A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.03 – Esecutio {Operations}

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Author’s Note: If you haven’t read the important scheduling announcement yet, you should!

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Elena stood perched on the driver’s seat of the cart, her arms folded over her chest. The exhaustion that had gripped her before was slowly wearing her down again, and she wobbled slightly as she watched the three figures approach from the forest.

“Are you the one who needs help here?” Master Asclepius’ voice carried, enough that she could hear him as they approached, “because you look in bad shape.”

“Stop telling me how bad I look,” Elena muttered under her breath.

“They’re worried about you because they care,” Ele said quietly. “It’s been some time since they last saw you, and you were a pampered lady in the Milian Court.”

Elena shot her Echo a glare, and he grinned back in return.

“I’m fine,” Elena said to the approaching figures, “it’s nothing some sleep won’t fix.”

“Will sleep fix it soon?” Now that he was closer, Elena could see the lines of worry on Master Asclepius’ face, “because my Storm is giving me strange instructions to heal you.”

“Belloza is inside the cart,” Elena indicated behind her. “I’d appreciate any help for her you can give.”

The younger man hurried to the back of the cart, while the other two figures waited by the front, his hood still drawn.

“Just the three of you, Master Zeus?” Elena guessed.

“The remnants of the Eye no longer move in groups,” Master De Luca nodded. “As long as we’re split up, we can’t be entirely destroyed by a single agent or a single plot, and the Eye will remain. You should take that lesson to heart, Master Cog.”

De Luca addressed her as one group leader might to the other, and Elena nodded, feeling grateful for the courtesy.

“Master Apollo told me that Master Hermes was wounded,” she said, “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” Master De Luca said. “We might easily have lost more of our members, in the face of that catastrophe.”

“Instead we escaped with no losses but our reputation and our pride,” Bea said from beside him.

“Those are two important things,” Ele said.

“Not as important as those who fight by our side,” Master De Luca said. Elena looked down into the cart behind her, where Master Asclepius examined Belloza. Perhaps it was due to looking at her friend with fresh eyes, or perhaps the light was better, but Elena could clearly see how bad shape the Saggitara was in.

Her clothes stuck to sweaty skin, she was pale and trembling, and her lips moved in a constant wordless stream. Next to her, her Echo languished with his eyes closed. He had no physical signs of ailments, but every so often he shifted restlessly or gave a weak murmur. If nothing changed, Elena was sure her friend would die.

Master Asclepius had lifted the bandages pressed to her shoulder and was examining the wound. It was hard to read his expression.

“Can you help her?” Elena asked.

“My Storm is giving me some ideas,” he answered without looking up, “some practical, some not. I’m going to need some help.”

***

“I absolutely do not think we should be doing this here,” Master Asclepius said for what must’ve been the tenth time. “My Storm is being pretty adamant about this.”

Elena glanced at the dark trees around them again. “It’s necessary, Master Asclepius. I don’t like going against your Storm, I know how effective it can be,” she ran a finger along the scar on her arm, “but if one of those squads of guards you’ve encountered comes out from the city while we’re focused on this, it’s going to be a lot worse for her.”

Master Asclepius grumbled, but knelt down on the cloaks and clothes they had laid out on the ground. Belloza was shaking even more now that they had cut away the shoulder of her clothes to reveal the wound, but Elena was less worried about that now that Master Asclepius was here.

“Do you have the water ready?” Master Asclepius asked. Owl approached with a small cup of water from the boiling pot they had prepared, and Master Asclepius drew his knife with a grim expression. “Frederica, do you have the bandages?”

“Here,” Frederica nodded.

“Smear the insides with that honey, if you please,” Master Asclepius nodded.

“His Storm has been on a bit of a food theme, lately,” Master Apollo said. He had arrived a few minutes before, and now watched the proceedings with his arms folded. Elena, on the other hand, avoided looking at the work Master Asclepius did with his knife. Even

“I trust his Storm,” Elena said, “if he says there should be honey on the bandages, I believe him.”

“You should consider yourself lucky it’s only honey,” Master Apollo said, “and that he’s not talking about making her eat mold.”

“Not just any mold,” Master Asclepius said without looking up from his work. Even in her feverish haze, Belloza arched her back and groaned into the rag in her mouth as he worked with his knife. “Very specifically, my Storm says there is a specific mold that can drive the yellow bile from her body. I just can’t quite figure out what that specific mold is.”

“Perhaps you should array a feast for her…and just wait a long while,” Master Apollo said, “of the entire buffet, surely one of them-“

“The rest of us are used to your capriciousness, Master Apollo,” Master De Luca interrupted, “but please remember that these men and women are watching their gravely injured friend being carved.”

He indicated Frederica, Fred, Owl, Ele and Elena, and Master Apollo again grew grave.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “this is not a time for jokes.”

“No,” Elena said, “it’s a time to work. Master Zeus, did Master Apollo pass on my message to you?”

“He told me your demand,” Master De Luca said, “but not your plan. By all means, share.”

“It’s not so much a plan as it is a straight line,” Elena rubbed her tired eyes with her fists, “we came here because we wanted to escape Rimi, but if Marsillo is in Venecchi, then we have another purpose there. We’re going to get into the city and find him.”

“At the time when he is most alert?” Master De Luca said. “At the time when Fulvio has warned him specifically of your approaching arrival and intentions? I thought we agreed it wasn’t a time for jokes.”

“I’m not joking,” Elena said. “I said we’d find him, not kill him. If she thinks I’m trying to assassinate Marsilio, Fulvio will be with him. Fulvio can hide, but she won’t pass up the chance to come after me or mine. When she does, the Eye can kill her. As long as she thinks the Eye is still waiting outside the city, she won’t be expecting them.”

“You’re wanting to use yourself as bait to make Fulvio reveal herself,” Master De Luca mused aloud, “then kill her. Aren’t you at all concerned about the person she’ll be occupying at the time? You’d be sacrificing an innocent to kill a Twisted.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Elena frowned, thinking of Lady Adelberta and of Rolf. Master De Luca met her gaze for a long time, then nodded.

“I don’t imagine you can kill her,” he said, “but I do think you might drive Marsillo out of the city and into our arms. Master Apollo will accompany you. The rest of the Eye will continue our halfway-siege around the city.”

“Done,” Master Asclepius finished the bandages with a loose tie, then leaned back on his heels. His cloak and the clothes beneath Belloza were soaked in blood.

“She looks the same,” Elena said.

“She won’t look better until tomorrow,” Master Asclepius rose, looking weary but satisfied, “but with rest and some luck, she should recover to an extent. The girl is lucky she uses crossbows, I doubt she’ll have the strength in her left arm to draw a bowstring.”

“I don’t like the idea of leaving her here alone in the woods,” Owl said.

“We won’t be,” Elena said, “you and Frederica are going to stay with her. Emerald and I will go with Apollo into the city.”

“Too dangerous,” Frederica said, while at the same time Owl said “you can’t be serious.”

“It’s like Master Zeus said, we need to be careful not to all be in one place,” Elena said. “If something happens to me…”

She trailed off, her gaze moving from face to face. This was her crusade against the Twisted, but she was sure that the others would continue on if she fell here. Without finishing her thought she turned and began walking. After a few moments, the crunch of footsteps told her that Master Apollo was running to catch up.

“You seem out of sorts, Hephaestus,” he said. “Killing people doesn’t seem to agree with you.”

Elena blinked, and in the half-second her eyes were closed she saw her last sight of Lucrecia before she’d left the Rimi councilroom.

“It doesn’t,” she quietly agreed, “it doesn’t agree with me at all.”

***

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One response

  1. Bart

    I wonder what his Storm was saying about her. “You need to eat a mineral, a salt?* You need to have two salts mixed?** You need bean-flavored water?***”

    *Lithium
    *Adderall
    *Coffee

    Like

    2016-09-13 at 1:22 am

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