A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.1 – Dies {The Day}

The air in the courtyard was only moderately chilly, but Elena felt numb. The De Luca garzoni and their Echoes were arranged in a loose half-circle, while Master De Luca, Bea, and Pietro stood opposite with concerned looks on their faces, leaving a clear area in the center.

“You understand the particular constraints I am under,” De Luca said carefully, “you understand why the Showing Day must be today, regardless of this sabotage? We cannot delay to search for the saboteur or to let you work on another project.”

Elena nodded wordlessly. Whatever laws governed the studios, De Luca was only allowed four garzoni. He could get around the restriction for a little while by keeping some of his students “provisional”, but she assumed at a certain point he had to cut them down to a group of four.

“This is ridiculous,” Niccolo all but snarled, “Master De Luca, you can’t truly be considering proceeding like this? I’ve seen you pick garzoni for their mastery of the art, and I’ve seen you pick garzoni for mastery of…” he shot a quick glance towards the other provisional garzoni, those who didn’t know that fighting ability played a part in the selection, “…mastery of other things, but I’ve never seen you pick your garzoni based on their ability to manipulate, to cheat, or to backstab.”

“Apparently I’m quite good at picking them on the basis of their speech-writing abilities,” Master De Luca said wryly. “I understand your anger Niccolo. The destruction of art runs in opposition to everything this studio stands for, and you may rest assured that if the person who did this comes to light, their punishment will be extreme.”

“That doesn’t exactly help those of us who have been hamstrung by the destruction, Master De Luca.”

“You may also rest assured that I am fully capable of judging the merits of artistry without a visual aid in front of me,” De Luca continued. “I am just as capable of extrapolating your artistic ability with a description of your project as I am with the visual. This destruction, while unkind and irresponsible, will not affect my judgement. Simply tell me the damage done, and I will take into account what has been lost when making my decision. Now, I think it’s best we begin.”

The words were somewhat comforting, but Elena still felt goosebumps along her skin that had nothing to do with the weather. Leanarda had been right, so many weeks ago. There were some in the studio who were willing to go great lengths to make others fail, and the warmth and friendship she had been enjoying in the company of the full garzoni had been an exception, not necessarily a rule.

Bea stepped forward into the center of the half-circle.

“Before we start, I would just like to say that these past few months have been absolutely amazing in terms of what you’ve accomplished. At the De Luca studio we are used to seeing some of the best young artists beneath our roof, but this year I think I speak for both Master De Luca and I when I say we’re truly awed by the artistry we’ve seen. Now, we’ll begin alphabetically by last name, and Pietro will help you retrieve your projects from the workshop or your rooms if you require assistance. Vittoria and Vi Arcimboldo, will you please tell us what your final project was before it was destroyed?”

Elena realized with a guilty start that she had been so concerned with her own smashed project that she hadn’t been focused on the effects of the destruction on her friends.

How could I be so selfish? My friends have done so much for me, and I almost forgot they’re in just as dire straights as I am…

Vittoria and Vi didn’t seem worried at all as they stepped forward to occupy the space in the middle of the semi-circle. They were dressed in matching white and yellow uniforms, but Vittoria wore her gold hair tied back with a red ribbon that seemed vibrant against the pale colors. Her gaze was focused and sharp, and Elena was struck by just how wise she looked when she wasn’t staring dreamily off into space. Vittoria made a small motion towards the doorway, and only then did Elena notice a very thin man in robes of deep purple who had been quietly watching the proceedings.

“Luckily for me, the saboteur clearly didn’t know what my final project was,” Vittoria began as the man in purple robes moved to join her in the center of the circle, “she…or he, I suppose, destroyed several of my sketches, but my final project was a little bit grander in scale. This is Father Sforza, of the Domine Cathedral near the West gate of Milia. I’ll let him describe my project, if he is willing.”

“Miss Vittoria did us the honor of designing a magnificent mural to adorn the belltower of our Cathedral,” Father Sforza beamed, “depicting our Lord and Savior risen above the dark clouds of the Storm. I must say that it has been a pleasure to work with Miss Vittoria. She can be a little absent-minded perhaps,” the Father and Vittoria shared a smile, “but such piety is rare to see in one of her age, and even more rare in one touched by the Storm, begging your pardon of course and no offense meant.”

“Thank you Father Sforza,” Master De Luca stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Vittoria, a design is quite lovely, but did you do any work on this mural yourself?”

“As you well know, Master De Luca, I am blessed with a Storm that lets me paint eyes of great realism,” Vittoria said carefully, “I painted the eyes of the savior, looking out across Milia.”

“I see. And from where in Milia would I be able to see these eyes?”

“From the edge of the Street of Yellow Artisans to the edge of the Street of Grey Artisans, Master De Luca.”

“Hmm.” De Luca nodded, and Elena was sure he had realized the implications. Vittoria ‘Hundred Eyes’ could see through the eyes of her Stormtouched paintings, and if the mural had been infused with her power she could now see a good eighth of Milia any time she wished. “I am quite impressed. Father Sforza, thank you for taking time from your day to come vouch for my garzona.”

“Of course, Master De Luca,” Father Sforza smiled, “it was a pleasure.”

“Now then…Carlo and Carla Donato, I believe you are next.”

Father Sforza departed as Carlo and Carla left the courtyard with Pietro, and a few minutes later they returned, carefully wheeling out a large section of a plastered wall. When they turned it around so that the Masters and garzoni could see it, Elena gasped.

Even if she hadn’t known what Carlo was planning to make for his final project, it was quite clear what his fresco depicted. The Oracle was a young girl, younger than Elena had expected, but she stared from the plaster with an expression of such tortured knowledge that it was hard to meet her painted gaze. She sat in a tiny room, cluttered and dark but Elena could make out outlines painted into the work; glimpses of snakes, desiccated skulls, and dark clouds peaking through broken shutters in the background.

“The Donatian Oracle, when complete, will divine the future,” Carlo said quietly, without much emotion. Now that Elena was paying attention to them, she noticed how tired and run-down the pair looked; his red hair was always messy, but Carla’s long black hair was mussed as well, and there were dark circles under both of their eyes. They didn’t look nearly as excited as the beautiful masterpiece in front of them warranted. “In the time-honored tradition of De Luca Artifexes and Calaetors in years gone by, I decided to make the final touch to complete this work here, in front of everyone,” Carlo continued. “Please give me a few moments to prepare.” Pietro handed over the materials that he had been holding, and Carlo went to work on a patch of a few inches in the lower corner of the painting that remained blank.

“For those of you who aren’t familiar with fresco painting,” Carla said as Carlo worked, “it is a very long process that requires very careful timing. For this painting we had to first apply the trusilar, a layer of coarse sand and lime, which we then let dry for six days. The second layer of medium sand and lime, the arricio, was then applied and smoothed, then the final layer of finest sand and lime, the intonaco. The painting is done on the fresh plaster, which then hardens when it dries. Since it must be painted wet, we had to work on the Donatian Oracle in small patches at a time.”

“The fresco is complete when the plaster dries, over the period of a few days,” Carlo said as he worked. “Fortunately for us here the Storm works faster. If this fresco is touched by the Storm, we’ll know as soon as the final brushstroke is applied.”

The Oracle seemed to be looking right through Elena as Carlo spoke.

Maybe that’s why he looks so tired, Elena thought, I couldn’t imagine falling asleep with that little girl’s staring at me.

“Before you complete the fresco, Carlo,” Bea broke in, “I would just like to compliment you on your work from an artistic standpoint. This fresco is one of the most hauntingly beautiful works I’ve seen in a long time, perhaps rivalling the non-Touched work on display in Florezia itself.”

“Thank you Mistress Bea,” Carlo said, though he neither looked pleased nor looked up from his work. “It’s a skill born of much practise due to many, many failures.”

“I can’t help but think that talent also plays a large part in it.”

“Perhaps.” As the patch of blank space became smaller and smaller, Carlo and Carla both seemed to be more and more tense. Finally, Carlo leaned back and set his brush back on the platter Pietro carried. “It’s done.” He said with finality.

He rose, and both he and Carla took a step back to look up at the Oracle. The child’s eyes looked back, inscrutable and still.

“Can…can you hear me?” Carlo asked, his voice rough. The girl stared, silent and still. Long moments passed, moments in which Elena held her breath. A small breeze stirred the courtyard, but the rustle of the potted trees seemed to counterbalance the inactivity of the painting. Each moment that the girl remained motionless seemed to hurt, and Elena couldn’t imagine what was going through the artists’ heads.

Carlo turned suddenly and walked back to his place in the semi-circle, Carla following silently. He kept his back straight, and he stared directly in front of him.

“It appears that this fresco was a failure,” he said in clipped tones. “I suppose the decision on whether or not to keep me on at the De Luca studio must be based on past work, rather than this.”

“What should I do with the fresco?” Pietro asked.

“Sell it. Burn it. I don’t care.”

“Carlo-” Bea said gently

“I think Niccolo is next, Mistress Bea,” Carlo interrupted in the same clipped voice. Bea looked as if she was about to say something, but instead shook her head and turned to Niccolo.

“Niccolo and Nicci Loredan.”

“Well, my bow was snapped in half, because apparently whoever the backstabber is was under the impression that a Saggitari can only use one bow or something.” Niccolo said. Elena was so used to seeing him with a bow slung over his shoulder that she’d failed to realize he was carrying one now, slightly smaller than his usual. “I’ve never had a bow break before, but I always keep multiple spares in my room just in case.”

“I am happy that you were not taken out of commission by the sabotage, Niccolo, but I believe your past demonstrations are enough to inform us of your powers,” Master De Luca said.

“Ah but with all due respect sir, I’ve learned a new trick since then,” Niccolo said. From his sleeve he drew an arrow, as thin as a needle, with one bulky knob on its end. De Luca waved a hand for him to continue. “For the benefit of my fellow garzoni, I’ll explain. My Storm is simple as can be; it balances my arrows. For the past few years I’ve been using it to correct for specialized arrows with modified fletching or flat heads, so that I can make an arrow drift to the left or right, or fire an arrow that hurts like hell but won’t pierce flesh. This year I’ve realized that my Storm might let me fire arrows that no other archer can.”

As he spoke, Niccolo nocked the needle-like arrow to his bowstring using the bulky knob. He turned towards the fountain in the center of the courtyard, drew, and let it fly with a single smooth motion. It was strange to watch the misshapen arrow hurtle through the air on a perfectly straight path, and it sunk into the marble of the fountain down to the knob. From behind De Luca, Pietro gave a small squeak.

“A very good application of your Storm, Niccolo, quite creative,” Bea said approvingly.

“Although I can’t help but notice that for the third year in a row you’ve chosen to demonstrate your Storm through destruction of Studio property,” Master De Luca glared at the fountain where the needle-arrow still stuck fast.

“I’m sorry Master De Luca, I tried to talk him out of this plan,” Nicci said.

“Think of it as a demonstration both of my Storm and of my personality,” Niccolo grinned.

“So noted,” Master De Luca said. “Now, next would be Elena and Ele Lucciano.”

She had been so interested in the others’ displays of their Storms that for a few minutes Elena had forgotten she would be going next. Trembling, she took a few hesitant steps forward, focusing all of her attention on trying to breathe.

“M…my project was models of studios,” she almost whispered. “Only the De Luca studio model is left.”

“Pietro will run and fetch it while you explain,” Master De Luca nodded to the marble boy, who departed.

“You um…you said I should be working on figuring out my Storm,” Elena felt sick, her stomach lurching. How had the others made it seem so easy? Her entire life depended on this moment, this speech, what was the trick to making it seem so blase? Although focusing on the importance of the moment really wasn’t helping her. What had she meant to say next?

“So we devised a project that would do just that,” Ele broke in smoothly, “something useful, that demonstrated what we could accomplish while also letting us test the limits of our Storm.” Elena flashed him a look of relieved gratitude and tried to pick the thread back up.

“Uh, yes. So we used these models as tools to do that,” she accepted the model of the studio from Pietro as she spoke. “We used the models to discover that my Storm…it lets me build anything that already exists.”

“That’s quite a powerful trait to have,” Master De Luca’s eyebrows shot up. “And you applied it to the models how?”

“Since the studios all exist, I could create my own versions of them in my mind, which will let me know what they’re doing. I can know all of their plans and strategies.” As Elena spoke she felt her confidence increasing just a touch, enough that she could raise her head and speak more clearly. “With the studios modeled out like this, I could focus on the internal details.”

“Hmmm.” De Luca was staring at the model in her hands. “If your Storm is to build things that already exist, why isn’t the model of the De Luca studio an exact replica of this studio?”

“It’s…the model is just a tool, not what my project is. The models aren’t important.”

“Ah, but nevertheless, the De Luca studio is something which exists, and thus the models’ quality is very important to your theory about your Storm. Unlike Calaetors and Artifexes, a Faberi’s Storm will consistently and uniformly Touch anything they create. Why didn’t your Storm Touch this?”

“I…” Elena stared down at the model in her hands. There was obviously an answer to De Luca’s question, but her brain seemed locked down and she couldn’t think, couldn’t even begin to figure out what that answer was. “Maybe it’s because I don’t know the details of the Studio well enough?” She ventured.

“That excuse makes no sense, and you should know it,” Master De Luca said severely. “If your Storm needs the details to model a studio you live in, how can you map out the plans and designs of Studios you’ve never seen?”

When she was six years old, Elena and her mother had taken a trip to a lake near Carpi to spend a day at the lakeshore. She had been a curious child, and had wandered into the water, struggling as the waves dragged her under for a few long seconds before her mother was able to pull her out. At this moment, she was reminded of nothing more than the waves closing over her head, the claustrophobic feeling of being sucked under the surface.

“Maybe…maybe I’m too close to this studio, so the details in my head get in the way of the Storm?” She managed to gasp.

“Twice, that I know of, you’ve constructed lockpicks capable of circumventing quite expensive locks. One of them you ruined since you made the lockpick out of wood. Setting aside for a moment that I don’t believe a lockpick made out of wood that exactly fits that lock, can you explain how your Storm worked then, when you knew neither the details of their inner workings, nor were you too close to them?”

There was nothing to say in response. A kind of quiet horror was welling up in her heart, and it was stopping all attempts she made to answer or figure out why Master De Luca was wrong. She was going to fail. A part of her wanted to take it bravely like Carlo, but judging from the burning behind her eyes she was about to burst into tears.

“Master De Luca,” Vittoria interrupted, “I wonder if you might let Niccolo and I go retrieve a few things that are pertinent to this discussion?”

“Of course. I’m quite willing to consider all of the information available.”

“What are you doing?” Elena asked, but Vittoria and Niccolo were already halfway to the door, and neither heard her.

To Elena the length of time waiting for them to return simultaneously took less than a second and more than an hour. When they returned, they carried a small pouch and a wooden case. They stopped in the center, one on either side of Elena. Niccolo opened the pouch and displayed the knives that Elena had made for Frederica, while on her other side Vittoria opened the case which contained her brushes.

“I’ve heard of these tools that Elena made,” Master De Luca nodded, “and I do appreciate the craftsmanship that went into them. Unfortunately, craftsmanship isn’t what we’re judging here.”

“You’re judging artistry, Master De Luca,” Niccolo said. “Elena is a Fabera; her artistry might not be flashy or showy, not something she can blow you away with in a single instance, but in the long run it stands to do more for this Studio than any of us. Frederica won’t have to buy knives again for years. Vittoria’s work is improved by the quality of these brushes.”

“It’s not fair to judge Elena’s work on its own, in a vacuum,” Vittoria said. “Her work improves the work of everyone in the studio who works with her. Her value to the studio can’t be measured in a single project, but rather in the vast amounts of help she’ll be able to offer over the years that she’s here.”

“I suppose just like I can’t judge a Calaetor in the same way I judge a Saggitari, I should judge a Fabera on a more individual basis,” Master De Luca mused, stroking his beard. “Very well. I’ll think on this. Lorenzo and Lore Malatesta, you’re next.”

“Thank you,” Elena murmured to the pair as they returned to their places in the circle.

“Don’t mention it,” Niccolo whispered back.

“Did he say ‘Lorenzo Malatesta?” Vittoria asked. Even with the tight feeling still in her chest, Elena’s head jerked up.

Lorenzo’s last name is Malatesta? Is he related Master Malatesta on the Street of Blue Artisans? Why was he here at De Luca’s studio?

Lorenzo stepped forward, already holding his project; a pair of silver balls that rested in his gloved hand.

“Speaking of helpful Faberi, my project was actually inspired by something I saw Elena working on,” he began, “she had copied down some numbers for a bow she was working on, and right away I was struck by the ludicrously low maximum velocities she’d written down.”

“‘Low’ being a relative term, of course,” Lore broke in, “we had been working with lodestones so long that we’d become blind to other areas of study, a danger for many Machinators.”

“Lodestone interaction exceeds the physical limitations of a bow with such effortlessness that we realized what a contribution the technology could make to the art of archery.”

It’s not fair, Elena thought, picking at a loose thread on her sleeve. Coming up with the words I had to say was like moving through molasses, but they can present things so effortlessly, because of course they can, they’re talking about lodestones.

“There was some concern about creating a technology that would allow for more death and destruction, but there Elena came to our rescue for a second time,” Lorenzo continued, “it’s ironic, she first helped us when we had been too focused on lodestone theory to realize a real-world application, and then later helped us when we were too focused on archery to realize the application of the lodestones-”

“An arrow’s deadliness is a function of that fact that it must be aerodynamic when powered by a single application of physical force,” Lore interrupted excitedly, “but no such constraints exist when application of force is held constant-”

“Force-as-a-field removes all air-resistance from the equation!”

“Removes all other forces from the equation! Drag!”



“Gravity?” Lorenzo turned to his Echo, startled, “why didn’t we think of that before? Application of similar frequencies to overcome gravitational pull…”

“Dangerous if desynced for even the slightest instant,”

“Yes but if we had stabilizers of some sort…Pietro could you grab me some paper?” Lorenzo asked.

“Lorenzo, perhaps you should just show us your project,” Master De Luca put a hand on Pietro’s shoulder before he could leave.

“Hmm? Oh, yes I suppose. This is a really interesting new idea though…” Somewhat distracted, Lorenzo lifted the small silver balls. The floated slowly into the air, then began circling him in slow orbits. With a series of small motions of his gloved hands, Lorenzo sent the silver balls bounding over each other, moving in tight circles, flying high in the air and then whistling towards the ground before stopping short inches away from his face. He made another motion and the balls resumed their lazy orbit around him.

“That is…marvelous,” Master De Luca breathed.

“Small resonance panels in these gloves allow for manipulation of magnetic fields which then siphon the lodestones into -”

“I must admit to you Lorenzo, you could explain until you were blue in the face and I wouldn’t understand how it works,” De Luca said, “but that it works is…frankly amazing.”

“Master De Luca do you think I could go back to the workshop? I want to work on this gravitational idea before I forget it…”

“I suppose…but don’t you want to hear who stays in the studio?”

“Hmm?” Lorenzo half turned on his way to the door, “oh, are people leaving the studio? I didn’t realize…well I’m sure someone will let me know.”

The assembled artists stared at Lorenzo as he walked to the door and entered the studio.

“Ehm…next is Mella and Mell Rosso,” Bea said, bringing their attention back to the semi-circle. It was Mell who stepped forward first, with Mella a little ways behind.

“Our project is really just using the artistry we already knew we could do,” he spoke quietly, confidently, a strange counterpoint to his Stormtouched who seemed to be doing her best to sink into the ground behind him. Elena couldn’t remember ever hearing him talk, but now that she heard him she didn’t really like his voice. It was confident, but there was something vaguely threatening about it. “We didn’t know it was typical to finish out a project in front of everyone. From what I understand, our success rate is one of the best among Artifexes, and we don’t like presenting incomplete work.” Mell shot a glance at Carlo.

“Do you need Pietro to fetch your project?” Bea asked.

“No need,” Mell smiled and indicated Mella. She, at least, looked just as nervous and terrified as Elena felt, and was visibly trembling. From the hemline of her uniform, a small grey design suddenly snaked out into view across her chest, slid up her neck and encircled her eye in a crescent shape. “For this particular demonstration, Mella is the canvas.”

“That is quite unique,” Master De Luca said thoughtfully. “For an Artifex that uses graphite, it’s quite unique indeed; I would’ve thought that skin would be too soft and pliant a surface to draw on with…what was it called, ‘pencils’?”

“That’s the best part, Master De Luca,” Mell replied. “Mella, take off your shoe.”

His Stormtouched obeyed without question, slipping her right boot off and setting her bare foot on the ground. The design around her eye slipped down her body again, disappearing beneath her clothing for a few moments before reappearing on her foot. After a moment of hesitation, it moved from her foot to the bare marble of the floor, where it travelled to the center of the semi-circle and stilled.

“Very unique indeed,” Master De Luca said. “It can travel from any surface to any other?”

“Every surface we’ve tested,” Mell said.

“Most excellent.” De Luca mused, and the design slipped back across the floor and onto Mella’s skin before she put her boot back on.

“I think we’re next, Master De Luca. ‘Mocenigo’,” Leanarda said. Unlike most of the others, she had opted for a blouse and long skirt instead of the De Luca uniform, but it went well with her pale skin and dark hair.

“Yes that’s right,” Bea waved her forward. “Though I have great interest in all of the projects being shown, I’m the most curious about yours Leanarda and Leo, since I have no idea what your Storm actually consists of.”

“I don’t think anyone at the studio knows, Mistress Bea,” Leanarda lifted a wrapped canvas from where it had sat at her feet, carefully unwrapping the cloth as she spoke. “We work…a little slowly.”

“Mell mentioned that Mella and his Storm works almost all of the time,” Leo said, staying in his place instead of following Leanarda to the middle. “We’re nowhere near that lucky; we’ve only had two successes since arriving at De Luca’s studio. We decided to show the second.”

Leanarda dropped the cloth to the ground and slowly rotated to let everyone present see the painting that was beneath. It was a scene looking down into a small pool, with a silver goblet resting in the sand on the bottom. The blue-green water rippled across the canvas, and the silver of the goblet twinkled with a greater light than the late-autumn sky provided.

“Quite beautiful,” Master De Luca murmured, “but perhaps you should explain exactly what it is that your Storm does for you? If you wouldn’t mind.”

“Easier to show you, Master De Luca,” Leanarda smiled, then reached her hand into the painting. Elena jumped, and around her the others exclaimed with various levels of shock. Leanarda fished around for a moment, then withdrew her arm. Water dripped from her soaking wet sleeve, and the goblet was in her hand, dripping wet and glittering in the light.

“If I may anticipate your questions, I can only retrieve non-living items,” Leanarda continued speaking as if nothing strange had happened. “A single item per painting, as far as I can tell. You see, this one’s gone all flat and motionless now.”

“Even with those restrictions, I don’t think I need to tell you how powerful your Storm is,” Master De Luca seemed almost awed, and the expression made Elena’s blood run cold. The courtyard went silent as Leanarda returned to her spot, her motionless painting in one hand, the silver goblet in the other. Her arm was wet, and she shivered in the cold, but the look of pleased contentment on her face was unmistakable.

“Frederica and Fred Vasari?” Bea broke the silence to ask. Frederica didn’t say a word, she simply stomped off to collect her project, Fred trailing behind her.

“I’ll go help her,” Pietro murmured. A few minutes later the pair returned, with the wooden statue on a small wheeled trolley, a long painter’s sheet draped over Frederica’s shoulder. Elena winced again at the ragged gash that ran from the statue’s shoulder to waist, marring the otherwise smooth carving work that had gone into the wooden girl.

“No speeches here,” Frederica shrugged, taking one of the knives from the pouch that Niccolo carried, “we carved a statue of a girl. Hopefully she’s touched by the Storm, but she might not be. Whatever idiot thought they’d ruin my work doesn’t know a thing about Calaetors; if you don’t have the Storm that Touches a statue then you can’t mess up the statue’s Touch, obviously.” Frederica shot a scornful look at the assembled garzoni. “Shows how much the saboteur knows.”

Carlo had been cautious in his work in front of the watching eyes, but Frederica worked almost casually, making the final few cuts along the girl’s neck with apparent ease. She stepped back, and behind her Fred folded his arms and looked on as well. Again, the courtyard dropped into silence. Frederica and Fred didn’t look worried, they just stood and watched and waited, quiet and still as statues themselves.

“Frederica?” The voice was a rasp, almost a croak, but it had definitely come from the wooden girl. Even now Elena could see the locks of maple hair stirring, moving in the breeze instead of their solid mass of a few moments ago.

“Hello Freja.” Frederica’s mouth turned up in a half-smile, one more genuine than Elena had ever seen her give.

“Why…why is it so hard…to talk?” .

“Someone thought they were being clever, hurt you to get to me.” The smile fell from Frederica’s face as she stepped forward, and she wrapped the painter’s sheet across the wooden girl’s nude form. Freja clutched them around her as if she was cold.

“Oh god it hurts…” Freja almost collapsed, but Frederica wrapped her arms around her to keep her on her feet, “it hurts so much Frederica.” She clasped the sheet to her chest.

“Shh, I know it does, I know,” Frederica murmured, with a tenderness that surprised Elena. “I know it hurts. We’ll do what we can for you, but you have to be brave.” She turned and began leading the damaged sculpture towards the door.

“Frederica, Master De Luca might have questions for you,” Bea called.

“He can ask them later,” Frederica snapped over her shoulder, “I’m going to go take care of Freja.”

“Why would someone do this to me?” Freja asked plaintively

“You don’t need to worry,” Frederica soothed. “You’ll be alright. And as soon as I’m sure who did this to you, I’m going to make them pay.”

“She needs to learn to be more respectful,” Bea said disapprovingly as the door shut behind the Calaetor.

“In this case, I’m inclined to forgive her,” Master De Luca said thoughtfully. “I was starting to worry she didn’t have an empathetic bone in her body. Now then, I think Miss Vasari was the last to demonstrate her project?” He glanced around the half-circle. “Yes, I do believe we’ve seen everyone’s work. I hate to leave you all in further suspense, but the decision ahead of me is not one that I can make lightly. After Bea and I discuss matters, we will send Pietro out to gather you all again.”

De Luca, Bea, and Pietro left the courtyard and entered Pietro’s office, leaving the garzoni to await their fate.

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7 responses

  1. Oh man, I did not intend for this chapter to go on for so long…but I couldn’t leave you all hanging when the De Luca garzoni finally got to strut their stuff!

    Now, for legal reasons I can’t come right out and say that if you vote for Twisted Cogs you’ll have a functional Machinator-made set of magnetic boleadoras delivered to your doorstep, but I can sure strongly imply it while winking broadly!



    2014-11-09 at 11:45 pm

  2. zeuseus

    … Leanarda needs to go die in a hole. Smug, arrogant bitch may be powerful (if sporadic) but she’s not suited to the studio dynamic.

    Anyway, mini-rant over. Love the chapter. Elena needs to get that stick out of her ass and listen to Ele, he explores problems, she stops too early.

    Liked by 1 person

    2014-11-10 at 3:16 am

    • Glad you liked it! I was worried it might drag a bit.

      The chapter in which Elena gets the stick out of her ass should probably be reserved for a smut chapter…


      2014-11-10 at 8:41 am

    • I’m actually angry that Leanarda’s Touch was impressive an it was. On the bright side, haha, she’s slow as hell! Take that, you uppity bitch possible-saboteur!


      2015-04-14 at 9:36 am

  3. The suspense is terrible! I hope it’ll last.

    The balance of art and intrigue in this series is, as always, wonderful, and I love the characterizations. My mind is fully occupied theorizing who the saboteur is! Leanarda is the obvious choice, but when it comes to skullduggery, the obvious choice is seldom the right one. It’ll be so much more impactful if it turns out to be one of Elena’s friends.

    Maybe even one who had their project vandalized. That’d be a perfect way to deflect attention.


    2014-11-10 at 5:27 am

    • Man you’re going to be so surprised when it turns out that the vandal was Ele the WHOLE TIME!

      *Inception BWAAAAH*


      2014-11-10 at 8:40 am

    • Anonymous

      “My mind is fully occupied theorizing who the saboteur is! Leanarda is the obvious choice, but when it comes to skullduggery, the obvious choice is seldom the right one. It’ll be so much more impactful if it turns out to be one of Elena’s friends.”

      One thing I thought about, and which was confirmed by this chapter, is that the sabotage didn’t actually hurt them all that much. Vittoria and Niccolo obviously didn’t care, Frederica’s statue still animated, and Elena’s models were just crude tools she was going to replace eventually anyway. Apart from hurting Frederica’s ability to contribute to inter-studio fights with Freja (and even there she’s demonstrated the ability to make other similar statues later), the biggest effect was to Elena’s psychological state. And really, her theory was wrong, so I wouldn’t say her previous confidence was all that warranted. :P

      So anyway, visually impressive sabotage with little real effect. Reverse scheme, destroying your friends’ stuff to frame someone else?

      I’ve also been thinking Carla might have been able to persuade her Storm-touched to do it. They prefer not to stick out their neck, but with Leanarda being a jerk, maybe she figured suspicion would naturally fall on her?

      “Maybe even one who had their project vandalized. That’d be a perfect way to deflect attention.”
      Hmm. No way it was Frederica. We’ve actually had a chapter in her point of view, so we know she wouldn’t have destroyed art, never mind hurt Freja like that. And her character flaw is her temper, which doesn’t work with subtle sabotage. If she’d had an epic rage-meltdown strong enough to go against her morals, there’s no way nobody would have noticed a thing.

      Which leaves Vittoria and Niccolo who… just seem nice. I kinda don’t want them to be the dastardly schemers. :P

      Of course, Vittoria, as the person who didn’t watch out properly to make sure it didn’t happen, is suspicious.

      Liked by 1 person

      2014-11-10 at 1:36 pm

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