A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.06 – Ninotabilis {Unmemorable}

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“We appreciate your hospitality,” Owl handed the woman a small pouch of coin, while the others loaded their meager possesions into the back of the cart.

“And you’ll appreciate my discretion, as well, I suppose?” the woman immediately opened it and started counting the florins within.

Elena furrowed her brow. She knew they’d probably looked suspicious as a group, but she had relied on Owl’s instincts on who could be trusted to rent them a space. With the mask tight on her face, she didn’t have a choice but to let the others handle it, if there was going to be a problem.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Owl said, his voice neutral.

“I get the feeling you wouldn’t want me to be too talkative about the strangers who stayed here for a week,” the woman said, without looking up from her counting. “May be a few extra florins would occupy my attention enough that I forget.”

“Tell whoever you wish whatever you wish,” Owl said. “If you find the right people in enough time to make it worth their while, you deserve the reward.”

“Hmmm,” the woman frowned. Without further comment, she turned and slammed the door in his face. Owl turned back to the cart, swinging himself up to sit in the front seat.

“Don’t worry,” Owl seemed to read Elena’s expression even with the mask, “I’d bet money she was only bluffing to see if she could get more.”

“She might be more interested now that you mentioned a reward,” Ele said, “that little comment might’ve put us in more danger.”

Elena shook her head. Cities placed bounties, by mentioning a ‘reward’ Owl had the woman thinking about local gangs and businessmen.

“As long as she’s trying to figure out ‘the right people’, she won’t think of the most obvious, the Rimi council,” Owl said, “at least, not until news breaks this evening, by which time we’ll be gone.”

Elena watched Owl as he spoke, carefully noting how his words made her feel. His confidence and cleverness were attractive, and now that she really looked, there was something in his dark eyes that flashed interestingly, even through his messy hair.

Owl glanced at her, and Elena dropped her gaze at the final bag she hauled into the cart. There were far more important things to worry about today, but at some point she would have to address the other part of her dream, the part where he had wrapped his arm around her waist.

“Should we discuss timing one more time?” Ele asked, unaware of Elena’s internal musing.

“Let’s get in the cart, first,” Frederica said, glancing over her shoulder, “I’ll be more comfortable when we’re moving.”

A few minutes later, the cart trundled down the Rimi roads toward the castle, Owl holding the horse’s reins loosely, the others in the back, hidden from sight by the fabric stretched across the back. Obscured from view, Elena had a chance to breathe freely, her mask resting in her lap.

“The most important thing to remember,” Bello said, “is that none of us should look like we’re in a hurry. In the confusion, hurrying will look guilty.”
“But everyone should still move as fast as we possibly can,” Frederica clarified, “misdirection will get us far, but it will only last for so long.”

“Assuming that everything goes to plan,” Emerald added.

“It’s a large assumption to make,” Owl said darkly from his spot in the front, “I’m still worried about it. A lot of it depends on people responding exactly as we think they will, and that makes me nervous.”

“If it doesn’t go to plan, we’ll have to trust that Elena’s Storm will give her enough information to improvise on the spot and nudge things back to the plan,” Emerald said.

“This is all provided that Coastering wasn’t able to warn Lucrezia,” Ele added, “we don’t have a plan for if Elena walks straight into a roomful of guards ready to arrest her on the spot.”

The cart fell into an uncomfortable silence, and Ele crossed his arms. “All of us hate the idea, but pretending like it’s not a possibility won’t help us either.”

“There is no second plan,” Elena finally said. “You all escape the city, whether Lucrezia is dead or not, whether I’m with you or not.”

“Elena, no!” Belloza said with horror.

“The plan is our only option, now that I know what I know about her restrictions on me,” Elena said. “I can’t kill her, Belloza, I can’t even try, and in a day at the latest this whole city is going to be the most dangerous place you could possibly be. If this plan doesn’t work, for whatever reason, I’d much rather know that my friends are safe than that you’re going through that danger because of me.”

The cart jostled to a stop, which would mean they were a few streets away from the castle. Elena collected the small but heavy mallet from the cart floor and slipped it into her belt beneath her shirt, then took a deep breath.

“Good luck, everyone,” she said, and put the mask on with a familiar metallic click. It wasn’t until she followed Frederica down from the back of the cart that she remembered she’d meant to thank Owl for going along with her plan, even though he’d had reservations.

He had hopped down from the cart and was surveying one of the wheels, and Elena reached out and placed a hand on his sleeve.

“You’re welcome,” he said, as if reading her mind. Before Elena could turn to go, Owl suddenly wrapped her in a hug, and Elena blinked, startled. “Be safe,” he said, before letting her go and returning to looking at the wheel.

“Did he just hug that Rhetor? Is he insane?” one of the passersby said.

“Thrill seeker,” another answered with disgust.

Elena’s cheeks felt hot under her mask, but she resolutely pushed her feelings aside and turned to look up at the castle behind them. Frederica’s gauntleted hand rested heavily on her shoulder, almost as heavy as the mallet at her waist.

“Time to test our luck yet again,” Frederica said.

“I hate being left outside,” Ele sighed, “I feel so useless.”

At this point the Echoes had resigned themselves to the fact that the crowds walked through them regularly, but even with so many people around them Elena could see that he was clenching his fists with frustration.

“It’s hardly the first time we’ve had to stand aside while our Stormtouched get into danger,” Fred said.

“It won’t be the last, either,” Frederica said.

“One of these times someone’s going to lose a lot more than a finger.” Fred said.

Let’s hope it’s not this time. Elena thought, as she let herself be guided in the direction of the castle.

***

No one had arrested her when Elena had entered the council room, but that had done little to reduce her overall anxiety. Uncertainty did not mix well with the fact that she had a plan, and the fact that she knew her mind was being muddled did nothing to help the fact.

Elena took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment to collect herself, then tried again, using Owl’s methods to follow the flow of her plan.

Because she did have a plan, but involved the blank spot in her mind that she couldn’t think about. Rather than focus on the blank spot, Elena focused on the edges around it. First, make sure the kitchen’s door was unlocked. Hidden in one of the dark corners, it was normally fastened tight until it was time to bring food. Second, move to stand next to a specific pillar. Belloza would sneak into the council room through the darkened corner, but she wouldn’t be able to see any of the council members around the forest of pillars within the shadowy area.

The council was overconfident, sure that any Saggitari who had a shot would be exposed in the light. As long as Elena could stand in a specific spot for Belloza to see, she could curve her crossbow bolts using Elena as a mental landmark, hitting a target that she couldn’t see.

Hitting…some target. Elena’s eyes flitted from Lord to Lady around the room, taking in the beauty and power. Knowing that her Twisted target was among them, muddling her mind, was the most frustrating experience she could remember.

Suddenly, without fanfare or warning, Elena could notice Lucrezia. There was no flooding back of memories or wave of disorientation, it was simply that in one moment the plain woman warranted no more attention than a cup on the table, and the next Elena could comprehend how important she was.

Lucrezia tilted her head quizzically at Elena, clearly questioning. When Elena didn’t respond, Lucrezia mimed spilling a drink. After a few moments Elena remembered the part of their conversation that she was supposed to recall, that she had been ordered to fail in her duties, to give Lucrezia a reason to dismiss her. She nodded, and Lucrezia seemed satisfied.

Just as suddenly, the plain woman didn’t seem nearly as important, and Elena went back to the frustrating process of worrying and thinking about a plan that involved holes she couldn’t worry or think about.

Even straining her ears to hear it, Elena almost missed it when Belloza entered the council chamber. A hint of murmuring as the sound of the faroff kitchens became a fraction louder, then a fraction quieter, was the only indication that the door had opened.

Elena’s heart pounded in her ears. She knew she wouldn’t be able to see the Sagitarra in the darkness, but that was alright. If she barely knew Belloza was there, no one else would. Elena moved in a wide circle, staying in the dim light around the edge of the ring, until she was directly across from the stained glass window that depicted some nobody, a plain woman with a halo around her mouth.

The Lords and Ladies were talking among themselves, small talk over their recently emptied plates, and yet the room felt unnaturally quiet to Elena. Her breath against the mask sounded loud to her ears. She lifted her gaze up to the stained glass window directly across from her, and held her breath.

Click. Elena wasn’t familiar with the sound of a crossbow, and if she hadn’t been expecting it she might not have recognized it. Just loud enough to hear, not enough to discern the source or the cause. If she strained, Elena could almost hear the bolt hissing through the air, but that was probably her imagination. The stained glass window across from her exploded with a beautiful, musical sound, and sunlight in a hundred colors filled the dark room with rainbows.

The glass crashing against the floor and the shouts of the Lords and Ladies hid the sound of the second crossbow shot, but the bolt slammed into Lady Adelberta’s chest with a sound that resounded throughout the room.

Elena’s blood ran cold. This was it, they had assembled the plan to assassinate the Lady of the Rimi Council and had just carried it out, but there was something wrong…something she couldn’t quite put her finger on…

“Someone’s shooting through the window!” someone shouted, at the same time another screamed “Sagittari!” and the Rhetors, Lords and Ladies threw themselves to the ground, trying to avoid line of sight to the window.

“Someone fetch the guards! Lock down the towers within sight!” Lord Tirone shouted. Elena took a halting step in the direction of the dark corner, where Belloza would be waiting for her. The plan was done, and the council had made the right assumption, unaware of a Saggitara who could curve her bolts, everything was going just as planned, but…

Almost unconsciously, Elena had been running her hands along her belt, feeling the weight of the mallet beneath her fingers, but there was something else in her belt, a crushed piece of parchment. In the midst of the running, the noise, and the chaos, Elena pulled the parchment from her belt and scanned it.

Use your mallet to destroy everything between Lady Adalberta and Lady Beatrice’s thrones.

~Owl

Something had felt wrong about her plan, but Elena had no such qualms about Owl’s instructions. Whatever reason he’d had for delivering his suggestion in such a roundabout way, she could hash it out with him afterward. She swivelled on her heel and moved at a sharp clip toward the two thrones in question.

Lady Adalberta still slumped in her throne, the bolt buried in her chest. Elena still wasn’t quite sure why Belloza had shot her, but she trusted that her friend knew what she was doing. Her own mind was so befuddled that she didn’t trust her own perceptions.

“Get down, Rhetor, he’ll shoot you!” one of the Lords called, but Elena was already slipping the mallet from her belt.

The ceramic dish on the table in between the two thrones practically exploded when Elena hit it, and without winding up again she swung swung out to dent the cup and send it flying. She had no idea what she was doing or why, but she did know that her own thinking was fuzzy, and Owl had been confident enough to slip her a piece of paper with instructions on it.

She swung again and again and again, smashing huge gauges into the table, snapping bits and pieces off of the throne, bashing even the inconsequential things like the knife and fork, and the woman in the seat, and the decorative carving along the edge of the table.

Lords and Ladies were moving now, perhaps assuming that she was making a distraction so they could flee the mysterious assassin Saggitari. Elena tried to ignore them, surveying the throne between Lady Adalberta and Lady Beatrice’s thrones. Lady Adalberta’s body was a grim distraction, but Elena tried to shut the sight out and instead looked over the smashed and mangled wood and plain woman and plateware.

“Elena!” Ele shouted from the door, “we need to move!”

Let’s hope I managed to accomplish whatever Owl needed me to do, Elena shrugged and turned to run, joining her Echo and the press of the crowd making their escape from the throne room.

Frederica was waiting for her near one of the entrances to the castle, and she placed an authoritative gauntlet on Elena’s shoulder as soon as she could.

“You took your time, I was getting nervous,” Frederica murmured above the din of the forming crowd. She walked at a quick pace, but her movements were calm and authoritative. In the pack of the wide streets outside of the palace, the Rhetorguard wanting to move her charge away from the chaos garnered no attention.

“Lock down those towers!” Lord Dionigi was already mounted on a horse, giving orders to the several Rimi captains that surrounded him, “and the silo on secondhelm street, and….anything! I want soldiers at any building that could’ve seen that window! They killed Lady Adalberta!”

Frederica helped Elena up into the back of the waiting cart, letting her settle before stepping in herself. It was dark beneath the cloth that stretched over the back, but also impossible for anyone on the street below to see within.

“Heya, Elena,” Belloza grinned. The sack that contained her crossbow was already stowed at her feet, and Bello sat next to her.

“Did you finish it?” Owl asked from his spot at the front of the cart.

“I don’t know, I…my head’s still fuzzy, I don’t remember…” Elena said, “but I followed your note and destroyed everything between the two thrones.”

“Even the plain woman?” Owl asked.

“What?” Elena blinked, not sure why he’d care about something so inconsequential, “I think so? But why-“

“Good enough.” Owl flicked the reins, and the cart began moving slowly and casually down the road.

Elena dropped the soiled mallet to the floor of the cart, still feeling her gut twisted. She hoped that when they escaped and everything calmed down, someone would explain exactly what had just happened.

***

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***

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6 responses

  1. Bart

    even bashing even the inconsequential things like the knife and fork, and the woman in the seat, and the decorative carving along the edge of the table.
    Nice — I missed it the first time around, “and the woman in the seat”. I was just reading along, “yeah, yeah, inconsequential stuff like the knife and fork… useless stuff, skip to the end of the list, “and the decorative carving.” Then later, “wait, what?” Anyway, remove the second “even” — there should be only one.

    Like

    2016-08-14 at 9:59 pm

  2. Hm. Elena’s still under the effect of the woman so inconsequential, I forgot her name (guess I am, too, under her effects). I wonder if it means she didn’t succeed? Maybe she just hasn’t died yet, but is going to, shortly.

    Silly woman, you should have tried to hide like all others. Kind of sad that someone else got killed, though :<

    Also, long time since I post a comment :D This vixen's been busy busy!

    Like

    2016-08-15 at 6:46 am

  3. lulol

    Thanks for the chapter. I hope she bashed it enough.

    Like

    2016-08-16 at 7:17 am

  4. xdrngy

    Ha!
    I almost need to wonder, now, if anyone would have even noticed if Lucrezia was actually the one who got shot, or if in a few months the room would just start carrying an odor of death for reasons that were unclear to all occupants

    Like

    2016-08-16 at 3:26 pm

  5. The problem with commanding someone not to kill you and then making them not think of you as something to pay attention to is that it’s really easy to kill you without trying to do so specifically.

    Like

    2016-09-21 at 10:53 am

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