A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.4 – Studio Intrare Malatesta {Enter Studio Malatesta}

“Attention, if you please, ladies! Wake up! Up and aware, if you would be so kind!”

Elena blinked and rubbed her eyes, disoriented. She glanced down at her skin sleepily, making sure she was still in her bed at DaRose’s studio and not in the castle in Black Fur’s dream world. Above her the bunk shifted as Dolce rose, and across the room Isadora was throwing off her blankets and struggling to get to her feet. There were two figures at the door in the front of the room, but in her disoriented state Elena couldn’t identify them.

In the space of a few footsteps the smaller figure crossed the room and lifted a long leg, pushing Isadora back into bed with a foot.

“Good evening ladies,” the other figure said, his voice quieter now. “We had hoped we could carry out this transaction without being so rude as to wake you up, but then, we forgot we were dealing with DaRose. You see, civilized studios tend to keep their coins on bedside tables to prevent this sort of unpleasantness.” He looked around disapprovingly.

“We prefer knowing who to get revenge on,” Isadora growled. The figure standing at her bed held her down with one foot, keeping its balance on the other perfectly.

“Well then, I’m afraid you have only yourselves to blame for such a rude awakening.”

“You’re from another studio,” Elena realized aloud, belatedly.

“A gold star to little Cog,” the man in front of her gave a small bow, “and a silver coin for us, if you please.” Now that she had rubbed some of the sleep from her eyes, Elena could see the scene a little better. The first figure was covered from head to toe in a fancy suit, mask, and hood, all made of purple squares in shades from lavender to almost black. The one who held Isadora down in bed wore a much more subtle outfit of purple that clung to the curves of her body and face.

Tam horridus, Patchwork, of all the studios who don’t pose a threat to you, we have to be the most harmless,” Dolce complained from the bunk above Elena, “don’t you have beggars to kick or some ivory tower to sip fine wines in or something?”

“Believe me Dolce, the pair of us would much rather be doing exactly that, although it’s more of a marble veranda than an ivory tower,” Patchwork said, and Elena could almost hear the sneer behind the purple cloth mask. “But sadly until we take charge of our studio, we are at the mercy of those above us. That said, coins, if you please. I won’t ask again.”

It’s my first inter-studio battle! Elena thought with excitement. Isadora and Dolce seemed to be biding their time, waiting for some moment to strike, so she did the same, tensing her muscles and preparing to spring out of bed. Her feet pressed against the wall on one side of the bed, and she waited.

“DaRose won’t forget this,” Isadora said with a glare, reaching into the pocket of her sleepclothes’ pocket. The silver coin caught the moonlight as she flipped it to Patchwork.

“You may rest assured that the entirety of Studio Malatesta is appropriately terrified of DaRose’s ire.” Patchwork gave the coin a cursory glance and pocketed it, then glanced up at Dolce.

Why aren’t they giving a signal? What are they waiting for?

Dolce threw her coin at Patchwork’s face, but the man barely flinched before his silent companion snatched it from the air, continuing to hold Isadora down as she slipped the coin into her pocket.

“And last but certainly not least?” Patchwork ignored the piece of silver recently flung in his face, turning to Elena and holding out his hand.

Is it me they’re waiting for? Elena looked across the room, trying to figure out what the other girls wanted her to do. Isadora met her gaze for a moment across the room, but if there was a hint in the dark-haired girl’s blank expression Elena couldn’t see it. Without an idea of when she should strike, Elena took a gamble and decided on….

Now!

She sprang from the bed, flinging herself at Patchwork. Time seemed to slow for a few moments, and a few thoughts ran through her head as she crossed the few short feet between them. The first was that she would need some kind of weapon, in the future. Not something that would grievously injure, of course, but she wondered how much damage her fists could really do against the man. The next thought was a surge of triumph as Patchwork jumped backwards, letting out a startled yell.

You’d better yell! Elena thought fiercely, before time suddenly sped up and several things happened all at once.

“No, Elena stop!” Isadora yelled.

“Don’t!” Dolce shouted.

Patchwork wobbled in Elena’s vision, then suddenly melted out of sight.

A firm hand grabbed at her hair, winding its fingers until it held a handful.

The woman in dark purple moved in a small contained twirl, using her grip on Elena’s hair to yank her off balance. The foot which had been holding Isadora down hit the ground just in time to trip Elena, and the grip in her hair made it easy for the dark woman to slam Elena’s face into the side of Isadora’s bed. The woman let go of her hair to let her fall to the ground in a heap.

It had all happened so quickly and so unexpectedly that Elena didn’t even have a chance to understand what had just happened. Her face didn’t even hurt at first, she was too flabberghasted to even process the pain. Above her Isadora struggled to rise, and the dark woman slammed a foot back into her chest to shove her back into the bed.

The pain blossomed in her eye and cheekbones, enough to make Elena gasp. Tears sprang to her eyes, but through the tears she could see Patchwork materializing over her again, appearing in blotchy patches of color. On the floor she couldn’t make out what Dolce was doing, but she doubted the Mortalis girl could do much against both Malatesta garzoni.

“You-” Elena began, but Patchwork interrupted her with a sudden sharp kick to the stomach. She curled up in a ball, trying to gasp but unable to breathe, and suddenly he was on top of her, straddling her and feeling along her hips and waist. She had barely enough breath to shout, let alone struggle, and the weight of him on top of her made the pain in her stomach even worse.

“I certainly hope your studiomate hasn’t secreted her coin away in her underclothes, or this has the potential to become awkward,” Patchwork said casually, “ah, here we are.” He reached into Elena’s pocket as she still struggled to gasp in a breath. Even as the pain pounded in her face and her abdomen, Elena tried to grab at her coin as he pulled it out, but the man casually flicked her hand and stood. “Ripple, let’s depart. I doubt the others are having this much trouble.” The woman let Isadora go and skipped lightly over Elena’s prone form. She could barely see them through the blur of pain and tears, but as the two Malatesta garzoni left Patchwork paused at the doorway. “I’d thought we’d dealt with this unfortunate habit of impertinence from Grey Street. Hopefully the next time we visit we can avoid all of this unpleasantness,” he remarked over his shoulder. He vanished in splotchy patches before closing the door behind him.

 

***

 

“Six coins. Six maledictus tamen sonticus coins gone in a single night,” Arturo shouted to the room at large. “And we let them hurt Cog. Our reputation was getting better after we repelled De Luca, this is going to set us back almost to the beginning! And maybe it should if we can’t even protect our new garzona!”

“Arturo, quiet down,” Arta said gently, “yelling isn’t going to solve anything, and we’ve all already had a rough night.”

“How bad is it?” Dolce asked from next to the boiler.

“It’s going to leave some nasty bruising, but nothing long term,” Isadora said.

“I just don’t understand why you didn’t help me!” Elena winced as the older garzona dabbed at her face with a damp cloth.

“I’m sorry Elena, I just didn’t think you were going to take them on by yourself like that!” Isadora turned Elena gently by the chin to face the light more, “you’re so mousy and timid, how was I supposed to know you’d suddenly try to play the hero?”

“Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Fight the other studios?”

“In theory, maybe. Hold still, there’s a splinter. We can fight them when they attack, but DaRosa garzoni…we need time to prepare, we’re no good at immediate response. One of us was supposed to be on guard tonight, but…”

“I thought it was the new girl’s turn,” Elio, one of the Mortalis students, said sullenly.

“It really is our fault for not telling you not to fight,” Arta wrung her hands a little ways off, pacing back and forth in front of the boiler without casting a shadow, “we didn’t think you’d be in any altercations before the next war council, when we could catch you up to everything!”

“I thought I was finally done with people hiding things from me! When will I get ‘caught up’? And what’s a war counsel” Elena flinched as Isadora caught a pinch of skin between her fingernails.

“The Mortalis feel left out when people talk to me,” Arta said.

“None of that weird mind-reading Stormtalk,” Dolce grimaced at the same time, “we’re all in this together, so talk where we all can hear you.”

“So the Echoes are ignored here when we’re around Mortalis students? That won’t get to be demoralizing at all,” Ele muttered.

“We’ll catch up now, Elena,” Isadora said authoritatively, “we’re all here, we might as well have an impromptu war counsel.”

Holding her head still as Isadora dug another splinter from her throbbing cheek, Elena looked around the boiler room at the assembled garzoni. Arturo sat in the corner, blinking sleepily, while Arta continued to pace. Ele and Isadora stood by Elena, and a little ways off the Mortalis students, Dolce, Festo, and Elio stood, looking uncomfortable.

“Arta will you please go get Iso in here?” Isadora gently wiped Elena’s face a final time and leaned back on her heels, “we need to figure out Studio DaRose’s next move.”

 


Previous Chapter | Next Chapter


For every vote for Twisted Cogs on TopWebFiction, Elena will get a REAL gold star. They will be all nice and shiny and will make her feel just a little bit better.


 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s