The First False Death: In Battle
Prudence Cossins had gotten into a bad way when investigating her two least favourite things – rimbal club gangs and oppression. Some members of a rimbal team were about to expose to her – in a most painful way – how they were skilled mages and athletes when a swarm of imps attacked them. Seizing the initiative boldly, Prudence thrashed the rimbal team players and then, bruised and bleeding but happy, sought the summoner of the imps nearby. The summoner was Tufa Latro, who revealed that he had also been studying the team’s illegal actions.
She was so overwhelmed by thanks for his help that she did not arrest him, nor report him to authorities.
Others, however, were not so forgiving. Rimbal players who might have been willing to ignore being beaten by a blonde bruiser were considerably less willing to ignore what would only be acceptable in Pievre the Godless!
So, constables went forth from their headquarters in order to arrest the gates mage.
Tufa fled from them into the imperial reserve, but, having been tracked through astrology, he was ambushed and killed by rangers.
Prudence published a book about her experiences in an attempt to take advantage of this controversy that her actions had exposed, but the book was bought up and destroyed by certain powerful members of the Golden Families, after which she heeded her name and went to Pievre, whose people were more tolerent of her views.
The Second False Death: When Ghost-Hunting
Oriabel Sidot’s burning desire to meet a ghost seemed insatiable – until she became romantically involved with Tufa Latro, after which she met many ghosts. The ghosts revealed shocking things that surprised both of their human listeners, and Miss Sidot made inquiries about trying to get a book published discussing what the ghosts said. Durand de Thiomines expressed some interest in such a book, and regaled Miss Sidot with stories of what he and Tufa had discovered as children, but the Minetan authorities became suspicious and investigated Tufa and Sidot for heresy and using gates magic.
During the trial, Tufa pleaded guilty in exchange for the authorities’ letting Oriabel go free.
After Tufa’s execution as a gates mage, Oriabel disappeared, and certain rumours alleged that she had bodily attained Aminþia Que’la’s paradise arose – although what that meant none could say – only for her to appear a few months later as an exile in Pievre, whose laws were more congenial to her interests.
The Third False Death: Defending a Lady
Rikildis von Kiep’s engagement to Tufa Latro – a former schoolmate of no noteworthy pedigree – attracted considerable controversy from the beginning. When it was learned that Mr. Latro had been exceptionally secretive while attending the Academagia and prone to disappearing for hours while a student there, rumours grew even fiercer – especially once people remembered that the Lady von Kiep had never formally studied a pillar of magic at the Academagia.
The salacious rumours that arose from these facts – involving allegations of mastery and more depraved actions – were easy enough for Rikildis and Tufa to ignore, but once rumours grew that Rikildis herself had studied mastery – or an even worse thing – with Tufa, she found the claims too great to accept peacefully. Being assumed to be a victim of a criminal was bad enough – but her being thought an active criminal was unacceptable.
Tufa agreed with her and challenged the most obnoxious of the rumour spreaders to a duel. He lost it, unfortunately, at the cost of his own life.
The von Kiep family, eager to control their ambitious daughter and restore their honour, banished her to Pievre. Rikildis was initially depressed at this, but recovered her joy when she discovered how free the publication business was of censorship in Pievre.
The Fourth False Death: Through Treachery
Tufa Latro established a legal practise with his former schoolmate and girlfriend Zoe Melis once the two of them, having graduated from the Academagia, were both qualified as lawyers in Mineta. Soon, their practise led to more intimacy and they were married.
Being lawyers was lucrative for both of them, but they never seemed to have much money. Zoe was constantly spending the money on gems which she stockpiled in easily retrievable places, and Tufa was often meeting with certain Bassans in secretive meetings – sometimes even within the Oursouki Empire. Still, they were not alleged to be criminals, and despite the relative modesty of their circumstances, they were comfortable for their own desires – although the children whom they were planning to have might have disagreed.
Then, one day, members of the city watch stormed into their house, stunned Tufa into unconsciousness, and arrested him for gates magic. At his trial, the key witness against him was – due to certain controversial new laws – the former Zoe Latro, testifying that he had confided to her that he was a gates mage, that he had demonstrated gates magic to her, and that he had been in contact with officials from Oursouk.
Given the other evidence that had been found among Tufa Latro’s possessions – discussions of gates mages, books about gates magic, and even more sordid things – his execution was a foregone conclusion, although public distrust of Zoe Melis was increased yet further when it was learned that certain strange things had happened in Cimone before she testified, and she soon after the execution left for Pievre, where the laws were similar enough - in form if not in content – for her to qualify as a lawyer again.
The True Death: As a Citizen in Mineta
When Tufa Latro died of old age, not a single bad word was said against him, although concern grew that his grandchildren might be unduly influence by their widowed grandmother, whom people had always said was too strange for him. Many rumours, some obscener than others, had swirled about why he had fallen in love with the former Uliva Valaresso while studying with her in the Academagia, and they had increased when, after graduation, the two had married each other and formed a serpent breeding business.
Those who appreciated the ideal of marriage arising from schools had said, some quite openly, that he would have been better with Pelia whom he had rescued – who, despite her eccentricities, never studied reptiles.
Uliva, seeming to mock these sorts of rumours, had made Pelia a partner in their business but only the most scurrilous gossip – which had led to legal action – had alleged intimacy between Tufa and Pelia.
Tufa – some say in order to avoid this type of gossip – had become a mercenary in various plots by Bassan exiles throughout much of his mature adulthood – but he had avoided the double stain of herpetology and mercenarism by carefully saving his money and investing it in more orthodox things, such as coffee growing, cafes, and agricultural estates.
And now he was dead. At his funeral, which was attended by certain colleagues who were now serving in the Golden Families’ retinues, so much concern was shared about how to protect his family from herpetology’s stain that no one cared when the widow Latro, rather than attending all of his funeral, spent the evening in a room with her favourite snakes, burning to ashes certain Bassan books that he had showed her and trusted her with as he had studied them.
Law-Protector sighed and placed down the last page of the manuscript for the play “Four Possible Deaths – and One Real Death – of Tufa Latro” that he had been reading. Then, he turned to look at Sima, who, as if forewarned, had placed down her treatise about the theatre and was looking at him expectantly.
“Any thoughts?” Her voice was cheerful, but not artificially so.
“I am just glad that you are circulating this play that you wrote over the summer as a closet play. If it were to be performed, certain things could be said about me – and not good things.”
Sima gave a mock pout. “Surely many people, while children, found archaeological treasure with the Count Durand.”
“But few, if any, went to the Academagia, are friends with Prudence, and – not rescued, but helped Pelia. And this character, ignoring his name – why Tufa? – is like me in all of these things.”
“Is he like you in two other ways?” Sima giggled.
“What?” Law-Protector’s brow furrowed in puzzlement. “I thought that we had agreed that we would not try to hint to each other that we engage in crimes punishable by death. Paradoxus is a strange beast – whose home I would love to find – but he is no serpent.”
“Nor anything else, eh? But are you a blanket to the girl whom you love?” Sima mused. “Sinabi ka-kaibigan na-natin sa akin ‘Tufa ay nangangahulugang kumot sa isang banyagang wika.’”
Law-Protector sighed. “I do not like to think in such terms - in River-Language or Imperial Language or Minetan Language. You saved us all on the strange island, after all.”
Sima looked intently at him. “But if you had not gotten involved in my issues to our benefit, then we would not be having this conversation.”
“So, is there a message in this play - that you have written - for me? Because I see three.”
“That any illegal magic must be done in secrecy with trustworthy people. That Pievre is an amazingly free nation. And…”
Sima reached out to take his hand. “What? We are old enough, now.”
Law-Protector spoke faintly, “That you are better than the other girls whom I know because you are discreet and trustworthy.”
Now it was Sima’s turn to tremble in concern. “Do you agree with this message?”
Law-Protector reached forth and touched her arm with affection. “I think that, despite your mysteriousness, you are less easy to turn against me than Zoe Melis is. And you are better at talking about many interesting things in interesting ways. Taga-saan ka? Pala, taga-Cimone hindi ka. But we need to destroy this manuscript.”
Sima gave a relieved laugh, and the two students, having done what they needed to do to their manuscripts, walked arm in arm out of the nook in the Library of Longshade, ready to face their final year at the Academagia together – whatever the foe.