A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.5 – Incuss et Reverentia {Shock and Awe}

Elena frowned when Patchwork yanked the hood of his outfit over his head. The optimistic side of her had hoped that he only wore his Artifex-costume at night, when out on raids, but clearly he was more prepared than that. The blonde-haired boy rippled out of sight with a glare, prompting a murmur from the crowd that surrounded the little group of DaRose garzoni.

The people watching are a double-edged sword, Elena thought, Malatesta doesn’t want to risk looking bad around them, but if they beat us in front of so many people our reputation will take a hit as well.

At least they cut an impressive figure. After fixing the Studio RaRose boiler, the first thing Elena had done was to work on costumes for her fellow garzoni. Her needlework needed work, and even with the Storm helping her she had jabbed herself several times, but she’d managed to finish six outfits over the course of the week. They were uniform in their various shades of light and dark greys, and the hoods and masks completed the effect.

“Why don’t you or Elio or Festo have a hood on your outfit?” Elena had asked Dolce once.

“Same reason we don’t have nicknames,” Dolce had replied, “we’re just Mortalis, what do we need them for?”

She glanced over at the Mortalis student now with a mixture of glee and nervousness. Dolce returned her smile with a frown, but Elena still thought the group looked much more imposing now than they had. With a crowd of Milian townsfolk watching, looks counted for quite a lot.

“It doesn’t work like this, Cog,” Patchwork’s voice placed him somewhere around the center of the courtyard, and Elena narrowed her eyes trying to catch the translucent glimmer that she had seen on the night she’d beaten him. “You can’t just throw convention to the winds and not think there will be repercussions.”

“Ignore him,” Elena murmured to her studiomates, as Arturo tugged gently at the lock he held wrapped in the canvas in his hand. A thick black smoke rose from the bundle, and Elena shuddered as she remembered the feeling of burning in her hand. “It’s not against the rules, not the real rules,” she repeated, trying to take her mind off of it.

Elio and Festo were pushing at the gates even as the lock fell away, and Arturo dropped the parchment with the chunk of still-smoldering metal inside on the ground, where it smoked and hissed in the snow.

“He’ll stay invisible until Ripple gets out here,” Isadora called, as the DaRose students poured into the courtyard, “we’ve got a time limit.” Elena bent over as she ran, scooping up handfuls of snow as she went. Her studiomates were doing the same, and by the time Elena had straightened they were already hurling snow around them, filling the courtyard with flurries of white powder.

A handful of small dark shapes began emerging from the windows of the Studio. Elena was so busy looking for Patchwork that she didn’t pay them much mind until they were close enough to see clearly. Small little insects carved of stone, scurrying through snowdrifts and leaping when they were close enough. One of them landed on Elena’s arm, clinging to the fabric with stone legs as it drew back a tiny little claw.

Elio swore and threw one of the insects off at the same time the bug drove a needle-like stone pincher into Elena’s skin. It hurt, enough that her eyes watered, but not enough for her to lose focus. Shaking the bug off, Elena brought her hammer down hard. Even with the cloth covering over the hammer, Elena could feel the grinding as the stone bug broke between hammerhead and stone.

I need to make a note, she thought, smashing another with a satisfying crunch, not to hit anyone on the ground with Mjolnir. It was harder to pay attention to both the bugs and keep an eye out for Patchwork, but after a few more of the stone creatures popped beneath her hammer, the others scampered back towards the open window. Each one of those must’ve taken a long time to make, Elena thought guiltily, but at least now she was free to look for the invisible Artifex.

The front door of the Studio burst open and Ripple launched herself through it, slipping a little at the doorstep in her haste to come outside. Elena scanned the courtyard as the others kept throwing snow, looking for anything, any little patch of wet cloth that would give Patchwork away in the few seconds it would take for Ripple to reach the group. She saw the spreading damp smear in the air a split second before Patchwork rammed her.

The entire weight of the boy slammed into her chest, so hard that it lifted her off of the ground. The breath left her lungs in a gust, everything in her mind pointing at the piercing pain just above her stomach. She hit the ground suddenly, the shock of it shivering through her elbows and tailbone and spine just before her head hit the ground. Patchwork’s full weight landed on her a heartbeat later, hammering into the same spot in her chest that was already screaming. Elena’s head spun in off-center circles as she tried to gasp, but her chest refused to take in air, as if she were underwater.

In comparison, Patchwork’s fist connecting with her face didn’t even hurt as much, though it snapped her head to one side and into the snow. The snow was too cold, the pain too severe; everything was too stark, too real. She could feel the warmth of Patchwork’s body on top of her, feel him shift his hips as he wound up to punch her again, and all the while a voice in the back of her head that sounded like Ele screamed for someone to help her.

Elena winced at the sudden sound of wood on flesh, and Patchwork screamed as several hands grabbed him and flung him off of her. She sat up, still trying to draw in a breath, gingerly feeling at the cheek that was already beginning to swell. Patchwork was on the ground a few feet away, handing his coin over to the burly Elio who stood over him, but his eyes were on Elena, his face twisted into an ugly expression.

“We can’t do anything to him now,” Dolce held out a hand and helped Elena onto her feet, and Elena finally gasped in a few ragged breaths.

“Doesn’t…matter,” she managed, “got…coin.”

“Two coins,” Isadora had her back to the group, facing Ripple. “Same deal as before, Ripple, it’s the whole group against you, and you don’t have a spotter.”

The Lanista had stopped a little ways from the scuffle in the middle of the courtyard, her silent gaze moving from Patchwork to the group of DaRose students to the crowd that still watched from just outside of the courtyard gates. She made a few complicated gestures with her fingers in Patchwork’s direction.

“They won’t wait that long, they’re too bloodthirsty right now,” Patchwork said sullenly.

“What are you doing? You’re not allowed to help her,” Dolce protested.

“Just talking to her, that’s allowed,” Patchwork snapped, “besides, the rules don’t mean anything anymore, apparently.”

Ripple made more gestures with her fingers, and Patchwork nodded.

“It might even work out as a net loss, once they pay the fines,” he said.

Ripple made one final gesture in the direction of the DaRose students, an extended middle finger, then tossed her coin in the snow at Isadora’s feet.

“Let’s move fast,” Elena panted as Isadora picked it off the ground, “if we rush we can catch more of them by surprise.”

“I wouldn’t count on it, Cog,” Patchwork sneered, accepting Ripple’s help to get on his feet. He held something to his lips, too small to see, but Elena and her studiomates were already moving towards the Studio’s front door.

“Hope someone opens the door before I have to break it down,” Elio said, casually swinging the heavy stave in his hands as the group approached.

“It’s not locked, you maniac,” Patchwork snarled, but he quickened his pace and shoved the door open.

“Let’s not lose any momentum,” Isadora caught the door and ushered the rest of them in, “the faster we get in and out of here, the better. Echoes, start searching.”

Ele, Arta, and Iso broke into a run, spreading out and slipping through the walls of the studio, leaving the five human DaRose garzoni alone in the foyer. Elena could feel her heart pounding in her ears, but she nodded at one of the side doors, and the group moved together towards it.

The room on the other side was some sort of workshop, most of it taken up with a huge round table. On the table’s surface, three praying mantises the size of Elena’s head turned and blinked stone eyes at the intruders, and behind them a girl with short-cropped black hair widened her eyes.

The mantises skittered across the table, stone claws clicking together loudly and moving so fast that Elena barely had time to shift her grip on her hammer. Elio lifted his stave and widened his feet into a more stable stance, but the girl yelled out before the mantises could cross the entire distance of the table

“Stop! Come back! Here, take my coin, please, just…stop,” she flicked the coin at them, and Isadora caught it on its second bounce off of the table. “They’re my favorite,” the black-haired girl said, somewhat abashedly.

“What other Stormtouched can we expect?” Isadora demanded.

“I gave up my coin, I don’t have to help you. You’ll figure out on your own what a mistake you’re making.”

“Next room then,” Elena could almost see Isadora dismiss the girl as soon as she realized she would be no help, focused only on getting through the studio as quickly as possible, “and since you’ve given up the coin, you can’t warn anyone else that we’re coming.” She shot over her shoulder.

“I know, I know the rules,” The girl glared at them as they left, stroking one of the stone mantises that was now resting in her lap, “unlike Studio DaRose, apparently.”

Elena opened her mouth to remind her studiomates that there was no specific rule against attacking in the daytime, but as soon as she entered the next room the thought was driven from her head. The room was a dining hall, large and wide with high ceilings, and it was full of Malatesta garzoni. Purple uniforms, each of them armed with batons or staves or cudgels. It was obvious that they were waiting for the DaRose garzoni.

Too many of them, Elena stood frozen, holding her hammer so tightly in her hand that her fingertips were growing numb. There was no way that Malatesta had this many students, all of them carrying coins, all of them able to fight. As if to prove her wrong, the mass of uniformed students charged.

“Lighting up,” Isadora shouted, and despite the danger, despite the terrifying sight of a mass of purple advancing towards them, Elena clamped her eyes shut tight. Even with her eyes shut tight it was so bright that she could see the light flash behind her eyelids, and the startled yells and screams were indication that it was even more effective than she had imagined.

It had been Patchwork who had given her the idea of Artifex powers layered onto clothing. Isadora had been skeptical when Elena had asked her for help, but after a little experimentation she had launched herself into the project full force. As the lights died down and Elena opened her eyes, fast enough that she could see the fading light of the glowing fabric that made up her studiomates’ uniforms. Even the fading light was bright.

Not a one of the Malatesta students had been prepared for the onslaught of light, and even for Elena it was easy to knock weapons away from them, trip them up. On her left, Elio was a little more rough, shoving the students to the ground and kicking wooden weapons across the room.

“I see you found the Mortalis students,” Arta panted, emerging from one wall and running towards the wall opposite, “I was going to warn you, but it looks like you have them well in hand.”

“Keep scouting,” Arturo said, and Arta continued on through the next wall without pausing.

“You all have some coins to give up, Malatesta garzoni,” Isadora said to the group of blinded Mortalis.

“I think not. In fact I think that will be quite enough of this nonsense altogether.” The severe voice cut across the ruckus like a knife, and suddenly the room was silent again. At the opposite end of the long dining hall, flanked by two large men made of marble, Master Malatesta stood with her arms crossed, staring at the DaRose Garzoni.

Elena had never seen anyone look so furious.

 


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16 responses

  1. This is one of those really weird chapters, in that I’m not really sure if it’s wonderful, horrible, mediocre or any level in between, so if you really loved it or really hated it be sure to let me know in the comments!

    Looking for something to read in between Twisted Cogs updates (assuming you’re not getting the advanced draft of next Sunday’s update via Patreon)? Well t’s been a while since I’ve made a webserial recommendation, but I recently discovered one that’s been around forever and is REALLY good; it’s called Starwalker and is your basic trek-across-the-stars style sci-fi…but told from the perspective of the ship’s AI. Amazing characters, awesome dialogue, and just overall very well written, A++.

    Like

    2015-03-18 at 10:07 pm

    • Loving it. Although I am dreading the repercussions – it would be nice to see Elena achieving something.

      Liked by 2 people

      2015-03-19 at 3:39 am

  2. Dogged

    Well I for one loved this chapter. Not sure if Elena has bitten off more than she can chew or not but its great to see her stretching her wings a little so to speak.

    Like

    2015-03-18 at 11:57 pm

  3. Baboz

    I enjoyed it. It was definitely tense. I can’t wait to see how taking these risks pays off. It’s fun to see Elena kicking ass though I feel like the results will be a mixed bag which I guess will make it more interesting! Though Elena seems to be on a slightly uncontrolled warpath hah.

    Like

    2015-03-18 at 11:58 pm

    • danielmc73

      I enjoyed the chapter and I’m really looking forward to the effects this has

      Like

      2015-03-19 at 12:19 am

  4. Stormblessed

    Can you please tell me why you thought the chapter was weird?

    I mean, it is a little more action packed than usual, but what made this chapter especially weird?

    Like

    2015-03-19 at 12:23 am

    • Every now and then I hit a chapter or set of chapters that I’ve been “working towards” for quite some time, and since those are the chapters I usually turn around in my mind for a long time, occasionally it can be hard to have perspective, if that makes sense. It’s like, I’ve been imagining different ways I could write this chapter (and the next two chapters after it) for so long that it’s difficult to tell if the tone and feel came across as I intended.

      ( Often, though, it’s just me being paranoid :D )

      Like

      2015-03-19 at 2:11 pm

      • Stormblessed

        I can certainly understand paranoia of that fashion.

        Like

        2015-03-20 at 11:35 pm

  5. kunama

    it’s an in between chapter that has a really appropriate stopping point! A master appears! Now what will happen?!?!?!

    Like

    2015-03-19 at 2:19 am

  6. I guess we’re going to get a lesson in real rules and merely guidelines. :)

    Like

    2015-03-19 at 4:02 am

  7. jester0fdeath

    God… Honestly I really dislike this situation over all. Attacking during the day leads to less art-making overall which I believe goes against Elena’s beliefs. I can accept that she didn’t think about that or the storm made her forget, but I find attacking during the day such a dick move.

    However, it is a good lead into an actual explaination of the rules. Also, it is satisfying that Elena gets to win a little bit. Thanks for the chapter.

    Like

    2015-03-19 at 5:04 am

  8. Unmaker

    The Masters should know the rules, which means that Master Malatesta may be a real problem. Unwritten or not, the no-day-attacks rule makes a lot of sense because otherwise studio operations would get interrupted too much.

    Like

    2015-03-19 at 8:28 am

  9. Thank you to everyone who left feedback! One of the most helpful things about the webserial format when it comes to writing is to be able to have instant commentary, and when it comes to chapters I’m unsure about, that goes double.

    You guys and gals all rock!

    Like

    2015-03-19 at 2:09 pm

  10. Abeona

    I like this chapter – it makes the da Rosa garzoni more dangerous overall, and other studios are likely to become more scared of them. It also doesn’t change the fact that they have better weapons and powers – so I totally buy that they eventually move up in the hierarchy over this, and they’ll get an explanation of what precisely is allowed.

    Like

    2015-03-21 at 3:48 pm

  11. nirg

    LoL

    Like

    2015-03-25 at 6:39 am

  12. Isa Lumitus

    “Master Evil Head? Would you like to hand over your coin now, or do I need to use Mjolnir to smash your teeth in first?”

    –Proper next words for Elena

    Like

    2015-07-24 at 4:00 am

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