The portly man led Aleks and Lenia into the theatre which was packed with people. The lights were on low and it was difficult to make out anyone’s appearance within.
Scantily clad women made their way up and down the aisles offering drinks, food, or other services to the customers within. Some of the women had tails which stuck out from their clearly visible behinds and others were adorned with horns on their heads. There was as great a variety of women within the establishment as those that were without.
Many of the clientele wore masks just as Aleks did. They were most likely of the nobility or rich merchants and other prolific citizens of the city who wished to remain disguised. They had reputations to uphold and it wouldn’t do for the churches they worshipped from to become aware of their nightly endeavors. Of course, there were most likely many of the clergy within also wishing to remain just as discreet as the rest.
Aleks and Lenia were led down the aisle, straight to the front of the theatre. An entire row was reserved for just one person and his guests. That person being the Don himself who only allowed a very select few to ever be near him. His guards stood near at all times to ensure his safety. Aleks noticed that above were box seats where the most important guests would be seated and it seemed that in attendance this night, were many of the other Dons. Aleks knew that they were here to meet about the recent disturbances within the city, all of which had been caused by Aleks himself.
“Aleksandros!! Hahahaha, good to see you!”
Don Gregorio greeted Aleks with false enthusiasm and ushered him into a seat near him.
All of the Don’s of the city wore rather flamboyant clothing with bright colors you couldn’t miss from a mile away. It was as if they felt the need to announce themselves to the world through their clothing.
“Oh, who is this beauty with you? I didn’t know such a woman existed in this city! I didn’t know you had such exquisite tastes Aleksandros.”
Gregorio leered at Lenia as he spoke with Aleks.
“Enough with the pleasantries Don Gregorio, I am not here to socialize.”
His mouth twitched a bit when Aleks spoke, but the false smile soon returned on his face.
“Of course. I see you have the mask, then is the deed done?”
He was no longer smiling and a sinister look crossed his face.
“Don Jesef is dead and now I expect you to fulfill the rest of our deal.”
Aleks went straight to the point, not wishing to engage in frivolous banter.
“Haha, don’t worry, I will fulfill the rest of our deal. Why not enjoy the show first? It is about to begin.”
Aleks glanced once more towards Don Gregorio and beneath his mask he wore a knowing smirk for he knew exactly what he meant by ‘show’.
These foolish Humans and their twisted games. Dance fool, dance to my rhythm thinking you are the one in control.
At that moment, the lights completely darkened except for a bright light which was fixed on the large stage directly before Aleks. A solemn deep voice soon boomed outwards from somewhere atop the stage outside the light which had lit up the center.
“A mellow and solemn tune drifted from notes plucked from a harp. This sorrowful tune with no room for mirth or cheer, harbored vicious intent and narrow fear. The song, a fitting tribute to two lives living in despair. Two lovers held each other in their arms and whispered their hopes while danger drew near. Their love was forbidden for their great families warred and killed in the name of righteousness. Each wielding truth as their sword and lies as their shield, yet in their blindness, they trampled the hope of these two lovers.”
A tall actor in luxurious noble attire stood upon the dark stage regaling his enraptured audience with an elaborate story of two lover’s tragic tale. It was not an original story, there were many like it, there were even those who had to tread on this unfortunate path. There was no stranger to a love that was not meant to be, and it came in many shapes and forms.
Thinking back, Aleks had one such memory, or perhaps many even. While he had experienced untold lifetimes, his memories had become a tangled mess. They fluttered like unkempt grass and basked in the shadowy embrace of whittled dreams. Which iteration was it? A hundred lifetimes ago? Or perhaps twenty-three? It could very well be that a multitude of memories had swirled and ebbed until they had become a garbled mixture, seemingly appearing as one solitary event. Except that every time he tried to remember the event, while the scenario stayed the same, the names did change.
Ah yes… Jezebel… A name I shall naught forget.
Through the sifting sand of his memories, a single name jumped to the forefront of his shattered thoughts.
“Carmine, we must flee immediately or else our lives will be in danger.”
Said a breathless woman who trembled in fear.
She turned her head left and right, frantically as if searching for an unknown threat. A dreary road spread before them into the distance, its cobblestone packed frame worn with the passing of time. A slumbering manor built from ancient stone bared its shadowed fangs in the listless night, stretching forth as if to swallow the unforbidden love of the teary-eyed couple.
All this, setting the stage for the tragedy that had yet to come.
“Jezebel my love, then let us depart. I have prepared everything we shall need to begin anew. Do not worry, we will settle in a peaceful place where we can live our lives together with no fear.”
Carmine, hand outstretched, spoke as if conversing with the starry night and in his quivering hand, a gentle red rose. It seemed as if the women were touched by her lover’s determination and a warm light began to shine upon her face. The fear that was written their having receded due to his words, had now filled her eyes with hope.
“Yes, my love, let us depart!”
Jezebel responded with courage from somewhere deep in her heart and the two lovers climbed upon a horse and rode swiftly through the night. But it wasn’t long before pursuing knights desperately chased after them, a reminder of their carelessness. They urged their horse on, driven to the depths of their resolve. Neither one would allow their love to be stripped from them.
Aleks suddenly shook his head and grasped it with one hand, pain filling his mind and clouding his thoughts. He struggled against the pain, gritting his teeth beneath the mask.
As for Lenia, she had been so enamored in the drama unfolding before her eyes that she failed to notice the sudden struggle within her master’s mind. In truth it had only been a momentary lapse and she would have normally been able to perceive the sudden change.
Flashes of lightning darted across the midnight sky. They were blinding in their ferocity. Rain poured haphazardly down from the sky, drenching the cracked earth.
A man and a woman were surrounded by sneering soldiers who taunted the man to no end. They laughed at his misfortune while the man glared at them in defiance. He would protect the woman he loved. Those were his most sincere thoughts, for he had planned to give his life that she might live. He had thrown everything away for her and they had been unknowingly caught and surrounded by vicious men.
The brave man swung his blade to keep his enemies at bay, all while shielding the woman behind him. His opponents only laughed harder, pretending to strike and then quickly falling back. They were toying with him and enjoying his vain struggle.
Despite that, he kept his resolve and continued to look for an opening. If he could make an opening, at least his love could escape while he held the soldiers off. That was what he thought and while he continued to strive to save his precious beloved, he felt a sudden pain in his side. He reflexively touched where he felt the pain and felt something warm and wet. When he brought his hand to his eyes, his hand was covered in his blood.
He couldn’t understand what happened, no enemies had gotten close. Was it magic? He looked to his side to see if the woman he loved was safe and for the first time he saw a wicked and crooked smile on her face. In her hand was a bloody dagger, the one she had used to stab him. He finally knew dismay as he saw the woman he loves step away from him and behind the soldiers that had surrounded him.
He could barely speak over the thunder and rain and his own pain.
Jezebel stared at him with that crooked smile and laughed, “This was what we had planned from the beginning. Carmine, you are a fool to have given up everything for love. Now your entire clan will be killed and it begins with you, the only heir.”
“No… this can’t be… Jezebel.. What?”
Carmine fell to his knees in despair as the laughter of the soldiers around him crowded out his thoughts. His blood continued to gush out of his wound, staining his clothes as he turned his head in a daze and looked at the now blurry figures surrounding him.
He wasn’t sure if he said those words out loud or thought them.
If I could just stand, he thought as he struggled to move his body, but he lacked the strength.
“I never loved you.”
Those were the last words he heard before he drifted off into unconsciousness and finally, into the sweet comfort of death.
“Something wrong Aleks? You wouldn’t want to miss the grand finale, hahahahaha.”
Someone to his side spoke while laughing but for a moment Aleks wasn’t sure where he was. The scene he was watching before him had somehow transposed with his memories leaving him in a daze.
His blurred vision stabilized and he could once again see the stage before him. There were several actors acting out a battle scene where the knights of two different clans fought each other to death. The two lovers looked on from a distance in sadness for they had escaped their clans, but they could not bring peace.
It’s different… a different story.. A childish story at that, about a fool blinded by a mere obsession. Love is an illusion, there is only power and from that, everything is obtainable. My memories are fading, but some are too painful.
Aleks said, collecting himself and fully returning to the present.