A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

6.03 – Tempestates in Atrium {Storms in the Courtyard}

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When she was eight, a little girl named Elena Lucciano once sat down to learn the game “Kings-all-aplenty” with her great uncle Chroli. It was a game of tactics and strategy, a little less simple than Chess but easier for her small mind to pick up. Elena had struggled for the whole day to learn the huge variety of little pieces and how they moved, and even after months of practicing she’d never gotten the hang of making them move together as a cohesive team.

This was far more complicated, chaotic, and horrible than Kings-all-aplenty, but as the other doors into the moonlit courtyard opened, a sudden instant of flashback still struck Elena.

There she was, biting her lip and searching Great Uncle Chroli’s face as he reviewed her starting position. For what had felt like the millionth time she had selected her pieces, she had arranged them in the best squadrons she could manage, and positioned them with care into her starting lineup. For the millionth time she had watched her Great Uncle reviewing the board before he made his first move. For the first time, she had seen him furrow his brow and stroke his chin, like he did when playing with the adults, not smile and crinkle his nose as he normally did.

She had lost that game handily, so the memory wasn’t the most encouraging one.

This time it’s no game. This time I have no intention of losing.

Her Storm seemed to disagree with her assessment, however, as it was pumping out a constant stream of dry factual information into her head in a series of tingles and buzzing shocks. To her this was vitally important, a matter of the life and death of those she cared most about, but to her Storm it was a game, and it was only a happy coincidence that both her and her Storm’s goals were aligned.

The small pause of shock only bought her enough time to estimate the size of the forces in front of her. It certainly wasn’t as many troops as she’d been expecting, and for a split-second she mused on wondering why that was. Where was the rest of the army? She would’ve glanced at the tall windows and parapets that surrounded the courtyard, but things were already in motion, and she didn’t have the split-second to spare.

In the past Elena could remember time slowing as she tried to process a million things happening at once, but this time she wasn’t so lucky, and everything happened all at once. Without a need for stealth and quiet, the courtyard burst into a sudden cacophony of yells and cries, mostly from the garzoni that surrounded the tight bundle of soldier squadrons.

Elena’s head snapped to the left as the respective groups started moving to close the gap between them. The night was too dark to see Firefly’s toss his entire pouch-full of stones, six month’s worth of labor flung into the crowd, but Elena could feel that he’d done so, the garzoni’s opening gambit.

The troops were too disciplined, too well trained. Firefly’s stones snapped and crackled with sudden startling noises and flashes of light, but the squadrons were already advancing, all but ignoring the little blots of lightning at their feet. Elena winced even as her little group of garzoni began to move, what was meant to be a chaotic start to throw them off balance had done nothing to distract them.

Elena was gripping her hammer in sweaty hands, trying to decide whether it was more beneficial to join in the fight or to survey it with her Storm, when Lorenzo brushed past her, ascending into the air with both hands outstretched.

That did get the squadrons’ attention, a man in metallic armor rising into the air like some horrible hovering hummingbird, holding little metal spheres aloft as he went. From the ground it was easy to see the wave of archers raising bows, all pointing at the easiest target of all, lit by the moon and hovering over them. Elena opened her mouth to scream a warning, but the Storm suddenly whispered, and her voice caught in her throat.

Don’t warn. Attack.

Elena moved, crossing the courtyard with heavy steps lost in the cacophony, wincing at the sharp pain in her chest that walking brought, but only increasing her pace. Behind her, her Storm told her Niccolo was drawing his bow, aiming at her back…no, aiming just over her shoulder at the man she was charging towards.

The soldier was much larger than her, but he wasn’t paying attention. The one next to her was watching her approach and already had a sword in his hand. Without turning, Elena pointed, slipping her hammer into her right hand.

She felt the distracted man’s sword-arm break just as Niccolo’s blunt-headed arrow landed with a smack between the other man’s widening eyes, and both of them went down, just as the clash around them announced that the rest of the garzoni had reached the group of soldiers.

The sudden hissing sound of bows being released made Elena glance upward in spite of herself, to see a moonlit sky suddenly speckled with dark lines, all of them flying at the Machinator who floated above them. Lorenzo dropped the spheres and extended his hands from where he hovered in the air, maneuvering them as if he was playing with currents in the water.

Elena knew that the lumps embedded on his gloves and arms were magnes, that he was using his Storm to manipulate the metals in the arrowheads. She knew about his Storm, and even to her the sight was terrifying. The arrows parted like a river being split by a ship’s prow, the floating boy shoving the arrows away as calmly as if they had been group of flies. After a few moments Lorenzo began diverting them with just one hand, his other extended, and his metal spheres slowly floated back up to his hand. He began tossing them down into the crowd of soldiers,

What did it look like to the soldiers beneath? Elena thought, strangely calm as she jerked back to avoid the swing of a spear, thrusting forward with the hammer to ram its head into her assailant’s stomach.

To her left, a small child was spinning a quarterstaff so fast she could barely see it, dispatching armed guards twice his size. A few paces away, a Gritti garzona clutched a handkerchief to her mouth while surrounded by a ring of purple smoke, hacking and choking troops crawling away from her on their knees. On the far side of the bedlam, there was a loud crackle whenever Thunderbolts hit someone with his stick and released stored up lightning into them.

The floating boy was terrifying in his own right, but were the rest of them much better? Elena swung her hammer back to catch a man in the kidney with its handle, blinking as she watched the look of terror that mingled with the pain on his face.

What do all of us look like to them? Elena shook away the thought and the horror and focused instead on the flow of information, even though it was starting to move a little more sluggish. The studio children didn’t need her to direct them; this wasn’t a game, it was a massacre, and the only reason it hadn’t been more violent was the amount of practise they’d had at putting an enemy down without killing them.

Elena glanced at the heavy doors into the palace, on the other side of the courtyard, and then gave the courtyard another mental sweep with her sluggish Storm. It was all over at this point, and the studio garzoni hadn’t taken more than a few injuries, most of them not serious. They didn’t need her here, and there were people within the castle who did.

Suddenly quite aware of how much it hurt in her chest to walk, Elena swung her hammer up onto her shoulder and began walking toward the door, unnoticed by student and soldiers alike.

The castle belongs to me, she attempted wearily, not particularly surprised when it failed to stir a reaction in her Storm. Her feet almost dragging on the stone floor, Elena pressed the door open and slipped inside.

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3 responses

  1. Yay, welcome back, Maddi!

    I wonder why on Earth the soldiers were in such an unadvantageous position. Someone’s plan, surely, but what purpose does it serve.

    Elena, you are bleeding out you silly goose. That’s what’s happening.

    Like

    2016-01-12 at 1:44 am

  2. JJ

    NOOOOOO! I’ve just caught up after burning through this over the past week. These cliffhangers are going to be unbearable! D:

    Like

    2016-01-14 at 12:11 am

    • Bwa ha haaa! I’d apologize, but it would probably sound really disingenuous with the evil laughter and all.

      Thanks for the kind words, I’m really glad you’re enjoying it!

      Like

      2016-01-18 at 12:39 am

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