A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.06 – Cadit et Flammae {Falls and Flames}

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***

6 years past

Father was a fisherman, so the beach wasn’t a special treat to him like it was to Lorella. Mother had been so many times that she was content to sit on the blanket and read her book. To Lorella, though, the beach was so magical that she couldn’t possibly sit still.

At first she was content to sit with Mother on the blanket, reaching out to clasp at handfuls of sand and watching them run through her fingers. It didn’t take long for Lor to convince her out closer to the water, and for most of the day she ran back and forth, adding to a growing collection of shells and smooth stones and other of the sea’s little trinkets.

It was…comfortable. The sound of the sea a steady pleasant background, Father and Mother and Lor nearby, the occasional faroff laugh or shout from Magno and Mag in the distance. Lorella didn’t want to be ungrateful, but it was a pleasant change to be comfortable, to be dare she say happy. It was a feeling she hadn’t had very frequently in the last two years, since that horrible night.

The smile on her face slowly melted away along with the pleasant feeling as her thoughts strayed. She didn’t think about it often, not even now that the heartrending sting had mellowed to a constant dull ache. Not thinking about it made it easier to remember that the fisherman and his wife were Father and Mother, that she was Lorella and her brother was Magno.

I should be able to remember without effort, she thought severely, twelve years old is old enough to remember without trying.

On the other hand, thinking of herself as Lorella made it hurt worse at times like these, when she suddenly remembered, and her day was ruined, even on what was supposed to be a pleasant trip to the seaside.

“I think it will get easier,” Lor said, reading her expression and sudden shift in mood.

“No it won’t,” Lorella said quietly. Her parents had no objection to her speaking to her Echo, but it made her self conscious, as if she was repaying Father and Mother’s hospitality with mockery. Both she and Magno tended to only speak to their Echoes quietly, or when alone.

“It will,” Lor insisted, “it’s better now than it was then, and in two years it will be even better than now.”

Lorella didn’t answer, turning instead to distract herself by arranging the flotsam and trinkets on the sand. With every pretty piece placed meticulously in order, she reminded herself that she should be happy with what she had, that it was ungrateful to be sad.

“Lorella,” Mother’s sudden voice startled her, and she turned guiltily.

“Yes, Mother?”

“It’s been awhile since I’ve heard Magno, will you run and check on him? Tell him to stop playing by those high rocks, he could hurt himself.”

“Yes, Mother.” Glad for the distraction, Lorella set out toward these ties of towering rocks a little ways from the sand. They jutted out from the dirt, the smallest of them just small enough for someone her age to climb, and from there it would be an easy thing to leap over to the next one, and from there to the next…

“Something is wrong.” Lor’s worried tone matched the one Lorella had been about to use. The laughing and little screams of play had clearly come from this direction, but the rocks were empty.

“Magno?” Lorella called, moving not toward the high rocks but instead toward the small spaces in between them, into the little canyons and coves that the large rocks created at their bottoms.

When the playful salt breeze by the sea entered the little canyons it whistled forlornly, and Lorella’s feeling of unease deepened. When she turned the corner, the sight she was met with drove everything from her mind, even the constant effort of remembering her and her brother’s new names. In the presence of the scene before her, pretending she wasn’t Ava and her brother wasn’t Allvero seemed unimportant.

She found Allvero on his knees in the dirt and stone, his shoulders slumped, his hands clasped uselessly in his lap. In front of him, her body twisted awkwardly where she had fallen, his Echo was slowly blowing away in the wind.

In the quiet broken only by the wind’s whistling, Ava knelt next to Allvero, a lump in her throat, and put her arm around her brother. Ala had been one of her best friends, but there was nothing Ava could do for the Echo now, not even give her a comforting touch.“We were just playing,” Allvero said, dully. His eyes were dry, but his voice was quiet. He stared at the spot in the sand, even after Ala’s remains blew away like cobwebs in the whistling wind, “we were up on the rocks, just playing, we didn’t…she slipped and…”

Ava kept her arm around Allvero as the pair of them walked slowly back across the beach toward the fisherman and his wife. Allvero stared at the sand in front of him, still not crying, not even speaking.

“Owl-” Ava began, but her brother yanked away from her hug, so suddenly that she fell over into the sand. When she looked up, Allvero was on his feet, fists clenched, trembling.

“Magno,” he corrected, “my name is Magno, your name is Lorella, we’ve never heard ‘Owl’ or ‘Songbird’, stop forgetting.”

Ava’s heart practically broke at the expression on her brother’s face. “Allvero, that doesn’t matter right now,” she said, “Ala is-”

“It matters,” Allvero rubbed his eye with a fist, as if furious at the tear that had formed there, “it matters more than anything. If you keep calling me that, someone will hear. Someone will find out.”

Ava smoothed out her dress, still in the sand. “In private, though, when no one is listening-”

“Not even then,” Allvero said fiercely. He helped her to her feet, then crushed her in a hug, his body shaking with tears. “Please,” he whispered, “you and Lor are all I have left.”

Ava’s own vision blurred as well, and she hugged her brother tight. He was right, she had been foolish. It only took one slip of the tongue, and they couldn’t afford the possibility. Ava took a deep breath in, and Lorella exhaled. “Of course, Magno, of course,” she answered, hugging him tightly back. “Lor and I will never leave you, I promise.”

***

“Magno, you haven’t touched your food,” Mother said. Lorella looked anxiously back and forth between her brother and the plump woman clearing dishes away from the table. Her brow furrowed in concern, but her eyes only only held vague annoyance. “Do you not like your fish, son?”

“Thank you, Mother, I’m just not very hungry right now,” Magno said quietly. He hadn’t spoken above a murmur since Mag had died.

“You’ll catch your death,” Mother clucked disapprovingly, “growing boys need their strength.” Despite her words, when Magno helped her by collecting an armful of dishes, his own still heaped with food, Mother didn’t object.

Lorella didn’t like speaking up, but the way her brother’s clothes hung on him, the way his eyes seemed sunken made her lean forward.

“Couldn’t you try to get just a little bit of it down?” she asked, almost in a whisper. “I know you have no appetite, but it’s not healthy…you’ve always loved the taste of fish.”

“I didn’t really notice the taste,” Magno said, his gaze drifting over the table.

“Now that is quite enough!” Mother slammed the dishes down on the counter so hard they rattled, “I’m just about at my wit’s end with all of this moping, Magno!”

“Now, now, Delfina,” Father tutted. Clearly assuming that his argument had been made in its entirety, he went back to the nets he had been working on.

Mother turned to the pump and angrily filled the little dishbasin. She muttered just loud enough that the little room could hear a few words of each sentence. “….last straw…ungrateful…raised that way…”

Lorella winced at the last phrase.

“The children have had a lot to adjust to, Delfina,” Father said.

“I’m not denying it,” Mother said, “Lorella has had to adjust too, you don’t see her moping around, not eating her supper.”

“Mother, you remember I told you?” Lorella glanced at her brother, “Magno’s Echo?”

“Oh,” Delfina only deflated by a few degrees, “Of course I understand that you’re still sad, Magno, but really it’s been months now.”

Magno quietly left the table, while Mother continued talking, not noticing that he had left.

***

“Magno,” Lorella hissed. Without a candle or lantern, she couldn’t be sure whether her brother was awake or not, so she continued gently nudging him, waiting for him to respond. “Magno, wake up.”

“Too early,” Magno mumbled.

“It’s not early, it’s late,” Lorella said, “it’s the middle of the night. Get out of bed and come with me.”

“Those two statements don’t really belong together,” Magno whispered back, but the telltale rustle of blankets told Lorella that he was following.

The small sliver of the moon wasn’t truly enough to light their way, but Lorella and Magno had played and explored enough around the hut, their new home, that they didn’t need much light to navigate their way. The rolling hills weren’t difficult to cross anyway, although in the dark of night, each little dip and valley was a pool of pitch black, like a hole punched into the world.

“Where is my insane sister taking me this later at night, Lor?” Magno asked.

“Somewhere important,” Lor responded evenly. The three of them fell silent again until they reached the little hill.

It was small and out of the way enough that Mother and Father would never have reason to pass by. Close enough to the sea that one could hear the ocean, but far enough away that they couldn’t see the rocks that had been the cause of that horrible day.

The little grave looked lonely and bare on that hill in the dark. Lorella looked back and forth anxiously from Magno to the grave as her brother knelt in front of the gravestone.

“Here lies a kindly sister, a faithful companion, a best friend,” Magno read quietly.

“I didn’t think you’d want me putting her real name,” Lorella said, “but putting ‘Mag’ didn’t feel right either.”

“She would’ve liked it, I think,” Magno stood, staring down at the little grave. “I…I think it’s good.”

“I brought your book from your room,” Lorella said, pressing it into her brothers’ hands, “Mother’s book. I thought…I thought it might you might want to read something from it?” It felt strange, using the word to talk about their real mother, and it bothered her that it felt strange.

She knew Magno didn’t need the book, he had memorized its contents long ago. Still, she was glad she had brought it. For the first time since his Echo had died, Magno looked at peace, standing over her grave with the book of poems open in front of her. Without looking at the pages, barely illuminated by the sliver of moon, he began to recite.

“When dark and storm does take you…”

***

Lorella knew that her brother wouldn’t recover from his loss at once, but the funeral seemed to take a weight from his shoulders. She paid more attention to him than to the path on their way back to the house, although it was dark enough that she could barely see either. There was no way to know the answers to the questions she looked for…she barely knew what those questions were.

With her attention on her brother, Lorella saw his reaction before she caught sight of the house. In the flicker of fear, anger, panic, and sudden hard determination, she barely had to glance toward Mother and Father’s house to know what had happened.

Magno didn’t drop as much as he slunk down to his knees, turning so that he could slip into the dip of pitch black darkness that the hills created. Lorella was more out of practice with their Father’s teachings, but she followed Magno soundlessly, only peaking over the edge of the dip after she was sure she was out of sight.

In the dark of the night, the flames seemed brighter than they ought to, yet at the same time darker, deep and violent reds and oranges. They licked across the thatch roof and lit a wide ring of light around the house, wide enough that the men around it could be seen.

“No guard livery,” Magno whispered. “Could be robbers.”

“You know they aren’t robbers,” Lorella murmured back. From within the house, the muffled sounds of a struggle reached their ears.

“There’s nothing we can do here,” Lor was already moving, slinking further into the dip of darkness in the opposite direction. Magno followed him, and with a wrench in her gut and a last look at the flames, Lorella followed them.

The darkness seemed more a friend than an enemy now, and not for the first time, Lorella silently thanked her father for teaching them how to move silently across uneven ground.

“They had horses,” she whispered.

“That will work in our favor,” Magno said quietly, “men with horses hunting children will take the roads, they’ll take them all the way up to the nearest city. They won’t expect us to make our way through the forest and across the lower slope of the mountain to Licre.”

“We’re just children, we can’t survive that!” Lorella protested, although she knew there was no other option.

“We’ll take our chances with the mountain, we’ve a better chance there than on the road.”

“They’ll eventually turn away from the road and find the grave,” Lor said, “they’ll assume it’s Ava-”

“Not Ava,” Magno interrupted, “and not Lorella either, now that they’ve made the connection.”

“I don’t think we have to worry about names while we’re actively running for our lives, little owl,” Lor said. “They’ll put two and two together and decide that Ava is dead, that’s something in our favor.”

“Assuming we get through the mountain,” Magno said grimly.

“Like you said, we don’t have a choice,” Lorella said. The longer they spent running silently through the dark hills, the more her fear and addrenaline hardened into something cold and intense. “A lot of people have died to keep us alive.”

Magno remained silent for a long time, and the whistle of air in their ears and the distant roar of the sea was the only sound.

“We’ll make it out the other side, songbird,” Allvero finally whispered.

“I know we will, owl,” Ava whispered back. “We must.”

***

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***

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4 responses

  1. Kunama

    There’s a break in the beach scene where the names change from Lorella to Allvero. A paragraph or five are missing, it’s very confusing.

    Like

    2017-03-04 at 5:36 am

  2. Ekemini

    How does an echo get their name? I know it’s usually a shortened form of their storm-touched’s name but who does the actual shortening?

    Like

    2017-03-06 at 5:42 am

  3. Blackstone123

    There’s a bit there where Lorella says ” I thought it might you might want”.

    Also, really good chapter. The plots just keep on building, don’t they.

    Like

    2017-03-25 at 12:16 pm

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