The first time he saw his father’s face, he wanted to kill him. As he grew older, he changed his mind to wanting to fully disgrace and humiliate the man who had sired him.
His childhood, while not carefree, was always a time he looked back to fondly. From his earliest memories, his mother worked as the cook at the crossroads inn, and he was the king of that little palace.
He was a handsome child, with dark eyes and thick brown hair the serving girls begged to braid. He enjoyed sitting in their laps as they played with his hair, snuggling against them and all their soft curves. Even his mother would hold him tight, though she did not have the carefree laughter of the young women who tugged his hair into place.
The men who frequented the inn’s tavern also grew fond of the boy. They quickly realized he always selected the winner, whether in a game of sticks or dice, or even the horse races held outside in the summer. As travelers passed through the small town built around the crossroads, the residents would use him to squeeze just a bit more out of each of the unlucky gamblers.
Once, while he was helping to serve in the common room, he dropped a tray and all the cups and bowls landed safely in a stack. A hooded traveler just passing through barked out a laugh and said, “That boy is Chance incarnate!” He gave Lorenzo a chaos coin, black and white checkers on one side and swirls on the other. He loved to look at it, and to keep it from becoming lost his mother fashioned a little pouch for him wear around his neck to keep it in. Ever afterwards, even if he lost the pouch, it would find its way back to him.
One day when Lorenzo was almost ten, a well-dressed man accompanied by a full contingent of soldiers stopped at the inn. Lorenzo’s mother stayed in the kitchen, shaking and ghostly pale. The innkeeper’s wife, a large and jolly woman, sent her to her own quarters and took over all the duties of the kitchen. When Lorenzo asked his mother why she was sick, as she must be if she could not work, she just touched the scars lacing across her face and shuddered. She was silent and would not speak of it.
His curiosity could not be so quickly quashed, and he found the innkeeper’s wife working busily in the kitchen, ordering around the assistants louder than his mother ever had. She pinched his cheek and gave him one of the sweet rolls fresh out of the oven.
“What’s wrong with Mother?” he asked, his sticky fingers tearing the roll to pieces small enough to shove in his mouth.
“The man out there, the noble, he is the one,” she said to him. He shook his head, not understanding. “Your mother has never told you?” she asked.
“Told me what?” he asked, his mouth mostly full.
“I suppose I can understand why. Here, the work is nearly finished. Grab a few more of those rolls, and I will tell you the story while we walk to get some more milk.” He nodded, curious and nervous for such a big reveal.
She told him the sad story of how her mother had come to work at the inn. She was the daughter of a landowner, not a noble, but still wealthy enough to command respect. She was a great beauty, and as she approached marriageable age she had many suitors. Her father had many offers for her hand, and the brideprice each suggested grew higher and higher as they all tried to claim the greatest beauty in the land.
The lord of the next district, the very noble in the inn at the moment, suggested the landowner give him his daughter as a consort, not wife, just for the good will it would bring. The landowner scoffed at this, knowing the brideprice would make him wealthy, and the connections he would make through her would benefit the rest of the family for years to come. The noble did not like that.
During the night, he attacked the homestead of the landowner. His men killed her father, brothers, and all the other family there. The noble himself spent the time raping her, and before they left he cut up her face, saying no man would want a woman soiled and ugly as she was now. Since he was the noble who appointed the magistrates of the district, no one could prosecute him or otherwise get justice for the tragedy.
The innkeeper had taken in the broken woman, and soon discovered she was pregnant. Lorenzo seethed with rage at the man who was his father, and when they returned to the inn he watched the villain from a crack in the kitchen door. He memorized his face and vowed one day to find his vengeance.
That night, he held his mother as she still shook in fear.
“Do you hate him?” he asked her. She looked at him and gave him one of her rare smiles, the scars tugging down one corner of her mouth. She stroked his hair, then pulled him close.
“The only thing I don’t curse him for is you. He gave me you, the only joy in my life. Without you, I would have given up long ago,” she whispered. He felt the growing wetness of her tears in his hair as she shook with sobs.
Several years later, as he grew to be a handsome young man, the serving girls at the inn no longer cuddled him in their laps. He danced with them, and braided their hair, and learned the right words to whisper in their ears. The innkeeper’s wife kept her eye on him, though, and never let those maids sneak him off alone. While he enjoyed their company, he did have his mother to care for, as she grew weaker and weaker with each winter.
He saved up his money from gambling with the travelers. The locals never bet against him, but also refused to play a hand with him. “Chance’s pet” was a common joke, and he wore it as a nickname, much to the local priest’s displeasure.
“Maybe I really am Chance, and you are the one in danger!” he said to the priest when he complained again about the disrespect of naming oneself after a god. The priest had scoffed, and swore to find a way to punish the insolence, but then had tripped on a loose stone, fallen, and landed in such a way he broke his jaw. He avoided Lorenzo after that, often making the sign of the Fifteen when he did cross his path.
A famous healer passed through one day, and he hired the man to cure his mother. The healer inspected her, then refused to take any money.
“I have no cure for one who has lost the will to live,” the healer said, shaking his head sadly. Her death came later that winter, when Lorenzo was just sixteen.
He vowed vengeance, and asked the innkeeper’s wife how to find his father.
It was easy to infiltrate his father’s estate, as he was to be married, and laborers were coming in from all over for the event. Lorenzo was easily hired as a cook’s assistant, but quickly was recognized as the best in the kitchen. Even after the wedding, he was promised a long-term position as head chef. It gave him the opportunity to design his plan.
The day of the wedding came, and he finally saw the bride. She was a beautiful woman, a delicate flower next to the stringy, graying man that was his father. He changed his mind from killing his father to humiliating him. He would make a cuckold of the man.
The opportunity came much faster than he had expected. He was not the only person who hated this noble who was his father, but the poisoner was quickly discovered because new wife’s dog sampled the meal and died soon after. “You are the only one I trust,” his father told him. Lorenzo just smiled and thanked him, and used the opportunity given to him by Chance to gain the trust of the beautiful bride as well.
It was surprisingly easy to seduce her. His father was often gone on long hunting trips, leaving the bored bride to wander the estate. She had quite the sweet tooth, and he made spicy honey fingers for her, and brought them to her room every night. That he stayed and helped her to eat them, as she licked the honey off of his fingers, no one in the kitchen ever mentioned.
She did seek him out, in a fright.
“I am pregnant!” she whispered to him in a frightened voice.
“Don’t worry,” he soothed her, “your husband will just assume it is his.”
“No, he won’t!” she said, still terrified. “How could he?”
“You mean he hasn’t ever…?” Lorenzo asked.
“No, only once, on the wedding night,” she said.
Later that night, after the noble returned from his latest trip and before Lorenzo could come up with a plan, guards dragged him away to a cell deep under the estate. Soon enough, his father came to see him.
“You have been arrested for laying with my wife,” he said, his voice flat and emotionless.
“It’s no less than you deserve!” Lorenzo spat at him.
“I know who you are, boy,” his father said, his voice still flat. “Why do you think I allowed you such freedom in my house?”
“So?” Lorenzo tried to sound angry, but now fear was griping him. Had Chance finally abandoned him?
“Do you think I would have left my wife alone with you on accident?” When Lorenzo did not answer, his father continued on. “I knew who you were when you first arrived. I placed you so close to her because I needed you. You see, I haven’t been able to produce children in years. A bad hunting accident has left me impotent. I needed an heir, and you are of my line.”
“What do you mean?” This revelation was more than unexpected. The young man leaned weakly against the walls of his cell.
“You are my son, and thus, my line. You made me an heir, and I thank you. I will keep you alive, here in this cell, until after the child is born. If it is male, then I will have you executed. While I needed the heir, this is still a disrespect I cannot tolerate.” The old, cold man then just walked away, leaving his confused son alone.
Lorenzo did not know what to do. Here, he had thought he had the upper hand, but his plan had failed. Was Chance not on his side? The guard came to bring him dinner, and the door did not quite close after he left. When he pushed on it, it opened easily. The guard just had not locked it! He took the opportunity Chance had given him, and found his way free. What did the future hold for him? He did not know, but now he would trust in the god that guided him, and just let chance happen.