Categories > Original > Fantasy > Stories of Tavanta

The Life And Death Of Leonardo Monturi

by mattappleby 0 reviews

Category: Fantasy - Rating: R - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2011-09-24 - Updated: 2011-09-24 - 4402 words

The Life And Death Of Leonardo Monturi
by Matt Appleby

Peztitta, Trale Valley
Year 1820, Third Age

Captain Marco Grimaldi looked over the body, or rather, what was left of it. In his
twenty-three years with the Peztitta City Guard he'd seen many things he'd rather
forget, and had done a few others in the course of them, but this...this was a new low.
It didn't exactly horrify or upset him, because he'd been at this job too long to be
affected by the physical stuff anymore, but up until now, he'd believed that this city
had already shown him all its tricks. This body showed the disquieting reality that he
was wrong.

The deceased was a young man, no more than mid-twenties, and from what
little of his clothes remained, obviously poor. His face was still intact, but nothing
else had been left in one piece. His blood covered the floor and walls, and even had
thick splashes on the ceiling, like the room had been hit by an insane painter. The flies
had already started to gather in force, but thankfully, nothing had yet begun to
decompose. Grimaldi was used to the smell, but all the same, he was grateful to not be
dealing with that as well.

But given everything else, that was a very thin silver lining.

The Captain rubbed his beard a little, then turned to the other living person in
the room: Sergeant Vieri Barbarigo, his partner and a friend of many years.

"At best guess," Grimaldi said, "this was an animal. Something big tried to eat
him, stopped half-way through, then left. Doesn't make much sense, I know, but the
damage doesn't look like tool-work to me."

He'd seen injuries caused by nearly every tool you could ever possibly use, so
that least he was sure of. As for the rest, the animal they'd be after would have to be
pretty big, and whilst all kinds of goods came through Peztitta, traffic in large animals
wasn't exactly a booming industry. And it would still be somewhere in the city: most
citizens were carefully oblivious types, but in this instance, the Guard would've
noticed something by now. The lack of a better explanation was unsettling.

Barbarigo turned his attention back to the body. The Sergeant had been raised
in the Astore forest, not far from the Elven settlement of Xeftiyo, which was
unimaginably rural to a native Peztittan like Grimaldi. So if anyone in the room knew
what kind of animal could or could not have been responsible, it would be him. And
the deceased of course, but he wasn't exactly talkative.

"I don't know, sir." he said after a moment's thought. "Like you said, it's not
human. But fuck knows what else it could be. A bear could do it, I guess, but you
don't see those outside the Soentromo. I don't know any traders or smugglers who'd
be insane enough to ship one up here."

He paused again. "Hang on..."

Barbarigo pulled out his canteen, and splashed a little water onto the corpse's
face. It didn't do a lot about the blood, but it made the features a little easier to see.
Grimaldi stepped forward. He suddenly understood what had caught the Sergeant's

Barbarigo gave a dry laugh. "Well, holy shit. It's Leonardo Monturi."

Grimaldi knew he was right. Leonardo Monturi wasn't exactly a city icon, but
the Guard would know him anywhere. Better than they would like. He was a
smuggler, low on the food chain and not the brightest. Nonetheless, he had knack for
being connected to every scam going, without actually leaving enough evidence for
the Guard to do anything about it. He'd get a few weeks in the cells every so often,
but always for something irrelevant, and then he'd be straight back to smuggling. The
worst thing was, he wasn't a naturally slippery bastard, or even had any of the big fish
willing to help him out. He was just lucky.

But now, it seemed, that luck had finally run out.

"So it is." Grimaldi added. "Not the end I'd choose, even for that little streak
of piss."


"But at least we've got a lead. Any talk on who he'd been working with

Barbarigo racked his brains for a few seconds. He always listened out for the
latest gossip, but in a city this size, there was a lot of it going around.

"Uhhh...some guy called Talera. Claudio Talera, I think. Another lowlife, a
local, but only recently returned from several years in Canoc. Rumours suggest that
he came back with a big shipment of something or other, but no one can say what.
Based on this, the rumours might've undersold it a little."

"These rumours suggest what rock he's living under?"

"Apparently, he's just bought a warehouse on Oritoro, down by the docks. But
if he really is involved in this, then I expect we'll find him on the other side of the
continent by now."

Grimaldi shrugged. "Probably. But if we're lucky, it'll at least tell us where to
go next. Come on, let's go find his rock and kick it over. See just how much he's
managed to fuck things up."

"If it gets me out of here, sir, then I'm all for it."


The two Guards turned and left the room. There was a short corridor, then
another door, and they were back out onto the street. This particular corner of town
was mostly unvisited, but all around them could be heard the bustle of people, carts
and ships. The sun had barely risen, but Peztitta was already at full speed. Not that it
ever really slowed down, of course.

The building where Monturi spent his last was a one-story, two-roomed shack,
thrown up to fill a gap between two buildings. Such structures were common, even in
the more up-market districts: most of the available land had been used up long ago,
and the only available directions were up and between. In time, once the spectre of
violent death had been washed away, this shack would no doubt go upwards, to match
the five, six, even seven or more stories of its neighbours. Of course, its nature as a
shack would mean it would soon fall down again, but beggars couldn't be choosers.

Two other Guards were stood outside the door. Lance-Constables from the
local station: Resali and Havenna, if Grimaldi could remember correctly. He memory
for names had been getting worse in recent years, and he was increasingly dismayed
to find that, now he was a Captain, the lower ranks had started to turn into fog. That
was never a good sign in a Guard.

Grimaldi turned to the Lance-Constable. "The Sergeant and I have done all we
can. Get someone to take the body over to the Mortuary, see what the Doctor can
make of him. And get someone else to clean up the mess in there. Make sure they've
got a strong stomach. Don't let anyone else in there."

Resali and Havenna saluted and yessir'd. They looked grateful they wouldn't
have to do either of those tasks themselves.

Grimaldi turned to another figure, leaning against a wall a short distance away.
The last he'd seen of Lance-Constable Orsci was the boy rushing outside to throw up.
The Captain had no objections to this: Orsci was only seventeen, still on his first
month in the Guard, and no way was he ready for a sight like Monturi. Then again,
neither was anyone.

The poor bastard had also been the first one to find him. An anonymous note
had been given to his station, Orsci had been sent to check it out, and the situation had
promptly deteriorated from there. Apparently, he'd been fine the first time, if only
through shock, but being forced to go back had pushed him over the edge.

As for who sent the note, Grimaldi was starting to formulate a theory. But that
could wait until they found Talera.

He walked over to Orsci. "How are you holding up, Lance-Corporal?"

Orsci jumped, then immediately jumped to attention. The boy was still shaking

"Much better, sir!" he said. "Sorry about that, sir! Don't know what came over
me, sir! I won't let it happen again, sir!"

"Don't worry about it. We all have our bad days. Come with me, Lance-
Corporal. We have some business on Oritoro."

"Thank you, sir! I won't let you down, sir!"

"I've no doubt."

Resali and Havenna most likely wouldn't appreciate being left out, but
frankly, they'd had a much better morning than everyone else. It was time for Orsci to
learn that his work was about more than being violently ill.

It was only a few minutes' walk to the nearest jetty, and the Guard boat that
was waiting for them. The two pilots put up the sail, and before too long, they were
sailing down the Alzocca Sound. Barbarigo took the opportunity to inform Orsci of
the case's latest developments, such as they were. Grimaldi took in the view, or at
least tried to. Things were hard to see when you faced them every day of your life.

Peztitta was a city built on eleven islands, bunched to the north side of
Baertocca Bay, each criss-crossed with a myriad of canals and waterways. It had the
best possible motivation for a navy, and being positioned at both the head of the
Trale-Enisi river system and the Sestige Ocean-Corpali Sea meeting point, it also at
the best possible location to make use of one. This was a world built on water
transport, and as a result, Peztitta was the richest, most powerful city for half a
continent. Even in the midnight hours, there were more ships here than the human eye
could count, coming and going in a never-ending cycle, buying and selling goods that
were beyond imagination in scale, variety and sheer magnificence. Elven clothing and
weapons from Prodroi; pelts from the giant beasts of the Novieri jungle; gold and
jewels from the tombs of ancient Canoc emperors: if you wanted it, and if you had the
coin, then there was nowhere better to get it than Peztitta.


Unfortunately, all this meant that, underneath the wealth, this city was also a
smuggler's paradise. If what you wanted was something no honest trader would carry,
or you wanted it for a price they wouldn't consider, then there were no shortage of
those with loose enough morals to help. The Guard came down heavy on any
smugglers they found, but there were too many suppliers, too many customers and too
many goods to ever get then all.


And now, it seemed, this Talera had brought with him a cargo so exotic that it
could turn people into an unholy mess and then vanish into thin air. It was days like
this that could make a Guard Captain long for some honest contraband.


Grimaldi realised that Orsci was trying to get his attention. He blinked a few
times, then turned to face the boy.


Orsci swallowed. "I was just wondering, sir...what are going to do with Talera
when we find him?"

"I should have thought that was obvious, Lance-Corporal. When we find him,
we're going to find out what he's up to, get enough evidence to place before the King,
then have him tried for whatever crime it turns out he's committed. Anything else,
we'll just see where the day takes us. Unless that wasn't what you meant."

"Umm...not exactly, sir, no. I mean...Monturi, sir. A man that could..."

Orsci trailed off, unwilling to face the idea again. Grimaldi understood what
he was getting at. He'd been wondering the same thing himself.

"If it's any consolation, Lance-Corporal, I don't know either. I haven't seen
anything like this before. But hopefully we'll get some answers soon."

As if on cue, Grimaldi looked up and saw they were nearly at Oritoro. On their
left was Alecia, the territory of King Lorenzo himself. The royal palazzo took up half
the island, a fortress of marble that dominated the skyline, twice the height of
anything else in the city. It was from this impenetrable throne that the King ruled a
city-state that was nearly a global power in its own right.

The palazzo would be their eventual destination, once the long road of this
investigation was complete, but for now, their port of call was elsewhere. Oritoro was
mostly known for being the second-worst island in the city, behind only Baromeser,
the smuggler-infested rate-hole in which Monturi had met his last. Accordingly, the
island was popular with criminals who weren't especially wealthy, but nonetheless
aspired to a little respectability.

The boat pulled up a jetty near the docks, and the three Guards got out. Ahead
of them was a narrow canal, with what was no doubt intended to be a promenade
running along one side. The streets were thick with people, going about whatever
legal or illegal business they so desired.

"So, Captain," Barbarigo said, "any thoughts on how we'll find this
warehouse? We can't exactly go knocking on doors."

"No. We'll check in with the station here. See if they've heard any rumours of
their own."

Grimaldi spotted a man in the crowd. He'd been walking towards them, but
had stopped a few metres away. Then the man turned round. Grimaldi knew a runner
when he saw one. Even if this man wasn't connected to Talera, no one honest ran
from the Guards.

"Or we could just ask him."

Barbarigo and Orsci spotted him at the same time. This was when the man
lived down to expectations, and ran.

Orsci was the first to give chase. The crowds jumped out of the way, and he
took advantage of the space. The kid may have been a skinny little runt, but it seemed
that even in armour, he was quick. A second later, Grimaldi and Barbarigo took off
after him.

The chase didn't last long. The man collided with a passer-by and stumbled a
few feet, giving Orsci time to catch up. The kid tackled him with full force, pitching
them both into the canal. There was a loud splash.

The other two Guards rushed up to the edge. They saw Orsci treading water,
holding onto his wildly thrashing catch. The man, in addition to being stupid, clearly
couldn't swim.

Grimaldi took a coil of rope from his belt, supplied for just this kind of
situation, and passed down one end. The man was pulled out first, coughing,
spluttering and swearing with equal enthusiasm, then found himself restrained by
Barbarigo. He tried to twist out of the Sergeant's grip, but failed utterly.

"Try that again. Please." Barbarigo hissed in the man's ear. He finally took the
hint and stopped resisting.

Grimaldi then pulled out Orsci, who was a lot more grateful. The Captain
considered himself impressed: not many Lance-Constables would attempt to run
down a suspect on their own initiative, and fewer still would succeed. No one should
underestimate the capabilities of a seventeen-year-old eager to impress.

"Thank you, Lance-Corporal." He said. "Very good work."

Orsci saluted, beaming with pride. "Thank you, sir! Just doing my job, sir!"

"I've no doubt, Lance-Corporal."

"Yes sir!"

The three Guards focused on their new prisoner. There had been a small group
of onlookers, but they quickly dispersed. Most people knew better than to pay
attention to this kind of business.

"Let's start with the formalities." Grimaldi said. "Who the fuck are you, and
what makes you so desperate to run from the Guards?"

The man just whimpered.

"Want me to ask again?"

"Uhhh...uhhh...Ludovico...Ludovico Dolmora."

"Pleased to meet you, Ludovico Dolmora. How about the other part?"

Dolmora whimpered again.

"Alright then. Let's narrow this down. Do you know Claudio Talera?"


"I'll take that as a yes. Which is lucky for us, 'cause that's exactly who we're
looking for."


Grimaldi sighed. "Listen, it's okay for you to talk to us. We're not like the
horror stories. We aren't about to break your legs, especially not in public. But you
did try to assault a Guard. How do you estimate your chances when we put that before
the King?"

Dolmora whimpered, louder now than before.

"Please stop that."

Grimaldi hated putting on the tough act. Other Guards fit it like a steel fist in a
velvet glove, but it wasn't something he'd ever been comfortable with. But on guys
like Dolmora, who were naturally stupid and panicky, it could be very effective.

"Alright, alright! Yeah, I knew Talera. This is about Monturi, isn't it?"


"What do you know about Monturi?"

"Just that when I saw him last week, he was alive, and when I spoke to Talera last
night, he wasn't."

"What killed him?" Grimaldi paused. "Wait, what do you mean, 'knew'?"

"What?" Dolmora stopped to think. "Oh, fuck. Listen, if I tell you, can you
keep me out of it? You know, official-wise?"

Grimaldi looked at his two partners. You weren't supposed to do things like
that, but everyone understood that procedures could be flexible. And it looked like
Dolmora could break this case right now.

"Yeah, sure. Why not? Just no bullshit."

"Thank fuck.'s one hell of a story. It's better if I just show you.
We're not far from Talera's place."

"Alright." Grimaldi turned to Barbarigo. "Sergeant, let him go. But make sure
to smack him if he goes wandering off."

"Yes sir."

Barbarigo released his grip on Dolmora. The crook stepped forward a few
paces and rubbed his arms.

"Right then. Follow me."

Dolmora walked off down a side-street. He led the three Guards through the
alleys of Oritoro, always careful to never walk faster than they could follow. There
were no people here, but then again, no people would want to be here. After a little
while, they came out onto another 'promenade', this one with views across Tenporo
Sound and the mainland.

Dolmora turned right and headed along the waterfront. It was another few
minutes before they came to a small warehouse, no larger than a house, that seemed
totally undistinguishable from the others around it. He looked around warily, but for
once, they were alone.

"I've got to warn you." he said. "You're about to see some weird shit."

If it was any weirder than Monturi, Grimaldi would be very impressed. But
he'd been wrong about such things before.

Dolmora opened the warehouse door, but only just enough to squeeze through.
The Guards followed him, and he closed the door behind them.

The only source of light was a tiny window in the ceiling, but it would have to
do. Once his eyes adjusted, Grimaldi could understand Dolmora's need for secrecy.

There were only two things in the warehouse. The first was a large wooden
crate, its lid on the floor a few feet away, and filled with small white bags. The second
was a man sat by the wall, and quite obviously dead. Grimaldi could tell because a
sword had been shoved through both his head and the stone behind, and with so much
force that it was buried up to the hilt in his forehead. Compared to Monturi, there was
surprisingly little blood.

Barbarigo summed it up best. "What. The. Fuck?"

"I don't know." Dolmora said. "This was how I found him. I came in this
morning, saw him like...this, then bugged the fuck out. I was trying to find a boat
when I ran into you guys instead. Lucky me."

"Well, lucky us." Grimaldi said. "So that's Talera?"


Great. "I think you'd better start from the top."

Dolmora sighed, then walked over to the crate. He picked out three bags, then
tossed the Guards one each. It was heavier than Grimaldi expected, and as he looked
closer, he realised that it wasn't the bag that was white, but the contents. It was a
milky liquid, but it also glittered in shifting colours and patterns. He felt it safe to
assume this wasn't natural in origin.

"Those bags are tough, but I'd still be careful if I were you. Talera said it only
affected you if you drank it, but looking at the guy..."

Grimaldi held up the bag. "What is this?"

"You know what the Calfala plant is?"

"Sadly, yes."

Found in the Cycanac desert, the Calfala was a large tree-like plant. Its sap,
when extracted and drunk, was apparently able to induce visions, and as a result had
become wildly popular throughout the continent, especially in Peztitta. Grimaldi
considered it to be effectively harmless, but the King didn't, so it remained one more
thing for the smugglers to get rich on.

"Well, this is a special version." Dolmora said. "Talera bought it off some
tomb-robbers, who apparently stole it from the pyramid of a Canoc Emperor. It's got
some weird magical juju in it. Maybe it was supposed to be a curse or something. I
don't know."

"A curse." Barbarigo deadpanned.

Grimaldi actually considered that quite plausible, considering how Monturi
and Talera had died.

"Like I said, I don't know. I've never taken it. All I know is what Talera told
me. I used to know him before he went out to the desert, so when he came back with
this shit he tried to punt it to me and Monturi. I couldn't afford the kind of prices he
was asking, so I said no."

"What happened to Monturi?" Grimaldi asked.

"I'm getting to that. According to Talera, what's in these bags goes one up on
Calfala. It gives you weird-ass visions, yeah, but it's supposed to make them solid."


"Yeah. Real-like. So others can see them. And they can do shit to you. Talera
brought me over here again last night, tried to off-load the whole crate on me. Pro
bono, he said. I said no."

He paused. "I don't know exactly what happened to Monturi. Again, all I
know was what Talera told me. So the tale goes, Monturi bought some of this shit,
tried it, then started screaming that the walls were trying to eat him. Talera says he
didn't stick around after that. I came back this morning, like I said, to see if he'd tried
to connect me with all this. Then I saw him with a sword through his head. Guess he
wasn't kidding after all."

Grimaldi felt ill. He didn't want to imagine how Monturi must've felt.

"Did you see Monturi's body?" he said.

"No. I didn't want anything to do with it."

"Well, we did. He really wasn't kidding."

Dolmora went pale. "I think we'd better put those bags back in the crate."

No one needed telling twice. There was a long silence, then Dolmora coughed
a few times.

"Well, that's...that's my tale. On a scale of one to ten, how much trouble am I
about to be in?"

Grimaldi rubbed his beard, even though he'd already made the decision.

"You turned down Talera's deal, which already makes you more intelligent
than I first gave you credit for. So about a one."

Dolmora smiled, then tried to stop himself. "So we're done?"

"We're done. Go on, fuck off. Get yourself an honest trade, before something
bad happens to you."

Dolmora hustled out of the warehouse as a fast as his legs could go. Behind
him he left another silence, settling like dust in the air.

"What now, sir?" Barbarigo asked.

"Well, first thing's first, I'm going outside. I need some air."

"Me too." Orsci said with a little too much enthusiasm.

The three Guards left the warehouse, careful to close the door behind them.
The promenade was still empty, for which each of them was grateful.

Grimaldi looked at Orsci carefully. He didn't look too peaky, but neither did
he seem about to throw up again. It would've been excusable, all things considered,
but it was probably for the best that he didn't.

"First thing's first." Grimaldi said to the group. "We need someone to take
care of Talera's body. Though they'll probably need to remove the whole wall in
order to get that sword out. And then we need to get that crate of whatever-the-fuck-
it-is to the King. I'd vote to burn it and never speak of it again, and I guess he will
too, but it still needs to be his call. As to how we got hold of it, I'll have to think of

Orsci looked a little upset. "So we're really letting him go, sir?"

"I did tell him I would."

"Don't worry about it." Barbarigo added. "We'll be meeting him again. That
retard's so crooked he can probably see that back of his own head. Like he's going to
go straight."

"It's just that..." Orsci paused. It was clear that, whatever he was about to say,
it was something he'd never been able to put into words before.

"It's just that...after what we've seen, that story he told's all over?
Now? That's it?"

Grimaldi just shrugged. "I guess it is. The crime's been solved, the villain's
been defeated, the evil plan's been sunk. And it's not even midday yet. Okay, so both
of the only two people worth arresting are dead, and there's not going to be any hero
points for bringing them in. But we've still got the afternoon. Let's get some food and
beer, and then maybe we'll get lucky."

"I'm not hungry, but...I guess."

"Oh, cheer up. You've still got a long career ahead of you. There'll be other
cases to solve."

Unlike Orsci, Grimaldi did not consider this to be a good thing. But that was
just the nature of the city in which they lived, and it was as true for a Captain as it was
for all the Lance-Constables whose names he could barely remember. It was a safe bet
that, between now and lunch, someone would die and something else would get
stolen, and it would be a whole new challenge for everyone involved. It was Peztitta's
gift to them all. No one said they had to like it.
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