A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.03 – Praeterita {Times Gone By}

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40 years past

The King of Italoza stood in front of his throne, hands clasped behind his back, looking down at the cowering woman in chains who stood in the middle of the throne room. It was a room created for a throng, an assemblage, and its near-emptiness now served to make it somehow even more terrifying.

The woman seemed to be devoting her entire attention on not trembling. Every so often, a single shudder would rack through her, and the chains binding her would rattle. The soft sound echoed in the empty space, the rattle bouncing through the chamber. She winced at every echo of a rattle, and King Thesslanario frowned but did nothing to ease her fear.

To her right, his hand on her shoulder, the woman’s husband met his gaze with an upraised chin. The King admired Ticone’s attitude of support during his wife Porzia’s unofficial trial. Ticone could have spent the time worrying about himself, but instead struggled to be a pillar for her in this terrifying time.

“You will forgive me, if I seem overly familiar with the questions I’m about to ask you,” King Thesslanario said, “it’s a strange sort of thing to become habit, but I’ve asked them so many times of so many people…” he trailed off, replacing the end of his sentence with a weary wave of his hand.

“You Majesty shouldn’t ask forgiveness of me,” Porzia whispered. In that quiet room with only a handful of advisors and guards to fill it, her whisper carried.

“Nevertheless,” Thesslanario said, “what is now rote to me is raw and fearful to you, probably with good reason. You will answer these questions honestly, no matter how you think they reflect upon you, is that understood?”

It was rote to him, but each one remained just as difficult. Each night he held these secret trials was another night he felt overwhelmed at the choice before him. There was no precedent to turn to in this matter, only a single choice, to be made over and over for a host of people and their host of personal motivations.

“It is understood, Majesty,” Porzia said.

“Did you fight, plot, and kill in the service of the Stormheart Rebels?” King Thesslanario gave his voice a tone of steel, and he tried to push the sympathy from his eyes.

“I did, Majesty,” Porzia said. A simple confession, without excuses or faltering attempts at explanations. That was a good sign.

“What part did you play in the Rebellion?”

“I was-” Porzia’s voice caught in her throat for a moment, and she swallowed with an air of panic, “I served on a council, of sorts, with Lady Mia, the Rebel Queen, your Majesty.”

“In your estimation, did the Stormheart Rebellion look to you as a figure of authority, perhaps even as one of the leaders of the Rebellion?” The King asked.

“They did, your Majesty.”

“And what was your goal? Not the Stormhearts’, yours personally.”

Porzia closed her eyes for a moment. The King let her think, waiting far more patiently than he might normally given the late hour. It was beneath him to begrudge someone the answer that would decide whether or not they would be executed, even if that someone had no idea of how important the answer was.

“It was to expend the anger and frustration of the Stormtouched of Italoza while doing as little damage as possible, your Majesty,” Porzia whispered, “to lead a rebellion to its failure, and thus waste those who would rebel on  a lost cause.”

“You maintain you never intended to endanger your King?” King Thesslanario asked.

“I swore I would tell the truth,” Porzia felt tears fall from her closed eyes, but she still didn’t open them, “we caused pain and chaos, Majesty, death and destruction, but I swear we did not wish harm upon you.”

Thesslanario nodded. The answer matched what he had been hoping for. “The people of Italoza have every expectation of seeing me execute each and every Stormheart Rebel, Porzia D’Arcangelo.”

Ticone’s grip on his wife’s shoulder stiffened, but otherwise the two remained still. “Yes, Majesty,” Porzia said.

“Yet I find it difficult, calling for the execution of those whose true goal was the safety of Italoza,” King Thesslanario continued. “Mia Nellada is being held in captivity for her part in the rebellion. To treat you differently smells of hypocrisy.”

For a long moment the gentle skritch of a quill on parchment behind him was the only sound to break the stillness. Ticone and Porzia stared at him uncomprehending, and he finally took pity on them and spoke again.

“Those Stormhearts who meant to rule Italoza, who meant to rebel, they will pay for their sedition with their lives. You few who intended for the rebellion to fall, you too deserve to be punished…but not as harshly as those who intended to overthrow me. You, like the Rebel Queen you served, will be imprisoned for life.”

Almost before he finished speaking, Porzia broke down into tears, her head falling forward with a rattle of chains. King Thesslanario frowned. It had been an unpopular choice among the few advisors who knew it, this measure of mercy. Many of them had lost family or friends to the Stormheart Rebellion, and the calls for vengeance had been just as popular as the calls for justice.

Still, this little family in particular had been unfortunate in the aftermath of the rebellion. The King turned from Porzia to her husband. “Ticone, there is no evidence that you worked to assist the Stormheart Rebellion, but given that your wife was one of the conspirators…”

Ticone half-bowed, “I understand, your Majesty.”

“Your contacts and informants have been instructed to report to the small council until such time as we have selected a new spymaster,” the King continued. “It would be…unfortunate if we find you’ve been trying to get in touch with them again.”

“My Lord has already shown mercy to this family, ”

“That being said, I will still rely on you in an advisory role. Whatever the new spymaster we select, it will take time for them to gain the experience and knowledge that you possess. You will step down as my spymaster, but will remain an advisor.”

Porzia still cried, but Ticone seemed not to hear her. Besides his reassuring hand on her shoulder, he did not offer her support. The man set his jaw and kept his chin high, but the effect was one of a man struggling to maintain his composure, not one who truly didn’t care.

One of the advisors to the rebellion, yet able to keep it from her husband, the King mused, if he truly had no idea, what measure of betrayal must he be feeling right now? And if he did know, how much must he hate me, to be taking his wife away from him?

“You have been truly kind, your Majesty,” Ticone said. “It will be my honor to continue to serve you however I can.”

***

18 years past

Ticone didn’t let anything past the mask of his expression, but he knew the tightly-clasped hands behind his back and unerring pacing somewhat gave him away. There was no one in the large well-furnished room to see his lack of control, but he didn’t want to form any habits. An advisor’s life could sometimes depend on how well he hid his tension, and he didn’t want to complicate things in the future.

Assuming he was still an advisor in the future.

And that he still had his life.

Another glance toward the doors of the bedchamber told Ticone nothing new, but reassured him all the same. The three most important people in his life still slept soundly inside, and no one would reach them without going through him first. The future was terrifying and uncertain, but right here and now, he could protect them with his own two hands. Now his only task was to somehow ensure they remained protected when he was no longer able. It was a question that required pacing.

Behind him, the door quietly opened, and Ticone sighed. This was it, then. His time was up, and he was no closer to thinking of a solution. As opulent a set of rooms as they were, the rooms were a prison, and the cross section of people with both reason and authority to visit was small.

“I didn’t expect you until the morning, Majesty,” Ticone said without turning. I had hoped to have more time to prepare. The thought was obvious but remained unsaid.

“I was informed an hour or so ago that your wife has given birth, D’Arcangelo. A matching set, I’m told,” King Thesslanario spoke quietly enough that he wouldn’t wake the two in the next room, a small detail which Ticone appreciated. “And yet, your wife has been isolated, at my orders, for the last twenty-two years. Would you like me to question the guards about their propriety in guarding their prisoner? Or perhaps we should seek council from the church, on whether they believe immaculate conception is possible?”

“I wouldn’t insult you by offering a lie, your Majesty.” Ticone hadn’t been yelling, but his voice was hoarse. “The children is mine.”

“Congratulations are in order, then,” the King said.

“Thank you, Majesty.”

“Your wife is healthy?”

“Yes, sire. Both her and the babies.”

“Good. That is good. A father cannot ask for more. Bearing twins is no easy task.”

Ticone bowed his head, still not turning to face his King. “I am grateful for your congratulations, sire, but I imagine that is not the only thing that brings you here.”

King Thesslanario sighed, and for long moments Ticone stared at the window in front of him, waiting for the words that would change everything. The night outside was dark, and in the reflection he could see Thesslanario pass a weary hand through his hair.

“My best friend, Goldtongue, is masked.” The King finally said. “Mia is isolated. Capiozo exiled to Francas to live out his days with his family. Porzia imprisoned. None of those who organized the rebellion were executed, but each in their own way had to be dealt with. I could not then nor can I now allow them to plan or plot or scheme, not ever again. You have broken that isolation, Ticone. Used your position as my advisor to break it, no less. How long have you been sneaking visits to Porzia? Clearly longer than nine months.”

“I first visited her a month after her imprisonment,” Ticone turned just in time to see the King nod. “You’re not surprised.”

“You love your wife, Ticone. I find nothing surprising about that.”

“I do love her, Majesty.”

“You still love her, and she is still the woman who helped bring my reign perilously close to its fall. You understand the problem I face.”

“I abused my position, your Majesty, and for that I will take your justice without question,” Ticone cast a glance at the closed door behind him, “but I cannot apologize for a blessing such as my son and daughter.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to apologize for your son and daughter, nor for your love of your wife,” King Thesslanario said sadly, “but neither can I allow you to be both my advisor and the husband of a Stormheart Rebel. Of the two, I believe it’s clear that you have made your choice. I don’t begrudge you that choice.”

Ticone nodded his head once, in acknowledgement, and after a few moments the King turned to exit the rooms.

“From this point on, this man is a prisoner in these rooms as well,” King Thesslanario told the guards outside of the door, “you will ensure he stays within, just as you do with Porzia. He will not cause you trouble, but if he does, you have your orders.”

“Your Majesty?” Ticone hesitated for a moment when his King turned, but forced himself to voice the thought. “This is the second time my family has received mercy in your justice. I…thank you. I hope I can someday repay you.”

King Thesslanario nodded, his expression thoughtful. “I wish the best upon your wife and your new children,” he said. “What are their names?”

“Ava and Allvero D’Arcangelo, your Majesty. Our little songbird and our little owl.”

***

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***

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6 responses

  1. Bart

    “You few who intended for the rebellion to fall, you too deserve to be punished…but not as harshly as those”

    I would change too to either two or also.

    Like

    2016-11-28 at 3:29 pm

    • Algol

      “The children is mine.” should be “are mine.”

      Like

      2016-11-29 at 8:39 pm

  2. Owl is quite the important outlaw then. It explains why he is so good at everything involved in being on the run. He probably escaped imprisonment with his family and lived on the run until he made it to the workshop.

    Like

    2016-11-29 at 12:52 am

    • Bart

      Oh, is that who that was. I read “Ava and Allvero D’Arcangelo”, shrugged my shoulders, then figured I’d wait for someone else to comment and make it clear to me who we were talking about.

      Like

      2016-11-29 at 5:37 pm

  3. Sooo.. … just checked back after a couple of months now. Is this it? Do you have any plans to return to the story at some point?

    I understand there’s things in your life taking a higher priority right now. :)

    Like

    2017-02-10 at 9:58 pm

    • You have a frighteningly uncanny sense of timing, my friend ^_^ check back this Monday!

      Liked by 1 person

      2017-02-11 at 2:39 pm

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