A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.01 – Beatus… {Happy…}

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“…and together now, with friends and all, we lift our voice in song…” Ele’s voice was always strong when he sang, and on a stage meant for people to sing it rose and filled the room and bounced off of the walls. Elena leaned back and watched her Echo perform with a fond smile, tempted to close her eyes and lose herself in her friend’s voice. Hearing his song in that tenor voice took her evening from ‘wonderful’ to ‘perfect’.

It didn’t hurt, of course, that the song was for her.

“…for the world was made the brighter, when Elena graced its face,” Ele finished up his song, and Elena joined in the applause with a laugh. “Now everyone, please, join me in raising a glass.” The Echo could no more hold a glass than he could fly, but he made the gesture of grabbing at the direction of the empty glasses set on the table, grinning as his hand passed through and he pantomimed lifting it into the air. “To the birthday girl herself, Elena Lucianno!”

How strange must this scene seem to a Mortalis, Elena thought, looking around her at the little group assembled in the pub, lifting their glasses and empty hands. To someone who couldn’t see an Echo, them it would be all of us clapping and toasting to an empty stage, enthralled by someone who isn’t there.

“Ladies and gentleman,” Ele said, his empty hand held aloft, “I’ve known Elena all my life, and there hasn’t been a day we’ve been apart since I set foot on this world. That means I know who her favorite people in this world are, and that’s the people in this room right now.”

Elena glanced around her. The party this afternoon had been a much fancier and official affair, one that reflected the Milian court and her place as a Master Fabera within it. It had been filled with the nobles and courtiers of the Milian courts, those wishing to gain her favor, or to seek out the source of her rise in the Milian palace, and perhaps one or two who genuinely wished her well. All of them had known that Elena was a member of the council which advised the ruler of the city, Prince Spata. Most of them had known that even among Stormtouched, Elena’s Storm was strange and powerful, which was why she was a Master craftswoman at so young an age. Only a handful had known that she was the true ruler of Milia, ordering the motions of the puppet ruler Prince Spata along with her fellow Twisted Stormtouched Little One.

This group was different, gathered here together in the inn where none of the nobles would find them, cloistered away as if they were hiding from the world. This group were her friends.

Owl sat at the table next to her, his hand resting on the small book he carried with him, although she hadn’t seen him read it all night. His black hair had grown longer since she had first met him, still a mess that seemed at odds with his neat and orderly personality and the spectacles he wore.

A little ways beyond him, the next table was taken up by a group, though only one of them was human. Freja leaned with her elbows on the table, the wood of her arms scuffing the wood of the table, her wooden curls falling about her attentive face. Across from Freja, Frebio seemed disinterested, more concerned with scratching at his chest where the little metal locks were fastened in his metal skin, but Elena didn’t take that to heart. The wooden man had no cause to be fond of her, he had barely interacted with her in the time since his creation.

His creator, Frederica, sat in the middle of the table between the two sculptors, hunched over the table and focused on the little block of wood in her hands. She was bent so low that Elena was worried she would catch a lock of her floppy brown hair in the knife, but the Calaetor seemed to have no problem, only giving indication that she was listening to the Echo’s speech when she occasionally smirked at a joke.

Elena watched guiltily as Frederica’s smooth movements were interrupted for a half second as she awkwardly shifted the knife in her right hand using her thumb, index, and middle fingers, the only ones she had left after defending Elena from Milian guards during the uprising. It had been months, and Frederica still hadn’t gotten the hang of being two fingers down on her dominant hand.

Standing in front of the fire at the far side of the room, Emerald and Belloza chatted happily with each other, and although she trusted both of her friends, Elena furrowed her brow a little at the sight. Belloza was the most carefree of their little group, but that also meant she was the most reckless. Elena trusted Emerald not to hurt anyone, but the Rhetor and the reckless archer striking up a friendship struck her as something to keep an eye on.

Belloza’s Echo stood behind her, arms crossed, glowering as if he too didn’t much care for the relationship. He was as different to her as day to night, large and burly, bald and black as compared to her tiny frame and long golden hair.

They were toasting her now, and Elena pushed her worry aside and smiled as they drank to her seventeenth birthday. Ele grinned as he hopped off of the stage and made his way back over to her side.

“That was wonderful, Ele,” Elena said.

“It’s not every day my Stormtouched turns another autumn older,” Ele said, throwing his hand out in a playful punch that went through her shoulder. Elena giggled at the action, a relic from their childhood, but she almost immediately sobered again. If the Storm had its way, Ele would be able to joke around like that with real people.

I suppose I can take some solace in the fact that if we fail to take down the Twisted, at least Ele will have an actual life ahead of him.

Elena’s musing was interrupted by the door to the inn opening, and in spite of herself, she jumped. When Master Apollo entered, she relaxed a bit. She was still quite nervous around the Eye of the Storm, but if there was any one of its members she enjoyed spending time with, it was Master Apollo.

“How did you find us here?” Elena asked with glee.

“What, are you the only one allowed to crash secret meetings, Master Cog?” Master Apollo grabbed a chair from an empty table and spun it around to sit on it backwards. “This might come as a surprise to you, but the Eye actually does have the resources that can match you. I’m sure you’ll come to learn that in time, being a junior member and all.”

Elena returned his smile, “is it Eye business that brings you here? Have you all come to a decision about the Twis-” she broke off as Master Apollo looked up sharply, scanning the room around him.

When he had given the room a quick scan, he stood. “There’s always a chance we’re being listened to,” he said quietly.

“Master Apollo, I have my Storm,” Elena reminded him. She flicked through the information her Storm provided her, the buzz in her temples obliging as she commanded, “this is an inn in my city, it’s mine, I can tell that it’s empty.”

“Oh,” Master Apollo stood awkwardly for a moment, then sat back down, “that’s right. Paledectum, that will come in handily in the field. Even so, we should watch what we say.”

“Isn’t that a little paranoid?” Belloza asked from the fireplace.

“Paranoid?” Master Apollo didn’t lose all of his good natured smile, but he certainly became more grave. “The Eye…and you all, since Elena saw fit to entrust you with this,” he cast a sidelong glance at Elena that she wasn’t sure she liked the look of, “have set themselves against a force so powerful that I don’t know that any level of paranoia will be enough.”

He held up a fist, extending fingers as he listed, “the head of the Faberi Guild. An infamous and respected Master Artifex. A member of the Favero Banking family. A member of the council that leads Rimi, one of the two puppetmasters of Milia, the darling of the Florenzian courts, and a woman who has a network of professional spies and the ear of the King himself. I couldn’t device a more dangerous group as a whole to pit myself against. Every form of power is at their disposal, without even harnessing their Storms, only two of which we know. I would advise extreme caution and paranoia against any single one of the Twisted, and we’re going up against all of them.”

The energy in the room had died, and in the silence that followed Elena felt as if the cider she had just drank had congealed into a ball in her stomach.

“I…I’m sorry,” she said to the room at large. “I know I’ve put all of you in so much danger.”

“You told us the truth,” Owl said. “I don’t think any of us would want anything different.”

The nods and murmurs of agreement around the room warmed Elena’s heart, and she turned back to Master Apollo with a slightly more optimistic air.

“But we are going up against them,” she said, “the Eye has decided on a plan then? When do we start?”

“We start tonight,” Master Apollo said, “the senior members are going to move against our first target, while the junior members gather information and do research on the Twisted.”

“But…I want to help you,” Elena stammered.

“You will be! You have an informational Storm, Elena, you’ll be the most helpful junior member we have.”

“You just said my Storm would be handy to have in the field!”

“That’s exactly why we’re not risking you until you’re older and more experienced,” Master Apollo sighed, “I didn’t expect this from you, Elena, you have to see why this choice was made.”

“I just don’t-” Elena’s protest was interrupted by a knock on the door of the inn. Her heart began to pound again as she glanced around the little room, filled with everyone she cared about, everyone she would describe as a friend.

The knock at the door sounded again, polite but insistent.

“Come in,” Elena called. When the door opened and the four figures entered, she could see the guards outside behind them, a large number of them, in livery that she didn’t recognize. Her attention returned to the newcomers when the door closed behind them. One pair she recognized immediately, the thin pale man with a wooden walking stick, a scar on his chin, and his pale Echo with her scar from chin to eye.

The other pair was harder. A girl a little older than Elena with strawberry blonde hair, wearing a simple dress and a mask that covered the right half of her face. Her companion was either her Echo or her brother, and both carried themselves carefully, as if they worried about breaking their surroundings. Elena didn’t recognize them until the girl grinned wide.

“I’m so glad we were able to find you before everyone had left,” said the thin man.

“You didn’t think we’d let you get away without us wishing you a happy birthday, did you?” said the masked girl.

“Everyone…” as if she were sleepwalking, Elena turned to the others in the room, “…these are my…my friends. May I present Lord Demetrio Waldren and Lady Midora Fara.”

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4 responses

  1. EchoStep

    Well shit

    Like

    2016-03-30 at 3:38 pm

  2. xdrngy

    Heh… Well, it is possible they have concerns they didn’t express in the dream world. On the other hand this feels an awful lot like a setup to the entire room getting murdered

    Like

    2016-03-30 at 8:26 pm

  3. “sat in the middle of the table between the two sculptors” -> Sculpture

    Uhhhh… Elena’s storm ain’t that useful to warn her, it seems xP

    I gotta wonder if these people’s storms will… well, rebel against them?

    Like

    2016-04-02 at 2:08 am

  4. AceOfSpade

    I just noticed the book’s title. Well I suddenly got curious and went to the table of content to see what it was.

    That… doesn’t bode well. Or it could be a Red Herring… Either way this is probably going to be tense.

    Like

    2016-04-02 at 9:59 am

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