A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.9 – Sub Pluvia {Beneath the Rain}

The rain pattered on the roof of the carriage, but even with the noise it seemed too silent inside. Lord Waldren didn’t seem particularly disturbed by the silence, leaning back in the carriage and resting his walking stick across one knee. Next to him his Echo was watching both Elena and Ele searchingly, as if she could read something on their faces. Across from them, Elena wasn’t entirely sure what to do, what to think, and she wished someone would say something to break the stillness. She also wished she could take Ele’s hand as he sat next to her; it would’ve been comforting to have something physical to hold.

Black Furs. In the flesh. Elena hadn’t actually spent much time with the man in the dream world, but what time she had spent with him had left distinct impressions. The last time she had seen him, he had been torturing Little One in the hold of a dream ship. Although the Twisted seemed at ease with it, and their explanation had made at least a little bit of sense, the memory still left her a little nervous now that she was alone in the carriage with him.

“You’re angry that I tracked you down, when you’ve gone to such lengths to conceal yourself from us,” Black Furs finally said. “I don’t know that I blame you, but please, try to see it from our point of view! We only wish to help-”

“How did you find us?” Ele interrupted, his tone terse. Elena tensed at his tone, but Black Furs took it in stride, shifting in his seat to address the Echo.

“One of our number, the young lady with no eyes or nose, is on the Faberi Guild’s council. Well, I say she’s on it, but for all intents and purposes she is the Faberi Guild’s council. A few days ago she had the idea to search through the registrations for one Elena Luc-ci-a-no, in case you had registered despite your desire to keep hidden.”

“When we went to the Faberi Guild to find out about my Storm,” Elena rememberd, “they did say they were putting me in some kind of registry.”

“After we discovered you were in Milia, it was hardly a feat to find out exactly where you were. We probably would’ve found it anyways; the signs were certainly there. A studio suddenly rocketing to the top of its city’s hierarchy, one which had coincidentally just gained a new garzona? A garzona using the name ‘Cog’, no less? Really, we would’ve assumed a Twisted even if we had never met you,” Black Furs chuckled. “Don’t worry, none of us blame you, my dear, but you didn’t exactly make it challenging did you? We’ll have to work to help you become a bit more subtle in the future.”

“In the future?” Elena was still trying to catch up, her already exhausted reserves still reeling from the revelation of meeting another Twisted face to face. She kept expecting to look up and see the large man in black furs, his face oddly obscured. What did it mean, that he was so rotund and jolly in the dream world but so spindly and graceful in the real world?

“Oh Miss Luc-ci-cano, I know you wished to remain secretive, but you can’t really believe we’ll abandon you to this now that we’ve found you?” the man waved a hand in the general direction of Studio DaRose through the window, “I mean honestly, there’s no point in hiding any longer, let us help you, let us raise you up to where a Twisted Cog is supposed to be.”

“They’re thinking it over, Demetrio, let them think for a moment,” Black Fur’s Echo said quietly, “don’t push too hard.”

Elena had no clue what to think, and she glanced at Ele, hoping for some advice.

“What exactly do you mean ‘help us’,” Ele asked, and Elena was relieved. She was too overwhelmed to think of any of the questions she knew she should be asking, but if anyone knew them it would be Ele.

“Why, we’d take you to where you belong, of course,” Black Furs seemed surprised, “the invitation to the courts belongs to the one responsible for a Studio’s success. Once he tries to engage in conversation with Master DaRose, even Prince Langone will agree that the Master has nothing to do with DaRose’s rise. He’ll be looking for the one who caused it”

Elena couldn’t breathe. She could barely think straight.

The Court of Milia. He’s offering me an invitation to the Court of Milia, her pulse pounded in her temples, and she felt dizzy and sick and excited all at the same time, I could visit the Court of Milia.

“That sounds…too good to be true,” Ele said carefully, “you showing up out of the blue like this, with an offer like this.”

“We could’ve shown up sooner if the two of you hadn’t been so suspicious,” Black Furs said reproachfully, “and yet even now you continue to act as if-”

“Demetrio,” Black Fur’s Echo said again, warningly, and Black Furs fell silent.

“The courts, Ele,” Elena murmured, “the courts.” It would be more than she could bear to see the opportunity slip by, to lose the one thing she had wanted the most. And yet, every time she had ignored Ele’s advice, things had turned out disastrously…Elena clenched her hands into fists in her lap.

Whatever he decides, I’ll trust him. The resolution almost physically hurt, but she wouldn’t make the same mistake she had in Studio De Luca. I just hope he decides to let the Twisted help us.

“What about the others who helped us,” Ele asked, “do we just leave them behind now that we have the opportunity to rise?”

“I would hardly ask the two of you to leave behind your retinue! It is expected that those with an invitation to the Court of Milia should bring along a set of staff, advisors, servants.”

Elena thought this was a strange way of referring to one’s friends, and it reminded her uncomfortably about his word choice when he was torturing Little One, but she brushed the thought aside. She didn’t have to be comfortable around him to accept his help.

Ele’s brow was furrowed in thought. “How long do we have to think abou this?”

“My dear Shadow, I don’t see an issue that deserves much thought! Our Elena here has told us that she wished to be a part of the Milian Court. Have the two of you changed your mind in the matter of your goals?”

“No.”

“Then I fail to see the source of your hesitation,” Black Furs leaned back in his seat.

It’s because Ele doesn’t trust you, Elena thought, worried, he doesn’t trust you, and I’m not sure if I do either, anymore. She was grateful that Ele hadn’t seen Little One’s torture firsthand, or no amount of convincing would be enough for him. As it was the inside of the carriage grew quiet again, Ele clearly deep in thought.

“Ele,” Black Furs’ Echo said gently, “I know the fear and paranoia that Demetrio’s dream world builds in us. I’ve felt it myself, and I shudder to think the effect it must’ve had on you, without anything to explain it. I understand completely that you aren’t sure what to think of we Twisted yet, even after all this time. But we’re not asking you to trust us, all we’re asking is for you to join us at the courts. After you’ve spent time with the Twisted here, in the real world, perhaps you’ll get a better impression of who we really are. Give us the chance to convince you, at least, and if we do a poor job of it, you’ll at least have gotten a place at the court out of it.”

“A place at the court?” Elena asked, “not just an invitation?”

“Well, an invitation for now is enough to take you there, introduce you to Prince Langone and some of the other influential members of the court,” Black Furs said, “after you’re there, of course, we’ll work to keep you as a permanent fixture in those circles; I think you’ll find your invitation will be extended nearly indefinitely. After that it should be considerably less difficult to introduce you to the Florenzian courts.”

“F….Florenzian?”

“Well now don’t get too excited about them just yet my dear, it will take quite some time before your name carries enough clout to join the Florenzian court. Possibly years.”

It was all too much. Elena gave up trying to process it and simply basked in the mental image for a few moments. The Courts of Florenzia, being artist to a King. It was as wild a dream as she could possibly hope for, and she had never felt it so close before. Just a few years? She would’ve taken him up on the offer if he had said a few decades. She turned to Ele, hope in her eyes. Surely he would see what a wonderful opportunity it was. Surely he would be just as excited as she was.

“I suppose there’s no harm in coming to Court with you,” Ele said carefully, “but this doesn’t mean I trust you.” Elena’s heart soared. It might not have been as enthusiastic an agreement as she’d like, but it was an agreement.

“When can we leave?” she asked.

“I can have a more official welcome arrive for you here, tomorrow at sundown,” Black Furs’ smile was a little smug, but Elena didn’t care. The Courts of Milia were calling to her, and nothing could bring her down now. “If you have your retinue with you at the time, we won’t have to bother sending out multiple carriages. I’ve noted firsthand that the Prince gets upset when a fleet of carriages combs the city.”

“They’ll be ready,” Elena was so excited she practically bounced up and down in her seat, “we’ll all be ready!”

“Until tomorrow then,” Black Furs smiled.

 

***

 

Elena barely noticed the rain that pelted at her from the carriage to the Studio. She tripped through the hallway so lightly that it was almost a dance, and when she arrived at the girls’ dorm she had to take deep breaths to calm herself before quietly opening the door. She carefully pulled her scuffed little chest from beneath her bed, rummaging quietly around the room to find clothes and her brush and her set of lockpicks.

“You’re not going to sleep?” Ele asked.

“Are you kidding me?” Elena turned and beamed, “it’s all I can do to keep from running around and shouting, there’s no way I can sleep tonight!”

Tomorrow evening, I’ll be there, she smiled so hard that her cheeks hurt, my dreams are coming true!

My dreams, said the barest rustle of a whisper, too quiet for her to pay any notice.

Mine.

 


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5 responses

  1. One and a half hours technically left in the Twisted Cogs promotion (buy the eBook and have the money also count towards a bonus chapter), but I’ll extend the time limit out until I wake up tomorrow morning. Be sure to check back tomorrow to see how close the next bonus chapter is!

    The final chapter of Twisted Cogs Book 2 (tentative title: Straining Cogs) is on Wednesday, and then we will launch headlong into Book 3 next Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-05-17 at 10:40 pm

  2. Anonymous

    ‘We’ll all be there’… Foolish of her to think that anyone other than Emerald will be coming with her as a companion, and foolish to bring anyone who wants to not as one. _Everyone_ except the sculptor and Owl’s group is on bad terms with her now… well, they’re candidates, but probably want to stay where they are rather than be pulled up out of their depth (plus, group loyalty). Then again, maybe they’re fine with that!

    Nevertheless, some people react badly to being granted huge favours like that, like being lent money.

    Pleasant to get confirmation of Madora(?).

    Hoping that we avoid her ending up dragging several of her more annoying antagonists along with her to the courts, though if not there’s probably going to be a teary scene of her being surprised that they don’t like her and don’t want to receive favours from her. (Maybe Ele will warn her that she’s being overly optimistic, or argue about it with hr, /before/ she tries? Maybe? Though it will be amazing if she actually takes it to heart and approaches the matter with mental preparation…)

    Wondering about where the Little One is and what she’s doing…

    Like

    2015-05-18 at 1:08 am

  3. eduardo

    I keep wondering if people in studio Da Rose will ever notice that Elena was the last chance for them to be anything but the lowest studio.
    Or if they will resent her even more when she leaves for the courts and they start loosing positions in the studio system.

    Like

    2015-05-18 at 2:29 pm

  4. AvidFan

    MY dreams? Well… This can’t possibly end well (for the other Twisted who use their dreams to communicate and scheme) o_o’

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-05-18 at 3:17 pm

  5. Isa Lumitus

    As a point of order, there is one case where ignoring Ele’s advice worked out in Elena’s favor. And that’s in the case of not reporting Erik when Dominico/Garnet was left alone and free for a moment. As a result of that, Slug got killed before he could torture her, and Elena has been reaping the benefits.

    Yes, that resulted in a rhetor going free, but that’s a victory for Liberty. It also resulted in a rhetorguard being murdered, but that was a victory for Darwin, and the human race by extension.

    On another note, I’m not sure I would even notice Elena’s storm’s desires if I had it. I tend to be a bit possessive of my things.

    Like

    2015-07-24 at 4:13 pm

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