A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.5 – Fissuras {Cracks}

Elena stepped back out of the way of the room, content to let the pair have their happy reunion. Ele himself took a few small steps forward into the room. His expression was hard to interpret, but Elena thought she could see the hint of a smile playing around the corner of his lips.

The Storm, for its part, hadn’t made a move towards Ele, nor had he shown any sign of emotion.

“Towards me could Father be an epithet-used,” it said slowly, “Ele. Giving to you is not the distress, this place?”

“I…ahem,” Ele clearly struggled for words, “yeah it’s a little…tense, being here, a little distressing, but I wanted to see you. I wanted to meet you.”

The Storm nodded wordlessly, stared at Ele for a few moments longer, then walked slowly in a circle around him, viewing the Echo from every angle. When he had made a full circle he nodded again, then turned and sat back down at the table he’d been waiting at when the pair had arrived.

“Of importance-greatness our work remains,” he said, “Elena, the leaving of us in the time-last was in a discussion of society in cities. Come and to me be giving the resumptions.”

Elena blinked, exchanging a glance with Ele.

“That…that’s it?” Elena asked, “that’s all you have to say to Ele?”

The Storm looked back and forth between them, “More is there to be, is the saying?”

“You haven’t seen your son in…in how long, and you don’t want to catch up with him? See how he’s doing? Talk to him, even?”

“Human of descriptions these are,” the Storm sat back down at the table. “Human is to reuniting be joyed. Human am I not. If gifting to me expectations of human being you are, then gifting to you of disappointment am I.”

“But Ele…he’s human,” Elena struggled to put her dissatisfaction into words, “Ele doesn’t it bother you-”

“It’s alright, Elena,” Ele said quietly, “I get it. I understand.”

“Do you actually understand, or are you trying not to offend him?” Elena asked.

“No, I do. I’m not human, despite what Elena believes, am I, Father?” Ele turned to the Storm

“Difficulties in the gifting of understanding to you, have I,” the Storm said, “human like Elena you are not.”

“I’m some kind of Storm creature. Masquerading as human, thinking he’s human, but not.”

“Difficulties in the gifting of understanding to you, have I,” the Storm said again, “humanity of greater than me, humanity of lesser than them.”

“A hybrid. Half-Storm, half-human,” Ele said as if to himself, nodding.

“To this world, the passing…it is not for us. The guarding of selfish humans they do to this world.”

It wasn’t what Elena had expected, this reunion, but the two were at least talking, and it sounded as if Ele was getting some answers as to who and what he was. Elena herself was fascinated by the new information, but she worried that saying something would break the spell of the communication that was happening.

“Elena, what is it that the two of you do in the dream world?” Ele asked her, as if reading her thoughts.

“The Storm is picking a sort of heir,” Elena said, “someone to be the next king of Italoza, and then the world.”

“You’ve told me that much,” Ele nodded, “he was going to pick you, but you wouldn’t make a very good queen of the world.”

“Terrible,” Elena agreed, “but he has asked for my help in picking. When we sat down to talk about it, we realized that the Storm doesn’t know…well, anything, really.”

“Disrespectful of the mouth,” the Storm grumbled from the table, “Of which is Francas and of which is Espana, of ‘Duke’ is higher or ‘Count’ is higher, these not are the knowing of mine. Of magical power is the knowing of mine, of beautiful art and terrible awe is the knowing of mine. Enough is not those knowings, is the Elena-saying.”

“Alright, he knows a lot,” Elena smiled, “but he doesn’t know a lot about our world. Geography, or politics, or society, or technology. Did you know that Machinators and Faberi are all the same Storm? The only difference is that Machinators are Faberi craftsmen for crafts that haven’t been invented yet. Think of that, I might’ve been a Machinator if things had been a bit different!”

“You sent the Echoes to this world without knowing the first thing about it?” Ele’s tone was accusative, and Elena winced, but the Storm didn’t seem to mind.

“To world any, would I send the progeny,” he said darkly, “world any would a refuge be, from home. Know you this already.”

“I know?” Ele tilted his head to one side, “how would I know?”

“Been have you. From the crying mind of you was its memory plucked, for the giving of safety of the crying mind of you.”

“You erased his memory?” Elena frowned. Something about her lifelong friend being mind-wiped didn’t sit well with her, even if it was for his own good.

“I assumed as much,” Ele said, “since my first memories were meeting you, Elena. But that still doesn’t mean that I remember-”

“The clothing of your wear is of fineness,” the Storm said quietly. Elena blinked, startled at the sudden change of topic, but when she looked at Ele he seemed to know what had brought on the shift in conversation.

“I understand,” Ele said cautiously, “but how does that work? How can it-”

“No.” The Storm’s stern, single word hung in the air with finality, and Ele drew quiet immediately. Elena looked back and forth between Ele and the Storm, certain that she was missing something to the conversation, but unable to figure out what. They had been actually talking to one another, but it sounded as if the Storm had just reprimanded Ele…for talking about his clothes? The Echoes had always been silent about where their clothes came from…

“Anyway,” Elena broke the silence, “the Storm’s plan was originally to pick a King and make sure all of the Twisted supported them. I let him know that if he understood a bit more about how our world works, he might be able to plan a little better.”

“You mean like, remove Storms from Stormtouched who get in the way?” Ele asked. The Storm was shaking his head before the question was even finished.

“Touches of mine on the world of yours, not as simple, not as easy are they,” he said. “Gifting of progeny with power of protecting, flows both in one motion. Human a harbor, progeny sheltered, my power-gifted between them stretches.”

“That’s why when a Stormtouched dies, their Echo dies with them?” Elena asked, “like when Slug died, and Fran-” her voice died as she saw the Storm’s reaction.

All along the Storm’s surface, the black and white speckles of a blizzard suddenly froze, as cold as his voice. His fists clenched, and the constant wind that had always whipped his cloak and hood stilled. For a moment, he was completely still, and the room was cast into utter quiet.

Elena had never seen the Storm give such an emotional reaction, and the sight chilled her.

“Like droplets of water, lives human,” the Storm murmured, “such quick, so fast. A mistake, the tying of the lives to progeny mine, but a mistake permanent. Without choice was I. Again the mistake would I make if again was my decision. Cannot I the link sever, once made. Cannot anyone.”

He turned back to Elena, and the silent unseen wind again caught at the corners and edges of his cloak and hood. “Of soonness will arise a method new. Of no more will lives be tied, when completing of the plan it is.”

“So Elena is teaching you about how our world works,” Ele said, “then you use that knowledge to install a king of the world, then what?”

“My purpose, does the King carry out,” the Storm said, “and freed, the progeny are.”

“He won’t tell me exactly what the ‘purpose’ is,” Elena said, “he says that’s only for the king to know.”

“Do you think I could…” Ele shifted his feet uncomfortably, avoiding Elena’s gaze, “would you mind if I helped him today, Elena? Would that be alright, Father?”

“Of the teachings, must I know. Of the teacher, care I not,” said the Storm dispassionately.

“Of course, Ele,” Elena smiled with relief, happy that Ele would get to spend more time with his father. “I’ll give you two some space.”

“Alright, what were the two of you last discussing?” asked Ele, approaching the table as Elena moved to the door.

“Of this thing, ‘poetry’, do not I understand.”

“You and me both, but I’ll try to explain…”

Elena smiled as she closed the door behind her.

***

“The avatar of innocence and light has come to visit.” Little One’s voice was child-like, and it made her sarcasm sound all the more biting. The little cell with golden bars was small, but she didn’t appear to mind, leaning with her back against the wall, a book in her lap.

“Ah, hello, Elena, it’s good to see you.” On the other side of the room, leaning back in the deep cushions of a couch, Marsillo carefully placed a bookmark into his own book. By this time Elena was so accustomed to the Twisted that the armless man’s motion didn’t look the slightest bit strange.

“I didn’t realize Little One was kept in here,” Elena said. She was passing the time by exploring the underdecks of the ship, and when she’d seen the small golden child resting in the cell she had intended to close the door and move on, but it seemed rude to leave Marsillo alone.

“Waldren has been quite good about making sure she is always routed to the same place when she arrives,” Marsillo said, clasping his armless hands in front of him, “of course, since it is Little One, we like to have someone in the same room with her. Less risk of having her eavesdrop on us.”

“You overestimate the ability of a child locked in a dream,” Little One said without looking up from her book.

“I quite-adequately estimate the ability of our own little Twisted, Little One,” Marsillo said, “I’ll take ‘paranoid’ over ‘subjugated’ any day.”

“For once I dislike your competency,” Little One smiled. Marsillo chuckled in return.

“You’re very…cordial,” Elena said. It was strange, talking so casually with someone who, in the real world, could be the most danger to her.

“Disputes between us come and go,” Marsillo made a spreading motion of his hands, his version of a shrug without shoulders, “we take what precautions we need to, of course, but there is hardly a point to being unpleasant to one another within the dream world.”

“Unless you’re torturing me,” Little One said.

“As I said, we take what precautions we need to. You look preoccupied, Elena. No lessons for the Storm today?”

“I actually brought Ele, and he’s working with the Storm.”

“Ah, how marvelous. My own Echo despises this place, she refuses to come anywhere near it. Are the two of you getting along well at the palace, all things considered?”

“Well…not exactly at the moment,” Elena frowned, “the Eye is here to hunt rebels, and they found out that I’m a part of a secret organization. The Prince had me thrown in the dungeons.”

“Revealing stratagems and movements in the presence of your enemy?” Little One said, “unwise, incautious.” Her voice took a sing-song tone at the end, and Elena grit her teeth.

“I think the only things I can remember you telling me are either how dangerous it is to trust you, or how I should trust you,” she said.

“And here we are,” Little One said, “I don’t think you can say I lied.”

“This is rather disturbing news, Elena,” Marsillo interrupted, “are you in danger, do you think? If needs be, we will amass all of our pull to have you removed.”

“I don’t think I’m in danger at all,” Elena said, “the Masters of the Eye don’t even seem bothered by it, to be honest. I think some of them will even speak on my behalf. They think Prince Langone is being overly paranoid, with the rebellion and all.”

“He has reason to be,” Little One chuckled.

“Silence, please,” Marsillo said to the child before turning back to Elena. “I am glad to hear that you aren’t in danger, Elena. I hope that you trust us enough to ask us for help before revealing the Twisted to the Eye?”

“Of course,” Elena nodded, “I didn’t even mean to tell them I was part of a hidden group, it just came up in some questions I was asked and…”

“Yes, I thought as much,” Marsillo said, “you are not the first of us to have a rather tense conversation with Master Athena and one of her Apates. For the future, know that she doesn’t ever hold it against you if you tell her you won’t answer. It’s only lies that she objects to.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Elena nodded. “What do I do if Prince Langone won’t release me?”

“It would take us several days to reach you, I’m afraid. We don’t have much direct power in Milia,” Marsillo stroked his chin with a detached hand, “Midora and Waldren are in Florenzia, I split my time between Venecchi and Ferrire, Lucrezia has her work in Rimi, and who knows where Fulvio resides. We were actually hoping that you would become our source of power in Milia, as time went by. It is unfortunately missing from our collection.”

Hearing the words from a Del Favero, one of the most powerful banking families in the world, made Elena’s head spin a little bit.

“It’s alright, for now,” she said, “if things get really bad, perhaps one of you can send a courier to have me released.”

“I’m afraid that’s not how the process works,” Marsillo chuckled, “Prince Langone has complete authority over Milia, subject only to King Pellegrino. But if things get truly bad, a courier can at least hold an execution until one of us can arrive in Milia. From there we would be able to put real power plays into motion.”

“I doubt it will come to execution,” Elena shuddered.

“As do I. Still, it’s always good to have a plan.”

A rumble suddenly shook the ship, accompanied by a deep booming noise.

“My servants don’t wake me, not even for an emergency,” Marsillo said, “is that you, Elena?”

“It must be, my servants don’t wake me either,” Little One said wryly.

“It might be morning, or maybe it’s time for me to be freed,” Elena said.

“Ah, in that case, until next time, Elena,” Marsillo smiled, and opened his book again.

“See you soon,” Little One said, one eyebrow raised. Elena didn’t have time to wonder what the girl meant before she woke up.

***

“-ourneyman Cog? Ah, there, she’s waking up.” Elena tried to place the voice as she sat up sleepily. There were no windows in the dungeons, but from her weariness she guessed that it was still sometime in the night. Outside of the bars stood three female figures, but Elena had to rub her eyes to see them clearly.

“I’m so sorry, Elena, I wouldn’t have woken you up, but time is of the essence.” Master Athena sounded just as brisk as ever, but she looked tired and worn. At her side, Master Aphrodite looked just as awake and cheerful as when they had first met, and it made Elena very aware of how tousled and unkempt she must look. Next to her cot, Ele still slept, and it was a very strange sight to see.

I wonder if the Storm can keep him in the dream world? It would be nice if Ele could keep helping him, since we’re stuck in here anyway.

“Why’s time of the essence?” Elena mumbled, running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to smooth her curls.

“That is my fault, I am afraid.” Elena had barely noticed Apate, standing just behind Master Athena, but when she did she almost jumped. When Elena had last seen the Caelator’s creation, the girl’s surface was smooth and featureless, a bright white flame burning within patterned yellow glass. Now the glass was chipped and splintered with cracks, the light insider her barely an ember, obscured by the thick layer of soot and scorch marks that layered the inside of the glass.

“Apate what happened to you?” Elena gasped, standing to get a better look at the girl.

“My skill comes at a cost, I’m afraid,” Apate said, repeating her statement from the last time they had met.

“We ended up taking quite a lot longer than we planned,” Master Athena said, resting a hand gently on Apate’s shoulder, “there were more people to question, and more questions to ask each of them. Now we may have only minutes left, so I hoped you would be able to answer a few more questions. It will ease the Prince’s mind, and we can have you out of that cell sooner rather than later.”

“O-of course,” Elena said.

“I’m quite glad to hear it. Firstly, your recent incarceration hasn’t made you rethink your loyalty to the crown, has it?”

“What? No!” Elena said, “I mean, I’m not very happy to be here, but I’m not going to suddenly join the rebellion because of it.”

Master Athena glanced at Apate, and the glass girl nodded.

“Excellent. Next, can you tell me whether- oh dear.” Master Athena sighed. Apate had fallen to her knees with the sound of splintering glass on stone, and Elena gasped. As she watched in horror, Apate turned featureless smooth glass eyes towards her, her face grave and serene even through the cracks.

“It comes at a cost, I’m afraid,” Apate said, and the flame in her middle burnt out with a small puff of smoke. She began to collapse, first gradually and then all at once, glass splinters and pieces falling with tinkling sound like faroff bells, and within a few moments the girl was gone, only a pile of yellow glass rubble remaining behind.

“I had hoped-” Master Athena began, but she stopped herself with a deep sigh.

“What….what….” Elena mustered.

“They only last about a day or so,” Master Aphrodite said sadly. “Sometimes more if they take it easy, but this Apate had her work cut out for her.”

“I suppose easing the Prince’s mind is out of the question now, unless the next Apate has the time to spare.” Master Athena knelt and was carefully gathering the glass pieces into a bag, looking weary and dejected.

“Unfortunately I doubt it,” Master Aphrodite said, “there are still far too many unvetted guards…and the nobles, we haven’t even begun with the courtiers yet.”

“I’m sorry.” Elena wasn’t quite sure what to say, even if she hadn’t just seen a girl disintegrate before her eyes. Seeming to sense her agitation, Master Aphrodite turned kind eyes toward her.

“It’s not your fault, Cog,” she said, “and the two of us would still like to talk to you, if that’s alright? It might not put the Prince’s mind to rest, but it could make us more comfortable with you. Would you be up for a nice chat?”

“Sure, of course,” Elena sat back down on her cot.

“Tell her, Aphrodite,” Master Athena said curtly, tying a careful knot in the bag and rising to her feet.

“I was about to, I wouldn’t hide it from her,” Master Aphrodite said with dignity.

“Tell me what?” Elena asked.

“I didn’t mention it before, since we weren’t really talking in that meeting room. I like to bring up what I am before really getting to know someone, but it’s sometimes hard to find the right moment…”

Perhaps it was the amount of experience she had with them, or perhaps she really was becoming more perceptive, but in a flash Elena knew what the woman was about to tell her. Her pretty looks, her comforting and trustworthy voice, her friendly confidence, all of the pieces fell into place in Elena’s head.

‘Aphrodite’ she remembered belatedly, it’s the Graecan name of the goddess Venus.

“You’re a Rhetor,” she said calmly.

“I am a Rhetor,” Master Aphrodite agreed simply. “I’m glad, you don’t seem frightened.”

Not frightened of Rhetors, Elena thought, but frightened of what you might make me reveal.

“Now,” Master Aphrodite gave a warm smile, “let’s have that chat.”

***

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***

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12 responses

  1. A huge thank you to the patience of all of my lovely readers who have stuck out my blasted health issues over the past few months. It’s been really rough, but if tonight’s update is any indication, I may have gotten over the worst of it.

    Some of you may remember that for April Fool’s day, I drew a few pages of a non-existent “Twisted Cogs Webcomic”. The other day I was playing around with my drawing tablet and decided to give my rendition of Elena another shot.

    I’m not exactly the most artistic of Llamas, but if you’re interested, you can check it out on the Inky Llama Writes subreddit

    Like

    2015-10-18 at 11:59 pm

    • AvidFan

      …. I always wondered what people found so terrifying about Elena’s hammer. I had pictured it like a mallet…
      But THAT? THAT is… *gulp* remind me to hide behind a two inch thick steel shield during hammer time. (She looks so much more badass than I thought.)

      Nice picture. :)
      Feel free to upload any more pictures you make of the story, no matter the quality. (Heck, I’d take a stick figure drawing of a scene. Allows me to imagine their actions better.)

      I hope you’re feeling better. :)

      Like

      2015-10-22 at 9:24 am

      • D’aw, thanks! I’ve still got a bit of a cough, but nothing as debilitating as before. I can at least write with a cough :D

        Like

        2015-10-22 at 11:30 pm

  2. Tick, tock, tick, tock. It’s Typo Time:
    “His face was hard to hear” Hearing faces seems like a great talent ;3

    Like

    2015-10-19 at 12:31 am

    • Thanks much, fixed (although to be fair, I myself find faces QUITE hard to hear, I dunno about you)

      Like

      2015-10-20 at 2:53 pm

  3. It would seem that the general structure of the Storm’s phrases is SVO. More detailed, prepositional sentence/adverbs/subject/verb/adjectives/object. Though there seem to be exceptions, like “do not” being considered a verb on its own and gerund verbs seem to be on their own phrases.

    With examples it is hard coming up??? Speaking like this, hard I find.

    “such quick, so fast” The Storm must like Shibas :3

    I was under the assumption that the Echoes went back to their world as their human died. It’s sad it isn’t the case.

    I wonder, why can’t the Twisted leave the dream world? And if they can’t leave, how come Elena didn’t stay the first time around? Did she wake up? I can’t remember.

    I know Little One is always up to no good, but it’s a bit hypocritical that they don’t mind not knowing Fulvio’s location, but are bothered when they don’t know Little One’s. But then again, yeah. She’s always up to no good.

    Like

    2015-10-19 at 12:40 am

    • It’s actually a bit weird that the Storm can’t speak normally. Maybe they never noticed, or don’t care? I’m glad you are a healthier llama, now, and your drawing of Elena is great! I really love her bangs and it’s nice to have a canon image of her :3

      Like

      2015-10-19 at 12:44 am

      • Thank you so much, on both counts! :D

        Like

        2015-10-20 at 2:53 pm

      • automeris

        Is having bangs what makes it a cannon image? Er, canon.

        Like

        2015-10-26 at 12:29 am

  4. jeray2000

    I’ve just finished catching up with this, and it is very good.

    Like

    2015-10-25 at 4:54 pm

  5. Just caught up on all you work, after finding this series on TWF.
    Wow. Just Wow. This is an amazing serial, and has officially become the fourth serial I will check on daily, as opposed to archive binging after months have gone by. Truly, masterful. If there was a storm for literary works (that there isn’t seems odd to me- are literary works not art? Or do they fall under the umbrella of Rhetor?), I would dare say you are Stormtouched. Very well done, and I hope that continues to be the case for a while.

    On another note, it cannot be possible that no one else thought that drawing a line between someone who builds new things and someone who builds current things was odd. All new things eventually become current, after all.

    On yet another note, Rhetors don’t have Echoes. Yet they are Storm touched. Does this mean they did have Echoes, but their echoes were killed very early, or that the Storm has for some reason decided to give a group of people a very powerful ability, even though it doesn’t help protect an Echo? Curiouser and curiouser.

    As I said, beautiful writing.

    Like

    2015-11-01 at 6:33 pm

    • D’aw, thank you so much, your kind words really mean a lot to me! I’d totally accept the title of Stormtouched author, although I’ll bet I’d have a really annoying Echo :D

      Literary Stormtouched sort of straddle a fine line in Italoza, as some are classified as Artifexes and some as Rhetor. If you lose your Echo in that situation somehow, it really is a toss-up how well you’ll be received!

      Like

      2015-11-02 at 12:19 am

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