A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.03 – Nimbosus Mare {Stormy Seas}

“Do they die?” Now that she was here, actually facing the Storm, Elena realized that a part of her didn’t want to know. This was the only possible hope she had, the only thing to cling to, and if the Storm’s answer tore that away from her Elena knew she would be set adrift.

It wasn’t that Elena didn’t know how to react to the loss of her friends, a loss that was all her fault. She didn’t know how to be, with the weight of Arta’s death on her shoulders. It was bad enough knowing that Arturo was gone and would never return, even though the two of them had more negative feelings for each other than positive.

If I hadn’t taken them all to court, they’d be safe and sound in the studios right now.

“Of subjects many might Elena be gifting of words to me,” the Storm did not look up from the atlas he was poring over, but Elena could tell he knew what she meant. The weeks that the two of them had spent studying together had made her a little better at picking up his more subtle reactions, and this reaction was anything but subtle.

The flecks of white and black that made up his surface moved slowly, less like a blizzard and more like a gentle snowfall, a sure indication that his emotions were working. Though he still stared at the page in front of him, his head didn’t make the twitching motions that indicated he was reading by picking out sentences from all over the pages and piecing them together.

“You said that Echoes were tied to the lives of their Stormtouched, and that that was a mistake…but you didn’t say they died. Even when I asked, you didn’t say they die.”

“The asking of me, with the timing strangeness it does come.”

“My friend Arta-”

“Knowing of Arta is mine, of the knowing more than of yours,” the Storm snapped, “is it the thinking of you foolish that the knowing of you is greater than the knowing of me? Thinking of you that of the daughter of me, knowing not is mine?”

Elena was too angry to parse the Storm’s speech, too frustrated to do anything but pick up on the most basic ideas he communicated. “You know what happened to her, then,” she said, “is she dead?”

“Never shall be your time of the seeing of Arta again,” the Storm said quietly. “From the world has she gone, and of the fault mine is it. To her rash harbor were her shackles fashioned, to the depths did drag they her when the harbor fell.”

“Is she dead? Yes or no?”

“The questions of you, in your own mind do they twist. Of matter simple are they, but of matter complex try you to make them.”

“Is. Arta. Dead.” Elena expected her own voice to waver, and was almost surprised at the sharp edge to her voice. The Storm turned to look at her, his speckled and featureless face almost as easy for her to read as that of one of her friends.

The Storm was hurting just as much as she was. Arta’s death was weighing on his shoulder’s as well. For a moment, Elena felt guilty at how hard she had pressed, but only for a moment. If he was truly sad about her death, and if there was a chance that she could be saved somehow, he should be just as eager as her to figure something out.

“Ask not these questions,” the Storm finally said.

“So she’s not dead. She was linked to Arturo, and Arturo died, so she…what? Stays with him in the afterlife? Is stuck halfway? There has to be some way to save her, even if it’s something you haven’t thought about, just tell me and I can help you think of something.”

“Think you not care I for her?” the Storm’s voice was almost pleading, “think you not if could you help, would I ask you?”

“You chose me to help you choose the next ruler of the world,” Elena pointed out, “you trust my opinion.”

“Your intention is it the giving of threats to me?” the Storm’s mood shifted again in a heartbeat, and a dangerous edge of his own crept into his voice, “if the giving of tellings to you is not from me, then the giving of tellings to me is not of you? The helping of Arta of me, or else not the helping of picking of you?”

“What? No, I’m not giving you an ultimatum, I’m just pointing out that…” the accusation was enough to startle Elena into speaking without thinking, but her brow furrowed and she paused. “…yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Tell me what’s happened to Arta, tell me how I might be able to help her, or I’ll stop helping you figure out the best ruler of the world.”

“Of the highest thinking, is yourself,” the Storm said, his voice quiet but still dangerous, “of the sureness is yours that the needing of me is for you.”

“I don’t think highly of myself, you do. Of all the Twisted, I’m the only one who you’re sure can’t be ruler, which means I’m the only one whose opinions you can trust to be unbaised. You need me, and I need to know that I’ve done everything I can for Arta.”

“Is the needing of I for you? Another Twist cannot I make, a Twist for the helping of me, for the Elena replacing?”

“If you could organize a new Twisted that easily, you wouldn’t have been so crushed when I didn’t work out,” Elena countered, so smoothly that she wondered if her Storm was supplying her the answers. Was that possible, her Storm working against the Storm who had gifted it to her? Elena pushed the thought to the back of her mind for when she was dealing with something less important.

Even without eyes the Storm managed to glare her down, but Elena’s chin was set stubbornly, her hands clenched into fists at her sides, and she didn’t drop her gaze. When the silence stretched between them again, she finally erupted.

“I’m not bluffing. Help me to help Arta, or you’ll lose my help,” she said.

“The aiding from you shall still be the providing of you,” the Storm said coldly, “or the Storm of you I will take.”

The words struck Elena like a physical blow, and the panic she’d felt upon first meeting the Storm returned. Everything she was was due to her Storm. Every step of her rise had been because she was a Fabera, or because she was a Twisted. Without her Storm what would she do?

Although she didn’t want to think about it, Elena knew the answer. She would leave the courts. She would return to Studio DaRose, not as a craftswoman with experience and the favor of the courts, but as a mortalis, the lowest of garzoni.

It wouldn’t be a step down from where she was now, it would be all but starting over, knowing in her heart of hearts that she could never again rise back to where she was now. Elena’s chin rose a fraction of an inch higher.

“If you have to take away my Storm, the you’d better do it,” she said through gritted teeth, “because I’m not going to stop asking, and I’m not going to help you until I’m satisfied.”

The Storm heaved a sigh, the noise strange coming from him, like a breeze whipping across the surface of an ocean.

“Of mine was this expectation,” he said. “Nature stubborn, attitude tenacious, respect little.” Elena didn’t respond, but she folded her arms across her chest. “No. Dead is not friend Echo of yours.”

“I knew it,” Elena breathed, “where is she? How do I see her again? How do I save her?”

“Of the save, long passed is the opportunity,” the Storm said, “Home is she. Home ours.”

The way he said the word “Home” sent shivers down Elena’s spine, but she gestured for the Storm to continue.

“Of life long, is hers,” the Storm said, “each death sleeping like. Never the flame Arta is it extinguished. But now, with harbor dead yet permanent, never  either lands of yours will again walk she.”

“So she can’t come back…but she’s immortal? Why does that sound as if you think it’s a bad thing?”

“Bad thing it is when of fullness is Home of things bad,” the Storm said darkly. “Galebeast, the hunting of the progeny is theirs. A hunger eternal, of flesh and of spirit, and of both do feast they their fill. Of their meals will Arta be, and shall the subject of curses be her immortality.”

Elena bit her lip hard, trying not to dwell on the horrible words.

“What do we do to help her?” she asked in a whisper. “We have to come up with a way-”

“A way is there,” the Storm interrupted. He turned back to his book, his own hands clenched much like Elena’s were. “A way whose help of you need I.”

“Anything,” Elena almost tripped over the word, “I’ll do anything, just tell me what to do.”

“When ruler have I, then must steps they take,” the Storm said without looking up. “When steps have they taken, safety do the progeny they grant.”

“Help you pick a leader, and that leader can help save the Echoes of Italoza? Even the ones who have not-died?”

The ship suddenly lurched beneath Elena’s feet, almost tossing her to the ground. The blurs around the edges of her vision began to fade as the Storm’s voice echoes in her mind.

“When picked has the leader been, saved will all of the progeny be. In Italoza. In the world.”

Elena nodded as the Dream World slipped away from her.

 

***

 

“…shouldn’t even be waking her up, let alone letting her stand up, this is nonsense,” Master Asclepius’ whisper was quiet, but it had been enough to rouse Elena from her sleep, but she kept her eyes closed and breathed deeply as she continued listening to the conversation.

“I know, I understand that and I understand what you said before, about it being a trap, but Master Athena has decided to see it out.” Something about the timbre of Master Aphrodite’s voice was slightly off, different than last time, but Elena had to think hard before she remembered that the woman was a Rhetor, her voice modulated to be whatever it needed to be to earn trust.

“You don’t need to use my brother’s tone, Aphrodite,” Master Asclepius said, “I won’t disobey Master Athena’s orders, I am merely pointing out that I’m worried.”

“Apollo, Athena, a Saggitara and two wooden men are all that’s keeping the soldiers from us, we’re all worried, Asclepius,” Master Aphrodite said gently. “If I can in some small way make any of us more relaxed, I’m going to do that, you know that.”

“I know. I suppose we should wake her, then.”

“My Storm has been telling me to change my voice for her for a few minutes now,” Master Aphrodite said, “how much of that did you hear, Elena?”

Elena opened her eyes to find Masters Aphrodite and Asclepius looking at her. Even though she wasn’t looking anywhere near it, the boy covered with a sheet in the corner of the room seemed to punch her in the gut.

“Master Athena wants me to do something, and Master Asclepius doesn’t like it,” Elena said.

“I have to help you up, and we need to go out into the hall,” Master Aphrodite extended her hand, and her voice was comforting, like her mother’s on one of her mothers’ better day’s. Even spoken in the comforting voice, the implications of the sentence were disturbing.

“Isn’t the hallway where the fighting is?” she asked, wincing as the two Masters helped her sit up. Her lung still burned, and every breath still hurt on its way both in and out, but Elena was thankful that as long as she talked carefully her voice didn’t have the rasp of whistling air in it.

“It’s been more of a standoff than fighting, really,” Master Aphrodite said, “the guards and rebels can’t come close without your Saggitara or Apollo picking them off, but there are enough of them that she Apollo, Athena can’t simply push them back. The hallway just outside of the dungeons are ours, but the hallway beyond that is a bit of a no-man’s land right now. We’re locked in a stalemate.”

“That doesn’t really change the question. Why does Master Athena want me in a place filled with our enemies?”

“Because Master Athena is agreeing to a request by our enemies,” Master Aphrodite explained, helping Elena to her feet. “Prince Langone is waiting in that hallway as we speak. He says he would like to talk to you.”

***

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***

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3 responses

  1. algol

    Good chapter. It’s gotta take guts to stand in a hallway with Saggitara on either end.

    “If you have to take away my Storm, the you’d better do it” -> “then you’d”?

    Like

    2015-11-22 at 11:58 pm

  2. Maybe I’m just tired, but today the Storm was particularly hard to parse. It was heavy work to understand him.

    Thanks for the chapter! :D

    Like

    2015-11-23 at 12:35 am

  3. Bart

    “When picked has the leader been, saved will all of the progeny be. In Italoza. In the world.”

    How? Is this as terrible a thing as when we hear that Anakin Skywalker will bring balance to the Force?

    Like

    2015-11-23 at 5:59 pm

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