A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.03 – Finem Carrum {End of the Cart}

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“You said you had a plan, this interaction just sounds like incredibly bad news,” even in a low murmur, Belloza’s skepticism was obvious. “She doesn’t trust you, she’s keeping you at arm’s length, and if she has any control over her Storm-“

“Which she does,” Owl said from the front of the cart, “it has to be selective and controlled, or she wouldn’t have gotten to where she is today.”

“-then she’s going to slam her Storm into your face as hard as she can the second she senses something wrong,” Belloza finished, “I’m failing to see where the plan comes in.”

It was hard to make out expressions in the darkness of the covered cart, but Elena looked from face to face and tried to make out her teammates’ expressions. Besides the lack of light, the back of the cart was quite comfortable, with enough room for all of them to stretch their legs. They rocked with the motion of the cart, able to talk quietly even over the bustle of the Rimi streets outside.

Owl drove, but Elena could tell that he was listening intently to the conversation, and she trusted him to not be too obvious when he turned to respond to his hidden passengers. Across from Elena, even Ele was listening with furrowed brow, clearly not picking up on the hidden weakness that had seemed obvious to Elena.

“Lucrezia used the specific words ‘as far away as possible, preferably with a wall between us’,” Elena explained, “my first thought was that that wouldn’t be enough to stop one of Belloza’s bolts.”

“Okay, slow down,” Ele said, “just because she used that as hyperbole, that doesn’t mean that she’s actually unaware of Belloza’s Storm or that Belloza is working with you.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Elena agreed, “but it might mean that Belloza isn’t at the forefront of her mind. None of us are, not as more than Stormtouched assassins. Think about Stormtouched assassins, think about them the way she thinks about them.”

“We don’t know how she thinks the way you do,” Bello spoke up patiently, “walk us through it.”

“I don’t know exactly how she thinks,” Elena said, “but she called herself paranoid, yet invited me into her rooms. She’s very very careful, but she’s careful about general dangers, not us specifically. Take her guards, for instance, I’d be willing to bet they can beat Lanisti assassins, and her council room is designed so that columns block every line of sight a Saggitari could take. She’s done something to everyone in the castle that prevents them from falling prey to a Rhetor, and she has a host of Rhetors to intimidate political plays.”

“These seem like the very difficulties that keep us, specifically, at bay,” Emerald said, “I’m not sure I see where you’re going with this.”

Elena struggled to put her Storm into words that she could explain to her friends. She had been expecting that when inspiration struck, it would flow through her like a wave of information, but instead it shone like little bright threads in the tapestry of the city.

“There are holes in her protection, tiny little gaps,” she explained, “gaps that normally don’t matter because other protections cover them up. I think we can wriggle through those gaps.”

The other members of her team gave her blank looks, but none of them were objecting, and Elena soldiered on.

“She isn’t worried about Saggitari shooting her, because there are so many little obstacles in the way. No one can see her clearly enough in the dark column-filled room to see her without her seeing them. Even if they could, they still couldn’t shoot through the columns. Even if they could, with her Storm they wouldn’t know where to shoot. Even if they did, there’s no way into the council room without passing the guards. Even if there was, there’s no way to escape the city.”

“I’m failing to see the gaps in that protection,” Emerald grimaced.

“We have me,” Belloza perked up, “there are hallways between the kitchens and the back of the councilroom, so the servants can bring in their food!”

“You work in the kitchens, no one will think of you moving through the kitchen with a big sack.”

“You said those doors were locked when not in use,” Owl said from the front of the cart.

“The doors are locked, and we have someone on the inside, shrouded in darkness, who can pick that lock,” Elena said, “and then, when the deed is done, we have someone who can move from the castle to the city walls in record time without any suspicion. We’re rehearsing our would-be escape as we speak!”

The little cart rocked back and forth for a little while while Elena’s team mused in silence.

“It makes a lot of assumptions,” Fred was the first to speak, “it depends on everything going exactly as you expect.”

“I was just about to comment that moving from the castle to the walls is a lot easier when there’s no manhunt for an assassin going on,” Owl added.

“Right now, Lucrezia is waiting for Elena to make a purposeful mistake,” Frederica answered him, “and she’s probably not going to wait for too long. A plan with a lot of assumptions is better than no plan, right now.”

“And once we’re out of the castle, I might actually be able to help for once,” Emerald said, “it’s felt a bit like-“

“We’re at the wall,” Owl cut her off suddenly, and the cart grew silent in an instant.

“Evening, Tarcisio,” a gruff voice just outside of the cart growled.

“Evening. Just returning the carts for the night,” Owl replied, his own voice pitched a little deeper than his normal tone.

“Glad to see you, I thought Penelope and I would be the last in. You know the lockup procedures.”

“I know them, I know them,” Owl sighed, and the gruff voice gave a chuckle.

“Hi, Tarcisio,” a girl’s voice said, shyly.

Elena pressed her nose against the side of the cart to peer through a crack in the wood.

“Hello, Penelope,” Owl climbed down and flashed the girl a very un-Owl-like smile, and the girl blushed crimson in response. “I thought you were due to leave an hour back.”

“I was…I mean, I could’ve, but I heard you were coming back and I…I thought you could use some help unloading the carts?” she said, staring at the ground between them. Elena’s heart pounded, but Owl only shrugged.

“I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m only returning the cart,” he said, “it’s not loaded.”

“O-oh, of course,” Penelope stammered, “how stupid of me, I didn’t..yes, that makes sense.”

“Listen, while you’re here,” Owl glanced over his shoulder, presumably for the gruff-voiced man, before taking a step closer, closing the space between them. The blush on Penelope’s cheeks deepened and spread over her whole face as Owl dropped his voice, “how would you like to have dinner with me? Maybe sometime next week?”

Elena blinked, elbowing Belloza when the other girl let out a whispered titter. What was he thinking, making plans that he wouldn’t be able to keep? Was this some dig at her, an expression of the fact that he didn’t think she could assassinated Lucrezia in time? Was he saying he might as well settle down in Rimi, that they would never accomplish their goal?

“Oh! That…that would be nice,” Penelope said, as if out of breath.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Owl said.

The two of them stood in awkward silence for a few moments before Penelope spoke again. “I should…I’ll just be leaving then,” she said.

“I look forward to tomorrow,” Owl said.

“Why, what happens tomorrow?”

“It’s when I’ll see you next,” Owl grinned.

Belloza made soft retching sounds in the cart, but Penelope’s entire head was bright red when she left.

“That was…interesting,” Elena tried, diplomatically, when they climbed out of the little cart.

“Interesting?” Owl smiled at Elena, the typical small smile that was his own rather than the confident and flirtatious smile he’d given Penelope.

“I’m not used to you being that…forward,” she said.

“Did you see the key ring at her belt?” Frederica asked, using the same diplomatic tone Elena had been a few moments ago.

“Owl!” Elena gasped, “did you make that poor girl like you just so you can have keys to the wall?”

“I don’t have the keys yet,” Owl said, “but they’ll come in usefully when I do. Even if I fail, she’s only expecting something from me by next week, and if everything goes according to plan, we won’t even be in the city. If everything doesn’t, a lovesick wall guard will be the least of our problems.”

“I’m not used to this side of you,” Elena frowned. She was used to Owl being the voice of reason, and sometimes morality, this seemed…dark, somehow.

Although nothing compared to what I’m about to do, what I’ve already done, she chastised herself, I have no right to judge.

“This side of me has always been here,” Owl frowned back at her, “we just haven’t needed it before now. Now come on, there’s no point in smuggling us all to our next house if we start living in the wall.”

Elena couldn’t think of a good response, and when the others began moving she shouldered her own pack and followed suit.

If we stay on this path, how long will we keep changing? she thought, how long will we fight before we turn into something worth fighting against ourselves?

***

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3 responses

  1. Thanks to all my lovely readers and voters out there!

    It was a pretty rough weekend, so I hope this chapter makes as much sense tomorrow after I wake up as it does tonight and sleep-deprived!

    Like

    2016-07-11 at 12:30 am

  2. Bart

    I’m not really seeing it either, but I trust that she does, and that your next chapter will be a cool one. :)

    but they’ll come in usefully when I do.
    Change usefully to useful.

    She was used to Owl being the voice of reason, and sometimes morality, this seemed…dark, somehow.
    Run on sentence. Start a new sentence with “this” or put a semicolon after “morality” instead of a comma.

    Like

    2016-07-11 at 2:56 am

  3. xdrngy

    Owl <3

    Like

    2016-07-12 at 8:08 am

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