A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.7 – Turbidae Habitu {Muddy Dress}

“You’re…the Storm.” Elena was aware that her voice was flat, but a part of her was surprised she was able to speak at all. It had been some time since Little One had instructed her to imagine the Storm as a person, a gatekeeper to her powers, but Elena had never dreamed she would have to take it literally.

“Telling you I will, of how the sounding of you is to me,” the Storm said conversationally, and again Elena had to struggle to keep up with its words as she rose to her feet again. “Always your askings is of things you already know. Always the clarifying, always the checking again, the checking again, three times the checking again. Why? In my head the question I have is why. Do you have so much the scared that you cannot give the trust to yourself?”

“I don’t get it…are you saying I’m too slow-” Elena stopped suddenly to cut of the clarification, but the Storm heaved a sigh that told her that was exactly what he thought. “Well I’m sorry!” she said defensively, “it’s just really hard to understand you!”

“Hard to understand maybe the whole of me,” the Storm acknowledged with a half-nod. “Easy to understand the me-piece I gave to you, but fun for you to ignore the me-piece.”

“You mean the-” Elena bit her lip. The Storm didn’t like her clarifying things, so she wouldn’t. As far as she knew she was the first person in the world to be able to talk to the Storm itself, she felt as though she shouldn’t waste the opportunity by annoying it.

Pieces of him, that’s probably my own Storm, she reasoned, and he’s saying I’ve ignored it when it talks…that it can talk to me. The voice in the shower.

“I didn’t want to listen to voices in my head telling me to take over the city,” she said carefully, “in the real world we call those people ‘madmen’.”

“Madmen and Rulers, have you the think that the same thing are the two?”

I was right! Elena thrilled. “I didn’t know that that was the voice of the Storm at the time.”

“And so here, giving gifts of knowing to you am I. Knowing is now yours.” The Storm turned to her, as if waiting for an explanation, and with a sudden shock Elena realized that that was exactly what it was waiting for. It had been the Storm who told her to rule the city.

“You can’t really expect me to rule all of Milia,” Elena whispered. The rain was loud enough that he couldn’t hear her, but she was too horrified to speak louder. “You can’t expect me to become a Prince.” She couldn’t be in charge of a Studio without causing disaster, what kind of calamity would befall Milia if she were in charge of it?

“No, Elena Cog Twisted of Lucciano,” the Storm reached out and tousled her hair affectionately, “ruling of Milia my plans have never been for you.” The tightness in her chest decreased a small amount, and she began to breathe a touch more easily. She had misunderstood, that was all.

This is why I ask for clarification, she thought shakily, so that I don’t get the wrong-

“Ruling of the world, my plans have been for you.”

It took a while, a long while, for her ears to gather the words and push them to her brain, for her brain to process the meaning behind them. When they did, Elena shut down. It wasn’t that the idea was too much, or even that it was unattainable, although both were the case. Milia had a Prince, Italoza had a King, but her? Elena wasn’t that, she was nobody, a Fabera from a tiny town. If her time at DaRose had taught her anything, it was that putting her in charge was a very bad idea.

“How could you possible think I could ever do that!” Elena exploded, “how could you think I could be a Prince, much less…what, supreme Empress of the world?” A part of her warned that she should continue being respectful to the mysterious and, for all she knew, omnipotent entity responsible for all of the magical energy in the world, but his plan had caught her so much by surprise that she couldn’t manage her emotions. “No. No I can’t do that. No.”

“The knowing of that is mine,” the Storm sighed. He seemed more downcast than angry, staring out at the dark dream city in the rain. “The knowing of that has into pieces my plans broken.”

“What…why would you…I don’t understand. I don’t understand any of this.” Elena stammered.

“Never is the understanding yours!” the Storm shouting, turning towards her, the specks of black and white that made up his face whirling in angry chaso, “never of anything is the understanding yours! FLYING past you this world of yours spins, and never the pieces-tiniest of the world is giving you understanding!”

“I understand some things just fine!” Elena shouted back, clenching her fists, “I’m sorry that my understanding wasn’t up to the task of becoming God of the world!”

“God of the world,” the Storm sneered, “God of a single room could not you be! Powers have I given you, powers of understanding. Friends of you, peers of you, awe should be the feelings in them! Fear should be the feelings in them! Yet cast round your eyes, see you not the feelings in them? Protection. Sympathy. Pity. God of world? No, an ungrown is you.”

“I am getting pretty sick and tired,” Elena snarled, “of people telling me I’m innocent, and childlike, and naive. I do have power, you know, I’m strong enough to last in Studio DaRose, strong enough to make it here in the courts!”

“A sickness not able for the stopping of being innocent, childlike, naive,” the Storm snapped back. “Power, have you? Give to me the telling then, give to me the telling of power you have which from me was not bestowed.”

Elena opened her mouth, then closed it again. The Storm continued.

“Nothing. No power. With power of me, Cog are you, naive and ungrown but powerful. Without power of me, nothing are you.”

Elena was clenching her fists so hard that they hurt even through the dull dreamworld pain. There was nothing she could say. Where would she be without the Storm? She certainly wouldn’t have been accepted at Studio De Luca, she wouldn’t have even left Carpi in the first place. The Lucciano store which has sold trade goods through her childhood would have sold trade goods throughout her life, with her as the shopkeeper as her mother had been. The dream she had clung to ever since she was a little girl, the dream that was becoming a reality around her, becoming a Master artist in the Milian Courts themselves, that dream wouldn’t have been anywhere near possible. The rage drained away from Elena as quickly as it had arrived, replaced with a bone-tired weariness.

“It wasn’t as if I asked you to give me my Storm,” she said quietly, her eyes filling with tears. “I didn’t ask for this.”

“The asking, you did not.” The Storm deflated with another sigh, passing a hand over his brow. “A mistake, the giving to you, but a mistake of me, not of you. Now for mistakes, the price of mine is plans destroyed.”

It hurt to hear it phrased that way, and Elena winced.

“I’m sorry that I ruined your plan by being…me. Why did you choose me to be the Queen of the world? Of all people?” she asked. “Didn’t it occur to you that I would be really bad at it?”

“Preparation I have no blame towards,” the Storm shook his head, “again and again, the same choice would I have made, but the result…in the result have I no understanding.”

“What do you mean you don’t blame the preparation?” the brief but emotional shouting match between her and the most powerful entity in the universe had left Elena mentally drained, and she rested her arms on the railing and her chin on her arms.

“The imaginings, needed I, imaginings for the perfect ungrown for the plan of mine,” the Storm said. “Have you the imaginings of the Queen of Queens, of what likeness must she be? Low birth must she be, so the peasant-plight she may understand.”

“I wasn’t a peasant!” Elena objected.

“Friend of peasants were you,” the Storm pointed out. “Matterings it has not. Low birth, yet from the cradle her thoughts to be high. Training she must have, training of saying ‘mine this is, now mine that is, mine is everything.’ Family must she have that gives her pushings, family must she have that is always gifting her the tellings that hers is all the world,”

“That sounds like my mother-” Elena began, when the weight of what she was saying hit her.

“More, even. Around her a network of power to be laid, to raise her up is the task of them. Ours is the world, her advisors must say, and yours is the world as well. Within her, power. Around her, power. Above her the stars and below her all other humans.”

“The Twisted,” Elena whispered, “my mother, the Twisted…you planned this from the day I was born didn’t you?”

“From born-day?” the Storm chuckled, “ungrown, from the day the first of humankind Touched I, did I plan. Touched, did I, and prepared did I, and waited, did I. For you, did I wait.”

Elena didn’t know what to say. The thought that the Twisted were given their power because of her, that perhaps Stormtouched themselves were given their power in preparation for her, was far too much for her to comprehend.

“But why-”

“Excitement is the emotion of humans, but excitement did I feel that day. Rains did wash down the fields of Carpi. Powerful, the rains make me, swift to your world as bridges make humans swift of one riverbank to another. Powerful I was when the finding you did I, and reaching my hand did I, and…” the Storm cupped one hand and blew, still clearly lost in thought.

***

It was fun to play in the rain, to splash and kick up gobs of mud. The whole world smelled different, from the damp quorley to the heady smell of water on stone. The mud squished between her toes, warm as the patter of rain that fell on her and soaked her dress through. Her mama would yell at her for getting her dress dirty and wet, but the little girl didn’t care. The rainwater would wash all of the mud out anyways, so maybe her mama wouldn’t even be that mad. The mud was so sticky, and it suddenly occurred to her that it would be the perfect consistency to build castles out of.

She knew all of the other children of Carpi, and so when she saw the little boy her heart jumped with excitement. Someone new to play with! Perhaps someone just passing through, but maybe, just maybe, a new playmate who would stay in Carpi. He was watching her play with a smile on his lips, and she smiled back at him.

“Hewwo!” she shouted over the rain, jumping for emphasis and splashing mud as she came down.

“Hewwo,” said the boy, waving, “youw dwess is aww muddy!”

“It’s okay!” the girl grinned. “Do you wanna pway wif me?”

“Yes! What awe you pwaying?” the little boy knelt in the mud next to her as she squatted down.

“I wanna buiwd mud castwes!”

“I wanna buiwd mud caswes wiv you too! Can we make a big one?”

“A reawy big one! Oh-” the little girl giggled suddenly.

“Wha’s so funny?” the boy asked.

“My fingews,” the girl said, stretching them, “an’ my head! Dey tickle!”

***

“Taught you to act as if already you ruled the world, your family did,” the Storm murmured, as if he too had been reliving the same memory. “your mother first, the chosen ones after your mother you left. How came it to this? How came you to this, after preparations thus? How came it that this piece of me, lodged within you became? Lodged within a leaf that moves not, until a wind moves it.”

“I can’t change who I am,” Elena was trying not to show how much the Storm’s words hurt her, but a few tears clung to her eyelashes. She had thought it was bad to feel like a pawn in someone else’s chess game, but this was worse; too useless to even be a pawn, a cast away and broken piece.

“No,” the Storm agreed, “and the plan is destroyed, hence.”

“What was the plan? Why did it have to involve me becoming some kind of…of overqueen?” Elena asked, “isn’t there something I could do to help, even now? I don’t want to be ungrateful for what you’ve done to help me.”

“Something you can do?” the Storm chuckled, a sound that was somehow both sad and contemptuous, “speak to you, could not I, but watch you could I. Watched you did I, through that piece of me, from Carpi to Milia and beyond. No, ungrown, from my seeing you can do nothing, nothing at all, unless someone is gifting you the telling to do something.”

“That’s not fair! I’m just…I’m nice. I’m obedient. Those are good things.”

“For servants, good,” the Storm snorted. “The telling of you my plans I will not. No more use for you have I. If with me is the luck, maybe…maybe a new queen may I yet find before running out the time is.”

The thought of someone else rising to become Queen of the world made Elena feel uncomfortable, but there were so many thoughts rushing through her mind that she couldn’t even begin to process why, or what about it bothered her so much. Suddenly the exact wording of what the Storm had said occurred to her.

“You don’t have a use for me anymore?” she breathed. There was a rushing sound in her ears, her heart pounding. “Don’t…please don’t take it away.”

“What?”

“Please don’t take my Storm away, please.” Elena couldn’t breath, there were dark patches around the corners of her vision, and she turned to grab the Storm’s arm, “please, please you were right I’m nothing without my Storm, please you can’t take it away from me!”

“The Storm of you? Yours to call, it is?” the Storm sneered.

“No please, I know, I know it was a gift and I’m very grateful please, just please don’t take it from me if you take it I’ll have nothing left!” Elena clutched so tight it occurred to her that she might be hurting him, but she couldn’t let go, the tears were falling down her cheeks in a rush, and even though she couldn’t see him through the blur he could feel every speck of contempt he was turning on her. “Please, I’m begging you,” she whispered, too quiet for even her to hear.

“A mistake was this,” the Storm said. Elena awoke.

***

“No!” Elena screamed, sitting bolt upright in bed. Outside the rain pattered on the roof of the empty balcony, the dark night sky full of clouds and stars.

“Elena? What’s wrong?” Ele was at her side in an instant. Elena’s whole body shook, her mind panicked, her breath came in short gasps that didn’t seem to give her enough air. She couldn’t think of anything that was hers, anything to test her Storm on, and the whimpers in her throat made it hard to form sentences.

“Something mine…what’s something mine…please Ele,” she gasped.

“Um..your hairbrush,” Ele said quickly, “you brought it from home, your hairbrush is yours.”

Elena threw herself to the edge of the bed, snatching at the hairbrush that lay on the table beside it. Her fingers were shaking so badly that she dropped it on the ground, and she followed it down desperately clawing with clumsy fingers to pick it up.

“Th-th-the hairbrush is mine, it’s mine, please work, please work mea di domine diablo pluvia por sawe di sire.

It seemed like ages even though it must have only been a few seconds. The hairbrush was made of pine, its bristles of boar’s hair, it had been carved down to a general shape first and then its edges sanded and smoothed-

Elena let the brush drop from her shaking fingers, a whimper of relief escaping her lips.

“Elena, are you alright?” Ele sat down on the floor next to her as Elena curled herself into a ball, trying to calm her breathing and stop the shaking.

“I’m…I think I’m okay now Ele,” she said. “I promise, I’ll tell you everything, but right now…can you please…can you please just sit with me for a little bit?”

“Of course.” Ele scooted closer to Elena, resting his hand next to hers. Elena reached out and rested her hand in the same place, her fingers passing through his.

The two sat rested in each others’ company in the quiet room, silent but for the gentle sound of the rain.

***

“Youw dwess is weawy muddy,” the little boy smirked as the pair walked down the wide dirt road. The earth of the road was so packed and dry that it didn’t even turn to mud during the season of Rain, much to the little girl’s disappointment. The pair could see the town of Carpi even through the drizzle, which meant that it wasn’t long before they had to face the punishment for their fun. The girl thought it wasn’t quite fair that the boy wasn’t dirty at all, even though he’d been playing in the mud with her.

“Yeah…mama’s gonna yeww at me,” she sighed, looking down at the streaks and splotches, “I’m s’pposed to be cwean.”

“Why?” asked the boy.

“‘cause mama says I’m bettew den ovew kids. She says wuccianos awe bettew so we hafta be cwean all da time.”

“Dat’s siwwy,” the little boy scoffed, “nobody’s bettew den ovew people.”

The little girl blinked. To question, let alone scoff at the wisdom of a grown-up was unheard of, but the little boy spoke with such utter confidence, it was hard to doubt him. “But my mama says,” she said uncertainly, thinking that perhaps the boy was unaware of the strength of her sources.

“Nope,” the boy said, even more confidently, stuffing his hands into his pockets, “evewybody is same as evewybody.” He began whistling as they continued on.

That settled it. Any boy who could say things that confidently and who knew how to whistle clearly knew what he was talking about, and as far as the little girl was concerned he clearly knew something that her mother didn’t know. This was a boy who she should listen to.

The little boy and the little girl walked into the city of Carpi side-by-side through the rain, together.

***

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

***

Since you all seem so keen to press a giant button marked “Do Not Vote for Twisted Cogs” like the contrarians you are, this time I’ve HIDDEN the button to vote somewhere in this paragraph. Let’s see how you all like THAT, ya contrarians!

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13 responses

  1. Anyone else hear Elmer Fudd when reading lil’ Ele and lil’ Elena? Just me? Okay. More seriously, though, that was quite adorable.

    I wonder, why would the Storm assign Ele to Elena given how he clearly messed up the Storm’s plan? Is that not under its control? I also get the impression that perhaps the Storm is manipulating Elena… or maybe this isn’t the real Storm? File that under conspiracy theories, but he didn’t say anything that you couldn’t figure out by doing some detective work.

    Like

    2015-06-22 at 1:04 am

    • It’s settled. The Storm is actually a Russian person trying to trick Elena. It is all so clear now! /sarcasm

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-06-22 at 1:07 am

    • Styn

      We already know that the Echos feel uncomfortable in the other plane that the Twisted fabricate. This dream realm was the same place that the Master Storm met with Elena. Is it too much to think that the Storm has nothing to do with Echos? Just my Two cents.

      Like

      2015-06-24 at 3:13 am

      • that’s what i thought too!

        the Storm is a large source of light, cast upon the world. the Shadows of the Stormtouched emerge as they block the light of the Storm, and remain forever hidden by them.

        Like

        2015-08-29 at 9:26 pm

  2. nirg

    He already knew everything and probably figured her reaction so there was need meet her . Elena is really stupid for not realizing the storm is pushing her in the right direction. Maybe even giving her a warning shot

    Like

    2015-06-22 at 1:31 am

  3. AvidFan

    Argh. Wanted to reply to Zim the Fox and nirg.
    Zim: I wonder if Ele is in fact the Storm fragment, a shadow of the Storm.
    nirg: If I understand what you said correctly, he said what he said specifically so she would change and try to become Queen of the world. His also occurred to me, but I’m going to guess that the next Queen he spoke of is actually true. Rivals have always provided growth for protagonists who can overcome them, and at the same time it means he’s not putting all his eggs in one basket.

    Finally: Let the speculation on why he’s trying to make a Queen (or King after Elena) of the world, BEGIN! (No ones going to speculate, are they? :( )

    Like

    2015-06-22 at 9:35 am

    • Oh oh me first I’ll speculate!

      Did anyone else notice that throughout the entire discussion, the Storm didn’t mention birthday cake a single time? Not once? Kinda suspiciously absent wasn’t it?

      My theory is that the Storm is so big that he’s never had an adequate-sized birthday cake. It’s come to earth now to finally achieve that goal, but to do that he needs the entire world to collaborate in making one large enough.

      Think about it. Elena is SWEET. His attitude is FROSTY(ing). The Storm even BATTERS some people. I really should have put spoiler tags on this.

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-06-22 at 11:46 am

      • AvidFan

        Storm Birthday Cake Theory confirmed by the author. It’s now canon. NO TAKE BACKS. :D

        Like

        2015-06-24 at 12:23 pm

  4. EchoStep

    Ele was the one who ruined the storms plans lol!

    Like

    2015-06-22 at 11:22 am

  5. Archidel

    Ok, I admit, I clicked the ‘vote’ link. Big red buttons do nothing for me, but you can’t tell me something is hidden and expect me not to find it. So find it I did. And click it I did too.

    Like

    2015-06-22 at 12:11 pm

  6. Phecto

    Is Elena really even the first attempt? Story already contained a girl who seemed to be able to do much the same and went right to the point of taking over the kingdom and then gave it back. Could that have been the storms actual first choice that failed.

    Like

    2015-06-22 at 4:05 pm

  7. Panster

    Great chapter, as usual.

    For some reason, it doesn’t show up in the “Latest chapter” section from the homepage.

    Like

    2015-06-24 at 10:40 am

  8. Isa Lumitus

    Elena just got played. As Little One said, the Storm is a tyrant and petty bully. Right now, she just got a taste of how it’s going to keep her in line. She started begging to not lose her power, and now she’ll do whatever the Storm demands of her.

    The smart thing for her to do, would be to go and prepare to live as mortalis. That way she could feasibly tell the Storm to go screw itself. Honestly, if her power could be stolen from her at any time, climbing into a high social position that requires it is literally the dumbest thing she could do.

    To put it another way, imagine you get the supernatural power of flight. And you are under threats to lose that power unless you fly ever higher. Yet the higher you go, the worse the consequence of falling.

    If Elena took over the world, she’d become the Storm’s sock puppet, constantly trying to please it lest her subjects rebel and end her life. The foreshadowing at the beginning becoming clearer; meddle not with the shadows, lest you become their plaything.

    Like

    2015-07-25 at 4:46 pm

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