A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.06 – Inter Portas {Between the Gates}

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Elena knew that tapping her foot on the ground would make her more likely to be spotted, which would make her more likely to be recognized. Even with that knowledge, every time she stopped paying attention, her foot bounced up and down, tapping a pattern on the stone.

A heavy hand rested on her leg, stilling it without being an open rebuke.

“So, what do you reckon?” Master Apollo asked quietly. “I’m on the lookout for a group of monks. Monks are always a good bet.”

“I never realized how well Marsillo hid his true nature from me,” Elena said, “until now when trying to get into his head to figure him out. I wondered if he would even try to come out at all, or if this entire thing is a double-bluff and he’s staying safe and secure in the castle.”

“I think you underestimate how scared the Twisted are,” Apollo smirked, “between our attack on their most powerful member, and you picking them off one by one, I’d imagine they’re not feeling very safe or secure holed up in their castles. Powerful people aren’t used to feeling hunted and helpless, they don’t know how to deal with it.”

“Maybe,” Elena dragged her gaze away from the dock and scanned the crowd at large again. “Why monks?”

“They can wear hoods without seeming strange,” Master Apollo seemed eager for the distraction, even though he sat languidly on the bench, stretched out in the most unconcerned pose imaginable. “And they can travel in groups, so he’ll be able to travel with a guard. The rich and powerful can’t conceive of travelling without a guard.”

“Marsillo is rich and powerful, but he’s also a Twisted,” Elena said. “He might be confident enough to try sneaking out without help.”

Lucrezia’s assassination was gruesome enough that it might change their mind. Even in the intensity of their situation, the thoughts tried to shove their way into the forefront of her mind. The worry and tightness in her chest made her feel like every muscle was a tightly-strung bowstring, and she envied Apollo for his ability to look so relaxed.

She idly wondered if the Eye would have taught her how to do that, if she had joined them before their disbandment. She wondered how her life might have been different if she had gone along with the Storm, joined the Eye and helped the Twisted subjugate the Mortalis.

Master Apollo shifted ever so slightly, just enough that he could spring up in a moment’s notice, and Elena was suddenly on high alert. A small child ran past the bench, his unbalanced gallop bringing him close to where the pair of them sat. Only after the child had passed did Apollo lean back into his relaxed pose.

“I know what Marsillo looks like, Apollo,” Elena murmured, “he might be a bit younger than he looks in the dream world, but I doubt the city is being ruled by a ten-year-old.”

“We know that Fulvio can enslave Mortalis,” Master Apollo said, “as far as I know, her Storm would work perfectly well on a ten-year-old. What better way to catch us off-guard than having a child put a knife in our ribs? And what better way to paint us as villains than forcing us to stop that child?”

Elena cursed under her breath. “I should’ve thought of that,” she said, “I would’ve fallen for it.”

“It’s alright, I didn’t think of it either, Master Zeus warned us all.” Master Apollo gave her a sidelong glance, “back in Milia, missing something like that wouldn’t have bothered you this much.”

“Please stop comparing me to the Elena back in Milia,” Elena snapped, “back in Milia I made mistakes like that, mistakes that got Arturo and Arta killed, and Belloza wounded. Too much is resting on this mission for me to be making mistakes like being stabbed by a child.”

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn from your mistakes,” Apollo said, “I’m saying you look furious that you’ve made them.”

Elena didn’t answer, but folded her arms, brooding.

Apollo looked as though he would say something else, but he suddenly stopped and leaned forward. Elena followed his gaze, to where Ele barrelled toward them, slipping through the crowd and sometimes through the people themselves.

Elena and Apollo were on their feet before the Echo had even reached them, Elena with her mallet, Apollo resting his hand casually on the hilt of his sword.

“He’s coming,” Ele panted, “blue cloak, no guards that I could see. I don’t think he saw me.”

“Thank you, Ele,” Elena let the Storm buzz through her fingertips, trying hard not to think of the roiling in her stomach as it told her how best to hold it for the perfect balance. Instead, she focused on the arena around them, the place in which they would be facing the Twisted.

The street around them was wide, but it was less busy than the dock behind them. One of the three ways in and out of the city, the dock was a near-constant bustle of activity. Springboats constantly docked and set out, and a steady flow of people and their cargo made it hard to pinpoint any specific action.

Elena tried her best to ignore the activity behind her. There were two Vennechian guards, but they wouldn’t be a concern until Marsillo called them to defend him.

“No guards means he’s confident,” Apollo murmured, scanning the crowd in the street.

“Probably because of his Storm,” Elena said, “something that helps him fight. Be careful.”

“That goes for both of you,” Ele said.

Elena waited, her heart pounding, watching the crowd. When she finally caught sight of Marsillo, the man was already looking at her, a faint smile playing around the corner of his face.

She was surprised at how similar Marsillo looked to the last time she had seen him. Besides the fact that he had arms, he was almost the exact same as the man she’d come to know in the Dream World. It surprised Elena how much that fact caught her off guard.

Marsillo spread his arms in a friendly gesture as he approached, the action making his cloak flap in the slight breeze. The action revealed a long silver quarterstaff strapped to his back, but so far he was making no move to pull it.

“I told her that you wouldn’t fall for ruse of the elaborate exit guard,” he said, as soon as he was close enough to be heard, “but I’d hoped that you would assume I was still waiting in the castle.”

“No such luck for you, I’m afraid,” Elena said. Her grip on the mallet was so tight that her knuckles hurt, but she didn’t make a move toward loosening it.

“After that, I’d hoped that it would be you alone, Elena,” Marsillo casually slipped the quarterstaff off of his back, and in response Master Apollo drew his rapier. Around them, people were beginning to take note of the weapons and the standoff, and were backing away and murmuring. “Imagine my disappointment, being forced to deal with one of the Eye, as well.”

Elena thought back to the last time she and Marsillo had crossed paths, to his little knife and inventive measures of information gathering. With a scowl, she took a step forward.

“Do you mind if I take the lead here, Elena?” Master Apollo raised his sword and waited as Marsillo approached, “I’m beginning to get the impression that my Storm is much more suited against this one than yours.”

“Hold on, that’s Master Del Favero,” one of the guards behind them spoke up. “You with the sword and you with the hammer, hold there! What are you doing?”

Elena swivelled to keep Marsillo in sight while keeping an eye the guards on the docks behind her. She had misjudged the distance between them, and the guard who had seemed far away had crossed that distance much faster than she’d expected, already drawing his weapon.

Without looking, Master Apollo whipped the tip of his rapier around and then jabbed. The first action left an angry cut along the guard’s arm, the second pierced the soft flesh of his thigh. The guard cried out and fell to one knee, more out of shock than anything, and Apollo touched the tip of the blade against the man’s chin, still not breaking eye-contact with Marsillo

“This is not a fight for you, sir,” Apollo said quietly.

“You’re lucky you got away with so little a punishment, mortalis idiot,” Marsillo said to the guard on the ground, “I would’ve killed you, in his place. You,” he barked at the other guard who had been a touch slower on the uptake, “go to the castle and ask Lady Cortano to meet us at the southwest dock. If you encounter anyone who might actually be useful, send them this way as well.”

“Useful, sir?” the guard asked, already in motion.

“Lanisti. Saggitari. Stormtouched,” Marsillo said, without sparing the guard another glance.

Apollo moved forward to meet Marsillo, then paused. At the same time, Marsillo shifted his grip on the quarterstaff, then also froze.

“Ah,” Master Apollo said, flatly.

“Well then,” Marsillo chuckled, “this is an interesting situation, isn’t it?”

Elena watched the pair hesitantly. On the one hand, she wanted to take Marsillo down quickly, especially if Fulvio would be lunging out of the crowd with a borrowed face at any moment. On the other, Apollo still hadn’t attacked, and the weight of the hammer was uncomfortable in her hand, and the thought of using it made her stomach tighten.

“Ah, Elena,” a voice by the bench startled Elena so badly that she nearly dropped the hammer. A thin man in brightly colored court clothes lounged on the bench she had recently vacated, and was waving at her with a hand heavy with rings, “Elena, dear, come over and join me.”

“Don’t know who you are,” Elena wasn’t moving to attack Marsillo, but she shifted slightly to keep him in sight. “And I’m busy.”

Master Apollo waved her off. “No,” he said, “trust me, Elena, this isn’t your fight either. You may as well keep watch for guards and Fulvio.”

“You may as well talk to me,” the brightly dressed man joined Elena, “they’ll be at this for quite some time. I should know. I’ve seen my Stormtouched fight and kill better than this Master Apollo.”

***

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3 responses

  1. Algol

    ‘ “I think you underestimate how scared the Twisted are,” Apollo smirked, “between our attack on their most powerful member, and you picking them off one by one, I’d imagine they’re not feeling very safe or secure holed up in their castles. Powerful people aren’t used to feeling hunted and helpless, they don’t know how to deal with it.” ‘

    …well, that answers that, I suppose.

    That “my Stormtouched” at the end is kind of ominous, next update should be good.

    Like

    2016-10-17 at 9:52 pm

  2. Bart

    I don’t really know what’s going on. It was an update, but…

    Typos:

    back in Milia I made mistakes like that got Arturo and Arta killed, and Belloza wounded
    Add an “and” after like

    You with the swod and you with the hammer
    Change swod to sword

    Like

    2016-10-18 at 8:34 am

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