Dead Man's Dream
Dead Man’s Dream
The first part in a flintlock fantasy adventure…
Miestrano was the greatest fencing Maister ever to pick up cold steel. Until a masked man put a rapier through his gut… that tends to slow you down. Dead to the world and suffering the very worst of hangovers, a man can still dream of being a somebody again.
Prince Phillipe should have been born to be a somebody, a King even. But he could never be considered for the crown. Sickly and touched are not a winning combination. Princess Gabriela has never been able to rival her perfect sister Imperia, so the Queen’s choice might seem inevitable. But this decision may be less about choosing an heir and more picking a side. Because war is coming and even more dangerous, a masked ball.
The Scarlet Mistress earnt her bloody reputation, but finding the man in the mask who murdered her lover has become a dangerous obsession. Especially as Spy Mistress to both the Queen and the Church her hands are full enough with intrigue. An heir to the throne must be chosen. Clockmakers are disappearing without trace. War seems just around the corner. And bodies are turning up mutilated by a master of the sword. It’s rumoured he wears a mask.
Out onto that same bridge he walked again, opening his coat and freeing the sword belt so his hand could find the rapier’s hilt easily. Flanked by twin rows of Saints crafted in white stone, every one of them writhing in the agony of their martyrdom, silent screams offered up to the night. Giovani turned and waited. He considered scuffing a line across the ground with his boot but refused the urge as too coarse an invitation. His intention stood clear enough. He wasn’t running anymore.
The spectral figure slipped out from behind a forever-dying Saint in marble and stood in the open for the first time, brazen and unafraid. Still no face. Instead a harlequin’s half-mask of black lacquer with golden diamonds stared back at Giovani.
‘Were you keeping the old custom?’
The figure shook its head.
‘Do you have a message from Telmaine? Bracchiano tells me he’s trying to stop the war all by himself.’
A second shake of the head.
Unshouldering his cloak the Harlequin let it slither to the floor revealing a simple blackened-hilted rapier hanging at his hip.
‘Ah, that.’ Giovani tried to swallow. ‘I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me which of my brothers is behind the mask? Is that you Ba
The apparition shook its head again.
‘No, I suppose not. Too tall.’
The figure in black flexed his fingers in their casings of heavy leather gauntlets.
‘You're not Corsine. Not unless you’ve grown a new left hand. And Bracchiano wouldn’t have the balls to face me with even odds.’ The figure showed no sign of retaliating to the jibe. ‘You aren't Zanabar either. No chance the swarthy bastard could have kept his hole shut this long.’
A blade was drawn in the darkness, blackened just like the hilt, no glinting steel for the weeping moon’s rays to catch.
‘Telmaine?’Giovani asked his silent opponent. ‘No of course not, you aren't wearing a dress. Gustano? No. I’m down wind of you and my eyes aren’t stinging. And I can’t smell the Admiral’s Reserve from here so you aren’t Del Toro either.’
The figure began to slide steadily forward, a condensation of shadows propelling a single blackened blade.
‘Meistrano? If it is you then that was the very finest death scene a tragedian ever conjured. I've never seen false blood like it.’
The blade and its trail of masked darkness came ever closer.
‘I know you're not Husta.’ Giovani Risio Husta drew his own rapier now, the slightest sing to the well-oiled blade as it slipped from its well-worn burrow. ‘That would be me.’
The wraith levelled his blade, needle like points of both rapiers hovering beside each other, not quite kissing in their en garde.
‘You’re Barolo aren't you? That pissing, whining little… No one’s seen or heard from you in years. Telmaine thinks you’re dead.’
The shadow made no comment, still as the statues flanking the long stone bridge.
‘Well… one last question my friend. Why? Why come for me now?’ Husta’s voice took on an edge, pressing against the dead silence left by his opponent. ‘You think it was me killed Miestrano? Me who betrayed our cause? Guess again. If I find out who it was murdered our Maister you can fight me for the pleasure of killing the fucker. You’ve come for the wrong man.’
The mask gave no answer, no accusation, no scream of killing rage. Not even the sound of his tread upon the gravel as his rapier lunged forward.