A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.3 – Monitis ad Vesperam {Warnings in the Evening}

The days of late autumn were still uncomfortably hot during the daylit hours, but the nights had begun to take on a chill that warned of the fast-approaching winter. After checking with Bea and Pietro, Elena had found a store of extra blankets in the studio, and now she lay in her bed under three of them, trying to come up with ideas for a bow.

“What if we put something sharp on the bow itself, so Niccolo could use it as a melee weapon if someone got too close?” Ele suggested from his chair in the corner. He leaned back and stared at the ceiling, clearly not as enthusiastic about the project as she was.

“Something sharp will cause actual damage, so it’s not really helpful in the inter-studio battles,” Elena pointed out.

“It’ll make him look scarier though. Intimidation can be helpful.”

“But Niccolo is a Saggitari, his Storm only helps him when it comes to ranged weapons. He would be hopeless using his bow as a melee weapon. His Storm might not even work with the bow, since it technically wouldn’t be a ranged weapon anymore.”

“Would that work?” Ele asked curiously, “does a Storm know the difference between a bow that’s used for melee and a bow that’s used for range? You think his Touch would suddenly stop working if it was changed?”

“I don’t know, Ele, can we just focus on this please?” Elena frowned and tried again to force her Storm into action. Once again it failed her, and she clenched her fists on the bedcovers.

“Your lack of curiosity is frustrating,” Ele said, “you used to be just as curious about things as I am, back before we came here.”

“I just have better things to do now!” Elena snapped. “You’ve just been so obsessed with how the Storm works, and meanwhile I’ve been the only one trying to figure something out to keep us in the Studio!”

“No, what you’ve been trying to do is make Niccolo a bow when your Storm is clearly trying to tell you it’s not interested in doing that. We’re supposed to be getting the Storm to work, and instead you’re trying to out-stubborn it.”

“You’re talking about the Storm like it’s a person Ele, instead of a force of nature. The Storm can’t be stubborn if it can’t think.”

“Can’t it? I’ve never known a widlfire or a flood to target certain people, much less to know the difference between a ranged and melee weapon. It certainly gives people powers that I wouldn’t expect from a mindless force of nature.”

Elena wasn’t sure why, but the discussion was sending prickles down her arms.

“It gives people tools that they can use,” she said, “you might as well say a hammer is intelligent because houses are built with one.”

“What about Echoes? It’s obvious we have something to do with the Storm, do you think a force of nature is capable of birthing or creating creatures of such vast intelligence?” Even with his joking manner, Ele seemed to be deep in thought, and Elena wasn’t entirely sure what to say. Her Echo had never before voice thoughts about who he was or where he came from. “Anyways,” Ele continued, “all of this is beyond the point of our discussion.”

“And what was that?”

“That you need to stop making this bow for Niccolo.”

“Ele, you can argue all you want, you can’t convince me-” Elena was interrupted by a quiet knock on the door of her room. Sighing at the further distraction, she rose to open it. Waiting in the hallway outside were Niccolo, Vittoria, and Frederica. They looked quite serious and grave, although with Frederica it was hard to tell.

“We need to talk to you Elena,” Vittoria said, “can we come in?”

Elena nodded and stood aside, feeling for the first time that her room was just a little cramped. Niccolo closed the door and slid to the floor next to it, sitting with his back against the wall and resting one arm on his knee. Frederica stood next to the chair that Ele occupied, her perpetual frown seeming less angry and more her natural expression. Vittoria sat on the end of Elena’s bed, so that when Elena returned to it and sat down she was faced with all three full garzoni.

“Where are your Echoes?” she asked.

“They’re out in the hallway and nearby, keeping an eye out,” Niccolo said, “making sure no human or Echo spies on us.”

“Isn’t it normally your job to keep watch, ‘Hundred Eye’?” Elena joked, but none of the other three garzoni cracked a smile.

“All my eyes are closed tonight,” Vittoria said, her manner crisp and very different from her normally dreamy and distracted demeanor, “this discussion is too serious to split my attention.”

“That seems a little somber…is that really necessary?” Elena wasn’t sure she liked how the three full garzoni exchanged glances at the question.

“Elena, we think that Leanarda and Mella are working together to keep their place in the studio.”

“Oh! They are,” Elena nodded, “I think I was technically supposed to be a part of that too, but they don’t trust me anymore. Aren’t we all working to keep our place in the studio?”

“There’s a difference; the rest of us are working hard on our art, those two are working hard at being underhanded.”

“Frederica overheard them talking to Lorenzo,” Niccolo explained. “Apparently your little design of a bow has given him some new idea for lodestones, but they’re trying to convince him that he should steal your project idea wholesale. ‘Build a better bow than Elena can’, they said.”

“That’s…not very nice,” Elena said, “but I would sort of expect that of Leanarda. I mean yes, she’s very cutthroat about this whole process, but there are only four slots in De Luca’s studio, aren’t there?”

“Four slots for the four best artists, not the four people who can most easily tear each other down,” Vittoria said firmly. “Those two are much better at destruction than they are at creation, and none of us want to be full garzoni alongside someone like Leanarda, having to watch our backs when all we want to do is focus on art.”

“She destroyed my bird,” Frederica growled, “if she’ll destroy art now, she’ll destroy it as a full garzona whenever she wants to look good to De Luca.”

“That bird might’ve been an accident,” Elena said uncertainly.

“Leanarda was the one who planted the wine, Elena,” Ele broke in. “There was nothing accidental about that.”

“Planted wine?” Niccolo raised an eyebrow.

“Someone put a wineskin under my pillow, in my first week here, then reported it to Pietro,” Elena explained, “but Ele it was Leanarda who warned me about the wine in the first place.”

“And she warned you right about the time she was trying to get you to trust her,” Ele pointed out, “right after she’d given you a speech about how every one of the garzoni would try to stab you in the back. Think, Elena, if it wasn’t Leanarda, who do you think it was?”

Elena considered the question. Lorenzo was too scatterbrained when not thinking about lodestones, and she couldn’t see Vittoria or Niccolo being so underhanded. Frederica might have tried to get her kicked out of the studio, but she was so straightforward and blunt; intrigue wasn’t really her style. The only garzoni Elena could even picture planting the wine was Leanarda, Mella, or..

“Where is Carlo?” she asked suddenly.

“Carlo isn’t interested in helping. He doesn’t stick his neck out for anyone,” Elena caught a flash of annoyance on Vittoria’s face, unusual for the typically happy garzona, “but he also doesn’t stick his neck out to hurt anyone. Carla is convinced that as long as they keeps their heads down, they’ll be fine, and he trusts her.”

“Alright…” Elena stared at the floor, trying to take in all of the information, “…so Leanarda is out to get me, and has been for some time. What exactly are you three planning to do about it?”

“I like to think we’re a little more mature about the nature of being a De Luca garzoni.” It was eerie how serious and grave Vittoria seemed when all of her concentration was in one place. She was obviously so used to multitasking that when she focused she became intense. “We know that De Luca can only have four of us, but it’s not De Luca’s fault, and we don’t have to be enemies here. It’s better for everyone concerned if we don’t drag each other down to get ahead, but rather raise each other up-”

“We’re here to help you with your final project,” Frederica interrupted, “a bow is a stupid idea.”

“I would’ve phrased it a little differently,” Vittoria winced, “but essentially, yes, we’re here to talk you out of your idea of making a bow.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell her,” Ele chuckled.

“But I’ve made something for all of the full garzoni but you, Niccolo,” Elena said.

“I can handle being left out,” Niccolo shrugged from the floor, “but a bow, no matter how nice, isn’t going to impress De Luca.”

“It might,” Elena said defensively, “if it was an elaborate enough bow.”

“Elena, do you know what the rest of the garzoni are doing for our projects?”

“I know that everyone is keeping their projects locked away in their rooms. I know Frederica is doing something huge; I helped her pick out the block of wood.”

“Frederica is trying to carve a living statue of maple wood. A human statue, like Pietro,” Niccolo said. Elena blinked. It was the thing that Caelator were best known for, after all, but actual human statues were rare. It was mostly Master artists who created them, and if Frederica could pull it off she would be known throughout the city.

“That’s…that’s amazing,” Elena stammered.

“Vittoria has been talking to the Bishop in charge of the cathedral near the West gate of the city, trying to convince him to let her bring a team of painters to paint a mural of our lord Jesus set against a backdrop of a storm on the cathedral belltower…”

“That would be pretty-”

“…A painting of which Vittoria would paint the eyes,” Niccolo finished. “She would be able to watch an entire eighth of the Milia if she succeeded, any time she chose to focus through them.” Elena’s mouth was suddenly dry as Niccolo continued. “I’m a Saggitari, De Luca will either keep me or get rid of me as the studio needs a Saggitari, but even I’m trying something new; very very thin arrows, sharp enough to punch through stone.”

“I get it,” Elena said, but Niccolo kept talking.

“Carlo is trying to paint his first full fresco, something he’s been training for years to do. It’s an image of an oracle, one that will actually tell him the future. Not just symbols or signs, if it works it will speak to him and tell him what the future holds. Leanarda and Mella are keeping apart from us, but if they’ve been clever enough to keep the nature of their Storms away from us, they’re clever enough to know what they’ll need to do to prove their worth. Lorenzo…well I’m not entirely sure Lorenzo even realizes that he’s competing. And you…”

“I was going to bring a bow,” Elena whispered.

“You were going to bring a bow,” Niccolo nodded. “It was very well intentioned, and I can’t help but smile. I would very much like a bow crafted by my favorite Fabera, but maybe wait until after we both make full garzona, yes?”

“I can’t believe I was going to bring a bow,” Elena looked back and forth between her three friends. She was still reeling from the sheer magnitude of their undertakings; the raw power of the Stormtouched in this room made her head spin. Her mind jumped to the horrible thought of showing a simple bow to De Luca, of displaying it sheepishly after they all showed off their successes. The thought made her shudder. “I need to think of something awe-inspiring.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Ele said, exasperated.

“It’s alright Ele,” Vittoria stood from the bed, a dreamy expression slowly coming over her face, “sometimes people need to hear from many different sources before it filters through.”

“Thank you all,” Elena said as the others stood to leave, “I would’ve made a fool out of myself if you hadn’t warned me.”

“Damnit, I knew we shouldn’t have come, that would’ve been amusing to watch,” Niccolo grinned.

“Leave the poor girl alone Niccolo,” Vittoria smiled, “and of course, Elena. Whatever four make it through, you deserve a fair shot.”

“I just wish it wasn’t limited to four,” Elena sighed. Vittoria pausing at the door as Elena thought aloud. “How could I be happy, knowing that if I succeed it means someone I care about doesn’t? How does someone live with themselves knowing someone else had to fail to keep their own dream alive?”

Vittoria half turned, the dreamy look gone again. It was replaced with a look of such heartbroken sadness that it made the intensity of earlier seem tame.

“You don’t,” she replied.


Previous Chapter || Next Chapter 



10 responses

  1. Huh, the date on the next chapter link is a nice touch.
    Also, I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed by what she’s created. I want to see some neat stuff! There are so many possibilities!


    2014-10-05 at 11:49 pm

    • One of the problems of being a talented little fish in a tiny town like Elena’s hometown of Carpi is that sometimes it’s hard to think big enough…a lesson Elena certainly needs to take to heart to make it in a big studio like De Luca’s!


      2014-10-05 at 11:55 pm

  2. As of today, I’m taking on commissions for short stories! If you’ve enjoyed Twisted Cogs, perhaps consider having a custom short written!

    This was another shortish, quietish chapter, but things are approaching a rather tense time in the De Luca studio. I hope you’re enjoying so far!


    2014-10-05 at 11:54 pm

    • let me know if people bite on that one! ive been waiting for someone with a following to offer that.


      2014-10-06 at 12:52 am

    • CaptainPedantic

      Hi Maddi, this is not directly related to your comment, not at all actually (aside from saying yes I have been loving your stories!). But I was wondering what you thought of my guess about De Luca’s storm from the last post. I’m probably not correct but I reaaaally want to know if i’m even a little bit close! Being wrong is cool to though, It just means that there is more to learn about him and glean from your marvellous writing!
      P.s. Thanks for the awesome bedtime stories!


      2014-10-06 at 2:22 am

      • I’ve been absolutely loving all of the speculation on De Luca’s Storm and on Lorenzo’s plans, but have been super careful not to interject for fear of spoiling anything :D

        I’m afraid I’m going to have to give the most frustrating answer of all time and say you are close in some ways, and yet at the same time completely off the mark. I couldn’t have planned that any better as an unfulfilling answer if I tried, haha!

        PS: You’re most certainly welcome :D


        2014-10-08 at 11:28 pm

  3. eduardo

    Elena was trained by her mother in the art of not thinking too much. This is her problem, and she should listen to Ele more.


    2014-10-06 at 8:08 am

  4. Argyle

    Elena’s final project predictions:
    -Devise a plan to be able to keep more than 4 garzoni.
    -Figure out how storm touched abilities are “assigned”
    -Design a defense plan for the shop


    2014-10-06 at 10:30 am

  5. panster

    Oh, man. This story is better than so many of the published books out there. Eagerly await each update! :D


    2014-10-06 at 4:32 pm

    • Oh stop it you, you’ll make me blush :) I’m really glad you’re still enjoying it and that the world hasn’t grown stale!


      2014-10-08 at 11:28 pm

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