The Festival Conspiracy
A Short Story By Peter Thomson
"Come one come to the annual festival di Venezia!"
It was a late August day and the sun had just set. Torches and
lanterns burned brightly on the walls of the surrounding
buildings which were still warm from soaking in the heat all day.
The herald was standing by a podium, his baggy robes flapping
with the wild gestures he was making to stir up the quickly
growing crowd at his feet. Giovanni Esposito de Moretti leaned
against the wall of a nearby bordello, listening to the
herald tell the citizens of Venice about the various attractions
that would grace this year's celebrazone! "There will be
fire breathers, dancing, singing, and games where you could win
favalose prizes! This year's grand prize is a golden
carnival mask that will grant one lucky man the seat of honor at
the Soverono's annual ball!"
This news caught Giovanni's attention. He leaned forward to
better hear the herald.
"To win the mask, one must compete in three games. The one who
wins two of the three games will be declared the winner and
receive the golden mask! The games will be held tomorrow evening,
just after dusk. Now go! Rest and be prepared for a night of
With this the crowd began to disperse and Giovanni turned to see
his younger brother Patrucio standing behind him.
"Come on brother!"he said, "It's getting late and Mama will be
furious if we are not home in time to greet papa."
"Do not wait for me, Patrucio" Giovanni replied "I have something
to take care of first before we leave." Patrucio gave Giovanni a
"Just remember, mama said she would skin us alive if we were late
"I know, I know," Giovanni said, waving his hand dismissively,
"it will only take me a moment." His eyes were following an
attractive girl on the far side of the plaza. Patrucio rolled his
"Will my estupido brother never learn?" he muttered and
turned and walked down the street.
Giovanni, meaning to follow the girl he had seen earlier, lost
her in the crowd only to see here reappear in the entrance to an
alley. After threading his way through the crowd, he slipped in
The alley was poorly lit, the only source of
light being a broken lantern that guttered feebly from an open
window. The stone on either side of him was in dire need of a
mason and the cobblestones under his feet were bumpy and uneven.
Giovanni was only a few feet into the ally when he heard the
"Do you know when the celebrazone will be held?" The voice
was deep and it sounded as if its owner was in need of a glass of
water, for it grated like stone against stone. Giovanni pressed
his ear against the wall, trying to hear more.
"At dusk, tomorrow," another voice replied. This one was higher
pitched and musical, probably belonging to a girl.
"Yes, everything is proceeding as planned." This voice, too was
high pitched, but it had a reedy tone as though the owner of it
was speaking through his nose. "All that remains is to win the
mask and poison the Soverono and replace him with one of
"Quiet estupido, we do not know who else might be
listening!" Just after these words were spoken, Giovanni's foot
slipped and knocked over a loose stone. Normally, the thud made
by the stone would be insignificant, but in the alley, it sounded
like the drumbeat of Satan. The voices fell abruptly silent.
Giovanni heard the scrape of wood against stone as a chair was
pushed back. Not waiting to see who would emerge to confront him,
he dashed out of the alleyway, and towards the safety of his
After he arrived at his house, and was scolded for being late,
Giovanni thought about what the people in the alley had
mentioned. Someone was going to murder the Soverono! Even
with his narrow grasp of politics, he knew that the ramifications
of the death of the Soverono would be severe. Venice would
probably fall into a bloody power-struggle while the high ranking
officials would squabble over whom would succeed him. Giovanni
knew he had to win the mask tomorrow.
On the evening when the festival was scheduled to begin, Giovanni
nervously awaited by the central podium. Finally, a flamboyantly
dressed herald stood up, raised his hands and began to speak.
"Attenzione! Attenzione!" The roar of the festival reduced
to a low growl as the herald began to speak. "Welcome, one and
all, to the annual celebrazone!" A deafening cheer greeted
the herald's words and he raised his hands for silence. "I stand
here today to announce the moment you've all been waiting for,
the games to win the golden mask! We need brave and daring men to
compete in these games of speed, agility, and strength. Would
those who wish to compete please step forward!"
Giovanni stepped up and looked to see who his competition was.
There were a few men dressed in nondescript clothes and a
heavyset man who was dressed in a canary yellow vest and had
rings adorning his pudgy fingers. In addition, there was a huge
man, built like an ox. He was tall and corded muscles stood out
on his neck and arms like knotted ropes. He had no neck to speak
of, and small, beady eyes regarded him with a menacing suspicion.
Next to him, was a small, wiry man dressed mostly in black. He
had cold, grey eyes and a long hooked nose that gave him the
appearance of a rat or weasel. Giovanni nicknamed them Basher and
"The first game is to collect ribbons from ladies positioned
throughout the district. Not only is it a contest of speed, but
the lady must like you enough to give you a ribbon. Taking a
ribbon by force or harming one of the ladies will result in
immediate disqualification. Now, if you please, contestants take
your mark. GO!"
Giovanni sprinted up the ally, in search of a group of ladies. He
spotted a group of them and ran towards them.
"Scusi signora," He said "But would you help a poor
uomo with something?"
"What can I do for you, bello?" she replied
"Could a piacevole woman such as yourself spare a ribbon
or two for me?"
"For one as attrente as yourself, certainly." She said
with a wink and brought forth a rather large bundle of ribbons
and pressed them into his hand.
"Grazzie, Signora!" he called over his shoulder as he ran
towards the next group of people. It continued like this for
about half an hour until a red flare went up over the plaza,
signaling the end of the hunt. By this time, Giovanni had
collected a fair number of ribbons and was feeling quite pleased
with himself as he walked towards to podium. As the others drew
near, he was delighted to see that Basher and Slinker had
collected no ribbons whatsoever.
"It appears we have our winner!" the herald proclaimed as
Giovanni placed his pile of ribbons on the ground
"Congrstulazoni young man! Now, the next challenge is a
race through the obstacle course! It begins on the left exit on
the plaza. Get ready and… GO!
Giovanni sprinted for the exit. The course consisted of barrels
that had to be climed over, a canal that had to be jumped, and it
even took the contestants onto the rooftops of Venice. Giovanni
was drawing close to the finish when Slinker popped out of a
nearby alley and tossed a handful of grit into Giovanni's eyes.
"Dirty cheat!" Giovanni howled as he rolled on the ground,
clawing at his streaming eyes. After he cleared his eyes and
crossed the finish line, he saw the herald announcing Slinker as
the winner. Giovanni gritted his teeth and waited for the next
and final challenge to be announced.
"Signore and Signora!" the herald announced, "I am
pleased to announce the final game in tonight's contest! This is
a boxing match where it will be decided who will dine with the
Soverono! The contestants will be divided into two teams,
and each team will elect a champion to fight for them!"
Giovanni was paired with the two men while Slinker and Basher
were paired with the fat man. After seeing Basher's bulging
muscles, the two men on Giovanni's team quickly elected him to
fight for them. Obviously, Basher was chosen to fight for the
other team. With a sense of impending doom, Giovanni stepped into
"Now the only rule is no weapons. Besides that anything goes. Now
The first thing Giovanni felt was Basher's fist connecting with
the side of his head. It felt as though Giovanni had been hit
with a stone wall. The force of the blow lifted him a full two
feet off the ground and deposited him into the side of the rink.
Blinking the dancing lights out of his eyes, Giovanni rose
unsteadily to his feat and charged Basher. Basher smiled as
Giovanni ran towards him and was lifting his fist to pound
Giovanni into oblivion, when Giovanni did the only thing he could
do. He kicked Basher in the fork of his legs as hard as he could.
Basher's eyes went wide and he bent double, his face a mask of
agony. As his forehead swung towards the ground, Giovanni lifted
his knee and it connected with Basher's nose, splattering it
across his face. Basher froze. Slowly he straightened and,
shuffled towards Giovanni. Dodging the punch Giovanni sent at
him, Basher grabbed him by the neck and slammed Giovanni's
already injured head against a pole. Giovanni couldn't breathe.
Basher's massive hand was crushing his windpipe. As he flailed
about wildly, the heel of his hand struck basher square between
the eyes. Basher's eyes rolled back in his head and the last
sound Giovanni heard was basher hitting the ground with a large
thump before he knew no more.
The next thing Giovanni felt was cold water shocking him back
"Ahh, our champion lives!" he heard the herald exclaim. Strong
hands hauled him to his feet and he wavered unsteadily next to
the herald. "Signore and Signora! I am pleased to
present to you this year's champion!" The cheer that followed
made Giovanni's stomach consider tossing up what he had recently
eaten. "He has proved himself the strongest, the quickest, and
certainly a favorite of the ladies! Now, I am pleased to present
to him the golden mask, and an invitation to the Soverono's
Palazzo for a grand feast tomorrow evening!" As Giovanni held the
mask in his hands, he felt a great sense of triumph. He had
prevented what could possibly have been one of the greatest
bloodbaths Venice had ever known. He looked down at the mask; its
metallic surface glinted in the torchlight, and wondered what
splendors the Palazzo would hold.
Grazzie- thank you
Scusi- Excuse me