'The Noisy Tide of Time'

A letter concerning Inigo de la Vega and the Don of the Dockside

The following is an excerpt of a letter Inigo de la Vega wrote to his partron, prior to de la Vega’s departure for the Crescent Empire.

You can imagine, of course, the shock of learning that I was [words scratched out] a wanted man. It was imperative that I learn who it was who put a bounty on me as if I were a common criminal, and why. I solicited the help of the two most physically imposing members of the party in a “good swordsman, bad swordsman” gambit. The well-dressed ruffian was not receptive to my questioning — indeed, he presumed I knew why I was in this situation. But the bandit king and Eisen prince learned that these “Dandies” were working on the orders of a so-called Don of the Dockside.

I had now set my steel upon the Don. It was a deviation of the goals of the enterprise, but honor and [words scratched out] my pride could not be denied. My fellows agreed to aid me in pursuit of this goal. Our captive would not tell me if the Don was in actuality a Castillian, so I could not surmise with confidence if he may have had some direct experience with me or my family in the past.

I was prepared to stride to the docks and run through dozens of these pistol-wielding popinjays to find out what the Don knew of me, but the Dandy we had subdued indicated that this Don would be a challenging foe in his home territory. Confident as I was in my skills in stealth, I was uncertain I could sustain an undetected sojourn in an entire section of an unfamiliar city — one where discovery would prove to be quickly fatal.

The prince proposed that we locate a tavern on the edge of the docks where we could meet and devise our next steps. Tur’lokk and the sardonic Eisen, Werner, undertook a mission to the docks. The bandit dismissed us as “amateurs,” a charge that needled me, given some of the more daring feats of [words scratched out] adventuring from my younger days. I thought it wise not to join them, since someone our adversaries could recognize on sight would not be an asset. Whatever the Don or his men had to say about me, an audience of only two suited me well, in the event that I had to control the dissemination of that information.

The prince and his party made themselves at home in the tavern, the bard indulging his musical capacity and the prince engaging in tests of strength with the proprietress. After devising an escape route from the building and two alternates, I took a seat where I could observe the patrons and reflect on my present situation and the past activities that let me there. As I considered past and present I wondered if, had my family not suffered catastrophe, my ethos would have become closer to that of the adventuring, well-financed prince than what it is now.

I was partway through determining a precautionary battle plan should this sinister Adversary force me to fight against my newfound comrades when Tur’lokk and Werner returned. They informed me that the Don sought me for my talents. My current talents or my historical talents I did not know. The pair had arranged a meeting with the Don, who told them I was welcome to bring my associates. The prince would even be allowed to duel the saucy Dandy that had provoked his ire. The prince offered me his services should my meeting lead to combat, an offer that I acknowledged.
[…]
The entire party went to the Don’s location. They would refrain from combat until I give them the signal, the word “elephant” — a recent preoccupation of the prince’s courtier Essie, whose dexterity had proven so helpful in recent battles. (Knife throwing is a skill that may be useful for me to acquire.)… The Don apologized for the behavior of his men, and then revealed that he sought the services of a Castillian highwayman known as La Sombra. I denied his assertion that I was the same person as this highwayman. Nevertheless, the Don had a ship that would aid us in this quest, so I offered him the services of Inigo de la Vega and his companions.

The Don accepted my offer, but the successful meeting was disrupted by the appearance of a cousin of the prince, chastising him for his frivolity. I thought briefly of my own family and the disapproval they had expressed of some of my more audacious exploits. (That audacity was, of course, only a “shadow” of what was to come following our unforeseen ruination.)

My reminiscence was cut short by an attack from a pack of Eisen hounds the nobleman set on us. To assist with the battle the fate witch, madam Fiorentino, cast some manner of spell upon me. I do not have the hostility to sorcery that some of our countrymen have, yet was nevertheless discomfited by the direct experience of it — although the method of its application was not unpleasant. I was unable to thoroughly test the efficacy of the witch’s blessing, however, since a hound was the only foe I dispatched, using a modified toreador technique, before our party retreated from a rush of reinforcements.

The Don, who had joined us in the battle, accompanied us in our retreat and directed us to the docks where his ship awaited. Before we parted I said some words to him in our native tongue to acquaint him of the consequences of persisting in this vexing highwayman suggestion. I assured my companions that this identification of me as La Sombra was the slanderous imagining of an opium addict. The only one to be troublesome was the bandit king, who seemed amused by the idea of my having a criminal past. He will be one to watch.

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