you Ruth, and myself last. If you leave the circle before I arrive, the guardian I have bound there will kill you.” He says, looking around at the other two for confirmation. Joseph’s expression betrays a dubiousness to his mien, perhaps disliking the matters being discussed a bit yet that is all. For the most part his professionalism carries the day and he simply stands and waits, shifting on his feet a bit. Contrastingly Ruth’s eyes are wide, her arms hugging around her torso as she comports herself with some obvious fear. “My Lord, are you sure I couldn’t just stay h-“ she says with a quavering voice, before being interrupted with an imperious wave of Ludo’s hand, yet without any visible reaction or even attention in his expression.

“Silence. I will begin.” He says, and then continues. The work goes swifter than one might think. A brief incantation followed by Ludovico placing a hand on the shoulder of Joseph, whereupon the aging soldier is suddenly enclosed in a bright blue aura of energy, then is suddenly gone. From touch to vanishing the process takes not even the span of one breath. The effort required in the working taxes the Magus slightly however, and he moves over to sit in a chair for a few moments. The girl continues to watch him with wide eyes, clearly viewing the impending sorcery much as one might their impending doom. She does not however run, balk, or otherwise resist. Perhaps her fear is too great for that? Or perhaps the fear and loathing is for something else?

Ludovico does not appear to spend any effort wondering, or slow his own actions despite her apparent trepidation. He breathes in deep clear breaths, steadies himself over a moment, and then rises. He repeats the incantation for Ruth, and she likewise vanishes. He gave little attention to her flinching briefly as he reached out to touch her with the spell. Again the Magus is fatigued, and again he moves over to rest in the chair. Again he wastes no time with it more than is necessary, rising and chanting the words of travel one final time. Then he is gone from the stone and sparse decoration of the ‘guest lab’ of Andorra, with the lack of any personal touches or signs of a permanent resident or master.

To him however it is the world which shimmers and fades, replaced with another. Suddenly he is standing in the familiar summoning circle inscribed in his longstanding Sanctum in Venice. The surrounds are somber and dark, as it is night. The chamber is octagonal, each side mostly obscured by wide and thick tapestries. This conceals most of the details of the room, as it is intended to do. The chamber is spacious, the roof perhaps ten feet in height and the chamber easily twenty or more feet to a side. It is plain there is more behind the tapestries. The summoning circle in the center of the room is an exact and pristine thing, arranged carefully with candlestands and a variety of stones and other foci worked carefully into the intricate diagram. Ten feet in diameter it easily accommodates the three travelers, though with Ludovico’s arrival there is perhaps less room to move about comfortably than before.

Upon looking about Ludovico observes for a moment his companions. Joseph is standing passively, thumbs hooked into his belt and looking about with some slight puzzlement or perhaps amusement on his features. Ruth is much the same as before, looking about with wide eyes and standing as near to the middle of the circle as possible. This earned Joseph a nod of approval once again, and a slight smirk towards Ruth. Taking a deep breath he then steps to the edge of the circle and waves a hand out at the rest of the room. “Show yourself.” He says, his voice firm and loud. As he does so he snaps the fingers on his other hand and when that hand opens what appears to be a small ball of light is present. Letting that hand drop, the sphere instead rises and grows in intensity as it does so, becoming in a moment filled with a small sparking and crackling noise, a small sprite of flame. The flame sprite drifts around the room in a lazily easy seeming motion. As it does so a small tinkling laughter can be heard, it's wings fluttering hummingbird-like and leaving a trail of smoke in it's wake. In the span of the next two breaths the tiny fairy lights candle sconces that are mounted along the walls around the central area of the Sanctum. This brings the illumination in the room from ‘dark’ to a much more comfortable ‘shadowy’ cast, where one can make out more details and colors. When that task is done, the fairy flies back to Ludovico, whereupon he makes a small gesture of dismissal, and it fades from view.

The empty room at first remains just as it is, then there is a brief shifting of the shadows in the twilight of the Sanctum before a humanoid figure steps forward into the light. It is difficult to tell if it was there previously, before it was ordered to come forward. Joseph’s eyebrows rise, his expression darkening slightly as he casts a quick glance towards Ludovico, then resumes his more controlled and neutral pose. Ruth’s gasp is audible however, though largely ignored. The ‘man’ that has stepped forward is clad in much the same style of a highwayman’s attire as is Ludo. His features however are wholly different and betray his inhumanity. The man is of a starkly pallid complexion, tapering long ears, decidedly sharp and pointed teeth, midnight black eyes, and long dark hair. He approaches the circle before Ludovico and bows deeply before greeting the sorcerer. “My Lord.” He says, a statement that somehow is perfectly deferential and yet… drips with an elusive sarcasm in the voice of this man. This creature. “There have been no occurrences to report in your absence.” The thing’s manner is perfectly deferential. On the surface.

Ludovico begins as soon as the other is done speaking. “Sybarite, These two are currently in my service. Ensure they are not harmed during this visit. Contact Phillip Cressus and tell him to prepare a proper banquet for at least twelve. To be served in … six hours. Also send Frederick to inform the Captains, my council, and the Lady Sabina that I am here and desire to meet with them at this event. They are invited for dinner. Phillip can invite however many other, discreet, guests he likes to fill out his table.” When he finishes these statements he exits the circle and moves over to pull open one set of curtains to reveal the alcove it conceals… perhaps another twenty feet deep. In the center of it is a doorway, closed and bolted. As Ludovico moves towards this door it swings open for him, and he walks through. Joseph and Ruth are left in his wake, moving to catch up to his haste.

After giving his orders Ludovico quickly took appraisal of his house and servants, then proceeded to introduce Joseph and Ruth to the people who attend on the sorcerer there in his home. They were few, and all displayed either a fawning loyalty, a wilting fear, or both towards him. The townhouse is, as are many in Venice, on the canals and taller than it is wide. Yet it holds a deceptively large amount of space due to it’s depth. And the appointments and managing of the house are nothing short of opulent. Within minutes of becoming aware of his return to the home the staff have candles and fireplaces lit, furniture uncovered, rooms open for airing, and generally the proper functions of their offices in place. It is plain they are accustomed to his demanding ways, and need little instruction. Ludovico does not wait as this process begins, he instead returns back up the Sanctum on the uppermost floor and has Joseph and Ruth wait outside. Several hours later he emerges, even more strident and confident. And purposeful. “Come, we have another errand first. Let us go.”They made way then to the canals, and travelling by the long and narrow boats characteristic of the city, winded through the narrow lengths and arches until reaching their destination. The gondolier’s name is Rodolfo. He seems to take long accustomed subtle queues from the Sorcerer, dimming his lantern and falling silent after a heartfelt greeting and half-bow as the party entered the craft.

All the way the sounds and smells of the city were all around them. The lively noise of a party here, or the pallid squallor of a poor section there. Yet, so very different from Andorra, in that over it all is the smell of the water and the sea. How Rodolfo could tell any of the houses and byways apart in the watery darkness was not readily apparent, yet plainly the man knew his craft and steered unerringly. When at last he stopped the wooden house dock they pulled up to was much like any of the others, even on the same row. Ludovico seemed just as confident as the boatman however that the place was their target, and rose to walk to the door and knock confidently. The door opened eagerly at their knock and spilled out light into the dank waterway. “Master Ludo? Ludovico is that you?” called a portly man. His voice was sheltered, cautious. Ludo stepped up a pace and pulled back the hood of his cloak to reveal his face. “It is, Cosimo, as you can see.” He says. Walking forward he then claps the shorter man on the shoulder, as the man’s broad and genuine smile makes it quite unnecessary to wonder if he recognized Ludovico or not. Ludo gestured then into the house. “We are alone, old friend?”