A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.01 – Penuria {Lacking}

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Blinking hurt.

It had been a very long time since Elena had had so little sleep, but even though her body seemed intent on dragging her down toward the floor of the cart, her mind was racing too fast to obey its suggestion.

The cloth in her hand was damp and clammy, but Elena used it to dab at Belloza’s face. The Sagittara’s eyelids fluttered, and she murmured something too quiet to hear, but otherwise didn’t respond.

“Her sanguine humors are still far out of balance,” Owl murmured, without turning, “the wound is infested with them.”

Elena turned to watch him, still trying to wipe away the sweat from Belloza’s brow. The night around them was quiet, and half-moon above only barely lit the young man where he sat at the driver’s seat. She was surprised that he had noticed her small movements in the back of the cart.

“I didn’t know you knew much about medicine,” Ele said.

“Just the basics,” Owl said, “after I was shot, in the dungeons of Milia, I passed the time by asking Master Asclepius a hundred questions. I couldn’t help keep the guards at bay, and he didn’t have much to do besides taking care of me.”

“Another Master might not have shared his knowledge like that,” Ele said, “Master Asclepius is a good man.”

Owl nodded wordlessly, and the group fell back into silence again for a few moments, the rattle of the wooden wheels on the ground the only sound. Elena stared at the floor of the cart, her mind focused nowhere in particular, on the edge of sleep but still unable to close her eyes.

She hadn’t been able to sleep since she’d remembered.

Lucrezia had been lifting her hand and saying something, when the hammer had come down. The crackle of bone and flesh under Elena’s mallet hadn’t been loud enough to hear with her ears, but she had felt the reverberations in her arm.

It wasn’t the first time she had used a weapon violently, nor was it the first time she’d seen death so close. Perhaps it was the sudden violence against Belloza so soon afterward that had sent her into this spiral of sleepless silent dullness.

Elena reached out and brushed a strand of brown hair out of Belloza’s face. Her face felt as hot as coals.

“I hope he’s still alright,” Owl said, suddenly breaking the silence. “Master Asclepius, that is.”

It took Elena a few moments to connect the thought to anything she knew about.

“They could be, Master Coastering might’ve been lying,” Ele attempted.

“No point in him lying,” Owl said, “he listed them as plans of yours that had failed. No, the Eye made a move, and they definitely defeated that move.”

“Straight at the most powerful Twisted…in politics and in the Storm,” Ele said. “I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like for them, the entire organization defeated and banished.”

“We don’t have to imagine what it’s like facing Fulvio,” Elena said without emotion.

“It’s in our best interest to come up with a plan, so that we can be more prepared when we face her next,” Owl said.

“What plan?” Elena said. “She can hide in plain sight, in any crowd at all. She can surprise us, over and over again. She can escape whenever she wants.”

“I know,” Owl sighed, “and she knows where we’re going, and when we’ll get there.”

“So it’s hopeless.”

“This endeavor has always been hopeless, Elena. From the beginning, we’ve known what we were going up against.”

“We’ve been successful-” Ele protested.

“We’ve been lucky.” Owl corrected, calmly.

“If it’s so hopeless, why are you here?” Elena stared at Belloza, “why are any of you here?”

“Because,” Owl replied simply, “it may be hopeless, but it’s right.”

Elena nodded, even though Owl wouldn’t be able to see. She was surprised that she had to ask. Her friends had always been devoted to what was right.

Well… her gaze travelled from Belloza to Emerald, sleeping in the corner of the cart, …Owl and Frederica are. Belloza wants the glory, and Emerald…I’m not sure what Emerald wants. Companionship? Is her Rhetor life so lonely that she’s willing to do anything for her friends, just because they’re her friends?

“You’re drifting, Elena,” Ele broke through her reverie, startling her. “You’re in no shape to plan unless you get some sleep.”

“I’ve slept,” Elena brushed off Ele’s concern.

“You’re tired enough that you forget that’s something you can’t lie to me about,” Ele said, “you haven’t slept, which means that I can’t.”

“I’ve been trying to think,” Elena rubbed her eyes. “Fulvio will be waiting for us to reach Venecchi, and we only have so long.”

The cart suddenly began jostling wildly, enough so that Elena instinctively moved forward to keep Belloza from being thrown across the floor. The rattling and crunching only lasted a few moments before the cart slowed to a halt.

“Not so long,” Owl said, quietly.

“So soon?” Elena climbed from the back up to join Owl in the front seat, “I thought we had another day, yet!”

“Perhaps if we had stopped to sleep,” Owl said. “We can only hope that Fulvio isn’t expecting us for another day.”

The cart was stopped a mile or so from the edge of the water, off of the road. In the dark the little pinpricks of reflected stars made it look like a chasm of night sky separated them from the city of Venecchi. The city was smaller than Elena was expecting, although after the huge urban sprawl of Rimi she supposed she shouldn’t be surprised. It was about the size of Milia, but where Milia was organized into precise straight lines, the buildings of Venecchi were scattered, seemingly dropped wherever they fit into the canals of the waterbound city.

“There’s no way across,” Elena realized aloud.

“There are ferries,” Owl pointed across the water, and Elena squinted, just barely able to make out the dock on the outskirts of the city, at which a large flat boat sat docked. “Unfortunately for us, they’ll make our entrance into the city even easier to predict.”

“Not to mention how conspicuous we’ll be, bringing someone wounded into the city,” Frederica had exited the cart and stood to the side, her hands in her pockets, staring out across the water.

Elena tried to force herself to come up with a plan, but her mind seemed as stiff and sore as her joints and eyes.

“It reminds me of our week with Studio DaRose,” Ele said, “too worn down to accomplish anything, too exhausted to plan.”

“Studio DaRose survived that week,” Frederica noted. “Is your Storm telling you anything useful now like it did then?”

It took a while for Elena to pull her Storm into use, as if it was just another muscle that ached for rest. The information she dragged from it hadn’t changed much over the last few days. It gave her knowledge of her little group as assets to her…and her assets were running thin.

Belloza, obviously, would be no help to her. Frederica and Owl were wavering, not in their loyalty, but in their ability to keep themselves running. The stress of the weeks in Rimi had weighed on them both, and the worries over Belloza didn’t help the situation. Emerald was drawing away into herself, for reasons the Storm didn’t supply.

“We’re all wearing out, running down,” she said, “like a Calaetor’s statue at the end of its life.”

“As long as we keep moving,” Frederica said, arms folded and continuing to watch the city. If not for her Storm, Elena might not have even known how affected her friend was.

“The two of us will work on planning,” Owl said to Elena. “We need all of us at our best when Fulvio comes for us, and that means you need to sleep.”

Elena cast a final glance at the city before she turned to slip back into the cart. As hopeful as Frederica made it sound, she didn’t know how much longer they would be able to ‘just keep moving.’

***

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2 responses

  1. Excellent. I enjoy the breakneck pacing of the last few chapters, but appreciate that you’re giving yourself the opportunity to slow down and do some character building.

    Like

    2016-08-29 at 12:25 am

  2. Rob

    There is “penury” in English… Though admittedly it’s not a word you see around much! :)

    Like

    2016-08-29 at 3:45 am

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