A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.6 – Deripio Reges {Tear Down the Kings}

Snugglet lifted the ladder once more, vaulting Malatesta’s gates and unlocking it for the others.

Elena shot a glance over her shoulder, her foot tapping on the stone. With its eyes covered, Vittoria’s mural wouldn’t give her any information on the group’s movements, but she was still nervous.

“Chances are they’ve left someone on the inside to guard,” Isadora said, echoing Elena’s fears. “We don’t know what other spying methods they’ve used beyond Hundred-Eye, but they’ll still be alert.”

“The raiding party won’t be,” Elena said. “They’re the ones we care about, and they’ll have no way of knowing something is wrong. Besides, maybe we’ll get lucky; maybe once they got Hundred-Eye they let their other methods of tracking things lapse.”

“Doubt it,” Elio growled as the DaRose garzoni made their way up the path towards the door of Studio Malatesta. Elena crouched by the door, removing a lockpick from her pouch, but Arturo put a hand on her shoulder and tried the knob. It opened without a sound.

“They’re planning on coming back soon,” he whispered, and the Studio DaRose students filed inside.

The only time Elena had seen the inside of Studio Malatesta was when the group had raided during the day, so she only had the most basic idea of its layout. Isadora, however, seemed to have a much better idea, and she pointed silently. The studio was so quiet that the small scuffling noises seemed loud to Elena’s ears, but no one challenged them as they moved down the halls. Elena could tell when they reached the dormitories; they were the doors with flickering lights beneath the cracks at their bottoms.

The DaRose students spread out, a pair taking one of the closed doors that led to lit rooms. Isadora held up a hand with fingers outspread, and when each group had moved into position she began silently counting them down. Elena and Dolce were crouched by the second door down, and Elena tried to control her breathing as she watched Isadora’s fingers. When her studiomate put her last finger down, Dolce threw the door open in sync with the others.

It was like stepping into the inside of a machine. The walls were taken up with bookshelves, but not a single book adorned them. Instead, odd little boxes and pieces of machinery rested on the shelves, taking up the entirety of the space. Some of them blinked with odd coloured lights, some of them had parts that slowly revolved or slid back and forth rhythmically, and one of them emitted a long hiss like a snake with and endless supply of breath.

Elena was so caught up in the walls of the room that she didn’t notice the girl in its center until she moved. The girl had skin darker than anyone Elena had ever seen, and bright green eyes that were a startling contrast. She was sitting at a table on which many more boxes sat stacked, blinking and whirring and moving just like those on her walls.

“Freeze, Voicebox,” Dolce warned as she and Elena moved forward, but the girl depressed a switch on one of the boxes.

“Patchwork, Ripple, come in, are you there? Get back to the Studio,” she said to the box on the bottom, her voice clear. Dolce raised her baton, but Voicebox flicked a coin towards the pair, “stop, please, this is all very delicate, I’m done.”

“But you were able to notify Patchwork and Ripple before you gave up your coin,” Dolce said, not lowering her baton, “how convenient.”

“That’s how the game is played,” Voicebox said, “you know that I didn’t make the rules.”

“Still, you got to hurt our chances, maybe we should exact a little revenge on your ‘delicate’ workings here.”

“Dolce, don’t!” Elena cried. Her studiomate whirled to face her. “She gave up the coin, that’s how it works.”

Deie, whose side are you even on? You’re defending the girl who might have just wrecked the Foscari ambush?”

“I’m defending the art,” Elena clarified, thinking of Owl’s words earlier on the church rooftop, “if you’re talking about smashing up her art when she’s already given us her coin, that goes beyond the game.”

“Funny, ‘cause it sounds an awful lot like you’re defending Studio Malatesta’s interests, Elena.”

“Cog,” Elena reminded her, with a glance towards Voicebox.

“You don’t act like a Studio fighter, you don’t get a Studio fighter name,” Dolce said, sliding Voicebox’s coin from the table and turning her back on Elena.

“How long does it take to take a coin from a cripple?” Isadora snapped through the open door.

“We had a complication, but we’re coming,” Dolce answered, with a long look at Elena. The pair emerged into the hallway to join the rest of her studiomates. The group was much less quiet on the way out than they were on the way in. When they came to the foyer, Isadora turned to survey the group.

“Damages?” she asked, her voice clipped.

“Swarm got her bugs on me the second we came in, I think she has them wait by the door,” Elio said, “I gave up my coin, but Festo got hers.”

Isadora waited for anyone else to speak up, then nodded. “Good. One coin down, up four, we can live with that. Let’s hope that-”

A sudden outbreak of noise in the courtyard outside interrupted, and the group burst into movement again, pouring through the front door and into the courtyard beyond. The night was dark, but the purples of Malatesta uniforms and the grey of DaRose showed up well in the dark, well enough for Elena to see as she charged towards them. It appeared that despite Voicebox’s warning, Malatesta hadn’t been prepared in the slightest. There were already four purple-clad students on the ground, and another one hit the stones even as she watched.

Patchwork tried to go invisible, but two Foscari caught hold of his arms as his uniform rippled and dissolved from sight. He couldn’t be seen, but the students held him tight, and after a few moments he reappeared, shoulders slumped. By the time the group of DaRose students reached the gates the fight was a foregone conclusion, and a few minutes later, only one student remained on her feet.

Even with the purple hood covering her face, it was obvious which Malatesta student it was, standing in the middle of the ring of Foscari and DaRose students. Her feet were spread wide in a combat stance, and her head jerked back and forth like a bird’s as she watched the large group around her.

“We seem to be having this conversation more and more often, Ripple,” Isadora didn’t actually smile, but her eyes flashed, “you know the drill by now. You can’t beat all of us, you’re all alone, blah blah give us your coin.” Ripple straightened, then tossed her coin as Isadora’s feet, managing to convey contempt without saying a word.

“Maybe you should actually cover our backs for once and you wouldn’t keep getting cornered on your own,” one of the Malatestas on the floor snarled, as a Foscari dug through his pockets for his coin.

“Don’t talk to her like that,” Patchwork snapped, shoving the students away who had taken his coin with a little more force than was necessary, “I notice you weren’t much help, maybe if you actually had a Storm, we wouldn’t have been overpowered so easily.” He turned to scan the group at large, his eyes coming to rest on Elena. “I wonder what mysterious masked figure that is who is carrying a giant hammer. Who are your friends, Cog? This is way more people than just Studio DaRose.”

“It doesn’t matter who they are,” Isadora, snapped, taking a step in front of Elena.

“It’s too bad your friends don’t know that a dual-raid is against the new rules.”

Elena sucked in a breath. Had Studio Foscari gotten themselves in trouble by helping them? She would hate it if she had gotten another studio embroiled in the fight. Over Patchwork’s shoulder, she caught sight of one of the Foscari garzoni. They shook their head in a very small motion, and Elena relaxed. A bluff.

“What they clearly do know is that this vendetta against DaRose has gotten out of hand,” Isadora replied to Patchwork without missing a beat.

“Wait ‘till they see the effects of that vendetta turned against them,” Patchwork’s smirk could be heard even through the mask, “did anyone get a coin from them?” The various Malatesta students looked at each other through their masks, but no one volunteered. “Not one coin?”

“I got one,” one of the Malatesta students said, peering at the coin in his hand, “but it’s Dolce’s.”

“I don’t suppose anyone inside was able to…” Patchwork let the thought trail off as Isadora shook her head, “…perfect.”

“This is the second time this month that Malatesta has lost all of their coins in a single night, Patchwork,” Isadora said. Elena bit her lip. This was the delicate part, and she could feel the other students around her tensing as well.

“I am acutely aware of that, DaRose trash,” Patchwork snapped.

“And you know that the coin collector visits the studio tomorrow?”

“If you think Studio Malatesta won’t come back from a bad month, I feel sorry for you. And if you’re this excited about a lucky month, I feel even more sorry.”

“I don’t know. It’s been a very lucky month. Did you know that this entire hellish week of attacks, Studio DaRose has gained more coins in each raid than we’ve lost?”

It wasn’t entirely true. On the first night they had lost 6 and gained 3, and on the second night Studio DaRose had lost 12 coins and only gained 8, but it was true that they had made a net gain over the last week.

“That’s ridiculous,” Patchwork scoffed, “even if you gained a few coins here and there, do you think you’ve beaten us out?”

“After you’ve been wiped twice? Yeah, kinda. Do you want to risk it?”

“What choice do we have?”

“This choice,” Isadora said, and Elena held her breath. “If Studio Malatesta stops this nasty coordinated set of attacks, we’ll give the Malatesta coins we’ve gotten today to the Studio who is helping us.”

“What good would that do?” one of the Mortalis Malatesta said, brushing the dirt from the front of his uniform, “they’d still be coins that we don’t have.”

Patchwork was still, his arms folded, watching Isadora with his head cocked to one side. “They’re offering us an out, punishing us but not widening the gap between Malatesta and DaRose,” he said. “Their mystery helpers get bonus coins, and Malatesta’s loss is spread out in the city rather than collected in one place.”

Elena glanced at the Foscari students, quiet and still, dressed in DaRose uniforms.

“But you just said it was ridiculous to think there was a gap between-”

“Guelfo.”

“What, Patchwork?”

“Shut up.”

Three teams of studios stood in silence beneath the moon, as Patchwork continued staring at Isadora. Elena wasn’t entirely sure if the length of time was a good or bad thing, but she didn’t want to be the one to break the silence.

“We’ll have to check with Master Malatesta,” Patchwork finally said. Elena had been at Studio DaRose for so long that she barely remembered that Masters had the final say in their Studios.

“Of course,” said Isadora.

“We’ll want this agreement in writing. We stop coordinating attacks, you’ll give all of our coins to the other studio.”

“We’ll give one set of coins to the other studio. We’ll want it in writing as well.”

“Expect a messenger tomorrow.”

“I would have the messenger come by in the afternoon. Us DaRoses could use some sleep.”

“Cute. Now get out of our courtyard, if you please.”

“I think we’ll stay for just a little bit,” it was Isadora’s turn to fold her arms, “it’s such a lovely night, we can enjoy the fresh air.”

Patchwork’s posture seemed to emanate danger for a few moments, but then he sighed, and it almost came out a chuckle. “For all their faults, I suppose I can’t say your studio is lacking in nerve.” The Malatesta students began moving towards the door of their Studio, and the DaRose and Foscari waited tensely in the emptying courtyard.

Elena’s turned her attention to the Echoes the moment they slipped through the courtyard walls. The girl, Patchwork’s Echo, she had seen before, but she hadn’t yet seen the others, and she tried to commit them all to memory as they slunk by towards the Studio.

“Studio Malatesta always knows,” Isadora murmured as she watched them, “now that we know about Hundred Eye’s mural, and we know the faces of their little spies, maybe we can keep them from knowing quite as much.”

Elena wanted to feel triumphant about the night’s activities, but every emotion seemed deadened by the bone-tired exhaustion that punctuated every movement.

There will be time for celebration and cheering tomorrow, maybe, she thought, as she and the others trudged out of Malatesta’s courtyard, everyone just as silent as she was. Right now, I don’t think there’s anything that can make me smile.

“Your plan worked out,” Owl said from beside her, quietly enough that the others couldn’t hear, “Faberi power.” He reached out his fist and bumped hers.

Beneath her mask, Elena gave a tired smile.

 


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If you, like me, understand that fist-bumps are not anachronisms because they are TIMELESSLY AWESOME, fist-bump Twisted Cogs with a vote on TWF!

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9 responses

  1. I don’t even care. Fist bumps are awesome.

    A quick continuity issue! As I start finishing up editing of Twisted Cogs Book 1, I discovered that I’ve been calling one of the DaRose garzoni by the wrong name this entire time!

    The large Mortalis student in Studio DaRose with the staff is NOT in fact named “Ercole”. That is in fact Patchwork’s first name. The Mortalis student in Studio DaRose is named “Elio” (apparently “Ercole” is my go-to lazy name, as there was another character inappropriately named Ercole as well). Corrections have been made.

    In other, related news, Book 1 of Twisted Cogs is coming very soon. I’m super excited!

    Like

    2015-04-29 at 9:59 pm

    • For those readers who don’t check out the news on the front page:

      Book 1 of Twisted Cogs will soon be available in e-book form (and possibly physical form as well, I’m still working through the details)! In both preparing the first book for publication and in setting up a secret second project that shall remain secret for now, it has occurred to me that the reasons for my pen name, Maddison Rose, are almost all defunct at this point. As such, I will be publishing Twisted Cogs under my real name, and I’ve updated the About page as well!

      A huge thank you to all of my lovely readers for helping me catch little mistakes throughout the text, it has been a huge help in the editing process!

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-04-29 at 10:20 pm

      • Stormblessed

        If you don’t mind me asking, what were the reasons for your pen name?

        Like

        2015-04-30 at 11:10 pm

        • There were a wide array of reasons, when I first started out, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the primary of those reasons was timidity. One of the odd challenges I faced when writing (that I understand is not unique to just me) is that I felt as though I needed ‘permission’ to put my works out there for people to read, and a pen name acted as that ‘permission’. I reasoned that if it ever got to be too much, I could drop Maddirose and pretend the whole thing never happened without any personal responsibility.

          Another reason for the pen name was because when I started writing, I wrote nothing but erotica. In addition to the stigma associated to erotica authors, it’s a strange but true fact that male authors in that genre simply do not do as well as female authors. There is a sort of cyclical prejudice there; those male authors who are willing to learn how to write in the genre well learn that they should have a female pen name, and those who do not tend to miss other big ‘rules’ of the genre and produce erotica that doesn’t exactly fit what the audience wants. As a result, readers tend to distrust male author names because of how often they’re associated with those “misses”, which means if you’re a male author you do better if you have a female pen name, etc. etc. etc.

          That reason hasn’t really gone away, and I plan to continue publishing any erotica I might write under the pen name Maddison Rose, but I’m less worried about people connecting me to Maddi any more.

          Like

          2015-05-01 at 7:47 am

          • xdrngy

            I just gained a ton of respect for you. I mean, your writing was already awesome, but go you.

            Kind of sad that you feel the need to hide bits of your identity obviously, but it’s clear your approach has allowed you to learn a lot about writing, and you’re doing some great work. Mebbe you get reputation, stage big reveal, score points for male erotica authors, yes?

            Like

            2016-03-14 at 10:29 am

            • Thank you very much, that means a lot!

              I actually do plan to use my real name for my erotica at some point, but unfortunately that point still feels very far away. Gaining a small reputation is unfortunately a thing that takes a long, long time. Still, I’ll get there eventually, one step at a time!

              Like

              2016-03-16 at 10:20 am

  2. Panster

    I love this so much. Yay, success!

    Like

    2015-04-29 at 10:55 pm

  3. Angel

    I’m not normally into this style of fantasy, but your characters and writing style have made me enjoy it just as much as I would of a more “me” genre of fantasy.

    Like

    2015-05-06 at 4:23 pm

    • That’s awesome! I absolutely love hearing from readers who aren’t usually fans of this particular niche, since I know they’ll keep me working hard on making a good story, not just a good fantasy/historical alternate universe/renaissance story!

      Like

      2015-05-06 at 11:19 pm

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