Masquerade Chapter Four: Entrepreneur

Masquerade Chapter Four: Entrepreneur

A Chapter by Michael Bujtas
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With the mysterious Emperor of Berma fast approaching, Gunter Newgate retreats into the taverns of the Pit to find someone unexpected.

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Masquerade Chapter Four


            If one sought a drink in Avo, there were few places to go that did not have either brutish thugs crowding up the tavern or posh smug nobles who had nothing better to do than to make their presence known to everyone in the vicinity. Fortunately, these two very different types of pubs were separated with the later located mostly in the upper districts of Avo while the less refined thugs could be found in the sewer-like depths of the city.


            After a week of dealing with the snide comments from aristocrats and several hundred requests from various sources that Mary be executed for her treason out of fear for their own safety, Captain Newgate was in just the right mood to venture down into the lower districts for his evening drink. It was known as the Pit to the nobles, a den of vice and filth that few of the nobility save the truly deranged pursued.


            Newgate settled on grabbing a drink from a particularly foul smelling place right next to a sewer grate with all the waste from above pouring out of it. Newgate had to admit that the smell was an improvement over the fumes of powder and perfume that soiled the air in Castle Dacre.


            Thankfully, he was not alone in his stupor into the abyss of Avo as a few guardsmen he recognized had made the jaunt to the Pit. Some were behaving below men of their status with wenches on their laps, but he was not about to reprimand them on their time off. Fortunately, one soldier by the name of Sir Ymbert Garthas had simply traveled to the bar for the same reasons Newgate, to have a drink. Though it could have been he was simply too shy or too ugly to attempt to have the same fun as some of the younger guardsmen. Newgate guessed it was because he was disgusting, judging by the rankness of the man’s breath and the heavy scars that polluted his face.


            “Fancy seeing you here, Captain,” chuckled ugly Ymbert as he pulled up next to the Captain sitting at the counter. “Not many of your type ever seem to wish to explore the undercity.”


            Newgate recalled mentioning nearly the same thing about being out of place in a tavern to Count Wymund before Alric had been murdered and laughed. “I suppose I simply wished to escape the insistent babbling of the moneygropers and landsharks topside.”


            The soldier laughed again. “You’re out of luck tonight, then.” And he pointed to a particularly rowdy crowd behind him.


            In the far back, attracting a large crowd of patrons and between two of the most beautifully cheap prostitutes was a man with the unmistakable air of nobility. Newgate barely shot a glance at the noble before grunting and returning his face to his drink.


            “Like rats, they pollute every corner of this city it seems.”


            Ymbert gave a huge rotten-ale-smelling grin. “Ah, they aren’t so bad. They may be fouler than the stink of my breath, but at least they bring some much needed coin to the commoners.”


            “Only when they come to suit their own needs…You’re a soldier too Ymbert. What about duty? What about honor? Have they no place in the noble’s hearts?”


            “The only thing I’m concerned about is having a place for food in my stomach, Captain.”


            It was just now that Newgate finally noticed that one of Ymbert’s front teeth were golden. “…Or if there’s place for coin in your pocket, is it?”


            “The coin goes to the same place, Captain. It’ll be food, booze, or women if they’re drunk enough.”


            “With how many of its citizen cut corners, it’s a miracle that this city hasn’t collapsed into rubble.”


            “Well you know what they say, if the head stinks don’t expect the feet to smell good either.”


            Ymbert returned to his drinking and attempted some poor flirting with one of the bar wenches as Newgate finally received his drink. The brew tasted like stale cat piss and the guard captain spewed it all over the counter, much to the disgust of the barkeeper. He quietly paid for his drink and left but not before a man who seemed like a bouncer stopped him at the door. Though he was young and quite strong looking Gunter knew he could break both of the man’s arms in just a few seconds if he wanted to, but reframed from doing so.


            “Captain of the Guard, Gunter Newgate?”


            “Who wishes to know?”


            “Baron Radolf Maynard.”


            “Never met the man, now if you’ll excuse me I’d like to retire for the evening.”


            However, the giant man didn’t seem too keen on having Newgate just walk away and continued to block the exit. “My lord insists on having you speak with him. He does not enjoy being disappointed.”


            “Disappointment breeds patience. Would you kindly step aside, my good man?”


            The giant man spat cockily and revealed a large dagger he had hidden within the folds of his vest. This was perhaps to show more intimidation, but for a man this size it was hardly required. “We can do this the hard way or the easy way.”


            “The hard way then.”


            Though big, the man was extremely quick with a jab. The knife would have been able to completely puncture a normal man, but though pressing fifty Newgate was far from being a normal man of any sorts. Years of training and perfecting his body through wars and trials had honed his senses and reflexes to near instantaneous speeds.


            With a simple sidestep and a twist, the giant dropped the dagger and was down on his knees howling in pain. Newgate had grabbed him by the wrist and was rotating his arm painfully, almost to the point of breaking it but not quite. If the man had chosen to keep attacking Gunter he would have had to break it, though now it hardly seemed necessary. The man was in tears, clearly no veteran to any sort of fighting. He was just a large and intimidating bodyguard.


            “I suppose a gentler invitation would have been more acceptable then?”


            Newgate turned but did release the sobbing giant’s arm. Behind him was the noble he had spied laughing in the back of the tavern, wenches still on his arms. Newgate recognized his great black moustache and posh purple plump hat now that he was in sight. Only a few nobles were as brave or outspoken as this man, Radolf Maynard.


            “Good evening, Baron Maynard.”


            “Captain Newgate, the pleasure is mine. Would you care to sit and drink with me? I promise you my rum is far sweeter than what they serve here.”


            “Begging your pardon, lord Baron but the time is late. I’d much rather return to my quarters in the barracks and rest for tomorrow’s events.”


            “Yes, so I heard. The Emperor of Berma is coming, is he not?”


            “I see word travels fast in the noble’s court, now if you’ll excuse me…”


            Newgate slammed the bouncer’s head into the wall, tossed a coin to the barkeeper for cracking it, and opened the door to leave.


            “Well, it just so happens that I wished to speak to you about that man, more specifically about his connection to our former kingship.” Maynard said with a grin under his bushy mustache.


            This time Newgate paused at the door. “What specifically about King Alric’s connection with that man?”


            “I’d much rather speak to you in private regarding the matter, rather than stand here at a doorway in the middle of a ragged alehouse. Come.”


            All eyes in the bar were upon them after Newgate’s scrap with the bodyguard. It was hardly a good place for a conversation. Newgate obeyed as Maynard dismissed the wenches around his arms and dropped a large coin sack into the hands of the barkeeper. The keeper opened a door behind the counter for them and the both of them quietly descended away from the din of the tavern. The stairs led to a small storeroom with a simple table and chairs around. Maynard locked the door of the room and sat down in the chair most further from the door.


            “Now then,” continued the Baron. “I can see that your interest in that man from Berma almost matches my own.”


            “I have my reasons,” Newgate replied coldly.


            “As do I. It just so happens that the good Emperor has invited me and a handful of other nobles to some ‘grand gathering of epic proportions’. Naturally it seems like-”


            “He’s kissing up to the influential nobles in the court of Avo,” Newgate politely finished his sentence for him.


            “I see you’re no stranger to the politics of nobility. The dinner party is of no interest of me, I may not even attend. But I digress, the Emperor’s appearance so suddenly, especially after the death of Alric, strikes me as more than coincidental especially after my sources handed me this.”


            Maynard reached into his vest pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a manifest of sorts. After handing it over to Newgate, the captain looked it over several times, trying to process what had been given to him and looking for any patterns to the data listed on the paper. It didn’t take long to notice a startling trend.


            “These are all weapon shipments made to the Berman province…”


            “Indeed. And I trust you spotted the sudden jump in sales over the past two months?”


            “This is…How-How has no one noticed this? Surely such a radical change in the market would get someone’s attention weeks ago!”


            “Someone did notice,” said Maynard as he snatched the papers out of Newgate’s hand. “I did.”


            “Why haven’t you shown this to anyone else? This might be the proof needed to reveal that there was foul play concerning the King’s murder.”


            “It proves nothing other than the fact that the Bermans have been taking an interest in improving their weaponry over the past months. They are statistics and nothing more. Do not confuse them for motives or schemes.”


            Newgate gave Maynard a disquieted look, he could not judge if the Baron was on his side or not. Maynard just smirked to himself and continued playing with his great bushy mustache. Newgate made a note that the good Baron fancied himself as a gambler and would often fidget in the same way when he had a good hand in poker while playing with some of the other nobles.


            “You seem confused, Captain.”


            “I’m not confused. You simply can’t be trusted,” Gunter replied honestly.


            To his surprise, Maynard gave a hearty laugh. “You’re absolutely right, I can’t be trusted. It’s always your duty with you, Captain. Isn’t it? You have your duty to your kingdom and duty to your king, even after death. What does your sense of duty say about this situation, Captain? Speak freely.”


            Newgate bit hard on his lower lip and sighed heavily. “I’d like to believe it, but coming from you I can’t be sure of myself or my duty.”


            “Even in the face of proof such as this?”


            “I can’t trust the proof if the proof is presented to me from someone like you.”


            Maynard continued to laugh and stroke his facial hair as if he were entertained by Newgate’s reasoning. “You won’t blindly follow orders then? How disappointing, yet at the same time delightful. You have no idea how intriguing it is to have someone actually have a mind of their own. Human beings are relatively cheap to purchase. Sometimes all it requires is a bit of money, or sometimes it’s the slightest bit of information to make them bend to your every whim.”


            His laugh was no longer rich and jolly, but coarse and hollow. The Baron’s eyes twisted into a dead serious look. “You remember that man you pummeled just a short while ago, my personal bodyguard? He’s only working for me because I claimed that I’d pay for his mother to move to Avo with him. In truth, that woman died years ago while working for me as one of my maids. I had her killed for destroying several of my prized plates.”


            “You’re a monster.”


            “You aren’t the first to call me that and you won’t be the last. What’s wrong with putting bugs to use? Even in chess a pawn can be useful but it usually ends up being the sacrifice most often to benefit its betters. Peasants and commoners are no different and are at the bottom of the ladder, used only to support the rooks, the bishops, the knights, the queen, and the king. It doesn’t matter how many of them I step on, so long as it benefits a greater good in the long run.”


            Newgate didn’t know either to be disgusted, horrified, or a terrible mixture between the two. He had heard rumors about the Baron who hailed from the far west and his policies for dealing with his servants, but Newgate had always dismissed them as merely stories invented by the nobility to soil Maynard’s reputation like the usual aristocrat hogwash. How could a man so twisted have become so powerful? He surrounded himself with thugs and sword-for-hire like they were a part of his private army. Not a soul in the noble court had the gall to attempt to offend or touch Radolf Maynard. He was almost as invincible as the King had been.


            “Anyway, seeing as you saw through my ruse, I suppose I should get down to the real reason as to why I wanted to meet with you.”


            But Newgate was considering walking right out without even listening to the Baron’s proposition. There was nothing good that could come out of listening to this man, yet for some reason he could not convince his body to stand up and walk away.


            “I propose…A truce between us of sorts. Something I believe we can both benefit from.”


            “Get to the point.”


            “You are still Captain of the Guard, are you not? You still have power to command your troops, any crime done in Avo goes straight to you. I’d like you to…Ignore several of my client’s minor offensives-”


            “You’re asking me to let your ilk roam free!?”


            “In exchange,” continued Maynard. “Any tips I receive concerning the death of Alric will be sent straight to you. That seems like a fair trade, wouldn’t you agree?”


            If it meant preventing who Newgate truly believed was behind the murder from succeeding in their plans, Maynard’s words would seem like wisdom. But if there was one thing Gunter knew about dealing with nobles it was how often they would stretch a deal until every loophole had been exploited. There was a reason the Guard was under direct control of the King, it was so that something like this couldn’t happen. Now that the King was dead with no heir, however, most nobles would attempt to squeeze in and grab as much influence as possible. Newgate couldn’t help but feel like a pawn to Maynard’s game.


            “Do you believe he did it?” Newgate asked. “Do you truly believe me and what I feel in my gut about the shadowy circumstances of the murder?”


            There was another hollow laugh. “Honestly Captain, it doesn’t make a trickle of difference to me as to who killed the King. As long as whoever was behind it leaves me out of it, be it the little girl for defending herself or some unseen conspiracy group, I’ll be happy. Good old Alric has left us a huge void to fill and there’s profit to be made and power to gain.”


            “Then you don’t care in the slightest? What if I’m correct in my assumptions about the Bermans? That weapons shipment looked legitimate despite them coming from you.”


            “That’s because they are authentic and accurate. Study them all you wish, even ask the manufacturers and workmen involved. There is nothing false about the document you hold.”


            Once again, Newgate felt like he was being stared at by a hungry snake as it slowly coiled itself around his neck. He couldn’t trust this man, yet he didn’t have any proof for his suspicions against the Berman royalty, including Queen Beatrice. He couldn’t do this alone without help and Maynard seemed to be the only noble interested in getting his hands dirty with something like this. A figure in a high place like the Baron would be invaluable for this investigation, but he couldn’t trust Maynard for a second. So far though, his accusations had only made him at risk of losing his position. It didn’t seem like there was even much of a choice.


            “I suppose I can’t simply expect you to come up with an answer right away, judging by your silence Captain. I’ll tell you what. You can give me your answer before the Emperor’s little tea party. I’ll be seeing you there, anyway.”


            “Why’s that?”


            “He has requested a small tournament to be held in honor of deceased comrade. I expect you’ll be in attendance, if the Queen hasn’t already notified you about it.”


            “She hadn’t mentioned it…”


            “Well, I suppose now you know. I look forward to seeing Alric’s old bodyguard back in action. I can see that your skills haven’t dulled after the way you handled my new bouncer, after all. I’ll have to fire him once he awakens.” The Baron gave one last grin before standing up and exiting the door but not before he turned around and said. “Regardless of what you choose and what you might hear, keep your eyes open. There are rumors that whenever the Emperor of Berma is around, trouble follows and we can’t have the Captain of the Guard being distracted now, can we?”


            Newgate did not follow Maynard out of the tavern. He sat at the table for a while looking over the shipment manifest for the tenth time. There was still the brooding internal conflict within him, debating if duty would be worth avenging his fallen friend. Overshadowing that, however, was a dreaded realization.


            “He will be here…In Avo…In Avalot.”


            A man he had promised Alric he would see brought to justice. The most wanted figured in the country just a decade ago. His face was known by every retired soldier, his name was like a curse around the camps under the ridge. Every man Gunter lost, every blood splattered face he saw haunting his dreams, he blamed on the Emperor. Thoughts of the war still kept him up at night and one thing was certain. Knowing that man was coming to Avo would mean many restless nights. Newgate wasn’t even sure of himself what he would do once he saw him face to face.


            “Alric…If that man is responsible for this mess you’ve left us in…Forgive me for not holding myself back. I may have to rip his spine out for revenge.”



© 2012 Michael Bujtas


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I am speechless. This is truly sensational! I absolutely love it! Please keep writing! I am at the edge of my seat, expecting more! Well done Michael!

Posted 8 Years Ago



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Added on September 14, 2012
Last Updated on September 14, 2012
Tags: masquerade, chapter, four, fiction, alric, bujtas, king, avalot, fantasy, knight, newgate, medieval, archetype, kingdom, murder, mystery, anarchy, chaos, court, soldier, mary, mute, riot


Author

Michael Bujtas
Michael Bujtas

Boonton, NJ



About
I'm a game designer/writer trying to publish my first fictional book. Any advice or helpful kind words would be appreciated! Thanks! Also check out my video blogs here: more..

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