A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.05 – Sursum et Deorsum {Up and Down}

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***

“It’s not a wise thing, sitting out here in the open like this.” Master Apollo kept a friendly smile on his face, most likely for the benefit of passersby. “Your face and mine are both on the posters scattered throughout the city.”

“It’s not a matter of if we’re recognized,” Ele added, “it’s a matter of when.”

“We have to eat,” Elena said, “and while we’re eating, we have to keep an eye on the city.”

The four of them sat at one of the tables the pub had placed outdoors, in a little stone patio that overlooked one of the quieter canals. They had only been eating their small meal for a few minutes, but Elena could already practically feel Apollo and Ele’s impatience.

“I’m also working on a plan, while we’re here,” she added. “Until we have a plan we have no direction, and we’re more likely to be recognized wandering around Venecchi aimlessly than sitting here coming up with a course of action.”

Despite her bluster, Elena was having trouble. Marsillo Del Favero had been one of the Twisted to be the most kind to her, but despite that Elena had never really gotten a feel for his personality the way she’d had with Lord Waldren or Little One.

He was calm and logical, but sometimes capable of acting on emotion. He was powerful, but didn’t consider himself invincible because of it. He was just about the worst Twisted to attempt to assassinate, especially since she had no idea what his Storm was or how it worked.

“Unpredictable, powerful, dangerous, and is expecting me,” Elena muttered. “How hard could that be to plan around.”

“Have you tried using your Storm?” Emerald urged, “convince yourself that the Twisted are your group and mentors, then use that to gain information…” she trailed off as Elena shook her head.

“It wouldn’t work,” Elena said, “they’re not mine, they’re nothing like me.”

Yes, you don’t kill people for your own purposes, now do you? a small voice whispered in her mind. Was the voice actually there, the insidious voice of her Storm which she hadn’t heard since leaving Milia? Or was it just her own conscience? Elena wasn’t sure, but she shook her head hard. You haven’t used your Storm to amass power, convinced of your own self-righteousness. You don’t see the people as tools to use as you wish, if you did, why then you could use your Storm on them, couldn’t you? And that has surely never happened.

“That’s a pretty big assumption when you haven’t even tried,” Apollo was saying, “you’ve been steadily honing your Storm ever since Milia, haven’t you? Don’t sell yourself short.”

“That means I know when it will work and when it won’t,” Elena snapped. “You weren’t there for the disaster in Rimi, waiting around for a week and depending on my Storm to come up with a plan, and then assassinating an innocent ruler when that plan became a mess. If I’ve learned anything from the past month, it’s that depending on my Storm isn’t enough. There’s a reason I’m not using it here.”

“Yes, there is a reason,” Ele said, “but I don’t think that’s it.”

Elena bit back a retort, instead taking another bite of bread. In the face of angry chewing, Ele continued.

“You’re frightened to use your Storm, since Rimi. You’ve only used it when you felt like you had to.”

“No different than normal,” Elena said around her mouthful.

“Very different than normal,” Ele pressed. “You’ve never been reluctant to use it before. Do you think what happened in the council room-“

The feeling of bone cracking under her hammer and the sound of impacts against malleable flesh drowned out the rest of Ele’s sentence. With a precise, detailed flow of information thanks to her Storm, yet no moral qualms thanks to Lucrezia’s, the carnage had been…efficient and robust.

“I’ll use my Storm when I need to use my Storm,” Elena said. “Now is not that time. The plan-“

“Have you been watching these canals?” Master Apollo gestured toward the crossing canals next to the area they sat. Grateful for the distraction, Elena turned to watch the springboats that travelled along the canals in front of the pub.

A boat of soldiers paddled past, and Elena ducked her head while Master Apollo casually glanced in a direction that would hide his face from them.

“I don’t notice anything special,” Emerald said. “Elena,” she added hastily when Master Apollo shifted in his seat ever so slightly.

“That’s the fifth boat of soldiers to pass us since we’ve sat down,” Master Apollo said, “different boats of soldiers, not just a few patrolling the same area.”

“It’s an odd time in the day to change shifts,” Ele said. “If they’re moving, they’re moving for a reason.”

“So…What, we follow them? Elena?” Emerald asked.

“Following them increases the risk that we’re seen,” Elena shook her head, “especially when we arrive at wherever they’re going.”

“We’re not going to discover much more, sitting here watching them pass us by,” Ele said.

Elena frowned. Back in Milia, before she had figured out the ins and outs of her Storm, she’d still been able to accomplish things. This was no different, she didn’t need her Storm to tackle a problem like this.

“Back in Milia, Vittoria could watch the ebb and flow of the city by putting her paintings up high,” Elena glanced around at the squat buildings that rose over the canals on either side, finally pointing to the tower of a church in the distance. “As long as we’re coming up with a plan, we may as well come up with a plan where we can see what’s going on in the city.”

***

The church itself wasn’t guarded. Emerald had approached one of the priests, but it turned out the tower was open to the public, and she hadn’t even had to use her Storm to get them in. The hardest part was climbing the tall winding staircase up to the tower.

Elena had always been told that the beauty of Venecchi could take one’s breath away, but it struck her as a rather dismal place, now that she was looking out over the entire city. The canals were dark even though it was the afternoon, and the springboats muted the normal bustle of a group of people moving to and fro. It wasn’t raining, but a complete cloud cover made the sight a dull wash of greys and browns.

“It’s so hushed,” Ele said, “I don’t even want to speak aloud.”

“The soldiers are all moving in the same direction,” Elena pointed. Her finger traced along the routes of several different canals where the telltale uniforms of guards identified the boats. “All toward the castle.”

“Not just the castle,” Apollo peered out in the direction she pointed. “Look, they’re also dropping soldiers off along the walkways. They’re leaving a guarded path from the castle outward, do you see?”

Elena followed his finger, noting the speckles in a distinct path from the castle to the western lock of the city.

“He’s leaving the city today,” Emerald said, “setting out an advance guard to protect him from any attack, all the way from the castle to the lock.”

“A shame we don’t have Belloza with us for this,” said Ele, “she could’ve made the shot from behind a building. But I’m sure any Saggitari can line up a good shot. Master Apollo, you can still shoot him from a distance, can’t you?”

Something about the question pricked at Elena, but her mind was sluggish and slow, and it took a few moments for the pieces to connect.

“I use a bow occasionally, but I’m no Saggitari,” Master Apollo said, “I might be able to make that show, but I might not. I’ll have my sword as backup, but even with the three of us fighting, two with Storms, that’s a lot of soldiers down there.”

“Any Saggitari could line up a good shot,” Elena repeated. “Marsillo knows I’m travelling with Stormtouched, but beyond Belloza he doesn’t know what they can do.”

“What’s your point?” Emerald asked.

“Look at the way the soldiers are lined up along the walkways, and occasionally along the rooftops,” Elena pointed, “don’t they stand out a bit, at those visible posts? If the goal was really to protect Marsillo’s escape, wouldn’t it be better to be more subtle about it?”

“There are doorways and windows they could be waiting in, instead,” Ele said.

“It’s a feint.” Elena cast her eyes toward the quieter areas around the city. “He knows we’re here to kill him or drive him out, he knows we’re watching…this is a show for us.”

“Hmm,” Master Apollo rubbed his chin, “risky.”

“Marsillo is the head of the Del Favero family,” Elena said, “he’d take the risk.”

“There aren’t a lot of ways in or out of the city,” Ele said. “There are only three locks. If he’s not taking the guarded path, we could cover the other two.”

“I’ll take that one,” Elena pointed at the lock on the other end of the city, already moving toward the church tower’s staircase. “Emerald, you take the other. Master Apollo, if you’re unconvinced, you can take the guarded path.”

“If he takes the path with that much security, I can’t take him on my own,” Master Apollo said, “I’ll come with you. If neither group sees him, we’ll at least know that he left from the third.”

“And you don’t want to be alone with Emerald, who hasn’t done a thing to you,” Elena said without turning.

“You were much less…bitter…back in Milia,” Master Apollo said, “I’m not sure how I feel about new Hephaestus.”

Elena frowned, but didn’t answer aloud.

That makes two of us.

***

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***

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3 responses

  1. Wait a second
    Am I going crazy, or isn’t Apollo a Saggitari?

    Like

    2016-10-10 at 7:13 pm

  2. Algol

    ‘ “There aren’t a lot of ways in or out of the,” Ele said, “three locks. If he’s not taking the guarded path, we could cover the other two.” ‘
    either I’m missing something or you may have forgotten a word.

    I wonder if he’s leaving the city at all. On the one hand, that’s probably the safest option. But the feint is just as likely to reveal Elena whether he actually leaves or not, and the guard might be more likely to apprehend them with him still around and in control – not only because he’s stormtouched but also because he knows her better than his underlings.

    Like

    2016-10-10 at 9:01 pm

    • Insanely belated “fixed” and “thank you for the catch!”

      Like

      2016-11-07 at 10:54 am

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