A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.5 – Niger Atque Turbulentus Nox {A Dark and Stormy Night}

“I’m calling the War Council to order.” Isadora sat cross-legged next to the boiler, looking around at the other garzoni arranged in a small half-ring around her. “As has been mentioned, we’ve lost six coins at I time when we really need them, and the hit to our reputation won’t be pleasant to deal with either. I don’t want to go back to being the studio people pick on when they want a quick coin.”

Various murmurs of agreement filled the room as she continued.

“The most obvious answer is to conduct a raid ourselves, get a good stock of coins back. We have enough in our stores to buy food for this month…” Isadora glanced at Arta, who gave a single nod, “but we’d hoped to get some higher quality supplies that Elena could turn into tools and materials for us.”

“Maybe it’s better to get her in the heat of things sooner rather than later anyways,” Dolce said. “She was pretty ferocious in the room, that could be nice to have that next to us in the field.”

“It would be nice to have other people being ferocious next to me,” Elena said pointedly.

“Play nice with the other boys and girls, Elena,” Ele said, “and it’s me saying that.”

“Right, it seems as if we’re all on the same page as far as an attack on a studio,” Isadora said, “I suppose the next order of business is deciding what our target is.”

“And catching Elena up on the rules so she doesn’t get hurt again,” Arturo said.

“Arta, catch her up while we discuss our target,” Isadora said. Arta crossed the room to sit next to Elena, lowering her voice as the others continued the discussion.

“Basically, Elena, the whole system is set up so that garzoni don’t get hurt. Students try to blunt or hobble their powers as much as possible to prevent serious injury.”

“Those didn’t seem like hobbled powers to me,” Elena gingerly touched her face, which throbbed beneath her fingers.

“It’s a very delicate system. When one student has another at a disadvantage, they get the coin, that’s how it works. By not giving up your coin, you were signalling that you thought you could take them.”

“And that gave them the excuse to beat the stuffing out of me?”

“It gave them free reign. A lot of students would’ve been nicer, but Studio Malatesta has a reputation…they like to make examples of those who don’t surrender right away. Studio De Luca is another one like that; the’ll give you a lot of chances,  but once their patience runs out they can be pretty brutal as well….oh, sorry.” Arta paused for a moment, embarrassed, before she continued. “A lot of our fights have to do more with mental estimations than outright fighting. Patchwork and Ripple against a Fabera, a Mortalis, and an Artifex, all just waking up and in bed? When you attacked they probably saw it as an insult. Studio Malatesta is very touchy about their pride.”

Elena nodded, frowning.

“So…don’t get into a fight unless I know I can win?” she asked.

“Supposedly we should never be getting into fights at all,” Arta said, “but even the rulemakers realize that that’s not going to happen. The formal rules are that if a garzoni gives up their coin, they’re off limits for the rest of the attack. It’s just that at this point, we’ve fought enough to know who will usually win in a given encounter. No point in fighting a lost cause.”

“That’s why we don’t go up against Studios like Malatesta, De Luca, or Gitti,” Isadora broke in, “experience tells us we can’t beat them unless we get lucky, or if we have the advantage of preparation. We were just discussing who we were going after.”

“But it’s Malatesta’s fault that we’re in this mess! And that was my very first Cog coin, I want it back! How do you know we wouldn’t get lucky and beat them this time?”

“Sorry for being the asshole here,” Elio said, “but I think your face is evidence that we can’t beat Malatesta. Which we already knew from before, but it’s nice to know having a new Fabera in the studio didn’t change that.”

“We’re a slow but steady improvement,” Ele said defensively, “you can’t judge a Fabera by her first couple of weeks in the…oh, you can’t hear me. That’s going to get old.”

“We’re thinking Studio Crivelli,” Elio said to Elena, unknowingly cutting Ele off. “And we’re thinking of moving tonight.”

“Tonight?” Elena thought longingly of her warm bed. As long as they weren’t going after the Studio who had taken her coin, she didn’t see why they couldn’t at least get a little more sleep first.

“By tomorrow night all of the studios will have heard that we got hit, and they’ll be on guard,” Isadora explained, “if we can hit them tonight they’re less likely to be waiting for us.”

“Then when do we go?”

Isadora looked around the room once, nodding a few times in silent appraisal.

“Now. Grab new coins from the supply, everyone, we don’t want to be caught without. Let’s pay Studio Crivelli a visit.”

 

***

 

Elena adjusted her grip on the weapon the others had given her.

“I’m really not sure about this,” she muttered to Dolce as the six garzoni made their way quietly along the Street of Grey Artisans. “What if the cloth slips?” She hefted the large hammer, its head wrapped in layers and layers of soft fabric.

“Chances are you won’t even have to use it,” Dolce whispered back, “but impressions are a big thing in studio fights. People will look at the hammer and focus on how much they’d like not to get hit with it, and not the scrawny thing holding onto it. Besides, if you do need to fight, we can’t have you swinging your fists around like you did in the room, it’ll make us look bad.” Elena blushed, but she lifted the cloth-covered hammer over a shoulder and continued moving with the group.

The grey cloth mask she wore rubbed irritatingly against her bruised face. It kept her head warm, but it obscured her vision a bit, and even if she hadn’t been hurt Elena was pretty sure she wouldn’t like it.

“How come you don’t have to wear a mask, Dolce?” she asked.

“I don’t wear one for the same reason I don’t have an alias,” Dolce replied, “I’m just a Mortalis. I’d look silly wearing one, like I thought I was above myself.”

“Oh.” Elena fell silent in the face of her sharp reply, and tried to ignore the rubbing against her face.

The path to Studio Crivelli took them past the Street of Yellow Artisans, and when they passed Studio De Luca Elena couldn’t help but look up at the white walls longingly. From the top of the walls, Frederica’s giant spider watched them pass as it walked slowly back and forth, silhouetted against the moon.

“Don’t worry,” Dolce followed her gaze, “they just use to guard the studio. It won’t attack as long as we stay on our side of the walls.” Elena kept casting glances over her shoulder at Studio De Luca until it had passed out of sight, but the glances alone weren’t enough to fill the empty feeling in her stomach.

“Focus, Elena,” Ele murmured in her ear, and she shook her head to clear it.

He’s right. This is my first real actual inter-studio fight. The first one to actually count, now that it’s being completely ruined by stupid Studio-

“Malatesta.” As the group of students emerged from a side alley onto the Street of Red Artisans, Isadora completed Elena’s thought aloud, stopping so suddenly that Elena bumped into her.

“Why Torchhand! What a pleasant surprise!” Elena’s already aching stomach tightened at the sound of the voice she’d heard so recently before, and her face throbbed.

The moonlight reflected off the snow and illuminated the street in front of them, making it easy to make out the purple figures that blocked their.

“With Cog and Grabber as well,” Patchwork sounded pleasantly surprised, “and I see Dolce, Festo, and Elio there as well, why it’s the entire DaRose studio!” Behind Patchwork, another four figures in purple shuffled and waited, all wearing purple masks along with their various costumes. Elena glanced behind her and noted another three figures standing in the streets behind them, unmasked and wearing matching neat purple uniforms.

“How did you know we’d be here Patchwork?” Isadora asked, her voice ringing in the quiet street.

“Eventually the people of Milia will stop asking that question,” Patchwork said with a sigh. “We’re Studio Malatesta, Torchhand. We always know.”

“What do you want?”

“It simply occurred to us, as we waited here in the snow, that our raid on Studio DaRose earlier this evening did not go as smoothly as some of us forecast. It occurred to me, especially, that this was most likely my fault.”

“Your fault?” Isadora asked suspiciously.

“Our fault in failing to convey the relative position between DaRose and Malatesta,” Patchwork somehow managed to look condescending even with the mask that covered his face. “Little Cog had somehow gotten it into her head that she could fight us, you see? Allowing that sort of misapprehension is what led to things turning so nasty.”

“You…you don’t have to worry,” Elena spoke up, “that won’t happen again.”

“I would certainly hope not,” Patchwork said, “however, it worries me that apparently our studio’s name wasn’t enough to let poor little Cog know of the futility of fighting us-”

“Whatever you’re going to do, Patchwork, just do it,” Arturo spat, “stop making a production out of it.”

“Very well,” Patchwork seemed displeased by the outburst, and he snapped his fingers. One of the Mortalis without masks approached from behind them with a small bag. “Puello here will be taking your coins, if you please. Again.”

Grumbles rose among the small group of DaRose students, and Elena got a better grip on her hammer, but Dolce grabbed her gently by the wrist.

“Six of us, ten of them,” Dolce said quietly, “with Patchwork and Ripple included among those ten. These are worse odds than in the room.” As if to punctuate her words, Dolce dropped her coin into the bag as Puello walked by. Elena grit her teeth, reaching into her pocket and running her finger along the cold metal of her coin. Two coins in a single night, and Patchwork made it sound like it was all her fault. Half of her wanted to collapse into tears, and half of her wanted to swing her hammer at the first person who came up to her for her coin.

Her hammer, which, her storm informed her, would wear through the cloth enough to cause serious damage after only a few weeks’ worth of use if she used it too often without coming up with a more permanent solution than just binding the head with fabric. Indeed, according to the buzzing in her temples it would still break bone if she wasn’t careful; there wasn’t enough cloth to sufficiently soften a blow…

“There we are, it wasn’t so bad giving up a second set of coins now was it?” Patchwork’s voice broke through Elena’s musings, and for a moment she wondered if Puello had forgotten to collect hers. “Oh, but it seems we missed one,” Patchwork continued. “Cog, somehow Puello must have skipped you, how inopportune of him. Your coin now, if you would be so kind.” He held out a gloved hand in her direction.

Oh, Elena realized with a sinking feeling. He hadn’t forgotten, they just wanted to single her out…make her walk the few feet’s distance and give up her coin individually, in front of everyone. Proving a point. They like to make examples out of those who don’t surrender.

Her hand clenched into a fist, and the urge to cry bubbled even closer to the surface, as did the urge to lash out with her not-quite-safe hammer.

Just do it, she ordered herself. You’ve been through worse, this isn’t as bad as Slug, it’s not even as bad as getting kicked out of De Luca’s studio. She crossed the empty space between groups, her footsteps crunching in the snow, with the garzoni of both studios watching her. Patchwork’s mask was impassive, but perhaps it was better that she couldn’t see his expression. Elena took a deep breath, fished the coin out of her pocket, and dropped it over his outstretched hand.

“On second thought…” Patchwork withdrew his hand quickly, and Elena’s coin tumbled through the air and fell into the snow, “…Studio Malatesta really only accepts coins that are actually worth something.”

Time seemed to freeze as Elena looked down at the coin that stuck buried halfway in the snow. Her coin, the coin that represented her worth as an artist, sitting in the slush. Her coin, a proud little silver gear emblazoned on each side. It was bad enough that she had to give them up, both time had hurt, but she had mentally prepared for that; she’d known she would have to give them up eventually. This was something entirely else. This was desecration.

Her new studiomates were distant to her, her friends were in another studio, her Echo kept secrets from her, her mother was a city away…”Cog” was all that Elena had left. That little coin that lay dirtied in the snow was all she had.

How dare he.

Her temples didn’t buzz with the Storm, her entire body trembled with it. Her fingertips buzzed so hard that it felt as if the hammer was begging her to be swung, but at the same time it wasn’t begging as hard as the little silver going on the ground. He didn’t deserve the hammer. The Storm demanded she use the coin.

Her mind wasn’t on fire, her mind was fire and it burned with an intensity that was unlike anything she had ever felt before. In the time it took Patchwork to casually turn his back on her, the Storm had filled her head with designs and plans, and she flicked through them in her mind so fast that she didn’t even realize what she was thinking..

There were impurities in one of the gear spokes on the coin, dropping the temperature to 60 degrees below freezing would allow a kick to shatter it and send shards of silver through Patchwork’s shin-

Stupid, no way to lower temperature.

It would take 25 libbra of pressure for the coin to puncture skin and muscle, severing vitals on the inside. 0.75 seconds to pick up the coin, 2 seconds to cross the distance between them and hold the coin against the back of his neck,  0.56 seconds to swing her hammer which would apply roughly 40 libbra, more than enough to-

Too long, his teammates would stop me.

1.23 seconds to swing the hammer against the ground, applying roughly 45 libbra to flatten the coin to a sharp edge. The sharpened edge would lowering the pressure needed down to a measly 11.6 libbra, and if she threw it hard enough-

“It’s okay Elena.” Hands on her shoulders interrupted the rapid and manic calculations in her mind, and Elena started as if she had just been woken up with a bucket of snow to the face. “We’ll get those bastards next time,” Arturo was saying, casting a murderous glare at the retreating Malatesta students, “you’ll get revenge I promise.”

I was planning to kill him, Elena realized. The feeling was so horrifying that it left her speechless, and she suddenly started shaking in earnest. I was actually thinking of ways to kill him. She tried to speak, but all that came out was a choked sob.

“Elena, it’s okay, it’s not your fault,” Dolce approached from the other side, guiding her along with Arturo back to the group.

“She’s alright,” Arturo said, “she’s just had a rough night. We all have. Let’s just get home and figure out what to do in the morning.” Elena bent down and retrieved her coin, the tears flowing freely now.

What happened to me? she thought desperately, what’s wrong with me? She was vaguely aware of Ele watching her, silent but very attentive, and she couldn’t meet his gaze. I almost used my Storm to hurt someone…how could I…

Despite how horrible she felt, despite how horrifying the knowledge had been, it was made even worse by the fact that she was still angry at Patchwork. There was an angry, bitter part of her that swore she would make Patchwork regret this night. She wouldn’t hurt him, certainly not kill him…but her Storm was on her side in this, she knew she could make it help her. She could make him pay.

On the way back to the studio, Elena gripped her coin so tightly that it left a little pink imprint of a cog on her palm.


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If you think hammer-smashes make the best Christmas presents, you should vote for Twisted Cogs on TWF!


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11 responses

  1. Wow, I probably should’ve planned things to have a happier or more festive Christmas update to Twisted Cogs!

    There might be a few more typos than usual this update, due to the inordinate amount of scrambling around I do around this season. In addition, next Sunday’s update of Twisted Cogs will be pushed out to Monday, because next Sunday is my wonderful spouse’s birthday, so they get all the Maddi time :)

    A merry and inclusive good wishes to all of my lovely readers, whether you celebrate Christmas or not! You all are absolutely amazing, and Twisted Cogs wouldn’t be what it is without you!

    Like

    2014-12-24 at 11:25 pm

  2. Oh, my, Elena’s Storm has hidden depths. Dark one. I like this development.

    Liked by 1 person

    2014-12-24 at 11:34 pm

    • Ditto. And I, for one, found it fascinating how she treated it as an engineering problem. Though flattening the coin and using the edge to kill him would have been a beautifully karmic way to go, in that situation.

      Like

      2014-12-25 at 7:57 am

  3. Mark

    Thanks for the update. Merry Christmas.

    I doubt I was the only one hoping she was going to start cracking skulls.

    Like

    2014-12-25 at 11:50 am

  4. Panster

    That’s so epic. Wish she did something epic though :( haha

    Like

    2014-12-25 at 12:43 pm

  5. Anonymous

    Rage? Her Storm works when she is angry? Or humiliation?

    Like

    2014-12-25 at 6:56 pm

  6. AvidFan

    I think I’ll point out to people: She had no trouble using her storm at home, with her mother.
    Discussion start… Now.

    Like

    2014-12-25 at 9:53 pm

  7. kunama

    Freakn finally. Looking forward to an ass kicking.

    Like

    2014-12-27 at 9:07 am

  8. Orion

    Just remembering that Elena can figure out how studios work with her storm. How humiliating it might be if she figures out how Malatesta always knows everything and either uses it to her studios advantage, takes away the source of Malatesta’s knowledge, or blinds them to the goings on of studio DaRose. Things could get very interesting very fast.

    Like

    2014-12-27 at 11:06 pm

  9. Ten of them? I thought there could only be eight garzona at one time, and Dolce doesn’t see Echoes?

    Also, I’m loving your work so far! Though I can’t help but be exasperated by Elena’s stubbornness and naïveté some times.

    Like

    2015-05-13 at 5:50 pm

  10. Xiao

    Disappointing.

    Like

    2015-12-10 at 10:15 am

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