A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.3 – Translucidus Quasi Speculu {Clear As Glass}

Apate moved so carefully that she appeared to be walking underwater, every motion delicate and precise. Even though her glass eyes seemed fixed on Elena, she got the impression that the girl made of glass was hyper aware of every bit of her surroundings.

I guess I would be too, if I were made of glass, Elena mused. Understanding Apate’s motivations did little to make the girl seem less inhuman. Her pupilless eyes reminded Elena of Little One’s golden eyes in the dream world, and the similarity wasn’t comforting. The six members of the Eye and Prince Langone all watched in silence as Apate approached, stopping a few feet in front of Elena with her hands clasped in front of her.

“I can tell that you’re nervous.” Apate’s voice was monotone, but otherwise normal, and Elena was surprised. “You don’t need to be nervous unless you are secretly assisting the rebels in their cause.”

“That’s…that’s good,” Elena said, her mouth suddenly dry.

“Are you?” Master Athena asked conversationally, “assisting the rebels, that is?”

“What? No!” Elena was startled by the directness of the question.

“If you could say the entire sentence, please, that would be very helpful,” Apate said, still in a monotone.

“Um…I am not assisting the rebels in any way.”

Apate nodded gravely, “I’m glad to hear it.”

“Oh,” Elena’s eyes widened in understanding. “You can tell if I’m telling the truth or not?” It was impressive enough that Master Athena could make a living sculpture out of glass, but she had just assumed the girl was very intuitive or good at reading people.

“The skill comes at a cost, I’m afraid,” Apate said, but she didn’t elaborate.

“Do you or your Echo have reason to work towards the rebels’ cause, to further their agenda?” Master Athena asked.

Now that Elena knew what was happening, the answer came much faster to her lips. “Neither I nor Ele have a reason to work towards the rebels’ cause or further their agenda,” she said.

“Are you or your Echo aware of any rebel who you have not informed His Princeps about?” Master Athena asked.

Elena thought of her connection to Little One, then shook her head, grateful for the phrasing. “Neither Ele nor I are aware of any rebels who we haven’t told His Princeps about.”

“Are you loyal to the Prince of Milia, and King of Italoza?”

“I am loyal to both His Princeps and His Majesty.”

“Are you a member of any conspiracy?”

“No, neither I nor Ele are a part of any conspiracy-” Elena began, but she trailed off as Apate shook her head slowly. The mood around the table shifted ever so slightly, Master Hermes leaned forward in his chair and steepled his fingers, Master Aphrodite frowned, and the smile dropped off of Master Apollo’s face.

“Would you like to try that answer again, Elena?” Master Athena asked quietly. Elena was so confused and frightened that for a moment she panicked. Didn’t Master Apollo tell her that it was the Eye’s job to clear out conspiracies and threats to the crown? What did they do to the people they cleared out? Had she just with a single sentence confined herself to a life in prison?

Why had Apate even shaken her head? There was no conspiracy that Elena knew of-

“Again, Elena, are you a member of any conspiracy, hidden group, unknown order or covert association of any kind?”

Oh.

“I’m…I don’t…” the panic that had been welling in her since Elena saw the glass girl was making it very hard to organize her thoughts, “I’m a part of a hidden group, but they’re not dangerous…I mean, they could be, but we don’t…the group doesn’t want to hurt Italoza, none of us want to hurt anyone.”

The room was silent for a moment that was far too long, and Apate looked over her shoulder and gave Master Athena a small nod.

“How intriguing,” Master Athena said. Elena wished the woman’s face or tone was more expressive.

“That’s all you have to say about it, it’s ‘intriguing’?” Prince Langone had no trouble with being expressive, and Elena winced at the anger on his face, “that she’s a part of some secret cult?”

“Elena, is your allegiance to this group greater or less than your allegiance to Milia?” Master Athena asked, ignoring the Prince’s outburst.

“I…I…” Elena was finding it hard to breathe under the stare of the six Masters and the Prince, “I haven’t thought about it! They would never ask me to choose between them!”

“Very well. We’ll come back to this,” Master Athena said.

“Come back to her conspiracy?” Prince Langone said, “don’t you think we should be focusing on this as a priority?”

“Your Princeps, I’ve done this for quite some time. We’re on a limited amount of time, Elena is not the only person I’d like to question this afternoon, and there is something to be said for allowing people their secrets, if they are harmless. I very much dislike my Storm being used to badger someone for small infringements, the sort that everyone is guilty of in some way.”

“She said they could be dangerous!”

“Which is why we’ll come back to it,” Master Athena said, “if you’ll recall, Your Princeps, you said I would be given full reign over these proceedings. We are-”

She was interrupted by a loud snapping noise, and a crack appeared in the glass along Apate’s arm. The girl didn’t express any pain, she merely looked over her shoulder at Master Athena, then returned her gaze to Elena.

“-on a schedule,” Master Athena finished. “Elena, we will try to make this even more brief. Is there any information about the rebellion that you have, yet have not shared?”

Elena looked down at her shoes. “I…the rebel leader…I said I met her a month ago…”

“You told His Princeps that the leader tried to recruit you,” Master Aphrodite coaxed, “was that the truth?” Elena bit her lip and stayed silent. This was one of the most horrible experiences she’d had, and she’d much rather be anywhere else at this moment. “Elena, look at me.” Elena met Master Aphrodite’s eyes. “Ignore everyone else, you can just talk to me.”

Master Aphrodite’s sisterly tone did make it easier to talk to her than to Master Athena, and Elena took a deep breath. “She did try to recruit me, but that wasn’t the first time I met her. Her name is Little One, and she’s one of…the same group I mentioned before.”

Little One?” Master Artemis said, and Master Asclepius swore and leaned back in his chair.

“She was a part of the Stormhearts rebellion, I think.”

“Your little collusion included the Rebel Queen?” Prince Langone slammed his fist into the table. Elena’s head was spinning, and she almost fell over. Little One was the Rebel Queen? Even in hindsight that seemed impossible.

“But…the Rebel Queen is dead,” she said. Apate turned and nodded again, and Master Athena tapped a finger against her lips. The crack along Apate’s arm was spreading, enough so that tiny seams of white light shone through the yellow glass.

“This seems more complex than will fit into a single Apate’s lifespan, Athena,” Master Artemis said quietly, eyeing Elena with a face that hid whatever emotion was behind it.

“Her treason seems clear enough to me, even without further questioning,” Prince Langone looked particularly princely as he straightened, looking down from his seat on Elena. For her part, Elena was having a hard time forcing her mind to catch up with itself. It was all going wrong, all of it so suddenly and horribly wrong that she could barely process what was happening.

She was supposed to be meeting and impressing the Eye, showing off for His Princeps, everything was supposed to be working out better and better, as it always had during her stay in the courts. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, with everything crashing about her ears.

“Don’t be melodramatic, Langone,” Master Athena said, “you heard her swear her loyalty to you and to Italoza.”

“Easy words to say,” Prince Langone scoffed.

“Not to Apate,” Master Athena said firmly. “You and I have not worked together before, so you are unused to the absolute certainty I enjoy. Secretive she may be, but Elena is not treasonous. However, as Master Artemis points out, the discussion must be postponed for now. A final question for you, Elena. Do you know where we might find your associate, the Rebel Queen?”

Elena winced at the phrasing. Her stomach had been tight with nerves before, but now her legs were shaking so much that she could barely stand as well. “I don’t know where she is,” she whispered, “and my group…we didn’t know that she was starting a rebellion. Another rebellion.”

“Thank you, Elena. I’m sorry that this did not go as well as it might have.”

“What…what happens now?” Elena asked, her voice breaking.

“I’m afraid you and I will have to speak again,” Master Athena said, “while I am perfectly willing to leave people their little secrets, I don’t know that any of us will be comfortable knowing as little about yours as we do, certainly not if you’re being considered for a Junior position in the Eye.”

“You’re still considering her?” Prince Langone asked incredulously.

“Master Zeus is very rarely wrong about the suitability of potential members.”

“But he hasn’t even met the girl!”

“Nevertheless, we are content to trust her on her own until we’re ready to meet with her.”

I’m not comfortable with you being at large, able to meet up with your compatriots,” Prince Langone snapped, turning to Elena. “Until Master Athena has the time to meet with you, you will be confined.”

Elena nodded wordlessly, more forlorn than frightened. From the Prince’s point of view she couldn’t be trusted, and there was no point in trying to convince him otherwise at this point. She had been in the dungeons before, but never as a prisoner, and she idly wondered how the confined rebels would react when they saw her escorted to her cell. She didn’t imagine it would be pleasant.

“You two,” Langone gestured to the guards by the doors, “escort her to the dungeons. Give her a separate cell from the rebels, but tell the jailor that she’s a Fabera. He’ll make sure she has nothing she can use to make a lockpick or as a weapon. Bring His Principessa with you for the Eye’s endorsement on your way back.”

“Yes, Princeps, we will,” the guard inclined his head and gestured for Elena to follow him. With a final glance over her shoulder, Elena followed, still reeling and shaky from her brief encounter with the Eye. How could everything have gone so badly so quickly?

The guard kept a hand on her shoulder as if she would try to bolt, but Elena barely noticed.

“I know you’re screaming on the inside right now, but things aren’t as horrible as they seem,” Ele said. Elena was busy trying to fight back tears, and didn’t want to respond at all, let alone in front of the guards. “Master Athena believes that you’re not a traitor, and the other Masters seem to like you well enough, right? Between all of your…friends, you’re still alright politically, no one will let anything happen to you.”

“Excuse me,” the voice of the blonde-haired Master Hermes echoed in the quiet hallway, and the guards paused and turned, waiting politely as he caught up. The man had an odd way of walking, a kind of lazy ambling gait as if limping with both legs. “It wasn’t very smart, what you said. You have to be more clever than that around Master Athena.”

“I wasn’t trying to be clever,” Elena said, “I wasn’t trying to fool anyone-”

“Not you, Cog, you’re interesting,” Master Hermes said. He stopped a few paces away from the group and shoved his hands in his pockets, “no, I meant you,” he nodded at the guard who held Elena’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, sir?” the guard asked.

“His Princeps told you to lock Elena up, and bring His Principessa with you. You told him you would, but you said it in front of Apate. It was a lie.”

The guard blinked a few times, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly. Finally he mustered “I…it wasn’t-”

“If you didn’t bring back His Principessa it would be rather obvious,” Master Hermes continued smoothly, “which means you weren’t planning on locking the girl up. Where exactly were you planning on taking her?”

Both guards were silent, and Master Hermes looked back and forth between the two, unconcerned. Neither of the men denied it, and in the silence in the hallway Elena looked back and forth between the guards and the Master, her heart hammering in her chest.

“Where were you taking me?” she asked, even though she suspected she knew exactly who she was being taken to.

“Soldiers in an army can be dangerous rebels,” Master Hermes said, “but I would’ve thought that Langone would be wise enough to check palace guards first.”

The guard was still holding onto her shoulder in a vice-like grip, and Elena was so scared that she was almost calm. “He couldn’t have me check them without giving me the palace,” she said.

“Well then, it would appear it’s our job to root them all out.”

“And you came out here to root us out all alone, did you?” the other guard said quietly, his eyes darting to the closed door at the other end of the hallway that they’d emerged from.

“I can see what’s going through your mind right now,” the casual smile dropped from Master Hermes’ face. “It truly saddens me that you’re stupid enough to think it will work.”

“Never heard of a mindreading Storm before,” the guard rested his hand on the hilt of his sword.

“Oh I’m not a mindreader,” Master Hermes sighed, “I’m just very familiar with stupid people.”

Elena’s eyes were locked on the guard’s sword, so the dull scraping noise it made as he drew didn’t surprise her. What did surprise her was Master Hermes’ reaction.

He didn’t dart, he didn’t lunge, he flew across the few feet between them, so fast that before Elena could make a noise he was already slamming his hand on top of the guard’s, shoving the sword back into its sheathe before the man had even drawn it.

The breeze from Master Hermes’ motions was enough to throw Elena’s hair into disarray. His foot snapped out, and Elena heard the whump of breath leave the gut of the guard behind her. Just as fast his fist snapped out to connect with the first man’s wrist, snapping bone as he tried again to draw.

The whole thing was over so fast that it was over by the time Elena’s scream echoed off of the halls. One guard was on the floor, still gagging and gasping for breath, the other leaned against the wall cradling his wrist, his face white.

“Sorry to be so abrupt, Journeyman Cog,” Master Hermes turned towards her with the same lazy grace, “but since we’ve just packed two more people into this current Apate’s schedule, I’m afraid I must hurry these two back to the room. You know your way to the dungeon, I take it?”

“You’re…letting me take myself to the dungeon?” Elena blinked, bewildered.

“I trust Athena and Apollo’s assessment of you, you won’t make an escape attempt.” Master Hermes huffed as he lifted the guard on the floor by the back of his shirt, “If you’re all that Apollo and Artemis and Asclepius rave about, you’ll be one of us one day, and you’ll find out that Princes throw hissy fits like this from time to time. Honestly it’s easier to just humor them.”

Elena blinked again, and Master Hermes was already halfway down the hall, hauling both guards along with him. She exchanged a look with Ele, who looked just as flabberghasted as she did. Still shaky, her head spinning, and feeling as if she might throw up, Elena turned to walk, nonplussed, towards the dungeons.

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7 responses

  1. Fhoenix

    Last sentence looked strange to me. So I googled the definition of “nonplussed” and found that it can mean two completely opposite things. I thought it meant “unperturbed”, but the original meaning turned out to be “confused”.

    Also I like this chapter very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-09-28 at 2:01 am

  2. So, I’d like to offer a bit of critique I’ve had for the past months but I’ve always forgotten to write down.

    I think Ele has gone past being a secondary character to be a background character recently. Some chapters he doesn’t speak at all, and when he speaks just one or two lines, it’s to tell Elena “you can do it” or otherwise be of use to her. I think the story has been really lacking more of him, he’s an important part of the story’s dynamic and he is a very important character.

    I also feel that Elena has been kind of unfair to Ele, though that might just be a personality trait. She often asks Ele to trust her “just this time”, like when they were talking to Little One, but it isn’t really the first time Ele has (been forced or otherwise) trusted Elena’s decisions.

    Critique aside, nice chapter. I love how little of a deal the Eye is making. I guess they all have their scary secrets :P

    Like

    2015-09-28 at 6:03 pm

    • I don’t know. He’s IN the background, but doing a lot. I have a feeling we’re going to get a couple of Ele centric chapters soon detailing some of the things he’s been up to, especially after meeting the Storm.

      Like

      2015-09-29 at 1:20 pm

      • Doing a lot, like what? Being Elena’s servant and watchout? Offering a few words of support? If a character that spends every instant with the main character doesn’t appear in the story, it’s because he probably hasn’t done anything important or interesting.

        Like

        2015-09-29 at 6:58 pm

        • I’m actually glad of the timing of this string of comments!

          As Leaky Pen guessed (as usual proving their skill at seeing things coming) there are is indeed a few scenes coming up which will directly address the fact that Ele’s voice and influence have been fading (something that I hope will be handled much better after the editing).

          I have been going back and forth on whether to have these scenes sooner rather than later, so I’m glad to have the feedback.

          Like

          2015-10-03 at 6:13 pm

  3. Gareth

    Artemis – Awesome
    Hermes… Did we get told what his storm was? Because it seems like it might be unarmed fighting…
    Princeps – Dude what the hell?
    Elena – good, don’t be stupid
    Maddi – great chapter.

    Like

    2015-09-28 at 6:06 pm

  4. I love how creatively named Apate is! Matches the greek theme going on in the Eye too.

    About that, why do they use the greek instead of the latin versions of the names? I was curious ever since Elena was wondering what the latin equivalent of Aphrodite is

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-09-30 at 5:11 pm

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