A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.7 – Stulta Stulta Puella {A Stupid Stupid Little Girl}

Elena yawned and stretched, her eyes still closed. She was used to waking up to the chill of the unheated room, grasping for a tangled blanket while staying in the warm spot of the bed, but this morning there was neither bed beneath her nor cold around her, so she must have fallen asleep in the boiler room…

Or I’m not in Studio DaRose at all. The blue light from her skin cast patterns across the walls as she opened her eyes, a puzzle-piece lightshow the filling the little hallway with a glow.

“I have things to do, why am I here?” Elena sighed. This hallway was slightly different, but the slight fuzziness around the edges of the world clearly indicated that she was in Black Furs’ dream world.

“What are you complaining about? The Twisted can probably help you just as well as the Faberi Guild can. You’re getting help becoming ‘new Elena’, nothing’s changed there.” Ele was already up, on his feet with arms crossed and scowling. “Nothing’s changed for me either; I had no clue why we were going to the Guild, and now I have no clue why I was brought to this hellish place again.”

“When did I even fall asleep?” Elena asked, struggling to her feet and leaning against the wall to steady herself. “I should be in the waiting room of the Faberi Guild.”

“You’d had a long night last night and didn’t get much sleep thanks to Malatesta. The Guild secretary asked you to wait and the benches were comfortable.”

“Well as long as I’m here, you’re right, I might as well see if any of them can help me.” Keeping one hand on the wall to both keep her balance and light her way, Elena moved down the cold hallway, searching for the doors that had littered both sides of the hallway the last time she had been in the dream. The feeling of disorientation that marked this world hadn’t gone away yet, and she took each step carefully.

“What about ‘I hate it here’ didn’t they understand the last time?” Ele snarled, glancing over his shoulder.

“We don’t even know if they invited us here, don’t you remember? They said it would become easier and easier to join them in the dream world, and maybe I’d be able to join without them inviting me first.”

“I didn’t realize that would mean I’d have to tag along.”

“Honestly, what’s so horribly unpleasant about being here Ele? It’s a little fuzzy, but it’s not bad.”

“Hard to explain. It’s…intense being here. Too much is fuzzy, reality is fuzzy. It’s like the air is made of insects, crawling into my head, buzzing, buzzing in my temples and along my fingertips…” Ele shuddered and grit his teeth. “It’s like too many conversations going on at once, each of them vitally important and all of them in whispers. And I also get the impression that something is watching me. Something bad and strong that thinks they have the right to do what they want to me…like Joanna times a million…” He trailed off, and Elena frowned. As frustrated as she was with him lately, the experience did sound pretty terrible.

The hallway finally ended at a large metal-bound door, the first door she had seen so far. When she pushed it open the wood felt moist beneath her fingers, and she shivered at the damp odour. The small round room was smaller than both the huge dining hall and the overlarge balcony that had been her previous experiences with the castle, lit with pale pink orbs that mixed with the blue light coming from her skin. Shelves of bottles and books lined all sides of the stone walls, carefully labelled and clearly organized in some fashion. In the center of the room, a stone table served as a desk to the small girl with golden hair and golden eyes, who glanced up briefly as Elena entered.

“Oh…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you,” Elena stammered, but the girl was looking past her at Ele.

“I thought he hated it here,” she said.

“He does, but I think I bring him whenever I fall asleep.”

“It’s easy to push him out, if he wants to be gone. Do you want to be gone, Elena’s Shadow?”

“More than anything,” Ele shuddered again, looking over his shoulder down the dark hallway. The Golden Child reached out towards him and made a small motion, as if she was shooing away a cat. When Elena looked again, Ele was gone.

“Thank you, Golden…um…I don’t know your name.”

“No Twisted knows my name, that’s how I like it.. You can call me Little One, like the others do.”

“Thank you Little One. I love Ele, but he and I haven’t been getting along lately at the best of times, so having him all cranky here…”

“It’s common,” Little One hopped down from the chair where she’d been standing and turned to the shelves, “you become more familiar with your Storm, your Shadow pushes you to use it more often. The two of you disagree on how to use it, which causes arguments. It gets better with time, all of us experienced it.”

“That’s not really what happened in my case…it’s more that our whole relationship has been changing,” Elena said, “he’s hiding things from me, and where we used to understand each other without even speaking, now it seems like we can’t really tell where the other is coming from.” The golden child gave her a searching look over her shoulder, but then turned back to the shelves. “Anyways, I can leave you alone now…I know you don’t really care for me.”

“No, I don’t.” Little One took a book and a bottle from the shelf, “but then, I don’t like the other Twisted either, and we coexist well enough. Go ahead, have a seat,” she waved towards one of the stone seats by the table. Elena hesitated; what she really wanted to do was to find another Twisted, one who might help her figure out her Storm. On the other hand, the little girl had been so distrusting of her that it seemed a shame to ignore this strange olive branch from her.

“Why don’t you like the other Twisted?” she asked as she took the offered seat.

“Various reasons for various members,” Little One flipped through the pages of the book as she spoke, “and more reasons the longer I know each of them. The most common is when they give up information without expecting anything in return. Some of them even try to get me to do the same.” She paused and gave Elena a pointed look.

“Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for them to…wait,” Elena narrowed her eyes, “are you saying that the last time I was here, when I asked for help with my Storm…”

“Mmm,” Little One nodded, again without looking up from her book, “yes, I know things that could help you. And yes, they tried to convince me to tell you. As if I would throw away such information like it was worthless.”

Elena took in the statement as Little One flipped a page, moving her lips silently as she read. While it was easy to believe that the golden-eyed little girl would withhold information from her, Elena wasn’t sure why she would tell Elena that she was withholding it?

“Do you…are you saying you’ll tell me more about my Storm for a price?”

“I’m only stating the fact that information is a currency. I’m not suggesting a trade, just that I wouldn’t give it away for free.”

Despite Little One’s casual demeanor, Elena gripped the cold edges of the stone chair beneath her. The very thing she had been searching for, suddenly dropped into her lap? The secrets to her Storm, the secret to so many things…understanding herself, revenge on Studio Malatesta, dragging Studio DaRose up through the ranks, maybe even being invited to the Milian Courts, who knew? De Luca had said her Storm had the potential to be one of the most powerful he had seen, and if a Master Artisan had said that…She was close, so close that she could almost taste it.

“What do you want to know? In exchange for telling me about my Storm?” Elena asked. She already suspected what the answer would be, even as Little One carefully bookmarked and closed her book, turning to face Elena fully for the first time since she had entered. Her golden eyes had no pupils, but Elena could feel the intensity of her stare for long silent moments.

“Would you tell me…” Little One hopped down from her seat again, and Elena was reminded just how small the little girl was as she made her way around the table. She stood in front of Elena, arms folded, staring up at her speculatively. “…would you tell me where you are? Where I can find you? If you do that, I’ll tell you what I’ve observed about Twisted Storms.”

I knew it. The one thing I can’t tell her. As if reading her thoughts, Little One spoke again.

“The others are very wise and very clever in their own ways, but they have the habit of denial when it comes to areas of their own personalities. I think I’m the only one who can give you this advice.”

Elena’s mouth was dry, her knee bouncing nervously. Even though she had expected it, the question was even more tempting when spoken aloud. After all, they already knew her name…how hard would it be for them to find her eventually anyways? This way she could at least get something out of it…and what a something. Full control over her Storm, maybe even getting her life back on the path she knew it was meant for…a path that would lead her to the courts.

On the other hand, it was the only favor that Ele had requested of her; to trust him.

But he only asked for that favor because he didn’t trust them…and now we know why he didn’t trust them, because this place makes him magically paranoid, she reasoned, besides, he would be perfectly happy even if I never figured out my Storm. He doesn’t care, he’d be just as content if I were working in a merchant’s shop as if I made it to the courts as an artisan.

“If you’re hovering on the edge of a decision, just blurt it out and be done with it,” Little One murmured. Her golden eyes swivelled as she searched Elena’s face, though where exactly they rested was a mystery. The little girl was so close that Elena could touch her, and somehow she was sharp and in focus where the rest of the world remained fuzzy around the edges.

“And…And you promise to tell me about my Storm if I tell you?” Elena faltered.

“I promise,” the little girl whispered, so quietly that even in the silence she made barely a sound. Elena took a deep breath and held it, as if she could force herself to keep the answer to herself, but when she exhaled with a sigh she let the words tumble out.

“Milia. I’m in the city of Milia, a garzona in Studio DaRose, I call myself Cog.”

Little One’s face remained grave, her pose unaltered. Elena’s hands began to tremble, but she waited as the silence between them stretched.

“Did you…did you hear what I said?” Elena ventured after almost a minute had passed.

“I heard you,” Little One said, “and I believe you’re telling the truth.”

She leaned back and slapped Elena across the face

Idiota absoluta!” The little girl shrieked, smacking her in the shoulder again. “Ingenua y estúpida imprudente tonta tonta niña tonta!” Elena tried to scramble away from the screaming girl, tumbling over the chair in the process. Little One stopped screaming suddenly, though she glared down at Elena, her little hands clenched into fists. “That was the stupidest thing you’ve ever done, Elena Lucciano,” she hissed.

“Wh….what? You don’t even know-”

“I don’t have to know you to know that was the stupidest thing you’ve ever done! I don’t care what great heights you’ve taken your ineptitude in your past, you idiot child, although I’m sure they were great heights indeed. Tu dios italiano en el cielo, how on earth have you even survived this long? How can you possibly be so trusting?”

“Wait…but you wanted me to tell you where I lived!”

“That should’ve been your foremost reason not to tell me! Every alarm bell in your addlepated little head should’ve rung true at that moment! Me, a suspicious girl who admits to disliking you? Me, one of a group that you know has power and sway? You just take us at our word that we want what’s best for you? You just assume that your best interests are what drive us?”

“But…but of course I’d trust you, you’re like me…Twisted-”

“You know that for sure, do you?” Little One interrupted, “you have evidence beyond what you were shown here that makes you believe we’re all so trustworthy? Do you know a thing about any of us beyond what we’ve told you?”

Elena could only open and close her mouth wordlessly. It was true, the only interactions she had had with the Twisted was in the dreams they had created. What did she really know about them? What was worse, there was nothing she could do about it now. Little One lapsed into silence again, fury somehow radiating from her eyes even though they were blank.

“What…what are you going to do?” Elena whispered.

“I’m going to fulfill my end of the bargain and tell you about your Storm,” Little One growled, a sound that might be adorable from the little girl in another context, “but just because you happened to get luckier than you deserve, in this one particular case, it doesn’t excuse the horrifyingly stupid thing you just did.”

“I’m…I’m sorry. You were just very convincing,” Elena got shakily to her feet, picking up the overturned chair with a trembling hand.

“You already know that the Twisted have Storms that don’t make sense,” Little One began, pacing back and forth behind Elena’s chair. “They require certain contexts to work. The others already told you that much. What they didn’t tell you is that each contexts is similar in a way.”

“They said they all had unique contexts that made their Storms work.”

“They do. But the one thing each of us have in common is that our Storms care more about us than about other people.”

“Storms aren’t alive, they don’t ‘care about’ anything,” now that she was starting to get over the shock, Elena began to feel a bit angry. It didn’t seem very fair for the child to scold Elena for something she’d convinced Elena to do.

“I never said Storms were alive, but they do care about things. The Storm makes choices all the time. Haven’t you ever thought about why some people are chosen to be Stormtouched and some aren’t? Don’t you think Artifexes and Caeletors have been trying for years to discover why some paintings and sculptures are touched and some aren’t? The Storm chooses, Elena, and for the Twisted the Storm’s choices are quite easy to predict.”

“What are you saying? I’ve used my Storm to help people before.”

“Have you? Have you ever been able to use your Storm in a situation where only someone else would benefit, not you?”

“If the Storm cared about me, it wouldn’t have failed me when I needed it most!” Elena thought back to Studio De Luca’s showing day.

“Oh but it will Elena, it will fail you the second it disagrees with your reasons for acting. If I were you, I’d think back very carefully, considering exactly what your intentions were when your Storm has worked in the past. Think about when it failed you. Don’t think of it as a skill you have, think instead of a watchful guardian. A watchful guardian who lets you have access to your power at some times, restricts access from you at others. Figure out what that guardian wants.”

“If what you’re saying is true,” Elena said slowly, “my Storm doesn’t sound like a very nice guardian. It sounds like…a tyrannical bully.”

“And yet a few minutes ago you were so eager to trust a group of Twisted who have no problem working with their Storms.” Little One had returned to her perch on the chair, flipping her book back open with a snap.

“Why are you telling me all of this, Little One? If you think the Twisted are so horrible, why are you warning me about them…about you?”

“Close the door when you leave,” Little One said without looking up. Elena hesitated for a few moments, but when it became clear that the golden-eyed child wouldn’t say anything further, she rose and made her way to the door. “Oh, one more thing Elena.” Little One called.

Elena turned to find the girl staring at her with dead golden eyes.

“If I ever hear of you being so brainlessly, astonishingly naive again, I will leave my home city. I will travel to Studio DaRose, on the Street of Grey Artisans in Milia. And I will cut your face off.”

The little girl’s voice was so deathly grave that sent a chill through Elena’s body.

“Unless you want to live the rest of your days looking like Lucrecia with her faceless grin, it’s time to wisen up now, Lucciano. There are monsters about.”

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If you vote for Twisted Cogs on TWF, a little girl with eyes made of gold won’t come cut your face off while you sleep! (Though to be honest, she probably won’t come even if you don’t vote. Bein’ fictional and all)


6 responses

  1. Bobby

    Hmm… Escaping when a madman threatens to torture you isn’t important, but revenge when someone insults you fires it up like nothing else. Nice fellow, that Storm.

    Next time you get tied up, Elena, try to concentrate on hurting those who’ve wronged you instead of just getting away.

    Or if you don’t want to do the violence thing, maybe concentrate on how being tied up is preventing you from going to the courts and all. Is her Storm ambitious? It helped her befriend the other garzoni with those knives and brushes, it gives her information about the studios…

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-01-05 at 1:30 am

    • AvidFan

      Hmmm. And it didn’t help make a bow, which would have increased someone else’s chances and not actually her own.
      As to when she “really needed it”, perhaps it was because what she wanted wouldn’t have worked regardless?
      Could also be working in the mindset of a general of an army? These Garzoni will be useful allies to have, here, make these tools and ally them. It may not have helped her stay a De Luca Garzoni because it knew his storm would be dangerous to her if she stayed near him too long? (Similarly to how he doesn’t stay near royalty for long periods of time)

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-01-05 at 6:33 am

  2. CaptainPedantic

    AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! Sorry, I just had to get that out, the suspense that held for so long when cast away gave me a braingasm.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-01-05 at 2:15 am

  3. Makes me think of Teela, the luckiest woman in the world, from Ringworld. her luck taught her and trained her, providing learning oppurtunities. The things for other people were skills she needed to know she had.


    2015-01-05 at 7:56 am

  4. Little One is certainly an interesting case. I would characterize her actions here as “tough love,” which is odd as she certainly seems to dislike Elena… But if she doesn’t have some concern for her, why be upset that Elena is self-sabotagingly naive?


    2015-01-06 at 11:55 pm

    • AvidFan

      Because she reminds her of herself when she was more innocent perhaps?


      2015-01-07 at 10:17 am

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