A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.01 – In Pace {In Peace}

It hurt to breath in.

It hurt to breath out.

It hurt to breath in.

But sitting up straight, gasping and spluttering, that hurt most of all. It hurt so much that Elena’s vision almost went dark again in the same instant that she had opened her eyes, and her head swam so much that she almost forgot what had made her spring up in the first place. Almost.

“Owl?” she rasped. The simple act of drawing a breath took so much effort that it made her dizzy, and forced her to clamp her eyes shut in pain.

“She’s awake!” Ele called.

“Frederica?” another breath, more pain, but Elena was struggling to rise to her elbows again, wincing at the light, “Belloza, Arta?”

“Elena lay down, you’ll rip the stitching,” gentle but firm hands were pushing on her, but Elena squirmed, lashing out, trying to rub the blur from her eyes and thrash against the hands and draw in breath, none of which was proving useful. What did she care about stitching, where were her friends?

The dark was starting to creep in from the corners of the blur again, and despite her efforts the hands gently pushed her back laid her. The shallow breaths she’d been taking had stopped now, but she couldn’t think about that, couldn’t think of anything.

Placet brevi ab omnibus diis let them be safe.

“Elena, please stop, please, you’re going to hurt yourself,” Ele’s voice was familiar, and even though she knew he wasn’t in danger his voice calmed her down a little, at least enough that she could take in a thin, wavering breath. The dark haze around her vision was too slow, slowly creeping away when she needed to see the most.

“Are they okay? Why can’t I see them?” it whistled in her throat when she talked.

“I had to give you a mixture of Valerian and Poppies to make sure you slept,” the voice of Master Asclepius said, “I needed you in a deeper sleep than was natural so that-”

Where are my friends.”

“I’m here, Elena.” Frederica’s hand gripped hers tight, and Elena almost sobbed with relief. Her friend continued in the same matter-of-fact voice she always used, but quieter, flatter. “Owl is here, but he’s sleeping. Belloza is guarding the door with Athena and Apollo.”

Elena waited for Frederica to continue, and the longer the silence stretched, the harder her heart pounded painfully against her ribs.

“Arta?” she finally asked in a small voice, “Arturo?”

“The extent of the damage…even if we had arrived sooner…” Master Asclepius began, but fell silent at some sign Elena couldn’t see. Slowly, she opened her eyes.

“They didn’t make it, Elena,” Frederica said, more gently than Elena had ever heard her speak before.

“Arta…Arturo,” Elena repeated helplessly, as if she only asked the question right Frederic would understand and give her the proper answer. The first Echo she had ever spoken to, the first person in Milia to show her kindness, the first friend she had made…

No, Arta couldn’t be dead.

“They’re gone, Elena,” Frederica held Elena’s hand tightly in her own, and Elena squeezed back, confused. Her vision was clearing up now, and with Frederica help she slowly struggled to rise until she sat up. The dungeon cell doors were open now, the cots moved to their middles. Owl sleeping soundly on his side was slightly comforting, as was the fact that Belloza and Bello weren’t in the room, but presumably healthy enough to guard things.

At the end of the room, a figure lay beneath a blanket, silent and still. Even the figure couldn’t quite shake Elena’s feeling that there was something wrong, that she had misunderstood, that there had been a miscommunication somewhere.

Among the wooden scraps of broken sculpture and shattered arrows, a few wooden rats scampered across the floor. The flames and waves and clouds that had once animated them were still and lifeless

Elena leaned against Frederica’s shoulder, watching them scurry to and fro.

Her friend held her as she cried.

 

***

 

“What happened, after I…” Elena’s voice was raw, and it had hurt so much to draw in breath that crying had been painful. Now she was done crying, she just sat on the cot and stared at the floor a little ways off.

“We, the Eye that is, received a warning from Master Zeus. His storm isn’t exact, but it is very precise,” Master Asclepius carefully handed a glass to Elena, who raised it to her lips with a mechanical motion. Elena took a sip of the mixture, somehow unsurprised when it turned out to be vile and bitter-tasting. Everything was vile and bitter tasting.

“Even we don’t know how Master Zeus’ Storm works,” Master Asclepius continued, “but we do know that he’s never been wrong about his premonitions. Even Master Athena’s Apate can be fooled by someone with clever enough wording, or as we discovered, someone we wouldn’t think to question, but Zeus cannot be tricked. When we received the warning, Master Apollo wanted to check on you straight away, so he, I, Master Aphrodite and Master Athena returned here to find…” he trailed off, indicating the dungeon around them. “Your left lung is punctured, your Calaetor friend here had a wrist almost severed, the saggitara still has an arrowhead embedded in her hip but she insisted on helping fight, and the young man luckily escaped any organ damage from the arrow.”

And Arturo died, Elena added silently, he died and Arta had to die with him.

“What do you mean, ‘helping fight’?”

“The palace guards attacked less than ten minutes later, we suspect that the Prince sent them to finish the job. Apollo, Aphrodite and Athena have been keeping them at bay ever since, and Cross has been assisting them.”

A thrill of fear went through Elena, despite the groggy feeling the tea was causing. The thought of losing even more friends was too much to bear, and the tea turned in her stomach. “How long have they been fighting?”

“It’s been a day, but I wouldn’t call it fighting. The guards aren’t letting us past, and we’re not letting them advance. I suspect they’re waiting until we run out of food.”

“When do we run out of food?”

“Given that our ‘territory’ consists of two cell blocks and a guard station? Sometime this afternoon.”

Elena leaned her head back against the cot, mind racing yet somehow not thinking anything.

“He didn’t think to check on the Prince in the decades he’s ruled Milia?” Elena asked as her eyelids drooped.

“I’m sure he has, but he’s not a mind reader. Whatever Master Zeus’s storm does, he was able to warn us that Prince Langone himself was aligned with the rebels, and several oddities about some of our hunt have been explained.”

“Why?” Frederica asked, “the Prince already rules, why align with the rebels?”

The man carefully arranged the small glass vials in his case, putting those he had used to make Elena’s tea in their proper places. The motions seemed rote enough that he could watch her at the same time, scrutinizing her as she drifted.

“I’m afraid we don’t know. We could speculate, of course, but-”

“If Master Zeus had realized it earlier, Arta would still be alive,” Elena said dully. “Master Zeus could’ve stopped this.” Master Asclepius winced, but didn’t respond.

“They saved us, Elena,” Frederica said quietly. “None of us would’ve survived this long without the Eye here.”

Elena glanced from Frederica’s bound wrist to where Owl lay on the bed, bandages wrapped around his stomach and shoulder. She could only imagine the state Belloza was in.

“Don’t blame the people who helped us,” Frederica’s voice sounded far away.

“I don’t,” Elena mumbled, “I blame…”

 

***

 

The drugged sleep slapping into mental clarity as Elena entered the dream world was a strange sensation, a reversal of the typical disorientation she felt when emerging. Her vision was still a little blurry, as usual, and the ship rocked beneath her feet, but Elena rose from the bed before she had even blinked her eyes clear.

The rooms beneath decks weren’t typically this bright, and Elena winced a bit as she stepped through the door and into the similarly bright hallway. The halls were empty, but she had walked them often enough to know where she was going. When she heard the faint sound of voices arguing, she knew she was close.

“-will do absolutely nothing to gain us information,” Marsillo was saying.

“It will do enough. I’m not prepared to just stand here-” Lord Waldren’s voice cut off as Elena pushed the door open, and the Twisted within the room turned.

They had taken Little One out of her cage, and had formed a loose circle around her: Lord Waldren, Marsillo, Lucrezia and Master Coastering. Little One herself seemed completely at her ease, and when she caught sight of Elena her golden eyes brightened.

Lord Waldren, on the other hand, sounded horrified. “Why, Elena what has happened to you?” he asked, but Elena was already moving, walking towards the golden child.

“Elena, hold on a moment-” Marsillo reached out for her, but Elena slipped through the empty space where his arms should be without slowing. Her eyes were locked on Little One’s face, and she barely registered reaching out for the knife that hung at Master Coastering’s hip, nor Waldren and Lucrezia’s shouted words that rung in her ears.

She swung the knife so hard that it lifted the golden-haired child of the ground in a spray of gold blood. There was no finesse to the swing, no Storm-guided precision, but she followed Little One down to the ground, swinging again and again, as if swinging hard enough would bring back her friend.

The wood of the deck was chipped and gashed by the time she realized that Little One had disappeared. On her hands and knees, Elena looked at the blue light that burned from her core with a kind of detached interest, as blue flames licked at the edges of the puzzle pieces that made up her skin.

The room was quiet when she rose to face the other Twisted. Golden blood dripped from her dress and her hands, and when she dropped the knife Master Coastering flinched.

“Only one of us can pass judgement on the others,” Elena said, her voice hoarse. “Now where is the Storm?”

***

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

***

Vote for Twisted Cogs on TopWebFiction

Advertisements

5 responses

  1. I’m so tired that I’m legitimately worried this chapter might not make sense, but I got it written, so darn it that’s progress!

    This chapter will almost certainly see an editing pass or two when I catch up on things

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-11-10 at 12:25 am

  2. “The first Echo she had ever spoken to” Not to be nit-picky, but the first Echo Elena spoke to was Ele :3

    The chapter made perfect sense. Darn you for the cliffhanger though ;~; Elena was badass in the last section and… I can’t help but think that’s a perfectly reasonable response x3

    Arturo, Arta :.< Something I'll really miss is their cool Storm.

    Like

    2015-11-10 at 4:35 am

    • Cliffhangers on top of cliffhangers! I am just the worst :) At least you can take some solace in the fact that half the time, it’s not a *planned* cliffhanger, it just happily works out that way

      Like

      2015-11-15 at 11:22 pm

  3. kellie

    Did she kill little one? I had thought that the twisted couldn’t really be hurt in the dream but by the reaction it seems Elena did something to little one.

    Like

    2015-11-10 at 6:09 am

    • Gareth

      Forced her to leave?
      That, or the reaction is only shock. Someone so innocent, so unaware of their protocols, just going violent straight away upon entering? Someone who objected to Dream-Torture vehemently, despite it having no lasting effects, going full psycho? That’s scary. The only reason Elena would attempt to kill Little One in the dream world, is if she REALLY wanted her dead. The twisted know this.

      Like

      2015-11-10 at 9:57 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s