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 celebrazone!”
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 warning look.
“Just remember, mama said she would skin us alive if we were late again”
“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 eyes
“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 after
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 voices.
“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 our own!”
“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 home.
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 Slinker.
“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 the rink.
“Now the only rule is no weapons. Besides that anything goes. Now contestants, Fight!”
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 into conciseness.
“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
© Copyright 2016 PThomson. All rights reserved.