A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.02 – Remoras {Interruptions}

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“Elena, wake up. Elena, I was going to let you sleep, but you should see this.”

It was still dark out, and Elena’s head pounded, but however many minutes of sleep she had snatched had done her some good. Owl’d subdued gentle voice was nice to wake up to. When she crawled into the front of the cart to join Owl, Frederica, and Emerald, she almost felt herself again.

“What are we looking at?” Ele was already up, standing next to the cart and craning his neck, “the city looks the same.”

“Not the city,” Owl pointed further down the road, almost at the edge of the water, “at the checkpoint.”

It took Elena a few moments of searching even with Owl pointing, but she eventually caught sight of it. The ferry she had noted earlier was docked in the dark water, its passengers disembarking. A dark figure stood in the road just in front of them, and he appeared to be checking the group.

“A city guard? On the bank side?” Ele asked.

“That wouldn’t make sense,” Frederica said, “they’re checking the passengers who just left Venecchi, if they were Venecchian they would’ve searched them while still in the city.”

“Whoever they are, they have a compatriot out by the other road.” Owl pointed out across the water, at the shore on other side of the city, “it’s hard to make out, but boats docking there are stopped as well. We can’t see the third road on the opposite side of Venecchi, but I’d be willing to bet that there’s someone stopping those boats as well.”

“Fulvio’s people, maybe?” Ele said. Elena frowned, and reached back into the cart for he mallet they’d brought from Rimi.

“That would make sense, they are stopping people on their way into the city as well as on their way out,” Owl said as Elena hopped down from the cart, “but we learned two of her limitations from Fulvio’s attack: that she can’t take over Stormtouched, and that she has a certain range for her Storm to work. She wouldn’t be able to bounce from one bank to the oth- Elena, where are you going?”

Elena shifted her grip on the mallet to grasp it in perfect balance, letting the Storm buzzing in her fingertips to the work for her. At Owl’s query, she turned.

“I’m going to investigate this mysterious guard,” she said, “and if needs be, remove him.”

Ele hopped down from the cart to join her even as Owl objected.

“It’s not safe! You’re the one Fulvio wants, she knows what you look like and you’re not disguised! She’ll have them looking for you!”

Elena didn’t slow down. “She knows what all of us look like!” She called over her shoulder. “And no more of you are getting hurt,” she added in a mutter.

“They’re searching people both entering and leaving the city,” Ele said, falling in step next to her. “Seems to me that Fulvio doesn’t know for sure whether you’ve reached Venecchi or not.”

“That won’t help us much if we get caught,” Elena said, “but at least gives us a little space to think.”

It took the pair a few minutes to make their way to the water’s edge. On their way, they passed the small group who had been stopped on their way out of Venecchi. Elena ducked her head down and avoided eye contact, and the group passed without incident.

The shore was deserted, the dock quiet and empty apart from the ferry. Trees along both sides of the path presented a variety of hiding places, enough of them that Elena couldn’t keep all of them in her sight.

“Watch the left, I’ll watch the right,” Elena said.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Ele pointed, and Elena turned.

Without her Echo’s warning, the hooded figure might have snuck up on her completely. As it was, she barely had time to throw herself backward, swinging the mallet in the same motion. Between the Storm’s tingling information in her wrist, and the suddenness of her swing, she would’ve expected the hammer to connect with a crack, but instead the figure leaned back, just enough that the mallet whistled through empty air a few inches away from his face.

At one point it would’ve been enough to throw her off entirely, but now Elena simply followed the one attack with another. Instead of drawing the hammer back again, she used her own momentum to throw a punch with her other fist, a quick action that sacrificed power for unpredictability.

The figure reached up, not grabbing her wrist which she could turn to her advantage, but instead smacking it away with a backhand. He chuckled, a deep throaty sound, and Elena grit her teeth and swung again, two hands on the hammer to put all of her weight behind it.

“By the Storm, you’ve become an angry wildcat,” the cloaked figure said, smacking her hands into the air a second time and sending the swing wild. Elena had been planning for that, and was about to drive her knee up and into the figure’s groin as a follow-up, but the voice’s familiarity drew her up short.

“Master Apollo,” she said. The hammer didn’t quite drop to her side, but Elena waited for him to say something else before she attacked again.

“Careful, Elena,” Ele warned, “we’ve just dealt with someone who likes to wear faces.”

“Good to see Ele is just as paranoid as ever,” Master Apollo pulled the hood from his head. “But the one you’re talking about can’t take over Stormtouched.”

“Not reassuring,” Elena said, “what better way for her to put me off my guard than to tell me that inside a Stormtouched?”

“Firstly,” Master Apollo said, “I don’t need to put you off your guard to kick your ass, Hephaestus. Your hammer is cute and I’ve seen you deal real damage with it, but you’ve got about ten years of training before you can beat me. Secondly…I’m…not her, really,” he finished, lamely.

Elena searched his eyes for a few moments, then nodded.

“That’s it? That’s all it takes to convince you of his identity, some boasts and his word?” Ele said.

“He called me ‘Hephaestus’.” Elena slipped her mallet into her belt, “I suppose it is possible Fulvio managed to torture that out of him, then take him over…but there is such a thing as being too paranoid. Hello, Master Apollo.”

“‘Lo, Hephaestus,” Master Apollo walked a little ways off the path and slumped down at the base of one of the larger trees, nodding at another a few feet away. Elena sank to the ground with her back to it, happy to be off her feet again even though she had just slept. A long moment passed, as Master Apollo looked her up and down.

“You look like hell,” he said.

“Feel like hell,” Elena answered. The aching feeling just behind her eyes was back, and she wondered how long she had been asleep before Owl had woken her again. “I’m surprised you don’t, haven’t you been on the run longer? I heard the Eye was banished from Florenzia.”

“That was a bad business,” Apollo ran a hand through his hair wearily, “we knew Fulvio had artificial control over others, Master Zeus was able to forewarn us about that. We didn’t know she could hop from one person to the other. Things got bad.”

“How bad?” Elena hesitated to ask. The campaign against the Twisted had already cost her, she didn’t want to hear more bad news.

“Master Hermes was wounded,” Apollo said, “and Master Athena isn’t much use out here without her glass-blowing instruments. It’s all we can do to keep Venecchi locked down on our own now.”

“We saw you’ve been blockading the city,” Ele said, “what exactly are you looking for?”

“Marsillo Del Favero is still in the city,” Master Apollo said. “He’s sent three look-alikes out of the city already, but Master Zeus isn’t so easily fooled.”

“Master Coastering lied,” Elena murmured without surprise. “But if he does leave, won’t he be leaving with soldiers?”

“He’s already sent groups of soldiers to flush us out, a few times,” Apollo smirked, “because apparently we’re too blind to see them coming or too stupid to hide from them when they arrive. As soon as a compliment is sent out with him as part of it, though, then we’ll group up and take him down.”

Master Apollo seemed to rouse himself, and pushed himself to his feet.

“I have to say, I’m glad that group will contain you in it now,” he said, “another Stormtouched will supplement the team well.”

“What?” Elena had been distracted, still tired, but at Master Apollo’s words she shook herself as if waking up again. “No, If Marsillo is in the city, I’m going in there.”

Master Apollo tilted his head to one side. “Master Zeus has a plan, Elena. With the full force of the Eye, we can take down Marsillo in due time, and you might have left before your training, but you are a junior member of the Eye. So here’s what’s going to happen: you’re going to come with me to meet up with Master Zeus, and he’s going to decide-“

“I’m not a junior member of the Eye, the Eye doesn’t exist anymore,” Elena snapped.

“Perhaps not,” Apollo snapped back, “but if you want to help us kill the Twisted-“

“My team has killed Twisted, not yours,” Elena cut him off. “My team killed Lord Waldren. My team killed Midora. My team killed Lucrezia.” She didn’t mention that those accomplishments were mostly through luck or with the help of others, but she kept her gaze locked on Apollo’s.

“So,” Elena continued, “here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to bring Master Asclepius to our cart, a little ways up the path and around the hill. Belloza is injured, and I-” her voice caught, “-I really need his help. Master Zeus and the rest of you can come with him, and together we’ll think of a plan.”

Master Apollo frowned, but didn’t say anything. The silence stretched for long, tense moments, and for a second Elena wondered if she had doomed Belloza with her stand here.

“Very well, Master Hephaestus,” Master Apollo nodded, “we’ll see how this works out.” Elena tried to stifle her sigh of relief, as Apollo reached up to lift his hood once more.

“The remnants of the Eye will be eager to work with you again.”

***

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3 responses

  1. For those readers interested in such things, I am running a Quest on Sufficient Velocity, a sort of “choose your own adventure” story in which players vote for the main characters actions. The story is set in the Twisted Cogs universe, and is canon. If you like the idea of Native American Stormtouched or complex timelines, you should check it out and leave a vote!

    Like

    2016-09-05 at 1:37 am

    • Thanks for the heads up. Looks pretty interesting.

      Like

      2016-09-05 at 8:29 pm

  2. Boop boop. I think you meant “Interruptions” in the title ^^

    Like

    2016-09-11 at 11:30 pm

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