No ICFN this week, I simply ran out of time doing other projects. It shall return next week!
In the meantime, here’s a piece I wrote years ago to compliment the game which was, at that time, under development by Machine Age Productions. It’s a story of the Amaranthine, and it may whet your whistle for even better stories on their way to you in the Amaranthology.
The band had some kitschy, trendy name that they thought set them apart from the pack. It simply made them sound like another pop-emo-rock fusion outfit trying to be someone more successful. Trevor wasn’t certain why he’d come down here to see them live. He didn’t even like this sort of music. But he’d caught a glimpse of one of their tacky posters, and suddenly he HAD to be here, in this crowd.
He hadn’t paid, of course. If you knew the city the way he did, you could find ways into anyplace that weren’t watched, alarmed or locked. He slipped through the bodies of the crowd, some of the contact welcome, others jarring. The first opening act was leaving the stage as the second was coming on, the one he’d come to see. The girl behind the drums was tightening the bass kit, the guy with the emo fringe setting up his keyboard. Neither of them were familiar. Just two more in the sea of faces that was the indy music scene.
Then the other two members came on stage. Trevor recognized them both. He’d been born and raised in this town, and while he didn’t know where he’d seen them before, the sight of them was like an icepick in his mind – cold, clear and sharp. The girl tuning her bass, to him, seemed out of place up there, in skull motif bikini top, short jean skirt and high-heeled boots ending just below her knees. The last time he’d seen her face it had been shining at him from within the confines of a habit.
A nun? Where did he know a nun from? All of the nuns he’d known in school were wrinkly old gargoyles, not the rock nymph casually ignoring all of the whistles and cat-calls. And the guy next to her… He wore a similar fringe to the keyboardist, skinny jeans, a shirt with wide horizontal stripes, combat boots without laces. The Fender in his hands was beaten and stained, decorated with skater stickers. But the face behind that pomade-slicked hair… Trevor knew that face.
The kid stepped up to the microphone. The lights came down, spots on the band. Trevor’s hand trembled.
“Bless me Father for I have sinned!”
The band came slamming down on their first chord, and it was like Trevor had been kicked in the gut. He heard the words again, this time a whisper, and in Italian.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last confession.”
The figure in the other side of the booth kept to the shadows. The monsignor did not mind. Let the good people of Florence have their privacy, he thought, as long as they give their burdens to God and their florins to my church.
“You are safe in the house of God, my son. I will hear your confession.”
“I have killed seven people.”
The monsignor paused. “Are you a soldier, my son? A soldier is expected to kill in dark times, and we live in dark times indeed.”
“No, Father, I am no soldier. Not in the sense of marching in rank and taking orders. I am a soldier in a different sense.”
“How do you mean?”
“You have served the Medicis for quite some time, Father. I’m sure you’re aware of their coming exile.”
“Yes. Their loss will surely diminish Firenze.”
“That is one opinion. Another is that a French toad in control of Firenze is something the people do not want. Many of the Medici’s loyal supporters will assist them in remaining here longer than is healthy for the people.”
“I am afraid I do not understand, my son.”
“You are their confessor. I cannot have them falling under my blade having confessed their many sins.”
The blade came through the wicker screen without warning, cold steel lancing across the Mon Sengior’s throat. Blood flowed freely down the front of his robes, staining the black of his oath and the violet of his station with crimson. He grasped the wound and collapsed, gasping but clinging to the last bit of life left in him.
“Your soul will go to God, Father. You will not see these parishioners again. Perhaps in time, you will consider this a favor. Good night, sweet prince.”
A power chord on the bass shocked Trevor back into the here and now. He glanced around the crowd. Had anybody else seen that, felt that? What had just happened to him? He turned back to the stage.
The lead singer was staring right at him.
He was singing his over-emotional lyrics, barely audible over his too-technical guitar playing, and he was staring directly at Trevor. Trevor blinked. No… the eye-line was off slightly. He turned to look behind him.
Fiona. The boss’s daughter.
The connection clicked into place. He’d seen the poster in Fiona’s room. That’s why he’d come here. Fiona was a fan. Fiona, who had been trying so hard to please her father. Fiona, who had long been promised to the son of the boss’ rivals in Chinatown to a bright young man who, despite being half-chink, had impressed Trevor with his politeness and poise.
Fiona, who was getting moist at this punk’s attention.
Trevor faded through the crowd. He waited until the songs were over. Then he moved through the darkness towards the backstage area. The band was tossing back water from bottles. The singer turned to Trevor as he approached.
“Sorry, man, gotta wait for us to come to you at the merch table.”
“I’m not here for your merch.”
The singer blinked, trying to clear them of the haze caused by some illegal substance. The other band members looked on, the drummer and keyboardist wide-eyed and frozen with uncertainty. The bassist, however, merely backed up a pace, taking a long sip from her water bottle. Her eyes never left Trevor’s face.
“What, are you an agent or something?” The singer hooked his thumbs in his skinny jeans. “You wanna sign us?”
Trevor had gotten good at never telegraphing his punches. It was something the boss loved. Once he’d knocked out a 300-pound Sicilian with a single punch. The fat bastard had screamed at the boss to let him have another crack at Trevor, to have a fair fight. The boss had laughed in his face and demanded his money. 90 days overdue was 89 too long by the boss’ count.
So when he hit the singer with a right cross to the face, nobody saw it coming. The drummer & keyboardist were on their feet, gasping in shock. Not the bassist, though. She was smiling. Somehow, Trevor didn’t need to see it. He could feel her smile.
“You were eyeing up the pretty blond behind me, weren’t you, boy?”
Trevor hauled the punk up by his trendy shirt. He punched him again, with the left, breaking his nose. The blood flowed freely, almost eagerly, just as it had down Trevor’s robes. Trevor saw red. He punched the singer again and again. Every time, he heard another voice, saw another face, always the same face but different times, different places.
“Requiescat in pace.” Punch. “Does Columbus even know where he’s going?” Punch. “The British are coming!” Punch. “Fuck you and your Arch-duke.” Punch. “I don’t think Hitler has what it takes to lead.” Punch. “How dare they destroy the Buddhas! They’re sacred relics!” Punch.
By the time Trevor came back to his senses, the singer’s face was a mess, bruised, bloody and swollen. He let the unconscious punk slip to the floor. There was commotion towards the front of the venue, bouncers fighting through the surging crowd to get to him. The bassist placed her empty water bottle by the stage, fingers sliding over a splotch of red on her skin.
“You got blood on me.”
Trevor caught his breath. “Sorry. I don’t know what…”
“No. But I do.” She took his hand. “Let’s get out of here.”
Trevor was pulled towards the backstage door. “Wait. Who are you? How do I know you?”
She smiled over her shoulder at him. “I’ve been waiting five lifetimes to hear you ask me something like that. It’s about time you woke up to what you really are.”