A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.02 – Aurum Sanguine {Gold Blood}

It vaguely occurred to Elena how the tables had turned since that day so long ago. Little One’s golden blood had been on Lord Waldren’s hands then, and it had been she who had been horrified.

Elena strode towards the door, her expression flat.

“Elena, stop,” Marsillo caught her this time, his armless hands on her shoulders holding her fast, “that was…what on earth happened? Are you alright?”

“She killed Arta, let me go,” Elena struggled to shake Marsillo’s hands from her, but without arms to slap away she wasn’t able to shake from his grasp, “she killed Arta and she killed Arturo, and now she’s trying to kill the rest of us but I won’t let her, you all have to help me but first I have to speak to the Storm, I have to-”

“Elena!” Marsillo gave her a small shake, “you’re going into hysterics, child, we can’t help you if you don’t tell us-”

He didn’t say they die,” Elena almost yelled in the man’s face, “he said the links between us can’t be severed but he didn’t say they die, don’t you see he didn’t say they die so maybe there’s a chance! We die, but that doesn’t mean…”

She realized that she was babbling, and that she had to warn the Twisted, she had to begin making plans now that Little One had been removed from the dream world for the night…

But if there was the slightest chance that Arta wasn’t gone forever, Elena had to find out first. There was nothing more important than that.

“Elena Cog Lucciano.” Lucrezia spoke softly, but her quiet voice was stern, and the plain woman’s unremarkable voice was so disturbing that Elena fell silent. “Look at me, Elena.” It was hard to do, and Elena’s gaze kept flicking past the woman’s face, as if setting on the sight for too long would hurt.

“Look at me, Elena,” Lucrezia repeated even more firmly, and Elena steeled herself and really looked at the woman full in the face, for the very first time.

It was a terrible sight to behold. Abhorrent golden tresses framed her dreadful and average face, horrifying soft brown eyes, an unspeakable small nose, and a hideous kind smile. Elena’s stomach retched, and despite her situation a shudder ran from her feet up to the top of her spine.

“In a situation where everything seems stacked against you, when there are a thousand things which must all be done at once, the most important thing to do is breathe,” Lucrezia said. “Now tell me, what do you need to do, how can we help, and what is happening at the palace?”

Paradoxically, the atrocious voice in that monstrous face was doing wonders to calm Elena down, if for no other reason than that it was hard to focus both on her panic and on the revulsion at the same time. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to organize the thoughts spinning around her head into some kind of order.

“I need to talk to the Storm, so see if my friend is really dead forever,” she said.

“If you’d like, Elena, I can paint-” Ribbon-Face began.

“Not the right time, Coastering,” Marsillo interrupted.

“I have to survive, and I have to get word out. The rebels tried to kill us,” Elena continued, not bothering to order her thoughts. When she opened her eyes, she saw Lucrezia and Marsillo exchange looks.

“The Paltian trade,” Marsillo muttered.

“And I only have one battalion to spare,” Lucrezia looked concerned. “Thank you, Elena, this news will require action on all of our parts, but more pressing action for Marsillo, Coastering and I. Is there anything else we should know?”

“Most of the Eye of the Storm and I are trapped in the dungeons,” Elena said, “they have us blocked in and are keeping guards on us so we can’t fight our way out.”

“Guards that can keep Ascendant Stormtouched at bay?” Marsillo blinked, “what kind of guards do they have in that rebellion?”

“It’s slang from an old way of thinking,” Lucrezia explained in answer to Elena’s confused look, “back when people used to classify Storms by their level of power rather than their type. An Ascendant level is above Master. If the rebels have guards that can hold off Ascendant, we might have a bigger problem on our hands.”

Elena nodded dully. “They have the Prince working with them.”

She wasn’t sure what she was expecting the four Twisted’s reactions to be, but she had been expecting something more than muted gestures and a small wave of acknowledge from Lord Waldren.

“I suspected as much,” he sighed.

“What?” Elena asked.

“The inner workings of the Stormhearts Rebellion’s final fall isn’t known to many people,” Master Coastering said, “but Prince Langone is certainly one of the people who would know. With the help of excellent leadership and her squadrons of Rhetor, the Rebel Queen…Little One, that is, managed to storm the Florezian castle itself, but then…she just stopped. Most people believe that the King’s hired mercenaries pushed the rebels out of the city, then the pincer attack finished off what little resistance remained, but the timeline simply doesn’t match. I’ve pored over old accounts of that day, and if one takes note of the time of sunrise and matches it against descriptions-”

“Little One led the Stormhearts Rebellion,” Lord Waldren interrupted, “but she then brought it to its knees, handing control back over to King Thesslanario.”

“I was getting to that, I do wish people wouldn’t be so impatient,” Coastering complained.

“Why would she do that?” Elena asked.

“She’s never seen fit to share her reasoning with us,” Lord Waldren said wryly, “some think that she did it out of a grotesque kind of loyalty to the King…it certainly cemented his rule and popularity. I’ve heard people say something happened between her and her fellow rebels. I personally think it’s simpler than that, I think that when she was there in the palace with the King, he offered her something she couldn’t resist.”

“What? What could Little One not resist?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea.” Lord Waldren shrugged his large shoulders. “On thing that is for certain is that Little One has no plans to do the same with this rebellion. She’s almost definitely gotten Prince Langone on her side with promises that this rebellion will be just the same, that it will end with him as the hero who overcame the uprising. The difference is that Langone has nothing to buy her with and none of her loyalty. She’s using him as a tool.”

The need to ask the Storm about Arta was almost too much to bear, but Elena paused to ask one more question.

“You knew that Prince Langone was with the rebels, and you didn’t tell me?”

“I didn’t ‘know’ anything, my dear,” Lord Waldren shook his head, “and it would’ve been most unfair to poison your mind against the man.”

Elena stored that thought away, but it was too confusing to think about right now. She had reached the door before another thought occurred to her, and she half-turned to face the four Twisted again.

“I’m going to have to kill Little One,” she said matter-of-factly.

“You already did, Elena, whose blood do you think is on your dress?” Lucrezia said.

“Not here, in real life. Actually kill her.” Elena vaguely realized that her voice sounded dull and flat, but she didn’t care. “I hope that isn’t a problem.”

Without waiting for an answer, Elena closed the door behind her and went in search of the Storm.

***

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***

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2 responses

  1. Oof! This is the second-shortest chapter of Twisted Cogs ever written, but after the third time I fell asleep at the keyboard I realized I had to call it a day, and I just couldn’t stand to do another delay.

    I’ve been considering moving the update day to something that works a little better for me, we’ll see how I feel about that idea after a full night’s sleep.

    Thanks and shout out to all my lovely commenters, donators, linkers, voters, tropers, patrons, wiksters, beta keysters, and readers overall!

    Like

    2015-11-15 at 11:16 pm

    • AceOfSpade

      Don’t overwork yourself. Better to take a little vacation, maybe use it to built a small buffer if you really can’t stay away from writing, than burning yourself out to the point where you have to take a long time to recover.

      Like

      2015-11-18 at 5:06 am

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