A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.10 – Ostendens Dies Vesper {Showing Day Eve}

“Doesn’t it bother Vittoria, us being in her room when she’s not here?” Elena asked.

“Nah. We wouldn’t disturb her things or mess with her art, and she knows it.” Frederica said without looking up. She was seated in front of the block of wood, examining it with a critical eye, although now that it had been almost entirely carved it couldn’t be said to be a “block” anymore. The wooden figure was a young woman, a little bit younger than the Caelator who had carved her. She stood with head bowed, her hands clasped subserviently behind her back. Her nude form in the pale wood was lit by the evening’s light, and even without the Caelator’s spark to make her live Elena though it was a beautiful work of art.

“It’s not supposed to be moving yet, is it?” she asked worriedly.

“Not yet.” Fred was standing, walking in a slow revolution around the wooden girl and watching her carefully. “There’s a few more cuts to make on her neck, just below the ear here where it bows out.” He pointed.

“Can you come get me when you make the last cut? I’ve never seen a Caelator statue come to life before.”

“No need to come get you, you’ll already be there tomorrow when we make the cut that gives Freja life.”

“You’re doing it tomorrow? In front of De Luca, during the final presentations? But…I thought a Caelator’s Storm wasn’t a sure-fire thing! What if it doesn’t work?”

“If the Storm works and brings Freja to life, then it works and brings Freja to life,” Frederica said. She had apparently found her scrutiny satisfactory, because she stood and took a broom that lay in the corner of the room and began to sweep up the copious amount of wood shavings that littered the floor at Freja’s base. “If it doesn’t work, I don’t need an evening of dread in front of me. Tonight, I’ll sleep more soundly not knowing. In the morning, I’ll learn along with everyone else when I make the final cut.”

“I couldn’t ever be as carefree about it,” Elena shuddered at the thought. “I’d go crazy not knowing.” She set down the model of De Luca’s studio and surveyed the set she’d made so far; each of the eight studios in rough detail. They were a little shoddy, the pieces a tad haphazard, but as she kept reminding herself they were only tools, not the art itself. In the future, after the Showing tomorrow, she could give the designs to Tellem and have him make her cleaner and nicer models.

I’m getting ahead of myself, Elena chided herself. I should focus on keeping my place in De Luca’s studio first.

“Maybe that’s the difference between Faberi and Caelator,” Frederica said, stuffing her hands in her pockets and staring down at the pile of wood scraps. “We can’t put so much pressure on ourselves to get it right every time. It’s just not possible.”

“You seem very introspective today.”

“Aren’t we all?” Frederica flashed her a very out-of-character smile, and nodded at the models on the floor. “Maybe Faberi and Caelator aren’t so different after all; from the look of those you’re not worried about being perfect either.”

“Well, they’re just tools, really. What I’m showing off to De Luca tomorrow is more how I use them…” Elena blinked, “wait, did you just make a joke?”

“Deprecating humor is as close as she comes to actual humor,” Fred said with a smile, “so yeah.”

“What? That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re friendly with other garzoni, isn’t it?” Frederica shifted uncomfortably, “Niccolo gives you a hard time like that all the time, am I not allowed to?”

“You’re definitely allowed to,” Elena smiled, “I just…didn’t expect it.”

“If we’re going to be fellow garzona for the next year, we might as well be friends as well.”

“Stop, you’re going to jynx it,” Ele groaned. “Saying things like that is tempting fate.”

“Fate has already made up her mind how tomorrow will go,” Frederica said with a shrug. “Nothing us mortals say or do is going to change her mind.” She rolled her knives up in their small pouch slung it over her shoulder. “Fred and I have a tradition for the night before Showing Day. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you Frederica,” Elena said.

Even in the silence that followed Frederica and Fred’s departure Vittoria’s room seemed comfortable and friendly. Elena leaned back and surveyed the models again.

“I think we’re done,” she noted.

“Done for what we’ll show off tomorrow, at least,” Ele replied. “There are some changes I’d like to make later on. Should we test it out? Or should we go to bed early so we’re well-rested for tomorrow?”

“It’s only eight o’ clock.”

“Alright then,” Ele stood and began pacing in the room, “De Luca will probably ask how it works.”

“The model is a tool used to supplement my Storm,” Elena began, officially. “By not having to hold a mental image of the studios in my mind, I can let my Storm tell me details about them.”

“And did you take my advice and figure out your Storm?” Ele said, doing an impression of their elderly master.

“I did take your advice, Master Ele Luca,” Elena smiled, “I’ve discovered that specifically, my Storm allows me to build ‘things’ that already exist, whether those ‘things’ are physical or theoretical.”

“Except you don’t actually know that’s what it is,” Ele dropped the act and gave her a reproachful look.

“Ele will you stop?” Elena rolled her eyes, “I know you want it to be something more exciting or intriguing, but I’m happy we’ve finally figured it out. It’s a really powerful Storm, and once we start getting the hang of it there are some amazing implications of what it can do!”

“Hmmm, very well. So Miss Lucciano, tell us what this project helps you to do.” Ele looked unsatisfied with her answer, but continued on.

“The studio’s have plans and schedules, all things that already exist. Since they exist, my Storm lets me build those same schedules and plans in my head.”

“Can you please give me an example?”

Elena focused on her model studios, deciding which one to use for an example. She had arranged them on large pieces of paper in the same rough position as they were in the city, so she could see at a glance where in her paper Milia her studios sat. She pointed at her Malatesta’s Studio, on her Street of Blue Artisans. The buzz in her temples was as instant as it was gratifying, and the fingertip that pointed crackled as if energy was arcing between the model and her hand.

“Malatesta’s garzoni have a Showing Day as well,” she said triumphantly, “but she’s waiting until the day after tomorrow.”

“Why?”

“I…I don’t know exactly. But I know it’s the truth.”

“De Luca might want more than your word on it.”

“De Luca is smart enough to come up with some question he can ask for proof,” Elena sighed, “Ele I love you to death, but you’ve really got to work on being such a buzzkill.”

“I think it’s an Echo thing,” Niccolo said from the doorway, “Nicci is just as bad, she laughs at every word out of my mouth.”

“Maybe you should try saying something that doesn’t sound like a joke,” Nicci grinned.

“I didn’t think I’d see you before tomorrow,” Elena rose to her feet and brushed small woodchips from her lap, “didn’t you say you needed to buy something this evening?”

“Just got back,” Niccolo held up a metal cylinder about a half-foot long that sloshed when he gave it a shake. He slid the bow and quiver from his back and the knife from his belt and set them all on the desk, giving her a sidelong glance as he did so. “Listen, Elena, are you busy at all? I have something I’d like to show you.”

 


“What did Nicci want to talk to Ele about?” Elena asked as she followed Niccolo through the dark hallways.

“Um..I’m not sure,” Niccolo said, “Echo stuff, probably.”

Getting rid of Ele so we can be alone, perhaps? Elena’s heart beat faster as she followed Niccolo into the lantern-lit workshop. Is he planning on picking up where we left off yesterday? Could this be the night that-

“Hullo Elena, Niccolo,” Lorenzo said from his workstation. Elena almost groaned with frustration, but Niccolo didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest.

“Hello Lorenzo. Big day tomorrow, eh?” Niccolo crossed the room to the window, “if you wouldn’t mind holding this Elena?” He passed her the metal cylinder, then unlatched the window and threw it open. Elena was surprised to find that the metal was warm to the touch, almost hot.

“Hmm? Big day? Why, what’s happening tomorrow?” Lorenzo asked. Niccolo turned and gaped.

“It’s the…do you have a big project to show off?”

“Oh, yeah, thanks to Elena! It probably won’t be finished for another hour or so though,” Lorenzo grinned, “you might be interested in it actually; it essentially operates on the principle of resonated lodestones-”

“I’ll be very interested in the details Lorenzo,” Niccolo interrupted, “but we’ll wait until tomorrow so that everyone in the studio can hear about it.”

“Ah, yes that makes sense,” Lore nodded from Lorenzo’s side, “we should finish this up anyways.”

“Just to the side of the window there’s a ladder, Elena,” Niccolo said quietly, taking the cylinder back from her. “I’m right behind you.”

Elena’s heart was beating fast again, and she tried to ignore Niccolo’s gaze as poked her head out the window. Sure enough, there was a ladder that led up to the roof, starting just outside the second floor window. Elena carefully grabbed onto the rungs and climbed.

The roof itself was bright with reflected moonlight, so bright it was as if the stone itself was alight. Niccolo casually pulled himself over the edge with one hand, the other clasping the metal cylinder.

“So many worries and questions in my head the evening before Showing Day,” he said, moving to join her, “I like hanging around up here on a lot of nights, but this night seems the most serene of all. I come up here every Showing-Day-Eve.” After her encounter with Cross, Elena didn’t feel comfortable too close to the edge of the roof, but Niccolo stood so close that his toes hung out over the lip.

“How many Showing Days have you had in De Luca’s studio?” She asked, moving a little closer, but still far enough away from the edge to feel safe. After a moment’s pause he stepped back to stand next to her.

“This will be my fourth. If De Luca decides to keep me this one last time, next year I’ll be a Journeyman Sagittari from De Luca’s Studio…I could get work anywhere in Italoza with credentials like that.”

“And if you don’t make it?”

“Then…I’ll have to find some other studio for my last year, same as anyone else. It won’t be as prestigious, but with three years as a De Luca garzoni under my belt, I’m sure I could find a place with one of the better studios.” As he talked, Niccolo unscrewed one end of the cylinder and pulled two cups from the pouch at his side. The night was a little cold, and Elena hugged herself and shivered, watching him and musing on his words.

“What was it you wanted to show me?” She asked.

“First, I want you to taste this,” Niccolo poured something that steamed into both cups and offering her one, “and then I want to show you those.” He made a wide gesture towards the stars. Elena gave the cup a sceptical look.

Drinking with a cute boy under the stars, she thought to herself, sounds familiar. Ele would probably be warning me to be careful right about now.

“What is it about men and wanting to show me the stars?” she asked. Niccolo grinned sheepishly.

“Alright, so it’s a little cliched,” he admitted, “but it’s so effective! Sharing the stars on a silent moonlit night is a secret shortcut to making a girl’s heart all fluttery.”

It was so sudden and straightforward that it caught  Elena completely off guard. She opened her mouth, then closed it wordlessly. After a few moments of her heartbeat pounding in her ears, she tried again.

“Your…your goal is to make my heart all fluttery? Are you always this…upfront about things like this?”

“Never. This is the first time I’m trying it.” Niccolo’s grin was infectious, and Elena smiled in spite of herself. “I like you Elena. You make a day brighter just by being around, and I want to be around you more often, no matter what happens tomorrow. I don’t see much point in hiding that.”

“I…I like you too,” Elena stammered. “You sort of already make my heart all fluttery, even without the stars.”

“Well that’s no fair, you didn’t even give me the chance to sweep you off your feet with all of the smooth little tricks I know. You’re depriving yourself.”

“You, being smooth?” Elena teased, “I don’t know, I can’t quite picture it.”

“Oh I can be quite smooth,” Niccolo nodded sagely, “trust me, if you didn’t like me already, you would’ve fallen for me tonight.”

“Sorry, I didnt mean to ruin your tricks,” Elena laughed a bit shakily. Is this actually happening? Are we really having this conversation right now? “You should give me a sample, so I can gauge how effective it would be.”

“Well first, we have a drink,” Niccolo offered her the cup again, and this time Elena took it.

“I…I don’t think I should. I don’t don’t do very well with alcohol,” she said apologetically.

“De Luca garzoni are forbidden from drinking alcohol. This is a heated and spiced cider, procured from a secret store that only I know of.”

“How does the store stay in business if you’re the only person in Milia who knows about it?” Elena asked, taking a sip. It was surprisingly hot, and the taste of sweet apples tinged with nutmeg and cloves and some other taste she couldn’t identify lingered on her tongue.

“It’s a great mystery,” Niccolo said. “Now normally this is where I’d let the silence of the night sink in, as we both enjoy our drink and look out over the city-”

“You know how to be silent?” Elena smiled innocently, and Niccolo gave her a look.

“I had Nicci stay away specifically so that I could be unimpeded by smart-alec responses, and now you take over.”

“I’m sorry, go ahead, you were saying you normally let the silence sink in. Why aren’t you doing that now?”

“Well because with all of this talking we’re behind schedule already,” Niccolo made a production of looking up at the moon to gauge the time, “you should be getting to sleep early for tomorrow, and at this rate it’ll take way too long to get to the part where I kiss you.”

Elena felt as if the air had been knocked out of her lungs, and she spluttered and almost spilled her cider.

“The p…you…did…” she stammered.

“I think I’ve just figured out why I like being so upfront with you,” Niccolo grinned and sipped at his own cider, “your ‘flustered’ face is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.”

Elena tried to come up with some intelligent answer, then when that failed tried to come up with some answer period, but the task seemed impossible and she was blushing so hard that it felt as if her face was as hot as the drink.

“So anyways,” Niccolo said breezily, still smiling, “I would draw the conversation towards the stars, and the constellations. Anyone can enjoy the stars, but I think a Stormtouched especially can appreciate them. For instance, do you see over there, that grouping of stars? That’s the constellation Sagittarius. Those are my stars.”

To illustrate where he was indicating he put a hand on her back and turned her slightly, pointing with his cup to the sky. He was close enough that Elena could feel the warmth of his body, and she was so aware of his hand on the small of her back that she could barely hear what he was saying to her.

“It’s called Sagittarius because the shape of the stars makes the figure of a centaur with a bow,” he said, seemingly unaware that she was finding it hard to catch her breath, “those stars form the drawn back arm, those others the bow do you see?”

“Um…yes,” Elena lied. Violets and leather.

“You are a horrible liar,” Niccolo grinned.

“It looks more like a teapot,” Elena admitted, “and don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing.”

“What I’m doing?” Niccolo asked innocently, his voice quiet enough that even standing so close she could barely hear him, “are you accusing me of having ulterior motives, taking you up here alone under the stars and the moon and making an excuse to stand so close to you?”

“Yes,” Elena smiled and blushed, looking down at her cup, “are you sure this doesn’t have alcohol in it?”

“Positive.”

“I’m feeling a little lightheaded.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

“That sounds so much more arrogant when Nicci’s not around to make fun of you for it,” Elena lightly punched him on the shoulder, and he chuckled. “What about me? Where is the Fabera constellation?”

“Just over there,” Niccolo turned away from her and indicated, “those nine bright stars make up the hammer and saw, crossed, do you see?”

“I see them,” Elena lied again, looking at Niccolo’s profile, the way his brown hair fell carelessly around his face. When he turned back to look at her, his dark eyes seemed like magnets, his expression inscrutable but somehow expressive. Elena stood on her toes, closed her eyes, and kissed him.

There was a small clatter as his cup fell to the ground, and his arms were suddenly around her, strong and powerful but gentle, careful. His lips tasted like cider and the smell of violets made her feel dizzy again, but all of that was secondary to the wonderful, amazing fact that she was kissing Niccolo, and he was kissing her back. In that moment, in the silence on the rooftop, the worries and stresses and fears of the past two months melted away, and the only things that existed were her, Niccolo, and the dark expanse of stars looking down on them.


 

The sunlight that streamed into her room seemed to know her exact mood, and Elena woke up gently with a smile on her face. She sat up and stretched, then sighed happily.

“If only we had known that all it took was a kiss to put you in such a good mood, we could’ve found you someone earlier,” Ele said from his seat in the corner.

“Shut up Ele,” Elena tried for ‘reproachful’, but all she could manage was a slightly different smile.

“I hate to put a damper on your mood, but you realize this is the most important day of your life, right?”

“I know, I know Ele, but…I feel good about today,” Elena rose and rummaged through her drawers for a clean uniform. “De Luca wanted me to learn about my Storm, and I can show him how much I understand it. Like Frederica said last night, what will be will be. Getting all bent out of shape doesn’t help one way or another, so why bother?” She hummed a tune as she took the uniform into the water closet to shower and change.

“Didn’t realize Saggitari lips were made of opiates,” Ele snarked as she closed the door.

 


When Elena emerged from the shower, Ele was wearing a different outfit. Despite all of the manic thoughts running through her head, she did a double-take and stared. His curly black hair was neatly arranged, and he wore a version of De Luca’s uniform similar to her own, all white with yellow trim.

“You- you changed,” Elena said, dumbfounded.

“Yeah, well…it’s a special occasion,” Ele ran a hand through his hair with a self-conscious motion. “I thought it was appropriate. It’s sort of the two of us being judged, you know?”

“But- but- I didn’t even know you could change.” Elena couldn’t stop staring. For as long as she could remember Ele had worn the same outfit, and now he almost looked like a different person. “Where did you even get Echo clothes?”

“While you and Niccolo were off ‘Stormtouching’ each other, Nicci and I had a long conversation about Echo stuff,” Ele said. “How to change clothes, or get little things like books or paper or other things we might need.”

“How?” Even with the pleasant thought of Niccolo in the back of her head, Elena was curious.

“Um…the thing about it is…” Ele looked more embarrassed than she had ever seen him before, “…I’m not actually supposed to tell you.”

“What? Ele I didn’t think we kept secrets from each other! I told you about Niccolo as soon as I got back!”

“I don’t want to keep it from you, but Nicci says it’s sort of a big deal-” a knock on the door interrupted him, and Ele looked palpably relieved. When Elena opened it to find Niccolo and Nicci standing outside, her heart jumped into her throat.

“Hi,” she said weakly, a smile creeping across her face again despite herself.

“Hi,” Niccolo replied with a grin.

“Oh God please tell me they aren’t going to act saccharine like this all the time now,” Nicci slipped past Niccolo with a roll of her eyes.

“If Elena’s dreamy-eyed silly smiles this morning were any indication, I’m afraid they are,” Ele said gravely.

“Nicci, why won’t Ele tell me how Echoes change clothes?” Elena asked.

“Don’t bother,” Niccolo said, “Echoes are notoriously close-lipped about it. I don’t think even Carlo knows, and he and Carla are closer than any Stormtouched and Echo I’ve met before. Unless Carla has told him and sworn him to secrecy.”

“Carla hasn’t told him,” Nicci said confidently, “the tradition goes way back. I don’t even think-”

“Elena, Niccolo,” Vittoria suddenly appeared behind Niccolo in the doorway, “you need to come with me.” Her face was pale, her eyes intense, and any hint of the dreaminess that indicated she was focused elsewhere was gone. She left almost as suddenly as she arrived, and Niccolo and Elena had to run to catch up, their Echoes hurrying behind them.

“Vittoria what happened?” Niccolo asked when they caught up to her.

“I didn’t think I’d have to go to any great measures, I thought common decency or artistic respect would be enough of a protection,” Vittoria muttered, making her way down the hall towards her room. “I left to have breakfast with Vi and Mistress Bea, I thought no one would be cruel or crazy enough to try to get past the lock on my door.” In Elena’s stomach the pleasantness of the morning was slowly beginning to congeal into an icy ball of worry. When they arrived at the doorway of Vittoria’s room the worry grew at the look on Frederica’s face, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed. Niccolo rushed inside the room and she heard him swear, but Elena had to steel herself for a moment before she peered inside.

The room looked a little less warm without the lanterns lit, and that made it seem strangely unfamiliar, even though the layout hadn’t changed. The room was littered with sketches of faces with detailed eyes, all ripped apart or shredded. On the desk, Niccolo’s bow had been broken in half, jagged knife-marks along the middle indicating how it had been done. In the corner, the wooden statue of Freja had a deep cut gouged into her that ran from her shoulder down her chest and almost to her waist. On the floor next to the bed, the large pile of shattered, crushed and broken wood pieces were only recognizable as Elena’s models due to the fact that the model De Luca studio was left unmolested, carefully placed on top of the mess.

The room was quiet, the four garzoni taking in the sight of the destruction from the doorway in silence. Elena struggled to find something to say, something to ask, but nothing occurred to her but to keep looking at the devastation in Vittoria’s room, as if by looking she could somehow undo it all.

“Ah, you’re all here, how convenient!” From the end of the hallway, Pietro’s voice sounded entirely too cheerful. “I was sent to find the rest of you; Master De Luca is ready to begin the Showing in the courtyard and you four are the last to show up. If you could please bring your projects down, we can begin!”


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18 responses

  1. For a limited time only, vote for Twisted Cogs on topwebfiction to receive a piece of demolished model studio that smells like a young Fabera’s crushed hopes and dreams! (Offer void where prohibited, good while supplies last)

    Welp, on the one hand this chapter is 7 minutes late, but on the other it’s double the normal chapter size! Worth it? I’ll let you decide!

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 12:08 am

  2. zeuseus

    well, this’ll be fun

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 12:23 am

  3. CaptainPedantic

    ;_; maddi! You made me way too emotional with this chapter! :(

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 2:23 am

  4. The golem doesn’t notice the piles of projects, right?

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 3:33 am

  5. Ohh…ouch.

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 6:04 am

  6. Bobby

    A whole chapter for the day before Showing Day? Something horrible is going to happen.

    “This will be my fourth. If De Luca decides to keep me this one last time, next year I’ll be a Journeyman Sagittari from De Luca’s Studio…I could get work anywhere in Italoza with credentials like that.”
    Oh, god, he’s going to push her off the roof, isn’t he?

    “you didn’t even give me the chance to sweep you off your feet”
    Yeah, he’s totally gonna.

    “you would’ve fallen for me”
    Please run, Elena.

    “he put a hand on her back”
    Oh god she’s doomed.

    “In that moment, in the silence on the rooftop, the worries and stresses and fears of the past two months melted away, and the only things that existed were her, Niccolo, and the dark expanse of stars looking down on them.”
    *BIG sigh of relief*
    Just paranoia. Everything’s fine. Just a nice, calm little chapter. Everything’s fine. Think about fluffy bunnies and rainbows. Everything’s fine.

    “Elena, Niccolo,” Vittoria suddenly appeared behind Niccolo in the doorway, “you need to come with me.”
    Dammit. Everything’s fine.

    “I thought no one would be cruel or crazy enough to try to get past the lock on my door.”
    Dammit.

    “The room was quiet, the four garzoni taking in the sight of the destruction from the doorway in silence.”
    Dammit, Maddison! ;_;

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 8:00 am

  7. well, if the deluca studio is still in place, she can use it to chart peoples movements, and prove who did the damage.

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 8:53 am

  8. Unmaker

    If Elena’s Storm can show her things that exist, and the De Luca model is still intact, then it can show her which of the people in the household did the damage. And it can show her if there is any proof available.

    Mind you, my record for predicting authors is poor, but we will find out shortly.

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 9:03 am

    • Unmaker

      … and I was ninja’d. Hat tip to Alex.

      Like

      2014-11-03 at 9:06 am

      • great minds think alike! I’m not sure what OUR excuse is though.

        Like

        2014-11-04 at 1:50 pm

  9. Eduardo

    Lets see how powerfull our dear “fabera” really is.

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 11:33 am

  10. Panster

    Wish I had something more elegant to say than this, but:

    Oh snap.

    Elena can still show her skill though…figuring out what happened

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 1:44 pm

  11. DeNarr

    I’m expecting a twist, with it not being Leandra.

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 3:08 pm

  12. Orphiex

    I’m expecting that this is why Malatesta’s garzoni are having their showing the day after De Luca’s.

    Like

    2014-11-03 at 9:44 pm

  13. Oh, lord. The line about “stormtouching” made me laugh so hard, I scared my cat.

    Also – I wish I would have waited one more day to catch up on your story. Then I wouldn’t have to live in horrible suspense.

    Like

    2014-11-05 at 12:18 am

  14. Unmaker

    Typo, I think:
    Elena she stood on her toes, closed her eyes, and kissed him.
    Elena stood on her toes, closed her eyes, and kissed him.

    Like

    2014-11-09 at 6:38 pm

  15. It says so much about how into this story I am that I am actually feeling rage at the thought of what just happened.

    Like

    2015-04-14 at 9:17 am

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