A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.2 – Pluvia {Rain}

Elena stood on the balcony and watched the rain pour down on the city of Milia. It stretched out before her, glittering in the sunlight and rain. A slight breeze swept the smell of water on stone across her face, tugged at her nightdress and occasionally splashed a lone raindrop beneath the awning that covered the balcony.

“It’s so much easier to see the beauty of the city from up here,” she said, listening to the sound of rain on the walls of the castle around them. The geometric patterns of the perfectly aligned streets and shops of Milia were clearer than they ever had been when she ran through them from one Studio to another.

“It’s the same city, you’re just seeing it through a different lens,” Ele said, “we’re no better than we were down there, remember that.”

“Oh I know! I won’t start getting delusions of grandeur just because we’re here, Ele, don’t worry.”

“I’m more worried about you getting delusions of grandeur from spending time with your twisted friends.”

Elena had spent time during the morning to fill Ele in on the events in the dream world the night before, and he had been quiet ever since.

“The Twisted won’t change who I am,” Elena said, “just because they’re rulers and leaders and masters and heads of powerful families and…really intimidating, that doesn’t mean they think they’re better than anyone else.”

“On it’s own, perhaps not, but the fact that they think they’re beyond the justice of everyone else, that certainly means they think they’re better than anyone else.”

Elena didn’t have an answer to that, and the image of Little One hooked onto the wall flashed in front of her eyes again.

“I’ll be careful,” she promised, “and I’ll depend on you to tell me if and when I’m getting out of hand.”

“An opportunity to point out when I’m right? I’ll do that with great relish,” Ele smiled.

“You never do anything with relish.”

A quiet knock on the large bedroom door interrupted her teasing, and Elena hurried over to it with her heart in her throat. Emerald waited on the other side, a small pile of linens and clothes in her arms.

“Good morning, Elena!” she said brightly, bustling in and closing the door behind her with a foot, “you have a standing appointment to be introduced to the Prince this morning, I’m here to help you dress and clean up.”

“I don’t need help cleaning up or dressing,” Elena blinked, “I know I told Lord Waldren you were my servant, but really I just wanted you to come with me as a friend!”

“And to make sure you’re well away by the time Rolf tracks you down to Studio DaRose,” Ele added. Elena shuddered at the thought of the usually-friendly Rhetorguard. She had seen the transformation when he’d caught Erik shirking the rules of the Guardhouse, she dreaded to think how angry he was that his assigned Rhetor had escaped.

“Do you know about how the women of the Milian court wear their hair?” Emerald asked, setting down her bundle and carefully arranging everything on the bed, “can you tie the ribbons in the back of this dress by yourself? Do you know how much flower-water to apply?”

“I…I didn’t really…” Elena stammered. She doubted even women in the Carpi courts knew any of that. “Do you know all that stuff?”

Emerald laughed, like silver bells in the quiet room, “you really have no idea who I am, do you? Do think I sprang from the ground that first day we met, when Ele said my eyes were pretty?”

“You remember that,” Ele said, blushing.

“You’ve been in the courts before? Which ones? When was it? How did you-”

“The standing appointment may be open all morning, Elena, but it’s usually best to meet a Prince promptly when invited,” Emerald said, nodding pointedly towards the water closet in the corner. Burning with curiosity, Elena nevertheless went to wash up.

“Oh, I almost forgot, speaking of Lord Walren,” Emerald called after her, “he told me to pass on a message to you. He says he hopes that your dreams were just as bright as his were. I thought it was strange.”

“Actually-” Ele began, but stopped short at the look Elena shot him. She may have her blind spots as far as the Twisted were concerned, but Ele had his as well. “-actually I think it’s ‘Waldren’, not ‘Walren’,” he finished lamely, and Elena nodded. As much as she liked Emerald and enjoyed her company, the fact remained that Emerald had used her Storm to force Elena’s faith in her.

Emerald won’t ever hurt me, Elena thought, but I still don’t know if I can trust her, especially about something as important as the Twisted.

 

***

 

The room was all sleek light wood, the rainsluice taking up a good half of it. As far as Elena could tell, there was no way to activate it, and she peered at the smooth walls of the cubicle as she stripped out of her nightdress.

These are my guest quarters, she carefully reasoned, so for now, this rainsluice is mine.

She felt the Storm unfurl in her mind with a vaguely resentful air, a strange thought since she could only feel it in the prickles along her temples and in her fingertips. The rainsluice was full of heated water, carefully contained above the ceiling and just waiting to drop down. The delicate mechanisms connected to a panel in the floor of the cubicle, delicately weighted so that when she stepped within the mechanisms would activate.

“How clever!” she said as she stepped inside, and the sound of rain against the walls outside coincided with the wash of warm droplets against her skin.

Waste of Storm, when there’s an entire city begging to be ruled around you.

Elena froze, her hands halfway to her hair. The thought had appeared in her head on its own, without fanfare or notice, but it absolutely wasn’t hers. Even in her memory she couldn’t give the thought a tone or cadence, as if the ideas themselves had floated through her mind instead of words.

“He…hello?” she said quietly. No response was forthcoming, either out loud or in her head. After a few minutes Elena slowly returned to washing herself, her mind racing. The thought certainly hadn’t belonged to her, her stomach clenched in knots at the very idea of it. Ruling a city was too terrifying a prospect to even begin thinking about, not when she had failed so handily at even pseudo-leading Studio DaRose. And that didn’t even approach the matter that Milia already had a ruler, a ruler with an entire court, one which she was graciously being allowed to attend now.

It was too frightening to even let her mind dwell on, and Elena pushed the unnerving intrusive thought from her head, guilty that it had even crossed her mind.

 

***

 

She had worried that it would be strange, wearing something other than a garzona uniform after nearly half a year, wearing her curls tied up with a neat ribbon. She needn’t have worried; she felt so pretty in the dress Emerald had brought her that the thought of being uncomfortable never crossed her mind. It was simple, with only a few ruffles here and there along the sleeves to keep it from looking too plain, a beautiful ivory-white that contrasted nicely with her hair and made her green eyes stand out a little more. There was even a hood that could obscure her face, although she imagined that in the courts she would find far less use for it than she had in her time in the studio. Her skirts swished satisfyingly as she walked down the huge and ornate halls of the castle, following Emerald.

“You’ve gotten familiar with this place very quickly,” Elena said, hoping for more information. Had it been the Milian courts that Emerald had been in? Or had it been somewhere else, and most castles were laid out the same?

“Lord Waldren gave me directions to your room, and from there to the room where you’ll meet your friends,” even from behind her Elena could tell Emerald was smiling, “I’m sure I’ll learn in time, but right now I would be just as lost as you would in these halls.”

“Why won’t you just tell me where you’ve been in courts before?”

“You’ve had months to ask me anything you might be curious about,” Emerald shot a playful grin over her shoulder, “right now I am trying hard to be more like a courtly servant, I shouldn’t take on airs and tell stories about myself.”

“You’ll tell me some time, won’t you?”

“Just through this door, miss,” Emerald said with a twinkle in her eye, standing to one side. Elena pouted as she stepped through the doorway.

“You see, I told you it was on purpose!” Arta crowed as she entered. The room was large, its floor covered in a single rugs that stretched from one side to the other. A huge fireplace dominated one side, and around it were arranged beautiful chairs and lounges. Paintings adorned the walls, Mortalis paintings but breathtaking nonetheless. Owl, Belloza, Arta, and Fred sat settled in on the lounges and chairs, while Bell, Frederica, and Arturo all stood as if they had been looking at the paintings or out the large windows that took up an entire wall.

“What was on purpose?” Elena asked, joining her friends in front of the fireplace. Arta scooted to one side, and Elena sat down next to her on a large lounge.

“Lord Waldren gave us all outfits to wear when meeting the Prince,” Belloza said, tugging at the end of her sleeve and fidgeting, “we thought the colors might’ve been coincidence.”

Elena looked around at what the others were wearing. The boys were wearing breeches and jackets, simple but very fine, Owl’s a dark blue and Arturo’s grey. The girls’ dresses were just as simple as Elena’s, Belloza in green and Frederica in a soft yellow.

“They match your Studios!” Elena smiled. She glanced down at her own ivory dress, wondering what Lord Waldren meant with his selection.

“Ele, you aren’t going in front of the prince like that, are you?” Fred asked suddenly. Elena glanced at Ele again, only now noticing the clothes he wore. All of the other Echoes wore clothing matching their Stormtouched, but Ele still wore the simple garzoni uniform he had worn for the past few months.

“Oh…I didn’t think of it,” Ele flushed red, “I’m still not really used to it…”

Elena wasn’t used to Ele looking embarrassed, but no one else seemed to judge him.

“It’s a very fine outfit Elena is wearing, that you’ll want to match,” Arta said, “do you want help?”

“I’ve never worn anything that fancy before,” Ele said, furrowing his brow.

“I’ll go with you.” Belloza’s Echo spoke up with a deep and resonating voice, clapping a large hand on Ele’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” Ele said quietly, “I’ll be back in a little bit, Elena.”

Elena watched the two Echoes slip through the far wall, then turned to her friends.

“Does anyone know…” she began, but trailed off as she saw them already shaking their heads.

“No one knows,” Owl said, “though we do know that the more fine the clothes, or the more accessories, the harder it is.”

“It’s nothing personal, you understand,” Arta said apologetically. Elena didn’t understand at all, but it seemed such a natural thing to the rest of them that she let it drop.

“At least he doesn’t have hair-ribbons to worry about,” Frederica said. Elena noticed for the first time that the Caelator’s hair was tied in elaborate braids, a yellow ribbon woven in between them and tied in a pretty bow at the end.

“Your servant did your hair amazingly!” Elena gasped.

“Don’t need a servant messing with my hair, I did it myself,” Frederica said.

“Oh…I didn’t think you would fuss with your hair much…I don’t know why.”

“It’s a skill an artist needs in a court, isn’t it?” Frederica frowned, “so I studied it. Anyways, yours is fine. You and Ele have hair that goes well with your outfits.”

Elena cast a final glance over her shoulder at the reminder of her Echo, checking the wall through which Bello and Ele had vanished. The door in that wall was slightly open, and behind it a man was watching her. He wore heavy armor, and his breeches and doublet were deep maroon, with the crest of Milia; what Elena assumed was the uniform of the Milian guard.

When he saw Elena watching, he pointed at her, then made a beckoning gesture. Elena looked around her, but the guard was definitely pointing at her and gesturing.

“I’ll be one moment,” she said, and rose to move to the door.

“You won’t catch them, I’ve tried,” Arturo called after her. The room was large enough that his voice echoed, and by the time she reached the other side, Elena couldn’t hear her friends’ muted conversation.

“Were you asking for me?” Elena asked as soon as she was close enough to the door to speak to the guard.

“Not me, miss, I wasn’t” the guard said, “Lord Fanleeling wishes to speak with you for a moment.”

“Who is Lord Fanleeling?” Elena asked, stepping outside to join the guard in the empty hallway. The guard gestured behind her, and Elena turned, but there was no one there.

The guard’s gauntlet-clad hand closed around one wrist, twisting her arm suddenly enough to double her over. At the same time he snatched her hood, pulling it up and over her head to blind her and stuffing it into her mouth. Elena tried to scream, but her mouth was filled with her hair and the thick cloth, and suddenly she was being lifted bodily off of her feet, her arms pinned to her sides. She struggled and kicked at his armored shins, but she could make so little noise that she could hear the door to her friends quietly click closed, could hear the echo of the guard’s armored feet as he hurried down the hallway with her wrapped in his arms.

***

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

***

vote for Twisted Cogs on TWF is a vote for the smell of rain on stone

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17 responses

  1. ’twas a long day, lads and ladies, so if you see any typos or glaring errors, that’s why.

    In other news, this was Twisted Cogs’ 100th post! Woohoo, milestones!

    Like

    2015-05-27 at 11:06 pm

  2. ultragunner

    oh, elena what rotten luck you have

    Like

    2015-05-27 at 11:33 pm

  3. Is the number on this one right? The previous chapter was 5.10. I know it’s a new book, bur wouldn’t it start with 1.1?

    Like

    2015-05-28 at 1:12 am

    • And in the index, 1.1 gives a “page not found” error.

      Like

      2015-05-28 at 1:13 am

      • 1.1 was already posted this Sunday. Here is the link:
        https://twistedcogs.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/1-1-somniantes-in-torquet-dreaming-in-twists

        :3 The link on the index is wrong, the month is set to April, not May.

        Like

        2015-05-28 at 1:25 am

        • (Hopefully you didn’t get super confused reading this chapter before the other).

          And by the way, Maddi, the prev. chapter button also doesn’t point to the right chapter, just so you know :3

          Like

          2015-05-28 at 1:27 am

          • Ack! Linking mistakes all over the place! They should all be fixed now, but yikes hopefully I can avoid that in the future.

            Thanks for the catch!

            Like

            2015-05-28 at 6:46 am

        • Odd… 1.1 never showed up in my feed. But the links are fixed now, and I’m no longer quite so confused.

          Like

          2015-05-28 at 9:57 am

          • Thorbjorn

            Mine showed up quite a bit down the list maybe that was the problem?

            Like

            2015-05-28 at 2:38 pm

  4. Jat

    If you don’t want unpleasant things to happen to you, you really shouldn’t be the protagonist of a novel.

    Like

    2015-05-28 at 1:32 am

  5. What the heck kind of cliffhanger is this! :< Bad cliffhanger bad.

    I'm glad Elena realises that she fucked up with Studio DaRose. I wonder why Elena trusts Emerald and Ele, despite being so certain that Emerald manipulated her. I also can't wait for an explanation as to why rhetors don't have… uhm. Tan lines?

    I want Elena's dress <3 Sounds pretty.

    Thanks for the chapter!

    Like

    2015-05-28 at 3:05 am

    • ultragunner

      actually you make a good point there. i never questioned it before, but it does seem wierd doesnt it?

      Like

      2015-05-29 at 4:48 am

  6. Fhoenix

    Oh crap. Well now I have official reason to worry :P

    Like

    2015-05-28 at 3:18 am

  7. DeNarr

    I find it very odd that no one else seemed to notice the guard.

    Like

    2015-05-28 at 10:07 am

  8. So, what happens if Elena goes beyond a hundred yards without Ele noticing?

    Like

    2015-05-28 at 4:54 pm

  9. Stormblessed

    Depending on what happens next, this is kind of unfortunate. I was looking forward to Elena meeting the prince.

    Or perhaps she is being kidnapped to the prince?

    Why couldn’t she have been kidnapped after her meeting? :(

    Like

    2015-05-28 at 7:33 pm

  10. spiffingly

    I’m loving this world you’ve created, super excited to see what happens next. So pleased I found this through TWF.

    Like

    2015-05-30 at 8:13 am

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