Vino Nuovo

From the personal journal of Falstaff, the interviewer:

...and when I asked Vino about the past events that he eluded to his face grew quite flat. I thought at first that I had angered him and feared the interview might be over already. Then he sighed, deeply, like a man suddenly fallen under some great burden.

   “It’s hard to know where to begin”, he said, “so much has happened since I left the Eternal City. There are some things that cannot be said even now, so let’s just say that as a young man I worked in the family business..."

   We were one of the few family-run guilds in those days, we were. The winesellers guild. And my side of the family handled the...more troublesome aspects of business. Sometimes a shopkeeper might find our prices a little too steep for his tastes or a rival family might try to undersell ours in, say, some of the back-alley taverns. That kind of thing, needed. You understand? So I hadn’t been in the business long before I realised that the guildmaster, my grandfather, was doing his best to keep me out of the messier side of the business. Well naturally, being rather hot-headed and zealous for the family, I objected. But, no avail. I found myself tending the books and guarding wagons more often than not. I didn’t realise that it was no slight on my manhood as I perceived it. He just didn’t want to see me fall to the same fate as so many of my brothers and cousins. My father had died mysteriously in a brothel downtown, you see, and grandfather had taken me in as his own son. But I stewed and fumed and generally made a nuisance of myself to him anyway.

   Now this went on for about a year before we began having some serious trouble with an outfit out of Blackvine and Vetallun. It seems that they had made some strong connections with the constabulary in Iridine and were trying to muscle Grandpa out. We went to the shacks with them...that is, we hid out in the shacks downtown and went to war with them...and were holding our own pretty well. But the connies they had on thier side tipped the scales in thier favor, you know. By spring my grandfather was in the hospice, having taken a dagger in the back from some bastard journeyman, and three of my uncles were dead. So when they offered to meet with us they asked for me specifically. I was the perfect choice, you see, having no reputation as an enforcer or for violence and being so close to grandfather. Of course, the others resisted and argued, ‘cause they figured I was green and would probably agree to anything. Seeing as how grandfather was out of action they would have been honor-bound to comply with any agreement I accepted for the family. But I won through and enforced a temporary cease-fire, offering to meet in neutral territory. The Stone Toga, as a matter of fact.

   At the meeting were Jalicus, the constable ring-leader and Markin Vatta, the son of Pilladen, grandfather of the Vetallun “guild”. We drank a few bottles of good wine. We talked of troubles with upstart sugar guilds. We even exchanged family lineages. And when I noticed Jalicus’ eyes glazed from drink I slit his throat with my boot-dagger and staked Markin’s head to the table with his own gladius. I had to make a name for myself, you see, if I were to have any hope of moving up in the business.

   Now with the murder of a well-known constable, no matter how corrupt, under my belt I was of no further use to the guild. My last surviving uncle, Cantilicus Netra, set me up in a little village in Cineria until things cooled down.

   Well, I don’t need to draw it out, I guess. I was unable to return home after the war broke out and had married a good woman in Cineria, anyway. Grandfather sent word to stay put. (And that I had broken his heart by involving myself so intimately in messy family business.) I had my own little vineyard and two small children, Galina and Hardicus. Things were good, you know? But despite my grandfather’s best attempts to make peace between me and the rival guild, they tracked me down. I won’t speak of that. My children are dead now, both of them. Caught in the house while it burned. My wife was burned as well, rather badly, but survived. That’s why I’m here now, you see. That was my wife’s desire. Vengeance.

   She is still there now, tending the vineyard. Waiting for me to come home with head of Pilladen Vatta in a sack. The guildmaster of the new wineseller’s guild, you know. And I will, it’s just a matter of time. My family has disowned me, you know, no admirers of private vengence, they. But that’s alright. They are too weak now and I need freedom to do what I must do. When I return with his head and and stake it in the field for the crows my wife’ll have her vengeance. And I will, too. We didn’t speak much after that. We sipped our wine and he commented on the vintage. A good year, apparently. I think he appreciated the silence just then. At least, I hope so. I could certainly think of nothing to say. He still frequents the Toga when not improving his skills with the gladius. Pilladen Vatta is said to have been a great warrior in his day, you understand, and well-skilled in the gladius.

   But somehow I think it won’t help him at all. No, not one bit.


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