A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

2.01 – Tellum et Ferrum {Bolt and Blade}

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Elena had gathered them all, in one of the gardens that no one visited, to talk about the danger that was about to fall about their heads, and Belloza Del Sordo wasn’t listening.

I was supposed to be the good girl of the family. Belloza noticed that her leg was bouncing up and down, wrecking the calm demeanor she was trying to maintain, and she stilled it, too late to keep anyone from noticing. I was gonna change things around for the Del Sordos. Hell I was gonna MAKE the Del Sordos, put our name on the map of influence in Italoza, not just on a writ of arrest. I was going to be the first Del Sordo of note.

Elena was still talking, meticulously trying to convey the situation, but Belloza had tuned her friend out. The Fabera’s heart was in the right place, but she had a tendency to overwork a point, laying it out piece by piece as if trying to understand it just as much as she was trying to communicate it.

There wasn’t much to understand here. They’d killed a nobleman, one with power and strong friends and political sway.

Belloza had killed a nobleman, and left a crossbow bolt in him. Elena acted as if there was a choice of where to go from here, even after she’d told them to warn their families, but Belloza knew better.

There were certain lines you could cross, and the higher ups would send out the token force to stop you, a proportionate response. There were other lines that meant business, the ones that meant the Princep’s entire attention would be on you, the ones that meant it was time to scatter and scatter fast. Del Sordos knew better than anyone the difference between those two lines, and what happened when you crossed them. They knew that when it was time to scatter, you scattered before the hammer fell.

Luckily, it sounded like Elena was moving toward the same conclusion herself, albeit in her own careful, hesitant way. That meant Belloza was free to tune her out and muse on her own thoughts.

I was supposed to be the one solitary straight-backed figure, the one our family could rally around, Belloza scolded herself, and here I am with a man’s blood on my hands, about to hole up beneath the threat of the law’s blade.

Her leg was shaking again, beating out a rhythm on the stone wall that she sat upon. The others were arranged in a half ring around Elena, soberly listening. Frederica carved, the way she always did, while Fred paced and scowled. Owl had his arms crossed, his dark eyes piercing. Even the ever-cheerful Emerald was subdued.

It wasn’t even just last night, Belloza thought, resuming her self-reproach, I’ve been lapsing from the day I set foot in the court. I could’ve been rubbing arms with nobles, making connections, offering my services as a bodyguard, fine upstanding work, but instead, what have I been doing? Roughing it with the soldiers in the barracks. Slumming it with the mercenaries and the ruffians instead of building my reputation as a Saggitara to the nobles.

Belloza focused with all her might on rebuking herself.

She’d killed one of the more influential diplomatic courtiers of Italoza.

She’d ruined any chance she’d had to be the upstanding citizen she had strived to be.

She’d ruined the pillar of honor she was trying to create for her family.

She’d ruined her reputation as a courtly Saggitarra.

As hard as she tried for the remorse, the corner of Belloza’s mouth quirked up in the smile she’d been trying to repress all day.

Her reputation in other areas, though…maybe that had just gotten started. In fact, if she wasn’t going to follow the straight and narrow any longer, she couldn’t ask for a better start to the rumors that now surrounded her. She rolled her shoulders, revelling in the weight of responsibility that had been lifted from them in the past day.

“Cross, the Assassin” it’s got a nice ring, she mused, won’t Gams be proud.

*

Hold the block by the corner in a low grip, dig in at an angle like you’re cutting to the core, but ease up fast as soon as you get a good bite. There we are, now follow the grain down, so smooth it’s like a prow through a wave, see how long we can make the trail of wood that springs away from the block before it falls down to the ground below. Feel the Storm in your wrists, like a hand guiding you-

The block slipped in Frederica’s hand, such a fractionally tiny slip that someone well-versed in carving could’ve seen it and not realized it was a mistake. The girl brushed a floppy brown curl from her face as the wood scrap floated to the ground, and then she began again. The callous on her thumb ached, but the more she practised carving with three fingers, the more familiar the grip would feel to her.

Back into the groove, and now another rounded edge. Don’t rush the cuts and make a mistake, don’t think about how dumb your friend is, don’t let the block slip and knick the relief. Frederica found it so simple, now, to slip into her work. To make her mind glide so seamlessly into the wood that there was no room for stress, for anger, for impatience. It was the single most useful thing she had learned at Studio De Luca, the practice that had transformed her from the bitter, angry little girl Frederica to the mostly calm, mostly even-headed Maple.

When she had slipped into her work completely, the blade of her knife moving of its own accord through the wood and biting out delicate little wooden petals of the flower in the block, only then did Frederica allow herself to think about the situation.

Elena was reckless and headstrong, but her Storm was powerful, and her passion was for art. As far as Frederica was concerned, the latter two made up for the former, and it was important to remember that during times like these. To focus on the fact that the girl’s heart was in the right place, not on the fact that it was too eager, or that she wouldn’t stop to think of consequences.

Yes, to wipe away all of the Stormtouched was a horrible thing, the loss of artistic skill alone was enough to take one’s breath away. But for Elena to throw away the help of the Eye of the Storm, for her to put her friends in this position, to act so fast and so forcefully on such a small thing was-

Careful now, Frederica took the anger that had begun to well up in her chest and instead channeled it down the blade of her knife, after all, you helped her. You too thought that there was no way to link the murder back to Elena, and you should’ve known better.

The little flower within the block of wood was half finished, and Frederica’s knife didn’t stop moving.

Travelling with Frell, Freja, and Frebio will be too conspicuous, we’ll have to leave them behind, she thought, perhaps gift them to Studio De Luca. The Caelator was surprised she was not more saddened at the thought. It will be better for them. A small safe studio is easier on living wood than a life on the run would be. Light servant work at Studio De Luca will wear them out much less than being chased by hunters, spies, banks and Pricesps.

Life in the courts would have been much better on Frederica than life on the run, too, but she carefully channeled that thought into a particularly complicated round-edge cut. She spared a glance at Elena, still talking, and wondered if, for all her hand wringing, the Fabera understood how much she was asking of her friends. Or rather, she hadn’t asked, she had dived headfirst.

Elena doesn’t understand how to protect herself or the art she works. Frederica used rock-cuts on the petals of the flower, sending them falling like so many scraps and then beginning a new carving in the blank space the flower left. So it’s up to me to protect them both, even if Elena doesn’t understand the sacrifice involved.

Her thoughts turned to Lord Curti. At least this would solve the problem of whether she was technically his girlfriend, or his courtesan. She hadn’t been able to find an answer in the books she’d found, whether or not Lords had courtesans, or girlfriends, or perhaps something else. His marble carvings would’ve been reliable sources to ask, but Frederica didn’t want Lord Curti knowing that she didn’t know. She was still in that stage of attraction where she was trying to seem knowledgeable and put-together, that stage where he would smile at her and she felt…-

Pin gauge in neat straight lines, try to see how exact and close together you can make them. Then, try the same thing but against the grain. Gently now, too much pressure and the new three-fingered grip will slip again.

The burgeoning anger quelled, Frederica’s jaw set stubbornly. She didn’t want to think about leaving, with no notice, note, or explanation. She didn’t want to think about Lord Curti’s reaction when he heard she was one of the fugitives on the run from…everyone. But it was the only choice ahead of her.

Even if I weren’t implicated in this, Elena is too dumb to live and make art at the same time, and with a Storm like hers, there’s no telling what she’s going to make. I have to keep her safe until her first masterpiece, I have to be there to see it when it happens

The final little flourish of the Acocella curl distracted Frederica for a moment.

Plus, she mentally added as an afterthought, she’s my friend.

***

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***

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2 responses

  1. Oak

    thanks for the chapter

    Like

    2016-04-25 at 1:31 am

  2. eduardo

    And now we see why some people follow Elena.
    But Elena should really have waited for the Eye to act.

    The carvings … the marble statues that gain life … wouldn`t they be a solution for the problem? Place the echoes inside living statues or even in robots (Machinator) and let the stormtouched be?

    Like

    2016-04-25 at 8:26 pm

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