A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.8 – Oh Tempestas Meum {Oh Storm of Mine}

“Miss Lucciano? Miss Lucciano, we’re ready for you miss.”

It took a few hesitant shakes by the shoulder to wake Elena up, and the secretary looked mortified to be the one shaking. Even though she had only been walking through a hallway in her dream it took a few moments for Elena to reorient herself.

“Please forgive her, it’s been a long night,” Ele apologized, and his voice brought Elena to consciousness with a sharp pang of mixed guilt and fear.

What have I done? He only asked one thing from me, one little thing…

“Ah, it looks like she’s up now. Welcome back to the land of the living, Elena.”

“Hello Miss Lucciano, I’m sorry we kept you waiting for so long,” the secretary smiled apologetically, “the Master is always quite busy at this time of year, as I’m sure you can guess.”

“Wha?” Elena asked sleepily.

“Ah, perhaps you wouldn’t know. In the winter months we tend to be swamped with requests for certifications and tests, by Faberi looking to be hired before the rheghen months. Unfortunately this means that the soonest we can have you tested is a month from now.”

“Oh, yes I suppose that makes sense,” Elena rose, gathering her cloth-covered hammer, “but I actually think I’m alright. I might have found an answer to my questions.”

“Oh…well, alright,” the secretary looked confused, “well, I’ve marked you down in the Faberi registry, so if you ever change your mind…”

“I’ll be sure to let you know, thank you, sorry for wasting your time!” Elena was already through the door as she called the apology over her shoulder. She winced at the light reflecting off of the snow, blinding after so long in the dark hallways. Although a biting wind had picked up since she was last outside, she wrapped her cloak tighter and continued on with determination.

“The Twisted told you something?” Ele asked excitedly, sprinting to catch up with her, “you found out something about your Storm?”

“They told me…Little One, the gold-eyed girl, said to think of my Storm like a guardian. That all I needed to do was to figure out when it was helping me and when it wasn’t, find out the rules, and I’d know how to use it.”

“I can’t believe she of all people was the one to help you. I would’ve guessed she was the last person to count on,” Ele said.

“Um…Yeah, I was surprised too.” She couldn’t tell him that she had given up the secret, not with the way things had been between them lately. A part of her knew that it would come out eventually, but she would put it off for as long as she could. “I guess we’d just been reading her wrong?”

“If the Storm is a guardian, it does a pretty poor job of guarding you. It would’ve been nice if it had been looking after us when we needed it to prove ourselves to De Luca.”

“Or when Slug attacked.”

“Or any of the times when it would’ve been nice to get away from your mother.”

Elena fell silent, backtracking through her usage of the Storm, imagining some nebulous it standing nebulously over her. For long minutes the pair remained silent as they walked.

“It must like furniture,” Ele noted, “you’ve never had a problem making furniture back in Carpi.”

“It didn’t seem to mind when I made gifts for the other De Luca garzoni-”

“But it wouldn’t help you build Niccolo’s bow, which was a gift for another De Luca garzoni. Hmm, maybe your Storm just won’t work for people you want to make out with,” he gave her a sidelong glance, and in spite of herself Elena smiled back. For a second, their old camaraderie was back, the lighthearted teasing that had been the norm before they had started disagreeing so often. “Anyways, that’s probably important somehow. What was different between Niccolo’s bow and Frederica’s knives?”

“When I made the knives I was trying to prove to myself I could do it, but when I tried to make the bow I was trying to prove to De Luca I could do it?”

“But you weren’t trying to prove anything to anyone when you made furniture back home, you just did it for fun. Hell your mother tried to stop you for a while, before she realized she could sell what you made. And your lockpicks had nothing to do with proving anything to anyone.”

“Neither does the hammer,” Elena bit her lip. “It must’ve had something to do with the difference between the bow and the knives.”

“Is there any way we can take a look at the knives again? Maybe actually getting your hands on them would spark some idea?”

“That’s the plan,” Elena stopped and hefted her hammer onto her shoulder, waiting for Ele to look up for the first time on their journey.

He stares at his feet when he’s thinking, Elena realized. Why have I never realized that before, in all the time he’s been by my side?

In front of them the familiar sight of De Luca’s studio loomed, practically sparkling with its dusting of snow. Her toes grew cold as she stood, letting her gaze wander over the sharp lines, then linger on the roof for another few moments.

“Is there a reason you’re stalling?” Ele asked. Snowflakes drifted through his body, and he tugged his coat closer around him.

“It took less than two weeks for this place to feel strange to me,” Elena was hesitant to open the front door. No matter how many times she had opened it in the past, the sad truth was that Studio De Luca no longer felt like her home. “I’ll open it in a second…I just want to look at it for a bit.” The pair stood outside, letting the soft flakes of snow settle around them.

 

***

 

“Good afternoon, Miss Lucciano, what a delight to see you again,” Pietro’s stone smile did not extend to his eyes, but his tone was respectful. He stood next to his desk, his childlike height obscured by the pile of books he was using as a stool. Freja, Frederica’s creation made of maplewood, sat in his chair at the desk, and she grinned when she saw Elena.

“Hello, Elena!” Freja said with a little wave.

“Hi Freja,” Elena said, “I didn’t know if you’d remember me, since you were a little…distracted when we saw each other.”

“Oh yeah, that’s all better now,” the wooden girl rubbed absentmindedly at the middle of her shirt, “I don’t remember a lot, but Frederica talks about you all the time. She misses you.”

“I miss her too. I feel a little out of place at Studio DaRose still.”

“Ahem,” Pietro interjected pointedly. “Do you have business in Studio De Luca that I can help you with, Miss Lucciano?”

“I need to talk to everyone…or I guess just Niccolo and Frederica. I was hoping you could let me in, so I didn’t have to break the lock again,” Elena smiled.

“I appreciate your restraint,” Pietro did not return her smile, but after a moment he hopped down from the books and walked briskly into the hallway to unlock the door to the courtyard.

Though the courtyard still retained its ice-covered charm, three of the garzoni were standing outside when Elena entered. Leanarda held a large book open, and was pointing something out to Niccolo and Frederica. Frederica stood with arms crossed and a frown, but Niccolo was leaning closer to get a better look, clearly fascinated.

The sight of the two of them so close was enough to stop Elena in her tracks, confused by the rush of feelings that assaulted her. At first she felt betrayed, then guilty for feeling betrayed, then hurt and angry, and finally a little silly.

It’s not as if there’s anything happening between the two of them, she reasoned, especially not with Frederica there. Besides, Niccolo wouldn’t do anything like that. Of course De Luca garzoni would be comfortable around each other.

“Elena!” Frederica shouted, loud enough that Leanarda squeaked and almost dropped the book. On her way to join the group, Elena couldn’t help but notice the flash of guilt that passed over Leanarda’s face, and she immediately felt a little less silly.

“Seeking out weaknesses in our defenses?” Niccolo asked, gathering her into a hug and holding her tight. “Studio DaRose using cute girls as spies, now that’s playing dirty.” Elena closed her eyes and let herself be swept away for just a moment, enjoying his strong arms and the scent of violets and leather around her before she shook herself and returned to the business at hand.

“It’s wonderful seeing you again, but I’m actually here because I need to see the tools I made you, Frederica. I think it might help me with my Storm-”

Frederica had already started moving towards the door, waving off Elena’s explanation.

“The mystery of the Fabera powers is finally coming to a close, eh?” Nicci asked. “I’m glad you’re finally getting closer to an answer!”

“I wish it had happened a little sooner,” Niccolo said.

“Is it…wise,” Leanarda broke in, carefully, “to help Cog with her powers, since technically she’s from a different studio? Arming our enemies and all? Hell, that hammer looks dangerous enough without a Fabera’s craftsmanship…” she trailed off when Niccolo turned and glared at her, raising her free hand in surrender, “…alright, alright, that’s fine I get it. Cog is a special case.”

The small group stood in awkward silence for a few moments until Frederica returned with the small pouch of knives, Fred at her side.

“I’ve used all of them since you made ‘em, so I hope you didn’t need a fresh one,” she said, displaying the case. “Is there something in the knives that’s a clue? Something like ‘you can only make things that are used by other craftsmen’?”

Elena paused, turning the thought over in her head.

“N..no, I don’t think so,” she said, “because my Storm worked on this hammer, and I use it. That’s a pretty good guess though. How did you know it was so complex?”

“I’m a Caelator whose art can only be Touched if it’s worked in maplewood. I know how frustrating it can be to not know your Storm. I would still be in the dark myself if it weren’t for my niece.”

“I didn’t even know you had siblings!” Elena selected one of the knives at random, turning it over in her hands, “what did your niece do that helped you?”

“That’s a story for another time, maybe.” Frederica gave a sidelong glance at Leanarda, who flushed and looked away. In spite of herself Elena felt a surge of appreciation for Frederica.

No, I’m being unfair to Leanarda, she chastised herself, she did what she did to stay in the Studio, just like I should’ve. And right now she’s just trying to make friends in the studio, just like I was.

“I don’t know what you’re thinking about, but I can tell you’re not focusing.” Ele’s wry tone brought her back to the present, and she began examining the knife in her hands in earnest. Not even the faintest hint of a Storm’s tingle touched her temples or fingers, even though she remembered the designs that ran along the handle.

“Familiar, but no Storm,” she murmured.

“Alright, so we have a single item that the Storm used to work on, but now doesn’t. What changed between then and now? Why doesn’t your ‘guardian’ want you knowing anything about it?”

“I’m not a De Luca garzona anymore, that’s changed,” Elena suggested.

“That can’t have anything to do with it, you made the furniture and a lockpick before you came here and the hammer after you left.”

“Frederica has used the knives since the Storm worked, that’s different. Maybe it doesn’t like me using the Storm on things other people have touched.”

“That’s not it either; your Storm works on the bed in DaRose’s studio. It may be yours now, but it definitely belonged to someone before you.”

“‘It may be mine now’…” Elena bit her lip. “Frederica, I know it’s a huge favor, but…could I have this knife back? If I got you another one?”

“Not that one, I use it too often.” Frederica ran a hand across the knine handles in the satchel, finally selecting one and passing it over. “What about this one? Hey watch it!”

Elena was so eager that she almost stabbed Frederica with her own knife, fumbling to exchange the two.

“So, just to be clear, this knife is mine now?” she asked, “all mine?”

“Sure, if it’ll help you.”

The lower end of the design will bow a bit after a few more months of use, since the full weight of each stroke is applied to it. The tip of the blade has a nick despite the high strength of the metal, meaning it must’ve fallen onto stone once or twice. Dirt has begun to collect in between the handle and the lilium iron grip, and with no way to clean it the handle will gradually loosen over time.

The Storm hit her like a headache, snapped across her fingers like the end of a whip. Beside her Ele drew a sharp breath through his teeth. Elena felt almost dizzy, though she didn’t know why. Her thoughts were jumbled, as if she was trying to get a mental word in edgewise around the information the Storm gave her.

Mine.

“That’s it,” she breathed, “the Storm works on things that are mine.”

“What about when you made furniture at home?”

“Even then, it was still my furniture, until we put it into the shop,” Elena was so excited her hands were shaking.

Mine.

The word resounded in her head, as if whispered by something so vast and significant that there was only room in her mind for the single word.

“I think…I think that’s it,” Ele said. “It feels…right.”

Mine.

“I don’t know if it feels ‘right’, exactly,” Elena said. The tingling her her fingertips and temples should’ve felt familiar, she should’ve felt happier, but instead she only felt vaguely uneasy. “But it does feel like we’ve finally figured it out.”

“We’ve figured it out!” Ele whooped. He tilted his head at Elena, apparently noticing her lack of excitement, “just think, Elena, now that we know how to use the Storm, imagine how much we can accomplish! The Storm will work on anything that’s ours!”

“Anything that’s ours,” Elena agreed quietly, nodding and ignoring the voice that whispered in her head.

Anything that’s mine.

 

***

 

End of Arc 1


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Have you ever wondered if you’re one of the coolest people on earth? Here’s a quick test! Simply try voting for Twisted Cogs on TopWebFiction. Only the very coolest of the cool can do it. That’s science.


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13 responses

  1. I always knew the first arc of Book 2 would drag a little, but maybe that’s just because I was looking forward to all the great stuff to come ahead! Onward and upward we go (or “porro et sursum” if you’re feeling saucy)!

    A quick thank you to my December patron from Patreon! Thanks to your generous donation, the bonus chapter tracker has been updated!

    Like

    2015-01-07 at 11:25 pm

    • herm, i thought you said porno. porno and whispers.

      Like

      2015-08-29 at 8:41 am

  2. Time for her to literally take over a studio.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-01-08 at 12:35 am

    • Panster

      Time for her to take over the world.

      Like

      2015-01-08 at 9:48 pm

      • One step at a time. Studio, city, country, continent, world.

        Like

        2015-01-08 at 11:34 pm

  3. Anything that’s hers… Neat! I wonder if it works on a metaphorical level. If so, Niccolo may be in for a surprise.
    I’d wager there’s some other condition to it, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-01-08 at 2:27 am

  4. Elena’s characterization is so perfect in so many ways; she’s a counterpoint to almost everything around her. The intrigue among the studios, whatever’s going on with the Twisted, and now her own Storm–an extremely possessive thing with a vindictive streak. If she were anything less than such an over-the-top goody goody, she would be an absolute terror. It’s the contrast that makes her story so fascinating.

    Brava!

    Like

    2015-01-08 at 3:34 am

  5. Jat

    I’m not a cool person. Don’t want to be, either. If my heat drops too far below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, I’ll be a dead person. I have voted for Twisted Cogs, though.

    Like

    2015-03-30 at 8:21 am

  6. That was soooooo creepy! But I kind of like how creepy New Elena is. :D

    Like

    2015-04-14 at 12:26 pm

  7. DeanRae

    what is with all these yandere vibes i’ve been getting since book 1?! lelz… i still don’t ship them together as well…

    Like

    2015-08-25 at 9:26 pm

  8. adrix89

    The corruption begins!

    I bet she is going to be a super villainese by the end.

    Like

    2015-09-30 at 4:54 am

  9. Cheeta

    But it worked on the other studios right? And they weren’t hers.

    Like

    2016-04-11 at 12:13 am

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