Halifax Quinto

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‘There is an old tale of young maid named Cassima. Who lived in a world that was afraid, in a village that straddled the darkness. Cassima was different, and was feared for that fact her entire life. Until late one night when the village folk came up to her cabin, perched on the edge of town, and let that fear guide them.

 

‘Cassima cried into their hate as she was dragged into the town square. Cries of ‘witch’ echoed into the night as flames lit up the sky. Just before she died, as the pain fell away from her and the feverish screams of the crowd died down, the goddess Selune appeared in the tiny little village without a name.

 

‘With a sadness eons in the making, she looked over the townsfolk, fear and awe playing across their faces, until she finally settled on Cassima. She reached out with her hands and transformed the dying girl, the still-burning embers at her feet lifting up to envelop her ashen form. Brighter they grew, and none bar the goddess herself could bare to look, until they crumbled to the ground to reveal a phoenix where the young girl had once been.'

 

 

From somewhere nearby, what sounded suspiciously like several nobles playing instruments left behind by terrified – or perhaps, disgusted musicians – carried up to the second-floor gardens. The discordant sounds beating against one another below, provided a stark contrast to the brilliant harmony of the gardens above.

 

As an aside, a musician (certainly no bard) leaving their instrument behind is not something commonly seen, anywhere. All credit due, the parties of Halifax Quinto.

 

Visually stunning arrangements filled the balcony along either side; dozens, possibly a hundred or more species of flower filled every corner, falling like a brilliant waterfall onto the tiled floor beneath. A great marble bench plush with cushions and soft furs from the north sat in the center. Underneath an iridescent night sky, Viel’Sa scanned the glittering expanse and found the star Cassima, burning in the east.

 

‘Sa made her way quietly inside and down into the main hall, tip-toeing over the senseless bodies, taking note of the faces, and the few names she could place. The owner of this palace was a man famed for his ability to throw a party, a knack almost, to know exactly what the degenerate upper-class needed on any particular occasion. Though known commonly for his estate-grown wines, flaxen in colour, spirits from the east along with more exotic forms of inebriation would find their way onto the property. The local captains of industry were always happy to try the latest ‘high’.

 

This was one of those nights, the girl noted, deftly stepping over three bodies wedged in a doorway leading off to where the master bedroom lay. Peculiar scents would linger well into the next day, or week even, and the open style of the building’s architecture was meant to be in aid of cleansing the manor after such parties; though perhaps an exaggeration by the host, as it was widely-known the villa had been built years before the young master’s birth.

 

In her serving maid’s outfit, and carrying a mop and bucket, Viel’Sa stuck to the outer edges of Lord Quinto’s bedroom suite, though the drugs and alcohol imbibed this evening were enough to take down most large animals – the nobility had been practicing –  the odd stray might stumble upon her from time to time.

 

An inheritor of fabulous wealth and a predilection for viewing its continued existence as a challenge, Halifax Quinto had made quite the name for himself since the untimely and highly unfortunate death of his parents and four brothers (whispers arose at the time of foul play but they were eventually dismissed, as among even his most ardent of detractors none could summon a more spiteful thought other than ‘harmless fop’). His lavish estate held hundreds at capacity, and wild tales of the remarkably unconventional and fantastical entertainment's held within would echo into the subsequent weeks and months.

 

Viel’Sa had been working at the estate for almost a year, and every now and then when she was sure the guild rats had left for the evening, she would pick through the aristocratic elite for things to make her and her family’s life, a little easier. Jewellery was usually the least complicated, but from time to time information was more valuable and with a guest-list like Quinto’s, far juicier. In this case Halifax had a new lover, and the local money were curious for details.

 

‘Oh.’

 

The young maid paused a moment and slowly placed the bucket on the floor, careful not to make a sound.

 

‘Ahah.. Oh, oh my.’

 

A few furtive steps brought Viel’Sa to the door, resting slightly ajar – inside she could see the lord in question, his shirt unbuttoned to the waist with, someone on top of him. She couldn’t quite make out the figure from her vantage point, so ‘Sa leaned a little further against the door, in an attempt to see more of the room. Perhaps there was a mirror, some reflection she could ca..

 

CREEEEEEAK.

 

Halifax looked up just as she pulled her head back, only to bump into someone standing behind her. Viel’Sa’s heart froze.

 

‘Who, who goes there?’ A surprised and shaky voice sounded out the words slowly, as if remembering the need for verbal communication.

 

‘Who, who goes there?’ Halifax’s voice echoed from behind Viel’Sa’s ear, and a softly gloved hand covered her mouth as she failed to cover her surprise.

‘Wha.. What?’ Confusion, now replacing the surprise.

‘Wha.. What?’ Mimicked perfectly.

‘Halifax!’ A third voice, drowsy, but with an impatient edge. ‘Why are you shouting at the echos?’ The moment broken, Halifax looked back up to his partner. ‘You have more important matters to attend to.’

 

Viel’Sa watched with fascination as the couple returned to each other (a part of her mind remembering why she was here, tried to make out the woman’s identity) until the hand around her mouth tightened, and the reality of her situation asserted itself. The stranger reached over her shoulder and closed the door carefully.

 

‘If you leave now..’ Barely more than a whisper. ‘.. and promise not to look back, I won’t kill you. Nod if you understand.’

 

Nodding in relief even after she had been released, Vie’Sa waited until the figure behind her had stepped away. From the shadows, the unmistakable voice of the manor’s head servant, Gorim Kezig, reached out to her. What was going on?

 

‘Tell no-one.’

 

 

Over the next few weeks and months a different narrative of everyone’s favorite delinquent of polite social mention began to appear. The famed recluse had stepped into the light. Using the voice his nobility entailed, he lobbied for the blocking of a seemingly inconsequential treaty adjustment. As it had to do with an ancient land agreement that neither side possessed a vested interest in, long being accepted as financially irrelevant, his voice was heard, and no changes were made.

 

Why after all these years, and on this particular issue, had the overindulgent lord chosen to enter the political fray, would puzzle members of the upper class for years to come. But through all the theories and wild speculation, one thing was generally agreed upon by all, and that was that it was almost a different Halifax Quinto that appeared that day. Oh, the parties were still extravagant – still enough to reduce even the hardiest of social veterans to a near-catatonic state – and he was always still in the finest of forms, often exceeding  previous forms of finery with one spectacular event after another. But when he stepped outside, into the political world, there was almost a new alertness to him, an intrinsic grasp of what was going on that surprised almost all of his contemporaries.

 

Whatever it was, the parties were better.

 

Halifax Quinto

The Destiny of Kord Khaz