A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.4 – Iunctio Garzona {Garzona Connections}

Milia was a city of art, so it was appropriate that the streets of Milia were essentially works of art themselves. Not that a lot of people noticed it, the way the stones were arranged, a pretty asymmetry that appeared random but actually lay in sloping mathematical patterns. Even those attuned to artistry might miss how artistic the mechanisms were in the gutters, fresh water forced through at high speeds every hour. Very few understood that Milia itself was a perfect circle, and of those that did even fewer realized just how hard that must’ve been to achieve.

Maple truly believed that Milia was more beautiful to her than to any other Milian. One could not appreciate the true beauty of a city unless one appreciated the artistry that lay in its every line, and who was better at appreciating the artistry? Focusing on the art of the city let her accept its imperfections with a kind of calm reverence as she walked its dusty and hot streets. Sure, the merchants here were loud, but they were loud so that they could keep the coin moving through the city, and there was artistry in that. Yes, that man had nearly splashed her with the bucket of rotting compost, but he was using the gutter system, and as long as citizens kept using the gutter system it would be maintained. There was a kind of artistry in that, the art of utility. A majority of minor annoyances and problems of life could be accepted as long as they were for the good of the art.

It had been lucky timing that she’d found her way to De Luca’s studio when she did. Even after being accepted as a garzona, her bitterness and anger had almost kept her from absorbing the lessons that De Luca had taught her. In little more than a year’s time of instruction she had transformed into a new person; gone was the half-contained rage that had always seemed to control her. Occasionally she would still have a flare of anger, but she had learned the tools to cope with them. Just as Master De Luca had taught her; true Artists respected the Art even when Art led to inconveniences. She had become a true Artist.

She had become Maple.

“What’s in the big box?” Elena asked. Maple closed her eyes for a moment. Elena’s voice was always so cheerful. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it lacked a certain gravitas that a true Artist should maintain.

“You always ask so many questions.” Fred commented from behind them.

“What? That was just one!”

“Yeah but there’s always five or six following on its tail.”

“Why are you complaining about questions I haven’t asked yet?”

Annoyingly chipper or not, she asks questions so that she can learn. She asks questions to further her own Art, I can respect that. Besides, this is good; forming bonds, garzona to garzona. If there’s one thing I can learn from Vittoria, it’s that it’s good to make garzona connections.

“It’s a carving,” Maple interrupted the two, stopping and opening the box to show Elena. A little wooden squirrel rested on green cloth within, still and silent, dead wood. “It’s one of mine. One that didn’t turn out.”

“But it looks so cute!” Elena all but squealed. “And it looks so lifelike, how can you say it didn’t turn out?”

“I’m a fucking Caelator,” Maple snapped. “The fact that it just ‘looks’ lifelike means it didn’t turn out.” She centered herself almost immediately, adding “or at least it didn’t turn out how I would’ve liked. Living. Breathing.”

They continued in silence for a while longer, and Maple mused. She had been snapping like that a lot more often over the past week or so, slipping back into the habits of Frederica. Perhaps it was because of the sudden influx of four new garzoni adding chaos to her life, or maybe it was the fear that nagged at the back of her mind that she wouldn’t make it, but she had been finding it harder to slip into Maple, harder to see the art in everything.

“I thought you were bringing me with you to check out a block of wood. Why are you taking that piece with us?”

“Told you there’d be more questions.” Fred smirked.

“Questions don’t hurt Fred, shut up.” Maple tried to think of the best way to phrase her answer. “The short answer is that even though Master De Luca has the money to handle our supply purchases, he also appreciates it when we can offset those costs, so I’m selling it. Except our studio doesn’t bother selling mundane art, it makes us look bad.”

“Why would that make us look-”

“Because Studio De Luca is the studio of Stormtouched. He doesn’t accept Mortalis, he hires Rhetor as cooks, and as far as the everyday Milian knows, he and his garzoni don’t produce mundane art. But we’re not perfect, not everything I make has the Storm in it, not all of Carlo and Vittoria’s paintings are Touched. It’d be a waste to get rid of them, so we make money off of them.”

“If the studio doesn’t sell them then who buys them?”

Perhaps it would’ve been a less annoying question if they hadn’t just arrived at their destination. Maple sighed, and reminded herself that however unobservant and stupid Elena was, she respected the Art. She waited patiently for Elena to make the connection on her own. The girl waited for an answer for a long time, but finally began looking around her, actually seeing where she was.

“This is the Street of Grey Artisans, isn’t it? Is this another studio? Who’s studio is on the Street of Grey- Wait, you sell to THEM?” Elena’s face was such a mixture of outrage and horror that it was almost comical. “Frederica you can’t be serious! Other studios are taking credit for De Luca’s work?”

“We’re well payed for it. Besides, you don’t seem to have a problem with De Luca taking credit for his garzoni’s work.”

“That’s…that’s different!”

Maple looked up at the sturdy grey bricks of the Grey Studio, ignoring Elena’s sputtering. Its walls seemed more solid than those of De Luca’s studio, and a heavy iron gate separated the courtyard from the street to complete the picture. It was built to withstand intrusion, built to be defensive. The Art of the place was in the design to keep people out.

Built poorly, Maple smirked.

“Who’s studio is this?” Elena asked again.

“I just think of it as the Grey Studio,” Maple tugged at the rope that hung in front of the gate, “it’s Master DaRose’s.”

“Master DaRose…the name sounds so familiar…”

“Why wouldn’t it? There are only eight Masters in Milia, eight great studios.”

“Something else-”

“Well, well, well.” Maple didn’t like the boy the second she heard his voice. “If it isn’t Miss Lucciano and friend.” The boy’s grey uniform marked him out as one of DaRose’s garzoni, his brown curls marked him out as a heartthrob, and the way he was looking at Elena confirmed his was just as slimy as his voice indicated.

“Arturo! I wondered why DaRose’s name sounded so familiar!” Elena seemed delighted to see the boy, and Maple kept her lip from curling.

“Ah, so you remember my name and everything.” The word’s seemed bitter, but Arturo’s smile was wide and friendly. “I wondered if life as a De Luca garzona would’ve driven you unimportant friends from your head.”

“Of course I wouldn’t forget you!” Elena seemed too excited to pick up on the bitterness in his words, and she turned back to Maple. “Frederica, this is a friend of mine, we met when we were both applying to be De Luca’s garzoni.” When her back was turned, Arturo’s eyes travelled down to her backside, and Maple’s dislike of him was solidified. Elena was…not a ‘friend’ exactly, but she was a fellow garzona, which made Maple feel almost protective of her, like a big sister saddled with an annoying sibling. She would be damned if this slimeball oggled her not-really-a-sister’s ass.

“How lovely.” Maple smiled sweetly in Arturo’s direction. “What a shame he wasn’t good enough to be accepted.”

Arturo’s smile slipped from his face, which satisfied her. Elena’s Echo glanced at her, and a look passed between them. Maple couldn’t help but feel that she had passed some hidden test as far as Ele was concerned.

“Frederica!” Elena gasped.

“No, it’s alright Elena.” Arturo’s Echo piped up from behind him, a paintbrush behind her ear. “It’s pretty typical. Garzoni of different studios tend to be a little…tense…around each other.”

“We’re selling.” Maple said, handing Arturo the box. “Mundane animal sculpture, standard price. Go tell your Master.”

“I don’t need to check with DaRose, we can pay.” Arturo growled, and Maple grinned. He opened the gate, but didn’t make a move to welcome them in, instead turning to his Echo. “Go get Agnolo, tell him to bring money for a De Luca sculpture.”

It was a bad habit, left over from when she didn’t know how to be Maple, but Frederica occasionally liked pushing people to the edge, making them feel a hint of the anger that had up until a year ago always filled her. These days she reserved it for people who had offended her. Being a DaRose garzoni was enough to offend her; ogling Elena had merely pushed her over the edge.

“So did you fail to get in to any other studios as well before you ended up here, or was it just De Luca’s?” She asked lightly. Arturo set his jaw and said nothing.

“Frederica, you don’t have to be so rude.” Elena admonished.

Oh but I do, I do have to be rude. If I’m rude enough he’ll get angry, and if he gets angry enough I might find out who he really is. Not that the information was worth anything, but it would upset him, and it would satisfy her curiosity, so it was reason enough to pass the time while they waited for her money.

“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude,” Maple laughed. “I just never know what will upset people. I know I wouldn’t mind being confronted with the truth if I failed to achieve a goal…at least, I don’t think I would. I wouldn’t know.”

“I’m not sure why you’re doing this.” Arturo’s jaw was clenched. “It’s pretty obvious to everyone here that you’re trying to get a rise out of me, for whatever reason.”

And it’s working. Maple thought. “I don’t really need a reason, do I?” She said aloud. “It’s not as if you can do anything about it, is it?” It was a shot in the dark, but his type tended to be on-edge when it came to challenges to their power.

“I can shut you up.” Arturo’s face darkened and he reached for his belt, where a leather cylinder hung. It was a subtle motion, but the leather cylinder was a dead giveaway. It was fashioned to carry papers, and she knew one person who used a cylinder like that.

“Aaah.” Maple said with satisfaction. “Grabber. No, I don’t think you want to try playing that game with me.”

Grabber frowned, but he dropped his hand from the leather cylinder begrudgingly.

“I wasn’t going to,” he muttered, “it’s broad fucking daylight anyways.”

“Why did she call you Grabber, Arturo?” Elena was looking back and forth between the two of them, and Maple cursed under her breath. More questions De Luca wouldn’t want Elena asking, and this time it was pretty squarely her fault.

“I’d actually prefer if you forgot I mentioned that name, Elena.” She said.

“Why is that?” One of the other DaRose garzoni brought a small purse of coins and handed it to Grabber, but he had picked up on Elena’s question and pounced. “Does she not know?”

“I’ll take that please.” Maple’s voice was tight as she snatched the purse from Grabber’s hand. “We’ll be going now.”

Iam matre she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know any of it.” Grabber seemed delighted by the fact. “What the hell do you even tell her to explain it all away?”

“Tell me what? What don’t I know? Arturo do you know something about…about what happened a week ago?”

It was bad. The entire situation was bad, Maple saw that now. She shouldn’t have brought Elena here, shouldn’t have baited Arturo, definitely shouldn’t have said his real name aloud. Maple struggled for the words, for anything that she could use as damage control. She resorted to the one thing she knew she could fall back on; intimidation.

“Terribly sorry you won’t be able to answer Elena’s questions Grabber, but we’ll be going now. Let me repeat, you don’t want to play games with me again. If you’ll recall, the last time we played, I won.”

Grabber, Grabber’s Echo Arta, Elena and Ele, Maple and Fred all waited in tense silence for a few moments as Grabber scanned her face for a few moments.

“Hundred Eye?” He ventured. Maple rolled her eyes. “No….Maple.” Grabber’s face darkened even more if possible, and Maple flashed him a quick smile. “I got a few licks in.” He said sullenly.

“I won.” Maple repeated. They stared at each other for a long moment, then Grabber dropped his gaze.

“Enjoy the rest of your day.” He mumbled.

“Really Arturo? You won’t tell me anything either?” Elena asked. “I thought you were my friend!”

“I am…I just…it’s complicated. Good to see you again Elena. Maybe next time we can have a better conversation. One where we’re alone.”

The statement was obviously intended to make Maple nervous, but she knew she could keep the pair from meeting before Master De Luca got back, and Master De Luca would know how to handle the situation.

Elena was quiet as they left the studio, but Maple left her to her thoughts. They made their way towards the outer edge of town where the farmer lived who had promised Maple her block of wood.

“Am I ever going to learn what’s been going on Frederica?” Elena suddenly asked.

“It’s not up to me.” Maple replied. “But I’m going to bring it up to De Luca when he gets back. You’ll be told, just…you have to wait until he decides the time is right.”

“I don’t like not knowing things.”

“Then hurry up and we’ll go look at that block of wood. You’ll know about that.”

“If you say so.”

Maple frowned.

So much for garzona connections.

 


 

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7 responses

  1. TECHNICALLY 11:36pm on Tuesday counts as “sometime before Wednesday” :)

    Enjoy the very first bonus interlude! I thought it would be interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of someone we’ve seen but not really gotten to know yet; Frederica Vasari. Not all of my bonus chapters will have a non-Elena POV, but you’re definitely more likely to see them here than in the main Sunday-Wednesday schedule.

    Hope you enjoy!

    Like

    2014-09-09 at 11:38 pm

    • Mian

      Yup! under the bell counts!
      Very, very interesting. puzzling, but not as “oh, my god, please fucking tell us already” as ‘what is up with the rhaetor’s storm?’

      Like

      2014-09-10 at 12:20 pm

  2. zeuseus

    YAY SWEET GLORIOUS WORLDBUILDING!!

    Like

    2014-09-10 at 6:22 am

  3. My first guess is Fight Club.

    Like

    2014-09-10 at 11:41 am

    • DeNarr

      That would make sense as to why in the world an Art studio would want an expert archer. I mean, really, what does Niccolo even do at the studio that we know of?

      Like

      2014-09-10 at 12:12 pm

      • Mian

        Ah, he must be hundredeye.
        Archery can be seen as a type of art, of course — a martial art.

        Like

        2014-09-10 at 12:20 pm

  4. Reiskorn

    Oh damn, this sheds some light.
    I wonder whats going to be Elenas “real” name.

    Like

    2017-04-01 at 9:06 pm

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