Winds of fortune : a long good-bye

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*Uncle Uzo drummed his fingers on the hard oak table. The faded runes tattooed on his knuckles stretched and moved. Strength to do what needs to be done. To bring an ending to those who oppose. To be cunning and cautious in the face of oppression. To have the will to choose ones own destiny. As he counted them off, the mantra in his head went some way towards calming his troubled thoughts. Some way.

Back in Tassato Mestra. Already. He cursed under his breath. Hardfrost! That damn Talbot beater, that damn militiaman! It was like he had a supernatural sense for Uzo’s agents! All efforts to establish himself in Sarvos ruined; his brick factory confiscated; his followers dead or fled. And now he was back in damn Tassato, a poor relative knocking at the door of the damn woman he had moved to Sarvos to get away from in the first place.

Auntie Vivian di Tassato Mestra. She had not even deigned to see him yet, keeping him waiting for the second day. Hiding out in a filthy garret overlooking the river, drinking himself into oblivion each night on stolen Hercynian spirits brought down the river from Temeshwar hidden in crates of weltsilver ore. He sighed gustily. If their situations had been reversed, he would have enjoyed her situation as much as she was plainly enjoying his.

He glared across the table at her representatives. Carlton di Tassato Mestra was young, and making a show of cleaning his fingernails with a slim stiletto. A popinjay. His older brother William was a different matter - hard and strong, like a true vyig, at ease with the harsh realities of life as an enforcer for Auntie Vivian. Where Carlton was clearly full of nervous energy, William sat stock still in his seat, his dark-skinned hands resting easily on the table in front of him. Uzo could barely make out any of his tattoos; black ink on black skin. He’d heard that if you were close enough to see the vyig marks, you were only still breathing because William (or his Auntie) thought you were worth more alive than dead.

Uncle Uzo shook his head to clear it. That sort of thinking was fine for the sheep, for the bleating masses that bowed beneath the Imperial yoke. It was not right for an Uncle of the vyig, for a wolf-in-shepherds-garb, to give too much credulity to stories spun to keep the prey on the back foot.

William was staring at Uzo. Appraising him. The silence stretched. The older man was damned if he was going to appear weak by breaking it. He took another sip of strong Navarri alcohol, grimaced at the sharp tang. What the hell did they use to make whiskey in the Glade of Shadows? Damn Hardfrost.

Suddenly, young Carlton cocked his head and frowned. He stood up and moved fluidly towards the door, cracked it open. Uzo heard it then as well - the sound of someone banging on the door to the tavern below. Raised voices.

William was already by the window, cracking it a little, peering into the street. Uzo had not seen him move. “Militia,” he said quietly, his voice betraying no emtion. He might have been discussing the weather. “And … priests?”
The sound of wood splintering from below, raised voices. Steel.

Uzo lumbered to his feet. “What … you told me this place was safe!” he hated how petulant he sounded. His head swam from the sudden movement. He’d had too much to drink, and cursed himself for it.

“Nowhere is safe right now, ‘Uncle’.” said Carlton, not bothering to conceal his contempt.

Uzo bridled, his hackles raised, whiskey fuelling the anger vying with fear in his belly. He had been smashing faces and breaking legs before this little shit had got blood on his first tunic. He deserved respect, dammit! He opened his mouth to bawl the young bravo out and then … something went wrong.

He slumped back in his seat, heavily. He became aware of a spreading wetness, and the first hint of pain in his back. He craned his head round. William was behind him, wiping his daggers quickly clean on Uzo’s cloak.

“This is not personal, Uzo” he said quietly as Carlton locked and barred the door. “Aunt Vivian holds no grudge against you, but you know too much and you are too old and fat to go where we are going. Better that you take our secrets to the Labyrinth with you.”

Uzo tried to stammer something but William silenced him with a finger. Behind him, Carlton had unshuttered the other window, and was already pulling himself up onto the roof of the building next door.

“Don’t say anything, Uzo.” William’s lip curled.

“Any true vyig would have died in Sarvos fighting the magistrates. We will say that that is what happened, give you a little of the dignity you seem to have spent the last ten years running from. You do not need to thank me.”

As the agony from his ruined kidneys banished any rational thought, as the room began to grow dark, Uzo slumped forward over the table.

The last thing he saw was William’s boots disappearing from sight as he followed his brother onto the roofs of Tassato; the last thing he heard the pounding fist and the raised voice demanding that he open the door; and the last thing he thought before he ceased to be Uncle Uzo entirely was “That … damn … Hardfrost …”*

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In the gripping conclusiong to the events that began in A big sleep, the vyig organised crime syndicate is smashed and scattered to the four winds with only some damage to the fortunes of the businesswomen and men of Holberg, Mestra, Reagrio, and Temeschwar.

You can learn the full details here, including some suggestions for ways you might want to include elements of the Assembly of Vigilance’s crusade into your own roleplaying regardless of where in the Empire you hail from.

you can also learn about why the vyig are a big deal and what the virtue of vigilance is all about on that same wiki.

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The picture is a detail from The Effects of Good Government, a fresco in the City Hall of Siena by the early 14th century Italian painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

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