A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

2.6 – Scit Quid Scit {She Knows What She Knows}

“Ele….is Ele okay?” It was a strange, floaty feeling, hearing her own voice asking questions before she was was aware of thinking them. As if speaking his name reminded her of him, her chest tightened with worry before she was even awake.

“Ah, you’re up. You gave us a bit of a fright, Miss Elena. Yes, I’ve been told that your Echo is perfectly fine, though his impromptu nap has thrown your sleeping schedules a little bit out of sync.”

Elena rose to the surface of consciousness slowly, but the meaning of the words filtered through the haze and took the edge off of the panicked feeling in her chest.

My chest…the arrow. Elena woke the rest of the way up suddenly, opening her eyes to face the ceiling of her room. She tried to lift her head, but her muscles responded so slowly that for a moment she wondered with horror whether she’d been paralyzed. It was as if her head had weights resting on it, and it took her long seconds to lift her head high enough to look down.

There was no indication that she had been shot. No bandage, no sling, and certainly no arrow. The sight of the long wooden shaft sticking out of her chest was the last memory Elena had from the night before, and the horrible sight had been burned into her memory so thoroughly that she knew she hadn’t imagined or dreamed it.

Even so, her biggest concern was making sure Ele was alright. With a huge effort she turned her head, scanning the room, and when she saw him sleeping peacefully on a small couch that had been moved into her room she sighed with relief.

Pietro was sitting next to the bed, putting a small stack of parchment into a bag, but he glanced her way as he did so. It looked as if he had been working in her room, just waiting for her to wake up. He didn’t look overcome with relief, but he was at least smiling at her. Elena wasn’t entirely sure if his apparent unconcern was appropriate.

There’s certainly SOMETHING wrong with me. She thought, letting her head drop down. A quick experimentation told her that all of her muscles were similarly afflicted: she could move her arms, hands and legs, but they were slow and heavy, as if she each one had doubled in weight.

“Well, now that you’re awake I’ll be going back to my office.” Pietro lifted the bag to his marble shoulder and gave a polite smile. “I’ll let Master De Luca know that you’re feeling a mite better-”

“Wait.” Elena looked into his eyes, aghast. “You can’t leave just like that! What happened last night?”

“I’m afraid I have no idea, Miss Elena. Master De Luca simply told me that you were feeling poorly, and to wait here until you were feeling better, in case you needed anything when you first woke up. I’m just as in the dark as you are.” If she had been feeling more calm, Elena would’ve marvelled at the fact that a boy made of stone had such a bad poker-face. Instead it only made her angry.

“I was shot with an arrow!” She cried. “My Echo was hurt, for the first time…ever! Please, just tell me what happened. Who was that last night? How am I alive? Why did she shoot me? Who healed me? I don’t believe you don’t know anything.”

To his credit, Pietro looked uncomfortable and embarrassed. Elena struggled to pull herself up on her elbows, moving an inch at a time and wincing at the energy those inches required. By the time she had finally moved herself to a sitting position, Pietro had sat down and heaved a very convincing sigh for his stone frame.

“A big studio like De Luca’s draws a lot of attention, Elena. It makes us a target for the worst elements of Milia. Thieves, criminals, people who want to make a name for themselves. As far as we can tell, the young lady who attacked you last night was one of those criminals. She knocked you out by elbowing you hard in the solar plexus, and her Echo knocked yours out in much the same way. There was no arrow involved.”

“No…that’s not right…I distinctly remember-”

“Miss Elena, where is it that hurts the most right now?” Pietro interrupted her with a businesslike look.

“My chest?”

“And do you think that if you had been shot with an arrow in the chest, we would be having this conversation right now? Perhaps you have some magical power no one has heard of? Do Fabera have the ability to repel arrows in flight?”

Elena frowned. She hadn’t realized before that the weight in her came along with a throbbing pain in her joints, and it was making it hard to focus on what he was saying, but something didn’t quite make sense.

“Why was my door locked last night?”

“What?” The question seemed to catch Pietro off-guard, and he looked even more uncomfortable and off-balance. “Oh…we’re not entirely sure why that happened.” and Elena pressed her advantage with a barrage of questions of her own.

“So I got locked into my room for no reason? Am I not allowed to leave in the night? What’s the purpose of that? What if there had been a fire? Or a lunatic with a bow who wanted to shoot me?”

“I…I don’t know? You wouldn’t have been in danger in a fire…I mean if it WAS locked…whoever locked it….Perhaps you accidentally locked it behind you? You know, without thinking?”

“I didn’t even know it had a lock!” Elena said accusingly. “And anyways, how could I have locked it and then not had the key afterwards? I had to unlock it with a lockpick!”

“And look at how well that turned out for you! Perhaps if you didn’t unlock it, you wouldn’t have gotten shot and I wouldn’t have to spend half the day waiting for you to awaken!” Pietro stood abruptly. “Miss Elena, I am sorry that this had been a difficult night for you, but really I cannot sit here and answer all of these interrogations. I don’t begrudge you the time I’ve spent, but I really do have work to do now.”

“I wouldn’t have gotten shot, eh?” Elena asked quietly. Pietro stared at her, uncomprehending for a few moments until he realised what he had just admitted to. His face took on a hard look, and he straightened just a fraction of an inch higher.

“I will inform Master De Luca that you are awake.” He said stiffly. Elena lay quietly as he gathered his bag up again and left. It was hard to keep her eyes open, and after another glance at Ele to reassure herself he was sleeping, not dead, Elena let herself drift back off to sleep herself.

 


 

A presence in the room woke her up with a start, although she hadn’t heard a sound. Elena could immediately tell by the oranges and pinks of the sunlight in her room that she’d slept almost the entire day away. Bea stood silently by the door, watching her carefully. Ele still slept on the couch.

How long has she been standing there? Elena wondered, a chill creeping along her spine. How did my subconscious know to wake me up since I didn’t hear her…

“Your particular brand of perceptive seems a little overpowered pitted against Pietro’s particular brand of poor lying.” Bea said quietly, but with a smile. “It’s a bit unfair, don’t you think?”

“Is Ele okay?” Elena mustered the strength to sit up. The simple action still took an agonizing amount of energy, but it was marginally better than it had been earlier.

“He’s quite alright. With the amount you’ve both slept today, I have the feeling your sleeping cycles will re-sync soon.”

Elena watched Ele in silence for a few moments, taking comfort from the sight of his chest slowly rising and falling.

“I’ve never seen him asleep before.” She murmured. “He was always just waking up whenever I did. When I was a little girl I used to think he just vanished or…sorry.” She broke off suddenly, remembering who she was talking to.

“It’s not that uncommon, for those Stormtouched who grow up on their own. Mortalis tend to be rather cruel to Stormtouched, when they outnumber them, even if they don’t mean to be.” Bea seemed lost in thought for a moment, and the two women sat in silence.

“Are you here to lie to me like Pietro?” Elena finally asked.

If Ele were awake he would probably scold me, tell me not to be so impolite.

“No.” Bea seemed to shake herself out of whatever memory had engrossed her. When she spoke again her voice was firm, but still kind. “I think Pietro was foolish to try feeding you an untruth. But I’m not here to tell you the truth either.”

Elena nodded wordlessly. It was a sort of honesty, and it was all she would get right now.

“I think you realize that we can’t allow you to share the details of what happened last night with any of the other garzoni.” Bea continued.

“Are you going to kill me then?” Elena asked quietly.

“Kill you? Of course not Elena.” Bea looked shocked. “Whether a provisional garzona or not, Master De Luca cares about keeping you safe. We all want to keep you safe, but right now we need you to trust us, Pietro, Bernardo and I. Not telling anyone is the thing that will keep you and the others safest.”

“That shouldn’t be too hard, since I barely know what happened.” Elena said bitterly. “And if last night was any indication, you aren’t very good at keeping us safe. Whatever did happen, it could have been a real arrow. I could’ve died.”

“Elena, what happened last night was a horrible misfortune, but we’ve already taken steps to make sure it won’t happen again. We’ve hired two new servants that will make the studio much more secure, and we’ve made other, more subtle steps to ensure our garzoni’s safety.”

There was nothing Elena could do to avoid the demand, and they both knew it. If she disobeyed and shared what had happened, it would accomplish nothing but getting her kicked out of the studio. She glanced at Ele’s sleeping figure, then dropped her gaze to the bedsheets, a gesture of defeat. It wasn’t hard to imagine the advice he’d give. Bea continued in the same gentle but firm voice.

“We won’t lock you in your room anymore, given your antagonistic relationship with the locks of this studio. We will put measures in place that will tell us if you leave your room at night again. You are excused from your duties for tomorrow, but I’m sure Master De Luca would encourage you to spend the time thinking about your first project. If you need anything at all, we’ll try to get it to you.”

“Are the others starting on their first projects already?” Elena asked, glad to change the subject.

“Garzoni usually scramble to impress in the first two months of apprenticeship, right up until the day Master De Luca lets all but four go.” Bea explained. “So the autumn usually sees four to eight projects completed per garzoni. Don’t worry, things usually quiet down in the other four seasons of the year.”

Elena clenched her hands into fists. The intense night and the nearly full day of sleep combined to give her an odd combination of energy and helplessness.

“If they’re starting their projects tomorrow, then I am too.” She said. If Ele had been awake, he would’ve recognized the stubborn set to her chin. “In fact, I have something I have to do this evening.” Mustering all of her energy, Elena pulled the bedclothes off of her legs, reaching beneath her pillow to retrieve the tight bundle of woodworking tools.

“Elena, don’t be silly.” Bea sighed. “Master De Luca isn’t going to penalize you for being on bedrest after your ordeal.”

“What ordeal?” Elena pushed forward and landed on her feet, wobbling a little bit. She felt weak, but she tilted her chin up in defiance, in what Ele referred to as her ‘Joanna face’. Bea didn’t answer, but she folded her arms. “If nothing happened to me last night, then I should be able to get right back to work, right?”

“If being obstinate is how you deal with the situation, I suppose I deserve that.” Bea sighed. “But please, please try not to wear yourself out.” Elena tossed her head and walked slowly to the door without another word.

 


 

She thought the stairs would be the worst, but Elena revised her view as she staggered down the hallway. It was the hallway after the stairs that was the worst; her sore and aching legs already on fire from the stairs now had to carry her down a hallway that seemed much longer than they had the day before.

“Stupid.” She muttered to herself, leaning against the wall for support to keep herself from falling. “Should’ve just taken the stupid day off.” When she reached the door of the workroom, she pulled herself up and took deep, steadying breaths. She refused to look weak in front of Frederica.

Leanarda was the only provisional garzoni in the workroom when Elena entered, and on the other side Frederica and the mop-top Artifex Carlo were the only full garzoni present.

“Elena! Bea told us you were sick today like Vittoria!” Leanarda called from her workstation.

“I’m feeling a little unwell,” Elena said as she handed the bundle to Frederica, …understatement of the year… “but I had to bring Frederica her tools.”

“You still got the tools?” Frederica asked, unwrapping them. “And you even got them from Tellem’s Shop! I’m…actually kind of impressed.” Her words poked at Elena’s subconscious for a moment, but she couldn’t quite connect the girl’s words to the significance.

“Where’s Ele?” Leanarda asked, crossing the workshop to join the pair. Across the room Leo was looking at the small canvas she had left behind on the bench. “He doesn’t seem the type to leave your side.”

Maybe it was a microscopic change in Fred or Frederica’s expression, perhaps it was something in the way Leanarda had asked, or maybe it had just taken so long for Elena’s worn out mind to work through things. Either way, several small pieces clicked together in her head at the same time.

“What do you mean, you’re impressed?” Elena said suddenly, ignoring Leanarda’s question.

“What?” Frederica’s face was a mask, but behind her Fred’s expression twitched. “I’m just impressed you were able to find Tellem’s is all. It’s a small shop, out of the way-”

“No…no you said I ‘still’ got the tools, as if you were expecting something to have happened that would’ve stopped me.” Elena said. “And Vittoria just happens to be sick today, does she? “Sick”, just like me?” She whirled to face the other full garzoni. Carlo and Carla were both bent over the desk, as if they were absorbed in work and hadn’t overheard the conversation. Since they were only a few feet away, the act wasn’t very convincing.

“You know.” Elena said quietly. “And Vittoria knows. All of you full garzoni know!”

“Know what?” Leanarda looked back and forth between Frederica and Elena’s faces, riveted. “What’s going on?”

“Elena, don’t be stupid.” Elena hadn’t heard Carlo’s Echo speak before, but she snapped the words as someone might brandish a weapon. As if without thinking the woman took a step forward to stand between Elena and Carlo.

“No, Elena, please do be stupid.” Fred needled from over Frederica’s shoulder. “Please give them an excuse. The studio would be better off without you.”

Frederica herself didn’t say anything, she simply stood with her arms folded in front of her. Elena’s broken wrist throbbed, and she looked down to note that she was clenching her fists so hard that her nails had left crescent-shaped marks in her skin.

“So. What are you going to do about it?” Frederica asked, so quietly that Elena could barely hear it. Her voice was even, the phrase neither a worried query nor a smug challenge, just a simple question. Elena actually considered it for a moment, while beside her Leanarda practically bounced up and down with curiosity.

“I’m going to Master De Luca.” She announced finally. Her answer seemed to disappoint Frederica.

“Unwise.” She muttered as Elena turned away. Leanarda went to follow, but something in Elena’s eye seemed to warn her away. She heard Carlo and Carla muttering to Frederica as she left the workroom.

Either her brief pause in workroom had rejuvenated her weak legs, or the power of righteous anger was propelling her faster than stubborn duty had, because her legs didn’t hurt as much on the path back down the hallways. Her head was another story; somewhere along the line she started to feel dizzy, and halfway down the hall she had to lean one hand on the wall again just to keep her balance.

“Elena!” She didn’t turn to see who it was, but the pounding footsteps soon caught up with her, and Carlo was by her side. “Elena this is a seriously bad idea.”

“If Master De Luca and Bea and Pietro want to keep secrets among themselves, then fine. They run the studio, they can do what they want.” Elena pursed her lips. “But I’m a garzona, same as you all! If you can know what happened last night, why can’t I? And how am I supposed to compete with you if you know more than I do?”

“If you burst into his office in this mood, you’re going to really get on his bad side, then you’ll really struggle to compete.” Carlo gave her a worried look. “And you don’t seem to be at the top of your game right now anyways. Please just…at least get some sleep before you do something big like this.”

“Stop sticking your neck out for her.” Carla walked by Carlo’s side. “It’s not worth it.”

“It doesn’t hurt anything to try to help her.” He replied to his Echo, and Elena was glad the attention was off of her when she almost stumbled.

“If she wants to sacrifice her spot here, let her. We’ve gotten this far by not sticking our necks out. She’s not worth risking that.” Carla repeated. As the threesome passed the head of a set of stairs, another voice broke in.

“Oi! Someone having a party and forgot to invide me?” Niccolo, the Saggitari garzoni, took the stairs two at a time, an easy grin on his face. He had his bow slung over one shoulder and a quiver dangling carelessly from one hand, his leather shouldergaurds creaking as he walked. “Hello Carlo, Carla. They told us you were sick in bed today Elena.”

“She knows.” Carlo informed him as Niccolo’s Echo followed up the stairs. “She must’ve seen something last night, I don’t know. She’s going to go yell at Master De Luca.”

“That’s not a very smart move.” Niccolo’s brow furrowed. “Besides, she doesn’t look very well. Elena are you alright?”

“Dizzy.” Elena mumbled. She was still bracing herself on the wall, but the wall was rocking back and forth gently, and she didn’t trust herself to walk.

“Why are you letting her go up to De Luca in this state?” Niccolo asked Carlo and Carla.

“I’m trying to stop her!” Carlo protested. “I’m telling her all the reason she shouldn’t go, I’m making a very convincing argument…” His voice died out at the resigned look on Niccolo’s face. The Saggitari wordlessly handed Carlo his quiver and bow, then swept Elena up in his arms and began walking towards the dorms.

“Oh!” Elena gasped, but the world was spinning so much that she could hardly argue. She let him carry her without protest, breathing in his surprisingly pleasant scent of leather tinged with…some sort of flower? If she had to guess what Niccolo smelled like, she wouldn’t have anticipated that. The two smells went nicely together, but the lurching room suddenly took her mind off of them. “Too dizzy.”

“I would really appreciate it if you didn’t vomit on me.” Niccolo smiled down at her. It was a nice smile, though she apparently thought every boy had a nice smile. She did notice that it was entirely unlike Arturo’s hungry smile had been; a little softer and warmer. It reminded her of the smell of leather and flowers.

“Okay.” She replied.

“Oh my god Niccolo, you’re shameless. You already have one of the new garzona crushing on you, are you planning on collecting the full set?” Niccolo’s Echo rolled her eyes.

“Nicci thinks I act the way I do so that girls will love me.” Niccolo dropped his voice to a stage whisper, leaning towards Elena conspiratorially. “Little does she know girls love me no matter how I act.”

“The goal is for her to not vomit on you, mister peacock.” Nicci laughed, and Elena giggled along with her. Niccolo turned to open the door to her room with his back, then crossed the distance to her bed with a few long strides. Elena felt so weak that she was grateful when he gently pulled the covers over her.

“I doubt you’ll be comfortable sleeping in those clothes, but I’ll leave it to you to take care of that.” He chuckled with a wink as he turned to leave. At the doorway he turned back, his face series. “Listen…if you’re still convinced to confront De Luca tomorrow after you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, promise me you’ll talk to me first.”

“Carlo got a crack at you, maybe our arguments will make more sense.” Nicci added.

“Okay.” Elena mumbled, already feeling sleep steal over her again. It couldn’t hurt to let them talk. The door shut quietly, and in the silence of the room Elena closed her eyes and tried to focus on stopping the dizzyness. Her stomach roiled a bit, and she was reminded that she hadn’t had anything to eat all day.

“Elena?”

“You’re awake!” Elena smiled and opened heavy eyes to see Ele standing by her bed, grinning down at her.

“Yeah, but I’m really sleepy still. Do you mind if I lay in the bed?”

Elena patted the blankets, and Ele flopped down to lie beside her. The pair fell asleep together, their hands resting in the same place on the blanket.

 


 

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7 responses

  1. Oh man, I’ll bet ALL of y’all thought Elena was really dead at the end of the last chapter. What a twist, right?

    Now I have a fun game for you guys: Somewhere in this chapter is something that LOOKS like a typo, but is actually NOT a typo. If you find it, you get Special Bonus Maddi Points (Redeemable at all reputable liquor stores. If your liquor store doesn’t accept SBMP, they’re clearly not reputable)

    Like

    2014-08-13 at 9:50 pm

  2. Dvo

    Is it the part where it says things usually quiet down in the other four seasons (implying 5 seasons?)

    Like

    2014-08-14 at 10:33 am

    • Whoa! Very first guess, and you’re spot on!

      *Maddi transfers exactly 32.47SBMP to DVo’s account*

      Like

      2014-08-14 at 11:06 am

  3. Oooh – intrigue and enemies. Love it! Can’t wait for the next chapter.

    Like

    2014-08-17 at 9:57 pm

    • I’m glad you liked it :)

      And thank you Mister E_Foster for your lovely review of Twisted Cogs on Web Fiction Guide! It really brightened my day!

      Like

      2014-08-17 at 11:27 pm

  4. tijay

    Hiems – winter
    Aestas – summer
    Autumnus – fall
    Ver – spring
    Verems – spinter

    Like

    2014-08-23 at 1:58 pm

  5. Interesting as hell reactions to everything! I’m stuck between thinking this is a full gorzana attack on the newbies to keep their spots, or something De Luca ordered to force competition amongst his apprentices. Either way, it has as awesome feel to it – almost like Battle Royale, in that there’s this damning need to win at all costs. This is definitely more of what I want as far as the rivalries go! :D

    Like

    2015-04-13 at 4:40 pm

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