A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.1 – Tempestas Ingruit {The Brewing Storm}

The cold air burned in her lungs as she ran, but Elena didn’t care. Her fellow DaRose garzoni ran alongside and in front of and behind her, and in that moment they felt like her brothers and sisters in arms. They were a pack of wild animals, them against the entire world, and they could take on anything that tried to stand in their way. There was something exhilarating about it to Elena, as if she were rebelling against the feelings of helplessness and doubt that had been assailing her ever since she’d left De Luca’s studio. The wind was unpredictable and cold, her grey hood that covered her face was restrictive and too hot, but she felt as free as if she’d been released from a cage.

Her hammer seemed clumsy bouncing against her leg with every step, even after the modifications she had made to lighten it. Slipping it from its spot on her belt and running with it in her hand felt much more natural. Its light weight was already familiar enough to be comforting, perhaps because she had made it to be an extension of her arm. It might have started out as a stonemason’s hammer, left over by who-knew-who after some job at the studio who-knew-when, but now it was hers.

Mine, the word rang hungrily through her head, a sensation like an itch she hadn’t known she wanted to scratch. No one argued the hammer being hers, and the Storm had sprung to her fingertips readily when she’d need it; with every chalk-mark she had scratched on it, with every modification she had imagined, with every step of the hammer’s modification it had guided her, because the hammer was hers.

“I should give my hammer a name,” she panted to Isadora, who ran just next to her.

“Isn’t that a little dramatic?” Isadora was less out of breath, and she gave Elena a sidelong glance. “Generals and Kings name their weapons, not garzona.”

“That’s exactly why I should name it!” Even Isadora’s negativity couldn’t dampen Elena’s spirits this evening, “it’s about time the other studios started thinking of us as generals and kings, instead of as easy pickings. Maybe we should give them something to be afraid of.”

“No offense, Elena, but you’ve been a DaRose garzona for all of two months, don’t start buying Arturo’s bitter claptrap about the other studios giving us no respect just because we’ve lost a few coins. Secondly, if you approach anyone with your hammer yelling ‘feel the wrath of Mjolnir’, you’re more likely to have people laugh at you than jump back in fear.”

“I wouldn’t…call it…‘Mjolnir’,” Elena panted, her face flushed. Even beneath the grey hood covering her face, she could tell Isadora was grinning at her, and she decided not to dignify her fellow garzona’s mockery with a response.

She also dutifully ignored the butterflies in her stomach. True, it was the second time she’d been going out to attack a studio with the DaRose pack, but this was the first time she would actually have to face anyone. At least she hoped she’d be able to face them tonight. It was why they were running; even if Studio Malatesta were able to see them making a break for Studio Foscari, the DaRose garzoni hoped they would be able to collect some coins before they were pounced on. Isadora and Arturo had both assured her that other students could only take her own coin, not any others she happened to be carrying at the time. If she managed to collect more than one Foscari coin before Malatesta attacked them the studio would still be at a net gain.

Elena was so intent on the plans for the night that she didn’t even see the man before colliding with him. They slammed into the ground hard, but his bulky mass cushioned the fall. He was huge, all muscle and brawn, but he groaned a little when she fell on him.

“Oh god, I’m so sorry, are you okay?” Elena floundered to stand up, but only served to entangle herself further in a mess of limbs.

“Quite alright kid,” the man said cheerfully, “no harm done.” Elena scrambled off of him to one side in the snow. She blushed behind her hood as the man picked up…Skullcrusher…no, Faberawrath- No, just a hammer. Isadora is right, no stupid names…and offered it to her handle-first.

“Thanks, I’m going to need that tonight,” she said, rising.

I bowled into him without even seeing he was there. How am I supposed to beat other garzoni if I don’t even notice a huge hulking brute like him? If I can’t see a giant like that, how can I match up against Patchwork who can disappear?

The thought of Patchwork made the butterflies in her stomach suddenly go cold and still, and Elena narrowed her eyes. She would match up against Patchwork, no matter how unobservant she could be. She would prove to him how much her coin was worth.

“Seems a little rough, doesn’t it?” the stranger was giving her hammer a worried look, “pounding on someone with a hammer like that?” Elena looked down at the weapon in her hand. It did look like a beast; its head gigantic and the handle so big around that Elena had to grip it in just the right places. Casual observers couldn’t tell how much of the inside had been hollowed out, making it light and easy to heft. It would still hurt to get hit with it, but Elena wouldn’t be killing anyone with a hammer like that. Then again, it was meant to look intimidating, so perhaps it was a good thing that the man seemed so worried.

“Some people deserve a good pounding,” Elena said darkly, then glanced in the direction of Studio Foscari, “and they’re gonna get it tonight.” the man laughed appreciatively, although Elena wasn’t quite sure why.

“We’re falling behind, Elena,” Ele warned. Sure enough, her fellow garzoni ducked around the next corner and out of sight, and with a nod towards the friendly stranger Elena scampered after them.



Studio Foscari looked monolithic in the light of the rising moon. Other studios were typically split into multiple buildings, their mass broken up appealingly, but Studio Foscari had started out as a storehouse; a single building separated into rooms. They had no walls or courtyard inside their gate, nothing but wide windows and a simple door in the front. Elena eyed the dark windows above, tapping her foot restlessly. There was no sign of movement, but if it were Studio De Luca there would be at least one student posted in one of those dark windows, watching for intruders.

“It’s not going to be as rough as you’re imagining it,” Arta said reassuringly. “Studio fights aren’t about hurting people, they’re about getting coins. Well, not about hurting people directly, I guess. Just…threatening to hurt them…”

“And hurting them for real if they don’t give the coins up,” Isadora added helpfully, “and since it’s your first raid, chances are no one’s going to give their coins up, so you’re probably going to have to prove your mettle. Really it’s mostly about hurting people.”

“Stop trying to scare her, it’s her first time,” Arturo had been silent during the discussion, focusing on getting the group through the gate, but he spoke up now. “I remember my first raid, I was terrified.”

“It was two months ago, Arturo, we all remember your first raid. You tried to run away, Elio had to grab you and drag you back.”

Dolce giggled, and Arturo scowled and turned back to the gate’s lock. He held it gingerly, wrapped in the parchment on which his painting lay. It was already steaming in the cold winter air, and his attention seemed to be more on holding it just right than on any application of power.

“Alright, we’re- ipse succendit– ” Arturo swore and dropped the parchment, which burnt brightly for a few moments before hitting the snow. The lock was glowing, not quite red-hot, but close. The Mortalis garzoni exchanged a glance, then Elio stepped up to the gate, lifting the stave he carried. With a few strokes he had sent the lock into the snow, where it hissed and made a puddle of melted slush around it.

“Stave is better now,” Elio jerked his head in Elena’s general direction. “It swings good. You did good.” Elena grinned, even though he couldn’t see her through the masking hood. It had barely qualified as a “stave” before, it was more like a solid piece of wood with bumps and knots and twists all throughout it. Even though she didn’t know how to use woodworking tools, it had been easy to make it more balanced, especially with her Storm guiding her on the simple work of shaving a little bit off one end, removing some of the knots.

“Now that Elena’s done with Mjolnir, we’ll all be getting nicer weapons soon,” Isadora teased as Festo and Dolce swung the gate inward.

“Don’t be mean, I said I wasn’t going to name it!” Elena hissed, but Isadora was already growing serious, passing out scraps of parchment.

“Remember, speed over completeness, we’re just looking to get coins quickly. Malatesta could already be on their way for all we know.” As soon as each garzoni received their scrap of parchment it began glowing, bright enough that they would be able to see their way in the dark hallways of Studio Foscari. “Wrap things up when the light turns blue, get out fast when it goes red.”

The group paused when they reached the front door, waiting for Elena as she pulled the lockpicks from her pocket. She had never made lockpicks without seeing the lock first, and her heart fluttered as she bent down to examine the lock set in the door. Very gently, she inserted the lockpick and nudged it by hairs’ breadths, exploratorily. Ele stood at her side, waiting for the first hint of information he could help her with.

“Something’s wrong…” Ele murmured suddenly.

“What’s the matter, Ele? Elena?” Isadora shot a glance over her shoulder, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, “you said you could pick their locks, what happened?”

“Either they aren’t worried about attacks from any other studio, or they’re expecting us and want us to come in,” Elena said, turning the handle easily and opening the door. “It wasn’t locked.” Throwing each other uneasy glances, the six DaRose garzoni entered Studio Foscari.


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26 responses

  1. “… test your mettle…” (not metal) 😉


    2015-01-28 at 8:27 pm

    • AvidFan

      Hey, maybe they have some actual metal to test as well! :p


      2015-01-28 at 11:45 pm

    • Some homonym typos like that are really easy for me to make. “Test your mettle” v. “metal” is such a weird one that I don’t even know what to blame on that, so I’m going with my standard “must’ve been super tired” excuse :)

      Thanks for the catch!


      2015-02-01 at 9:20 pm

  2. Mjolnir seems like a really weird cultural reference in this context to me. That’s pretty explicitly from earth mythology, and given the history you’ve laid out, I’d bet they had different gods.


    2015-01-29 at 12:42 am

    • I’ve never seen a hint that this isn’t set on Earth… Mjolnir is, of course, from Norse mythology. I’m not sure how well known the reference might be in Renaissance Italy, but then again, these are fairly educated people almost by definition; they’re training to become artists and artisans.


      2015-01-29 at 6:51 am

      • Really? Never seen a hint that it’s not on earth? The backstory arc that just finished seemed to show a history very different from ours. Though I suppose really ancient stuff might line up, I doubt that particular mythology would be well known. It’s reasonable, I guess, but seems weird to me.


        2015-01-29 at 8:17 am

        • Admittedly I don’t know much about Italian history in particular, but I do know the bulk of it was Game of Thrones with better outfits. Scheming, conquests, manipulation… This is the era and culture that made Machiavelli and the Medicis part of the modern vocabulary.

          The backstory arc showed a civil war, failed revolution and general intrigue in an Italian city, which may or may not have had an accurate historical parallel. But even if it didn’t, the Storm still puts all this in the realm of “alternate history” in my opinion. Given a huge new set of variables, it’s a safe bet that Italians of the Renaissance would respond with intrigue, plots and wars.

          Basically, it’s still Earth, just an alternate one as the concept demands. Or so I’ve always understood it.


          2015-01-29 at 8:23 am

          • Okay, I can see that. I had assumed it was earth-like (given cultural similarities) but not actually earth, but that may just be because of my preference of epic fantasy over historical fiction.


            2015-01-29 at 8:27 am

            • Yeah, I’m with Webb, seems very much alternate history Earth. Nordic Mythology wouldnt be AS well known, more Greek, but it all gets studied back then.


              2015-01-29 at 9:06 am

              • It is a little tricky, since I will fully admit I’m not the biggest history buff and even with the research I do, I sometimes miss (a lot of) things! Italoza IS supposed to be an alternate-history Earth, so there IS a point at which this earth’s and our earth’s history diverges, but most of the history for this earth (before the 15th/16th century) is the same as ours.

                That said, “Mjolnir” was a rather obscure reference/joke that Isadora was making, it just so happened to be an obscure reference that Elena got. Because Elena is a bit of a nerd.


                2015-02-01 at 9:25 pm

              • I stand corrected.


                2015-02-02 at 10:07 pm

  3. Now laying odds that Elena just bowled over one of the Twisted. Any takers?


    2015-01-29 at 6:49 am

    • Robert

      I’ll take those odds. He isnt a twisted. He is Tazio, the mortalis mentioned im the latest Twisted Smut.


      2015-01-29 at 7:27 am

      • Oh, whoops. That one’s still sitting unread in an open tab in my browser. I tend to queue up webserial chapters until I have time to read ’em.


        2015-01-29 at 8:20 am

  4. Unmaker

    If I can’t see see a giant like that
    If I can’t see a giant like that


    2015-01-29 at 7:44 am

  5. Unmaker

    “It wasn’t locked.”

    Any bets on Patchwork and pals having stolen a march on them and visited Studio Foscari first? Patchwork gets the Foscari coins and DaRose gets caught. That would be quite the blow and it would help push Elena to do exactly what she should have done already – create physical studio models to model the studio fights. Really, if she can predict studio actions like she has shown she can, why the ~!@#$%^&*()_+ hasn’t she already done that? The only reason I can see that makes sense would be that the physical models take significant effort that she hasn’t had time to put in.


    2015-01-29 at 3:33 pm

    • Bobby

      Yeah, I’ve been wondering why she hasn’t rebuilt those.

      Build your very own Malatesta studio… Ask yourself “how would I go about using my Malatesta studio to gather information on what those DaRose chumps are doing?”


      2015-01-29 at 7:59 pm

      • Bobby

        Plus, I figure she understands her Storm enough now that she could use it to make the physical assembly of the models easier (which she couldn’t do last time). And presumably the more details she adds to the models, the easier it will be to use them.

        Honestly in a couple of months she really should have filled a room with a miniature version of the city.


        2015-01-29 at 8:05 pm

  6. elyandarin

    typo: “the simply work” -> simple


    2015-01-29 at 6:17 pm

  7. AvidFan

    It doesn’t say when the next page will be out! How am I supposed to grumble about it now!? (Grumble grumble crazy Australians having nothing to grumble about any more…)


    2015-01-31 at 4:02 am

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