A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

4.9 – Tempestate in Horizonte {Storm on the Horizon}

“According to the schedule we can expect the first attack tonight, and since it’s Crivelli we can expect it to be just after nightfall; they like their early mornings.” While Isadora addressed the assembled garzoni, Elena bit her lip and glanced from face to face. They showed none of the hesitation that had greeted her plan, none of the sidewise glances or furrowed brows. “Obviously the more difficult attacks to deal with will be towards the end, when we’re worn out and the attackers are still fresh.” The attention and nods conveyed nothing but respect towards Isadora. It was hard not to be a little hurt by the difference in reactions between Elena and her studiomate, but she tried to ignore the sting.

She’s been here for years, she’s earned their respect and I haven’t yet, that’s all. I’ll get there someday.

“Tonight is the only night with one attack, and that’s only because Foscari aren’t joining in. From there on we’ll be getting hit at least twice a night, for seven days provided they stick to the schedule here. Any questions so far?”

“Why are De Luca and Malatesta so late in the schedule?” Dolce asked, looking down at the schedule that Isadora held out for inspection, “they don’t even hit us the first time until day four.”

“By that time they’re hoping we’ll be worn down completely,” Isadora said, “De Luca and Malatesta want to just walk in and take our coins the easiest. They’re highest in the hierarchy, and Malatesta feels slighted; they probably feel like they deserve it. Any other questions, or should we get to work preparing?”

“Did I miss the meeting where we decided to trust Studio Foscari?” Elio nodded in the direction of Owl, who sat at the corner of the table behind Isadora. “No offense, but I notice Master Foscari signed this schedule as well.”

“No offense taken,” Owl’s fingers rested lightly on a small book that rested on the table, and he drummed his fingers along the cover, “you don’t know us. That said, we have absolutely nothing to gain by telling you we’re attacking, giving you the schedule and a day’s head-start. We hoped that alone would act as a token of good faith.”

“Maybe you just like playing fair,” Elio narrowed his eyes, “maybe your studio just wants to fighting their enemy face-to-face.”

“No, you’re thinking of Studio Nencia; honor-bound and combat-mad. The idea of putting ourselves at a disadvantage because of some idealized version of reality is entirely the opposite of our Studio’s modus operandi.”

“You’ll have to forgive us, but it’s a bit of a paranoid time for Studio DaRose, what with discovering a city-wide hit list on us and all,” Isadora said, “maybe you can indulge us and tell us why you felt the need to give us the information? Especially since we just raided your studio for all of its coins not too long ago.”

Owl was quiet for a few moments, his fingers drumming a pattern onto the cover of his book. Elena could almost hear the gears spinning around in his head, though she had no clue what he could be thinking over.

“If I had to describe Studio Foscari in a single word, that word would be ‘realists’,” he finally said. “We try to see the ramifications of everything that happens between the Studios. The fact that you took our coins didn’t enter much into our discussions. The very real possibility that Studio DaRose might be hit so hard it could shut down? That did.”

“Studio DaRose can’t be shut down!” Festo protested, “there’s no way we would let that happen!”

Owl gave a sad smile. It wasn’t a lopsided grin like Niccolo’s, or a wide toothy smile like Arturo’s, but Elena sort of liked it.

“It’s those kinds of statements we try to avoid,” Owl said, “you are free to say ‘we won’t let it happen’, but I don’t think Coin Collector cares what you’ll let happen when he comes by and your studio has too much due.”

“Why do you care if Studio DaRose shuts down?”

“Do you know where Studio Foscari is, in the hierarchy?”

“You’re second-to-last, aren’t you?” Elena guessed, “if Studio DaRose closes, you’ll be last?”

“Not quite, although you’re thinking in the right direction. The fact that you don’t know is exactly what we want to cultivate. When a Studio closes, it knocks everyone out of their comfortable patterns and forces them to look around. Forces them to re-evaluate Studios they’ve dismissed before.”

“So…what, you don’t want to be noticed?” Dolce asked incredulously.

“It’s worked for us so far,” Owl nodded, “in everything we want to accomplish. We’re quiet, and no one bothers with us. Did you know that Foscari hasn’t lost a single coin in the past four months except for your last raid? We used Faberi-made locks, hidden bunkers, kept out of sight, out of mind. Raids come by, gain no coins, and don’t bother coming by again.”

“You haven’t won any coins, either,” Arturo retorted, a little sharply Elena thought.

“Winning makes you enemies, and enemies work to find out about you, to find your weaknesses and exploit them. You DaRose garzoni are all clever, you’ve probably already pinpointed studio weaknesses and how to capitalize on them.”

I really should’ve done that, Elena realized, I wish I could get my models to work…

Arturo ticked off on his fingers, “De Luca has palace connections, always gets whatever garzoni he wants. Malatesta knows everything. Isotta has their versatility . Gritti has the poisons and potions, Crivelli’s full of idiots, Nencia has self-righteous fighters, and DaRose doesn’t have weaknesses.”

“I think the more common thinking is that DaRose has…if you’ll pardon me…the misfits.”

Isadora opened her mouth, looked around her at the assembled garzoni, and closed it again.

“And Studio Foscari?” Owl continued, “what do you know about us?”

“You’re acting like Studio Foscari is invisible,” Arturo snarled.

Elena looked around her as the pregnant pause stretched.

“You don’t do a lot of raids?” Arturo said.

“They don’t make Touched art,” Dolce supplied.

“I heard that they were all Mortalis,” Arta said hesitantly.

“I couldn’t talk to you if I weren’t Stormtouched,” Owl pointed out. Elena thought back to their raid on Foscari, trying to remember details that she’d learned. The studio was ugly on the outside, but the extra space had been put to good use with huge personal workshops, filled with high quality supplies. The students themselves had been sleeping in an underground bunker, Owl had boasted that the lock to that bunker was Faberi-made, and however they’d locked themselves in, the rug that covered their bunker’s trapdoor had been pulled neatly back into place.

“You have Faberi garzoni,” Elena said slowly, breaking the silence, “you told me that much. I should’ve paid attention to how many of your students had Echoes sleeping around them, that would’ve told me how many Stormtouched you have.” Owl watched her closely as she continued, not making a move, “I know that Master Foscari isn’t brought to court often, but there was so much high-quality furniture and supplies, almost as much as De Luca’s studio…and you have the money for servants to clean and to pull the rug back over your trapdoor before they leave. I think…I think Studio Foscari is rich?”

“Yes, we worried that DaRose might be this perceptive when you raided us,” Owl sighed, “another reason we decided we’d rather be with you than against you. But my main point is that none of the other Studios know that.”

Elena beamed. She couldn’t remember anyone ever referring to her as ‘perceptive’ before.

“You’re going off on tangents when we’ve got less than a day to prepare for a weeklong siege,” Isadora snapped, “was there a point, Owl?”

“Ah, yes, I’m sorry. It’s a simple matter of risk versus reward. If one counts only liquid assets- that means only florins, not studio coins or court credit,” he explained to a confused looking Festo, “-then Studio Foscari is in fact the richest Studio in Milia. We stay in the back of the crowd, we keep out of battles, and we spend all of our time quietly observing and making goods to sell.”

“‘Goods’, not art? You’re a Faberi studio?” Arta asked. Arturo shot a look in Elena’s direction, although she wasn’t entirely sure why. It wasn’t so surprising that other studios had Faberi, was it? Or was he angry at her for not making goods to sell for DaRose?

“We’re a Studio that believes there’s no art quite like the art of giving people what they want in exchange for florins,” Owl smiled, “not all of us are Faberi any more than every Studio Nencia garzoni is a Lanisti, but as long as the other Studios are casting Faberi aside, we have no problem snatching them up.”

“Not all of them,” Dolce threw her arm around Elena’s shoulder, “not the best one.”

“Hmmm…” Owl said noncommittally, looking at Elena thoughtfully.

“Tangents again,” Isadora growled, “you were talking about ‘risk and reward’.”

“Yes, risk and reward, of course. As long as Foscari stays out of fights, we remain unmolested  and comfortable, but we can never move up the hierarchy.”

“So you want to join forces with another Studio who can help you move up while you stay unnoticed.”


“And you chose the one Studio that all of the others are turning against?”

“A very small chance of reward, it’s true, but also almost no risk to us,” Owl shrugged. “Besides, if Malatesta finds you threatening enough to organize a city-wide persecution against you, clearly they see you as a threat. You may very well be going places.”

“So let me get this straight,” Isadora folded her arms in front of her, “Studio Foscari is gathering pre-emptive favors for when we rise to the top of the hierarchy?”

“Or,” Arta pointed out, “Studio Foscari is offering to help us when we’re at our lowest, maybe even save our studio.”

“It’s not either of those things, we’re not making noble gestures or manipulative plans,” Owl broke in, “it’s just a….an investment. Studio Foscari is just doing what we do best.”

“Sounds an awful lot like what I said,” Isadora grumbled under her breath. “Fine. We don’t have the time to argue about this, we’ve got work to do. Thank you for the warning, Owl. We’ll be thinking your offer over.”

“We’ve got more to offer you than a warning, we’ll help you with whatever you need; materials, workers, name it. And in return-”

“Yes, yes, in return you’ll be remembered when Studio DaRose rises like a phoenix from the ashes of this hellish attack.” Isadora crumpled the schedule in her hand, “I understand the offer, I just don’t know if we’ll be accepting it or not. Now is not the best time to think it over.”

“Of course, I understand. Talk it over with your studiomates, with Master DaRose. You won’t want to make a light decision. Thank you for your time.” Owl rose, slipping his book into a pocket. Elena noted that he’d never had time to read a page, it was almost as if he just enjoyed carrying the book around with him like a talisman.

Isadora waited until Owl reached the door before she turned back to Elena. “What do we do to get ready?” She asked. Elena blinked, caught off guard, and belatedly realized that the others were looking at her as well.


“You fixed the boiler. You know the Studio. You’re the Faberi, what do we need to do? What defenses should we build? How do we keep people out? What about traps or things like that? Don’t tell me the daylight attack was your only good idea!”

Elena glanced towards the door to find Owl still in the doorway, listening to the conversation with interest. When he saw her looking he gave his small smile and stepped out, shutting the door gently behind him. Elena wasn’t quite sure what to make of the boy, his quiet mannerisms or the offer he had just brought them, but she shook her head to clear it of such thoughts. She had bigger things to focus on right now.

“Alright,” she said to the assembled garzoni, “I do have a few ideas…”


Previous Chapter | Next Chapter


If you hear the Storm, a comin’, a comin’, comin’ across that horizon, then you should vote for Twisted Cogs on TWF!


20 responses

  1. Ooooh could it be that things are ramping up for a good ol’ fashioned SHOWDOWN?

    Nah, prob’bly not.

    A big shout-out and thank-you to my lovely patreon patrons! The March Patreon numbers are in, and I have updated the Bonus Chapter page (only $1 away from a bonus chapter! Woo!) to reflect them.

    And seriously, all you lovely readers and commenters, you are objectively the best. Y’all are what keeps me writing, so thanks to you too!

    (Ninja edit to add that I cannot thank all you awesome tropers enough. As someone who has wasted hours and hours on tvtropes, every time I see additions to the Twisted Cogs entry it makes me do a little happy-dance in my chair :D )


    2015-04-08 at 9:19 pm

    • AvidFan

      Maddi, please, I BEG of you, make it completely one sided in Elena’s favor! (At least for the first few. Make them SQUIRM.)
      We need a “Elena kicks some FU-dying ass!” moment. Just to make the other studios terrified of her. (Or make them regret letting her slip through their fingers.)


      2015-04-09 at 3:08 am

  2. Cain12

    Like Owl, he seems nice enough. Also like his studio’s way of thinking, assuming he is being honest. Looking forward to what happens next.

    Also nice of them to still consider that daylight attack a good idea.


    2015-04-08 at 10:24 pm

    • If DaRosa gets dissolved thanks to this, his studio is all set to be the next on the bottom rung. Yeah: not a comfortable place to be. I’m pretty sure it’s not hard for at least one studio to get into the desperate headspace most in DaRosa were in pre-Elena. :/

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-04-09 at 4:56 am

  3. My money says that at least one of the attacks will be during the day. Best way to surprise them is to have changed the rules to allow it now.


    2015-04-09 at 1:21 am

  4. “Under the radar” is an anachronism in this setting. It jarred me a little. They’re centuries from radar being a thing.

    I am loving how this is shaping up, however. Yes, please, let Elena rack up a few more victories. She’s way overdue.


    2015-04-09 at 5:19 am

    • No no, you see a few decades before, a Machinator named Radarius invented a technology that spit lazer beams at a certain height capable of melting armor!

      To finally defeat him, the army had to crawl on their hands and knees to reach him, moving underneath his beams until they could get within striking distance. Ever since then, the phrase “under the radarius beams” (later shortened to ‘under the radar’) was used to convey a situation where using a non-typical method of fighting was advantageous!

      Also thanks for pointing out the anachronism, I fixed it now :)

      Liked by 3 people

      2015-04-09 at 10:35 am

      • mestaner

        That’s what I love about Fantasy. You can retcon just about anything as long as it doesn’t go against the rules you established.


        2015-04-09 at 12:04 pm

      • I’m almost sorry you did; that story was better than the real one! Except that “laser” is also an anachronism, but I’m sure there’d be an anecdote for that too.


        2015-04-09 at 3:54 pm

        • *takes deep breath*

          ACTUALLY, I’m so glad you brought that up, you see the concept of a ‘laser’ (which stands, of course, for Long-range Accurate Stormtouched Equalizing Rounds) was actually thought up by a Mortalis commander during the second unification war!

          Among the first wars fought with Stormtouched, it was a difficult time for generals used to both commanding and fighting purely mortal forces, as you can imagine! Tired and frustrated at seeing his archers mowed down by Saggitari, Commander Plutarco Buccellato devised a strategy to catch them off guard.

          Trebuchet were loaded with miles and miles of loose thread, and fired over city walls. The threads floated slowly to the ground over the course of hours in the thick of battle, catching the glowing light of sunset, making the battlefield appear a web of shining spider’s silk. The cumbersome nature of shooting through such a morass allowed the mortal archers to approach the enemy Saggitari corps, leading to a somewhat equalized battle (though nowhere near as equal as the cheap tabloids of the time would have one believe)

          There are some who say Comander Buccellato’s beams of long-range accurate stormtouched equalizing rounds turned the entire tide of the second unification war, but of course this is nonesense. It certainly DID make an impression during a time when many wondered if Mortalis commanders had a place in this new world, and it definitely became a slang for something that slowed or tangled things up from then on (although it was shortened to “beams of l.a.s.e.r.”, and then eventually ‘laser beams’).

          When Radarius invented a technology that resembled thread, that would first slow, then melt its target, he didn’t bother giving it a name, so the populus took to calling them laser beams.



          Liked by 3 people

          2015-04-09 at 4:26 pm

          • And this is why your universe is such a joy to read about.


            2015-04-09 at 5:04 pm

        • CaptainPedantic

          D. D. Aristotle (or archimedes, can’t recall which) created giant polished bronze dishes which were able to be mounted on boats and were used in nuatical combat. While lazer may not be the right term, but the technology was pluasible.


          2015-04-09 at 4:36 pm

  5. Jat

    Owl’s book seems pretty interesting. I wonder if it was written by a certain Mr. Chekhov?


    2015-04-09 at 5:43 am

  6. Lanisti – Dammit that’s what was on the tip of my tongue. Ripple was a Lanisti! Okay, I got that.

    Anyway, it seems like we hear more about the studios:

    “De Luca has palace connections, always gets whatever garzoni he wants. Malatesta knows everything. Gritti has the poisons and potions, Crivelli’s full of idiots, Nencia has self-righteous fighters, and DaRose doesn’t have weaknesses.”

    Gritti might need a reputation change after losing their Machinator.

    Nencia is a studio with a lot of fighting Stormtouched, I assume. Saggitari and Lanisti, with a few artist types. I’d guess they’d have a Caelator, since they could make realistic training dummies and fighters like Malatesta’s bodyguards and her gift to De Luca.

    Eight days of two attacks with De Luca and Malatesta at the end half, but without Foscari on Night One.

    I’ll guess every studio attacks twice, and Nencia is going first. It allows Foscari to abscond because Nencia would like a fair fight, and would probably wish to go early.

    Can’t remember the last two studios, actually. Were they listed? I know Elena’s first encounter was with Gritti’s raid.


    2015-04-09 at 10:24 am

    • Whoops, I completely left out Studio Isotta, thanks for the catch!

      The eight studios in Milia are Studio De Luca, Studio Malatesta, Studio Isotta, Studio Gritti, Studio Nencia, Studio Crivelli, Studio Foscari, and Studio DaRose

      Liked by 2 people

      2015-04-09 at 10:32 am

      • mestaner

        Speaking of studio’s, I wanted to know what are each studio’s color motif: Malatesta is purple, Da Rose is Grey, and De Luca is Yellow. What are the others?

        Liked by 1 person

        2015-04-10 at 1:08 pm

        • While more a matter of personal preference of the different masters than a strict ‘rule’, enough of them enjoy using the color motif that it’s easy to spot the different Studios, as you say.

          • Master Bernardo De Luca prefers yellow
          • Master Rachel Malatesta likes purple
          • Master Omerto DaRose has no time to claim a color, and was left with grey
          • Master Tomasia Gritti enjoys green
          • Master Flaviano Crivelli’s favorite is red
          • Master Manetto Foscari chose blue
          • Master Addolorata Nencia remains colorless, also known as black
          • Master Saturnian Isotta, due to a clerical mistake, was relegated to white


          2015-04-12 at 10:44 pm

  7. Orion

    I believe the whole studio system is about to be upset. It may take a while to stabilize again and probably won’t until Elena is no longer part of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Master De Luca is excited about this given his strong feelings about how he must turn away great artists based on the ‘rules’. Hence his studio is limited in its growth.

    I hope Elena finds ways to out think her opponents and avoid many of the actual attacks. For instance what if on some nights none of the garzoni were there? Can’t take coins if people aren’t there.

    Looking forward to the story!


    2015-04-12 at 1:48 pm

  8. Anonymous

    Book 1 Chapter 2.1
    “What I actually said was that I keep the studio running when Master De Luca is locked up in his office.” Bea corrected. “Your observational skill was one of the reasons I recommended you, I certainly hope that wasn’t a fluke. I expect you to impress Master De Luca just as much as you impressed me.”

    Book 2 Chapter 4.9
    “Elena beamed. She couldn’t remember anyone ever referring to her as ‘perceptive’ before.”

    Ouch, I feel bad for Bea. I had thought that for Elena, it had been a life-changing moment, her entry into the foremost studio being brought about by an authority figure commending her perceptiveness. Not to mention Maple recognizing her for the same, to the extent of bringing her with her when buying materials with which Elena had no prior experience. How quickly we forget.


    2015-04-14 at 6:38 pm

    • Anonymous

      Admittedly I don’t know if they ever used the word “perceptive” to say it.

      I wonder if this is a symptom of Elena getting more in sync with her Storm. Now that her studio is Hers, she may have a tendency to neglect her past experience in other studios that are Not Hers? The way you’ve set up Storms in this story is very interesting, since it means the touched might not be able to fully trust their perceptions, due to the Storm focusing them on certain things. Elena’s current Master is an extreme case, but maybe she is suffering too?


      2015-04-14 at 6:42 pm

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