A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.6 – Somnia et Studios I {Dreams and Studios Pt 1}

“We’ve given the matter some thought, Elena, and discussed things among ourselves.” Marsillo looked grave, his unattached hands clasped in front of him in a gesture that would seem normal if he’d had arms. Elena had almost been able to enjoy herself, the stars and perfect temperature lulling her into a sense of comfort she hadn’t been able to feel in the past few weeks. Now that the Twisted had returned, the comfort was slipping away, replaced by the anxiety that was becoming more and more familiar. She slipped from the chair and faced the Twisted, her stomach in knots.

“We feel that anyone unable to give us their name and location must be considered an enemy, to be hunted down with extreme prejudice, and…ah quelsa de tori I can’t do this with a straight face.” Marsillo’s face broke into a smile.

“She said she was having a hard few days Marsillo, that was cruel,” the Grinning Girl scolded, her wide mouth turning down into a slight frown, “Elena, we are perfectly fine with you sharing only what you are comfortable with. You understand that some of us, Little One especially, will be a tad more careful about what we tell you about ourselves, and it will be slightly more tricky for us to help you with your Storm if you aren’t wanting to share specific details, but none of that should be too much of a problem when you visit in the future.”

Elena felt a wave of relief at the girl’s words. She decided that she quite liked the Grinning Girl, no matter how sharp her many, many teeth were.

“I can come back here? You’re still going to help me with my Storm?” She asked.

“We wouldn’t dream of leaving a sister of ours alone in this cruel world!” Black Furs walked through the table, which melted away as he moved, resuming his seat. “Twisted look out for each other, my dear, and there is no question that you are one of us. Being a little paranoid is a trait that should be encouraged, if anything.”

“I wish I had learned that lesson far earlier in my career,” the plain woman chuckled, and Elena’s stomach lurched.

“I was…put into a bad situation, recently, because someone sabotaged my work,” Elena admitted.

“You poor thing!” The Grinning Girl took Elena by the hand and gently led her back to her seat. “It’s a sad truth of being Twisted; you’ll be no stranger to jealousy, anger, and mistrust.”

“Now I feel ashamed for teasing you earlier,” Marsillo said.

“It’s alright, I’m used to it,” Elena smiled, and Marsillo returned the smile, inclining his head slightly in acknowledgement of the forgiveness.

“So Elena, tell us how we can help you,” Black Furs adopted a businesslike attitude, as far as Elena could tell without being able to focus on his face. “We won’t be able to give you our normal boosts of financial or political support, but may the Storm take me if we can’t assist a Sister Twisted somehow.”

Elena thought the matter over. She really did want political help, if they could provide it; help like that could potentially boost her into the Florenzian court just as easily as De Luca’s help would, depending on who they were. But she had promised Ele, and so would have to figure something out that didn’t involve telling them who or where she was. The ribbon-faced man and the black liquid person began talking in quiet tones about some large dinner being planned, and Elena liked the fact that she could take the time to actually think through the question without anyone getting impatient with her.

“My problems lately stemmed from the fact that I still don’t know what my Storm does,” she said finally. “Did any of you have problems where your Storm just…didn’t work?”

“All of us,” the plain woman answered. “Every single one of us could tell you stories, times when our Storm seemed to fail us at the most inopportune moments, sometimes at great cost.”

“I have a scar just above my eye because of it,” the Grinning Girl said.

“My brother refuses to talk to me,” Marsillo said.

“Because my Storm failed me when I needed it most, the only woman I ever loved is dead.” The black liquid person said quietly.

“I…I’m so sorry,” Elena was horrified at the sudden gravity of the room, “I didn’t know.” She cared very much about her career as a Fabera, but suddenly her trials seemed very petty in comparison.

“This is why we welcome new Twisted with open arms,” Black Furs said. “So that they do not have to suffer the same slings and arrows of outrageous fortune the we had to bear.”

“The trick, you see, is all about context,” Ribbon Face explained. “As far as I’ve found in my research, no other Stormtouched has to concern themselves with such matters, but for us, context is everything.”

“But…that makes no sense,” Elena said, “the Storm isn’t a living thing, it can’t tell what the context of a situation is.”

“Perhaps we humans can only use our Storm when we’re ready, or maybe we don’t know as much about the Storm as we’d like to think we do. Think back to when you’ve successfully used your Storm; what was the common factor? What linked them all?”

Elena obediently cast her mind back to consider her Fabera accomplishments. There had been a range of emotions, situations, and purposes when she’d built things, so many that she couldn’t think of any similarities that spanned them all. She’d been panicked when she built her lockpicks, worried when she plotted the plans of her little studios, she’d been contended when she made the furniture for her mother’s shop in Carpi.

“It might not have to do with mood,” the plain woman broke in, “in some cases the Storm seems to require even more specific contexts. For example, has someone been present when your Storm worked?”

“Just Ele,” Elena said.

“And was Ele around when you weren’t able to use your Storm?”

“No, he was there too.”


The group grew quiet for a moment.

“This is something we’ll all have to give some thought to,” Black Furs said with a yawn, “but I’m afraid I must be up early. I have an appointment with a certain loudmouthed official in the morning. I very much to not enjoy the prospect, and when I’m done with him he won’t either.”

“Go easy on our good friend the Count,” the plain woman said gently, “he just lost a son to the Turks.”

“Ah,” Black Furs gave a sigh, “perhaps some leniency is in order then. Anyways, this is neither here nor there. Elena, you are welcome back at any time, of course.”

“Thank you,” Elena gazed at the assembled Twisted, tears filling her eyes. “This was…I really needed this.”

“You poor thing,” the plain woman stepped forward to wrap her arms around Elena in a hug. Elena forced herself to resist the urge to scream and flinch, accepting the hug but only breathing easily again after the plain woman had stepped away.

“We will see you again soon, Elena Luc-ci-ano,” Black Furs said sleepily. The focusing problems that plagued her in the dream world suddenly got worse, and before she knew it she was blinking at the ceiling of the Inn.

Ele was standing at the window, looking out at the city. He didn’t turn when Elena sat up in bed, stretching and enjoying the sight of the morning light warming the tiny room. Frell lept from where she had been curled on the ground, pushing her little muzzle against Elena’s hand.

“I didn’t tell them where we were,” Elena said, petting the wooden ermine.

“Thank you,” Ele said. “I know I don’t have a lot of reason for you to take my word for it, but there’s just something that sets me on-edge about that place. About them.”

“The Twisted have helped me, Ele. Having the Studio made me I feel like a big family. Like they’re the only ones on my side anymore. Them, and you.”

“Well then,” Ele gestured towards the door. “Let’s go out and find you a new family.”


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17 responses

  1. Short chapter today my lovely readers, and probably riddled with errors, but Thanksgiving’ll do that to ya.

    I hope to come back and edit this when I have the time, but meanwhile, enjoy!


    2014-11-27 at 12:27 am

  2. Unmaker

    I very much to not enjoy the prospect
    I very much do not enjoy the prospect

    Happy Thanksgiving!


    2014-11-27 at 6:31 am

  3. “Made me I feel like a big family.” -> weird grammar meltdown here. May want to look at that.

    Really great chapter. Definitely defines the “twisted” a bit more, which is good, because we still have no idea what or who they are.


    2014-11-27 at 11:12 am

  4. something in common every time? why yes, there was. She was helping someone else.


    2014-11-27 at 9:48 pm

    • DeNarr

      Eh, I don’t think that’s quite true either. When she broke into the studio, her storm was going off giving her information about the place (like the fact that they previously had a Fabera). I can’t really see that as helping someone else.


      2014-11-28 at 8:44 am

      • But she was helping herself in that instance. She wanted to get as much information to help her create her own studio one day. Helping yourself is still helping.

        The one that seems to break pattern is when she couldn’t get her storm to work when trying to create that new bow for Niccolo. Looking at it from another angle, it is possible that there was no way to truly help him by building him a new bow so her Storm had nothing to work with. As a side effect of this, she inadvertently helped Lorenzo with his project so maybe her Storm was able to sense that not building the bow would be of more help than building a bow.

        Helping being the common factor certainly seems plausible and would be an extension of Elena’s personality but I can’t help but feel it’s not quite right. I always thought her Storm had more to do with her own curiosity or desire to solve a puzzle because I have a feeling that the look of the Twisted reflects their Storm somehow.


        2014-11-28 at 9:18 am

  5. AvidFan

    …… Don’t think I didn’t notice the date change… There’s a special place in Hades for scum like you… I think it’s called the Elysian Fields…


    2014-12-03 at 11:59 pm

    • D’aw, I wasn’t trying to sneak one past you there AvidFan. I’ll tell you what, how about I make the next few chapters super-awesome to make up for missing this update? :)


      2014-12-07 at 11:27 pm

  6. Andrew Lister

    “I wish I had learned that less far earlier in my career,”
    Here’s another bit of ‘meltdown’, I’m afraid. I _think_ it makes sense, possibly even what you intended, if you just delete the word ‘less’.

    Another thing, in this and the previous chapter, where you break her names into syllables—if it really is Italian they are speaking—Lucciano is only three syllables, not four, because the i is not enunciated, it just serves to turn the cc into a ch sound, so, quasi phonetically, Lu’chaa-no. Without the i, it would be a bit more like Luc’car-no (i.e., like Luke).
    Sorry to be so pedantic! Still looking forward to the next chapter. I like it that the cogs are finally starting to twist…


    2014-12-04 at 5:27 am

    • Woops…the phrase I was going for there was “I wish I had learned that lesson far earlier in my career”, but it appears the “on” got lost on its way to the sentence :D

      Elena’s last name is pronounced “Lu-chi-a-no”, the difference in pronunciation probably an artifact of some of the subtle changes in language between our world and the world in which Twisted Cogs takes place. That being said, I’m almost sure I’ve messed up the way Black Furs enunciates her name at some point or another in the past, so I’ll be sure when I go back to do final edits that it’s consistent!

      Thanks for the great catches!


      2014-12-07 at 11:23 pm

  7. AvidFan

    I’m not sure if it’s late, or if it just hasn’t reached midnight for you yet…
    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. No need to add another black mark to the scoreboard after the date change. >;)


    2014-12-07 at 7:32 pm

    • Oh ye of little faith :-P

      Still on track to deliver tonight, don’t worry. After my rather lackluster week last week, I’m just trying to make sure the last chapter of Book 1 is as perfect as I can make it


      2014-12-07 at 7:43 pm

  8. maybem

    Had Hamlet been written by Renaissance not!Italy or is Black Furs actually Shakespeare?

    (in other news I can’t believe I had forgotten this existed for half a year and then I come back and everything is twice as lovely as I had remembered)


    2015-01-03 at 9:02 pm

    • Hamlet has NOT yet been written at this point :) aaand that’s all I’m going to say about that.

      (Welcome back :D I’m glad you’re still enjoying the story! Loveliness is exactly what I’m aiming for, so I’m pleased to hear I’m still hitting the mark)


      2015-01-05 at 12:13 am

  9. Anonymous

    The Twisted sequences are very cool, but there’s one thing I don’t get. Elena straight up told them her name and they say it constantly, but at some points they act like they don’t know her name and are pressuing her to tell them. Is it a quirk of the dream world where she thinks she told them her real name but she actually told them an alias like “Cogmaster”? Or do they think “Elena Lucciano” is an alias and they don’t realize it’s her real name?

    Book 1 Chapter 3.6
    “Elena,” Elena introduced herself. Tears began to well up in her eyes, all she wanted to do was to wake up, but she fought them back and introduced herself properly. “Elena Lucciano. It’s a pleasure to meet you too.”

    “El-en-na Lucc-i-a-no.” Black Furs said the name as if each syllable were a delicacy he was savoring.

    Book 1 Chapter 5.6
    “We feel that anyone unable to give us their name and location must be considered…”


    2015-04-14 at 7:10 pm

    • One aspect to the Twisted that I don’t think I explored as much as I could’ve (and I hope to explore more in the edits of Book 1) is that, whatever else you might say of them, these people are very very security-conscious and used to playing politics. They are very exact about the words they use, and the thought that someone would hide their location but reveal their real name honestly hasn’t occurred to most of them.

      In a strange way, Elena’s naive and trusting nature makes her just as able to play political games as any of them, simply because it’s so unexpected!


      2015-04-14 at 9:04 pm

      • Thinker6

        Wow! Yeah, your writing definitely gave me the impression that they were paranoid and security-conscious enough to think she gave them an alias, but it’s still surprising because it’s such a comedy of errors situation. I guess if they ever do manage to track her down, they’ll have a head-desk moment when they realize she gave them her true name and was hiding in plain sight.

        Liked by 1 person

        2015-04-14 at 10:14 pm

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