The passage through the Qyzylqum was, as you might expect, long and tough. Telos spent at least a fortnight on the Via Regia. At one point he came to a crossroads. A sign in the middle of the fork pointed to the left and the right. The left was marked ‘Magdeburg’ while the right was ‘Venice.’
Unsure of which he would rather visit, Telos went to the right because Venice sounded more pleasant.
At one point, he met a traveling man. The man was forty-five and of good humor, although Telos could not really understand him. He spoke of grand places that sounded completely made up. It turned out the traveling man was also going to Venice, after having been jailed for a few months. He expected his return to be quite celebrated.
They traveled together, and Telos grew to enjoy the man’s company. Although he was almost certainly telling lies, he was funny and reeked of wine. He had a scraggily beard that was turning from grey to white, and a drawn face that was often cracked by smiles.
When they arrived in Venice, the traveling man gave Telos his address and bade he visit before leaving; Telos promised he would, and they went their separate ways. The city spread out before him, Telos felt refreshed: the desert had been depressing and long, but companionship had eased the way and Damascus was fading from his mind like blue skies at dusk.
Élan in Venice I
The next day, Telos set out to explore the new city. He was intrigued by the canal system, and would stare at the water like a fascinated child. The weather was cool and pleasant; and all in all, it was a perfect day. After eating lunch, he set out for St. Mark’s Basilica.
The golden eagles that dot the initial arch stirred enthusiasm within Telos, and he found himself wandering the hallways in rapture. He journeyed through the raised choir and into the crypt, which, despite being dark and foreboding, he found charming and warm.
Removing himself from the crypt, he froze in front of the Pala d’Oro, a vibrant altar retable. A feeble old man approached and commented on the Pala. Telos and he spoke at length; the old man revealed himself to be Pietro del Morrone, aged eighty years. He was modest and quiet, yet like Victoria Falls, his profoundness was easily on display. Telos was quite humbled.
Their conversation took them past the Pala, and in time Telos told him what had happened in Damascus. Del Morrone nodded and smiled: he approved of Telos’s rebellion, and indeed his departure. Syme’s cruelty was well known outside of Damascus, and the only proper option for Telos was to vacate, to find his own path outside of the King’s reach.
They spoke more, and eventually parted ways, but not after promising each other they would meet again.
Élan in Venice II
Telos continued to sightsee in the city, which he had quickly decided was possibly the most beautiful place in the world. Eventually, he returned to the Basilica, but this time to visit a section he had earlier neglected: the Palazzo Ducale. A flight of stairs led to the entrance: they weren’t entirely majestic, but they did demonstrate stubborn strength.
Ludivico Manin was the current Doge, and thus resided within the Palazzo. He had been elected to the position eight years ago and was enjoying the normal status the Doge of Venice enjoyed: that of a celebrity. Over the years, the powers of the Doge had become increasingly limited as various powers were assigned to subordinates.
As Telos was exploring the outside, he discovered a man in a long cape staring at the canal-side of the Palazzo. Telos inquired, the man responded, and as seems to come naturally to people in Venice, they entered a lengthy discussion, about the Doge, King Minos, and other rulers in other cities.
This Lord Wilmore did not seem to approve of the Doge (or the King, incidentally), but Telos assumed most British nobility were this snooty. They did not get along quite as famously as he had with Del Morrone, but he felt Wilmore was his equal in terms of rhetoric and ideas.
Telos left their conversation a little more in thought than he had the other day; what right did King Minos have to tell him he couldn’t fall in love?
Élan in Venice III
Two strong guard towers rise up over the canal into the the Venetian Arsenal. They actually looked like bell-towers, and probably in some other time, they would be; but this was here and this was now and they were guard towers for the Arsenal.
Telos approached the main entry, which was guarded by two overly serious lion statues. Upon going in, he was greeted by the sounds of construction: warships and merchant ships were constantly being built here, and Telos suddenly felt like he was perhaps intruding. He kept quiet and thought about leaving more than once.
He entered a hallway while looking askance at one of the boats and bumped into an Arab man. Apologies were exchanged, but Telos insisted on helping the man, whose papers were now on the floor. The man didn’t seem angry, rather annoyed. Telos apologized again and was on his way.
The whole experience of the Arsenal was probably discomfiting for Telos. Ultimately, his opinion of the city was that of inutile beauty; when striving to make a city so appealing, where did its spirit lie? Damascus wasn’t gorgeous, but it certainly had a knowable personality.
It is possible that Telos was simply projecting onto Venice. Who is so concerned with the spirits of cities anyhow? Why would you even think a city had a spirit? It’s a laughable subject.
Élan in Venice IV
The feeling was inescapable, laughable as it might be. It had unsettled Telos since he thought of it, and now everywhere he looked, Venice seemed to be a cardboard cutout.
Where had that happiness gone? That refreshment? Suddenly there were questions instead of calm reflections. It all came back to Cavillace, to Cavillace, that wonder of Damascus, that rose in the concrete. Overwhelming doubt fell upon Telos. He retired to his hotel room.
He slowly moved past his depression, if for nothing else than he had to. Stumbling through alleys in Venice, he eventually collapsed against a wall, unable to move or think anymore. He had tried to escape his memories and regrets. He had failed.
A robust hand gripped his shoulder and bade Telos stand up. The man who did so looked like a youth in aristocratic clothes, and gave his name only as Maximilien. Like an old friend, Maximilien encouraged Telos to explain his anxiety, and once he had done so, Maximilien nodded, familiar with the struggle raging within Telos.
The state had interfered with matters of the heart, and while it may have made logical sense, it always ended in despair. Telos, broken, inquired as to what he should do. Maximilien told him to follow as closely as possible, for where they were going, no normal man could find on his own.
The Conclave I
It’s unclear where Maximilien led Telos, and Telos has, since that time, refused to specify where they went (most likely for political reasons). Somewhere in Venice it is certain, but exactly where is known to only six people. However, it is known it was somewhere in the heart of Venice, near the Basilica; a few anonymous witnesses have corroborated stories seeing them together: a shell of a man in Telos, broken, and a strong-looking man, presumably Maximilien.
When they got to wherever they were going, Telos was introduced to men he had already met. The man he had met upon the Via Regia, Marco Polo, was there with a glass of nebbiolo. Pietro del Morrone was there, reading through a package of notes that Telos recognized had been in the hands of the man at the Arsenal, who was also there. That man introduced himself Saadi Yacef, but did not offer his hand to Telos, instead choosing to continue his discussion with Polo. Last but not least, Lord Wilmore was at the table, listening indifferently to their conversation.
When Maximilien and Telos entered the frivolous talking ceased and they set about business. Telos observed as Maximilien revealed their intent: to overthrow the Doge, Ludivico Manin. Details at this point are sketchy at best, as the six men have observed it is wise to keep the true notes of rebellion under wraps.
Suffice it to say they left with a clear plan of action. Telos was stunned by the turn of events and found himself caught up in the revolutionary passion. Somehow, striking at Ludivico would be like striking at Minos. It would be attacking authority itself.
Élan in Venice V
What do you do before you overthrow a Doge? Perhaps an abstract question to readers unfamiliar with the concept, perhaps not. Either way, Telos spent the next days, between the Conclave and the uprising, in a fairly inconspicuous manner.
He ate at local cafes and stopped visiting the landmarks. Telos says now (in retrospect) it’s a good idea to avoid people knowing your face if you’re planning a coup: that way, if it fails, well not everyone will know who you are. Seemingly obvious advice, no doubt.
A couple of the other conspirators sent him covert messages, and Telos took it all in stride, as if he had been bred a revolutionary from his humble beginnings in the village of Skara Brae. Likely, it was the anger at being driven from his city of choice that pushed him to such drastic acts. But having faced his depression, gaping at the vast chasm of self-pity, he found himself turning to another passionate act: anger against the state.
These days before the coup are very critical in Telos’s formation. Prior, he had been much more passive, willing to take what the world threw at him. Maximilien had shown another path to him, had opened up new doors. The world was laying in a very different light now.
Council of Days I
The agreed upon date came eventually, and Telos left his hotel to meet the rest of the Council of Days in front of the Basilica. It was a few minutes before midnight and thus the place was almost entirely deserted. They entered the Basilica with no trouble quickly dispatching guards they ran into.
Their meeting with Ludivico remains one of the most interestingly enigmatic events in this ordeal. The Council generally refuse to discuss it, to even hint at what was discussed. It is unclear why, although no doubt it had great effect upon Telos. They ended up kidnapping Ludivico, running to the Arsenal and fleeing via boat.
Venice woke up to a lack of authority as the police were busy trying to figure out what had happened and what to do. The elements that the Council had planted quickly sprang up: elements of a republic, elements of a democracy. The loyalists initially resisted but the city council had their way, and soon the city council was adopting all the reigns of power that the Doge had once held.
The Council of Days were hiding out on a small island, south of Venice in the Laguna Veneta. They knew it was only time before men loyal to the Doge assembled and began to hunt for both him and his kidnappers. Undoubtedly, other cities with rulers loyal to the Doge (and if not him, to the idea of a monarchy) would also have a hand in the search. Maximilien and Marco discussed what their next course should be, both agreeing to flee to the south.
Council of Days II
They moved to the south and after two weeks eventually abandoned Ludivico at an inn. It would be some time before he could return to Venice, and if he even managed that it would likely be impossible for him to reinsert himself as the Doge. They had never intended to kill him but simply to remove him from power.
The Council continued into the Rockies, hiding in a series of abandoned silver mines. For a time they felt invincible; no one had come looking for them, and every week news would come in concerning the new government in Venice. Ludivico had foregone returning to Venice and had instead journeyed to Damascus in order to help consolidate Minos’s strength. Strange reports also came in about Syme having disappeared.
Sooner or layer though, loyalists to the Doge were bound to show up: driven out of Venice, they had nowhere to go but to pursue their vengeance against the traitors. They laid siege to the encampment at the Coeur d’Alene mine for a treacherous three days. Rain accompanied the attack, and the sword combat was dirty and bloody. The loyalists broke through the line on the third day and ran the Council into the mine, killing anyone they could find.
By this point, Telos had attained some kind of nirvana between fear and exhiliration. He rushed through the mines with anxiety, attacking anyone he met. Exiting the mines on the other side of the Rockies, he emerged soaked in blood and sweat, his eyes frozen in shock. The sounds of battle following him out of the cavern, instincts kicked in and he fled the scene.