A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

2.7 – Par et Iterum Revertimini {The Pair Get Back Together}

The day had only just begun and it already seemed like it would be better than the one before. The room wasn’t spinning, Ele was awake at the foot of her bed, and Elena could lift her head with only a little bit of extra effort, and she counted it as a win.

“Elena, before you say a single word,” Ele held up a hand, “I have something to say. This is the first time we’ve ever slept at different times, and the time alone has given me a chance to decompress, to work through some things in my mind. The whole experience has taught me something very valuable. Something I’d like to share with you.”

“Of course Ele.” Elena struggled to sit up, giving her Echo her full attention. “What has it taught you?”

“It’s taught me about you Elena.” Ele leaned closer, his eyes bright and serious. “It has taught me that you snore so freaking loudly.”

Elena threw a pillow at him, and he laughed as it passed through him to fall on the floor.

“Seriously, ‘Lena, it sounded like a puppy with breathing problems trying to slurp porridge. You would tell me if you’d eaten a puppy live, right?”

“You are quite literally the worst person ever.” Elena couldn’t keep the angry look on her face for more than a few seconds. She couldn’t remember him ever calling her by a nickname before. “I was worried about you.”

“Bea told me.” Ele smiled. “She said you were so worried that you kept asking about me before launching into nosy interrogations about what happened. I told her she must be mistaken, you aren’t physically capable of putting off your nosiness.” Out of pillows to hurl, Elena merely stuck out her tongue.

“I missed you.”

“I missed you too. Now,” Ele sat up straighter, suddenly all business, “since I am bound to the queen of nosiness, I might as well reap the benefits of it. What did you learn? What happened last night? They said you were knocked out right after I was.”

“They won’t tell me. Master De Luca, Bea, Pietro, they all know, and the full garzoni all know too, but they’re all refusing to share. Bea even warned me that they’d kick me out if I told Leanarda, Mella, or Lorenzo.”

“So.” Ele rubbed his chin, staring into space. “Only keeping it to the people who have been here the longest, the people who will have the most loyalty to the studio. Which means the studio stands to lose something if the secret gets out.”

Elena blinked. She hadn’t considered the mystery from that angle before.

“So the question we have to ask ourselves is ‘what could the studio lose if it was known that a student and her echo were knocked out?’”

“I was shot in the chest, not knocked out.” Elena said quietly. In the morning light two days after the fact it felt strange to say, and she prayed Ele wouldn’t instantly reply with something condescending and snarky. She knew it had happened, the memory was still fresh in her mind, but the fact that she was sitting in bed alive seemed to contradict her statement.

“You were shot in the chest. ‘Shot’ as in ‘with an arrow’, ‘in the chest’ as in ‘the place your heart and lungs reside’.” Ele repeated in a flat voice.

“Yes.” Elena said.

“And now, two days later, you’re sitting up in bed, feeling perfectly fine?”

“Yes.” She bit her lips and looked down at the blanket.

“Well then, we’ll need to figure out how you were healed so fast, and if there was anything special about the arrow.”

“What?” Elena looked up, startled, to find Ele already on his feet and pacing, his brow furrowed in thought. “You believe me?” Ele raised an eyebrow at her as if she had just asked if the sky was really blue.

“Do you feel up to standing?” He asked, not deigning to answer her question. “If you can come into the next room we can gather some information.”

She followed him into the water closet that adjoined the room. Walking was a little bit easier today, and the dizziness had left altogether. Her reflection in the large mirror on one side of the room showed her a bedraggled girl with dark circles under her eyes, her tanned skin a little paler, her black hair a little stringy.

“I look a mess.” Elena said, glancing to Ele’s reflection where his black hair lay in its casually messy perfection. Neither his skin nor his eyes bore any sign of being affected by their recent ordeal, which Elena thought was quite unfair.

“Yes you do, but we’re not here to admire ourselves.” Ele had adopted a businesslike tone. “Take your shirt off.” Elena gave him a blank look. “So we can examine where you were hit, check for scars, get more information.” He clarified.

Elena slipped her loose shirt off, then slowly tugged at her undershirt, uncharacteristic bashfulness creeping over her.

Calzini di dio Elena, we’ve been around each other almost every day of our lives, do you really think I haven’t seen them before?” Ele said with an exasperated eye-roll.

“You’ve always turned your back when I changed, ever since we were children! When have you seen them?” Elena asked indignantly. Despite her annoyance it did make her feel more comfortable, and she stripped off her undershirt and turned to the mirror.

“Just now.” Ele grinned. Elena glared at him, feeling the blush creeping from her cheeks down to her exposed chest. “Huh…you’ve always complained so much that I expected them to be smaller. You should start wearing clothes that accentuate them more.”

“…literally the worst person ever.” Elena muttered, turning back to the mirror and blushing so hard she felt overwarm. She did think her breasts were small, but that was hardly something she was going to argue about with Ele right now. He wasn’t all wrong though, maybe she could start buying clothes the accentuated the little she had…she wondered if clothing was one of the things Master De Luca’s studio would pay for…

“If you’re quite done ogling yourself,” Ele interrupted her musing, “what do you make of this?” He pointed carefully, and Elena leaned closer to the mirror to make out what he meant. Just between her breasts, the skin had been broken by a mark the size of a pinprick.

“You think the arrow did that?” Elena asked.

“Not likely. An arrow that small would’ve gone right through you, and you don’t have a matching mark on your back.” Ele said. “Besides the fact that something that small going through you would cause damage. Bleeding on the insides and all.”

“I also saw the arrow.” Elena said. “It was a lot thicker than that, and it definitely stuck out of my front.” Her temples started prickling with the buzzing of the Storm, but she ignored it; she didn’t need to build anything right now. She carefully pressed at the pinprick. “It hurts. There’s a circle around the pinprick that’s sore.”

“A large arrow hit you. It didn’t actually pierce skin or you’d be dead, but you did pass out.” Ele was pacing back and forth again, ticking things off on his fingers. “What if the arrow had a flat head? It would’ve knocked the wind out of you, and left that area of your chest sore. Of course that doesn’t explain why it stuck, or the pinprick, or the fact that you passed out.”

“What if we’re looking at it wrong?” The Storm’s buzzing was so strong in Elena’s temples it was making her feel heady. “What if it’s not a pinprick but something like a snake’s bite?”

“Something sharp enough to pierce the skin, then injects a venom? Who the hell could make an arrow like that?”

“A Machinator could make an arrow like that. An arrow with a flat head that sticks to skin, injects a venom.”

“But that sort of arrow would be expensive to manufacture, and if it didn’t strike true the first time it would be ruined. They wouldn’t want to risk it. A smart Machinator would give the arrow to someone who wouldn’t miss.”

“So.” Ele nodded. “A Saggitari and a Machinator worked together to attack the studio, knocking you and Vittoria both out but not killing you.”

“Even though it would’ve been much easier to just kill us. It sounds like a stretch but…it feels right.” Elena was glad she didn’t have to explain just what felt right about it, because Ele was nodding. The buzzing of her power had thankfully stopped, and she worked the new information around in her mind. “It doesn’t really tell us anything about why though, does it? If we just knew what they were here for, or why they were so merciful…Ele stop staring at my boobs!”

“I may be an Echo, but I’m still human.” Ele grinned, but he turned towards the door. “The cooks will probably be starting breakfast soon, so why don’t you use the rainsluice and I’ll wait outside.” She couldn’t tell with his back turned, but she would be willing to bet that he was still grinning as he slipped through the wall.

Elena stepped into the small rainsluice cubicle, shucking off her pants and underclothes as she went. At home they couldn’t afford a luxuries like a water closet or a rainsluice, but she had used one before during an extended visit to the Carpi Mayor’s estate. A handle hung in the middle of the cubicle on a chain, and she braced herself and pulled it.

She was expecting the water to be ice cold like the Carpi Mayor’s, and when it turned out to be pleasantly warm she gasped with surprise. After the coughing subsided, she enjoyed the warm droplets that fell from the ceiling like rain, rinsing the sweat and grime of the past few days from her skin. When she stepped out of the water closet a few minutes later she felt refreshed and re-energized, although it still took larger amounts of effort than usual to move her muscles.

Changing into fresh clothes made her feel even better, and when one of the cooks came to the door Elena was feeling almost entirely back to normal. His long grey hair was tied back in a ponytail, and he seemed in excellent spirits as well.

“I em come to see if you helpink mit breakfast today.” He said. “Leetle marble boy say mebbe you helpink, mebbe you sick. You look like you helpink, yes?”

“I’ll help, I’m feeling much better this morning.” Elena smiled. The cook returned her smile and held the door for her.

“Is good. De Luca and marble boy, they worry of you. Your other garzoni, some of them worry of you too.”

“Really? I wouldn’t have thought they’d care.”

“Some of them, much care. They ask of your health, they seem sad for you.” The cook chatted away as they walked down the halls, much more animated than he had been when she had last seen him.

“You seem in a good mood today, Mister…?”

“‘Cook’, miss garzona, you call me ‘Cook’.” Cook smiled. “And am in good mood. Master De Luca gave extra help.” He gestured when they entered the kitchen, and Elena jumped.

The man had blonde hair and blue eyes, and a smear of powdery flour half-obscured the mask he wore. Wearing a white apron and with his hands up to his elbows in heavy dough, the Rhetor gave Elena a brief nod before returning to kneading. In the corner a slightly plump man clad in the black armor of a Rhetorguard gave them an equally brief nod.

“Master De Luca hired a Rhetor to help in the kitchens?” Elena asked.

“Hire two. I like this one. He follow orders, he no talk.” Cook nodded sagely.

“I think De Luca wanted to take advantage of a two-for-one deal.” The Rhetorguard said wryly. “He gives us both room and board, and he gets the security of a guard that has to stay in his studio, but he only has to pay my Rhetor wages. I’m Eric, by the way.”

“Pleased to meet you Eric.” Cook handed Elena the same bowl of cream he had before, and she started whisking. “What’s your Rhetor’s name?”

“Don’t think he has one.” Eric didn’t seem like much of a talker, content to just lean back with and rest his hands on his stomach. If not for the steady gaze he kept on the blonde Rhetor’s back, Elena thought he would be napping. “Although his friend just got a name. Pretty unusual, but she seems to be pretty happy about it.”

“De Luca hire two masks.” Cook explained. “I send friend for fetch fresh tomatoes. Is back soon.”

“His friend?” Ele asked. Elena didn’t need to look up to see who it was who had just entered, she could tell from the way her Echo’s eyes lit up.

Standing in the doorway, clearly smiling behind her mask, Emerald gave Ele a little wave.


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6 responses

  1. I’ve been loving all the great comments recently, they make me all warm and fuzzy inside!

    If you’ve been enjoying Twisted Cogs, you can make sure other people find it by voting for it on TopWebFiction!

    I’m not saying that every vote will make Elena feel a tiny bit better about her breast size, but I am heavily implying it while Elena gives sad doe-eyes just behind me.

    Liked by 1 person

    2014-08-17 at 11:22 pm

  2. zeuseus

    Yay, More Rheor stuff XD

    I love the rhetor stuff we’ve seen so far

    Like

    2014-08-18 at 1:06 am

  3. Seriously, the budding friendship between them and Emerald is the most stupidly adorable part of this story. :D Oh my God, I love it. Or maybe I just love Emerald. And again, I don’t even know what she does yet!

    I guess this also means Keif’s back? He was a good guy – I’m looking forward to more of him.

    I’m enjoying how reasonable Elena’s and Ele’s reactions are. They don’t wander around doe-eyed about mysteries; they figure the problems the hell out, and I love their determination towards that. It also means you’re knocking down the easy answers, so the real answers should be extra amazing. No pressure!

    Like

    2015-04-13 at 4:51 pm

    • it also seems like elena’s power is well suited to solving mysteries, and not just of physical objects!

      Like

      2015-08-28 at 3:52 pm

      • I know! I don’t know if Storm powers are super specialized, so if you’re really good at solving physical puzzles, maybe you can’t assume you’ll be good at logical thinking types puzzles. So is it something she might have to work up to or maybe something she has to leave to someone else…?

        Like

        2015-09-06 at 7:51 pm

  4. Typo:

    couldn’t afford a luxuries
    ___________
    remove ‘a’

    Like

    2016-12-12 at 10:04 pm

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