A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.6 – Rationibus et Capto {Arguments and Grabber}

“The Storm has a sick sense of humor.” Grabber resisted the urge to rub his eyes and nose with a charcoal-stained hand, instead just gritting his teeth and continuing to draw.

“If the charcoal dust is bothering you, you should take a break,” Arta was up in his Grabber’s bunk, painting something or other, and he rolled his eyes at her.

“It’s not as easy as that Arta, I can’t just take a break when I’ve got things to do. I have to bear through it, and just live with the pain. That’s how my Storm works, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well learn to live with it.”

“That’s a very positive way of looking at it,” Arta said.

Grabber frowned at his Echo’s cavalier attitude at his suffering. Sure, he was being positive, but she could at least offer some sympathy. He turned back to his drawing with a sigh. Nobody really paid attention to his pain, but then that wasn’t exactly new. He was used to people taking advantage of his kindness, it came with the territory of being such a nice person.

“What are you working on?” Arta asked from the bed.

“Another fire piece. They’ve been pretty effective so far, people are starting to remember me for them. I might switch to them exclusively.”

“Don’t you think there might be…kinder ways of handling fights?” Arta said carefully. Arturo scoffed, both at her mincing attitude and at her naiveté.

“Ugh, not this again. You don’t understand, I can be a nice person in everyday life, and people walk all over me but that’s fine. If I’m too nice in studio fights, people will still walk all over me, and that affects the whole studio.”

“I guess…” Arta said uncertainly. The charcoal flames that licked across the page began flickering, and Grabber leaned back, satisfied. He could tell his Echo was unconvinced, but as always she kept her reservations to herself like a coward. Another person might’ve called her out, yelled at her until she said what was on her mind, but Grabber wasn’t that kind of guy.

Taking great care to use the edges so he didn’t touch the surface of the paper, Grabber began rolling the paper into a tube.

“…I just sometimes wonder if we could-” Arta began suddenly, and Grabber’s finger slipped across the page.

“OW! Stultus delicatus vir sortis!” Grabber bellowed, clutching at his finger. The burn may have only been in his head, but the pain was real. “Didn’t you see me rolling this up you innattentive bitch?” He shrieked.

“Arturo I’m so sorry!” Arta clasped her hands to her mouth, “I didn’t realize I would startle you, are you okay? Is it bad?”

Grabber took a deep breath, fixing Arta with a glare, but he hadn’t touched the paper for very long and the pain was already subsiding.

“It’s fine, I forgive you,” he said with a wave of his hand. Most people wouldn’t have been so magnanimous, but then he was one of the nicer people out there. He carefully retrieved the paper from the floor, rolling it into a tube and depositing it into one of the leather tubes that awaited it.

“How many does that make?” Arta asked quietly.

“Enough, I think. Bandolier is full.”

“Do you think maybe-” She was interrupted by a knock on the door, and Grabber made a quick visual sweep of his desk before Elena stepped in.

“Sorry to interrupt Arturo, do you have a second?”

“Of course! For you, anything,” Grabber gave the desk a second glance, but the only sketches were of waves or snowstorms. “How can I help?”

“I vaguely remember in my books about Milia that there was a Faberi guild in this city,” Elena seemed a little intense, the fire still in her eyes from the night before. “Do you know where I can find it?”

“It’s near the walls, between Red and White streets,” Grabber narrowed his eyes, “not thinking of leaving us so soon, are you Elena?” As long as she was in the same studio as he was, Grabber was sure Elena would eventually come to her senses, dump the De Luca tool, and see how nice of a man had been by her side this whole time…but if she left the studio to join Faberi Guild, that made things difficult. “I was looking forward to seeing what Cog could do with DaRose behind her. If it’s Malatesta you’re worried about, I don’t think they’ll leave you alone just because you’ve left Studio DaRose.”

“No, I’m not leaving…and I’m definitely not running from Malatesta.” Elena seemed distracted, “I just need to figure some things out, and I realized they might be able to help me.”

“Do you want some company? I just wrapped up a sketch, I’d be happy to show you the way there.”

“No thank you, I can find it on my own. Thanks for the information, though.”

He waited until Elena had shut the door behind her to speak.

“Shoot, I should’ve said I didn’t know where it was and offered to help her look.”

“There’s no reason that Malatesta would go after Elena if she left, Arturo,” Arta said reproachfully.

“If she thinks there is, she’ll be more likely to stay with people she knows can protect her,” Grabber explained.

“It was a really transparent lie, and if you keep doing that she’s going to see right through you. It’s really going to hurt your chances with her!”

“You really just don’t know how to mind your own business do you?” Grabber growled. “I wish I had never told you about how I felt about her.”

“If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gone along with your plan of lying to her from the beginning, telling her you got her a spot in the studio.”

“This is exactly what I’m talking about, I don’t even get the slightest bit of loyalty from you, when you’re supposed to be on my side.”

“Trying to date a girl you like shouldn’t have ‘sides’!” Arta exclaimed.

“Just…just leave me alone, will you? Please? I can’t even stand to talk to you right now.”

After a few moments of silence Arta slipped from the bed. At the door she half turned, but Grabber resolutely ignored her until she left. Even so, her words still stung long after she was gone.

All I want is love, is that such a horrible thing? Why is it that so much to ask?

He rose and locked the door, giving the room a quick once-over for Echoes before reaching beneath his desk. Firmly secured to its underside was a small leather pouch, and he slipped the three rolls of paper from it, rolling them out on the desk.

He thought he had really captured Elena’s smile in the first one, the lopsided grin that went well with her snub nose. Closing his eyes, he brushed a hand across the charcoal surface, and for a moment he felt soft skin, the back of Elena’s hand brushing against his cheek. The second had been drawn from life, when both had been in the boiler room working. Her hair fell in her face, and she was biting her lower lip, a habit whenever she was lost in deep thought. It was his earliest drawing of her, and he noticed as he drew a finger across the lines that the edges of the picture were beginning to smudge. The scent of her hair, warm and bright, filled his nostrils. He breathed deeply for long moments after the scent faded, staring off into space and daydreaming.

The third was a bit risqué, drawn from imagination, of course, and was the one he would be most embarrassed for her to see. Elena emerging from the rainsluice, strands of wet hair clinging to the sides of her face. She was holding a towel, but it had fallen askance so that it just barely covered her, and her expression was one of pleased surprise. Grabber brushed a thumb gently across the lower edge of the picture, and for a single, glorious moment he felt the warm of her in his arms, felt her breathing next to him.

It faded all too soon, but he didn’t sample them again. It was difficult finding the time and privacy to draw them, and the majority of them weren’t touched by the Storm. Eventually enough of the charcoal would smudge that the picture would decay and become a flat, boring piece again, and he wanted to savor them for as long as he could before that point.

“It’s okay,” he consoled himself in a murmur as he rolled them up again. “Sometime, it’ll be for real…”

 

***

 

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?” Ele grumbled, looking up at the heavy snowfall and leaning into the heavy wind.

“That depends,” Elena said, “are you going to tell me where you got that coat from?”

Ele looked down at the oversized heavy coat, a rough brown leather with what looked like soft fur lining.

“I told you, it’s the same place Echoes get all of their clothes,” he shrugged.

“But you won’t tell me where that is.”

“I can’t! I told you from the beginning Elena it’s a secret I can’t share with you!”

“So no, you aren’t going to tell me where you got the coat,” Elena tugged at the sleeves of her own grey coat to keep the flakes of snow off of her wrists, “so no, I’m not going to tell you where we’re going. The difference is that eventually, you’ll find out where we’re going on your own.”

“Alright, I get it. I shouldn’t have changed into the coat. Excuse me for being excited about being able to change now.”

Elena grit her teeth to keep herself from snapping at him. The feeling had been constant ever since she woke up, the feeling that it would only take one more comment to push her past her breaking point. It dragged down on her shoulders in the same way the mallet dragged down on the strap of her wrist.

“If I had known changing my clothes would upset you so much, I would’ve stuck out the cold in my old clothes. It wouldn’t have been fun,” Ele shivered and glanced up at the snowfall again, “but I would’ve done it.”

“It’s not about clothes!” Elena stopped and whirled on her Echo. “I don’t care what you’re wearing, you can wear whatever outfit you want!” Even though the snow seemed to muffle every sound, her voice bounced off of the storefronts around them. “Even though you can’t feel the snow, so your choice of costume has less to do with the actual weather and more to do with your own vanity.”

“For your information, I’m allowed vanity now that it’s one of the few vices I can actually enjoy,” Ele’s tone was light and casual, a sure sign that Elena’s words had hurt him. “If not the change in clothes, what exactly has you in such a delightful mood this morning?”

“I don’t have any secrets from you. I’ve never had secrets from you,” Elena turned her back on him, “I don’t think I even can have secrets from you.”

“Honestly, Elena is that all? It really makes you so angry that you only know 99.999% of my life instead of 100?”

“No! It’s just…it’s coming at a time where I feel like I don’t have anything.” Elena knew she wasn’t making much sense, but she wasn’t quite sure how to articulate further. Ele was such a constant in her life, to have even the slightest jar to their relationship now hurt more than it should have. “Last night when Patchwork dropped my coin, I wanted to kill him. I wanted it so badly, and even my Storm was helping me…”

“That doesn’t sound like the Elena I know.”

“That’s what I thought this morning. That it wasn’t me at all. But you know what? Maybe that’s good. Maybe my Storm was trying to push me into being the Elena who’s actually worth something!”

“You are worth something, Elena, don’t tell me that stupid trash-talk Patchwork said actually got to you.”

“Just because it was trash talk didn’t make it untrue,” the strap was starting to dig into her wrist, and Elena hefted it angrily.

“If this is the ‘new Elena’ your Storm is turning you into, I’m not sure I like the new Elena,” Ele said darkly.

“I’ve lived my whole life as old Elena. What exactly has it gotten me? Old Elena wasn’t good enough for Studio De Luca, old Elena might not even be good enough for Studio DaRose. Old Elena got her butt kicked twice last night…and every single time she got into any kind of conflict or fight. Patchwork, Slug, Cross-”

“Are you crazy? What could you have done to change any of that? What could you have done differently to avoid Cross shooting you with a crossbow in the hallway?”

“If I had my Storm acting like it did last night, maybe I could have. That’s what I’m saying, Ele, I’m tired of not being able to do anything. There are so many opportunities that I haven’t taken advantage of. Old Elena was content just sitting still and only looking as high as the next rung of the ladder, but new Elena…no, Cog is going to start doing things differently.”

“You’re talking about the Twisted,” Ele narrowed his eyes. “I’m still not sure how much I trust them, Elena.”

“You’re not sure how much you trust me either,” Elena glanced at Ele’s fur-lined coat and grit her teeth again, “I promised you I wouldn’t tell them where I am, I didn’t promise I wouldn’t see them again. Turning away good help is an old-Elena thing to do, and I’m done being passive when I could be active.”

She stopped in front of the building that Arturo had told her about, eying it critically for a few moments. The Faberi Guild was smaller than any of the studio, without any of the arches or embellishments that she had expected, but it was very solidly built, and there was a certain pleasing quality to the craftsmanship. Lifting her chin and trying to put her and her Echo’s conversation behind her, Elena stepped inside.

 


If you want a copy of Arturo’s picture of Elena, vote for Twisted Cogs on TWF! Sure you won’t actually get a copy, but um…I’m not entirely sure where I was going with that one…


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5 responses

  1. CaptainPedantic

    I am screaming in my head right now from the tension building inside me as the characters do stupid emotional things, it makes me love and hate this story. I think it means you are doing something right. Yes, you are amazing maddi.

    Like

    2014-12-30 at 1:38 am

  2. Anonymous

    Hmm. Arturo’s POV wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Entitled, angry and dishonest, but on the other hand his obsession is merely MILDLY creepy.

    Liked by 1 person

    2014-12-30 at 4:09 am

  3. Oh, boy, Arturo is shaping up to be a real piece of work. Nice Guy Syndrome taken to its logical and most disturbing conclusion.

    I agree with Elena that she needs to toughen up and expand her repertoire a bit, but as usual she’s going about it in a backward way. Hopefully by the time she’s done burning her fingers she’ll have picked up some useful wisdom!

    Liked by 1 person

    2014-12-31 at 8:55 pm

  4. CK

    The part from Arturo’s point of view made me shudder. Arturo is as emotionally abusive to Arta as Elena’s mother is to Elena. Except that, unlike Elena, even if Arta comes to realise what Arturo is doing and that he is not, in fact, a “nice guy,” she can’t walk away from him. She’s stuck within a hundred yards of this guy who is going to relentlessly abuse her for her entire life, and convince her that she deserves the abuse. She doesn’t even have the possibility of outliving him.

    I find this one of the most horrifying parts of this story so far, including Slug and Dominic. At least there was a chance of escape from the other villains!

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-01-02 at 12:28 am

    • Isa Lumitus

      I think I agree with you about Arta’s life. It does sound pretty wretched.

      Dominico, though, I didn’t find to be that horrific. Yeah, his outlook was a bit worrisome, but I’ve got hope that freedom might mellow him out a little.

      Like

      2015-07-23 at 10:47 pm

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