A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

2.5 – Noctem Obrepserit {Night of Surprises}

Few of the merchants in the village of Milia carried anything made of lilium iron, and those who did hadn’t heard of triple-pressing. After a pause midday for a small loaf and a piece of sweet cheese, Elena continued on her search, locating and checking in at shops all around the city. By the time she finally found a small toolshop that offered the right tools, she was watching the sun to be sure she wouldn’t miss the evening meal.

Elena couldn’t help but wonder if Frederica would have known the shop; if that had been among the information she’d kept to herself after Elena had made her angry. She’d returned from buying the rare tools just in time to wash up for dinner. The evening meal was much more subdued and quiet than the breakfast, and after it was over Elena had gone to bed without further incident.

Now that she was in bed, she found herself unable to sleep.

The white marble of Elena’s ceiling had reflected the sunlight in the morning, bouncing it all round the room, but in the moonlight it seemed to be dulled. It was still light enough to see every corner of her room, but dim enough that it shouldn’t have kept her from sleeping.

Elena’s eyes roved back and forth over the patterns in the stone, idly trying to form pictures where none existed. She reached beneath her pillow, feeling around for the lump of woodworking tools wrapped in cloth. The awkward bundle was comforting, and she settled back beneath the thick blanket.

“You’d better hope you don’t toss and turn enough to unwrap those in your sleep, or you’re going to lose an ear. ” Ele commented from the small chair in the corner. “That’s the fifth time tonight you’ve checked to make sure they’re there. They aren’t going anywhere Elena.”

“I just don’t think I’ve ever had something so expensive in my possession in my entire life.” Elena murmured. “I feel more comfortable knowing where it is at all times.”

“But Master De Luca is going to pay for it. The shopkeep didn’t even bat an eye when you told him to credit it to De Luca.”

Elena shrugged, even though she wasn’t sure if Ele could see her.

“Maybe I’m just a little bit paranoid, with everything you and Leanarda have warned me about.”

“You think someone is going to steal it?”

Elena shrugged again, frowning to herself.

“Fred certainly implied that they might try.” She sighed. “I don’t know, everything just seemed so bright and beautiful this morning. But between people warning me, people threatening me-”

“People slapping you…”

“That was my own fault, I should’ve told Mama the second I knew I’d gotten in. I don’t know, everyone seems so tense here, everyone is on edge. I thought we would all be happy and friendly, maybe learning tricks of the trade from each other, but instead it feels like the full garzoni versus the provisional. I wish I knew why that was. It’s a bit of a let down.”

Ele was silent for long moments, not disagreeing. He finally let out a sigh of his own.

“If it makes you feel any better, I can keep watch over your tools tonight, wake you if anyone tries to steal them.”

“You can stay around while I’m asleep?” Elena rose to her elbows to fix Ele with a look of surprise.

“Well…yes. What exactly did you think happened?” Ele returned her gaze with a blank stare, one eyebrow raised.

“I don’t know, I guess I always just assumed that you sort of…disappeared when I fell asleep.” When Ele frowned, Elena continued hastily. “It’s still new to me! I’m still getting used to thinking of you as…” She paused, searching for the right word.

“As a real person.” Ele finished. There was a hard look in his eye, something Elena couldn’t ever remember seeing there before.

“Ele, you have to see it from my point of view! How was I supposed to know? Everyone around me told me I was crazy, do you know what that does to someone so young?”

“It’s probably better that I didn’t know until today, that you didn’t consider me a person.” Ele half-shrugged, his overly-casual demeanor an excellent indication that he was angry. “It would’ve made it harder when you were ignoring me to please your mother.”

Elena felt as if he had slapped her. She lay back on her pillow, blinking fast. “You know I had to do that.” She whispered at the ceiling.

“I know you did. Didn’t make it feel any better. Being the only one to see someone is tough for a child? How do you imagine it felt, being a child who only one person could see?”

She didn’t have an answer for him, and the silence between them stretched. They had argued before, even fought, but Elena felt as if there were something tangibly breaking between them, and she was helpless to put it back together.

“Go to sleep Elena.” Ele finally said. “I’ll wake you if someone tries to break in.”

The emotional exhaustion of dealing with her mother, Frederica, and now Ele all in a single day finally hit her, an overwhelming crush that seemed to settle in her heart. Elena barely had time to shed a few silent tears before sleep overtook her.

 


 

It seemed like she had just closed her eyes when she awoke again, but the shaft of moonlight on her wall had moved quite a bit. Elena glanced around the room bewilderedly. In the corner Ele was doing the same, blinking rapidly as if he had just woken up as well.

When the sound repeated Elena sat up in bed: it was a fast staccato of loud clicking, moving around at a fast pace in the hallway outside her door. It sounded as if several people were walking down the hallway on stilts.

“What’s going on out there?” Ele murmured quietly, as Elena slipped from her bed and moved to the door. Now that she was actually listening, she could also hear shouting and muffled thumps coming from around the studio. Elena listened at the door, but the clicking had stopped. She tried the handle.

“It’s locked.” She said, a cold lump forming in her stomach.

“What? That’s not possible, why would they lock us in our rooms? What right do they have?”

“All of the garzoni might not be locked in their rooms, it could just be us.”

“Not any more reassuring.”

Without even consciously realizing it, Elena glanced around the room for something to turn into a lockpick. Unlike the hallway outside, her room was ripe with possible supplies after her shopping trip; she wouldn’t need Ele’s help.

“You can walk through walls, you go check it out while I make another lockpick.” Elena grabbed a comb from her bedside table; the long teeth were metal, but small enough that she could bend one back and forth until it snapped off. She was interrupted briefly by Ele plunging towards the door, only to bounce off and fall heavily on his rear.

“Are you alright?”

“I should probably talk to Bea or some of the other Echos.” Ele winced as he gingerly got to his feet. “See how that do that as…fluidly as they do.” Elena didn’t want to damage his pride, so she said nothing. Ele began pressing his palms against the door and wall, testing and feeling, while Elena pulled threads from the hem of her nightdress.

He shifted and fell forward, suddenly, as if the door and wall had instantly vanished. Elena blinked, and Ele turned to grin back at her, his arms sunk halfway through the stone.

“It’s like pushing through a wall made of water.” He whispered excitedly. “And I just needed to think it would work and it does!” Elena nodded, glad to see him excited, as she used the threads she had pulled to tie small knots along the length of the comb’s tooth. The thread would shift around, sliding back and forth across the metal, and in theory they would eventually settle into the bumps and grooves they needed to be in.

Ele slipped through the door, and Elena got to work on the lock. The sounds had died down, leaving the studio in an eerily silence that was only occasionally broken by another crash or single shout. The metal comb tooth was slippery, and it took her longer to unlock this door than it did to unlock the door to the studio. On the other hand, this lock wasn’t destroyed as it opened with a soft click, so Elena supposed the tradeoff was worth it.

The hallway was just as bright as her moonlit room, but the majority of its light didn’t come from the moon. Along the top and bottom edges of the hallway’s walls was a painted pattern of squares, subtly worked into the texture of the walls so that one had to look for them to see them. At least, that’s how they’d been earlier in the day. Now, those square patterns were lit up in vibrant shades of yellows and reds, somehow giving off light of their own as if they were reflecting sunlight.

It was beautiful, but the unnatural colored light made Elena feel even more tense as she stepped into the hall and closed the door behind her. It was as if the paint was still liquid, running along the pattern, and Elena had to make herself focus on the end of the hallway rather than the beautiful yet eerie sight.

“Elena!” Ele hurtled around the corner of the hallway. His footsteps had been silent, and he appeared so suddenly that Elena shrieked. Ele rushed down the hall and paused for a moment in front of her, gasping for breath. “Not…good…” he panted. “All…over…studio.”

“Who’s all over the studio? What’s going on?” Elena hissed.

Two figures stepped around the corner, the pale yellow light of the patterns not doing much to illuminate them. Both wore green cloth masks tied around their upper faces with eye holes cut in them. One had long blonde hair spilling out from beneath the mask, and she carried a slim black crossbow casually in the crook of her arm.

“Servant?” She asked. She held the crossbow loosely, but it was pointed at Elena. Her eyes glittered beneath the mask, and a small scar on her chin made it look pointed. The other figure was large and muscled, and wearing a hood that covered their hair, but when he spoke his rich bass gave his gender away.

“No, the running boy is her Echo. She’s a garzona.” In another context Elena would’ve found the smooth deep voice attractive, but now it sent shivers down her spine. The two hadn’t slowed their approach as they talked, and were closing the distance between them quickly.

“Elena, run.” As Ele turned to face the pair, the large man took two quick steps forward on his long legs. His thick fist swung around with the momentum of his stride, and it connected hard with Ele’s chin, sending the Echo flying backwards and landing in a heap on the marble of the ground.

Elena’s heart pounded hard in her chest, and she suddenly couldn’t hear anything but the blood rushing in her ears. She sank to her knees beside Ele’s limp body, reaching out to touch him even though she knew it was useless. Her hands slipped through his neck uselessly, then through his chest, which she just noticed wasn’t moving. Did he normally breath? Was it bad that he wasn’t breathing now? Did he even need to breath? Why did she know so little about the man who was like her brother?

There were dangerous people approaching, she vaguely recalled, but it seemed unimportant at the moment. She tried to speak, but nothing came out. On the second try she managed a whisper.

“Ele?”

“Not a very fiesty one, is she?” The big man loomed over her.

“Don’t need her to be feisty to send a message.” The woman replied. The crossbow gave a sharp ‘click’ in the near silence of the hallway, and Elena’s breath was knocked out of her a heartbeat later. The impact threw her onto the ground, and she struggled for air. Her vision began blurring just as the pain blossomed through her chest, and it continued blurring as her mind slowly began catching up. She glanced down, and her sight was so foggy that she had to stare for a few moments before she could make out the arrow that sprouted from between her breasts.

“Oh.” She said sadly, before the hall slipped away entirely.

 


 

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6 responses

  1. Admit it, it would be a tiny bit funny if I just ended the serial right here.

    I kid of course, I kid. It would be hilarious :D

    I just wanted to give a huge thank you to all of the lovely people reading, commenting on, and enjoying Twisted Cogs. You all really give me a boost to keep on writing, and I appreciate each and every one of you all!

    Like

    2014-08-11 at 12:14 am

    • If you ended it here I would find you.

      Like

      2014-08-11 at 3:15 am

      • He doesn’t know who you are. He doesn’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, he can tell you he doesn’t have any money. What he does have is a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him an nightmare for people like you. If you continue the story from here, that’ll be the end of it. He will not look for you, he will not pursue you. But if you don’t, he will find you, and he will kill you.

        Like

        2014-08-11 at 7:31 pm

  2. CaptainPedantic

    You are such a tease, this chapter was super short and heart rending. You meanie :c

    Like

    2014-08-11 at 1:26 am

  3. Dvo

    *twitches eyebrows at the thought of the fic ending there*

    Ha ha… tease.

    Like

    2014-08-11 at 9:27 am

  4. tijay

    Well killing her will hardly get more story will it?

    Like

    2014-08-12 at 5:17 pm

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