A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.3 – Loquentes Resonat {Speaking to Echoes}

Elena sat frozen in the cool marble antechamber of Bernardo De Luca, trying to fit Arta’s statement into a context that made sense. Ele had been her companion for years, and in all that time no one in the village had been able to hear or see him. When she was a little girl her neighbors and family would humor her, but the older she got the less cute they found it.

“My name is Ele. I’m Elena’s friend.” Ele leaned forward, searching Arta’s face.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ele.” Arta smiled, and Elena shook her head as if she could snap herself out of a dream. How many dozens of people in Carpi had treated her with scorn until she had learned to pretend she couldn’t see him? How many inventive and effective punishments had her mother devised before the lesson had sunk in?

Elena rubbed her wrist; now that she was thinking about it, the dull pain from earlier in the day had returned. The other three in the room, the restless redhead, the sleeping man, and the boy who sketched with charcoal, were all observing the conversation with no more interest than if they had been discussing the weather.

“Can…can everyone in the city see him?” Elena ventured a guess.

“Oh god bless her heart.” The redhead at the end of her bench had stopped shaking her leg, and was instead staring at her with an expression of mingled pity and disbelief. “She doesn’t know. You don’t know about Echoes, do you? How small was your town? Haven’t you ever met another Stormtouched before?”

“Of course I have!” Elena bristled at the tone. “Carpi might be small, but we’re not so small as all that. The general of our standing reserve is a low-level Lanisti, and my great uncle is a Faberi, just like me.”

“And neither of them could see Ele?” The redhead raised an eyebrow. “Neither of them had anyone who always hung around with them? Are you really from such a backwater that no one knew anything about your kind?”

“Isadora,” the boy next to Arta looked up from his sketch, “don’t be cruel. How would they know, if they hadn’t had any before…Elena, was it?”

“We did have Stormtouched, I just told you.” Even though the boy had defended her, Elena was starting to dislike the entire group, Isadora especially. “Uncle Chroli couldn’t see Ele, and I’ve never spoken to the General, but I’m sure he couldn’t see Ele either. You’re the first, besides…” Elena lowered her voice without thinking, “…besides a Rhetor we saw in the street today. Do you think she could’ve done something to make Ele suddenly visible?”

“Elena, no.” Arta was clearly choosing her words carefully, and she brushed a strand of blonde hair from her face. “The Rhetor saw Ele because she is, by definition, a Stormtouched. If your uncle and general couldn’t see Ele, it means they aren’t Stormtouched.”

“But…”

“It makes sense when you think about it.” Isadora interrupted. “They picked the two Touched that are the easiest to fake. I feel bad for all the Carp who overspend on your fake Faberi’s fake goods and your fake Lanisti’s fake training.”

“Now listen-” Elena stood up to face the girl, but a sudden sharp bark from the doorway broke her diatribe before she had even started.

“Elena.” Her mother’s voice was quiet, but it always seemed more dangerous that way. The single word conveyed volumes of oft-repeated lectures, scoldings about how a Lucciano should act, about never losing her temper. Elena’s wrist throbbed as she sat down.

“Hello miss!” Arta said brightly. “You must be Elena’s mother! We were just discussing how Elena here is the only one in your village who is actually Stormtouched.” Joanna didn’t so much as blink. She sat next to Elena, sliding through Ele who scowled and moved to the other side.

“You see?” Arta said. “Normal humans. They can’t see us, hear us, touch us. To mortalis, us echoes don’t exist.” Elena had recovered herself, and folded her hands in her lap, mind racing. Arta was one of these “Echos”, like Ele? How many others in the city were there? Would she have to be careful of everyone she spoke to from now on?

“Don’t look so miserable! Aren’t you glad to know you’re not crazy? Isn’t it vindicating, having proof that everyone in your village was wrong and you were right?” Arta’s voice was soothing, but Elena couldn’t quite muster the relief that the Echo-girl was expecting of her. Ignoring someone other than Ele felt strange, being in this huge city felt strange, and she suddenly wished that she could be back at home where everything was familiar and safe.

But if I did that, I wouldn’t be meeting Bernardo De Luca today. Elena reminded herself. I wouldn’t have the chance to become his garzona. An apprenticeship was the first step on the road to her dream; first a garzona, then a journeywoman, then an artist in her own right. From Milia she would work her way up through the courts, until finally the Queen of Italoza herself would be Elena’s patron.

I can handle strange, if it means reaching my dreams. She consoled herself, trying to avoid looking at Arta, who was fiddling with the paintbrush behind her ear. Besides, discovering that Ele is real is probably the strangest thing that will happen to me today.

“Miss Elena and Joanna Lucciano? I am Master De Luca’s page, Pietro. I believe you have an appointment to see me.” Elena looked up up from her musing to meet the eyes of a young boy, and she cursed her thoughts. The boy was dressed in very fine clothes, a velvet cap with a feather sitting jauntily in it. Every inch of him, from his eyes to his skin to the perfect curls of his hair, was carved out of very fine white marble.


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7 responses

  1. Regular readers of mine might notice that this is quite a short chapter! When I was writing Orbital Academy, I set myself a very ambitious goal of 5000-word minimum chapters, and I really think the quality suffered for it. So this time I’m trying something new; only writing an amount I feel comfortable with. Sometimes that will mean shorter chapters like this, and sometimes the chapters will run even longer than normal.

    Either way, I hope you enjoyed it!

    Like

    2014-06-23 at 3:32 am

    • Zeuseus

      Works for me Maddi. I’ve always thought that quality can suffer when people are too rigid with their word limits. I remember a few of the OA chaps that were a little ‘slow’ due to it.

      Like

      2014-06-23 at 3:45 am

  2. Zeuseus

    and there’s an editing error in the first paragraph: trying to tried to fit the Arta’s

    Like

    2014-06-23 at 3:50 am

  3. a fan

    Welp, I’m hooked. This setting has really captured my imagination :D
    I can’t wait for more (but only when it is ready :D)

    Like

    2014-06-25 at 2:54 pm

  4. I am literally laughing out loud about poor Elena’s situation. The best part is (not just the bit where anyone here could be someone only she can see) that she doesn’t even have a ‘mortalis’ to confirm what the hell Arta’s saying. There’s still a good chance Elena’s crazy and making new imaginary friends to manage the move!

    Okay, so Joanna is still a bitch (I feel like that word summons her, so I’ll be checking the coast is clear from now on first), but at least this explains why she’s so physically harsh. She’s had years to ‘fix’ her daughter, and poor Elena still seems crazy. Can’t account for that stick up her butt, though. The mystery lives on…

    Like

    2015-04-13 at 8:01 am

  5. Zephy669

    I prefer shorter chapters. They just work better for me in terms of online reading and it’s not exactly environmentally savvy to print out everything ;)

    Like how you’re introducing concepts but not sitting around info-dumping them. Rather experience the world than have to read the encyclopedia.

    Like

    2015-05-16 at 9:58 am

    • Thank you, it’s good to know that the chapters are a nice online-reading length! I’m glad you’re enjoying so far!

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-05-17 at 10:48 pm

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