A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.1 – Subcinericius Et Acrimonia {Pancakes and Sharpness}

“Leetel garzona, you es cleaning all of thees!” Cook’s words would’ve been angry, had he not been laughing so hard that tears streamed down his face.

“It’s not nearly as funny as you all seem to think it is.” Elena gave a severe look to the entire assembled group: Ele grinning, both cooks laughing outright, and even the typically stoic Rhetorguards Eric and Rolf breaking into chuckles. Only the silent Rhetor, Garnet, didn’t seem to get into the spirit of things, kneading bread with the same steady unbreaking pattern he had adopted every morning for the past week.

“Really Elena, I don’t see what the difficulty is; just tilt the pan when they’re ready, give sudden lift, and the pancake will just flip.” Ele demonstrated the motion with empty hands.

“Oh easy for you to say Ele! You’d be singing a different tune if you could actually do any of the work!”

“Emerald, you help leetle garzona,” Cook wiped a tear from his eye and took the breadpaddle from the corner, preparing to take the morning’s bread from the oven. “Her arm waving es funny, but my kitchen es covered in cake-pan.”

“It’s not covered in pancakes!” Elena protested, glancing away from the pan to look around the kitchen. “There’s just a few on the floor over there. And some batter on the wall. And on the table behind me.”

“And I’ve already cleaned up the one that landed on me.” Rolf noted.

“One never landed on you! Just because I want to try something new, everyone gangs up on me, see if I bother again.” Elena grumbled, but she smiled at the twitch in the corner of Rolf’s straight face. Emerald slipped one arm around her, holding Elena’s hands in hers as the pancake began to bubble in the pan.

With a smooth motion that resembled the one Ele had demonstrated, Emerald helped her flip the pancake, where it landed perfectly in the center of the pan again.

“Thank you Emerald,” Elena said meekly. “Even though I was totally going to figure it out on my the very next time.” The woman’s shoulders shook with a silent motion that Ele had taken to calling ‘Emerald giggling.’

“She mean ‘very next time’ or ‘very next time Emerald help’?” Cook asked in a stage whisper, earning a guffaw from Rolf and another silent giggle from Emerald. Elena stuck her tongue out in answer. “Here leetel garzona, you take breads to garzoni, Emerald take cake-pans, Jakob you take sugar end honey.” Cook pointed from his many helpers to the large platters he had arranged as they spoke. The breakfast rolls were still steaming, and Elena’s stomach growled.

“Leetel garzona, she try to make me feel guilty.” Cook sighed dramatically to the room at large. “Her stomach eet pleads, ‘may I eat before I clean my cake-pan mess’? Eet does not know I em cold-hearted cook. Eet cannot sway me.”

“I can’t control what my stomach is saying!” Elena protested, taking the offered platter of rolls.

“She knows you not make her clean mess.” The fat cook Jakob broke his customary silence to remark. “All of us we know, but you must make play to audience who is not there.”

“World ees my audience.” Cook said with exaggerated dignity. “End only I clean cake-pan mess for today because ees big day for our leetel garzona. She finishes project today.”

“Thank you Cook.” Elena smiled as she pushed the kitchen door open with her backside, tray held carefully in her hands. “You’re wonderful.”

“I em wonderful.” Cook agreed as the trio plus Ele and Rolf left the kitchen. “Most wonderful man in studio I think.”

“Man with biggest heart? Maybe. Man with smallest brain? Also maybe.” Jakob chuckled as they left.



Elena barely stayed in the dining room long enough to wolf down pancakes and bread and the bitter morning drink, but she still wasn’t the first to leave the room. With Master De Luca gone, breakfast had become a hasty affair; the faster the garzoni could get through their morning chores and preparations, the more time they could spend on their projects. Elena was lucky in that she could prepare Frederica’s materials and work on her own project at the same time, so she had a bit of a lead. The workroom would be uncomfortably crowded later in the day, leading some of the garzoni to work in the wide courtyard below, but when she arrived there was only one garzoni there.

“Good morning Lorenzo.” Elena said as she moved to her workstation and began unpacking the tools she had laid away the day before.

“Hmm?” Lorenzo looked up with his customary open-mouthed stare, as if he had been caught sleeping. “Good morning Elena. You’re here early today.”

“I’m here the same time every day Lorenzo.”

“Oh, are you? Hm. I’d not noticed.” Lorenzo turned back to the papers on his worktable, biting his lip as if the very act of concentration hurt him.

His expressions probably hurt his chances the most. Elena decided, giving him a sidelong glance as she arranged her tools neatly on the desk in front of her: rags, a small pot of oil, strips of leather, string, and the neat stack of sketches and notes she had drafted up. I can’t imagine Master De Luca keeping someone with that vacant a stare, no matter how the Storm touched him. He would be very pretty if he wasn’t always looking so dumbfounded all the time. Or maybe if his Echo ever spoke up; they can’t BOTH be that stupid. Lor had the same problem Lorenzo had; long, pretty black hair, pouting lips, but a face that looked like he was always in a daze

It was only because she was watching him out of the corner of her eye that she noticed what he was actually working on. Two discs about the size of her head were laid on the desk in front of them, and working carefully, he lifted one at about eye-level above the other. He let go and watched it carefully, and took a few careful notations. The second disc floated where it was, weightless and gently spinning.

“How are you doing that?” Elena gasped.

“Mm?” Lorenzo looked startled, as if she had just appeared next to him. “Doing what?”

“Your disc is floating! It’s just sitting there in the air!” Elena pointed as if he hadn’t just put it there.

“Oh yes! Neat, isn’t it?” Lorenzo grinned. “Lodestones.”


“The Ancient Greeks and Muslims discovered certain unique properties regarding certain metals and their interactions among themselves.” Lorenzo began explaining so quickly that Elena leaned back, shocked. “Pieces of ore or alloy which demonstrate these properties, most commonly iron, attract other pieces of iron and, more importantly for my applications, interact and align with others displaying the same properties. It’s the inherent technology inside of compasses, you see, since these lodestones or magnes always point towards the north star. Of course, you know what that’s done for sailing technology!”

“I…I hadn’t really thought of it.” Elena admitted, shocked at the sudden enthusiasm. It was as if she were talking to a completely different person. How could someone be so passionate about this subject and so apathetic about everything else?

“It revolutionized it!” Lorenzo waved his arms.

“It certainly shifted what was possible to accomplish.” Lor broke in. Elena thought it was the first time she had heard the Echo speak. “And things tend to expand from there, don’t they? Sailing becomes leagues easier, if you’ll pardon the pun, and suddenly importing and exporting booms, the economy thrives, and knowledge and information thrives along with it. Little droplets that cause ripples which expand the pond of human endeavour an inch at a time.”

“But they all just stopped there!” Lorenzo resumed the trail of the conversation the instant Lor had finished, oblivious to Elena who had started to grin. “How many more giant booms of economy and knowledge are just waiting for us to figure out the right tool? Magnes aren’t a dead end Elena, not if I have anything to do with it. And these, these are just my latest idea for their use magnes. The interactions between them can counteract gravity. At least…they can a little bit.”

“Well it’s amazing.” Elena smiled. “You know, I really like this side of you.”

“Hmm? What side?”

“Passionate, energetic, smart Lorenzo.”

“I’m a very passionate person.” Lorenzo had turned back to his notes and was biting his lip, furrowing his brow. “And I’m always smart.” He added as if an annoyed afterthought.

“Of course, my apologies.” Elena said.


Elena gave up, turning back to her own work. While Lorenzo’s work was fascinating, she doubted the transformation she had just witnessed would happen again.

She took out the cloth-wrapped package she’d received the night before from its small cubbyhole in her desk, and all thoughts of Lorenzo and his normally silent Echo fled from her mind. She had forced herself to go to sleep without opening it, though the suspense had nearly killed her, and now her hands trembled a little as she unwrapped it.

“Look at that.” Ele breathed as the last bit of cloth fell away. “It’s exactly what we asked for. It’s like he took our sketches and made them real.” The pieces shone in the light of the workshop; she hadn’t requested that they be polished, but she had to admit it was a nice touch. Tellem’s Specialty Shop had even returned the sketches and specifications she had sent him, neatly folded in the bottom of the envelope.

Elena and Ele had worked non-stop on the designs for four days, using Frederica’s old worn out set of tools as a model to work by. When they had finally decided to commit to their designs, they gave Tellem the old set of tools and the designs, and now they lay before them, in all their shining glory.

The original set had contained fourteen pieces: this set only had six. The triple-pressed lilium iron from the other tools had been melted down and worked into the handles, twisting designs and bands pressed into the smooth wood. The handles were made of black ashwood, very hard, very strong, and beautiful against the dark metal designs.

There was a new version of each of the five basic knives Elena saw Frederica using the most, but the sixth was one of her own design. It consisted of a single long cylinder of very rough lilium, with very fine stone grit coated its surface, making it look gritty.

“He got the measurements perfect, looks like.” Ele confirmed. “It’ll fit all of her blades I think. Do you think it’ll sharpen the curved tools right?”

“Only one way to find out.” Elena stepped over to Frederica’s workstation and looked for one of her tools, the curved blade she had been playing with one of the first time they had met. The dark metal of the blade winked at her in the light as she lifted her new tool to its edge.

“Do you know how to it?” Ele asked.

“It’s simple enough in concept.” Elena replied. She began gently running the blade along the sharpener’s length, the sound of the metal rasping against metal strangely musical. “It’s grinding the edge of the blade, removing little bends and nicks, isn’t it?”

“So no, you have no idea how to use it.”

“I said I knew in theory.”

“You knew how to flip pancakes in theory.”

Elena didn’t answer, instead enjoying the musical ring of the sharpener along the blade’s edge. By the time a few more garzoni began entering the workshop, she had settled into a steady rhythm. Leanarda and Mella were murmuring quietly to each other as they entered together. They nodded politely to Elena, but didn’t try to start conversation. After a week of it, Elena was used to the treatment: polite, measured, and utterly without feeling, the small-talk version of an alliance.

“What the fuck are you doing to my tools?” Frederica’s voice broke into Elena’s reverie, and she turned to find the older garzona marching across the workroom towards her. Elena had never seen her look so angry.

“I’m sharpening your curved knife.” She said simply, holding out the instrument to show her.

“You can’t sharpen lilium, nothing is strong enough to hold the grit.” Frederica yanked it from her hand, examining the blade carefully.

“Lilium is strong enough, and this sharpener has a lilium core holding the grit. I designed a whole new set of tools for you that I think will work better than the ones you’re using now.” Elena couldn’t help but let some pride seep into her voice. Frederica was ignoring her, looking at the curved blade skeptically. Without a word she grabbed a small block of wood from her table, shifting it in her hand a few times before pressing the tip of the blade into it.

With a single smooth stroke Frederica slid the blade into the wood, twisting the knife here and there, turning the wood smoothly in her hand without interrupting the cut. Watching the knife glide through the soft wood was like watching a shark cut through the water, deadly and beautiful and fascinating. Even the curl of wood that fell away was perfect, a single long scrap, and when Frederica lifted her knife, the block of wood had a long whorl cut across three of its faces.

“That’s amazing!” Elena breathed. “You’re a really amazing Caeletor!”

“Didn’t ask your opinion on what kind of Caeletor I am.” Frederica dismissed her and turned to Fred, who was giving her a questioning glance.

“Looked like it had good bite.” He said, sounding surprised.

“Does have good bite. Like new.”

“Honing is probably fucked though.”

“Nope, edge is fine.”

“Along the whole length? Concave?”

“In the concave and everything.”

“The hell?”

Fred and Frederica turned back to Elena in one movement, but neither spoke, just observed her carefully. If anything, Frederica still seemed angry, even though from what Elena could gather she had liked the sharpened knife.

“Alright, show me the other set of tools.” Frederica finally said. Elena led the way back to her workstation, a little unsure of herself as she explained.

“So from what I saw, the biggest problems you had were that you need light wood handles for balance, but a light wood wears away fast. You like the lilium blades for their thinness, but you can’t sharpen them so they’ll dull in time.”

“They’ll also rust very easily if they get moist at all.” Frederica’s voice was clipped.

“Oh.” Elena paused. “Well I didn’t know that, but these tools should solve all of your other problems.” She shifted the cloth a bit so that the tools caught the light, neatly arranged on her desk.

“These are all wrong.” Frederica scowled. “Are those designs lilium iron? On ash? So not only did you waste a metal more precious than gold, but you made the hardwood handles even heavier. Great job master Fabera.”

“The handles are just as balanced as they were before!” Even Frederica’s surly demeanor couldn’t dampen Elena’s excitement as she explained. “All of your old tools’ handles were solid, but these are hollow. The hollow cores lightens them up so much that we could use a hardwood, which won’t wear away as fast!”

“That’ll solve the balance.” Frederica admitted, lifting Elena’s version of the curved blade and weighing it carefully. “Yeah, that’s actually balanced pretty beautifully. Shame it’s still fucked though.”

“Why is that?” Elena thought she knew what the older girl was about to say, and she tried to hide a smile.

“Because with a hollow handle, the second I hit a knot, or drop a tool, or drive a cut too hard, that thing is going to snap in half and the blade is going to take a finger.”

“Which is why I reinforced each handle with the lilium iron designs.” Elena said triumphantly. “They’re for more than just being pretty, they make the hollow handles just as durable, if not more durable than you current tools.”

Frederica was silent for long, long moments, spinning the blade around between her fingers, passing it back and forth as she mused. Elena wondered if she even realized she was doing it.

“These are good tools. Better than mine, and I thought I’d been getting the best.” She finally proclaimed. Elena blinked, startled. Frederica carefully gathered up the tools in their cloth and took them over to her desk, gingerly moving her current set from its place along the side of her desk. “Thank you.”

“Wait really?”

“You seem surprised.” Frederica didn’t look up from her task. “What were you expecting me to say?”

“I don’t know…something crabby, to be honest. Or that you didn’t like them.”

“And stick myself with using worse quality tools just to be a bitch?” Frederica looked over her shoulder. “You did good, you were helpful, and now I can be a better Caeletor. No reason say something ‘crabby’ as you put it.”

Elena was confused, but she wasn’t going to argue. If Frederica told her the work was good, she could believe it. She turned back to her table, proud and happy and also a little touched.

“So…what’s our next project?” Ele’s smile matched her own.

Elena turned back to her workbench with the musical ring of sharpener-on-knife in her ears. It would have been a perfect morning, if not for the very focused looks Leanarda and Mella were giving her.


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14 responses

  1. Let’s be honest, sometimes we have Lorenzo days, and sometimes we have Lorenzo-talking-about-magnets days.

    No new chapter on Sunday the 31st unfortunately, as I’ll be out of town and away from computers all weekend. Hopefully Wednesday’s chapter will be awesome enough to make up for it!

    Hope all my lovely readers are having Lorenzo-talking-about-magnet kind of days!


    2014-08-27 at 11:24 pm

  2. zeuseus

    I was so sure Elena was gonna fuck up with the sharpening

    Liked by 2 people

    2014-08-28 at 6:13 pm

  3. Mian

    Oh, no — no way she was going to fuck that up. Sharpening sings, you can feel it with your hands. And sharpening ought to be part of the skillset anyway — that’s Creation, in a way that flipping pancakes really isn’t.


    2014-08-29 at 10:13 am

  4. Kunama

    How am I caught up already?!
    Now I’m going to have to wait like everyone else!
    Quite enjoying this, more please!


    2014-09-02 at 2:49 pm

    • Well, you certainly picked a good time to catch up, since we’re about to start having bonus chapters :)

      I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it, and hope you like the chapters to come just as much!


      2014-09-03 at 11:51 pm

  5. Fantastic chapter! I love how you’re keeping us off balance as to who might be the enemy (or enemies) here. Provides the perfect mirror of Elena’s experiences in the story.


    2014-09-04 at 10:15 pm

    • Given how much I hated drama back in college, I’m surprised at how good I am at writing it :D


      2014-09-08 at 12:13 am

  6. Hm. Odd that she’s helping the others as a way of showing her own skill, but given her personality, it makes sense.


    2014-09-07 at 12:50 pm

    • I’m glad that this comes through about her. It’s a character trait that I do not share with Elena, so it’s always a good to know it’s written at least believably.


      2014-09-08 at 12:09 am

  7. Eeeeeeeeee – she did it! I was way too invested in Elena making the tools properly, and I was just as worried that Frederica was going to be… well, Frederica. I’m glad this woman thinks enough of herself to accept the blades instead of throwing them out just to spite Elena. She’s got that sophistication I saw in Joanna at first! :D There’s a goal, she wants to meet it, and so long as everything goes in that direction, she’s happy as a clam.


    2015-04-13 at 7:00 pm

  8. Isa Lumitus

    I have a theory about rhetori: they rule the world. Earlier, Emerald wasn’t even supposed to use signals. Her real name is unknown, so I assume she isn’t allowed to write, either. This implies that they work off of communication, not necessarily spoken word. The thing is, through expressions and body language, Emerald can communicate. Thus, the powerful rhetori could trick their guards into releasing them, at which point they make everyone forget what they are.

    The masked rhetori are the ones that are unable to do this. The ruling rhetori allow this, because they want everyone to believe that all of them are under guard.

    The only competing theory I have is that rhetori are just not as powerful as people believe. Because they only have to get free once, and aren’t simply put to death on discovery. Otherwise, what happens when one springs up in an isolated village like Elena did? I’m guessing that saggitari are used to assassinate rogue rhetori?


    2015-07-23 at 4:02 am

  9. where are rhetori echoes!?!

    i fear for them….


    2015-08-28 at 5:27 pm

  10. exqalph03

    um… People can you please answer my question?
    What happened to Alfonso? or someone with the name, close to? the one with Emerald?

    — Thanks and please!


    2015-10-01 at 3:49 am

  11. Another excellent chapter. These workshop exploits are very riveting.


    2016-01-21 at 10:40 pm

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