A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.04 – Loquitur Nocte {Discussions in the Night}

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***

It was cold on the mountaintop. Elena had been visiting the dream worlds for almost a year now, and never before had the atmosphere seemed so oppressive around her. The cold bit through the dress she wore, the breeze whistled in between her puzzle-piece skin and chilled the blue core within.

She had watched Lord Waldren die, watched his Echo unravel and vanish in a wisp of a breeze that wasn’t there. She had removed the crossbow bolt with her own two bloody hands, holding her breath and almost crying, but the body she’d worked with had been definitely dead.

But here we are, she thought despondently, if he was dead, the dream world should’ve died with him, he made it with his storm.

Elena closed her eyes for a moment, refocusing. How it had happened didn’t matter, what mattered now was what to do, and her mind raced trying to come up with a plan. While she thought, The Storm paced, uncharacteristically active in the middle of the assembled group.

“Of simpleness, the plan of we,” the Storm finally broke the uneasy silence. “Ease was the giving of me, trust of the giving without in having the giving with the mine of serves…” the Storm had begun in a strong clear voice, but now he stopped and shook his head, frustrated, “of serving mine is the..the giving…trust was giving of the…”

“Lord Avatar,” Midora said, gently, “it might be easier for us to understand you if you tried to calm down, a bit?”

Elena was used to the Storm and his moods, but she hadn’t realized how clear it was to the rest of them. He apparently hadn’t realized either, and he froze and waited, the flecks that sped across him slowing slightly.

“Difficulty, is the having of me,” he said, “with of anger is the wording of me unravelled.”

“Perhaps you can calm down while we wait for Lord Waldren,” Marsillo suggested, “I can’t imagine he’ll be much longer-“

“Dead, is Lord Waldren,” the Storm spat.

For a moment, the entire clearing was silent, and it then erupted into exclamations, angry and shocked and horrified.

“How can he-“

“-don’t believe it-“

“-with his friends, his connections-“

“-unthinkable-“

Over the chaos, Little One’s childlike voice was somehow able to be heard, “Lord Avatar of the Storm, that’s simply not possible. Lord Waldren is in the Castle at Milia, under the care of myself and Lady Elena. After the Quelling, the Castle is nigh impenetrable. Our guards hold position at the entrance to every wing; we didn’t even allow Lord Waldren or Lady Fara’s own guards in those wings during the night.”

Deus…” Midora whispered. Her mouth was pressed in a thin line, her otherwise featureless face pale, “…it was my room. He asked to switch rooms with me, he wanted a better view…the assassination was meant for me. Lord Avatar, please, I need to wake up, can you wake me up?”

“The having of power of me, awaking beyond is,” the Storm said. Midora bit her lip with too-sharp teeth, worrying her hands and glancing over her shoulder as if to see a would-be assassin coming.

“I guess…I guess we’ll find out if it was really meant for me…” she said.

“Is there anything we should pass on, should the worst occur, my dear?” Master Coastering asked, not unkindly.

Midora shook her head, “I have my affairs in order. I make sure of that before every trip…although I really didn’t expect to die in Milia,” she shot a look somewhere between dry humor and worried concern at Little One, “you need to work on your impenetrability.”

“That is something of note, something we should discuss.” Until now, Fulvio had been silent, her black ink form still. Now she was looking at one side of the circle, where Elena, Little One, and Midora stood. “Four of our number were gathered together in the same Castle, and on that night one of them dies. We cannot discount the possibility that one of you three was the cause.”

What?” Midora said, “Fulvio, what possible reason would I have for killing Lord Waldren? What reason would any of us?”

“It is true that Lord Waldren has his share of enemies, I’m not discounting an assassin outside of our number either,” Fulvio said, “but think terms of means and opportunity, not motive. The members of our order had the chance and the power to accomplish this.”

“I’ve been with him for our entire journey,” Midora snapped, “why would I have-“

“Among us is one vocal about her dissent from us and who has been tortured by Lord Waldren. There is also one who is new to us, and conspicuously uncomfortable with Lord Waldren’s torture,” the only move Fulvio made was to turn her head slightly, staring at Little One and Elena, “if this was due to one of us, I’d be surprised if it was you, Midora.”

“But you’re saying it could be me, or Elena, or Little One,” Midora snapped, “why was your first instinct to attack your own?”

“Because killing a man with Waldren’s connections is the sign of great incompetence or great power,” Fulvio explained, voice calm, “and only the latter is cause for worry. ‘My own’ are those with power.”

The circle was silent for a few moments, thick with tension, before Marsillo spoke.

“This is ridiculous, and I refuse to let it tear us apart,” he said, “we have our disagreements, but we’re a family. Since it couldn’t have been a Twisted-“

“It could have been anyone,” Fulvio said.

“Since it couldn’t have been a Twisted,” Marsillo repeated, steadily, “the most important question we must ask ourselves is why this happened, whether it was an attack toward Lord Waldren, or targeted at the Twisted as a whole.”

A part of Elena wanted to stay silent through the discussion, unsure of her own acting abilities. But if she were really innocent, she would be asking questions right now.

“No one would attack all of us, would they?” she asked in a small voice, “no one knows who we are, and if they did, they wouldn’t dare…”

“I wish that were necessarily true, young Elena,” Master Coastering had been quiet, but now he spoke thoughtfully, “but we cannot think that our connections to each other will remained unnoticed forever. We are careful, but I think it not outside the realm of possibility that someone clever has pieced together our little network. Indeed, should someone attempt to disassemble us, Lord Waldren was an admirable target. He was not in a position of political power, he occupied the role of a diplomat. Less notice, and the least amount of effort.”

Fulvio had crossed her arms, and even without an expression she managed to glare, “and robbed us of the man who constructed secret meeting places for us. That speaks to a coordinated attack on all of us in a very short amount of time. Almost as if the assassin knew they were on a time limit, and wanted to cut off our communication. Almost as if the assassin was under orders from one of us.”

“That idea assumes this was an attack on the Twisted, and that Waldren was chosen as a target for that reason-” Marsillo began, but Lucrezia broke in.

“How are we meeting here, now?” she asked quietly, “without Lord Waldren to build the dream for us?”

The Storm stirred from his silent position in the middle of the little circle. “Of threads is the holding of me,” he said, staring forward as if he wasn’t paying attention, “while not-mine is the sleeping, of dreams this world can the having be of me.”

“So…while you’re awake, you can keep the world he constructed,” Lucrezia nodded, “we don’t have much time to make plans before we have to return to communicating via messenger, like old days. How long can you stay away, Lord Avatar? A night? Perhaps two?”

“Months six.”

Elena blinked. So, I didn’t accomplish anything at all by killing Lord Waldren first. The Twisted will keep meeting inside the dream world, keep their communication advantage, for probably as long as it will take for us to hunt them.

“Well then, we had best make the most of the relatively small amount of time we have,” Marsillo said, “if we converge on Milia, we can protect Little One, Elena, and Midora, which will serve the additional purpose of keeping an eye on them for any trouble, will that satisfy you, Fulvio?”

Many Twisted, all in one place, in my city, Elena fished around for a reason to lend her voice to the argument without seeming obvious.

“I’ll feel safer with more Twisted around me,” Midora said, “I know I’m going to Elena’s room the second I wake up.”

Elena flashed Midora a smile, a warm feeling in her stomach at the trust extended to her…immediately quenched when she thought of how unwarranted that trust was. The only reason Midora was alive right now was because she had given Lord Waldren her room, and Elena hadn’t been able to tell where she slept instead.

“Pulling all of the potential targets together into a single building, in a single castle, is the most monumentally stupid thing we could possibly do,” Fulvio said, her voice flat, “I’m sorry, am I the only one who realizes that no one would fight us unless they have an army at their disposal? Or at the very least, an army’s worth of power?”

“Then let me go, master of the paranoid,” Marsillo said, “my Storm is particularly well suited to this sort of-“

“Enough.” Fulvio had been quiet up to this point, but now she raised her voice and the entire clearing rang with it. “No more information. No more sharing, at least not for right now. You all accept me as the one who will rule the world? You can start by following my lead now. Midora, Elena, Mia, I’m hardly clapping you in chains here, nor, Marsillo, am I discounting the possibility that this is all a coincidence.”

Elena dared to take a breath.

“However,” Fulvio continued, “until we know more, we will be careful, cautious, and smart about this. I’m the master of spies, I have people I trust, people whose entire lives are dedicated to the exact skills that we need. I will send my spies and guards, investigators and informants, they will enter Milia unannounced, and they will independently report back to me. We will find the culprit within a month, and we will be sure of them when we do.”

So that’s it. Elena managed to keep her face entirely straight, but her mind was surprisingly just as calm. There’s no way I was cautious enough to fool people who hunt people down for a living. I have about a month to prepare to leave Milia. Probably less.

“I don’t like the idea of your king’s spies in my city,” Little One said.

“I don’t like the idea of your cities assassins in my Italoza,” Fulvio said, just as coldly. The two of them locked eyes for a few long moments, and then the little golden-hair child vanished.

“What on earth?” Midora said, “how…”

“Clearly she knows a way to wake herself up from dreaming,” Marsillo said thoughtfully.

“Unfortunately, that tells us nothing about her allegiance,” Fulvio sighed, “as storming out in a huff is just what I’d expect from her, guilty or innocent.”

“I don’t like this pulling apart, Fulvio,” Lucrezia said, “at a time when we should be drawing closer together.”

“It won’t be long,” Fulvio said, “we’ll find those responsible, and perhaps even bring them to justice with the same stroke.”

“The sooner the better,” Elena said, nodding thoughtfully. I’ll have to make sure to get my friends out of the city when I leave. Should I warn my mother earlier? And of course the Eye should know…

The mountaintop suddenly boomed with slow, crashing blows, and Elena wasn’t the only Twisted who jumped. As the air around her began to blur and warp, the Storm lifted a finger and pointed at her.

“Culprit, must the finding of you be,” he said.

“I’ll find out who did this,” Elena promised, before everything went dark.

***

The knocking on the door was much more muted in the real world, although it had obviously been enough to wake her up. Elena dragged herself out of bed, and caught sight of Ele waiting at the foot of the bed, eyebrow raised.

“Fulvio suspects one of the three of us in Milia, but I don’t think anyone else does,” Elena said quietly, “she’s sending spies and informants here to find us out.”

Ele took in the information silently, staring at the bedclothes and biting his lip. “More likely that she has informants and spies here already,” he noted, “and only needs to send the right message to instruct them.”

“Should I keep watch for a messenger with my Storm, do you think?” Elena glanced at the door as the knocking stopped.

“Anything you could catch with your Storm could in theory be caught by physical means as well, if the ruler were searching people at the gates. Fulvio strikes me as the type who would use something to activate her agents subtly enough that there’s no point in looking for it.”

“I suppose you’re right, but there’s no harm-” Elena’s thought was interrupted by the gentle ‘click’  of her door’s lock opening. Her glance flicked over to the warhammer resting on the other side of the room, far too far away to snatch up.

Two guards entered first, slowly enough that Elena knew who was following before she even heard the tap of the cane on the floor.

“So, Master Cog, tell me,” Little One’s aged voice was amused, and a smile played around the wrinkles near her eyes, “was it just Lord Waldren you planned to assassinate, or will it take all of the Twisted to sate your bloodlust?”

***

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***

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15 responses

  1. Whoo wee. I think everyone here got infected with the Storm’s unintelligibility ^^

    Where that that were necessarily true, young Elena,” Master Coastering had been quiet, but now he spoke thoughtfully, “but we cannot hope to think that our various interconnectivity will or has remained unnoticed forever.
    –Where that that were?
    –Our various interconnectivity? Perhaps you mean something like “our vast organization”?

    There’s no way I was cautious enough to fool people who have I have less than a month
    –Fool people who have? Have what?

    Probably less, since she suspects Midora and Little One and I she would hardly tell us the truth about the timing.
    –she suspects Midora and Little one and I she would
    —-missing some sort of connective, and frankly the latter sentence doesn’t work very well either.

    and caught site of Ele waiting at the foot
    –sight

    activate her agents subtley
    –subtly

    Like

    2016-04-10 at 11:58 pm

    • I hope you engrave “Where that that were” somewhere. It’s pure gold xP

      Like

      2016-04-10 at 11:59 pm

      • Oh my goodness gracious. Thank you SO much, Zim, I’m glad I checked comments before I collapsed.

        I think for that first one I was looking for was “would that that were true” which is grammatically correct but just as bad, readability-wise. For the rest of it…yep no excuse at all.

        Let that be a lesson, boys and girls: 6 hours of sleep in three days is just not where that that were worth it :)

        All of those should be fixed, and thanks again!

        Like

        2016-04-11 at 12:21 am

  2. So, we have Little One being Little One. Obviously, however this goes, Little One will be suspicious of Elena. But please, Elena, don’t just go out and blurt “how did you know?!!!”. You have some amount of deniability, so don’t just throw it away.

    Thanks for the story, Madi :3 Hope you get some rest.

    Like

    2016-04-11 at 12:36 am

    • Daemion

      I think being honest with her could win Little One over. As she said herself before, she’s old and will die soon. Elena is her chosen successor… so there might be a possibility that Little One will support Cog in her crusade against the Twisted. It’s not like she was friends with Lord Waldren or any of the others. While they amassed power and lived a life of luxury, she spent most of her life in prison. There has always been a bit of a divide between her and the other Twisted.

      Like

      2016-04-11 at 6:23 am

      • I don’t think Little One care much about honesty, she seems to be the kind of person who appreciates actions much mroe than words, Elena denying everything would only show a lack of trust something Little One actualyl incourages.

        Like

        2016-04-11 at 6:38 am

    • I swear I had the first paragraph of the next chapter written before I read this comment…I guess great minds just think alike :)

      Like

      2016-04-19 at 9:56 pm

  3. eduardo

    I doubt that Little One is aligned with the other Twisted in their plans to kill all Storm touched.
    She was always one to plan for a better future and I doubt that a future where the echoes take the place of their hosts will be so bright.

    Like

    2016-04-11 at 11:49 am

    • xdrngy

      Remembering Elena’s introduction to the rebellion… “Nobody is better than anybody else!”
      Yep, Little One definitely not looking for that Echoes-on-top new world order. Not sure what her alternative would be

      Like

      2016-04-12 at 11:54 am

  4. Oak

    thanks for the chapter,
    wonder how this will turn out, Little One could go either way, or her own way

    Like

    2016-04-12 at 5:09 am

  5. Shouldn’t the Storm know about the plan? I thought he could see into Elena’s head, like he did that one time when she was trying to figure out how to use a shower or something. Or can it only have access when she tries to use her Storm?

    Like

    2016-04-12 at 6:04 am

    • xdrngy

      So far as I can tell, the pieces of the Storm that give people Storms are entirely disconnected from the Avatar of the Storm, he does not know what they know

      Like

      2016-04-12 at 11:50 am

  6. xdrngy

    I am very curious to see why Little One is describing this as bloodlust. She has to know that’s not what Elena is about. It’s probably just to get a rise out of her, and I have little doubt it’ll work.

    I’ll bet many of the Twisted have unvoiced reservations about the Storm’s plan. She probably should’ve probed their thoughts before killing one of them (that might’ve even been why Waldren and Midora were in town). Who knows, though, weren’t really many good options. We’ll find out

    Like

    2016-04-12 at 12:17 pm

  7. werdout

    I’m caught up at the worst time! So much tension! Unbelievable stoy so far, so glad I found this.

    Liked by 1 person

    2016-04-14 at 11:46 am

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