A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.3 – In Eorum Locum {In Their Place}

Elena didn’t much care for poetry and ballads; she much preferred more down-to-earth reading like history or information on various crafts. It showed how much poets loved tales of Lanisti that even someone who avoided ballads had heard of how supposedly beautiful it was to watch one of them fight.

It barely even looked as if the girl in the snow was fighting, more like she was engaging in an elaborate dance that just so happened to coincide with the DaRose garzoni’s movements. A skip back sent her out of range of Elio’s two-handed swing of his stave, then a few quick steps forward brought her close enough to slam a fist into his chest, hard enough that the muffled thud resounded in the otherwise quiet streets. Another turn and a duck and weave, and she was far out of reach of retaliation, her arm swinging wide to narrowly miss Arturo’s face. When Isadora ducked forward in a feint, Ripple didn’t flinch.

The beautiful dance made her motions seem so effortless, Elena wasn’t sure why her team was waiting around, especially since Dolce and Festo had apparently already lost their coins. Even Elio was still making jabs with his stave, though he seemed to be favoring the arm on the side that hadn’t been punched.

They’re waiting for me! Elena suddenly realized, they were waiting for me to catch up, and now they’re waiting for me to… the hammer seemed heavy at her belt, and Elena swallowed. Elio, Arturo and Isadora were pressing in closer now, dangerously close, and now Elena could see what they were doing. Ripple hadn’t seen her yet, so there was a chance…a very slight chance…

Elena began slipping her hammer from her belt, carefully moving through the snow as quietly as she could. Her heart leapt at each crunch of her footsteps, but she probably didn’t need to worry given the grunts and crunches of the back and forth in front of her.

This is the defining moment, Elena thought, creeping closer, step by step, this is where Cog becomes a big name in the studio world. Should I yell something when I hit her? I should probably yell something, it’ll be more impressive.

Ripple caught Elio’s stave in the crook of her arm, twisting it away from the burly man while swinging for his chest and forcing him to let go and skip back or take another punch to the chest. After a moment of tense stillness, she tossed the stave into the snow to one side, contempt radiating from her.

Maybe I’ll yell something after I hit her… Elena was closer now, so close that she could cross the distance and swing in a few steps. Swing with MY hammer, she reminded herself, and her Storm buzzed into action along her fingertips, reassuring her that the hammer’s reach was long enough if she took two quick steps-

“You have a timid Cog behind you, eyeing you with her hammer,” Patchworks’ voice drawled lazily from thin air to her right. Ripple shifted her weight suddenly, her left foot snapping up just a few feet away from Elena, who squeaked and jumped backward so fast she almost fell over. Had she been a little closer, Ripple’s foot would’ve hit her square in the chest; Elena dreaded to imagine how much damage it might’ve caused.

There wouldn’t be another chance to attack, now that she’d lost the element of surprise. Ripple continued to spin and dance, but she shot glances over her shoulder every now and then, as if Elena was only barely a threat that needed tracking. It was humiliating and enraging and mostly correct; even as Elena blushed with anger she didn’t dare make another move towards her. Instead she turned to the general direction that the voice had come from.

Patchwork.

“Why do you always have to ruin everything!” she yelled at the empty air, charging forward and swinging her hammer blindly. “What did we ever do to you? If we’re so beneath your notice then why…don’t…you…leave…us…alone?” She accompanied every word with a swing of her hammer, even though she knew it would do no good. Her arms were tired, her teeth clenched, her face flushed, and all of the good feelings she had from Studio Foscari were gone.

“Because it’s easy,” Patchwork didn’t even sound out of breath. Elena swung again, and although he was close enough that she could hear his footsteps crunch as he skipped back, she still had no idea where he was.

She gave another swing, although at this point she didn’t really think she would hit him. A sudden shove from behind sent her sprawling into the snow, her fingers pinched between her hammer and the smooth stone of the street beneath the snow. For the second time in the evening the cold and damp of the snow seeped into her clothes, and she drew in a sharp breath through her teeth at the pain in her knuckles and knees.

“Because it’s easy and because DaRose has lately been insisting on acting as if they have a place among the higher studios,” Patchwork continued. Elena struggled to her knees, but a sharp kick in the ribs sent her onto her back, staring up at the stars and clouds above. “DaRose has no higher place in the hierarchy than the rock bottom at which it sits now. You all used to remember that, but the fact that your studiomates are fighting Ripple instead of giving up their coins makes me think that you’ve perhaps forgotten.”

It had taken a while for the pain from the kick to filter through to her, but Elena let out a half-cough, half-cry, clutching at her side. Her eyes watered, and the pain branched out into different types; a bass thrum in her chest, staccato riffs through her knuckles, a piercing single note whenever she breathed in.

He didn’t even ask for my coin, she thought, head spinning, that’s not fair…isn’t that against the rules?

“Of course if you’re looking for some deeper reason, DaRose kid, it could simply be that we don’t have anything better to do on a Friday night,” Patchwork said from her left. Elena turned her head in the snow, looked through her tears, and saw him.

She had thought Patchwork’s outfit was a patchwork quilt of differing shades of purple, but she realized now how wrong she had been; it was a patchwork quilt of Artifex paintings. The colours of the surrounding area, dark blues and blacks and deep silvers, swam along the surface of the material, shifting with every miniscule movement he made. To her fellow garzoni, only half paying attention as they fought with Ripple, Patchwork was effectively invisible, his clothes and hood and mask displaying the surroundings on the other side. To Elena, lying on the ground beneath him, the man was perfectly outlined; a patch of wall and snow-covered ground against a starry black sky.

Momentum gained from ground up, adjusting for hurt rib and looser grip- her Storm began to supply.

I don’t need the Storm to know how to swing a hammer, she mentally snarled.

The hammer flung an arc of snow into the night sky as she swung.

The jolt of the impact made her grazed knuckles sting.

The light, cloth-bound, half-hollowed hammer against Patchwork’s hip rang like a wooden drum in the quiet street.

He crumpled to the ground, momentarily disappearing from sight, but his groans made it clear where he was. Elena sat up with a groan of her own, gathered a handful of snow, and flung it to where he had fallen next to her. The snow clung, seemingly to thin air, and melted to distort the images as the water soaked into his clothes. After a few moments Patchwork grunted, and the effect dissipated in a series of ripples, leaving him sitting in the snow, covered from head to foot in his patchwork purple outfit. Elena rose slowly, her teeth clenched to avoid making a sound of pain from her ribs.

“If you move,” Elena said through her teeth, “if you say anything or move, I’m going to hit you in the face with my hammer.”

Patchwork lay very still in the snow, his expression unreadable through his lavender mask. The street quieted as Ripple, Elio, Arturo and Isadora stopped fighting, an uneasy standoff as they observed what was going on.

“How do you always know where we’ll be? The real answer, not that ‘Malatesta always knows’ line.” Elena asked. Patchwork reached into his pocket and she gripped her hammer tighter, but he was only going for his coin.

“I’m offering up my coin and therefore further damage to me is not allowed under the Intrastudio Convention,” he said, holding the silver disc out to her.

“You can’t even give up without sounding pompous,” Elena snapped, “I don’t want your coin, I want to know how you always know where we’ll be.”

“Alas, Cog, since I’m no longer in the game, I have absolutely no obligation to inform you of our sources,” Patchwork said, his smug expression obvious even though it was hidden. “Take the coin, it’s yours, but that’s all that you’ll get from me.”

The coin was hers, the hammer was hers, and the Storm was feeding her a steady stream of information about both. Neither of them were Studio Malatesta, and Elena almost growled in frustration. She slapped the coin from Patchwork’s hand, taking some small satisfaction from the way it rang as it bounced down the street.

“Well, now that your pointless and ineffectual display of temper is done,” Patchwork rose to his feet heavily, looking down at the damp patches on his outfit and grimacing, “I think we’ll be going.”

“One second,” Isadora interjected. “We’ll be taking your coin as well, Ripple.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Patchwork chuckled, “Ripple was handling the group of you even with your two Mortalis, Cog isn’t going to tip the scales.”

“She was handling us with your help, shouting invisible instructions, letting her know when someone was behind her,” Isadora pointed out. “Now that you’ve given up the coin you’re not allowed to help her anymore. Can she handle all of DaRose’s Stormtouched without your help?”

Elio is probably more help than I am, Elena thought, but she didn’t say anything. Ripple glanced over her shoulder at Patchwork, the silence stretching out as they somehow exchanged glances without either’s expression showing. Ripple gave an almost imperceptible shake over her head, and Patchwork’s shoulders slumped.

“Very well. Ripple, I suppose we have no choice. If you please?” Ripple silently pulled a coin from a small pouch at her waist in a movement so smooth that Elena barely registered it. Isadora accepted it hesitantly, and Ripple turned on her heel and moved to support Patchwork, who looked as if he was about to collapse. “Mark my words, DaRoses, there will come a day-” Ripple placed a gloved finger on his lips, then took her studiomate’s arm over her shoulder, helping him limp away. The DaRose garzoni watched the pair hobble down the street, and in spite of her frustration Elena felt a glow of pride in herself.

“I found the Foscari garzoni,” she said, turning to the others, “eight coins! With Ripple’s that’s nine that we’re up!”

“Ten,” Isadora nodded down the street, “DaRose can’t afford to give up coins like that, go find Patchwork’s. Dolce and Festo lost theirs, so we’ll have a net eight gain.” A little subdued, Elena turned to look down the street for the patches of disturbed snow where the coin might have skipped. “Oh, and Elena…” Moving to help Dolce to her feet, Isadora flashed a wide smile over her shoulder at the Fabera. “… well done.”

 


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8 responses

  1. Unmaker

    Typos:

    prefered
    preferred

    colours
    British spelling, may not be a typo

    “eight coins!
    “Eight coins!

    ripple was handling the group
    Ripple was handling the group

    And so some of the studio Malatesta illusion of invincibility wears off. Patchwork isn’t invisible, just using superb active camouflage. Ripple, despite being Lanisti (some sort of close-combat-oriented Storm?), has to back down when faced with a many-on-one fight without a spotter. Hopefully the how-do-they-know trick can be countered by Elena’s models.

    Speaking of spotters, Sagittari have Echoes. Do Lanisti have them? Artifex definitely do (Patchwork, right?). Why aren’t the Malatesta Echoes serving as spotters? They clearly aren’t forbidden and it would seem that having a lookout / scout that can walk through walls and see through floors would be a serious advantage.

    Whatever the intent and other outcomes, the inter-studio fights at an age that people are already more likely to be attracted to gangs and related groups enhances an us-versus-them, bully mentality that might be detrimental later in life. This is particularly noticeable when dealing with people like Patchwork and Ripple, who are not gracious winners (slightly better losers than winners, but still).

    Like

    2015-02-05 at 10:46 am

  2. It’s gratifying to see Elena having a run of successes, though the general attitude of the Malatesta garzoni is worrying. Bullies, despite what 80s teen movies tried to teach us, don’t back down when humiliated once; they come back swinging harder.

    Like

    2015-02-05 at 3:27 pm

  3. Gnibbles

    HAMMER TIME! :D :D :D

    Like

    2015-02-05 at 4:54 pm

  4. Panster

    Yeah! This chapter makes me unbelievably happy that Elena’s done something right

    Like

    2015-02-05 at 6:13 pm

  5. elyandarin

    I wonder, does Elena’s own body count as one of her possessions? She’d be able to tell exactly how to train it for the best effect, what vitamins and minerals it needs to be maximally healthy (I imagine her eating rock paste and shoe polish to get just the right isotopes), maybe even how to cure diseases affecting it, as long as it’s a fairly simple recipe…

    Like

    2015-02-05 at 7:10 pm

    • Bobby

      You know what I’m wondering? If she can use a model to know things about a studio, what can she do with a statue of someone?

      Like

      2015-02-06 at 12:03 am

  6. I forgot to mention this – I just got caught up in the story again – but that fight scene and the way you described how Ripple moved was really well done. I’m taking notes. :D

    Like

    2015-04-20 at 3:50 pm

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