A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.7 – Lectio Cordus {Lecure the Second}

The carriage was small and compact, but it reminded Elena of a predatory animal, laying it wait for the group. The closer the DaRose students came to their studio, the more Elena was sure that someone inside was watching them.

“How do you think Master DaRose will react to Milian Page being here?” Elena murmured to Arta, partly to keep from wondering who was sitting in the carriage, what they were thinking..

“I don’t think Master DaRose will even realize,” Arta said just as quietly, “you know how he is; unless it’s related to his machine, nothing inside or out of the Studio will keep his attention for long.”

The carriage sat quiet and still as the garzoni passed, but as soon as they reached the gate a man emerged. He slid through the wooden door and onto the ground with a single movement, as if it were the step of a dance. Elena had been eyeing the carriage over her shoulder, and she stopped to face the man that waited politely in front of the carriage, a few steps away from them.

“Good afternoon, DaRose garzoni,” he said, his voice carrying the hint of an accent from somewhere Elena couldn’t place, “I am here on business from Prince Langone of Milia. I wonder if we might speak, inside.”

Elena glanced back and forth at her studiomates. Dolce, Elio and Festo were shooting the Stormtouched quizzical looks, but Isadora was looking at her pointedly. Arturo avoided her gaze. The message was as clear here as it had been outside of Studio Malatesta; this was her mess to clean up.

“Of course you can come inside. Do…do you want me to fetch Master DaRose?” Elena asked tremulously.

“Who are you-” Festo began, but Dolce elbowed him in the ribs.

“Echo,” she hissed, and Festo grew quiet.

“Summoning your Master will not be necessary at the moment, thank you.” The pages echo said with an arched eyebrow, “we trust the students of Studio DaRose to pass the information on to those who may need it.”

There was nothing more to do but escort the Echo into the studio, through the hall and into the dining room, the same room in which Elena had shouted at her mother and refused Malatesta’s offer.

“Do we need to be here for this?” Dolce asked Isadora in a whisper.

“No point,” Isadora answered, “we’ll fill you in later.”

The Page Echo waited patiently as the mortalis filed out, facing the window with his back to the students, his hands clasped behind his back. Elio shot a look over his shoulder at Elena before he closed the door, but she wasn’t entirely sure what the look was supposed to mean.

For long moments they waited in the quiet room, Elena and Ele, Arturo and Arta, Isadora and Iso, and the Page. Now that she was inside, the mask and hood were making Elena start to sweat, and Elena slipped them off quietly, trying not to break the silence as she did so.

“Before we begin this discussion, DaRose garzoni, I must make sure you’re aware of a few things,” the Page said without turning. “First, that I speak for Prince Langone himself. Please understand that my message carries the full weight of Milian nobility, and by extension the weight of King Pellegrino the First himself.”

“We understand, sir,” Isadora said.

“Secondly, by passing the message to you three students, I am considering my duty complete in giving Studio DaRose the message.”

“Shouldn’t you give the message to Master DaRose?” Elena ventured. Naive as she had been when she’d first arrived in Milia, she realized now that the small lessons in courtly etiquette from her mother weren’t nearly enough. What would happen if she said the wrong thing? What if she breached some code of manners and offended him? For all his faults, Master DaRose would at least know the right thing to say.

“Miss Cog, the courts are well aware of Master DaRose,” the Page replied, finally turning and looking at the assembled students with a neutral expression, “he is a Master artisan, and thus deserves the greatest of respect, but for matters more…mundane, I think it will be more efficient to tell you students directly.”

Of course they know, Elena chided herself, the courts run the studios, they’ll be aware of everything that goes on inside them.

After a few moments of silence, the Page spread his hands as if begging for an explanation. “Cog, Torchlight, Grabber. You’re all vaguely intelligent, you’re garzoni of a studio of Milia. I don’t really need to say what this is about, do I?”

“There’s…there’s no rule against attacking during the daytime,” Elena whispered. She had said the phrase enough over the past 24 hours that it felt hollow in her throat, but she set her chin stubbornly. The Storm that had filled her with fire to stand up to Master Malatesta still stirred sluggishly beneath the surface of her mind, but she had to force herself to meet the Echo’s gaze.

He was small, but the way he held himself lent him an air of presence. His expression was flat, his handsome green eyes locked onto her and bright enough to flash. He didn’t move a muscle, but his silence and stillness was menacing.

Elena was aware that her face was settling into the stubborn frown that Ele liked to call her ‘Joanna face’. “Are we going to be punished for something that’s not even a real rule?”

“There is no explicit rule against attacking during the daytime,” the Page stressed the word, his eyebrow twitching, “but I hardly need to tell you the damage that could be done from any studio attacking the other at any time.”

“Master Malatesta gave us that insight already,” Ele mumbled.

“Yes, as a Master of a studio I expect that she did. I can’t imagine that you are the first students to get this idea in your heads, but it is the Masters who can see the repercussions of such careless raids. Normally, it is the Masters who would put a stop to such plans before they came to fruition, but Studio DaRose is somewhat…unique, in that regard. Children governing themselves, and the other Studios wonder that this happens.” The page seemed to be talking to himself, staring down at the table as if he was looking through it. After a moment he shook himself.

“That is neither here nor there; my message is much more concise than that.”

“No more attacks during the day,” Elena guessed with a sigh. It hurt more than she had expected, the final blow to her plan. Everything had gone so smoothly, even counting the lecture from Master Malatesta. The plan had technically worked, and she had finally felt like she had struck a blow for Studio DaRose. To have her biggest contribution to the studio yet yanked out from beneath her was sudden and discouraging.

“Oh no no, the Prince of Milia learns far faster than that Miss Cog,” a wry smile tugged at the corner of the Page’s lips, “it is not simply ‘no more attacks during the day’, it is no more loopholes, all told. As we speak, there is an entire team working to assemble a set of rules governing every single aspect of the inter-studio system. A copy of the new system of rules will be provided to every Studio in Milia before the week is out, and before the month is over I’m sure copies will make their way to every studio in Italoza. I anticipate it will be the size of a small book.”

Elena blinked. A part of her had known that her actions would stir up the Studio life in the city of Milia, but the thought that she might affect studios across Italoza stirred a feeling in her stomach that was hard to identify. It made her feel just a touch…proud.

That’s ridiculous, she chided herself, this is NOT a good thing! It wasn’t even something special that I did, the only reason it happened was because we’ve got the only Master in Italoza who didn’t step in to stop us. Yet despite her own scolding, despite the fear that still hammered in her stomach, and despite the Page frowning at them, the corner of Elena’s mouth twitched.

“Don’t think I didn’t see that hint of a smile, Cog,” the Page wagged his finger at her, “in case you were planning any additional ill-advised raids between now and the arrival of the Rulebook, pleading that you hadn’t read the rules, you should know that the Prince has instituted a lockdown. The new set of Rules goes into effect the moment the Milian Pages reaches their respective studio, which for DaRose was several minutes ago.”

“But you said the rules haven’t even been written yet!” Elena protested.

“Indeed. The more cautious members of your Studio, the ones who haven’t spent this entire time answering back,” the Page gave her a pointed look, “might have already discerned that this means the rules are retroactive. It would be a very bad time for DaRose to carry out a raid until they receive the Rulebook; who knows what rules might be broken without realizing it?”

“There’s more to our punishment than a break from raiding, isn’t there,” Arturo’s flat voice made it a statement, but there was an undercurrent of bitterness in it. She shot him a look of surprise, and found him glowering at the Echo, running his thumb absentmindedly over the edges of the parchment holders at his belt. “The Malatesta snobs wouldn’t have been so calm if there weren’t a punishment coming our way.”

“The Prince of Milia would hardly single out a single studio’s garzoni in a matter as simple as a misunderstanding of the rules.” Even Elena could see the glint in the Page’s eyes, but Arturo was the one to question him on it.

“They wouldn’t single us out…but…?”

“Well,” the Page made a small conceding gesture, “since Studio DaRose seems to adept at finding loopholes, we may need to review their Rulebook more thoroughly than the others. Just to make sure that we haven’t missed anything exploitable.”

“That’s not so bad,” Elena sighed, and the knot in her stomach relaxed a bit.

“Elena,” Arta said, and the knot returned full force at the gentle tone the Echo used.

“And I suppose our ‘review’ will take quite some time. Perhaps on the order of several days,” Arturo said.

“It could even be as long as several weeks,” the Page shrugged. It took Elena a few seconds to realize what he meant, and when she did she clenched her fists.

“You’re giving the other studios free reign to attack us, and we can’t respond,” she said, “that’s our punishment.”

“Punishment? Oh no. We are simply responding to the actions of a wayward Studio, Cog. Of course, if we thought those actions were an attempt to subvert the rules, rather than simply a misunderstanding of them, we would be more likely to dissolve Studio DaRose than to punish them.”

“That’s why we’re so grateful that the Prince understands the reality of the situation,” Isadora interrupted before Elena could say anything, “that is was just a mistake.” The Page looked back and forth between the faces of the assembled students for a few moments, then nodded, seemingly satisfied.

“Very well then. My message has been delivered, so my work here is done,” he said, walking through the table as he spoke. He paused at the door, half turning so that only Elena could see the barest hint of a smile on his face. “By the way, the Prince gave me no orders to confiscate any coins as a part of this message. Enjoy the fruits of your raid, DaRose garzoni.”


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13 responses

  1. ‘What rules does my studio currently operate under?’

    This will end well.


    2015-03-29 at 11:59 pm

    • John Galt

      Agreed. – “How best can I defend MY studio?” – “In what ways can I ensure that MY studio’s coins are not taken?”


      2015-03-30 at 12:05 pm

  2. CaptainPedantic

    Typo, second last paragraph: “that is was just a mistake”


    2015-03-30 at 3:15 am

  3. Thinkerbell

    The other studios are going to bring free coins to Cog, how nice of them!


    2015-03-30 at 3:30 am

  4. Eww, ex post facto.

    Also, “pages” should be “page’s” if it’s possessive.


    2015-03-30 at 9:09 am

  5. I’m just wondering what sting lies in the rules for the other studios? After all, they probably won’t get off Scott free for having let the free range DaRosa garzoni get to this level of desperation, either. :/


    2015-03-30 at 2:57 pm

  6. CK

    So they need to concentrate on defences. Making the studio impregnable probably isn’t viable, so I’m hoping Elena uses the intervening weeks to turn the studio into a maze, full of sliding walls to separate intruders, hidden doors for the DaRose garzoni to escape through, and non-harmful booby traps. Yes I know it’s probably a bit much, but I want to see Elena go all out! And convince the other garzoni to trust her again, somehow…

    Surely they’d be allowed to have defenses in their own studio? They’re not required to leave the door unlocked, after all, so clearly they’re allowed to take reasonable measures to protect themselves.


    2015-03-30 at 8:43 pm

  7. EchoStep

    This is such bull! The court doesn’t even glance at studio DaRose when they know that it’s master is a twit and the studio is being run by children.mor when the studio was falling apart because the children know art NOT how to run a studio. But the one time they do something wrong out of sheer desperation they not only get their coins taken away for doing something that is NOT EVEN AGAINST THE RULES, but the court also makes it so that they can get raided by any of the other studios with, while being forbidden to retaliate.


    2015-03-31 at 4:54 am

    • While I agree with your outrage, they did get to keep the coins, so they have that at least….


      2015-04-01 at 6:55 am

    • CK

      Yep, and the page wasn’t even cool and professional about it; he ENJOYED taking the DaRose garzoni down a notch. Nasty nasty nasty!


      2015-04-03 at 9:00 pm

    • Isa Lumitus

      It’s mostly bull. Not completely. The thing to bear in mind is that some of the Masters, De Luc and Malatesta in particular, have political power. They are connected to those with the power to make the rules.


      2015-07-24 at 4:18 am

  8. Isa Lumitus

    Some of this makes me think of some lessons from Ender’s Game, and Worm. Namely that if you can’t win under the current rules, you have to escalate to a higher set of rules. And the first one to escalate is the one with the initiative.

    This then leads to one of my favorite quotes ever, “Force, my friends, is violence. The supreme authority from which all other authority is derived.”

    An extension of this, then, is that to make a stable system, you have to make it fair enough that most people do not escalate further than you want them to. If the situation resolves into murder being the best solution, expect anarchy.

    Then again, that might be a clean-up mechanism. If some Masters use their political power to unfairly balance the game, and the other players then murder that Master, that might be a good thing as far as the royalty are concerned. It keeps the most prominent Stormtouched from throwing their weight around too much, and keeps the rest of them too busy squabbling with each other to overthrow the monarchy.


    2015-07-24 at 4:33 am

  9. aew3

    Okay Elena’s power is looking possibly seriously OP. She can masterfully manuipulate anything that is hers. If she can find some shortcuts to make things hers, she will be able to do anything.


    2016-12-21 at 7:54 am

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