A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.3 – Tranquillum… {The Calm…}

“It’s almost a shame that we’ll be using these up,” Elena smiled as she emptied the box of cylinders onto her workstation. The little silver tubes jangled musically as they rattled across the desk.

“What else are we going to do with them?” Ele stood next to her, leaning against the bench so that he could view the entire workshop. His arms were crossed, and his gaze flicked back and forth across the room, settling on each garzoni for just a few moments before it moved to the next. It was rare for all of the garzoni to occupy the room at the same time, and the subtle hum of eight craftsmen working with their various works was comforting. For Ele it seemed to have the opposite effect; he had been on-edge for the entire afternoon.

“I just like how it sounds when I play with them. They’re like tiny bells.” Elena rolled the cylinders back and forth, smiling at their melodic jingling. She glanced at Ele, his arms crossed, a scowl on his face. “You don’t have to be so cranky,” she murmured, quietly enough that the other garzoni couldn’t hear her, “you’ll have to get used to other garzoni around sooner or later.”

“It’s not them being around that’s bothering me, and I’m not cranky.” Ele didn’t turn to her as he spoke, softly, barely moving his lips. “I’m high-strung because something bad’s coming.”

“What do you mean ‘something bad’?”

“I don’t know how to explain it. I just just smell it on the air, like a storm about to break. I can feel it. Something bad.”

Elena gave him a look of exasperation as she began sorting the metal tubes on her desk, organizing them into small groups by type and by size. “Honestly Ele could you be any more cliched? ‘You feel it in the air’, what garbage.”

The brush handles were not the right sizes, and Elena frowned as she held the thin pieces up against the tubes. Most of the tubes she could force into place on the end of the handles, but a full quarter of them would have to be cut down to size.

“Do you think we could get Frederica to carve the ends of these down to fit the silver caps?” She asked Ele, holding up the ill-fitting tubes and the brush handles that were supposed to slide right into them.

“You think she’s going to help you make brushes for Carlo and Vittoria?” Ele raised an eyebrow. “Something that makes one garzona look good and helps two garzoni produce better work? She’s smart enough to not help her competition, so no, I don’t think we could get her to.”

“We’ll just have to re-order them then. Adtono.” Elena swore. “Well we can make the smaller brushes at least.”

“Because apparently we’re not smart enough not to help our competition.”

Elena didn’t answer for a few moments, instead focusing on carefully twisting bunches of bristles into groups. When she was done, she would slide the bristles into the other end of the tubes, then crimp the tube on both sides. She’d never made paintbrushes before, but the buzzing along her fingertips told her she was on the right track.

“This is what I do, Ele,” she finally replied, just as quietly.

“I know it’s what you do, you’re a Fabera, I’m just asking if you have to do it for them.”

“No, I mean helping them is what I do. I can’t be mean like you and Leanarda want me to be, it’s just not who I am. I want to help people, I want my work to be useful, and even more I want to see the beautiful things other people can make. Don’t you? Doesn’t everyone? Isn’t that why we’re all here, because we were inspired by the beautiful art people make?”

“Naive.” Ele said. “I want to see pretty art too, but not if it’s Carlo painting it while we’re seeing it from the street.”

“We’ll be more valuable to Master De Luca if he sees us helping all of his other garzoni.” Elena replied confidently. “He’s been missing out on a good Fabera in his studio, so it’s up to us to show him what a good Fabera can do; a Fabera in his studio will help every other garzoni’s work.”

“Or he’ll decide that we can’t produce anything of our own and wonder what we contribute to art.”

“Your arguments would hold a lot more weight if you weren’t this pessimistic all the time.”

“I’m not pessimistic, I’m realistic.”

“You mean like ‘something bad is going to happen’?” Elena teased. “Was that ‘realistic’, or just you being-”

Maledictus a matre!” Frederica shrieked the curse above the quiet murmur of the workshop, and work ceased as the assembled garzoni turned to look at her, startled. “Who did this? Which one of you pathetic, ignorant, Storm-forsaken fucks did this?” Elena paled at the look on the older girl’s face; contorted in such rage that it was almost unrecognizable.

In Frederica’s outstretched hand lay a small bird carved from maple wood. It was almost complete, from its lifelike beak to the small delicate cuts that defined the feathers, a tiny and beautiful little masterpiece. It was marred only by the fact that one of its fragile wings had fractured, and lay separate in her hand.

“Frederica,” Vittoria approached with a gentle tone. Elena didn’t know whether to admire the girl’s bravery or warn her away; Frederica still held the small knife detailing knife in her other hand. It didn’t seem to bother Vittoria, her face serene as she rested a hand on the Caeletor’s arm. “You don’t know for sure that someone did this on purpose. Maybe someone was just admiring your work and accidentally dropped it, something of that nature.”

“Knife marks.” Frederica held up the severed wing as she spat the words. “This wasn’t an accident, it was sabotage, and someone used my own tools to do it. Which of you was it?” She gestured with her other hand, pointing across the room with her knife to indicate Lorenzo, Leanarda, Mella and Elena. “Which one of you thought they were being clever?”

No one answered, even as the silence began to stretch. It was a different kind of silence than Elena was normally used to in the workshop, one not of solitude but of high tension.

“Whoever did this, it’s only going to go worse for you from here on out.” Fred seemed much calmer than his counterpart, but his hands were clenched in tight fists. “Master De Luca will be back in a few days, and if the culprit hasn’t stepped forward by then we’ll have no choice but to bring the bird to him. We’re not stupid, we know what this is.”

“Maybe I’m stupid, ‘cause I’m not sure I do.” Niccolo had been silent up until that point, resting his arm on his knee and watching the scene unfold. “What is it you think ‘this’ is, Fred?”

“It’s the provisionals trying to look good to Master De Luca.” Frederica was the one to answer. “They think if I have one less project to show him that’ll make them look that much better.”

“Why are you so sure it a provisional garzoni?” Leanarda finally spoke up. Frederica’s gaze snapped to where she sat, the knife pointing in her direction as if Frederica wasn’t even aware of it.

“It was. I know it was. Probably you, Leanarda. Did you do this?” Frederica’s voice was slowly growing quieter, but the anger in it was even worse somehow.

“I was just asking. You seem pretty quick to rule out Carlo, Vittoria, and Niccolo.”

“Leanarda’s right!” Mella was usually one of the most quiet in the group, but she spoke up now with a kind of terrified defiance. “You’re so sure it was one of us trying to get ahead, but all eight of us are competing for the four spots. It could’ve been one of them.” She pointed back across the room.

“It’s not one of them. They wouldn’t…” Frederica paused as if choosing her words carefully. “They’ve got better things to do with their time than try to fuck with me, and they know that the second Master De Luca finds out who did this they’re out of the studio.”

“I’m honestly curious now.” Leanarda had noticed Frederica’s hesitancy. “You have some reason for trusting Vittoria, Carlo, and Niccolo, and if you don’t want to tell any of us that’s fine. Just ask yourself; how strong is that reason Frederica? Whatever you think is stopping them from turning on you, is it more important to them than staying garzoni?”

“You’re trying to manipulate me, but it’s pathetic,” Frederica scoffed, “you don’t know anything, so you don’t know how transparent you sound.” Frederica turned and threw the broken bird into the crate beneath her desk. “I will be telling De Luca you did this.”

“You don’t know it was me!” Leanarda protested as Frederica turned her back. “Even if you’re oh-so-trustful of those three, it could’ve been someone else-”

“Who? Mella?” Frederica didn’t turn around. “She wouldn’t have the spine to use my knives without permission, let alone do that. If it was Mella, you told her to. And stupid as this plan is, Lorenzo’s too stupid to come up with it. No offense Lorenzo.”

“Hmm?” Lorenzo looked up from the set of three discs he had been fiddling with. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. What are we talking about?”

“So Elena is among your list of trusted friends and allies then?” Leanarda challenged, her eyes narrowing.

“Elena is too naive to be this nasty, and too mousy to be this aggressive.”

“Hey-” Elena was grateful that Frederica didn’t think her capable of ruining the bird, but she wasn’t quite sure she liked the reasons. Frederica spoke right over her protests.

“More importantly, Elena understands that you DON’T. FUCK. WITH THE ART.” Frederica’s shoulders shook with emotion, but her voice was quiet when she continued. “Sure, Elena is a know-nothing annoying little puke, just like the rest of you. Probably hates me just as much as the rest of you too. But she made these,” Frederica held up one of her new knives with the lilium designs, “because she respects the art. She knows that whatever other fucked up games you all want to play, the art comes first. She knows that however she might feel about me, the art comes first. That makes her worth a thousand of you.”

Elena turned back to her desk, more to avoid Leanarda’s gaze than to continue with her work. It was hard to dissect the emotions she was feeling towards Frederica at the moment. On the one hand, she shouldn’t be surprised that Frederica didn’t much care for her. On the other, it did sound like she almost…respected her? Surely that was better, or perhaps nearly as good… Elena shook her head, trying to sort out the new information.

Meis auditaque, Frederica, way to make the provisionals feel welcome.” Niccolo muttered, resuming running his knife along the edge of a small stone.

“Do I look like I give a shit about making them feel welcome?” Frederica gestured to the bin. “Maybe next time they won’t fuck with my craft.”

“As you’ve all decided to talk about us as if we aren’t here anyways, I’m going for a walk.” Leanarda stood and set her brush down carefully. “Mella, Lorenzo, would you like to join me?” The fact that she hadn’t invited Elena was obviously intentional, but Leanarda’s feelings for her hadn’t been in question for a while. Leanarda and Mella neither liked nor respected her.

“Hmm? Ah, no thank you, I’m quite busy with this.” Lorenzo said, and Mella and Leanarda departed without another word. The workshop was once again quiet but for the scraping of Niccolo’s knife on his whetstone. Elena suddenly wondered if she should buy a small chest for her projects, one she could lock up at night. If it was true that Leanarda was the saboteur, Elena’s work was probably fairly high on the list of targets.

“You figured out what I needed in a knife just by looking, Elena.” Frederica broke the silence again, abruptly. “Can you do that with other stuff?”

“I…I’m not sure.” Elena was caught off guard by the seemingly random question.

“I’m buying a block of maple today. It’s important, and you could help.”

“But I don’t know anything about wood.”

“You said you didn’t know anything about carving either, but you had all of those ‘flashes of inspiration’.”

“I guess so…but I can’t force them to come to me. I just know how some things are put together.”

“Hmm.” Frederica grunted, then stood. “Come with me.”

“Where are we going?”

“I told you, I’ve got a block of maple to buy. You have to help me with all my supplies, so you’re coming to help.” Without so much as a backward glance, Frederica walked out of the room.

“I guess I owe you an apology Ele.” Elena brushed the cylinders, brush handles, and bristles into the corner of her desk and hid them with a rag, making a mental note to buy a chest with a lock. “You were right about something bad happening. That ‘storm about to break’.”

“This wasn’t it.” Ele was still frowning, but his face was more worried than angry. “This is just the warning thunder.”


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6 responses

  1. zeuseus

    “This wasn’t it.” Ele was still frowning, but his face was more worried than angry. “This is just the warning thunder.” I love this line.


    2014-09-08 at 7:53 pm

    • Glad you like it! Every now and then I hit a line that I have to rewrite about 20 times. Glad to hear the end result is appreciated :D


      2014-09-09 at 11:42 pm

  2. elyandarin

    I just how it sounds -> I just like how it sounds


    2014-12-07 at 5:09 am

  3. Goddammit, yes. As soon as I read the chapter where Frederica accepts the knives, I knew there was enough of a spark to start some kind of working friendship. The respect has led to possibly a new alliance maybe that’s better than creepy, quiet, petty, cliquey Leanarda’s!


    2015-04-13 at 8:45 pm

  4. 965470053311480

    oooh, the last line had me grinning wide :D

    Loving this – and continuing my read!


    2015-08-05 at 1:08 pm

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