A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.3 – Centum Oculus Lacrima Madefactus {A Hundred Tear-Stained Eyes}

“Violet warned us that we’d change, coming here,” said Vi from the bed.

“I remember.”

The ripped sketches were almost entirely useless, but they still represented her past work, and as such Vittoria saved them, carefully placing each half in a small wooden box she’d procured for the occasion. She ran a hand almost affectionately along the profiles, smoothing out wrinkles in the paper before she closed the lid. She turned in place in a slow circle, taking in the interior of her home for the past two years.

“Sometimes I wonder if she was right,” Vi said quietly.

“Perhaps,” Vittoria sighed, “but I like to think we didn’t change. We just had to face things that we’d never encountered before. We had new experiences and new battles, but having new reactions to new situations doesn’t mean we’ve changed.”

“It also doesn’t mean we haven’t changed.”

Vittoria carefully locked both her chest of belongings and the two small boxes that protected her sketches, putting the key in the pocket of her dress. The clothes still felt odd to her after months of nothing but De Luca student robes. The room felt strange without her sketches hung, the bare walls reminding her of when she had first arrived at the studio. The only items on the desk were a piece of paper and a bit of charcoal, two small piles of coin, a larger and a smaller, and two squares of cream-coloured cloth.

“I think we’re both disappointed in me,” Vittoria said, just as quietly, tying the money into two bundles with deft motions, “I don’t know that I need scolding.”

“You don’t, and I wouldn’t scold. I am just as culpable.”

Vittoria pulled the paper and charcoal closer, scribbling across it in a neat scrawl;

I’m sorry. I didn’t know it would hurt.

“Kepkik, please…” Jakob wrung his hands, “I not know what to do when you are like this.” In the corner of the kitchen, between the cupboards and the broom which leaned against the wall, a small sketch of a single eye watched the two cooks impassively.

“Ees no ‘like thees’,” Cook slammed a lid on the pot he had been stirring, his grip on the wooden spoon so tight that his knuckles were white. “‘Like thees’ means ‘like cooking’? Then yes, always I am like thees!”

“Provisional garzoni, they come and they go Kepkik, you know this.”

“I know thees.”

All garzoni they come and go in time.”

“Also I know thees.”

“Kepkik, the Fabera they do not last, not in De Luca’s studio.”

“Also I know thees! Why must you be always with the telling me of things I know!” Cook exploded, half turning to dice carrots and onions with a savagery that would result in a lost finger had he missed. “De Luca, he say ‘I care of the art’, but only his art he cares of. He ees blind to all other art; art of keeping hearth burning, art of food on table and good tools and happy life, this art he cares none of.”

Jakob remained silent, sitting and watching helplessly as Cook whirled, knife in hand, to lift the lid and pour the vegetables into the pot.

“Kepkik, you are sad, I know this, but-”

“Sad? I am sad for studio. Too many artist who make paint and sculpt, not enough artist who feel and live. Maybe less sad for studio if artists who make happiness. Maybe less sad if studio had artists whose art is life, artists who make…who make….what is word, усадьба?”

“Eeh…‘house’ means усадьба. ‘Homestead’.”

“Yes, I like artists whose art is homestead. Madora, she is such artist. Elena, she is such artist. De Luca no can appreciate such art.” The kitchen was silent for long moments, Jakob pensive and Cook clearly fuming. After a while, Cook moved towards the icebox. “Come, we make supper.”

“Soup is supper…” Jakob looked confused, but he rose to help, “…already we are making supper for the little artists.”

“We make supper for Elena,” Cook had set his jaw as he hauled some dough from the icebox, “one last meal for our leetel garzona.”

Vittoria returned her full attention to her own eyes, glanced around her before shutting the door behind her.

“You keep looking at the room,” Vi commented as she followed Vittoria up the stairs towards De Luca’s office. “Making a memory?”

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, but…I suppose I just want to experience our old room for as long as I can.”

Carlo was just leaving De Luca’s office when she arrived. He didn’t return her sad smile, but he kept his chin up, and he nodded in greeting. Whatever he had needed to do that let him come to terms with their expulsion, he had figured it out.

“I’ll wait for you in the courtyard?” He offered as she passed, “we can leave together.”

“I would like that,” Vittoria replied.

De Luca’s office was one of the few places that Vittoria could consider ‘timeless’. The books on the bookshelves might shift or change, and the neat stacks of papers might be on a different side of the desk, but it could have been just yesterday that she and her mother and sister had first arrived.

De Luca sat behind the desk, his shoulders slumped, leaning forward as if he didn’t even have the energy to sit up straight. When he saw Vittoria he deflated even more, a small sigh escaping the old man.

“Hello, Master De Luca.”

“Hello Vittoria.” Master De Luca replied. “I had hoped that none of you would be too angry to see me, one final time.” He looked so sad that Vittoria felt sorry for him in spite of the circumstances. She turned to the bookshelves.

“This is always a hard time on you,” Vittoria ran her fingers along the aging leather spines, brushing away dust and trying to read the faded lettering. “How are you holding up?”

“Ironic, you being the one to ask me that. You all deserve more than the empty platitudes I can offer. I wish there was more that I could do.”

“I suppose it is the price you pay for being the master of Milia.”

“I suppose so.”

“I’ve never liked empty platitudes either, so you’ll forgive me for being quiet,” Vittoria turned back, breathing in the scent and using all of her attention to form one last impression of the room. “I just came so that you’d know I wasn’t angry at you. I don’t feel betrayed or anything.”

“I’m glad of that. Your sister probably would have.”

“Yes,” Vittoria smiled, “I like to think I’m a little more…forgiving than she was.”

“I’m glad of that. You’re much slower to anger, but once you’re incensed you are quite capable of wielding the same fire as Violet did.”

“It’s a trait of Arcimboldo women,” Vittoria laughed, “as my poor father would be willing to tell you.”

“I’m sure he would,” De Luca chuckled. They remained in comfortable silence for a few moments before he spoke again. “If there is anything else I can help you with, anything you want to ask, within reason, now is the time,” he said quietly.

“I’ll miss our conversations, the lessons you share. But now that we’ve come down to the last time we talk to each other, I don’t think I have anything to ask.” Vittoria appreciated that De Luca didn’t cheapen the moment by trying to pretend that she would be welcome in the studio, that he would always have time to meet with her. Her time in his presence was over, and it would’ve rung false if either of them had tried to say otherwise. “Do you have anything you’d like to say to or ask of me?” She teased with a half-smile.

“There is one manner that has me a bit curious,” De Luca said. “I can’t help but wonder why you sabotaged the garzoni who considered you their friend.”

The smile dropped from Vittoria’s face.

“I had heard rumors,” she said slowly, “that you didn’t use your Storm on your garzoni.”

“Yes, I’m sure you have. It’s a rumor I find quite helpful,” De Luca said. “I’m a little annoyed that Violet shared the secret of my Storm with you.”

“It wasn’t Violet,” Vittoria shook her head, “and I don’t know the secret. Just little bits and bobs of overheard conversation, pieced together to give me a generality. I assume the sabotage is why I was expulsed?”

“I’m afraid I didn’t have the room for you either way,” De Luca said, “but I couldn’t have allowed you to continue. It’s very rare that I misjudge one’s character. Did you hate the others that much?”

“No! No not at all,” Vittoria said. “You…you like things fair and balanced. I knew that you would take sabotage into account, and I’d hoped that you would overcompensate. That you would perhaps give some of the others an edge without doing any real harm to our projects.” She thought of Freja, whimpering and clutching the sheet around her wooden arms, and the guilt gnawed at her stomach even further.

“That’s a more honest admission than I expected.”

“There’s no reason to not be honest,” Vittoria shrugged, “I don’t have much to lose any more. I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell Frederica, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did.”

“I strongly disagree with your actions,” De Luca said, “but given that you did it to help your friends, it would be cruel of me to hurt your relationship with them.”

“Thank you.”

“So, I suppose we part ways with both of us feeling regret.”

“I suppose we do.”

An eye was worked into the designs that ran along the hallways, painted in the same shape and tone until it blended almost completely. It looked down the entire length of the row of doors, so it was able to watch Leanarda and Leo’s entire trip from one end of the hall down to the last door on the left. The black-haired girl looked even more pale and whisp-like than ever as paused at the door, ready to knock but hesitating. She held a bundle of cloth in her arms, but kept shifting it from one hand to another nervously.

“I still think we should leave while we have a little bit of dignity,” Leo’s said, “she’s just going to spit in your face.”

“It’s worth a try,” Leanarda said. “I have to start somewhere if I’m going to make any headway with her.”

“There we disagree. I doubt you will ever make any headway with her. You’d be better off trying Niccolo first.”

“Niccolo and Elena are a couple, which means he hates me just as much as she does.”

“And Frederica doesn’t?”

“I just…I have to try.” Leanarda straightened her shoulders and rapped on the door. After a few moments it opened, and Frederica poked her head out.

She looks exhausted, Vittoria noted. Staying up all night out of concern? Or has she started working with Freja sooner than she thought she would? I hope not, I haven’t given her money for repairs yet…

“Oh. It’s you,” Frederica said flatly.

“Hello Frederica,” Leanarda said, her voice much brighter than it had been a few moments ago. “I…I got you something. Sort of a peace offering…or at least my clumsy attempt at one.” She held up the bundle. Frederica looked her up and down silently. “They’re um…they’re clothes. Clothes for Freja. I know you probably already have some for her, but I thought it would be nice…” Leanarda’s voice faltered a little bit at Frederica’s stony face and silence, “…I didn’t know how you wanted to dress her, so I got some white and yellow, like De Luca’s studio colors…I thought…maybe she would like them…”

“Yeah, that’s great!” Frederica said, matching Leanarda’s enthusiastic tone, “then she’ll have something to hide the gash you left when you gouged a piece out of her chest!”


“I mean sure, she’ll still be in pain, and she’ll always have her first memories be unhappy ones, but wow, clothes? That’ll make up for everything!”

“But I didn’t-”

“Or hey, maybe you could cut her arm off like you did to my bird! That’d save some fabric on clothes, ‘cause she’d only have to wear one sleeve!”

“I…um…I just wanted-” Leanarda stammered.

“Or perhaps, and this is my best idea yet, you could tie those clothes around your head so that for the next year I don’t have to look at your face!” Frederica finished, and slammed the door.

The girl stood there with the bundle of clothes in her hand.

“No ‘I told you so’?” She asked Leo quietly.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate.”

“Thank you Leo. You’re a good friend.” Leanarda turned and walked back down the long hallway.

“I just hope I’m not your only one this year,” Leo muttered as he followed, too quietly for any but the eye to overhear.

“Carla thought you’d just left without meeting us,” Carlo said as Vittoria entered the courtyard, wheeling her chest behind her with the two boxes atop it.

“Ever the pessimist, Carla?” Vittoria asked as they made their way through the door that separated the courtyard from the foyer.

“Given how this morning turned out, I think it’s more apt to call me a realist,” Carla said bitterly.

“Where did Elena go?” Vi asked, “as long as we’re leaving together we may as well have a meal before we part ways for the last time.”

“It won’t be the last time,” Vittoria said. “If we all stay in Milia we can at least meet for meals.”

“Unless our new masters don’t approve.”

“Niccolo is with Elena in her room, helping her pack up,” Carla said. “I’m sure they want time together before they’re wrested apart. He’ll take care of her.”

The two Stormtouched and their Echoes stood in the foyer for long minutes, staring at the door that led to the Street of Yellow Artisans. Vittoria crossed the threshold first, stepping onto the street as her own woman for the first time in two years.

A man and woman, both dressed in very fine purple uniforms, were lounging against the merchant shop on the other side of the street. Almost as soon as Vittoria and Carlo exited the studio they rose and crossed the distance, although they left their Echoes behind.

“Hundred-Eyes, Foresight,” the man said, “we’d hoped to run into you.”

“Only two people waiting for us?” Carla scanned the street up and down. “I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I’d hoped for a bit more of a clamor.”

“Oh there would’ve been, but we took steps to be the only ones to accost you at first. We’ve been saving our tokens for months now.”

“You bought the others all off? How do you know we’d come with you?”

“We don’t. We understand that you’re perfectly free to walk away, but eighteen tokens was deemed an acceptable price to pay to give you our offer first.”

Vittoria smiled and raised an eyebrow.

“Delightful as that flattery is, you aren’t interested in just us,” she pointed out. “You were probably told to make an offer to any ex-De Luca garzoni who came out here.”

“You caught me,” the man said, and Vittoria decided she liked his smile. “My name is Ercole.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Ercole,” Vittoria said.

“Oh we’ve met before. I’m Patchwork, and this is Ripple.”

“Patchwork and Ripple! Callum excursor, you two look nothing like I would expect.”

“That’s sort of the point,” Patchwork winked, “though I’d always wondered if you ever caught my real face with one of your hundred eyes. I suppose that answers that question.” Ripple made a complicated series of gestures with her fingers next to him. “Ripple says that she never worried that you saw her.”

“You’re a mute!” Vittoria said with surprise, “I suppose that’s why you were so good at keeping quiet.” Ripple smiled and stuck out her tongue.

“Enough of the pleasantries,” Carlo broke in abruptly, and Vittoria sighed. “Are you here to make us an offer, or did your master send you here with other targets in mind? Balance and Maple didn’t get cut, if that’s who you’re looking for.”

“Please, Foresight,” Patchwork said with dignity, “you should be familiar enough with our studio by now; we know who was cut. But, as you say, we are here for business, not pleasure.” He turned to the group at large. “Our showing day is tomorrow, and we naturally want some of our provisional garzoni to pass through. That being said, Malatesta’s studio has two spots open specifically for those garzoni who De Luca does not appreciate. Nothing would have to be proven or displayed, the spots are yours for the taking.”

“Two?” Vittoria glanced over her shoulder at the studio.

“We were told to get Foresight and Hundred-Eye, if we could,” Patchwork nodded. “If not, we would settle for Cog or the pencil girl.”

The feelings of guilt that gnawed at Vittoria’s stomach had been lessened by the pleasant banter, but they came back full force at his words.

Was there a time where I wouldn’t have even considered this? She thought. Was there a time when I would’ve rather thrown myself on a sword than leave a friend to her fate?

“Violet warned us that we’d change, coming here,” Vi said, as if she knew what her Stormtouched was thinking.

“I remember,” Vittoria said. “I wish she had been wrong.”

On the belltower of the Domine Cathedral, near Milia’s West gate, a mural of the Savior riding the Storm looked down upon the city, its eyes detailed and lifelike. The eyes gazed out at the marvel and wonder that was Milia, taking in the rooftops and streets, but soon it focused on one street in particular. It watched as, slowly but without a backward glance, four Malatesta garzoni withdrew from De Luca’s studio.

Vote for Twisted Cogs

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12 responses

  1. Excuse me for both the cliche and language, but….
    That bitch!


    2014-11-17 at 3:13 am

  2. Wow, she should at least try and help Leanarda, even if she did the same sort of sneakyness with the wineskin.


    2014-11-17 at 8:05 am

  3. Andrew Lister

    Gouged not gauged…


    2014-11-18 at 2:47 am

  4. zeuseus

    wow. I’m impressed Maddi. I knew it wasn’t Lea, too obvious, but wow.


    2014-11-18 at 4:58 am

    • It’s funny, Lea was *SO* obvious that everyone guessed it wasn’t her…I should’ve changed it last minute so that she DID do it and blown everyone’s minds :D


      2014-11-18 at 8:39 am

  5. Anonymous

    Vittoria felts sorry
    Vittoria felt sorry
    … unless there is a Storm that allows matting together emotions ;)
    See: define: felting


    2014-11-18 at 7:58 am

    • Blast! I accidentally revealed the secret guild of Feltomancers WAY too early!!! (good catch, thanks!)


      2014-11-18 at 8:39 am

  6. Alas Maddi, once again your different time zone has caused be great anguish. I will once again give the missing link a stare, this time of disdain and loathing, in the hopes that one day I shall force it to gain an Echo that looks the exact same, but with the date of release in the Australian date it will be released. >:D

    Would also like to point out, I like the way you write from a different characters point of view. Normally I HATE it when I’m immersed in reading from the protagonists point of view, and then suddenly being thrown into the view of a side character. This time, I found it actually bearable, especially the way you actually mention the protagonist a bit and things that directly relate to her.
    One final thing: Will we get to read about her meeting the other Twisted soon? Or will that be further on? I’m really interested to read about her meeting the story’s namesakes. :D


    2014-11-19 at 5:09 am

    • Hahaha, oh man, your timing on asking that question is absolutely impeccable. :)

      I’m really glad that the alternate-character-views are turning out readable. In my previous serial, I tried to force this multi-protagonist thing where the viewpoint would alternate between twelve people (TWELVE), and I now worry every time I get the urge to write a little interlude like this. Glad you’re enjoying!


      2014-11-19 at 10:31 pm

  7. I don’t care. I still hate that girl. But now at least I’m open to watching her grovel.

    I think I’m a mean person sometimes. :(


    2015-04-14 at 9:52 am

  8. AceOfSpade

    I have only one thing to say:

    Goddammit I was supposed to sleep tonight.


    2015-07-23 at 9:32 pm

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