A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.04 – Somniculosus {Dreamy}

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“I can read the thoughts in your eyes,” said Lucrezia Lucente. She was obviously enjoying herself, playing with the newest Rhetor that had recently come into her employ, and now that there was less pressure on her, Elena could quite clearly see the mischievous twinkling in the woman’s eyes.

The room was exactly as it had been originally, opulent and airy, well lit thanks to the several sets of windows. The last time she had been here, she’d worn a mask that clung to her face like a metallic spider.

“You’re wondering why I elected to tell you all of this,” Lucrezia continued, apparently unaware of the new Elena watching her. “It’s because I don’t much care for drawing attention to myself, even to dismiss a servant.”

This second time around was a much more relaxed context, and Elena looked back and forth between the  memory of herself and the Plain Woman. It was easier to see how the scene had played out without any of the fear or panic that had colored her first experience, from the outside.

“No wonder she didn’t recognize me,” Elena murmured aloud, “I’m like a whole other person.”

Her memory, the boyish girl with close-cropped black hair looked at Lucrezia with stark green eyes that contrasted with the Rhetor mask. Although their expression wasn’t hostile, the dark circles beneath them only made them look more intense.

“Call it that same paranoia, staying out of the way has led me to where I am, and I’m very comfortable where I am.” Still unaware of the second Elena, Lucrezia continued along her script. “If I don’t need the risk, I won’t take it. No, I’m not going to dismiss you, you’re going to make a mistake and be dismissed.”

The memory of Elena did look hostile then, tilting her head in confusion and narrowing her eyes.

“Too hostile, too mad,” Elena shook her head, “I should’ve tried to look confused then, not angry.”

“You were caught off guard and frightened, don’t be too hard on yourself.” Owl’s voice interrupted Elena’s musing, and she turned to find him perched on a table nearby.

“Hullo dream-Owl,” Elena said cheerfully, as behind her the memory of Lucrezia kept talking.

“Hullo Elena,” Owl gave her a little wave. The fingers of his other hand drummed in a pattern along the cover of his little book, and the familiar action was somehow mesmerising enough to draw her attention.

“Why am I dreaming this?” Elena asked.

“Who knows? You’ve been putting a lot of thought into the situation, worrying and stressing, it makes sense that that has made a mark in your subconscious. Maybe some part of you thinks you’ve missed something about this particular event.”

That may very well have been, but Elena was suddenly much less interested in the scene playing out than in her friend sitting on the edge of the table. He didn’t seem particularly bothered by her attention, leaning back and returning her gaze evenly.

His messy black hair didn’t fall into his eyes, but it gave the impression that it was only through good fortune, not intent. Elena had long since passed the point where the frown that was his natural expression seemed angry, but rather pensive and thoughtful.

“You’re staring,” Owl smirked, his normal sad smile with a quirk of one corner. “Your subconscious has gone to the trouble of showing you this again, you can at least pay attention to it.”

Elena blushed and turned back to the scene, Lucrezia crossing the distance to the door in a silence that made her heels clicks with each step.

“Cheer up, nameless one,” the Plain Woman was saying, “whatever lets you keep focused in on me, I’m sure you can find it somewhere else just as well, especially with a pocketful of gold for your trouble.”

“I wonder why I still thought of her as plain,” Elena mused aloud, “she’s actually quite a beautiful woman.”

“Her Storm is such that it’s hard to notice anything about her,” Owl answered from just next to her, “moving people’s attention around is what she does.”

“But I notice now.”

“Well,” Owl shrugged, “now you’re asleep. What better way to get around a Storm that works with attention and memory?”

Elena opened her mouth to reply, but suddenly the memory of Lucrezia reached out and grabbed the memory of Elena by the arm, yanking her close with sudden ferocity.

“This didn’t happened,” Elena said.

“Didn’t it?” asked Owl innocently.

“If I could be sure I’d survive an encounter with an unmasked Rhetor, you have no idea what I’d give to hear what you’re up to,” Lucrezia murmured, searching the memory of Elena’s face, far too close for Elena’s comfort. When the Plain Woman next spoke, her voice was so thick with Storm’s power that it sounded heavy and layered, like molasses.

Lucrezia ordered Elena to ignore the effects of any other Rhetor’s Storm, to treat Stormtouched words as words without the Storm’s power.

The memory of Elena nodded, her eyelids fluttering like she’d been hypnotised.

Lucrezia ordered Elena to never attempt to kill her.

The memory of Elena nodded again.

Lucrezia ordered Elena to forget these last three orders and the space surrounding them, to be governed by them without recalling that they had happened.

The memory of Elena nodded a third time.

“Excellent,” the memory of Lucrezia relaxed her grip and smiled again, “being mysterious is my thing.”

The Plain Woman reached out and flicked the nose of the metal mask affectionately, her fingernail “ping”ing off the metal, and then threw the doors open.

“Aren’t you glad you let your subconscious let you relive this little tidbit?” Owl asked, humor in his voice.

“Will I remember this when I wake up?” Elena felt as though she should be horrified, but she was already trying to think how best to work around it, “we don’t have much time before we have to move against Lucrezia. I could remember the dream when I’m awake, even if I didn’t remember the memory, couldn’t I?”

“Maybe,” Owl shrugged, “this is your dream, you couldn’t have dreamed it if you didn’t already know it.”

“Paranoid on top of paranoid,” Elena said, watching Lucrezia speak with Frederica.

“Can you blame her?” Owl asked, “chances are good she already has her share of enemies just from her place on the council. Keeping track of when to stay unnoticed and when not to is probably exhausting, and she’s probably made some mistakes and let some enemies become aware of her. Now on top of that she has a Twisted assassin hunting her down.”

“I suppose you’re right. If anything, the amount of hassle her paranoia is causing us only goes to show…” Elena trailed off suddenly and looked down. The action had been so comfortable, had felt so right, that she hadn’t even noticed when it happened, but she was suddenly aware the Owl’s arm was around her waist. The weight of it was startling, but felt natural, and his fingertips brushed against her hip in a way that was paradoxically both intensely unusual and comfortably familiar.

Owl himself looked entirely relaxed as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, though he half-smiled at her shock. “Well well, it seems like this is the night for your subconscious to inform you of things it already knew.”

“I don’t…don’t be ridiculous,” Elena looked down at her feet, but didn’t make a move to remove the offending arm.

“It bothered you just a little, finding out I was so close to that girl at the wall, whatever her name was.”

“Penelope,” Elena frowned, “and it bothered me because I was worried about how much you were changing not…anything like that…”

“Are you sure?” Owl suddenly spun her so that she faced him, inches away. “Because that’s not what your subconscious thinks.”

Elena could feel her heart pounding in her chest, could almost convince herself she could feel his heart beating, and she opened and closed her mouth a few times before words came out.

“My subconscious thinks it’s so clever, it should be working on our Lucrezia problem,” she finally stammered.

“Ah, so you’re not going to think about it,” Owl said softly, so she had to lean forward even closer to hear him, “I’m sure that will work out just fine.”

Would you like to join us? The suggestion snaked across Elena’s mind, and she shook herself as if from sleep. There were more important things to focus on right now other than Owl.

“Saved by the bell,” Owl smiled. Without waiting for a reply, he pressed the handle of a very large warhammer into her hands.

“What-” Elena started, as the world around her began to shift and swirl.

“The last time you brought something with you from a dream,” Owl pointed out, “and clearly they do too, since they brought a knife to question you. This time, maybe it’s your turn to ask some questions.”

“Smart,” Elena murmured, “I’ll have to thank Owl for being such a good influence, when I wake up.”

“And maybe talk to him about something else, as well,” Owl said, reaching out to playfully catch a lock of her hair between his fingers before the entire scene slipped away.

“I do not have a crush on Owl!”

Blushing furiously and scowling wide, Elena landed in the snow of the Dream World’s mountaintop with a warhammer in her hands and a burning desire to hit someone with it.

***

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6 responses

  1. Eep, already about a third of the way through the final book of Twisted Cogs! A big thank you to all of the readers who have read and enjoyed up to this point!

    I will most likely be writing a bonus chapter Thursday of this week, July 28th, so be sure to check back then!

    Like

    2016-07-24 at 10:25 pm

    • Bah :/ sorry readers, turns out I suck instead. A good friend came in to visit from out of town, so I’m afraid no bonus Thursday chapter this week.

      Like

      2016-07-28 at 10:47 pm

  2. Bart

    That all makes perfect sense. :)

    Like

    2016-07-25 at 6:54 am

  3. xdrngy

    <3

    Like

    2016-07-25 at 1:52 pm

  4. Aravis29

    Thanks for writing this amazing story!

    Like

    2016-07-27 at 7:19 pm

    • Thank YOU for reading :) I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!

      Like

      2016-07-28 at 10:36 am

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