A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

2.2 – Multi Exordia {Many Introductions}

From the moment that Elena entered the room, the very second that she set eyes on the men and women who worked within, her confidence slipped just a bit. All eyes had turned in her direction, and the expressions they wore were uncomfortably intense. According to Master Du Luca there were seven of them in total, but since each was Stormtouched and their Echoes milled around in various places, Elena felt as if a veritable crowd was staring her down.

The room itself was gorgeous, just like the rest of the studio. Long marble tables stood on either side, divided into sections by wooden panels. It smelled like wood scraps and marble dust and a bitter scent Elena assumed was paints, a smell like creativity and fresh air. High ceilings made it look even larger than it actually was, and the light that poured in and reflected from mirrors in the corner lit the entire room. Lit it a little too well, in fact, as the hangover-headache that Elena had almost managed to forget came back full force.

“This is where the majority of the work in the studio gets done. Well, the creative work that isn’t done by Master Bernardo.” Bea clarified. The room had been filled with chatter when they entered, but it was eerily silent now, and no one was even pretending to work. “There are quite a few disciplines, as I’m sure you could guess, but we try to keep this room well stocked with supplies for all of them. Each table is divided into four workspaces, and yours will be at the end there.”

The tables at the right were filled with materials, blocks of wood and marble, pieces of canvas, brushes, chisels, and strange instruments that Elena wasn’t sure the use of. If what Master De Luca had said was true and most of her time would be taken up by providing materials for the full garzoni, she doubted she would have much trouble. There were so many supplies already spread out that she would probably have weeks to get them replenished.

The tables on the left were empty and clearly hadn’t been used yet. They were so clean they practically glistened, with unused tool and materials waiting. The sections had been set up for different types of work, but the section of the table Bea had indicated to Elena was empty. It hit her just how lucky she had been to get this spot.

They were already set to move on with just these seven. I made it by a hair.

“Are there certain instruction or class times? Any times set aside to work on projects?” Elena felt that her question came out at a much quieter volume than she had intended it, as if the weight of twenty-eight eyes on her were muting her speech.

“Instruction times consist of whenever Master Bernardo wants to teach you something.” Bea replied. “Work times here in the studio are whenever you find the time; the only reason everyone is here today is because it is the single day of the month that the garzoni have off. The full garzoni have more time for their projects, since they have to do less work providing Master Bernardo with supplies than provisional garzoni.”

We’ll all be competing to be one of the top four, but they’ll have more time to work. It struck Elena as unfair, but she supposed they had earned it. Each of the full garzoni would’ve edged others out of their spots just a year or two ago. The thought made her nervous as she surveyed the men and women on the right of the workshop. They were veterans at this.

“The only true schedules beyond Master Bernardo’s wishes are related to meals. The Master likes to use meal times to get to know his garzoni, so I suggest you never miss one. If there’s ever the choice between missing a meal and showing up late for one, I suggest you miss it. There’s little else to remember beyond your duties as a garzona, and little else to focus on besides your projects. We try to foster a peaceful environment here, one where art can flourish.”

The silence in the room was starting to creep Elena out, and she was grateful when Bea marched into the center of the room and spoke again.

“Alright, I’ll make my introductions quick since I doubt you’ll be able to remember them all in so short a time. Starting with the full garzoni here on the right. At the end is Frederica, Caelator and most senior member of De Luca’s garzoni.” As if timing the motion so that it would make a statement, Frederica, a woman with floppy brown curls, turned her back on Elena and Bea to resume her work. The boy standing next to her looked so similar he could’ve been her brother, from his brown curly hair to the impressive ability to make his back look disdainful. Bea continued as if nothing had happened.

“Next to her is Carlo, an Artifex who works solely with frescoes.” Elena hadn’t even known that Artifexes worked with specific materials, but over the man’s red ragtag mop of hair on the wall hung a single wall tile, decorated with soft reds and oranges that slowly swirled together like a trails of sand. His Echo had black hair down to her waist, and had her arms crossed. Her stance almost looked defensive, as if she was prepared to tackle anyone who approached.

“Welcome.” Carlo said, his eyes not meeting hers.

Is he frightened? Why would he be, when he doesn’t know whether I’m a threat or not?

“Vittoria is at the desk next to him, she too is an Artifex, works with oils. She’s the one standing.” Bea continued, and Elena was glad she specified. The woman looked exactly like her Echo; both were blond, both had hazel eyes, they even wore their hair in identical french braids.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you! Welcome to the studio, and relax, we don’t bite!” Vittoria smiled, and her Echo’s grin was strangely lopsided, making them look different for the first time. Elena noted that tidbit away for future reference.

“Finally we have Niccolo, a bit of a departure since he is our sole non-artist.” Niccolo was on his feet and holding out a hand, and Elena shook it with some trepidation. He was large, muscled, and his handshake felt as if he could exert pressure and snap the bones in her fingers if he felt like it.

“I like to think that what I do is art.” He chuckled. “Welcome miss.” His Echo was almost a direct contrast, waifish and spindly, but her smile was just as friendly.

“He’s a Sagittari, in case the gear didn’t clue you in.” She said, and Elena observed now that while the others had working materials on their desks, Niccolo had arrows, quivers, and a small but beautifully crafted bow.

“A shortbow?” Elena asked, surprised. Typical stories of Sagittari always featured them with monstrous weapons: bows bigger than a man, arrows as long as a horse, that sort of thing.

“Oh god please no, he’s going to say it again-” Niccolo’s Echo rolled her eyes, but Niccolo was already grinning as he spoke.

“Well you know, it’s not the size of the weapon, it’s all in how you use it m’lady.”

Elena flushed, and Bea fixed Niccolo with a steady look before turning to face the other side. “The rest are your fellow provisional Garzoni, so I’m sure you’ll be making acquaintances in no time. Breakfast is soon, so I’ll be even briefer.” She pointed them out one by one, and Elena tried to commit them all to memory as soon as she heard them.

“Lorenzo, the studio’s very own Machinator.” He was pretty, with sweeping black hair and pouting lips, but he didn’t seem to notice that Bea had introduced him. His Echo, another model-like young man with wavy hair, waved at her vaguely.

“Mella, an Artifex working with pencils, which she says are soft lead, somewhat similar to charcoal.” Mella’ hair fell in frizzy red shocks, and she was as unlike her rather dignified looking Echo as possible. He looked as if not a hair was out of place, while she looked as if she couldn’t force her hair down.

“Finally Leanarda, another Artifex who works with oil.” She was a pale thing, and looked like a gust of wind would blow her away. Her Echo was a bit more sturdy-looking, but had deep bags beneath his eyes. Elena was struck by the thought that Echoes didn’t sleep; what had put them there?

“I…I’m pleased to meet you all.” Elena said to the room in general, more to fill the awkward silence. “That is, we’re both pleased to meet you all, aren’t we Ele?” She would have to be careful to include him, now that she was in a place where most of the others could interact with him.

“What? Oh, uh, yeah. Pleasure. Charmed.” Ele said, clearly caught off guard as well. Elena wasn’t sure if she had expected a welcome, but the sullen silence didn’t seem to bode well for her. Was there something about working as a garzoni that she had missed? Why did everyone look so miserable?

“Well, that was touching and wonderful.” Bea resembled Master De Luca when she spoke so wryly. “But it will be breakfast time in an hour or so. Elena, as the lowest garzoni you will be assisting the chefs, make your way to the kitchens please. Leanarda, congratulations, you’re relieved of that particular duty.”

Elena turned, a little relieved to get out of the room. Beautiful as it was, the atmosphere and attention was a little oppressive.

“I can help anyways.” The pale girl, Leanarda, stood from her bench, but seemed to be physically pushed back when the attention of the room turned to her. “I mean, just for today. Just because I don’t have anything to work on right now.” She murmured.

“Thank you.” Elena smiled uneasily, and followed Bea through the doorway leaving the studio behind. As soon as she left, a low murmuring told her conversation had resumed in the room behind them, but the two girls and the three Echoes walked down the hall in silence.


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6 responses

  1. As chapter (or “Capitulum”) 2 gets underway, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who voted for Twisted Cogs on Topwebfiction this week. Higher rankings mean more readers, so I really appreciate it.

    Also, a HUGE thank you to this week’s generous donator Tobias. The Bonus Chapters page has been updated!


    2014-07-16 at 8:31 pm

  2. Mian

    So, um, nine garzoni?


    2014-07-17 at 8:42 am

    • No no silly, there are only…
      *Maddi recounts*
      *Maddi recounts again, using her fingers this time*
      Well how about that. It seems that one of the draft characters somehow managed to slip past my attention and become a real boy.

      Thanks for your sharp eyes Mian!


      2014-07-17 at 8:55 am

  3. “Noted that tidbit away” -> awkward turn of phrase. “Filed… Away” is much more common, or just “noted” with no “away.”


    2014-09-07 at 10:14 am

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