A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

2.2 – Sagittis et Oculos {Arrows and Eyes}

“Oh please don’t look at us like that,” Master Artemis sighed, crossing her arms in front of her, “you were so much more interesting without the hero-worship in your eyes.”

“She’s still interesting, it’s alright,” Master Apollo sauntered over to the pillow he had tossed onto the floor, picking up both glass figurine and pillow along with it, “the rumors made her sound like some kind of little badass, that’s even more intriguing of a reputation if it’s wrapped in the package of a gawking little girl. With her mouth hanging open.”

Elena closed her mouth with an almost audible snap. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’ve just never met anyone as…as powerful as you before.”

“You were a student of Master Bernardo De Luca for a time,” the way she held herself, ramrod straight and tight like a coiled wire, was a stark contrast to Master Apollo, who lounged on the edge of Elena’s bed, utterly at ease.

“Not twenty-four hours ago you met the Prince of Milia, do you imagine for a moment that we’re more powerful than he is?”

“That’s different,” Arturo said. Elena barely noticed him anymore, far more willing to give her attention to her friends than to the Artifex she had been forced to bring along in order to have Arta by her side. “Just because the Prince has more political power doesn’t mean he’s more powerful. Hell, if you really wanted to I’ll bet you could take over the Milian court.”

“Do you now?” Master Artemis said mildly. “Do you think the people of Milia would accept such a change?”

“They wouldn’t have a choice,” Arturo smirked.

Elena had only interacted with the two Masters for the space of ten minutes, but when they glanced at each other for a moment something almost imperceptible seemed to change in the way they held themselves. Master Apollo seemed to tighten by a fraction, while Artemis seemed to unwind a bit, her tight straight stance opening by a few millimeters.

“I suppose we’ll have to keep that in mind for the future, then,” Master Artemis nodded, her face still neutral. “Cog, as pleasant as your friends seem, we really did want to discuss a few things with you alone, or at the very least with you and your Echo. I hope you all don’t mind?”

“Of course, Masters,” Owl was the first to reply, and he and Frederica dropped a bow and a curtsy in unison, “Elena, there’s a sort of sitting room at the end of the hall, we’ll wait for you there.” Belloza was still in a sort of daze, and by the time she curtsied the others had already began to leave.

“Hey, we’re Elena’s retinue,” Arturo objected, “anything you can say to her you can say to us. She’ll probably just tell us later anyways.”

“Listen-” Ele began, but Elena cut him off, thinking of the way he had forced a kiss on her, and of the few days of misery afterwards with everyone in Studio DaRose turned against her.

“You are not my friend,” she said sharply. “Arta is my friend, the only reason you’re here is because we have to keep you around to have Arta.”

Arta blushed and looked down at her feet, and Arturo followed the others out of the room with a scowl. As soon as the door closed behind them Elena turned back to the Masters, suddenly nervous.

“Told you she wasn’t as timid as they’d said,” Master Apollo was grinning, “you don’t get a reputation like that by being timid.”

“What reputation do I have?” Elena asked, deciding to skip telling him that she was probably even more timid than he’d been told.

“Oh, you know, we’re high up in the informational chain of command,” Apollo replied, “we hear things. Heard your traps and strategy jumped a Studio from dead last to top of the hierarchy. Heard the Principessa complaining that the Prince was overlooking your combat abilities. That you somehow made connections in the Florezian court, even though you’re from a backwater like Carpi of all places. We heard that there are kids in the city terrified of a weapon no one ever uses anymore, a giant warhammer. I also heard about a Machinator tying you up and paralysing you, trying to torture you, and mysteriously ending up dead.”

“Apollo, perhaps we should be more guarded about the information we share with her,” Master Artemis’ Echo said quietly.

“Nonsense,” Master Apollo scoffed. “You both know it just as well as I do, she’s going to become one of us, it’s no different than talking to a junior member.”

“That you most certainly cannot say,” Master Artemis said severely, “not only do you not speak for the entirety of the Eye, but you also have no idea whether it’s something Cog herself would want.”

“With her history, she’s guaranteed. The reputation speaks for itself.”

“Actually,” Elena said, “most of that stuff…it’s all technically true, but none of that was my doing. I always had help, or it wasn’t as impressive as it sounded, or it was an accident-”

“Ah, ah,” Master Apollo held up a hand. “Never fight your own reputation, Cog. For instance, there are rumors that I can tell the future. That I know the fates of all men, like an Oracle but twice as deadly and three times as charming.”

Elena glanced at the pillow Apollo had tossed into the corner, then at the figurine that had fallen haphazardly directly into its center.

“But…can’t you?” she asked. Apollo only winked in answer.

“Again, we find ourselves adrift of the topic,” Master Artemis broke in, “Elena, please tell us about the kidnappers.”

Elena told them the entire story, and throughout the pair of Masters listened in silence, occasionally exchanging a glance again. When she reached the end, they both remained quiet, clearly musing on what she had told them.

“Do you know what any of it meant?” Ele asked them, “or have any idea who they are?”

“We aren’t at liberty-” Master Artemis began, but Master Apollo cut in.

“Rebels. Or at least the threat of rebels. We wouldn’t be sent out for anything less.”

“Apollo!” Master Artemis turned on him, her folded arms falling to her sides, fists clenched, “need-to-know information! We’re not telling anyone but the Eye!”

“She is Eye.” Apollo leaned back on the bed, his pony-tail bobbing back and forth, “in every way but official.”

“You keep mentioning ‘Eye’…” Elena said hesitantly.

“I’m glad you asked, Cog,” Master Apollo sprang to his feet with a flourish, “The Eye of the Storm, protectors of Italoza and the Stormtouched left hand to the King himself.”

“Don’t you mean ‘right hand’?” asked Ele.

“No no, everyone pays attention to the right hand, you see,” Master Apollo grinned, “while we operate in more secrecy. No offense to the artisans or the workmen who use their Storm to beautify the world, but they’d have no chance to do what they do if it weren’t for us doing what we do best. The blade in the dark, not the brush in the light.”

“But art is what the studios and courts are all about!” Elena protested.

“So the people like the Prince would have you believe,” Apollo said casually, the disrespect enough to make Elena suck in a breath, “but how long do you think the art would last if there was no one to defend it? Why do you think the Studio systems are set up to train Stormtouched warriors?”

Elena wasn’t sure how to answer the man. The inter-studio combat had certainly made her focus more on using her Storm for fighting rather than for art, but she hadn’t connected before that it might’ve been on purpose.

“It’s a simple fact of life, Cog,” Apollo continued, “the Storms that fight let the Storms that make art, make art. And us few, the Eye, we’re the Storms that work in secret so that the Storms that fight can fight.”

“So secret that we share it with whatever curious little girl asks a few questions,” Master Artemis said angrily, “no offense meant, Cog, but you really shouldn’t be hearing any of this.”

“I told you, it’s only a matter of time before she gets the black stone herself,” Master Apollo looked completely unrepentant.

“Don’t think for a second I’m not going to be telling Master Zeus. What if she’s more interested in following her Prince’s lead, using her Storm for art and not combat.”

“Then that’s alright too,” Apollo said with a wink, “we could use a few more arties who knew to stay out of our way. But you’re right, we should be writing a report and nosing around for more information. Thank you for your help Cog.” He rose from the bed with a far-too-graceful motion and indicated the direction her friends had gone.

The two Masters followed her to the door, and Elena couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated as she mulled over what she had learned. She was so engrossed by her thoughts that she jumped when she opened the door and found Arturo leaning with his ear against it.

Arturo took a single glance over her shoulder and took off, his footsteps pounding down the hallway as he ran. Apollo and Artemis stepped past Elena and into the hallway in unison, smoothly and not hurried.

“Rebel? Spy?” Master Artemis asked.

“Not here long enough,” Master Apollo shook his head, “paid informant maybe.”

“Boy, stop running and come here, I’m only going to ask you once.” Master Artemis sounded so calm that it took Elena a few moments to realize that she had unslung her bow from her shoulder and nocked an arrow. Arturo glanced over his shoulder and ran even faster, arms pumping as he charged towards the end of the hallway where he could turn down another.

Elena didn’t like Arturo, but she didn’t want him to die. She stood frozen with fear, unsure of what to do. Should she grab the bow? Stand in front of the arrow? There was no doubt in her mind who would win a contest between her and the two masters of combat with the most powerful Storms, but she had to do something.

“Don’t kill him, please,” she managed.

“I’m serious, boy, stop,” Master Artemis called again.

“That was asking him twice,” Master Apollo noted.

Master Artemis drew, aimed, and loosed the arrow in a single smooth motion. Elena watched, horrified, as it sliced through the air, her imagination supplying it a hiss as it moved. She felt as if it should be in slow motion, but the entire thing took less than a second. The arrow didn’t slow as it passed through his foot, the impact sent Arturo’s leg up from beneath him. He shrieked and hit the floor, a spray of blood and toes landing on him shortly afterward, and the arrow stuck fast in the corner of the hallway beyond.

“Go meet the rest of your friends, Cog,” Master Artemis said, calmly shouldering her bow again, “we’ll need to speak with this one.”

Elena was still frozen, not even able to respond.

“Look at her!” Master Apollo nudged Artemis, “no crying, no fainting, stone-cold calm about it. ‘Don’t kill him please’, she says, like we’re going to shoot her friend in the back for eavesdropping. Ice in her veins, this one.”

“I…I…” Elena stammered.

“Elena let’s go,” Ele said. Elena turned and wordlessly began walking towards the other end of the hallway, the end Owl had told her about.

“I’m calling it now. She’s more Eye than some current Eye are. What’s that crafty god’s name, the one with the hammer? Vulcan! What’s Vulcan’s Graecan name?”

“Hephaestus,” Master Artemis said, her voice becoming quieter the further they and Elena drew from each other.

“Ah yes. Well I’m calling it now, using my sight of the future. We’ll see you again,” Apollo called over his shoulder, “Hephaestus!”

Elena opened the door to the sitting room in a half-daze, too frazzled to even notice much about it. She took a few faltering steps within, then turned to make sure Arturo was okay. The Masters were helping him to his feet, and she could hear him swear even on the other end of the hallway.

“Elena!” Belloza said cheerfully, “I didn’t know you knew people in the palace!”

“Hm?” Elena was too distracted to follow her friend, her thoughts too scattered to pay attention.

“When I heard an old friend was coming to the palace I requested to be assigned to you,” a servant was holding a tray of drinks and fruits out to her, and she took a drink without thinking about of it. His face was rugged and attractive, but Elena didn’t recognize him.

“I’m sorry, I think you must be mistaken,” she said.

“I don’t think I am, Mistress Lucciano,” the servant chuckled politely, “I’m quite sure we know each other.”

He seemed quite amused, and there was a twinkle of humor in his eyes.

His stark and vivid blue eyes.

“Oh,” Elena said simply, the glass falling from her hand and shattering on the wood floor. “Oh.”

She sat down heavily, barely aware of the chair beneath her.

“I definitely recognize you,” Ele said quietly from her side. “Hello, Domenico.”

***

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

***

<<DO NOT CLICK THIS BUTTON>>

(it EITHER votes for Twisted Cogs or links to blonde rainbow he-man singing)

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10 responses

  1. Ohhhh THAT Domenico. She is a magnet of problems. poor girl

    Like

    2015-06-28 at 10:35 pm

  2. dogber7

    Who was domenico?

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-06-28 at 10:40 pm

    • CK

      dogber7: he’s the Rhetor who killed Slug. He’s a friendly (to Elena) serial murderer. And he’s only sort-of-friendly to Elena because she was polite to him when he was masked; if she says the wrong thing, he might turn on her.

      I wonder how Emerald/Meryl will react to his presence, considering she turned down his offer to kill her guard and flee with him?

      Like

      2015-06-29 at 12:01 am

  3. AvidFan

    Thank God I saw the subscript before I pressed the button. The risk… Too high. Far too high.

    Like

    2015-06-29 at 12:33 am

    • DeNarr

      Agreed. While I love that video, I don’t want to accidentally click that while at work.

      Like

      2015-06-29 at 9:18 am

    • Good call; better safe than sorry, that’s what I always say

      Like

      2015-07-05 at 9:22 pm

  4. RobertT

    I am so glad that rainbow He-man is still a thing.

    In other news, love the chapter though I agree with Artemis. It is amazing that Apollo could have got to where he is with such a little regard for secrecy.

    Like

    2015-06-29 at 2:37 am

    • CK

      I’m not sure I believe Apollo. I think he might be acting up the “trusting” demeanour to influence Elena. I’m not sure exactly what the aim would be, because we don’t know much about them, but I wonder if Artemis and Apollo aren’t playing good cop/bad cop. It seems more plausible than genuine trust.

      But then, “know[ing] the fates of all men” might have something to do with it too. Except that Artemis (who presumably would know how Apollo’s storm works) said he couldn’t know if Elena would join the Eye.

      Like

      2015-07-06 at 6:04 am

  5. So the question that’s been bothering me is: does she still have control/knowledge of the spy network? Seems like that would be useful. In “her studio” she could feel doors opening and closing. Can she sense the comings and goings of the spies?

    Like

    2015-06-29 at 3:02 am

  6. Orion

    My my, quite the powerful little group that Elena has about her now. Domenico adds quite the extra depth to her retinue. I am quite curious as to the parts each of them will play.

    Like

    2015-07-05 at 2:35 pm

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