A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.07 – Tunc Usque Nunc {From Then to Now}

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3 years past

With his father’s training, Elogio was fairly sure he could’ve made his way across the rooftops of the city. It would’ve been faster, in times like these, to fly from the tiles of one roof to the other, to not have to weave in and out between the press of people and take long detours along the watery channels to find a bridge to cross.

To fly like an Owl, he thought, wistfully, but then shook himself and returned his focus to moving as quickly as he could without drawing anyone’s attention. To move from rooftop to rooftop would be faster, but it would also be obvious, it would draw peoples’ attention and stick in their minds. No matter what chased him, it was better to be unseen than to be quick.

Even now, when what chased him was rumors that the Prince had found them again.

It had admittedly been foolish, Elogio mused as he moved. He had thought it a clever idea, hiding out from Prince Ulisse in the man’s own city, but now he worried that it had been arrogance. Even more, he worried that his sister would answer for his arrogance.

Ela sat on the railing of the balcony outside of their rented room. As an Echo, he was a little more free with his ability to be high up and remain relatively unseen, although the sight of his sister’s Echo perched up high made Elogio’s stomach clench. It had been three years since his Echo had died, but it still stung him in a place that was hard to put a finger on.

Elogio gave the signal, and Ela slipped from his place on the balcony inside. Without even pausing at the house, Elogio continued on his unhurried-but-quick pace, changing course slightly so that he now headed toward the walls.

Ela would give the warning, and Elaide would assemble together the three little innocuous bundles stashed around their house, together comprising the personal belongings she needed to keep. It would only take her a few minutes, and she’d be clear of the house in less than five.

Elogio didn’t need to gather anything from the house; the only personal item he cared about was safely lodged in the pocket of the light jacket he wore. Out of habit he checked that it was still there, a tiny nugget of doubt vanishing as soon as his fingers brushed the small leather-bound book.

With Elaide’s bundle and Elogio’s book removed from the house, everything left was little more than window-dressing, nothing that could be used to identify them. The siblings had long since learned to express their individuality in ways that didn’t leave a trail.

“Brother dearest, you’re out and about late,” Elaide fell into step next to him, barely breathing hard from running to catch up. Elogio glanced up at the rising moon, almost surprised. He’d known it was late, but hadn’t realized just how late. For the past several years, he had had so much trouble sleeping that these days he didn’t bother trying until the early hours of the morning.

“Elaide,” Elogio said. He paused for a moment as the pair of them pressed a little close to a group of students emerging from Studio Neptune. Even after they had passed, he didn’t trust the crowds around them. “It’s happening again.”

“I assumed as much from the direction we were headed,” Elaide sighed. “Pity.”

“It’s only rumors,” Elogio said, “it might be  nothing.”

Elaide didn’t respond. She didn’t have to, the pair of them knew that rumors were far and away enough reason to start moving again.

“I’d started talking with the girl in the shop,” Elaide said after a while.

“Oh?” Elogio frowned, “started making friends?”

“Stupid of me, I know,” Elaide hurriedly added, “but…perhaps we start thinking about it.”

“Is it worth trying to settle in and put down roots when at any time we might be torn away again?” Elogio asked.

“It might be,” his sister said thoughtfully. “We spent two and a half years here. That would’ve been a lot of time to spend with friends.”

“And we’d be heartbroken right about now, missing those friends,” Elogio pointed out. They were nearing the lock, where the ferries would take loads of people across the water that surrounded Venecchi.

“I get the opposite impression,” Elaide said quietly, “I think keeping yourself walled away is causing you far more heartbreak.”

“There’s something on your mind,” Elogio said.

“We’re going to split up, this time,” Elaide answered. “You need to form new connections, connections with other people, or I’m worried you’re going to turn into something our parents wouldn’t want you to. I’m not going to keep holding you back from that.”

Elogio absorbed the information as he always did, quietly and without comment, mulling it over and picking it apart in his head. From a utilitarian standpoint, it would be good for the pair of them to split up, much as he hated the idea. Prince Ulisse was looking for a brother and sister, he wouldn’t expect them to separate.

“We’ll have to keep in contact,” Elogio finally said, adopting his ‘haggling’ voice.

“You’ll have to join a studio,” his sister countered.

“How on earth do you expect me-”

“Joining a studio will force you to interact with people, and it will force you to put down roots,” Elaide said firmly, “and what better time to show up suddenly to a new city than when a host of prospective students are showing up to a new city? It’s perfect, Elogio.”

Elogio nodded, but frowned. They’d need new names, now that they were leaving. Maybe something like Tomas…

***

2 years past

Beetle, as Tomas was called by his studiomates, looked for all the world as if he wasn’t paying attention to Doubletap’s dilema. His eyes were focused on the little coiled spring, held in place by long thin tools that he manipulated in millimeter-long movements. It was a bad habit of his, he knew, that he looked so caught up in his work no matter what, and he appreciated of his Studiomates that they didn’t seem to mind it.

“I’m just not great with words,” Doubletap was complaining, “it’s all very well to explain it to you, but if I try to tell her the way I told you, I just know it’ll come out wrong.”

“You sell yourself short,” Beetle murmured, “besides, you said she was the smartest girl you’ve ever met, don’t you trust her to understand what you’re trying to say?”

“I guess I do…” Doubletap said without much enthusiasm, “maybe that’s what I’m worried about. Once she understands that I’m not as well-off as I may’ve implied, what if she doesn’t want to go out with me anymore?”

Beetle carefully removed his tools and fastened both sides of the lock together, inserted the key, and turned it. When he held it to his ear, the satisfying tick of clockwork within made him smile. The lock would be impossible to open for exactly five hours.

“Then it would be good to find that out sooner than later. Are you interested in going out with a girl only interested in you for your florins?” Beetle asked, beginning the meticulous process of cleaning up his workspace.

“No…that’s a good point, I’m not,” Doubletap hopped down from where he’d been perched, his actions much lighter than when he had first hopped up. “You’ve been a huge help, Tomas, thank you.”

“Anytime,” Beetle began putting his tools into their cases, shooting a smile over his shoulder at the boy.

“I’ve been talking to Snugglet about it, and when she suggested I get advice from the owl I was a little surprised, you don’t seem the sort-”

“The what, now?” Tomas half-turned, expression blank although his heart suddenly raced. “What did you call me?”

“Oh, the other garzoni…we um…we call you the owl, you didn’t know that?” Doubletap shrugged sheepishly, “you’re always up and working in the night, and you’re smart and wise…it seems more apt than calling you beetle, anyway. Why, does it bother you?”

Tomas mused for a moment, then smiled.

“No, not at all,” he said, “I actually kind of like it.”

***

Now

Owl kept his chin high as he spoke. It was tempting to not meet anyone’s eyes, to perhaps stare at the ground, but he resisted the urge. Instead he clenched his fists and braced himself for what the others might say. That he should’ve told them sooner, that they deserved to know, that he had put them in even greater danger by travelling with them.

“Well,” Elena finally said, flatly, “this changes things.” Even though he had been expecting it, Owl almost winced. Of all of the friends and allies in front of him, she was the one person he would’ve rather not disappointed. His feelings for Elena were complicated, made the more difficult by the fact that he had purposely tried to keep her at arm’s length, but no matter what the feelings, he knew he didn’t want to disappoint her.

“I’m sure it does,” he said, trying not to sound stiff.

“Those other threats might’ve been bluffs, but if they could identify Ava by name, it’s almost certain they actually have her,” Elena continued, frowning, “I’d hoped they were bluffing about everything, but if they have her hostage, they’ll have no qualms about using the junior members of the Eye as hostages also.”

Owl blinked, caught off guard. He had expected many different reactions, but this one hadn’t occurred to him.

“That means we’ll have to meet them at the monastery,” Emerald said, “whatever plan we come up with to defeat the rest of the Twisted, it’s going to have to be on their terms.”

“We shouldn’t discount the aftermath, either,” Master Asclepius broke in, “even if the Twisted show up at the monastery at all, they certainly won’t bring Owl’s sister with them. Most likely she’s being held with the junior members of the Eye. There will have to be rescue attempt, either after you kill the Twisted, or more ideally, at the same time.”

“All of Italoza will be hunting us after that, Prince Ulisse included,” Elena said, gravely, “your sister can join us, Owl. Better to be hunted among friends than alone.”

“I don’t…” Owl searched for the right words, “I’m not sure I understand. You don’t seem upset.”

“Of course I’m upset!” Elena said, surprised, “but we’ll rescue her, don’t worry.”

“I mean, upset that I kept this secret,” Owl looked back and forth between Ele, Emerald, Frederica and Fred, unable to hide the confusion on his face, “especially you all…for so long…”

Frederica glanced up from the block of wood in her hand for a moment. “Stupid,” she said, then returned to her carving.

“Tomas…” Elena rested her hand gently on his shoulder, a weary but fond smile on her face. “To us, you’ll always be Owl.”

“Touching,” Master Zeus interrupted the sudden swell of warmth that rushed to Owl’s face, “but if you don’t mind, I think it’s time to begin planning. We have a little less than five days to come up with a plan to kill the most dangerous group in Italoza.”

***

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***

Whatever you do, don’t vote for Twisted Cogs on TopWebFiction! I mean it, don’t you dare. My TWF entry was cursed by a very technologically-conscious djinn the other day and he sounded really serious about it

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One response

  1. BartHumphries

    Owl is going to be so upset when his sister shows up and turns out to be one of the people his girlfriend wants to kill.

    Like

    2017-03-15 at 3:52 am

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