A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.1 – Studio Nova, Novum Populum {New Studio, New People}

Elena opened her eyes and stared at the bed above her. The bundled layers of cloth that served for a mattress bulged through the slats of Dolce’s bed, but Elena had stopped worrying about the top bunk collapsing after her first few days.

It had taken longer to adjust to having to share a dorm with other garzoni, the three of them packed into a single room. After having her own room for two months at De Luca’s studio, and before that only having to share a room with her mother, the dorm was cramped, but she was finally beginning to think of it as hers. Well, not hers exactly, but the little bunk she lay in, at least, was entirely her own.

Elena stretched, her grey nightgown’s touch on her skin rough but warm. As usual, neither of the others was stirring yet, and Elena pushed her blanket off and crept out of the room. As she did every morning, Elena shuddered at the cold of the hallway. One benefit of the dorms was that it stayed warm, between the insulation and three warm bodies. She dreaded to think what it would feel like in the summer.

“Morning sleepystorm,” Ele greeted her when she entered the kitchen. Studio DaRose’s kitchen was more pantry than the kitchen she was used to; dry goods that wouldn’t spoil, the only luxuries being the woodstove in the corner and the sink connected to Milia’s water source.

“That’s not fair, I’m the first one up!” Elena protested, ducking to rummage on the lower shelves for a loaf of bread and a slice of cured pork.

“Still later than you used to,” Ele said, “later than the De Luca garzoni wake up.”

“When in Roma, do what Romians do,” Elena said sagely. A slice of bread and pork went on a tin plate, and she hopped up to sit on the counter with the plate in her lap.

“Maybe the Romians in this case would do better if they held themselves to higher standards,” Ele said. “You would do better if you kept to a De Luca schedule, Elena.”

Elena mused on his words for long minutes, chewing thoughtfully.

“I’m not good enough to be a De Luca garzona, Ele. I’ve come to terms with that, I’m fine with being a Studio DaRose girl, and acting like I’m still one of Master De Luca’s is just fooling myself.”

“You seem awfully chipper about it.”

“I’m in a good mood.” Elena shrugged. “Today’s going to be a good day.”

“Any particular reason?” Ele asked. Elena shrugged again, but she couldn’t help but smile and look down at her plate. “Aah, yes, Niccolo.”

“He wants to see me, he wants to see me,” Elena said in a singsong voice, kicking her feet beneath the counter. She grinned at Ele’s exasperated expression, finishing off her salty breakfast and adding the tin plate to the stack of unwashed dishes in the sink. “Nothing you say can bring me down, it’s been ages since I’ve seen him and I get to see him today! He said he can’t wait!”

“I guess it’s true what they say about Saggitari’s intelligence,” Ele grumbled with a smile.

***

By the time the two of them returned to the dorm, Isadora was awake, still in bed and reading. She glanced up when Elena entered, giving a polite smile and nod before returning to her book. As usual, Iso was nowhere to be seen, and the only other person in the room was Dolce, still asleep in her bed.

“Good morning,” Elena practically skipped towards her bed, reaching beneath it to pull out the small chest that contained her clothes and belongings.

“You seem in a good mood today,” Isadora said.

“I have someone visiting me today! Niccolo, my…um…” Elena wasn’t quite sure how to finish the sentence, “…someone I know from De Luca’s studio.”

“Niccolo your ‘significant pause someone you know’, eh?” Isadora raised an eyebrow, and Elena blushed.

“I’m just not really sure what to call him. Studio business came up before we had a chance to talk about it, and we haven’t seen each other since.”

“Sounds like it could be interesting.”

“I don’t know. Maybe? I suppose I’ll know today, but I’m really excited to see him either way.”

“How do you feel about him? Do you hope things get serious?”

“I think so,” Elena turned to find an outfit to wear in silence. She didn’t mind talking about Niccolo, but she would’ve preferred to have the conversation with Vittoria or even Frederica. Isadora was alright in her way, but they barely knew each other, and somehow discussing something so personal made Elena uneasy. “I do like him, but I want to make sure he likes me too.”

“She’s just timid,” Ele said from the doorway with a smile, “Niccolo likes her just plenty, trust me.”

“Anyways,” Elena changed the subject hastily, “I think it’s going to be a good day, that’s why I’m in a good mood.”

Perhaps taking the hint, Isadora returned to her reading, and Elena leaned back with a bundle of clothing. Her bed looked inviting, but she resisted the urge to crawl back into it, instead standing and kicking the chest back beneath it. It hit the back with a thump, and Elena winced, hoping she hadn’t damaged something underneath.

The screw in the back corner of the bed is about to come loose.

The power of the Storm flowed through her temples, crackling like liquid lightning in her temples and itching in her fingertips.

“Ele, it’s happening again,” she said, and her Echo was by her side in an instant. “With the bed. I was just thinking about something on the bottom being broken and my Storm kicked up.”

“Okay, let’s break it down. You’re in a good mood, your bed isn’t super important to you, you weren’t trying to force yourself to fix it, and no one around you had mentioned the bed.”

“Which…pretty much kills every theory we’ve come up with about my Storm in the past week,” Elena sighed. Her Storm merrily filled in details for as long as she kept the bed in her thoughts; the way that the joints of it fit together, the way the wood had been stained darker to imitate a more expensive cherry, even the fact that sanding away one of the knots in the corner would get rid of the little creak that had been plaguing her for the last week.

“Not every theory,” Ele corrected. “We assumed that forcing your Storm wasn’t effective.”

“Technically all you’ve proven here is that you can use your Storm without forcing it,” Isadora pointed out, “it could be that you can totally force your Storm.”

“So really this doesn’t help us at all,” Elena said miserably.

“You really don’t know how to use your Storm, do you?” Isadora asked. “I thought Fabera Storms always worked, not like mine.”

“I thought so too, then I came to Milia,” Elena mumbled distractedly, trying and failing to use her Storm on the upper bunk of the bed where Dolce was still sleeping. About halfway up the posts that held Dolce’s bed above hers, Elena could only guess at the details, whereas below she knew, could break down details that she wouldn’t think to guess about.

“Any of you awake?” Arturo poked his head into the room, his brown hair still mussed with sleep.

“No,” Isadora replied straight-faced, and turned the page of her book.

“Har har,” Arturo stepped inside and opened the door further for Arta to follow. “I was just coming by to see if you two had plans for the day. I thought we could spend the day working in the boiler room, since everywhere but there and the dorms are cold as anything and the dorms are too messy to get anything done.”

Elena glanced around her. Discarded clothes, cast off sketches, and art supplies littered the floor of the little room, and she knew that the boys’ dorm was just as bad.

“Elena can’t join us today, she’s meeting up with her boyfriend.” For some reason a smile played around the corner of Isadora’s lips, though she didn’t look up from her book.

“Oh.” Arturo paused awkwardly, looking back and forth between Isadora and Elena. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were seeing someone…”

“We’re probably not going to hang out all day though,” Elena reassured him, “I can join you two later this evening after he goes back to De Luca’s. And he’s not my boyfriend, Isadora, it’s more…complicated than that.”

“Might as well be though,” Ele said, looking pointedly at Arturo. “I mean, I heard about that kiss under the stars on the rooftop, with a kiss that amazing it’d be silly to call you two anything else.”

Elena blushed at the memory. It had been quite amazing, but it was embarrassing that Ele was mentioning it now, in front of Isadora, Arta, and Arturo.

“Sure, well, you should have a good time and just catch up with us later,” Arturo said in a rush. “I just thought I’d swing by to offer but I’m going to wash and eat breakfast now. I’ll see you later Isadora, Elena.”

The room was quiet after he left, and Elena stared at the door, biting her lip.

“You’re honestly wondering if you missed something right now, aren’t you?” Ele asked.

“I know I missed something,” Elena said, her brow furrowed. “But what did I miss? What just happened?”

“Wait really?” Isadora set her book down in her lap, giving Elena and Ele an incredulous look. “Oh honey…you can’t be that naive and clueless. I may know Arturo better than you, but hell your own Echo got it. Your little wooden mouse probably got it.”

Elena glanced at Frell, who was still curled up on her pillow.

“What did they see?”

“I got it and I’m not even awake yet,” Dolce mumbled sleepily from the bed, her curly black hair covering her face and pillow. Elena folded her arms, feeling quite ganged-up on, and determined on figuring out what she had missed. The room remained silent as she turned the past conversation over in her mind, trying to think of it from every angle. Suddenly the scene crystallized, and her mouth fell open.

“Wait, I think she’s got something,” Ele said.

“Arturo likes me?” Elena gasped.

“Aaah, there it is,” Dolce mumbled from the bed. “Silly guileless Fabera.”

“How long has he liked me?” Elena turned to Isadora. “I’ve only been here for a week! He barely knows me!”

“He’s been nursing a crush ever since the day he applied at De Luca’s studio,” Isadora had returned to her book, answering detachedly. “He cooled a little when you got into De Luca’s studio and he didn’t, but now that you’re here I think it revitalized the spark.”

“That’s not why I got in, is it?” Elena wrung her hands, “I didn’t get in just because Arturo has a crush on me, did I?”

“No.” Isadora didn’t elaborate further.

“I can’t believe I didn’t catch on earlier…and you!” Elena swiped at Ele, her hand passing harmlessly through his shoulder, “you said all that stuff about a kiss just to torment him!”

“What, I’m not allowed to have fun?” Ele grinned.

“Not when it’s at the expense of our fellow garzoni!”

Ele looked as if he was about to say something in response, but with a glance at Isadora he closed his mouth.

Now what have I missed?

Elena’s musing was interrupted by the bell that rang gently throughout the studio; an indication that someone was at the gates. Even though she had no reason to be nervous, Elena’s heart fluttered. She hurriedly pulled her clothes on over her nightgown, slipped on her shoes, and with some trepidation went out to meet Niccolo.


If you don’t want to be a silly guileless Fabera too, vote for Twisted Cogs on TopWebFiction!


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20 responses

  1. Avidfan@gmail.com

    My memories bad, so I’m probably forgetting an instance where this hasn’t happened, but what if her storm works on things she touches? (Directly or through a medium such as her models of the studios)

    Like

    2014-12-11 at 4:20 am

  2. Eduardo

    Her strom works when she needs it. Simple.

    Like

    2014-12-11 at 5:55 am

    • DeNarr

      Actually, DeLuca tested that already. Threatening to kick her out if it wouldn’t work, which should have got her storm to rise up to help her need. Also, she didn’t need to know details about the bed. So, I don’t think the answer is that simple.

      Like

      2014-12-11 at 9:08 am

  3. Unmaker

    Possible typos / grammar:

    “With the bed. I was just thinking about ”
    missing period, odd construction; perhaps:
    “With the bed I was just thinking about.”

    neither of the others were stirring yet
    ‘neither’ is generally considered singular (web search for grammar rules), so:
    neither of the others was stirring yet

    Like

    2014-12-11 at 8:08 am

    • Oh wow…it appears that I just stopped the sentence right in the middle, both there and a few lines before. All three issues corrected, thanks for that catch!

      Like

      2014-12-11 at 12:58 pm

  4. Unmaker

    And, as far as a clue for her Storm, we have a significant one here:

    —the little bunk she lay in, at least, was entirely her own

    —About halfway up the posts that held Dolce’s bed above hers, Elena could only guess at the details, whereas below she knew, could break down details that she wouldn’t think to guess about.

    Clearly, the bunk isn’t actually hers, but the fact that she thinks of it as hers allows the Storm to work.

    Like

    2014-12-11 at 8:15 am

    • doesnt work with all the projects she made specifically for other people though.

      I think… when the screw comes loose, the bed collapses, and she feels bad for not telling her bunkmate WHAT the storm was telling her, causing her to get hurt, they might have a better idea. (and right now either im completely off base, or Maddirose is screaming, DAMNIT LEAKY!)

      Like

      2014-12-11 at 11:55 am

      • Bobby

        Sure it works. The knife she made was hers, then she gave it to Frederica. What doesn’t work is that she could make knives and brushes but not a bow.

        Liked by 1 person

        2014-12-11 at 12:33 pm

        • w1w2c3p4

          there could be multiple criteria as there are exceptions, but often she does get info on things she considers hers, modeling her city, imagining her studio as she learns about the first art studio.

          Liked by 1 person

          2014-12-14 at 9:12 pm

    • Still supports my theory. Her storm worked because the bed is broken/breaking. Her storm didn’t work on the other beds because they didn’t have a problem.

      Like

      2014-12-11 at 12:02 pm

      • Bobby

        What about the random stuff she got about Studio De Luca when she first visited, like the ice box? I don’t see what was broken about it, and I don’t think she was thinking of the studio as hers.

        Like

        2014-12-11 at 12:32 pm

        • I thought of that more as of the studio itself having some flaw, and the icebox is how it was fixed, but you do have a point.

          Like

          2014-12-11 at 1:45 pm

      • The fact it works for the city then… Ominous

        Like

        2014-12-11 at 8:26 pm

  5. Bobby

    “stared at the bed above her. The bundled layers of cloth that served for a mattress bulged through the slats of Isadora’s bed”

    “About halfway up the posts that held Dolce’s bed above hers,”

    So which is it, Dolce’s bed or Isadora’s bed?

    Like

    2014-12-11 at 12:28 pm

    • Whoops! Definitely Dolce’s bed there, thanks for the catch

      Like

      2014-12-11 at 12:58 pm

  6. I’m absolutely loving all the speculation :) I was worried that not enough happened in this chapter, but I’m glad it was enough to provoke conversations!

    Liked by 1 person

    2014-12-11 at 12:59 pm

  7. Elena mused on his words for long minutes, thoughtfully chewing the slightly
    Huh?
    Chewing them slightly? (His words… Possible, but an unusual metaphor) or:
    Chewing the slightly … mouldy hunk of bread she just happened to be holding?

    Something’s amiss, that’s all I can say for sure.

    Like

    2014-12-15 at 9:23 pm

    • Wow…even I don’t know what I was going for there.

      Thanks for the catch!

      Like

      2014-12-17 at 9:55 pm

  8. I love how well paced this story has been. Elena’s understanding of her Storm has really evolved from a generic buzz everywhere to specific tingles up to certain limits. The fact that she knows now how much she does or doesn’t know about an object is a huge improvement.

    Also, wow, that was a dark turn at the end there. I knew something was up when Arta mentioned a favour, but for Isadora to be in on the loop of how Elena got in and look that uncomfortable, I’ll go ahead and guss Arturo’s not that nice. Or someone else got forced out… One of the two.

    Like

    2015-04-14 at 11:44 am

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