A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.6 – Animos Hac Contione {A Meeting of Minds}

Elena’s head pounded, but she knew as soon as she opened her eyes that she hadn’t yet woken up. The canopy above her was the same one hanging over her Milian castle bed, but now it was illuminated with the soft blue glow that emanated from her core, and it cast large puzzle-piece shadows across the dark fabric.

Lord Waldren hasn’t ever brought me to a dream world that I know before, Elena thought, rising to her elbows and looking around the room, I hope it’s not to scold me about how I acted in front of the Prince. He can’t be mad at me for not keeping up with that political way they all talk…can he? The room was so dark that she could barely see the corners even with the glow of her dream-self’s core, but it all seemed exactly the same as it was in the real world. Elena slipped from the bed a little nervously, biting her lip and waiting for something to happen, unsure if Black Furs wanted her to wander around looking for him or if someone would be coming to fetch her.

Maybe he doesn’t even know I’m here, she mused, then shuddered, remembering the grisly scene she had walked in on when she’d last intruded on the dream world unannounced. The Twisted had been trying to get information out of Little One through torture. The memory was still sour in her stomach, even though it had seemed so trivial to both the Twisted and to Little One herself. Indeed, the last time she had seen them, Little One had been drinking champagne with the others, albeit with a scowl on her face.

Thunder rolled outside, and for the first time Elena noticed that it was raining outside in the dream world. The sound of falling rain was a constant in the real world during the season of Rain, but here in the dream world it seemed…moreso somehow, the sound deeper and more distinct, as if this was a true thunderstorm and the rain in the real world was only a dim replica.

The huge glass doors that separated her room from the balcony showed only darkness outside, the blue light enough to show Elena her own reflection. Touching one of the puzzle pieces that made up her face, she tilted her head to one side and took the sight in. She looked young, and frightened…what had the Prince said? ‘An innocent’? What did that even mean? Was that a bad thing? Could she change it if it was?

A flash of lightning lit up the outside, lit up the terrible expanse of black sky filled with far far too many white pinpricks of stars, enough to look like a blizzard, and lit the balcony enough to see the figure standing on it, his back to Elena, leaning over the railing. In the heartbeat that he was illuminated, Elena could see only his large dark cloak, flapping in the rain and wind.

The newcomer to the dream world, the person who had interrupted the Twisted during their last meeting, the cloaked figure whose face was made up of white and black flecks and whose presence would explain the deep unease that Elena was feeling right now. He was here, and he was waiting for her on the balcony of her room. Unable to move, she stared hard at the large glass doors, at the reflection of her own frightened face, and tried to think.

No harm that comes to me in this world will persist in the real world, Lord Waldren told me that, she thought, I don’t have to be frightened, anything he might do to me will go away as soon as I wake up. She certainly felt frightened, no matter what she told herself, but she pushed the feeling down and focused hard on thinking. I have no reason to think he’ll hurt me, I don’t know him. None of us know him. But if he can get into the dream world, then he’s Twisted like us.

The Prince had called her ‘naive’ and ‘an innocent’. Perhaps she was both of those things, but what she was above all else, what she had been ever since she was a small girl, was curious.

“He’s had plenty of time to come in and hurt me if he was going to hurt me,” Elena said to herself, steeling herself with the sound of her own voice. She took a step towards the glass door. “If I talk to him now, I can find out who he is and what he wants. I can tell the Twisted the next time I see them. I can introduce us…introduce myself, at least.”

She took another step towards the door, then another. The sight of herself in her reflection, pale and frightened, made up of puzzle pieces that hovered an inch away from what would have been the surface of her skin, wasn’t helping her confidence. The glass door slid open quietly beneath her fingers, almost silently in the sound of the pouring rain on the roof of the balcony. Even so, the figure moved, the slightest inclination of his hood to acknowledge her presence. Elena couldn’t make herself move any further, she just stood silent and still.

“Slow you are to come and talk,” the cloaked figure said, without turning around. Between the dread in her stomach and the cloak and hood flapping in a wind that was not there, Elena had been expecting something more dramatic or frightening, like a low rumble of words or an animal hiss. Instead the voice was completely average, so average that Elena could barely remember what it sounded like the moment the figure stopped talking.

“I…I’m sorry. I was scared,” Elena said honestly.

“Scared-being is not needing apologies,” the figure said, still without turning, “scared-being is wise-being some of the time.”

Elena tried to follow the figure’s way of speaking, but was distracted when he made a gesture, indicating a place next to him at the railing. The thought of joining him made the dread return, but she clenched her teeth.

I’m representing the Twisted to this person, she thought fiercely, I can’t let myself be too afraid to learn things. Taking a deep breath and pushing the feeling of dread away again, Elena stepped out onto the balcony and joined him. It took physical effort to make herself look up at the figure, but he wasn’t looking her way. His face was still featureless, either white specs dancing across a black surface or black specs across a white surface, but it was clear he was looking down over the balcony at the city of Milia below. The city of the dream world was much the same as it was in real life, although not a single light shone out from the black windows and dark streets.

“My name is Cog,” she said, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The figure snorted a laugh, “Elena Lucciano is the name of you. Cog is the name of the wish of you.”

“Oh. You know who I am.” It was worrisome that he knew her real name, but now that she was in the courts Elena supposed that there would be some who knew her. The thought suddenly occurred to her that the figure might be in league with the ones who had kidnapped and questioned her, and she gripped the railing tight.

“The knowing of you began at the picking of you. Before the birth of you was the knowing of you.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand you.”

“Bah,” the figure sounded frustrated, “when here at home, the wordings are strange-having to me. Now it is me who is fashioning apologies for your taking.”

“It’s alright,” Elena said. She waited in silence for a moment for the figure to speak again, but he seemed content to look out at the dark city in the rain. “What’s your name?”

“The name of me?” the figure looked towards her, obviously surprised even without a face.

“Yes, what can I call you?”

“Unknowing of me you are? The most stupid of young small ungrown adults is you, Elena Lucciano,” he shook his head and turned back to the city bitterly, “thus is the gratitude of humans.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you, I just don’t know what I should call you,” Elena said, confused, “I would show my gratitude but I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what to thank you for!”

“The recognizing of me is maybe not easy for you. I had thought that powers beyond measure would make me mind-sticking for you.”

Elena tried to work through the complicated sentence for what felt like a long time. The figure knew her, the figure expected her to know him, the figure had given her power beyond measure…

Elena sucked in a breath, so startled that she took a step back, tripping and falling hard on her rear. The figure turned to observe her, neutrally, and certainty gripped Elena like a vice, so hard that she found it hard to breathe.

“You’re the voice,” she whispered, “you’re my Storm.”

“Always for every human, thinking that around them the world is revolving,” the figure said contemptuously, “always thinking a thousand Storms, my Storm your Storm his Storm her Storm. No, Elena Lucciano, your Storm I am not.”

Another roll of thunder crashed around them, and a spike of lightning hit so close that it lit the whole balcony white. The figure spread its arms, the cloak and hood around it whipped back and forth as if a howling wind was trying to tear it from its limbs. White speckles on black, black specks on white, he looked down at her, the raging of a snowstorm in the night sky, the speckles of black rain against a backdrop of clouds.

Your Storm I am not,” he said against the backdrop of the sound of rain. “The Storm am I.”

***

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***

The stats are in, and they show that twice the number of people will press a button marked “do not vote” as will press one marked “vote”

I wish I could say I was surprised.

Do not click this ‘Vote for Twisted Cogs’ link

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16 responses

  1. Gevaisa

    That was mildly surprising. It would have been more than mildly surprising if I were more than mildly surprised by things anymore.
    Also, “made up of puzzle pieces that hovered an inch away from what would have been the surface of her skin”? I know this has probably come up before, but wouldn’t this make her limbs seem disproportionately thick? How does it work with her fingers?

    Like

    2015-06-15 at 12:26 am

    • Anonymous

      I imagine that, appearance-wise, she resembles something like a golem at the level of the puzzle pieces.

      Like

      2015-06-21 at 5:54 pm

  2. asdy

    woah

    Like

    2015-06-15 at 12:39 am

  3. nirg

    Too short 😜

    Like

    2015-06-15 at 1:25 am

  4. CaptainPedantic

    I was right! -ish. I thought it was the storm of everybody minus elena. I thought so because of the specks. But I was close!

    Like

    2015-06-15 at 1:51 am

    • Unmaker

      My idea was the mathematical complement of yours – I thought it was Elena’s Storm. So we were both at least partially right.

      Like

      2015-06-16 at 3:11 pm

  5. Typo thread. *Keeps sewing*
    “The Twisted had been trying to get information out of Little One through tortured”
    -> Through torture

    Anyone else imagining the Storm with a thick Russian accent?

    I wonder, why did the Storm decide to talk to Elena and give her the powers she has? Does the Storm itself, as presented here, actually talk to Elena in her head, or is it a smaller part of itself? And finally, I wonder if the Storm was ever human. It does show itself as a human, for what it’s worth.

    Thanks for the chapter!

    Like

    2015-06-15 at 2:02 am

    • Mian

      I’m hearing a gutteral ruskie like accent with a trace of a lilt, purring more than speaking.

      Like

      2015-06-15 at 11:12 am

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for the catch!!

      Like

      2015-06-18 at 12:27 am

  6. Pansirus

    Hi, thanks for writing, Twisted Cog is among the top3 of my favourite web fictions and I’m really looking forward for where this one is going :)

    Two things with this one:
    “The figure spread its arms, it the cloak…” -> one “it” too much

    The “Do no vote”-button is too small, this doesn’t have the same impact as the last one :)

    Like

    2015-06-15 at 3:02 pm

    • Wow it it seems like that’s something I’m doing a lot recently. It it won’t happen again though, don’t worry! (and you’re right, bigger is better!)

      Like

      2015-06-18 at 12:28 am

  7. “I had thought that powers beyond measure would make me mind-sticking for you.”
    “The figure had given her power beyond measure…”

    Not a typo, but Elena couldn’t logically jump like that, could she? The figure only mentioned “powers beyond measure”, not that it had given her said powers.

    Apology for hairsplitting.
    Sorry.

    Cheers, love the story!

    Like

    2015-06-15 at 6:19 pm

    • Well she is trying to be a little smarter these days! Even though I think I’m going to keep it as-is, there’s definitely no need to apologize at all, I absolutely appreciate the feedback, and thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-06-18 at 12:29 am

  8. eduardo

    I was reaching the conclusion that this was the Storm in the start when it talked about choosing before birth. Elena tends to be a bit slow, but it is not impossible for her to understand his/her meaning.

    Like

    2015-06-17 at 2:36 pm

  9. The Storm and Ele: ganging up to remind Elena how little she perceives. ;P

    Like

    2015-06-18 at 1:32 am

  10. HOLY CRAP, that’s the Storm!

    The Storm’s got a bad-ass way of talking. :D I love it!

    Like

    2015-08-31 at 9:46 am

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