Disclaimer: Dragon Quest 8 is not mine.


Twirling the jewellery in his fingers, Angelo watched ladies in the tavern till he thought his plot secure. His mind raced: Marcello would explode. What he held was his brother's worth and pride; it was never seen elsewhere off his neck. Knowing the consequences, he edged to the poker table. His throat was too dry: he necked down his cheap wine and hung the pendant round his collar. This was foolish. Stupid. And Marcello always accused him of that. But for reasons he would not acknowledge; his brother would be his greatest friend were it not for their blood. He cleared his throat and said:

"Gentlemen, allow me to interest you."


A black-haired man raged through the corridor, followed by two soldiers as he intruded on room after room; and nothing was there. The thieving little swine. Marcello went downstairs, the soldiers following and, slamming the door ajar, hastened across the bridge. Angelo could no more toil than be honest. None of the others were as foolish or daring: he'd known them all his life and they were hardworking and sincere. They had to be. But Abbot Francisco always tolerated that boy's conduct. He inhaled the fresh air and quickened; Angelo knew why he was so. He wanted to get out of this place. Find that infant and bury him.

"Are you leaving?" said the first man. "The Abbot shall ask where you are."

"Discipline," said Marcello, and he looked at the ring on his glove. His first year in command, and Angelo escalated his misdeeds, "Go and inform him I shall return shortly. With company."

There was silence.

"I told you to go."

"Of course."

Leaving the abbey, Marcello looked back then came to a decision. He would show Angelo compassion.

"Don't worry," he said. "I'll get it back."

A merchant took it to be odd, shook, and chose to scarper. Marcello's face had told him he would be healthier indoors; Angelo disregarded such meaning.

The trail went up, and he followed; he kept to the path, watching for the pot dragon and other beasts. The hill rose and he was alone. Stealing was a crime, he hated it; but Angelo had taught him to treat brevity with disdain. He found it remarkable how a thing as young as a baby could grow, even ruin, a life which held sorrow and potential; nobody stole what meant everything. Not again. He went into Simpleton and never looked at the buildings. He loathed this place, and would never recall it as far as he was concerned.

Marcello knew Angelo would confess. He wanted the one thing Marcello would never give: love. It was a petulant temper. Nothing more. The last thing he wanted was to show consideration, or Marcello knew he'd betray his mother. They had been thrown aside, lost all, because of Angelo's existence. If he was never born his life would have been different; Marcello wouldn't have to scratch and crawl from the bottom. And Marcello didn't like it. And he didn't care if Angelo suffered.

Two men crossed his path. People generally kept away. They remembered him.

"I'm telling you, it was worth something," the ox-man said. "But dirty. No one here can afford it. So it's tainted, see? An' I wouldn't want to be the one found out. Cus rich folk are like that, you know?"

Marcello knew the execution gesture. There was no sign of Angelo, but trouble followed him where he decided to go. And he took dark pleasure in knowing he would find that red-caped whore and robbed him of what he loved. His looks. But, were he truthful, he held back a little to please Abbot Francisco. With Angelo here, to be cruel gave him pleasure. Perhaps that was why he felt so relieved. Sometimes he ignored Angelo. Other days saw violence. He'd thought of keeping Angelo to beat on, but loathed his presence. Marcello was better than that child because of his labour. And Marcello was clever; he'd studied in the abbey, made friends. Acquaintances. Connections. Father would have been pleased, were he the legitimate heir.

Angelo had only been in the game for under an hour when there was a new arrival. People had cleared, hidden their winnings; Marcello was quiet and respectful. That boy seemed to have sold it, at last. And as the nearest man went to the toilet, Marcello took out his knife and stabbed it into the table. It didn't quiver and stood straight on the oak.

"I want it back," said the templar; the men looked fear-stricken.

Angelo watched with his usual suave.

"I can't possibly know what you're talking about."

He was hoisted up and over, scattering the winnings.

"For a thief you're an incredibly poor liar."

The barmaid cried slightly and ran into the back room, bringing out the owner soon after. Angelo could do nothing but brace for protection as he crashed into the floor, wounded his hands, and dwelt on the fact it would not end here. Marcello wouldn't let it. Simpleton was their hometown; he knew Marcello cared nothing for it. But he had to come here. It was his pleasure.

Marcello was the only one capable of healing Angelo's life, and he wouldn't. He had power, and none of it would serve some spoon-fed lord. Their father's grave was on a nearby hill. And Angelo's mother. But Francisco had told him not to go. Wouldn't he be proud of a visit from his ignored son? Except, he added internally, it wasn't as if the Abbot was wrong; the headstones were not the problem. If Marcello shouted at them, bust them, they were nothing. Just carved mineral. But Angelo's face at seeing their ruined gravestones was a memory he relished.

"Where is it?" he said.

"You expect me to tell you after such a performance?" said Angelo. "You should treat me kindly. I bruise easily."


"Nothing of the sort! Let me buy you a drink." Angelo's fingers clicked. "I forget. We're nothing alike. Are we, brother?"

"Spare your tongue and I shall be merciful." Marcello took his knife from the table. "Lie and you shall be punished."

"I don't know. I prefer that off the ladies, myself."

"Either way it does not matter…"

There was silence. Marcello looked at the crowd, with his hand resting on the knife in its holster. Angelo shook his head, and said, "It never does. And I must thank you for destroying my winning hand. You're quite apt at ruining my life."

It wasn't a good idea; he was fast but Marcello was tougher. And this room was enclosed. The door was blocked by the crowd who'd come to see their little show. He'd not leave. He didn't need to. Marcello would be in trouble for creating a scene like this, not he. But Marcello was shrewd: he'd not be caught in a disturbance. Everybody knew of their hatred. So as his brother struck people would assume it was part of that as well…

And his fist was like a hammer. His nose was in absolute pain.

He was pushed. He fell and hit his head on the floor.

Marcello was over in an instant, and Angelo bit down as the boot crunched down his hand. Angelo never cared. They had been cast out with nothing to their names and came to the abbey. His mother had died soon after. The only physical memory of her was the charm Abbot Francisco had given. The need to honour her was served as he wore it; the memories were unable to be held. They'd stew and rage and heat and flame. And he'd longed to hold something substantial. Then the Abbot had found him, realised he was in pain, and helped. It was a gift.

"I didn't sell it!" Angelo was protesting.

Was it right, Angelo was wondering? He wanted to defend himself, but was the cause for Marcello's anger. He cared for women but loved his brother more. It was easy to describe. His father had caused trouble and the consequences had passed to him. The thought of Marcello and his mother… their mothers were so different; noble and a maid, Marcello and Angelo. Marcello was sharp-boned and dark-haired like their father. It must hurt. Marcello made him guilty. And he'd tried to please him for a long time. Always failing. But Angelo couldn't lie; he would force Marcello to recognize the man he was. A brother who gave him the attention he lacked since his mother died. He had wanted it, after all. And now he had.

But his brother was so very, very hard.

And hot-tempered. It was nothing more than a pendant.

Marcello frowned, but said nothing. He obviously wanted Angelo to babble into his trap. Angelo would have none of it.

"Take it, take it," he said, flinging it over. "It's not like it matters. Everyone thinks it's cursed."

Marcello caught it. He was rapt for a moment.

"Outside," he snapped. "I've been thinking."

"About what?"

"Every action has consequences." And he smiled in a way that let Angelo know he was in very big trouble. "I thought you'd know it's my treasure." Under the sky he brought Angelo to a stop.

"I'm thinking what to do with you. If I let you go, where's the lesson? And stealing is a crime. If it's escaped, then..." He stopped. Angelo felt him reaching behind. "Modesty is of good worth." And he suddenly felt lighter. His fingers reached, widening his eyes. Cutting off his hair was something only Marcello would do. And he knew why. It was his treasure.

Compassion, indeed.

But Marcello thought it was better than bringing murder to the little town of Simpleton.