A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.7 – Discipula {Student Girl}

Snowflakes brushed against Elena’s cheeks as she gazed up at DaRose Studio. She felt so fragile that she was glad of the gentle pinpricks of cold, anything else might’ve been too much to bear.

“How are you holding up, Elena?” The snowflakes passed through Ele, but he shivered as the soft wind ruffled through his curly hair. Elena’s coat was a little thin for the weather, but now that he had switched out of the De Luca uniform and back into his more typical outfit he was less prepared for the cold than she.

“Sorry,” she murmured, “you’re cold, I should go in.”

“Don’t apologize, I’ll be fine,” Ele shrugged. “Take your time, whatever you need to do to handle this. I just wanted to make sure you were doing alright.”

“There are more studios,” Elena said, half trying to reassure herself as she spoke. “Studios Malatesta, Crivelli, and Foscari might not have wanted me, but that doesn’t mean we won’t find a studio to take us in.”

“That’s not fair, it’s not that they don’t want you, they’re just already full.”

“I know, I know.” Elena clenched her fists, still staring up at the grey stone walls. On her shoulder, Frell shook her wooden head of the snowflakes that had accumulated, giving Elena a reproachful look. “I’m sorry, you two are being very patient with me, I just…I just need a minute.” The street was busy, as always, but the snow that fell around them in gentle flurries muffled the noises of passersby. The quiet let her feel as if she was on her own, just her, Ele, and the large studio in front of her.

“We have backup plans,” Ele said. “Apprenticing at a merchant, or opening your own shop. When we were first sent away from De Luca’s studio didn’t you say you would open your own studio rather than take a step backwards in your career?”

Elena half-smiled at the memory.

“I was drunk on the city of Milia that night, even before I’d had any wine,” she said. “How much money does it take to start a studio? Or open a shop? Where exactly is that money going to come from?”

“I’m just saying, there are options.”

“I know. But I want this, Ele. I want it so bad it makes my heart hurt. I want to become a journeyman Fabera, I want to make it in the Milian court, I want to go to Florezia. I want to make art for the rulers of Italoza. I’ve never heard of a merchant’s apprentice being asked to the courts.”

“Well then…a Studio it is.”

“There are only three left to try.”

“Then you’d better get in there and knock ‘em dead.”

“Right.” Elena squared her shoulders and lifted her chin, walking the rest of the way around the grey brick studio to the iron gates at its front. The pullchain that hung down was so cold it felt like it bit into her bare skin, but she pulled it resolutely, waiting in the silence for someone in the studio to respond. A few long moments later, a hooded figure emerged from the doorway, walking leisurely through the powdery snow that covered the courtyard.

“Is De Luca trying to get a better price for his merchandise by sending pretty girls to sell it?” Arturo grinned from beneath the grey hood.

“Arturo!” Elena relaxed just a bit, although she shivered as the wind picked up. “It’s good to see you again!”

“Good to see you too,” Arturo swung the gate open and gestured her to enter, “you can come wait inside while I get your money, if you like. I know Arta would like to see you again. She hates the cold, so she’s inside.”

“I’m actually not here to sell, I’m here to see if Master DaRose has any positions open.”

“Positions? What do you mean?” Arturo held the door for her as they entered the studio. From the moment they entered the foyer Elena was struck by how different it was to the studio she was familiar with. De Luca’s foyer gave the impression that one had entered a different world, one completely within the master artisan’s control. DaRose’s foyer was more casual, less artificial, less exact. It didn’t impress her with DaRose’s power, but it was much more comfortable.

Elena hadn’t realized how cold she was until she entered the warmth and shook the snow from her hair and shoulders. Frell brushed flakes daintily from her own wooden muzzle.

“Elena! Ele! I recognized you at the gates, I’d hoped you would come in!” Arta rose from the wooden bench in the corner, stowing her long paintbrush behind one ear. As always, her smile was infectious, and even as worried as she was Elena couldn’t help but to smile in return. “What a beautiful little ermine! You’re not selling it are you? I thought De Luca didn’t approve of selling Stormtouched creations.”

“I’m actually not here to sell at all,” Elena repeated, “I’m looking for a Studio to join. I was…I didn’t make it, in De Luca’s studio.”

“Really? You?” Arturo did a double take, “I thought that after they went to the trouble of bringing you back the first time you were a sure thing.”

“I guess I just wasn’t good enough.”

“That’s horrible Elena. I can’t say I’m surprised though. When you joined Studio De Luca, I knew that you were in for a hard time. De Luca likes to lord his power over his students. You know he’s the only Master who keeps provisional garzoni? Giving you false hope, wasting your time.”

“It’s…It’s not like that,” Elena stammered, “he just…he only has so much space for students. He can only afford to keep the best, and I’m…I’m just not the best.”

“Oh you poor thing, don’t think like that!” Arta said, “don’t ever rank yourself in your mind against other Stormtouched. As long as you make works of art, you’re no worse than any of the rest of them. Art is art, and some of the masters could stand to remember that from time to time.”

“I suppose…” Elena said, unconvinced.

“Anyways, you’re here now. No one here is going to tell you you’re not good enough, no one here is going to-”

“Arta,” Arturo interrupted, his expression miserable, “Master DaRose just accepted that girl, Olympia, this morning.”

“I know,” Arta looked confused, “what does that matter?”

“He said it was his last. That there isn’t room for another student. Diem horribilem, I’m so sorry Elena. If it had only been a day ago instead of now…if I had known you were looking…”

She had been trying not to get her hopes up, but even so the news hit Elena like a punch in the gut.

“It’s…it’s alright,” she gasped, trying to remain stoic. “It’s an odd time of the year to take on new garzoni, and this isn’t the first studio to not have room for me. Don’t worry, I understand.”

“Arturo, what are you-” Arta began, but Arturo cut her off.

“No…no I won’t stand for it!” He slammed a fist into his palm. “This studio can’t afford to lose an amazing Fabera like you. I won’t let it happen.”

“You’ve never even seen my work, how would you know I’m an amazing Fabera?” Elena smiled through the tears that fell down her cheeks, despite her best efforts to keep them in check.

“I know you, that’s enough. I’m going to talk to DaRose, I have to get him to make an exception.” Arturo turned towards the door that separated the foyer from the rest of the studio.

“Are you telling me there’s still a chance?” Elena’s heart leapt in her chest.

“There’s a chance if I have anything to say about it. Hell, I’ll give him an ultimatum if I have to”

Arta had been looking back and forth between Arturo and Elena, her eyes narrowed, and before Arturo reached the door she stepped in front of him. Arturo’s back was to Elena, but she could see Arta searching her Stormtouched’s face.

“What are you doing, Arturo?” she asked, so quietly that Elena could barely hear her.

“You owe me a favor, Arta, I’m calling it in right now,” Arturo murmured back.

“On this? Is this really something you want to do?”

“The terms of the favor were ‘anything I wanted’. Don’t do the ‘Arta’ thing and mess this up.”

Arta stepped aside and let Arturo leave, then turned back to Elena with a slightly sad smile.

“What…what was that about?” Elena asked. “Do you not want me in DaRose’s studio?”

“No! No Elena that’s not it at all!” Arta protested, “I just…I disagree with Arturo’s methods sometimes. But don’t worry, if he says he can convince DaRose…I believe him.” Arta avoided Elena’s gaze, glancing down at her hands instead. “You should wait here until he gets back at least. I wouldn’t worry.”

You look pretty worried,” Ele raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not worried about you, I’m more worried about him.”

“What favor was he talking about?”

“Something stupid. I shouldn’t have made the deal with him in the first place, but he did me a favor once, when I was desperate, and now he’s calling it in and I have to help him.”

“What are you doing for him?”

Arta paused, her gaze flicking to Elena for an instant.

“I just…I should go see how Arturo is coming along. He might need my help convincing DaRose.” She slipped through the wall without looking back, leaving Elena and Ele alone in the foyer.

“Don’t panic,” Ele said.

“I won’t, I’m not, I’m fine.” Elena wrung her hands, pacing back and forth across the space of the foyer. Frell jumped down from her shoulder and landed on the bench next to Ele, and the two of them watched her pace.

“Even if Arturo can’t convince DaRose to let you in, there are other options,” Ele said after a few moments. “We haven’t tried Studio Isotta, Studio Nencia, or Studio Gritti.”

“I can’t show my face at Studio Gritti, I’ve already said that. Between destroying Cross’ bolts and what happened to Slug…there’s no way there’s a place for me there.”

“They shouldn’t blame you for Slug, Elena, that wasn’t your fault.”

“But they do. Didn’t you see how Cross made a beeline straight for me as soon as she saw me in the street?”

“If worse comes to worst, it won’t hurt us to at least ask them-” Ele stopped talking as Arturo and Arta entered the foyer. Elena froze, her stomach doing flips. Arturo’s face was impassive, but Arta still looked troubled, still not meeting her gaze. Elena braced herself for the bad news.

“Master DaRose is really strict about the number of students he lets in-” Arturo said awkwardly.

“It’s fine,” Elena broke in. She didn’t want to hear the pity in his voice as he gave his explanations, didn’t want to dwell on the reasons yet another avenue was closed to her. All she wanted to move on, approach the last three studios before they too filled up.

“-which is why I had to call in a bunch of favors, work my magic, and promise to take on more chores before he agreed to bring you on as a student.”

Elena stared. Unlike when she had been dropped from De Luca’s roster, she had no trouble processing what Arturo had just said, but it was so straightforward that she was taken aback.

“You got us in?” Ele seemed more surprised than Elena was. “Just like that? Without an audition, without an interview, without even meeting with him?”

“What can I say?” Arturo grinned, “Master DaRose actually trusts his garzoni’s judgement. It’s another thing De Luca could learn from the other Masters. Isadora’s recommendation was enough for me to join. With my good word and my arguing, I got you in, even though he was really against taking on another student.”

“I…I can’t believe it,” Elena gasped.

“You’d better believe it. And none of that ‘provisional’ nonsense that De Luca likes to play around with. Full garzonaship, from now until you graduate, as long as you’re clever and talented enough to keep up with DaRose’s instruction.”

“You’re one of us now Elena,” Arta smiled, “you’re a DaRose garzona.”

“I…I don’t know what to say,” Elena looked back and forth around the room, at Arturo who beamed, at Arta’s small smile, troubled but happy, and Ele’s look of skepticism.

“Not much to say,” Arturo grinned. He swung the door behind him open, and Elena caught a glimpse of the interior beyond. “Welcome to DaRose Studio.”


End of Twisted Cogs, Book 1


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15 responses

  1. That’s the end of Twisted Cogs Book 1, lads and ladies! Wow it’s been crazy…it feels like I just started writing yesterday, definitely not enough time to have an entire book’s worth of material out already.

    I definitely couldn’t have made it this far without all of the lovely readers who read, vote, comment and spread the word about Twisted Cogs. Your support is what keeps me writing, and I absolutely adore you all.

    So, what’s next for Twisted Cogs you ask? Well, readers need not worry, I’ll be diving straight into Book 2 starting next Wednesday, keeping to the regularly scheduled…er…schedule. While I do this, I’ll also be going back and editing Book 1 to get it ready to self-publish (and for my own peace of mind…I sort of cringe at some of the earlier chapters reading them now), and perhaps writing little interludes to be bonuses for people who purchase the eBook versions. In addition, I’m hoping to get up the Character List and Glossary that several readers have requested.

    If you’ve enjoyed the first book of Twisted Cogs and would like to help more people find out about it, there’s a lot of ways to help! Of course donations are always appreciated, but even if you can’t afford to donate you can vote on TopWebFiction, or help flesh out the TVTropes page (I love reading TVTropes but have no idea how to add things to it).

    There is more art, intrigue, and magical renaissance hijinks to come, I hope you all enjoy Book 2 even more than the first!

    Like

    2014-12-07 at 11:17 pm

  2. Bobby

    …What the heck? Does he have blackmail material? Is he secretly a Rhetor?

    “But they do. Didn’t you see how Cross made a beeline straight for me as soon as she saw me in the street?”
    Yeah, sure, Elena. The girl who hated and feared Slug must surely blame you for his death. That makes perfect sense.

    “Elena’s coat was a little thin for the weather, but now that he had switched out of the De Luca uniform and back into his more typical outfit he was less prepared for the cold than she.”
    Carla said back in Date Night that Echoes can’t feel the cold:
    “Reminding him of the things she couldn’t feel would do nothing but bring him down…”

    Anyway. Congratulations for Book 1, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the story!

    Liked by 1 person

    2014-12-08 at 12:15 am

    • Oooooh very, very good catch :) All I shall say on the subject is that both this bit and the bit with Carla were intentional.

      Liked by 1 person

      2014-12-08 at 9:15 am

  3. Could be Arturo was just lying about the last spot being filled to make himself seem more important and have Elena feel even more gratitude towards him. Pretty sure he’s going to attempt to emotionally blackmail Elena into sleeping with him regardless of how he got her accepted into the studio.

    Like

    2014-12-08 at 8:10 am

    • DeNarr

      Yup, that seems to be it to me as well. Of course, if we got all the information needed to come to that conclusion, perhaps Ele or Elena could as well.

      Like

      2014-12-08 at 10:32 am

    • Anonymous

      Oh, Arturo is the wine guy? I couldn’t remember. Then yeah this was probably a trick.

      Like

      2014-12-08 at 5:41 pm

    • Bobby

      Oh, Arturo is the wine guy? I couldn’t remember. Then yeah this was probably a trick.

      Like

      2014-12-08 at 5:43 pm

      • Bobby

        He’s going to have weird surprise when he learns she’s started dating a big buff Sagittari.

        Like

        2014-12-08 at 5:44 pm

  4. zeuseus

    hehehe, Maddi you tease. Can’t wait to see the Niccolo Arturo confrontation

    Like

    2014-12-08 at 8:35 pm

  5. CK

    Yeah, somehow I feel like Arta asking “What are you doing?” was her asking him “Why are you trying to trick Elena into thinking there are no places left?” It would not surprise me at all to find out that Arturo is being a manipulative jerk, and Elena is so naive it makes me angry sometimes.

    Arta seems all right though–I wonder if she and Arturo are going to have a huge fight later over something nasty he’s done (probably to Elena)?

    Like

    2014-12-08 at 8:58 pm

    • That lie would probably get revealed rather quickly, imho.

      Like

      2014-12-09 at 8:35 am

  6. AvidFan

    Maddi… Why would… How could…. You evil genius. You evil sadistic genius.
    I hate the implied plot turn with Arturo, but now I can’t stop reading until I find out what happens. Why do all you authors do this to me! :(
    Although, maybe he really did pull some strings to get her in and Ele’s suspicious nature is just rubbing off on me. Either way, I have high expectations for book 2. (And likely a high blood pressure >_> )

    I suppose I shall forgive you for the release date… It is the month of giving after all… Speaking of which… Will there be, by any chance, a Christmas gift page for us devoted and avid fans? *Puppy dog eyes*

    Like

    2014-12-09 at 6:26 am

  7. Another good chapter.
    Just one suggestion:
    “Frell shook her wooden head of the snowflakes…” Perhaps
    “Frell shook her wooden head free of the snowflakes…” would read a bit better?

    Like

    2014-12-15 at 7:52 pm

  8. This is already such a different atmosphere! I knew De Luca was strict because he was the best, but I figured his way of doing things were basically like everyone else’s. DaRose seems like it’s in its own world entirely, and now I’m wondering if it’s closer to the norm or if all the studios are doing their own thing.

    It feels like each Master would have to tailor the way they teach according to the Stormtouched they bring in. Sure, they all want a good split of artists and fighters, but with so many ways each student could have been Touched…

    Okay – and NOW I’m wowondering what the hell De Luca’s actually done to teach them. I think it was Frederica who said he just sort of takes credit for his students’ work, and unless he brought in everybody to yell them into understanding their ability (“LEARN, GODDAMMIT!”), he’s been basically AWOL except for mealtime. I mean, I guess they could’ve asked him questions then…

    Basically, I’m hoping DeRose actually teaches these people something. Holy crap, De Luca’s such a success moocher! >:O

    Like

    2015-04-14 at 11:32 am

  9. I just read this whole first book in one day, practically in one sitting. Your characters are compelling, and the world you’ve created here is addicting. Can’t help but wish I lived there. Great work, I look forward to diving into the second book…. Just as soon as I get some sleep.

    Like

    2016-06-28 at 12:24 am

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