A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.1 – Somniantes in torquet {Dreaming in Twists}

Even in her subconscious mind as she slept, the sound of rain was comforting to Elena. It pattered on the window with a steady beat, comforting and familiar.

Would you like to join us, the feather of a suggestion passed between her dreams and her mind, and Elena did want to join them. She wanted to join them very much.

Even with her eyes closed, the blue lights behind her eyelids told her that she had entered the world of dreams, where her Twisted Cog brothers and sisters resided. The patter of the rain had shifted, but it was still present, smaller and less steady. The slow pitch and roll of the ship beneath her told her where she was; the last time she had been here she had seen Little One tortured in the dark underbelly of this same ship.

Elena opened her eyes and rose unsteadily to her feet, finding with surprise that the sound she thought had been the rain was actually the assembled Twisted applauding. In front of her, Black Furs held a tray of drinks, his stance conveying joviality even though his face remained obscured in its customary unfocused black cloud. Behind him, the Grinning Girl and Marsillo, the man without arms, lounged against the ship’s railing, and it was disorienting to see his hands clapping disconnected from his body. On Black Furs’ other side, the man with his face in ribbons and the plain woman stood more stiffly, and ironically it was the plain woman who turned Elena’s stomach far more than the strips of flesh that floated gently around Ribbon Face’s head. Standing apart from the others, but not quite together, Little One and the man made of inky darkness both had body language that was reserved, withdrawn.

What do these people look like in the real world? Elena mused, looking over the strange assembly, then down at her own hands, puzzle-piece skin floating disconnected from her body with a blue glowing core within.

“Finally, we’re all here!” Black Furs cheered as the others continued to applaud, “and I mean that both in the direct moment and in the sense of the greater picture. Now, I hope you aren’t too upset with me, Elena, but I’ve arranged this little get together to give you an official welcome to our number.”

“You all already knew me,” Elena blushed, “it’s…really not that big of a deal.”

“It is entirely a ‘big deal’, my dear; our final member has at last arrived. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Elena ‘Cog’ Luc-ci-a-no, of Milia. Recently a garzona in the studios, but now…”

“Now one of us,” the Ink man said, his voice firm.

Always one of us,” the Plain Woman corrected, “but now at last someone we can counsel and assist.”

Black Furs walked around the ship’s deck with the tray of drinks in hand, passing champagne flutes of a clear green fluid to each of the Twisted in turn.

“Thank you,” Elena said when he reached her, “and…thank you all. Today passed by like a dream, I was so happy.”

“How was your first visit to the castle?” Marsillo asked, “was it everything you could expect?”

“‘First time’,” Elena shivered at the phrase and smiled, “you make it sound so certain that I’ll be coming back to it.”

“Oh without question,” Marsillo made a dismissive gesture, his champagne flute and hand suspended in nothingness, “you may be based in Milia, but the life of a Twisted Cog involves travel all over Italoza, sometimes beyond.”

“She’s still getting used to the idea of just one court, you’re overwhelming the poor thing,” the Plain Woman said kindly.

“I’m…I’m not overwhelmed,” Elena lied, “this is just all so new to me!”

“It’s quite alright, Elena, it was new to all of us at one point or another.”

“Anyways, to answer your question, Marsillo,” Black Furs handed Elena the final champagne flute, “between the gathering of her retinue and a briefly overzealous set of guards, the poor thing was dead tired on her feet by the time we arrived. I’d be surprised if she was able to see any of it.”

“But what I did see was amazing!” Elena gushed, “the castle is so big from close up, and the guards all look so nice in their uniforms and the rooms are just so big and…and everything is so lovely!”

“Ah, so you haven’t met Langone yet?” the Grinning Girl asked. It took a few moments for Elena to connect the name so casually mentioned to the Prince of Milia.

“No, not yet…I’m a little scared,” Elena admitted, “and I probably shouldn’t drink this, Black Furs- I mean Lord Waldren.”

“Oh my goodness you still don’t even know us!” Black Furs put a hand behind her back and guided her towards the Grinning Girl and the man without arms, “we can actually properly introduce ourselves now!”

“I’m Midora Fara,” the Grinning Girl’s wide smile filled with sharp teeth was as friendly as could be expected with no eyes or nose to express emotion, “leader of the Faberi Guild throughout Italoza. I hope you’re not angry that I used my connections to find you.”

“I’m not angry, I think it’s turned out alright,” Elena said, “I hope you’re not angry that I’ve been avoiding you for so long.”

“We could never be angry at you for having a healthy dose of paranoia,” Midora smirked.

“I believe I’ve already introduced myself as Marsillo,” said the man without hands, “but my full name is Marsillo Del Favero.”

“Del Favero,” Elena’s eyes widened. The Del Favero family name was known widely enough that she didn’t need an explanation of what he did; the banking family was such a power that they all but ran the cities of Venecchi and Ferrire.

“Yes, yes, we’re all very impressed with our very own Twisted mogul,” Waldren grumbled.

“I believe Lord Waldren is jealous of my family’s success,” Marsillo took a sip from his champagne flute, “perhaps due to his rather unfortunate attempt to start out a banking venture of his own.”

“Moving on,” Waldren growled, indicating the Plain Woman and Ribbon Face.

“Lucrezia Lucente,” said the Plain Woman, extending her hand. Elena had to brace herself to shake it, and she dropped it as soon as she could politely do so.

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Lucente,” she said.

“Lucrezia here is one of the council at Rimi,” Lord Waldren said, “though she’s too humble to brag.”

“More appropriately, I don’t have anything worth bragging about,” Lucrezia laughed, the sound setting Elena’s teeth on edge, “I am just a fraction of the council of thirteen, and half the time the other dozen stymy any effect I’d like to have. I’m relatively harmless, in our little number.”

Elena didn’t think being one of thirteen rulers of the geographically largest city in Italoza could be considered ‘relatively harmless’. Her head was starting to spin even though she hadn’t had a drop of the green liquid that sparkled in her champagne flute. There was so much power on the deck of this ship, so much casual influence.

“It is my delight and pleasure to finally meet you face-to-face as it were, to put name and qualification to face, and guard our own resources no more,” the Ribbon-faced man took Elena’s hand in his, “my name is Michelangelo Piermarco Santangelo Coastering, my dear, and unlike our other brethren I’m afraid I hold no political power whatsoever.”

“You lying snake,” Midora always grinned, but her faceless smile seemed more sly now, “you may not hold a political position, but saying you hold no political power is ridiculous.”

“Why does the name ‘Coastering’ sound so familiar?” Elena asked.

“Probably because Master Coastering is on the the most well-known Artifexes in Italoza,” Lord Waldren chuckled, “even though his reputation is a bit skewed from reality.”

“Master Coastering!” the pieces clicked in Elena’s head, “Master De Luca told us about you! You paint pictures of the dead that still have memories of their living selves!”

“As Waldren said, my reputation a bit skewed from reality,” Master Coastering stroked his chin, an odd sight as his fingers brushed through the ribbons that floated ‘round his head. the face beneath was blank, too fuzzy and dark to make out any expression. “Bernardo has been telling tales about me, has he? If you’re a graduate of De Luca’s, we can work with that.”

“I…actually failed out of De Luca’s studio,” Elena admitted.

“So did I, we’re practically sisters,” Midora said, and Elena got the impression that she would’ve winked had she been able, “I turned out alright, you will too, don’t worry.”

“My name is Fulvio Cordano,” the man made of inky black shadows extended his hand, but when Elena shook it his hand slipped through hers, the black ink sliding along and in between the puzzle pieces that made up her hand. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you what I do.”

“Don’t take it personally,” Black Furs said, “his position involves an oath of secrecy, one which he takes very seriously.”

“I take all of my oaths seriously,” Fulvio said gravely, his blank and ink-black face revealing nothing.

Elena was suddenly struck by just how hard it was to read the expressions of most of the Twisted. Between Lord Waldren’s fuzzy haze, Master Coastering’s ribbons, Midora’s lack of a face besides her smile, and Fulvio’s pitch black and shimmering skin, Elena was one of the few Twisted whose face could be seen.

It was ironic that another whose expression could be seen was Little One, the most guarded of them all. She stood a ways away from the group, flying over the edge of her glass at the rest. The image of the small child with golden hair glaring at the adults should’ve been funny, but Elena wasn’t laughing.

“You seem…Um…improved since the last time I saw you, Little One,” Elena said, approaching the girl.

“Of course I am, the last time you saw me I was being tortured,” Little One snapped, “I told them I’m in Venecchi, so yes, they’ve stopped torturing me.” She took a drink, then narrowed her eyes, “I see that knowing we torture others was just the push you needed to trust us.”

“Now that’s not entirely fair,” Lord Waldren said, “she didn’t choose to trust us, we sort of tracked her down.”

“She registered her name in the Faberi Guild,” Little One said, “please let me keep an ounce of my respect for her and believe that she did it on purpose as a way for us to find her.”

“We’re trying to have a celebration here,” Waldren sighed, “must you insist on being nasty and bringing the whole tone down, Little One?”

“You don’t have to call her ‘Little One’ around me anymore,” Elena said, “what can I call you instead?”

“You may call me Little One, as everyone else does whether you’re here or not,” Little One said calmly. Elena wasn’t sure how to respond, and so instead looked down at the champagne flute in her hand.

“There are no effects of alcohol in the dream world, don’t worry,” Lord Waldren assured, “now, you’ve got some storytelling to do, because I’m dying to know; how did you come to move from Studio De Luca to Studio DaRose?”

“Studio DaRose?!” Midora exclaimed.

“What did I miss? What is Studio DaRose?” Marsillo asked.

“It’s the trash of Milia, the lowest of the low who accepts any Stormtouched and even Mortalis who crawl to its doors,” Midora said dismissively, “or at least it was when I left the city. How on earth did you wind up there?”

“Not only did she wind up there, she took it to the top of the hierarchy in the space of a few months,” Lord Waldren said proudly.

“I would expect no less of our Elena,” Lucrezia said.

Our Elena, the feeling filled Elena with warmth, and she looked around her at all of the smiling faces and couldn’t help but smiling herself.

“Well…Master De Luca  had told me I had to learn my Storm…” she began.

Elena was facing the group as she spoke, and so she alone had a view of railings on the front of the ship, far off at the other side. Something was pulling itself up and over the edge, something dressed in robes that whipped back and forth as if caught in a bitter wind.

“Who is that?” Elena asked. The figure struggled to stand on the railing, silently looking at the group of Twisted. Elena was reminded forcibly of the feeling she had had the last time she’d arrived on the ship; a feeling of someone or something watching her.

“Another newcomer? So soon?” Marsillo asked.

“No…no they don’t feel right,” Lord Waldren’s brow was furrowed with confusion and worry. “Hello, friend!” he called. The figure made no reply, but it jumped down to the deck with a heavy thud. The cloak and hood he wore still whipped around him, violently enough that Elena couldn’t quite catch sight of his face.

“I don’t like this, Wanderer,” Midora frowned, “we’re trying to celebrate here, perhaps we can remove the interloper?”

“I’m…I’m trying,” Lord Waldren gasped, “I can’t.”

The Twisted were growing more and more agitated now, and their fear was passing on to Elena. The figure began walking at a slow and steady pace toward the group. Elena didn’t know why, but a dread built in her stomach that told her she very much didn’t want him to reach them.

“You said you control the dreams,” Coastering said.

“I do control the dreams!”

“Well then get rid of it!”

“Wanderer please!” Midora begged.

“I’m trying it’s no use!”

The figure had almost reached them when its wildly flapping hood twisted just right, and Elena saw the figure’s face.

It was pure black with millions of flecks of light, but at the same time it was a field of white with motes of black. It was a blizzard in a night sky, it was a plague of gnats silhouetted by the sun.

She had been wrong to dread the figure. She should be terrified of it.

“Lord Waldren I don’t want to be here,” she whispered, her voice drowned out by the cries of alarm from the rest of the Twisted.

“We are better safe than sorry,” Lord Walrden cried, “I’ll assemble us again when I know more!”

 

***

 

Elena opened her eyes quite suddenly, staring at an unfamiliar ceiling in an unfamiliar room. She was in an unfamiliar bed, as well, but it was so comfortable and luxurious that that part didn’t bother her at all.

Slowly the details, both of her dream and of the real world, began to filter through her sleepy mind.

Who…or what…had the cloaked figure been? How had they bypassed Black Furs…Lord Waldren‘s influence over the dream? Elena tried to focus on the dream, but it seemed less significant the more she tried to put off the day ahead of her.

Eventually she sprang out of bed. The Twisted had told her that harm in the dream world never translated into harm in the real world, that had been how they’d justified torturing Little One.

The Twisted were fine. Elena could no longer put off thoughts of the real world.

Today she was meeting the Prince of Milia.

***

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

***

If you’re excited for the kickoff of Twisted Cogs Book 3, consider voting on TWF!

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20 responses

  1. Posting this from my phone, from the car, on the way to family, so sorry for any formatting problems or spelling errors!

    Book 3 begin!!

    Like

    2015-05-25 at 12:26 am

    • ultragunner

      “What does the name ‘Coastering’ sound so familiar?” Elena asked.

      it should be why right?

      Like

      2015-05-25 at 4:07 am

  2. CaptainPedantic

    AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! eek :,(

    Like

    2015-05-25 at 3:55 am

  3. love it!!!cant wait to see what happens next!!!

    Like

    2015-05-25 at 5:04 am

  4. Scary person! :< It's like a… a double twisted cog!

    Like

    2015-05-25 at 2:21 pm

  5. Fhoenix

    Well that came out of nowhere. I hope the Twisted are okay. Would be anticlimactic if they all died the moment we knew who they are.
    Also bad Elena, selfish Elena, you should at least check on Lord Waldren.

    Like

    2015-05-25 at 4:01 pm

    • That would be quite a twist ending to the story! “Suddenly, everyone died. The End.”

      Don’t worry, I wouldn’t do that, that’s a little mean even for me

      Like

      2015-05-26 at 10:41 am

  6. DeNarr

    Is it intended that this chapter is labeled as 1-1? Instead of perhaps 6-1?

    Like

    2015-05-26 at 10:02 am

    • Yep, it’s intended. This chapter is Twisted Cogs Book 3, Arc 1, Chapter 1

      Like

      2015-05-26 at 10:42 am

  7. Unmaker

    Guess: The figure is Elena’s Storm. We know from at least one comment that it is sapient and it would be impossible to banish without banishing Elena herself. And Elena is rightfully afraid of it.

    Like

    2015-05-26 at 11:33 am

    • Anonymous

      I think that everyones’ storm is sapient, but almost as if it is dreaming, unconscious, yet somehow Elena woke hers up.

      my other guess is that it is the combined storms of all of millia converging upon her because she is possibly a threat.

      Like

      2015-05-29 at 12:25 am

  8. Prodigy_Newling

    Just a heads up, right now the next button leads to 5-6

    Like

    2015-05-27 at 7:14 am

    • Ah, good catch! That part is automatically added by wordpress, I actually don’t know that I can remove that without paying for the customizable css, that’s why I add the “Previous Chapter” and “Next Chapter” links at the end of each chapter!

      EDIT: Fixed, thanks for the catch!

      Like

      2015-05-27 at 10:18 pm

  9. AvidFan

    Hum… With Elena’s luck, Lord Waldren will fall into a coma and she will be unable to contact the other Twisted, and her court appearance will be abruptly cut short.

    Theories on this strange new development:
    He/she is to the Twisted as the Twisted are to the Storm Touched.
    He/she is actually Elena’s Storm.
    Lord Waldren can’t control the dream because of the new person, OR because maybe Elena is in control of the dream thanks to her Storm.
    He/she is a normal Storm Touched, but their Storm gives them access and control to the dream.
    He/she is the anti-thesis to the Twisted Cogs.
    He/she is a being that exists to fix the “machine” that the Twisted Cogs are messing with.
    The Twisted Cogs are but one faction among many groups of special Storm Touched.

    Anyone else have some other ideas?

    Like

    2015-05-27 at 8:25 am

  10. Thorbjorn

    Hmmm the date seem to be a bit of, this chapter is supposedly posted in April

    Like

    2015-05-27 at 9:58 am

    • Huh, I never really notice that date before. That’s definitely incorrect. Fixed, thanks!

      Like

      2015-05-27 at 10:15 pm

  11. Anonymous

    Now then, what’s the reason for the timing..? If not in direct reaction to something that happened recently, it would seem odd for an element completely unknown to the twisted cogs to pop up right now.

    Like

    2015-05-27 at 4:10 pm

  12. Galiana

    “it was a plague of gnats silluetted by the sun”
    Silhouetted?

    Like

    2015-05-27 at 10:09 pm

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