A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.2 – Pervigilia Rursus {Waking Anew}

“Ah, the blue and puzzling glow of pleasant company. We’ve missed you, Miss Luc-ci-a-no.” The rich voice that seemed to savored every syllable of her name was instantly recognizable, even when Elena was struggling for consciousness.

“Hello Black Furs,” Elena struggled to her elbows, trying to focus her vision. Her head throbbed and prickles, a low but steady pain occasionally punctuated with a stabbing second-long headache behind her right eye. She was laying next to a wall, and a little ways off she could vaguely make out the large dark form of the friendly man.

“Black Furs? Ah, I quite think I like that,” Black Furs chuckled, “and I’ve been called much worse. You seem a touch more, ah, energized, if I may say so.”

“Do I? I feel like I fell on my head,” Elena groaned, dragging herself to her feet, her eyes struggling to focus. The huge castle balcony swayed in front of her as if she were on a ship, and she stumbled slightly to one side. Before she could fall, Black Furs had caught her and held her up. Beneath the huge expanse of furs, his arms were small and spindly. The scent of cinnamon and cloves filled Elena’s nose and almost made her sneeze, but he set her upright and took a quick step back.

“Perhaps ‘energized’ is the wrong word, but you’ve discovered far more about your Storm than when last we met! You’re coming into your own, how delightful!”

“You can tell?” Elena’s vision was slowly clearing, giving her a better picture of her surroundings. Overhead a star-filled sky gave off enough light to somehow make the balcony bright, illuminating the solitary forms her both her and Black Furs. After a few more blinks the only thing that remained blurry and fuzzy was Black Fur’s face, but even so it was obvious that he was looking at her intently.

“This place is mostly my own creation, but I’ve found that people’s Storms seem to influence it in small degrees. The way you look now…” he gestured towards her, “…is one such indication.”

Elena looked down at hers hands and arms. In the past, in the dream world, her skin looked as it were made of puzzle pieces, lit from the inside with a blue light. Now, the puzzle pieces seemed to float by a half-inch, the cracks between them wide enough that she could almost fit her little finger into them. Beneath the puzzle pieces of her flesh, the blue light of her core glowed as if there were a fire just beyond reach of her vision.

“Well, I have been learning a lot more about my Storm,” Elena said, flexing her hand and watching the pieces gently brush against each other.

“Oh? I hope we’ve been helpful to you then? Perhaps helpful enough to share more information about yourself?” Something about Black Fur’s tone made Elena nervous. It was a bit too light, a bit too casual, like a piece of silk covering a sharp knife. Elena’s last conversation with Little One nudged at the back of her mind, but there was no way the child had told him…she was too adamant that Elena kept it a secret.

“I…I already said I wasn’t comfortable telling anyone…” she stammered.

“Ah, you misunderstand,” Black Furs chuckled, “I’m not trying to pressure you into telling me, I’m merely curious if anyone else might have learned on their own. It would be quite unfortunate if the information you wanted hidden were to come to light, wouldn’t it? I am only looking out for you, we Twisted must stick together, you realize.”

Black Furs turned to look out over the railing, his hands clasped behind his back in a casual and nonchalant pose. His hands were clenched just a little too tight, his back a little too stiff, and a cold feeling had crept its way into Elena’s stomach.

“Why are you worried about that now…Black Furs, where is everyone?”

“I’m afraid none of us have been able to get much sleep, recently. Indeed, Faceless has gone a few nights in a row without a minute of rest. We’re all searching for someone, you see.”

“For one of the Twisted? Who?”

“Little One has disappeared in the real world. She’s a very reserved recluse, almost a hermit in many ways, so it took us some time to realize she was gone. I’ve extended several invitations to the dreamworld to her, she hasn’t accepted a one of them. Of course we’re all very worried about her.”

“Wouldn’t her parents know where she is?” Elena asked, although she already knew the answer. Little One was the cleverest child she knew; if she wanted to run away Elena was sure she could escape her parents.

“I’m afraid not, in this case,” Black Furs said, “both of her parents are dead.”

“I didn’t realize she was an orphan.”

“It makes us worry even more. It’s been a very long week for all of us, trying to hunt her down…hunt her down to make sure she’s safe, of course. It’s not like her to avoid us; something drastic must have happened, but we are all at a loss.”

Elena bit her lip, the cold feeling in her stomach spreading throughout her. ‘If I ever hear of you being so brainlessly, astonishingly naive again, I will leave my home city,’ Little One had said at their last meeting, ‘I will travel to Studio DaRose, on the Street of Grey Artisans in Milia. And I will cut your face off.’ Elena had assumed it was exaggeration, but the child was unpredictable, violent, and didn’t like her, could it be that she had been serious?

But I haven’t done anything stupid, she thought frantically, I didn’t tell anyone else where I live, I haven’t even made any big choices besides to turn down Master Malatesta…was that it? But how could she know that news so fast?

“Where…where does Little One live?” Elena asked, her heart beating fast.

“You never answered my question, Elena,” Black Furs said quietly, “did you tell Little One where you were? Could that be where she’s headed right now?”

Yes. “No. I don’t know how she could’ve found out where I live,” Elena lied. On the off-chance that Little One wasn’t coming to Milia, Elena didn’t need to give her a reason to be angry. She would keep on lying to the other Twisted, at least until she knew for sure.

What if Little One was lying? Elena thought suddenly. I assumed the Twisted lived in Florezia, but what if she lives in Milia too? What if she’s been keeping tabs on me this entire time? Am I in danger right now, asleep in my bed? She never paid attention to the children when she walked about the city, never even noticed their faces. It would’ve been incredibly easy for Little One to stalk her, unnoticed; she could’ve had the little girl as a tail for weeks and be none the wiser. And if Little One lived in Milia, wouldn’t that mean the others lived there as well? Was she putting herself at risk of exposal every time she walked down the streets?

They don’t know about me, Elena struggled to calm herself down. They’re in positions of power, they deal with political things…if they’re in Milia, it will be the courts, not the streets.

“You’re very quiet this evening, Elena,” Black Furs noted. His voice was too sharp, different in tone than the friendly, fatherly, genial voice he normally used. It was clear that he was worried about his fellow Twisted, but Elena was more worried about Little One herself. “I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but I can’t help but wonder at the timing of this debacle. Our mysterious new member wishes to share nothing, to keep to herself, and now a second of our number makes the same choice, keeping to herself when she never used to.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with-”

“So you say.”

Elena’s head was starting to hurt, and she rubbed at her temples, annoyed when her fingers caught on the edge of a puzzle piece. The pain of her headache was bad enough that she could barely contain her emotions, which were already swirling confusingly.

“I’m telling the truth, I don’t know where she is or why she disappeared!” she whimpered. “Why was it that everyone seems so against me? My studiomates, my Echo, even my friends, and now you…”

“Oh, Elena, I’m sorry,” Black Furs turned and approached her, the sharpness gone from his voice. He clasped her in an awkward hug, and she struggled again not to sneeze at the overpowering smells. A tear hung from the edge of one of the puzzle pieces at her cheek, a feeling both unfamiliar and annoying, but she couldn’t wipe it away with her arms trapped in Black Furs’ crushing embrace. “I don’t mean to accuse you of anything,” he said, “we’re all just so worried about Little One, it’s hard to keep our calm. The Twisted would never turn against you Elena, we of all people know what it feels like when it’s one against the world. Fighting bullies is something we’ve all had experience with.”

Little One’s warnings rang in Elena’s ears. The Storms of Twisted were bullies, tyrants, selfish and even potentially harmful…and yet the other Twisted had no problem working with them, using them.

But is it fair to judge them for that? After all, I’m doing the exact same thing…I’ve been happy to work with my Storm whenever I can…

As if the thought was a physical hammer, the pain in Elena’s head increased, and she gasped. Black Furs held her out at arm’s length, his face still a blur of unfocused shadow.

“I trust that you won’t turn on us, either, Miss Luc-ci-a-no,” he said earnestly. “We Twisted have to stick together. Do tell us if you remember anything that might help us find Little One?” Before Elena had the chance to answer, she woke up.

 


 

Her head pounded just as bad when she was awake as it had when she slept. Sharp prickles intruded into her mind, running across her scalp and making it hard to string thoughts together, while a deep, aching pain thudded in the center of her skull.

“Are you awake, Elena?” Ele’s voice was quiet, she could tell, but even the quiet voice hurt.

“Wha’ happened?” she mumbled, opening her eyes and squinting at the morning light.

“Dolce and Elio found you passed out in the dining room. No one knows when it happened, it must’ve been after everyone left.”

“Everyone left? Have to apologize to Mama,” Elena swung her legs out of bed, blinking away tears at the pain. She couldn’t quite remember what she wanted apologize for, but she knew that she owed her mother one.

“Easy there,” Ele moved as if to catch her, even though she would’ve passed through him. “Joanna left, not too long after the meeting. You shouldn’t be moving around, we still don’t know what happened to you. Do you have any idea why you passed out?”

Elena shook her head gingerly, “my head really hurts, but I don’t remember…” it came back to her in bits and pieces; she had blown up at her mother, she had turned down the offer to join Studio Malatesta, she had convinced Master DaRose to call the Studio ‘hers’ while he was working, and then-

Elena’s head spun, and she retreated from that line of thought. There was so much information there, sitting just beneath the surface, enough that it could easily wash her away in a torrent. Like a child who had been burnt gingerly reaching for the candle a second time, Elena carefully considered her surroundings.

Just this room of the studio, my room, she mused, and the flood of information came on gradually enough for her to handle it. The room was 18 feet by 12 feet and 2 hands, the stone a hand-me-down from some other construction project. Elena’s gaze travelled the wall, observing which of the large bricks held more weight than others, seeing where the weak spots of the wall were and what parts could handle more pressure. The window let in light, but it was also the main source of the cold air, its frame loose enough in two corners to encourage a draft.

“This is…amazing,” Elena breathed, standing up and spinning slowly. “Are you getting this Ele?”

The little pits and scratches in a vertical line along the far wall were there because this room had once been smaller, but several years ago had been extended into the washroom beyond by a few feet. The desk that Elena and Dolce shared was Faberi-made, but very very old, old enough that DaRose might have bought it at a discount, neither he nor the seller knowing what a bargain he’d gotten.

“It’s a lot to take in, and I don’t think I’m making as much sense of it as you are,” Ele answered, “but yeah, I’m getting something. Will this help us, do you think?”

Her sense of betrayal and arguments with her Echo seemed trivial now, standing in the middle of a pool of information. Carefully, she let herself reach out further. For the first time, she saw Studio DaRose, saw it for everything it was, what it had been, what it could be. More and more of it widened out in front of her, and as a picture began to form, she realized for the first time what a mess it truly was. Almost everything she saw carried flaws; finances in disarray, systems that didn’t work and never would, physical bits and pieces falling apart or about to fail. Like lines of spiderwebs that stretched across every layer of the Studio, fault-lines and cracks lay exposed to her.

Broken. So much of it broken, or breaking…the studio, the money, even the garzoni…what did I let myself in for? She took a deep breath, puffed out her cheeks, and let it go with a sigh. Her decision had already been made, now she had to live with it. Who knows, maybe all of the studios have the same sorts of problems, but no one can see them like this?

Elena didn’t actually think so, but it was an encouraging thought. Regardless of the problems other studios might have, she was the only one who could even begin to work on the cracks and faultlines. But where to start?

Elena still hadn’t adjusted the fastener in the bottom corner of her bed, so she could always start there…but the prickling in her head seemed to be nudging her in a different direction. She would drive herself crazy trying to peck away at tiny things at random. Her Storm felt like a whirlpool, details buffeting against her, all dragging her towards the center of the Studio. Elena set her chin in a resolute jut and moved towards the door.

“Where are you going?” Ele asked. Elena didn’t pause, shooting the answer over her shoulder.

“I’m going to the boiler room.”

 


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14 responses

  1. EchoStep

    First

    Like

    2015-03-04 at 10:45 pm

  2. Stormblessed

    Oh dear, a ‘First’-er.

    How most annoying.

    Is there anyway to delete their comment?

    If so, this one of mine too?

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-03-04 at 11:38 pm

    • AvidFan

      The trick is to instead build upon their comment and either make it more relevant to the post or at least more interesting. For example:

      First? Indeed, the first thing she is doing is indeed intriguing enough to warrant speechlessness. She is going to the boiler room. It’s so… Interesting? Ok, I got nothing… :(
      I’ll just point out the fact that if she passed out from the Studio becoming HERS, then what will happen if the country became hers? It might mean that she can’t just become queen, but will instead have to gain control one area or even house at a time. Although she may gain resistance to it the more it happens, or she may discover she has a limit.

      Like

      2015-03-06 at 5:41 am

  3. Hmm, my first thought was hangover, but that’s obviously not the cause. I wonder now if it’s a side effect of Emerald’s shenanigans or the massive sensory overload from the studio.
    Clearly, Elena just needs to realize that the world is her oyster.

    Like

    2015-03-04 at 11:50 pm

    • Robert

      “My Oyster. MINE!”

      Quote from ‘A Faberi Acends’ a biography of Elana Lucciano the first. God, and Divine Empress of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-03-05 at 1:58 am

  4. tijay

    why so short :'(

    Like

    2015-03-05 at 1:54 am

    • I blame all the coffee; mama told me it would stunt my growth but I just didn’t listen

      Like

      2015-03-12 at 12:43 pm

  5. jester0fdeath

    Brilliant. Thanks for the chapter.

    Like

    2015-03-05 at 7:18 am

  6. someguy

    Did anyone else notice that she said she have studiomates while talking with Black Fur?
    If the studio get noticed, the Twisted will probably find her hmm…
    Anyway thank you for the chapter!

    Like

    2015-03-06 at 7:28 am

    • Unmaker

      Yes. That and Elena’s continued references to Little One as if Little One were a child probably convinced Black Furs that Elena is either ignorant and/or stupid. I presume several cities have studios, so perhaps that isn’t too bad. The vast majority of people have to be trained at intrigue, so Elena’s lack of ability to keep secrets makes sense even though the audience has to groan at her actions every so often.

      Like

      2015-03-11 at 10:41 am

  7. AvidFan

    o_o. Maddi. I thought we had an agreement.
    You don’t change the date of the next page, and I don’t complain.
    But the date is changed. You’ve added 3 extra days.
    *cries in a corner*

    Like

    2015-03-08 at 11:05 pm

    • Gets me every time. Dashed hopes, broken dreams and a commute to work that has just become more meaningless.

      Life is harsh, indeed.

      Like

      2015-03-09 at 2:09 am

    • Someday, eventually, everyone is going to realize that Twisted Cogs is just a long drawn out plan to make Australians cry. I’ll admit it’s not great, as supervillain plans go, but it’s a start

      Like

      2015-03-12 at 12:45 pm

  8. Thinkerbell

    Better to wait a few days extra and get a solid finished product then to get a half finished chapter.

    Like

    2015-03-10 at 3:17 am

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