A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.04 – Iucundum Loquitor {A Pleasant Chat}

“Do everything you can do to keep your breathing deep and calm. Try not to get agitated, breathing too fast would be a very bad idea,” Master Asclepius held Elena carefully on one side, while Freja supported her on the other. The wooden girl smelled like maple wood, a scent that reminded her of time spent in Studio De Luca, working in the same room as Frederica as the Caelator carved Freja out of the large block of wood.

How far she’d come, in such a small time, since that day.

“I don’t know that I can promise that,” there was already a sharp throbbing in the lower left side of her chest, but she didn’t mention it, “I’m about to talk to a man who is selling out his city to rebels, who ordered-”

The pain in her chest suddenly worsened, enough so that she couldn’t finish her sentence, and the world swam in front of her for a moment.

“That’s not even touching on the possibility that this is a trap to kill our group’s best planner,” Ele added.

“I understand,” Master Asclepius said gently, “but given what my Storm had me do to you, you can’t afford to treat this as a suggestion. Deep breaths. Remain calm.”

“What did you do to me?”

“I’ll tell you that after the point at which you no longer need to be relaxed.”

They approached the hallway’s sharp turn, where a small group was assembled. Masters Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena, and two men Elena didn’t know waited a little ways down the hallway, out of sight of the hall beyond. Belloza, on the other hand, stood at the corner with her feet planted firmly, aiming her crossbow steadily down the other hall at something Elena couldn’t see. Bello stood behind her, his muscled mass cutting an imposing figure.

“Good to see you on your feet and about, Cog,” Master Apollo looked more grim than she had ever seen him.

“Nice to meet you, Lucciano,” one of the men nodded, “I’m Laur, Master Athena’s Echo.”

Elena offered the briefest of nods before turning to Master Athena. “Why is Belloza in the line of fire?”

“I volunteered,” Belloza answered quietly without moving her lips, “they have Saggitari on their corner, we need one on ours or they’ll think they can get away with breaking this little cease-fire.”

Elena stepped up to the corner of the wall, then titled just an inch or so to see down the hall.

Prince Langone waited about halfway down the hallway, standing proud and regal with his arms folded. At the other end of the hall, two men stood with bows drawn, one of them with a bow almost as large as he was, the other with arrows that twisted like a goat’s horn. Next to the archers, leaning on her cane, Little One watched impassively.

“How bad is it?” Ele asked.

“Two Saggitari, two rebel leaders,” Elena reported, “they’re waiting for me. Any last-minute advice?” she turned to look rather hopelessly at the small group around her.

“Come back,” Frederica said. She stood a little ways off, taking the opportunity to smooth some knicks out of Freja’s wooden surface while the wooden girl winced, but when she glanced Elena’s way her eyes flashed. “I mean it. If you don’t come back Owl will never forgive you when he wakes up. I’ll never forgive you.”

“I’ll come back,” Elena blinked deliberately, trying to keep her eyes dry.

“They most likely don’t have plans to hurt you,” Master Aphrodite said gently, “there’s no one on this side of the corridor who they’d sacrifice His Princeps to kill, and if they hurt you Cross will put an arrow through the Prince’s heart.” Elena couldn’t place exactly who the Rhetor was tinting her voice with, but it did make her feel a bit better.

“Don’t exert yourself,” Master Asclepius repeated when she turned to him, “you absolutely don’t want to rip your new stitches.” Elena reached an involuntary hand to her chest, but she couldn’t feel any of the rag-doll stitches he had used to sew her arm together.

He must be speaking metaphorically.

“You’ll pull us out of this, I have no doubts,” Master Apollo said, still grim faced but clapping her on the shoulder, “it’s a very ‘Eye’ thing to do, and you’re practically one of us.”

“Master Apollo’s encouragement is well-founded,” Master Athena said with an air of longsuffering, “and I’m sure that you’ll do very well, but-”

“I know, I’m not one of the Eye,” Elena nodded.

“Go get ‘em, Hephaestus,” Master Apollo said, flashing her his customary grin for a moment.

“I’ve got your back, Cog,” Belloza said as Elena joined her at the corner, “the second I see them loose an arrow, the Prince dies.”

“Aim for Little One instead,” Elena murmured, looking down the hall at the Prince, Little One, and the archers, “the old lady. She’s more important to the rebels than even the Prince.”

When Belloza shifted by a fraction without question, Prince Langone glanced over his shoulder, then shifted as well, moving a step to the left.

“Did he just move in your way?” Ele asked, ”why is he protecting her?”

“Not to worry,” Belloza said, not moving, “from my crossbow to His Princeps’ throat to the old lady’s heart, I can manage two for the price of one.”

Elena held her chin high as she strode down the hallway to meet the Prince. For some reason, Prince Langone’s steady gaze locked on her the entire was more intimidating to her than the fact that she was pinioned between two sets of Saggitari.

“Journeyman Cog,” Prince Langone inclined his head as soon as Elena was close enough that he could speak without yelling.

“Your Princeps,” Elena had expected her own voice to be bitter or carry the wheeze of her injury, but instead it was calm and steady.

“I’m told by my soldiers that they have all of the Eye’s forces accounted for,” the Prince clasped his hands behind his back, face inscrutable, “they also tell me we’ve not seen a few of your friends. If they are injured or worse, I would just like to say I’m truly sorry.”

“‘Your men’,” Elena repeated cooly, “do you mean the palace guards, or the rebels?”

“Those loyal to Milia,” Prince Langone said, “I think you’ll find very few of the rebel forces can claim that of themselves. The rebels are loyal only to themselves.”

“Do you have no shame at all?” Ele said angrily, but the Prince didn’t respond to the insult he hadn’t heard.

“If you’ll forgive me for asking,” Elena said, the formality stiff in her mouth, “if they’re really so horrible…” she trailed off, unsure how to ask such an absurd question.

“You’d like to know why I’m helping them, given my disdain?” Prince Langone seemed more at home with formal stiffness than Elena, and on him it seemed like a conscious choice rather than Elena’s barely-restrained anger. He continued without waiting for an answer, “the answer is simple. Many years ago, the Rebel Queen led a rebellion-”

“I know this story,” Elena interrupted, “she betrayed her own rebellion and made King Thesslenario look good by doing so. She’s promised you that she’s going to do the same thing to you? You’re a fool if you believe that.”

From the way Prince Langone drew back, Elena could tell that Lord Waldren’s guess was precisely on target.

“It takes a certain type of arrogance, Cog, to call your Prince a fool.”

“A rightful Prince would’ve given us a trial before-” something in Elena’s chest strained, and she cut herself off, biting her tongue to keep from saying the rest of the sentence.

“A rightful Prince does what’s best for the city of Milia,” Prince Langone said softly. “Do you know how many men and women the rebellion have amassed, in so short a time? Enough that under the right leadership, they could take the throne. It’s as simple as that. This way, they will try, and we will ensure that they will fail. Milia will know that such coups cannot bear fruit, and it will be long before another rebellion rises.”

“And the Rebel Queen is doing this through the goodness of her heart, I suppose?” Elena said bitterly.

“If the Rebel Queen didn’t have Milia’s best intentions at heart, why would she reach out to me? Why not just…rebel?”

“Why cut your way through the roof of the house you’re robbing when they’d just invite you in,” Ele said, “she could’ve organized this rebellion on her own, but why bother when it’s so much easier to let Prince Gullible set everything up perfectly.”

Elena stared at the Prince dolefully. Without exposing her link to the woman there was nothing she could do to convince Prince Langone of what Little One’s true intentions were, and she could hardly say “I know the Rebel Queen better than you do.”

“Now let’s focus less on what is to happen to me,” Prince Langone said after a few moments in which she groped for the right word. His businesslike tone had a sharp edge to it, and he folded his arms over his chest, “let’s talk about how best to save your friends, now that my reinforcements have arrived.”

***

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10 responses

  1. George

    “Those loyal to Milia,” Prince Langone said, “I think you’ll find very few of the rebel forces can claim that of themselves. The rebels are ”

    That’s missing punctuation and probably words.

    Like

    2015-11-30 at 12:19 am

    • Very true, thank you for catching it! I’m honestly not sure how that one happened…

      Like

      2015-11-30 at 10:17 pm

  2. Prince Langone seemed more more at home with formal stiffness than Elena, -> repeated more

    and without that tidbit of information, there was nothing she could do to convince Prince Langone of what Little One’s true intentions were. -> what tidbit of information?

    So, what does her Princepessa think of all this? I’d like to believe he doesn’t agree with it, though I have a feeling my hopes will be proven wrong.

    “He must be speaking metaphorically.”
    Oh, honey.

    Like

    2015-11-30 at 6:15 am

    • That totally wasn’t a typo, I just meant that he was so much more at home than her that he was MORE more….[no one’s buying it? Drat, alright fixed it, thanks for the catch Zim :)]

      Reworded the ‘tidbit’ tidbit a tidbit now that I’m not falling asleep at the keys, double-thanks!

      Like

      2015-11-30 at 11:04 pm

  3. EchoStep

    Isn’t prince Langone the one who is stormtouched out of the two?

    Like

    2015-11-30 at 12:03 pm

    • It’s actually his husband Princepessa Rodiano, but don’t feel bad…I had to go back and double-check myself!

      Like

      2015-11-30 at 11:04 pm

  4. So I just rushed through your entire story and have greatly enjoyed myself
    Thanks for the interesting stories and great characters, now I just have to impatiently wait for the next update

    Like

    2015-12-03 at 11:09 pm

    • Thank YOU, for commenting! I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed it so far!

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-12-04 at 12:59 am

  5. aphrodite has an echo? i thought rhetors didn’t have echoes. were all the others killed when they got the masks?

    Like

    2015-12-30 at 12:24 pm

    • Nope, they don’t! I’m going to chalk this one up to super low sleep, since even looking in my notes I have no mention of Aphrodite’s Echo anywhere. Thanks for the catch!

      Like

      2016-01-04 at 11:37 pm

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