A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.8 – Crepitus {Snap}

Elena entered the dining room slowly, looking around at those assembled and biting her lip. She sat down at the head of the table, her hands clenched into anxious fists.

“Goodness, Elena, you needn’t look so terrified!” The woman with brown hair laughed, “we’re not here to hurt you. Quite the opposite in fact.”

“Mama, what are you doing here?” even though she was fairly sure that the woman was Master Malatesta, the Calaetor who ran Studio Malatesta, Elena was more worried about her mother’s presence. What had the Masters said about her that her mother felt it warranted making the long trip back to Milia, when Elena’s expulsion from Studio De Luca wasn’t enough to bring her?

“Mistress Malatesta was kind enough to write to me and tell me how you’ve been handling yourself,” Joanna replied, her chin held at a dignified angle, “which I appreciated, since you haven’t seen fit to do so yourself.”

“It’s ‘Master’,” Elena mumbled. Normally the guilt at her mother’s prod would’ve overwhelmed her, but the emotional ups and downs of the day had left her almost numb, “whether a studio master is a boy or a girl they’re called ‘Master’.”

“Some of our students tell me you’ve displayed a lot of promise during your time at Studio DaRose, Elena,” Master Malatesta said. “Combined with the praise that your friends Vittoria and Carlo, I have to admit I’ve grown intrigued.”

Vittoria gave Elena a smile and a small wave, “it’s good to see you again Elena.”

“Your mural,” Elena blurted, “the mural you painted on the Cathedral, it overlooks the Street of Grey Artisans. That’s how Studio Malatesta has known whenever we left for a raid, because you told them.”

The boy with the blond mane of hair spoke, and Elena’s stomach clenched in recognition of Patchwork’s voice, “you already knew that we knew when you raided, I don’t know why you’re acting so surprised.”

Elena tried to ignore Patchwork, but his voice had been enough to send her already abused emotions into tailspin. It wasn’t fair, none of it was fair; just when she’d thought she had no more friends who could betray her this had to happen. “How could you, Vittoria?”

“I…I don’t know what you mean, Elena,” Vittoria looked as if she had been slapped, “I’m helping my studio, just like I did when I was in Studio De Luca…just like you’re doing with your studio.”

“But we were friends!”

“We still are! What happens between studios doesn’t mean we can’t be friends!”

“It’s just studio politics, Cog, you take it way too seriously,” Patchwork said offhandedly.

“You called me trash and said my coin wasn’t worth taking!” Elena was so heated that her voice rose to a squeak.

“Now, now, Elena,” Master DaRose spoke for the first time, “try to calm down. Master Malatesta has made an offer, and you’ll need a level head to consider whether or not you wish to take it.”

Patchwork smirked. “As long as she has a head she’ll know whether or not to-”

“That’s enough, Ercole.” Master Malatesta said with authority, and Patchwork fell silent immediately. “Elena, we’ve come to offer you a place at Studio Malatesta. If you accept, we can leave at once, together. We’ll have your things sent over, and you’ll be a Malatesta garzona before nightfall, with all of the responsibilities and benefits thereof.”

Elena had suspected as soon as she had seen Master Malatesta, her mother, and Master DaRose together in the same room, but even so the offer gave her pause. Her thoughts were sluggish, and even with the muted numbness that had overtaken her she couldn’t identify what she was feeling.

“I don’t…” she began, then paused. Her first instinct was to say no, and that instinct nagged her stomach, but she didn’t quite know why. She glanced at Master DaRose, who spread both hands helplessly.

“I won’t lie to you and say it’s not an excellent opportunity,” he said, “of course we would all be very sad to see you go, but if you choose to leave us I would understand.”

And you wouldn’t even notice me gone, Elena thought, hidden away in your room, working on your whispering box.

“Elena, Master Malatesta has told me all about the hierarchies of Milian studios,” her mother broke the silence, “you’ve spent so much time studying this city, I would have thought the answer to her question is obvious.”

Elena swallowed. Her mother was right, as usual. Studio Malatesta was prestigious, almost as prestigious as Studio De Luca, and unlike Studio De Luca they seemed to be willing to go out of their way to have her. On the other hand…

“…’s not my studio…” Elena said, so quietly that she could barely hear herself.

“I’m sorry?” Master Malatesta said.

“Elena speak up, and sit up straighter,” her mother chastised at the same time. Elena straightened instinctively, but tears began to form in her eyes. The idea that she would leave the studio and join Malatesta was just wrong, in some way she couldn’t form in her head, but there was too much stacked against her, too much to think about to put her half-formed objection into words. Vittoria looked at her with a hopeful expression, Patchwork with casual dismissal, and the thought of crushing her friend and letting Patchwork feel that he’d won were both equally as horrible.

What have I got to lose? she thought, forlornly, the DaRose garzoni either dislike me, don’t care about me, or tolerate me, all but Arturo and Arta. I’ve officially had just as many conversations with Master Malatesta as I have with Master Omerto. Mama has always known what’s best for me, and she would be disappointed in me if I didn’t take this opportunity…

As Elena opened her mouth to speak, the door opened and Emerald entered, followed by Ele. Elena had forgotten that they had been following her, and she furrowed her brow. Ele would hate being separated from Emerald, which would surely happen if she took Malatesta up on her offer.

Why should I care? They both lied to me, brainwashed me, I don’t owe them anything…

“Elena who is this?” Joanna asked.

“I’m the new servant, Ma’am,” Emerald said respectfully, “at least I hope to be. Elena is giving me a recommendation, and I thought-”

“This is a private meeting, of artists and family,” Joanna said, her tone biting. “I don’t care what you thought, it was very rude of you to barge in like that.”

A hard look passed over Emerald’s eyes for a split second, but then she bowed her head.

“I’m sorry ma’am.”

“As well you should be. Now unless you have something to say, I suggest you wait outside.”

Emerald pointed out that a servant should be on hand in case Elena needed anything.

“I suppose that is true,” Joanna said, frowning, “but we’re in a meeting-”

Emerald noted that a family of such high stature as the Luccianos would surely need someone on call, even during an important meeting.

“Well, that is quite right at least. It’s good to see a servant with a proper sense of decorum. Very well, you may stay, but stand in the corner quietly.”

It had taken Elena a few moments to identify why Emerald’s words had sounded so strange, as if they were fuzzy around the edges, but when she did her eyes widened.

“NO!” she shouted, turning to face Emerald with fiery eyes. “Don’t you dare!”

“Elena-” Emerald began, but Elena was on her feet and shouting.

“That is my mother! You aren’t allowed to…you aren’t allowed!” she shouted. The tears that had been forming in her eyes had dried up in the rage that suddenly filled her. It was as if every emotion from the day, from the week, from the months she had been here had been gathered and focused into this one minute.

“I’m sorry, Elena, I didn’t mean-”

“I don’t care. I don’t care if you’re sorry, I don’t care. Get out!” Elena snarled.

How dare she? How DARE she? That is my mother, MINE, and she acts as if she’s allowed to Rhetor-talk herself into MY mother’s head?

Elena suddenly realized that Emerald was staring her, eyebrows raised. “I said get out!” She snapped, and the Rhetor turned without a word. Ele joined her in leaving, flashing Elena a glare before he left.

“Elena Lucciano,” Joanna said severely, “you must learn to control your temper young lady.”

“You…you shut up!” Elena whirled back to the table, her hands clenched at her sides. Her anger hadn’t dissipated, if anything it had just grown wilder. They all sat there in silence, all of them staring at her as if she was the one in the wrong. All of them trying to dictate to her, all of them trying to tell her what she should do with her life, what her plans and goals and dreams should be.

They have no right. None of them have any right. MY life, MY goals, MY plans, MY future. It was a different kind of buzzing, less like her Storm and more like her anger snarled like a nest of angry bees in her stomach and around her heart.

“You don’t get to just…just show up out of the blue and tell me what to do!” She said. “You weren’t here when I join DaRose, you didn’t even answer my letter asking for advice!”


“And what do you know about it anyways? What do you know about art, or Milia, or studios or…or anything that I’ve been through?”

Her mother gaped, opening and closing her mouth wordlessly.

“I’m not leaving,” Elena hadn’t realized she made a decision, she looked towards Master Malatesta and the anger only increased. “I would rather be without a studio than be a Malatesta garzona.”

“Think very carefully about this, Elena,” Master Malatesta said quietly.

“Are you seriously going to throw your future away just because your feelings are hurt when you lose coins?” Patchwork leaned back and folded his arms with a grin.

“It’s MY future, you don’t know a thing about it,” Elena snapped. The Storm prickled so hard in her head it felt as though she were being stabbed, “and no, I don’t plan on throwing it away at all.”

“Why, Elena?” From behind Vittoria’s seat, Vi asked the question quietly, “why are you choosing this?”

Elena frowned, trying to think of her answer while her head pounded.

“It might not be the highest in the hierarchy, or have the most resources,” she said, “but Studio DaRose is my studio. It’s where I belong, and I’m not going to run away from them just because I got another offer.”

“Well then, it would seem that’s settled, though not as I’d liked,” Master Malatesta rose, “Master DaRose, thank you for your hospitality.”

Elena took note of Ercole’s Echo as the Malatesta group left, committing the girl’s appearance to memory. The Echo had short blonde hair, dark eyes, a brooding and thoughtful expression, and Elena was quite sure that for all her interactions with Patchwork, she had never seen his Echo before. She stored the knowledge away in her mind; Studio Malatesta had kept Vittoria’s presence a secret, who knew what other details might be important?

“E…Elena…” her mother finally managed to stammer.

“Mama, I’m sorry but I need to talk to Master DaRose alone for a moment,” Elena said, avoiding her mother’s gaze. Both her anger and her Storm still burned in her, but a dreadful feeling of guilt was also beginning to well up within. Luckily her mother still seemed somewhat flabbergasted, and she left the room without her customary huff.

“I am very touched by your loyalty, Miss Elena,” Master DaRose smiled as he rose. His eyes flicked to the doorway, “you said you had something to speak to me about? I’m afraid I don’t have a large amount of time, Master Malatesta interrupted me in my work at what might be a critical moment.”

“This will be quick,” Elena said. She chose her words carefully, trying to tell if her Storm was helping her sift through the words or if it merely prickled in her mind. Some of her anger had dissipated when Studio Malatesta had left, but there was enough to spare for her erstwhile Master. A Master who was supposed to take care of his garzoni, train them and teach them and make sure the studio ran smoothly. She was careful to keep all of the anger out of her voice when she spoke; she didn’t think he would pick up on it, but she wasn’t sure how perceptive his Echo was, the woman who eyed her sleepily from behind him. “Master DaRose, there are times when you are…rather busy with your work, aren’t there?”

“Indeed, the work often takes up much of my time. It’s just a part of being a Master.”

His words made her anger flare again, but Elena continued carefully.

“I wondered if there was anything I could do to help you with that. Maybe I could help take care of the Studio when you’re working?”

“Yes, yes, all of you garzoni do a very good job at that,” Master DaRose said kindly, moving towards the door. “There’s no question of your effectiveness at that, Elena.”

“But maybe I could do better if I helped take care of all the Studio when you’re working,” Elena said, “take care of it as if it’s my own.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea, excellent” DaRose nodded, already halfway out of the room.

“Master DaRose!”

The man turned, seeming exasperated.

Exasperated at exchanging a few sentences, Elena clenched her fists and her teeth, after I just chose him over Malatesta.

“Just to make sure I understand you, while you’re working the studio is mine to take care of?”

“Yes, Elena, as I said. While I’m working, the studio is yours.” DaRose let the door swing closed even as he finished speaking, leaving her alone in the suddenly quiet dining room.

Elena’s Storm erupted.


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24 responses

  1. Called it.


    2015-02-23 at 12:50 am

  2. Stormblessed


    That last line is just too perfect.

    Also, Elenia really should have considered switching studios for longer.

    But I’m not quite sure that even going to another studio would help Elenia out the most.

    Perhaps having the ‘whole studio’ as hers will be better in the long run. Certainly better for Emerald, at any rate.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-02-23 at 12:51 am

  3. kunama

    I look forward to seeing what Elena is like when she’s well informed and much less confused.


    2015-02-23 at 1:23 am

  4. jtheory

    Hahaha! *Her* future, so her storm can nudge her towards this realization — only one studio can possible be *hers* like this DaRose can – for the exact same reason that make it a weak studio for all other intents and purposes.


    2015-02-23 at 2:29 am

  5. Dogged

    That was a very satisfying chapter. It’ll be interesting to see what Elena can do with “her” studio.

    I was a little surprised that members of studio Malatesta aside from Vittoria and Carlo had spoken so highly of Elena to their Master. It seems like what they’ve seen of her so far includes being caught in bed, Patchwork turning down her coin and Elena getting in one hit with her hammer after Patchwork knocked her down and stood gloating where he could see her (although that weakness may not have occurred to him).

    The only thing I could think of was maybe they somehow found out she took eight coins from studio Foscari single-handedly (which as far as I can tell wasn’t seen by anyone from studio Malatesta) or perhaps something involving Carlos’s storm but it feels like I’m reaching a little to justify their reaction. Only a little irk but I felt it was worth mentioning. On the other hand Patches echo has been mia…

    Oh and Joanna’s reaction. Too long coming :D

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-02-23 at 3:58 am

    • Isa Lumitus

      My take on Malatesta’s thoughts is this: “Those DeRose dare to fight back! They beat two of us! This cannot stand! But that only happened when they got Cog. So, what if we took Cog away from DeRose? The people that matter are on our side, and the DeRoses’ faces are in the dirt. Everything as it should be.”


      2015-07-24 at 2:34 am

  6. I am in love with this serial :)

    It only grows better chapter by chapter, keep up the good work. (Also dang i caught up)

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-02-23 at 7:08 am

  7. Diabolical!

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-02-23 at 9:17 am

  8. Gnibbles



    2015-02-23 at 10:13 am

  9. Please permanently place a link to vote at top web fiction at the end of every chapter. You will get many more votes that way.


    2015-02-23 at 11:56 am

    • Thanks for the suggestion! I actually did do this at one point…but then for whatever reason I stopped. I’ll start implementing that again now, if people don’t mind it.


      2015-02-25 at 10:19 pm

  10. Unmaker


    assembled and
    assembled and (extra space)

    laughed, “we’re
    laughed, “We’re

    blurted, “the
    blurted, “The

    tried to ignored Patchwork
    tried to ignore Patchwork

    time, “try
    time, “Try

    she thought, forlornly
    She thought, forlornly



    Alternate title: Elena Cresce una Spina Dorsale {Elena grows a spine}

    It is quite interesting that Elena can spot Rhetor Storm use now. She apparently couldn’t when she was being held hostage, so I wonder what has changed. Perhaps the “MY mother” part of that helped, perhaps this was more overt, perhaps she is more aware and sensitized to it. Insufficient information.

    My understanding of history is a bit vague, but I imagine in general that a daughter and apprentice who acted the way Elena did in front of her mother and another Master would normally be in a huge amount of trouble. That may still be the case, but if so it isn’t immediately obvious.

    Oh, and that last line! Sh** just got real. And it was deliberate on Elena’s part, a first step in mastermind growth. As a previous commenter noted, if Elena got crowned queen the country would be officially hers, and there would be a Storm power that could and would affect the whole country.


    2015-02-23 at 12:08 pm

    • Thanks for the catches! Over the course of my writing life I don’t think anything has given me more trouble than direct speech capitalization, so I had to look this up just to make sure; apparently direct speech SHOULD be capitalized, BUT in the case of direct speech broken up by information, the second portion should not be capitalized.

      (It’s little titchy rules like this that make me want to throw my hands up and Just start rAndomly capitAlizing words foR no REAson) :)


      2015-02-25 at 10:25 pm

      • Anonymous

        OK. I was using Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker, which recommended the capitalization of the second part. It has been wrong before, so lesson learned.


        2015-03-01 at 2:15 pm

        • I really do appreciate all of you guys’ hard work finding my (admittedly numerous) typos and grammar stuff; it really does help out so much when it comes to the editing for publication!


          2015-03-04 at 9:55 pm

  11. Anon451

    My gut reaction is that it would have been more logical for Elena to move to a more prestigious studio where the garzoni actually get some help with their art, but she can’t because the story has set Malatesta up as Slytherin House, and she can’t join any group that includes Patchwork/Malfoy. Having Elena reason this out herself made her decision weaker, not stronger, because she didn’t actually come up with any reasons why she should turn down an opportunity, so it just wound up seeming arbitrary, like ‘this is the studio I joined, so this is where I’ll stay!’

    That said, I really like the way this chapter ended. If nothing else, it goves me hope that she actually did make the right decision. I foresee Elena doing incredible things, and possibly scaring her studio-mates with her fervour!


    2015-02-23 at 10:00 pm

    • AvidFan

      Mm. I think it’s more the fact that she had a clear way to make Da Rose’s studio HERS. If it is HERS, it doesn’t really matter if it’s he weakest or the strongest because her storm is completely overpowered. :P
      Whereas she has no way to make Malatesta’s studio HERS.

      That aside, I don’t really see it being comparable to Slytherin house at all.


      2015-02-24 at 12:26 am

    • Not so, I think. Studio Malatesta could never become hers quite so strongly or quickly, thanks to having a master to whom it is strongly bonded. DeRosa only really owns his machine: the studio is, for him, a peripheral distraction. The price of the talent he has, and nothing more.

      In many ways, both his Storm and hers could bounce off each other: both rely on a lot of internal categorising and theoretical constructs. Just expressed very, very differently. He may not realise how badly he needs her, but her Storm probably picked up on this niche being posdible in nothing flat. And, will now have full whack to allow her to use it.

      Incidentally: trying to stalk a girl who can decide what you are to her and use that should come with a health warning. ;)


      2015-02-25 at 7:54 pm

  12. Alien

    @Anon451, But the point should be made, that she purposely thought “my future” before making a decision, and her Storm made the assumingly correct decision for her. The outburst at Emerald was actually semi-unrelated to making the decision not to join Malatesta’s studio.


    2015-02-24 at 12:27 am

  13. Ahahaha, I’ve been waiting for this!


    2015-02-24 at 6:30 am

  14. Panster

    I’m so happy that Elena’s starting to do awesome things. It felt like a long buildup, but this is gonna be sooo worth it to read.


    2015-02-24 at 10:25 pm

  15. Jat

    What are we to Elena? Are we HER readers?


    2015-03-31 at 2:00 pm

  16. Isa Lumitus

    I just understood the name Malatesta.

    Mal can mean Bad, or Evil.
    Teste means Heads, according to Google Translate.

    So we have Studio Evil Heads. They have been petty bullies whenever they appear.


    2015-07-24 at 2:45 am

  17. Anonymous

    This is the chapter I’ve been waiting for the whole time.


    2015-07-31 at 5:13 pm

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