A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.8 – Telum Eximendum Est, Non Telum {It’s Bolt, Not Arrow}

“Are you alright Elena? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Ele whispered.

“No, just dreamed of one,” Elena shivered, then sat up in bed to look around her, ensuring that there were no ribbon-faced men or girls with too-wide smiles on blank faces lurking in her room.

“You know, we could just go back to sleep. This is our last chance to not do something. Last chance to choose to stay in bed and let the full garzoni keep their secret.”

She was so tired that her eyes stung, so the prospect was certainly appealing, but Elena shook her head and set her lips in an obstinate line.

“If they didn’t want a curious garzona, they shouldn’t have let a Fabera in.”

“I don’t know why I expected anything different.”


It was eerie walking the streets of the city of Milia so late at night…or perhaps so early in the morning. Apparently the city did sleep at some point, but Elena had never been awake to see it. The streetlamps were still lit, but no one walked them, and the windows in the shops and houses in the road were dark. Far down at the end she could see the figures dressed in whites with what looked like yellow scarves wrapped around their lower faces; her fellow De Luca garzoni and their Echoes as they made a left through an alley.

“Stick to the sides of the street so they won’t be able to see you if they look back,” Ele murmured, “and try to stay in the shadows of the buildings.”

“Are you sure? Because I figured I’d walk in the middle of the street.”

“What? No that’s a horrible idea- oh,” Ele frowned, and as stubbornly angry at the garzoni as she was Elena couldn’t help but giggle at the expression on his face.

“Ele you’re really high-strung about this, aren’t you?”

“Whatever happens in the dead of night is between these full garzoni, but that doesn’t mean we’re automatically safe,” Ele said darkly. “The last time we got tangled up in whatever this is, I got hit in the face and knocked out. It’s not an experience I’m exactly excited to repeat.”

The pair cut through the alleyway, and Elena stopped at the corner to look around them, catching sight of the others as they took a connecting road towards the Street of Blue Artisans. Frederica was accompanied again by her giant wooden spider, and Elena shivered.

“Did you notice they’re wearing scarves?” Ele murmured.

“All yellow,” Elena said, “yellow masks. The archer who shot me was wearing a green mask over her eyes.”

“Is it too much to hope it’s a coincidence?”

“There’s no way it’s a coincidence. Besides, we’re heading towards the Street of Green Artisans.”

“Avenging you and Vittoria perhaps?”

“I doubt it. You didn’t hear them in Carlo’s room yesterday; if they have a reason for choosing the studio on the Street of Green Artisans, it’s not because of me,” Elena glowered. They followed the group of De Luca garzoni down several more streets before she noticed Ele giving her a strange look. “What?”

“You’re slowly becoming more cynical, that’s all.”

“Isn’t that what you told me I was supposed to do?” Elena snapped.

“It is. I’m just not sure I like it now that it’s happening.”

“Stop. If they’re going to the studio on Green street they’ll have stopped here.” Elena peeked around the corner of the alley, and sure enough the group had stopped at the corner of the studio. “Who is the master of this studio? Crivelli?”

“No, Crivelli is on the Street of Red Artisans,” Ele murmured back. “Green street is Tomasia Gritti.”

Master Gritti’s studio was made up of two L-shaped buildings, with a heavy-looking wooden gate connecting the two buildings in the front. Elena assumed the open space in between them served as a courtyard.

“Is De Luca’s the only studio without a gate?” She wondered aloud in a whisper, watching the garzoni as they discussed something among themselves. Niccolo and Vittoria seemed to be arguing a point that Frederica disagreed with, and the Caelator kept pointing at the top of the gate.

“Maybe that’s why we were attacked,” Ele whispered back, “we’re an easy target. I thought De Luca was supposed to be smart.”

Elena’s reply was cut short when the garzoni seemed to come to an agreement. Frederica made a motion, and the giant wooden spider sprang forward and began scaling the gate, its long legs finding some hold in the wood that Elena couldn’t see. At the same time, Nicci, Vi and Fred stepped forward, the three Echoes passing through the gate as if it wasn’t there. The spider reached the top of the gate and dropped down behind it.

“It’s happening,” Elena breathed, “I’m about to find out what happens.”

“I don’t like this,” Ele said. “I don’t like this at all Elena. We have enough pieces to figure this out now, let’s go back.”

“We might have enough pieces, but we don’t know.”

“We don’t need to know, we have enough to make an educated guess.”

The gate swung open, and Niccolo and Frederica entered without a backward glance. Vittoria paused and withdrew a piece of parchment from a pouch that hung at her side, attaching it to the wall just next to the gate. Elena was too far away to see what was written on it, but Vittoria followed her fellow garzoni, pulling more parchment from the pouch as she went.

The entry into Gitti’s studio had been very quiet, but for some reason the street seemed even more eerie and silent after the garzoni had left.

“I’m going in there,” Elena stood from where she had been crouched in the shadows.

“Are you crazy?” Ele hissed. “Elena this is too dangerous, you don’t know what we’re getting into.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“‘Fine’ like Carlo?” Elena had crossed the street to be on the same side as the studio, but Ele’s words stopped her short. “Unlike you, Carlo actually knew what he was getting into, and his arm still got broken.”

“That’s…we don’t know what happened there…”

“Exactly. We don’t know anything. Going into someone else’s studio, armed only with the knowledge that we’re not supposed to be there and that bad, dangerous things can happen sounds like an incredibly dumb thing to do.”

Elena bit her lip, looking back and forth from the studio to where Ele stood in the shadows.

“They might need my help,” she said uncertainly.

“Then they should have told you what was going on and asked for your help. Come on Elena, tell me that a part of you doesn’t want to go back to sleep.” Ele’s words were persuasive, but Elena still hesitated. “Your broken wrist is just now healing. Imagine how painful a broken arm would be.”

It was something of a low blow, but Elena realized he was right. She hadn’t dealt with the pain of her wrist well at all, and the first week or so had been agony. With a sigh she turned and crossed the street again, returning to the shadows where Ele hid.

“You’re a scaredy-cat Ele,” she pouted.

“Fine. I’m whatever you want to call me if it gets you to make the rational decision.”

Ele made his way back into the alley they emerged from, and Elena slowly followed, glancing behind her one last time.

“Ele! Look, up on the rooftops!”

“What is it?” Ele didn’t come back to look, but he turned at the other end of the alley.

“It’s the archer! The woman who shot me!” The figure was unmistakable even from the long distance; her blonde hair spilled out from the green mask, and a small black crossbow hung down from her belt. She was focused on something happening in the courtyard between the buildings, drawing an arrow from the quiver at her back.

“That’s even more reason to leave now,” Ele insisted, “you already know how it plays out when you go head to head with her.”

“We can’t leave! She’s on the rooftops, the others won’t know she’s there, she can pick them off one by one!”

The sudden sound of a woman’s scream sent Elena’s feet moving almost involuntarily. She had no clue what a scream from Vittoria would sound like, and she couldn’t even picture Frederica screaming, but she couldn’t just stay behind, she couldn’t leave. She was angry at her fellow garzoni, she could almost convince herself that she hated them, but they were her studio mates. She could convince herself that they had abandoned her to ignorance, but she couldn’t convince herself to abandon them, and she reached the studio gates in less than a minute.

The gate hung half open, though Elena wasn’t sure how the spider had managed the chain that lay on the ground. Before she entered, Elena glanced at the parchment Vittoria had put up by the door. It was a very rough sketch of a man she didn’t recognize, the lines hurried and ugly except for the eyes. So much time and attention had been spent on the images eyes that Elena could easily imagine the man was watching her, and the effect did nothing to dispel the eerie atmosphere of the studio.

She slipped between the doors of the open gate without touching either one. As she had suspected, the space between the two buildings was a courtyard, but it was silent and empty. The sounds of heavy dull impacts rang from the building on her right, and there was vague shouting coming from the wing that lay across the courtyard from her. Elena paused.

It had been easy to make the decision to follow her fellow garzoni into the studio, but now that she was here she wasn’t exactly sure what she should be doing. She had no weapons, no clue of what was going on, and didn’t even know where the others were. Whatever was making the heavy impacts, Elena wanted no part of it, and the shouting across the way sounded like multiple people, none of whose voices she recognized.

“There’s a ladder to the roof back behind this corner.” Elena jumped at Ele’s whisper. “Since you’re resolved to be stupid, maybe you can catch the archer off guard and push her off the roof.”

“I can’t push a girl off of a roof!” Elena hissed, but she moved towards where he had indicated anyway, “and I thought you thought this was a stupid and reckless idea.”

“I do. But if I didn’t stand by you when you were being stupid or reckless I’d never see you.” Ele grimaced. He waited until Elena was halfway up the ladder to start climbing behind her. “And I’m not sure if you’ve aware of this, but the girl who is getting in position to raining death on your teammates from above might not share your reservations about pushing girls off of rooftops.”

Elena shook the problem from her mind. She was good at thinking under pressure; whatever happened she was sure she could figure out a way to help without killing anyone. The very thought of it made her shiver, and her heart was racing when she climbed out onto the roof.

The slant of the roof was slight, but enough to make her aware that she was treading on precarious ground. The archer and her Echo both stood on the corner of the roof at the far end, their backs to her, quietly talking to each other as she sighted down the crossbow at something below. Elena crept forward in a crouch, almost holding her breath and expecting either of them to turn at any time. She was grateful for the soft slippers she had been sleeping in, and the loose white sleeping clothes that didn’t flap in the wind.

“I have a shot at Balance,” the archer murmured.

“Don’t,” her Echo said quietly in his deep voice. Unlike the archer, he wasn’t wearing his green mask, and the back of his bald black head was hard to make out in the dark of the night.

“Went back inside. Damnit Bello I could’ve gotten that shot. I owe him one.”

“If you missed Balance you would’ve let them all know we’re up here and you lose the element of surprise.”

“Bello” is entirely too calm for the situation, Elena thought as she crept closer still. A few quick steps would bring her to them now, and she still didn’t have any idea what she would do when she reached them.

“I don’t mind alerting them,” the archer seemed momentarily distracted by something in a window below, but then returned to tracking the crossbow back and forth across the courtyard.

“Alright, if you missed Balance and you’d piss Master Gitti off for wasting the most expensive bolts in the world, how about that then?”

“That’s a much better point.”

The idea came to Elena in a stroke of inspiration. The archer had a quiver slung over her shoulder, about twenty arrows sticking out of it. Elena wasn’t sure exactly how much an arrow cost to make, but if they cared enough to worry about risking one, then surely the entire bundle would keep their attention. She lunged forward, grabbing the bundle of arrows and yanking them out before taking several quick steps back again. The archer was turning, and Elena saw the crossbow spinning towards her as if in slow motion.

“Drop the weapon or I’ll break them all!” She said, holding the bundle of arrows over her head as if she would snap them over her knee.

Jesu mi salvi!” The archer clutched at her chest with one hand, the sudden startled fear on her face giving way to a chuckle. “Matrem omnium sanctorum you scared me half to death. I almost fell off this roof.”

“I keep telling you to be more aware of your surroundings,” Bello had turned as well, his large arms folded across his chest.

“Oh shut up Bello, they managed to sneak up on you too,” the archer had lowered her crossbow and was wearing a lopsided grin as she looked Elena up and down. Out of the corner of her eye Elena could see Ele shifting uncomfortably, and she was just as nervous. The pair did not seem like two people at their mercy; they seemed like two people at ease, confident, and amused.

“No tricks,” Elena warned, “I mean it, I’ll snap these arrows in two.”

“Not to be pedantic, but they’re bolts, not arrows,” the archer pointed out, “they’re for a crossbow. Also, please don’t, you have no idea how much those cost to make. They’re works of art really.” Elena glanced at the bolts in her hands. There was no question that these were the bolts that had hit her. Just as she and Ele had guessed, the heads were not only flat, but bulged slightly to prevent them from puncturing flesh. A tiny pin like the fang of a snake stuck out from the flat ends, all of which were made of some sort of glass. Thin liquids of different colors sloshed around in each.

“How does the glass not break when it hits someone?” Elena wondered aloud, curiosity overcoming her sense of danger.

“That’s part of what makes them so expensive!” The archer said excitedly, “see it’s not glass, it’s much stronger. It absorbs the shock of impact, and then tiny little barbs hold the bolt in place-”

“While the force of the impact injects the liquid through these little fangs in the front,” Elena guessed. “But why the not-glass at all? Why not just have a hollow compartment in the wood?”

“Um…Elena…” Ele muttered, “there’s a time and a place-”

“Aha, that’s exactly what I asked! It turns out that the liquids would seep into the wood itself if they come into contact with it, so something different was needed. Plus, they thought I’d want to look at the color to determine what kind of bolt I was firing. Can you imagine, sorting through a handful of bolts to select the one I want while in the middle of shooting?” The archer chortled.

“So how do you tell which kind of bolt…oh, I see, the different colors have different feathers on the ends. You can feel the difference in feathers when you’re reaching back to grab one.”

“That’s exactly right! Only the feathers are called ‘fletching’…you’re a strange one, knowing how my bolts work but not knowing the difference between arrows and bolts, or what fletching is. What are you?”

The question suddenly reminded Elena that the friendly and outgoing woman in front of her was actually an enemy, one who had been talking casually about shooting her friends full of some unknown poison.

“That’s not important,” she answered, “drop the crossbow.”

“Hmm? Oh!” The archer carefully set her crossbow down on the roof. “Sorry, this is just my first year, sometimes I forget!” She reached into her pocket and dug out a silver coin, flipping it toward Elena. “Here you go!”

Elena caught it instinctively, only realizing after she caught it that it might be a trap to lure her attention away. The archer hadn’t moved, one thumb hooked into her pocket, the other resting on her hip. Elena risked a glance down at the coin in her hand.

It was large and silver, and the working across both faces was more intricate than she’d expect of a coin. An image of a cross was worked into the silver, and around the edge among a pattern of vines were the words “Cross, Year One, Gitti’s Studio”.

“Cross?” Elena asked.

“Yeah, I know it’s kinda obvious, Cross carries a crossbow,” Cross gave an embarrassed shrug, “but I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, you know?”

Elena didn’t know. None of it made sense, and she felt more and more as if she was walking into a trap. Didn’t the girl care that these custom-made bolts, almost definitely the work of a Machinator, were in danger of being broken? Didn’t she care that she was at Elena’s mercy? Was it that obvious that Elena wasn’t planning on kicking her over the edge of the roof?

Elena shivered at the thought.

“Alright, you’ve successfully startled us, gained the upper hand,” Cross’ Echo broke the silence, “congratulations, you are surely the most skilled garzona ever. Just be careful with the bolts when you give them back.”

“What?” Elena felt as if she had missed something. Cross was still smiling, holding out her hand for the bolts. “N..no, no I’m not giving these back. I have to decide what I’m going to do with you two first.” The words were confident, but Elena felt more like she was asking permission than making demands.

“What you’re going to do with us?” Cross exchanged a look with Bello, the smiles gone. “What do you mean ‘what you’re going to do with us’? You’re going to give us the bolts back.”

Elena glanced behind her, wondering if someone had snuck up behind her and was holding her at arrowpoint. The rooftop was clear, but Cross was moving for her, holding out her hand exasperatedly.

“I’ll snap them in half!” Elena threatened.

“Look you’re a cool girl, I’m glad I met you, but this isn’t funny,” Cross didn’t even slow down, reaching out as if to snatch the bolts from Elena’s hands. Elena backed up and tripped, sprawling on the rooftop and then tried to scramble to her feet.

She doesn’t think I’ll do it…she’s calling my bluff… Panic began to set in, Cross was almost on top of her, and without letting herself hesitate Elena grabbed half of the bolts in one hand and dashed them on the rooftop, the silence of the night broken as the bolts splintered and shattered on the tiles.

“Oh my god.” Cross whispered, the color draining from her face, staring in horror at the pool of mixing liquids and the splinters in them. “Oh my god what have you done?”

“I told you I’d do it!” Elena protested defensively, feeling ridiculous for justifying herself to the girl. “I’ll smash the rest if you don’t back up!”

“But…but I don’t understan…?” There were tears in Cross’s eyes, and the girl had the most hurt and betrayed look on her face that Elena had ever seen. “Why? What did I ever do to you?”

“You shot me with an arrow!” Elena yelled. The rooftop suddenly lurched, though her stomach disconcertedly stayed in one place.

Deus, the fumes! Hold your breath, don’t breath in the fumes!” Cross warned, but Elena wasn’t entirely sure how to do that when it felt like she wasn’t getting enough oxygen in the first place. The sky spun one way and the horizon spun the other, and Elena tilted her head to keep her balance and slumped to one side.

“Elena!” Ele shrieked, but she could only see his panicked face for a few moments before she slipped over the edge of the rooftop.

She fell and fell and fell and fell, but the ground below never seemed to come any closer, although her stomach dropped at the sight of the unforgiving hard tiles beneath her. The rest of the crossbow bolts that had been clutched in her hand hit the tiles and shattered with small splintery cracks, and just above her Elena heard a moan. With difficulty she looked up to find Cross just above her, holding her fast by the back of her shirt.

Deos atque terrore vindictae,” the blonde girl whimpered, staring past Elena and to the ground where the remains of the bolts lay, “Master Gitti is going to flay me alive. And if she doesn’t, Slug will do something worse. I told you to hold your breath!”

“You saved me,” Elena managed to say around a tongue that was too thick. Cross dragged her back onto the roof with a series of grunts, then held onto the back of her shirt as she led Elena across the rooftop to the ladder.

“Of course I saved you, what was I supposed to do let you fall to your death?” Cross snapped. “Maybe I should’ve, considering how bad I’m going to be punished for this.” Elena clung fast to the ladder. “Echo, can you get her back to the studio?”

“I can,” Ele responded shortly, as Elena slowly descended, clinging to the ladder with every rung, “but I have questions, I want to know what’s going on-”

“You have no right to question me right now, after what you two just did,” Cross said with venom, “just…just get out of here.”

Elena touched the ground and started to run, but quickly slowed as the ground rolled beneath her. With one hand on the wall to steady her, and Ele murmuring encouragement, she made her way out of Gitti’s studio.

 


The dizzying disorientation lasted almost the entire trip back to De Luca’s studio, and Elena would’ve gotten turned around several times if Ele hadn’t pointed her in the right direction. Her stomach roiled with nausea, the exhaustion she had felt all night pounded in her head, and she couldn’t even begin to process what she had learned. By the time she reached the door of the studio every part of her hurt.

It had been a bad idea from beginning to end. It certainly didn’t feel like a victory, even though she had managed to keep Cross from shooting her friends, and by all rights had scored a win against a studio that…that what? That De Luca was a war with? That had attacked them? Were they at war with DaRose’s studio as well? Why had Cross seemed so friendly with them when she was about to shoot other De Luca garzoni, and why had she acted like Elena had broken some kind of code by retaliating?

“This was supposed to tell us everything, and I have more questions than I started with,” she bemoaned to Ele quietly as they walked through the outer halls that led to the courtyard.

“I might have some idea…but it’s too much to process, I need your help,” Ele said, “things will be clearer in the morning, it’s obvious you’re not in a good state to think about important things right now.”

“I’m not in a good state to think about anything right now.” Elena opened the door to the courtyard, pausing for a moment to let another wave of nausea pass. “I’m just glad I don’t have anything that needs thinking about before the morning…”

Her words trailed off as she stepped into the courtyard. Directly in front of her in the middle of the courtyard stood Niccolo, Nicci, Vittoria, Vi, Frederica and Fred, clearly waiting for her to return. Waiting behind them, with arms crossed and a frown on his face, stood Master De Luca.


Previous Chapter || Next Chapter


Advertisements

9 responses

  1. DUN DUN DUNNNNN

    also,

    “Then they should have told you what was going on and asked for your. Help?

    Like

    2014-09-21 at 9:40 pm

  2. Oh, interesting… I’m a little surprised she didn’t figure out what was going on from Cross’ reaction. I did almost immediately.

    Also, “dizzying disorientation” feels redundant, and your title doesn’t make much sense in Latin, because there’s not a unique word for a bolt in Latin- it’s just a “crossbow arrow.”

    Like

    2014-09-22 at 8:39 am

    • It’s always a challenge (for me at least) to write a character who just doesn’t “get” something that might be obvious to the reader. In this case I’m hoping that her lack of sleep, anxiety, and general befuddlement was the reason she didn’t figure it out (although she’ll probably look back and say “d’oh, so obvious”)

      Yeah, chapters like this are exactly why the “Latin” in Italoza is an alternate-history-version of the Latin in our world, rather than a faithful duplicate :D You see in Italozian Latin there *is* a unique word for a bolt; it’s spelled the same as the word for “arrow”, it’s just pronounced differently ;)

      Like

      2014-09-22 at 9:15 am

      • Haha, makes sense. I like the explanation.

        I put her confusion more down to her still holding a grudge over getting shot than anything else- perhaps her exhaustion could be more clear? I dunno. It does make sense, though, and from a narrative point of view it works, so you could leave it as-is.

        Like

        2014-09-22 at 9:20 am

      • Panster

        When she shattered the bolts, I cringed.

        Cross sounds awesome.

        Cliffhangers :( Can’t wait for the next update!

        Like

        2014-09-22 at 7:01 pm

  3. Satan

    Tore through your backlog in about an hour, stopped here because no more new posts. Bravo on creating an interesting world and worthy characters to populate it. Shame your magically perceptive and insightful main character has to be oblivious for blatant plot reasons though.

    Like

    2014-09-24 at 1:22 pm

    • I’m glad you’ve been enjoying it so far! It’s true, Elena’s definitely not the most perceptive nor insightful gal in the world, and her powers aren’t much help there, as this chapter shows!

      Hope you continue to find the story as enjoyable as you have so far, and everything should be a lot more clear in the future!

      Like

      2014-09-24 at 1:58 pm

  4. I finally understand this competition. :D It’s so exciting!

    Like

    2015-04-13 at 9:11 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s