A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.8 – Territi Animalia {Frightened Animal}

Elena stared at the ceiling of her room, waiting for the sun to rise. In the corner Ele was probably awake as well, but it seemed like too much effort to turn her head and look. The bell that warned of people entering and leaving the kitchen had been taken down, and was coiled up neatly in a pile on her bedside table, but it was late enough in the morning that she suspected people were there. She shivered at the thought of the kitchens, even though the bite of late-autumn’s chill was muffled by her blankets.

“Elena,” Ele said from the corner.

“I can tell what you’re going to say by the sound of your voice, so don’t bother saying it,” Elena would’ve snapped, but her voice was hoarse from crying and it instead came out in a rasp.

“You couldn’t possibly know what I was going to say,” Ele said from the chair.

“You’re talking in a gentle voice like you’d talk to a hurt horse, and you’re going to say it was horrible but I’ve had a whole two days and I need to get up and go about my life like normal.”

Mihi supra serpentes, your Storm has given you the gift of mind-reading!” Ele gasped, clearly trying to joke, “truly you have more power than we realized, we should try to capitalize on this by learning what we can of your Storm!”

Elena rolled over so her back was to Ele, curling into a ball beneath the covers.

“I’m not really in the mood for jokes right now Ele.”

“Alright, no jokes, sorry.” Ele’s voice grew serious, “Elena I’m sorry that I’m doing this, I really am, if it were up to me I’d let you take just as long as you needed to recover, but De Luca’s schedule isn’t up to me unfortunately, and you were already behind before. You can’t afford to spend your time like this, curled in your room hiding from humans and the light like a cockroach.”

You didn’t see. Elena didn’t want to argue with Ele, so she responded only in her head. You ran for help and didn’t see any of it.

“Elena, please just talk to me,” Ele’s voice came from right next to her bed, and she winced in spite of herself, “just tell me what’s going on in your head and maybe I can help you with it.”

You weren’t there.

“Nothing’s going on in my head Ele, it’s blank. There’s nothing to help with. I’m just really tired, that’s all.” Elena didn’t expect Ele to believe her, but she also didn’t particularly care.

“Ah, well at least you finally admit that your mind is blank,” Ele joked, “maybe you’ll finally admit that I know what I’m talking about then. You’ll feel better after a shower and something to eat, you must be famished-”

“Can you please just go away Ele?” Elena interrupted quietly. “I want to be alone right now.” Ele’s footsteps were silent, but she somehow knew that he had left, slipping out of a door or wall to leave her in peace. Sunbeams slipped through her window, and Elena watched the motes of dust floating through them, staring without seeing.

In her mind’s eye the scenes replayed themselves with perfect clarity, mixed with the sensations that flashed across her just as strong as when they’d first happened. Her stomach fluttered with the panic of anticipating a night of being tortured or worse. Her heart wrenched with the feeling of nauseating horror and shameful relief of seeing the bloom of blood spurt from Slug’s throat. Her ears tingled with Fran’s broken pleading as she was ripped away from reality. Elena hadn’t seen Erik’s death, so she didn’t think it was fair that it played through her head as well, the image of Garnet’s disconcerned smile as he stabbed the Rhetorgaurd over and over and over again.

And all of it is your fault. A voice whispered in her head, a voice that for some reason sounded like her mothers’. If you had reported Erik to the Guardhouse he would’ve lost his job, but at least he would’ve still been alive. Slug and Fran wouldn’t be dead right now if it weren’t for you. If you had been a little smarter about Cross’ bolts, none of this would’ve happened in the first place.

The door to her room behind her opened, but she didn’t care enough to turn. Strong arms grabbed her shoulders, gently but firmly turning her over. Elena screamed, flailing and kicking, trying to find purchase on her attacker with her nails, but they held her firm, and the panic rose in her stomach and threatened to overwhelm her.

“Elena, calm down, sub astra it’s just me, calm down little Fabera,” Niccolo said in soothing tones, but Elena couldn’t calm down, not when he was grabbing her like that, and her breath came out in short gasps. He let go of her arm, and she slowly began to calm, focusing on breathing deeply. Behind Niccolo, Ele and Nicci stood at the doorway with twin expressions of concern.

“I said I wanted to be left alone,” Elena tried to say it indignantly, but it came out closer to a whimper.

“I know you do Elena, and I wish I could leave you to your space,” Niccolo said with concern, “but we can’t let you. I’m sorry. Go in and shower, and then we’ll go get some food in your belly.”

Elena glared at Niccolo, for once able to ignore the scent of leather and violets. When he didn’t seem to be affected she shot another glare over his shoulder at Ele. If they were really her friends they would leave her alone when she asked them to.

“I mean it Elena, either you go in there and wash or I’ll drag you in there and wash you myself.”

At one point the idea of Niccolo washing her would’ve made her blush from head to toe, but now it just created a sour feeling in the pit of her stomach. Elena curled her hands into fists, but stood and made her way into the water closet.

 


 

The shower didn’t make her feel any better, but it did make her feel cleaner. Niccolo and Ele led the way into the kitchens, and she followed with a glower. She hesitated at the doorway. It was stupid, she knew, but a part of her expected to still see Slug’s body splayed out on the ground, the blood-spatters and crying Echo that had in her mind irrevocably tainted the room. The cleanliness and brightness of the kitchen seemed wrong somehow, as if it was trying to pretend the ugliness never happened.

Niccolo, Nicci, and Ele waited patiently in the kitchen for her to take the faltering steps inside. Even beyond the oddness of the bright and clean lie, it felt strange with so few people inside it.

“Where is Emerald?” Elena asked.

“Rolf, he take Emerald to Guardhouse,” Cook was at the stove, mixing something in a huge pot. “He would no say why.”

“I hope the two of them aren’t being punished for Erik and Garnet’s…” Ele trailed off, clearly unsure of what to call it.

“Cook, we’re going to steal some food and your helper today, I hope that’s alright,” Niccolo was already grabbing some rolls from the platter on the table and transferring them to a plate.

“Ees fine. We miss having kitchen helper, but Jakob and I we handle kitchen just fine.” Cook seemed far more subdued than normal, and the effect was oddly calming on Elena’s nerves. It was right that he be subdued. Everyone should be subdued. The horror that had happened under the roof of the studio shouldn’t be so ignored and blase by everyone but her.

“I need to talk with Vittoria and Frederica,” Niccolo said, “you take this plate back to your room and I’ll meet you back there in a few minutes, alright?” Elena nodded and accepted the plate wordlessly, and Niccolo and Nicci left through the courtyard door.

The roll was good, she had to admit, soft and flakey and still warm from the oven. Nibbling on one corner, she walked down the hallway with the plate in her hand. Ele was silent until she walked by the door to her room without stopping.

“Where are you going Elena?” He asked cautiously. His tone of voice got on her nerves, that he still spoke as if she was a dangerous animal who needed to be kept calm.

“You and Niccolo both said I don’t have time to be alone, that I don’t have a choice but to work on my project,” she said, climbing the stairs to the workshop, “so that’s what I’m going to do.”

The workshop was also less busy than she would’ve expected. Only Leanarda, Mella, and Lorenzo worked at their workbenches.

“Hi Elena!” Lorenzo waved from his stool. Leanarda and Mella both gave her friendly smiles as well, and Elena gave them a brief nod in return as she sat her plate down on her desk. The random materials, pieces of cloth, a can of oil, paper and charcoal seemed to stare at her from the surface of her workstation, and she realized that she still didn’t have the faintest idea what to do for her project.

Normally she would try to talk it through with her Echo, but she wasn’t in the mood to talk to him yet. Instead she just continued nibbling at her roll and staring at the items on her desk. Maybe she could create some kind of flexible armor that could be worn under clothes…or a better mask for a Rhetor that they could eat through but never take off.

She shook her head. Her Storm wasn’t supplying anything, but that was hardly surprising; new inventions were the domain of the Machinator, and she was just a Fabera. She couldn’t build anything that hadn’t been built before. Perhaps she could design a sheath for a small knife she could wear underneath her clothes and access the second she needed it. Her temples buzzed as she turned the idea over; it could hang just beneath one shoulder, and when she needed it she could just reach into her sleeve and-

The mental image of Slug’s face in front of her as the knife sprouted from his neck struck her like a physical blow, and the buzzing in her temples and fingertips vanished as she shivered. No knives. Nothing violent. She would be glad if she never had to encounter real violence ever again.

“Hello there Elena.”

Elena jumped and almost shrieked for the second time in the day, turning fast on her chair to find Leanarda standing next to her. The other girl looked positively thrilled at something, but Elena didn’t like her smile. It was casual and light but somehow detached from anything that would make Elena smile. It reminded her of Garnet.

“What do you want?” Elena asked.

“Is it true that you killed a garzoni from Gitti’s studio?” Leanarda asked, almost breathless. Elena turned back to her desk and stared at the cloth and can of oil again. “Dulces sermones pabula it IS true! I didn’t believe it at first, but the rumor is going around…you’re still here, so I just assumed it must’ve been exaggeration or made up completely, but I can tell from your face it’s true! How did you manage to avoid getting arrested? Did De Luca pull strings or something? Why? Was he just saving face or do you have something on him?”

“I really don’t want to talk about this Leanarda,” Elena said quietly, “I’m just here to get some work done on my projects.”

“Oh, you still think De Luca is going to choose you as one of his four garzoni after killing someone? I envy you, I don’t think I could ever be that optimistic.” Leanarda smiled again, wider this time, “that’s a really good trait to have.”

“An even better trait is minding your own damned business,” Ele snapped. Elena returned to nibbling on her roll, content to let them fight it out and not really caring about the outcome, but before Leanarda could respond the door to the workshop opened.

“Elena,” Frederica barked, “De Luca wants to see you in his office.” Leanarda turned back to Elena, smirking. Elena stared blankly at Frederica and chewed for a few moments, briefly considering simply not going.

He’ll just send someone else if I don’t…or come himself, angrily. Elena gathered her second roll and followed Frederica, Ele trailing along. They moved in silence, for which Elena was grateful, their footsteps echoing along the marble hallways. When they turned right down a hallway instead of left, Elena stopped.

“De Luca’s offices are that way.”

“I know, I lied. Niccolo asked if you could work with us, which was dumb of him because obviously you can, but you weren’t in your room. Vittoria saw you in the workshop just now so they sent me to save you. Come on.” Elena didn’t think she needed saving, but she followed wordlessly until the three of them reached one of the dormitory doors. A small sketch of a woman eating fruit hung on the door, the eyes so lifelike that Elena knew at once who had drawn it. Vittoria must’ve been watching, because no one knocked and yet Niccolo opened the doorfor them.

The room was larger than Elena’s, and the bed had been pushed into one corner to make more space. Lanterns added to the light that streamed through the windows, and the whole room was so cozy and comfortable that it almost lifted Elena’s spirits in spite of herself. Nicci lounged in the corner next to the desk, and Niccolo walked back to his seat on the desk’s corner, picking up a half-fletched arrow and resuming his work. Frederica joined Fred in the other corner, where a six-foot block of wood stood with a rough figure half-carved in it.

“It’s good to see you, Elena and Ele,” Vittoria and Vi had been sitting on the bed with their backs to the wall, sketching, but Vittoria rose from her seat as soon as they entered, pulling the unused chair from the desk until it sat between the bed and the block of wood. “I saw you trying to concentrate in the workroom, and thought this would be a more peaceful place to work.”

“Thank you Vittoria,” Elena mumbled, sitting down and clasping her hands in her lap.

“I told you you’d be able to tell the difference between Vi and Vittoria eventually,” Niccolo smiled from the desk. Elena glanced back and forth between the girl and her Echo dispassionately. Their features were the same, but she had no difficulty telling the two apart, and she wondered why she had before. Somehow didn’t seem a very impressive feat to her now.

“Here you are,” Vittoria pressed a sketchpad and piece of charcoal into her hands without touching her. “The rest of us won’t bother you while you work.”

“But I don’t even know what I’m going to do,” Elena protested, “I don’t know what to make, nothing impressive like you all.”

“Then just doodle. Sketch a bunch of nothing. It’s alright, I have plenty of paper, and no one here will judge you.”

Vittoria settled back onto the bed with Vi and worked on her own sketches, and the room was quiet except for the scratch of charcoal on paper, the scrape of Frederica’s knives on the wood, or little rattles as Niccolo slid another arrow into his quiver. The room was warm, and the presence of people was soothing now that she didn’t have to worry about them talking to her.

Elena pulled her legs up onto the chair, took a deep breath, and began to sketch.

 


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10 responses

  1. Here’s me expecting something really bad due to Garnet’s escape. Well, this is fluff and I think Elena needs her fluff.

    Like

    2014-10-27 at 12:34 am

    • Unmaker

      You mean like Emerald getting killed for talking where here guard can hear? Mr. By-the-Book might do it.

      Like

      2014-10-27 at 7:35 am

      • Didn’t they have a smut interlude? Honestly I’m actually expecting him to swap for a different Rhetor, after all, it is neither of their faults what happened happened. Emerald is most likely going to be working for some other guy elsewhere and Rolf would get a new Rhetor to guard.

        Like

        2014-10-27 at 8:29 am

      • Jat

        He would weep, but yes, he would do it.

        Like

        2015-03-30 at 2:28 am

  2. I do hope that emerald will live.

    Like

    2014-10-27 at 7:28 am

    • I will be most upset if she doesn’t. I’m optimistic, though; her Rhetorguard seems a reasonable sort.

      Like

      2014-10-28 at 8:39 am

  3. Bobby

    …”My snakes above”? Is that the oath Ele uses?

    Like

    2014-10-28 at 2:04 pm

    • I think you’re the first person to try translating the Latinoza oaths people swear :)

      To be fair, a bunch of snakes hanging just above your head WOULD be pretty terrifying…

      Like

      2014-10-29 at 10:28 pm

      • Bobby

        Well, I don’t know about being the first person. I’ve been running them through Google Translate pretty much from the beginning and this is the first time I was so confused by the result I had to check I wasn’t missing something. So it’s entirely possible other people have been stealthily translating them without commenting about it.

        Like

        2014-10-30 at 4:10 am

  4. Reiskorn

    I dont know why but this is a beautiful chapter.
    Thank you!

    Like

    2017-04-01 at 11:16 pm

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