A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.5 – Decreto Regali {Royal Decree}

It took years for the crowd to clear out of the throne room. Elena was so focused on keeping her legs from shaking that she wobbled in place ever so slightly, and Lord Waldren’s arm still linked in hers held her steady, a bit more firmly than she thought was necessary.

How many Lords and Ladies are in the court right now? Elena thought, too terrified to be frightened, all sent away so the Prince can talk to a nobody, why is he sending them all away on my account? They’re so important…

The crowd had cleared out of the throne room far, far too quickly. Elena realized that she had been holding her breath, and she tried to exhale as slowly as possible. The Prince rose from his throne in a languid motion, and the throne room that seemed far too large now that it was empty echoed with the sound of his steps as he descended down the staircase. His husband followed, but Elena’s eyes were locked on the Prince, and a shock ran through her when she realized his were locked on hers in return.

“Alright, Wandering Waldren,” Prince Langone spoke differently now that there was no audience, and he pointed casually, indicating Elena and her assembled friends behind her, “tell me what’s actually going on here.”

“What’s going on, your majesty?” Lord Waldren smiled, “you invited Miss Lucciano on your own, it was hardly my doing.”

“Is there ever a moment in your life where you don’t treat the world as a game, Lord Waldren?” the Prince’s husband, Rodiano, snapped. Where Langone seemed completely at ease with the group and the situation, Rodiano seemed tense, his back straight, his eyes flicking back and forth across the group, as if constantly assessing and re-assessing the level of threat from each.

“If there was, I’ve successfully blocked it from my mind,” Lord Waldren waved a hand airily, “but I’d still be happy to answer a question as soon as one is posed to me.”

“Calm down, Rodiano,” Langone said, “Lord Waldren may be lacking in decorum, but if we asked him to avoid an arrogant demeanor, I don’t know that we’d ever hear him speak again.”

He had been approaching the group, but now he stood in front of Elena, the Prince of Milia so close that she could reach out and touch him if she dared.

“I somehow think we’ll get more straight answers out of you than we ever will from the Wanderer, Miss Lucciano,” he said, looking down at her, “would you answer my questions?” Elena swallowed hard, her head spinning with the courtly manners her mother had taught her. There were many forms of address for speaking to the ruler of a city-state, but only a single correct one. The most common mistake was to refer to him as “your majesty”, but technically that honorific belonged to the King of Italoza alone. In the case of Prince Langone and his husband, another typical mistake was to refer to both as princes, as if gender had any application to their titles.

“Of course, I would be honoured to answer any question you or the Principessa have, Your Principe,” Elena said, her voice steady only because she was focusing on it.

“Oh the girl knows her manners, that’s delightful,” Langone smiled, then turned to look behind her, “very well Elena, here’s a question for you; how precisely have you managed to convince a retinue of Stormtouched from all different studios to visit the court with you? No, no,” when Elena tried to glance at Lord Waldren the Prince caught her by the chin, forcing her to look at him, “don’t look to him for guidance, child, just answer me plainly.”

The Prince’s touch on her chin nearly made her hyperventilate, and Elena’s head spun trying to figure out the purpose for the question.

“I…I just asked them, Your Principe,” Elena tried to say, but it came out a whisper, “they’re my friends, I thought they would like to see the courts with me and they agreed when I asked them.”

“Hmm.” Prince Langone didn’t let go of Elena’s chin, but he shot a question over her shoulder, “you in the yellow, De Luca garzona, would you say that Elena here is your friend?”

“Yes, Your Principe,” Frederica said promptly.

“Why?”

“She cares about art, Your Principe. More than politics. I’m an artist, I like people who care about art.”

“In the blue? Foscari?”

“Yes sir, I would, Your Highness. Elena is a good person, and a good Fabera.”

“How interesting,” Prince Langone breathed.

“What-” Elena realized that she had just spoken out of turn, and sucked in a breath, but the Prince simply arched an eyebrow and waited for her to continue. “…if…if you don’t mind me asking, what is so interesting about having friends, Your Principe?”

“I’m guessing it’s Lord Waldren who dressed you all in your Studio colours?” Langone asked. He still held her chin, so Elena couldn’t see her friends behind her, but apparently they made some sign, because he nodded, “a very ‘Waldren’ thing to do, to subtly highlight that the studios have come together to support Elena.”

“As if we’re too stupid to find out where her retinue has come from, or as if we knew nothing about the climate of the city we rule,” Rodiano scoffed.

“My apologies, Your Principe and Principessa,” Lord Waldren said, not sounding sorry at all, “call it ‘force of habit’. As well you know, there are quite a few cities where the Princes would need even more of a hint than that.”

“You are quite free with your tongue on the matter of other Princes.”

“I hardly count the colours of a Stormtouched retinue state secrets worth guarding, Principessa Rodiano.”

“You’re confused,” Prince Langone said to Elena, finally releasing her chin and taking a step back, “you don’t catch the significance.”

“That happens a lot, Majesty,” Ele said.

“According to the Echo that is not an unusual state for her,” Rodiano said quietly.

“Well, we are only as good as the information we work from, so I shall explain,” Langone began to pace, “by highlighting the various studios that your friends occupy, Lord Waldren is emphasising that you seem to have managed to gain the support from more than just your own studio. Though the system of inter-studio competition is effective in its goals, a regrettable side-effect is that it tends to pit Stormtouched of different studios against each other. There are even a few Masters in this court who won’t speak to each other, carrying on grudges forged in their garzoni days. It is incredibly rare to find a single garzoni supporting one from another studio, and Waldren wants to drive home the fact that you apparently have the support of three. It indicates that you are quite a politically powerful person.”

“But…I’m not political at all, Your Principe,” Elena said, confused. To her right, Lord Waldren pursed his lips and almost imperceptibly shook his head, “well I’m not! They’re just friends, I didn’t promise them anything or…or anything like that.”

“I believe you,” Prince Langone said evenly, “but that is the impression Lord Waldren wanted to give. Sorry, Wanderer. I’m sure it would’ve worked on Prince Ulisse or Prince Vanessa.”
“It’s no worry,” Lord Waldren sighed, “it takes a far better schemer than I to have all plans work perfectly.”

“As if you didn’t have a better one lurking beneath the surface,” Prince Langone smiled, “one which I’m sure you know is working.”

“You’re confusing the girl again,” Rodiano said.

“You have friends in many studios, yet it didn’t occur to you to use politics or take advantage of them,” Prince Langone addressed Elena. “You came up with a plan to attack Malatesta during the day and allied with Foscari to keep the whole city at bay, but didn’t think to take any of the credit. Oh yes don’t look so surprised, I know what happens in my city. And, while you’ve had very, very good teachers in the art of subtle politics, I doubt you’re actually keeping up with the subtleties of this conversation, am I right?”

Elena blushed. She was really trying, but Lord Waldren, the Prince, and the Princess all seemed to be saying so much with every sentence, and she could only just barely follow that they meant more than they said aloud.

“I…I’m sorry Your Principe, I…”

“My point, Elena Lucciano, is that you’re guileless. Naive. An innocent.”

Elena looked down at her feet, suddenly not feeling as excited to be there as she had been a few moments before.

“Do you know who gets to the courts while remaining innocent, Elena? Who has powerful friends and amazing connections despite their naivette?” Prince Langone asked gently. Elena shook her head silently, not trusting her voice to work. “Machinators.”

The answer wasn’t what Elena had expected, and she looked up, confused.

“But…I’m not-”

“Machinators, the strongest Artifexes, the most unique Saggitari, the most dangerous Caelator. Stormtouched whose Storms are so powerful that they cannot be allowed to languish in the dregs of society, Stormtouched who always rise to the top no matter how bad they are at politicking.”

Elena furrowed her brow, unsure if the Prince was complimenting her or not. “Th-thank you, Your Principe?” she ventured.

“Be very, very careful, Lucciano,” Prince Langone said, his voice so quiet that Elena was almost tempted to take a step closer to hear him. “There are few things more dangerous than to be an innocent with great power. People will use you. Waldren is already using you.”

“And what about you, Your Principe?” the question had left her mouth before she had time to think, and behind her she heard one of her friends behind her gasp in horror. Prince Langone didn’t seem bothered, and he smiled.

“Me perhaps most of all. But I’m also a Prince; for the use I have from you I can help you in return. So tell me, Lucciano, what is it that your Storm can do, that makes it so powerful? What about your Storm is so unique that I have Master De Luca mentioning your name when he last visited, that Lord Waldren has apparently taken you under my wing, that the leader of the Faberi Guild in Florenzia has noted you as one of their up-and-comers ‘worthy of keeping an eye on’?”

Elena was too shocked to know how to respond. De Luca had mentioned her? Midora the Grinning Girl was talking about her in Florenzia?

“Thus far no one has been able to give us a straight answer,” Rodiano said, “a good indication that it’s incredibly powerful.”

“And a good indication that it might best be kept quiet,” Langone added, “one of the reasons I cleared the court.”

“I…I know how things work,” Elena said in a quiet voice.

“What things?” Prince Langone pressed.

“Anything that belongs to me.”

The throne room was so huge, and Elena felt so small in the silence that followed.

“Ridiculous. The Storm doesn’t pick and choose contexts like that,” Rodiano said. Langone stroked the stubble on his chin. Elena noticed that Lord Waldren remained quiet. She hoped that he wasn’t angry at her for talking about her Storm, that he didn’t see it as a betrayal of the Twisted.

“If she is mistaken about her Storm, it will show up rather quickly,” Langone mused aloud, resuming his pacing. “Do you know why we bring people to the court, Lucciano?”

“To…to serve the courts with our Storm?”

“Very good, yes. Many assume we’re only interested in artists, but what a waste that would be to only use the Artifexes and Caelators. Tell me, Lucciano, how would you and your retinue like to be put to work for the Courts?”

“That’s what we’re here for, Your Principe,” Elena smiled, her heart leaping in her chest.

“Right then, we’ll see if your Storm works as you say soon enough. Rodiano, do we have anything that might serve?”

“Water distribution. Old Sidonio hasn’t managed to make much headway.”

“Too big. Something small, just to test her out.”

“Master Furio and his rumblings about the new mint.”

“Still too big.”

“Vecellio’s ‘network’?”

Prince Langone thought for a while, then nodded. “Very well. We’ll try you out, Elena Lucciano. You can help with Vecellio’s network.”

“How can I help, Your Principe?”

“You said your Storm tells you the workings of things you own?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then I am officially transferring the project to your direct control. Arianna Vecellio’s network project belongs to you now.”

“What’s Arianna Vecellio’s network proj-” Elena began, but the Storm didn’t let her finish.

Vecellio’s network project is very small in the grand scheme of Milian security, a section, or more specifically an offshoot, of Milia’s group of spies and intelligence, dedicated to rooting out a ring of smugglers that operating in Milia. It was officially approved last month after much urging from Arianna Vecellio, a castle guard who has recently been promoted to a captain.

Elena fought hard to focus on her vision, on what was going on around her. Her head was splitting, needles stabbing, there were people exclaiming around her and she realized with horror that she actually had fallen to her knees just like she’d been afraid of, in front of the Prince of Milia.

It had been operating for three weeks, has a budget of a thousand florins a month, a sum that its backers think is too much but Vecellio has determined is too little, it has two operatives assigned to it, Cofrancesco and Be Pullo, a palace guard and city accountant respectively, it has thus far made two arrests, one of a small-time thief currently in the dungeons and one of a suspected Lanisti who had been killed in an altercation on the way to the castle.

It hurt, the information was too much and it hurt entering her head, her fingers were on fire and she could tell that she was missing almost as much information as she was gaining, and it was mortifying that she was on the ground in this gorgeous throne room, but she couldn’t do anything about it, her muscles weren’t responding to the commands her brain was trying to give them.

Arianna Vecellio isn’t going to like her project being handed to a kid Fabera she’s never heard about, she thought dully, before everything went black.

***

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

***

Let’s switch it up today, using the ‘everyone pushes the red button’ principle.

DO NOT PRESS THIS LINK

That link either leads to a vote for Twisted Cogs on TFW, or literally destroys the internet.

Seriously don’t push it. The entirety of the internet is at risk.

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24 responses

  1. In case you missed it on the main page, I’ll be giving the readers a chance to interview a Twisted Cogs character this Wednesday! To vote for the character, just follow this link!

    Like

    2015-06-07 at 10:27 pm

  2. eduardo

    Should I press the link or not?
    Weird, I imagined that finding a few smugglers was simpler than running a studio.

    Like

    2015-06-07 at 10:47 pm

    • The interconnections it has with larger intelligence networks, political bodies and judicial systems probably account for the migraine from Hell. :/

      Like

      2015-06-08 at 3:12 am

    • Fhoenix

      That is actually a good point, I think. I mean sure there is probably an information metric that will say that this network is bigger that a studio. But what the text itself describes to us before she faints is not that big.
      Still I like the scene.

      Like

      2015-06-08 at 5:06 am

    • could be much smaller than the studio and still cause her head to explode by taking it in all at once.

      Like

      2015-08-29 at 8:58 pm

  3. galiana

    I took a risk and pushed the red button just because I like Twisted Cogs so much :). Is it worth the whole internet? Perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-06-07 at 11:01 pm

  4. YES! YEAAAAAAH! I’m literally tearing up. As much as Elena is hurting right now, her Storm powers just shot skyward. Such a triumph. I’ve been waiting for this moment for SO LONG. I don’t know why I’m so freaking emotional right now, but this is such a glorious moment.

    Like

    2015-06-07 at 11:15 pm

  5. Stormblessed

    Would Elena go into a coma from information overload if she was to suddenly rule the entire world?

    Like

    2015-06-08 at 12:07 am

    • I’m gonna guess… yes.

      Like

      2015-06-08 at 2:07 am

    • Fhoenix

      I am assuming it’s more about getting to own a lot in a short time. Conquering the world in small bits should help with that.
      It’s kind of funny since “The world belongs to me” would not be all that hard to delude yourself into.

      Like

      2015-06-08 at 5:11 am

  6. Typo?
    At first the narration said that it took years to clear out the room. Then it said the room cleared out too quickly. I can see how it can be intentional, but it might also be a typo. If it is intentional, it might be worth rephrasing.

    I wonder if Elena will get some backslash for hiding from her friends that she is the one who thought up the plan of invading studio… Erm… Studio Ercole.

    Elena has a huge weakness. Giving her things can basically paralise her in combat or any situation where time is of essence.

    Thanks for the chapter!

    Like

    2015-06-08 at 2:14 am

    • Does the red button above have any relationship with r/thebutton, perchance?

      Like

      2015-06-08 at 4:01 am

    • Unmaker

      The time discrepancy threw me for a moment, but then I realized it was from Elena’s point of view and it made sense – while the crowd was clearing it seemed to take forever but when it was cleared she suddenly had other concerns, so it seemed to have cleared too fast.

      Like

      2015-06-08 at 8:21 am

      • Yep, while that was intentional I think I should change it to be a bit more clear, thanks to you both!

        And Zim, you think I would associate RED with the button? What do you take me for, some kind of filthy presser? #greys-fo’-lyfe

        Like

        2015-06-08 at 9:05 am

  7. Fhoenix

    Yes! Perfect chapter.
    A classic use of http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PowerStrainBlackout
    Double cheers for our author.

    //while you’ve had very, very good teachers in the art of subtle politics
    But Prince has no idea who if anybody taught her. Or is he pointing at Waldren? Still that’s only an assumption, weird of him to say like he knows it for a fact.

    //Machinators
    Fun fact. The term sounds (at least in my head) very close to Russian “Махинатор” which has the meaning of “Manipulator” (of a scammy type). So my reaction was “Twisted! You are busted!”.

    Like

    2015-06-08 at 5:02 am

    • Oh wow that’s really funny! The names of the Storm categorizations derive from latin, but I always find it funny when there are close-sounding relatives in other languages.

      It even almost works, since Machinators manipulate…objects…into inventions….okay it doesn’t actually work at all, haha. But that’s still pretty darn interesting!

      Like

      2015-06-08 at 9:09 am

  8. AvidFan

    Damn it Maddi! What if that button HAD destroyed the Internet!? I would never forgive myself! I thought you knew better than to do that to me! YOU DON’T KNOW ME AT ALL! >:(
    Except that I always press big red buttons…. Grr.

    Oh, and I haven’t been reading any web serials for the last few days (it was probably only one day) and I was hoping that there would be some more pages… Nope. :(
    Why do you have to make each page so interesting!? (First world problems)

    Like

    2015-06-09 at 9:32 pm

    • I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that Twisted Cogs is worth a few broken internets here and there.

      (Given the number of extra votes I’ve gotten this week though, setting up a red button to break the internet would be a very very bad idea O_O)

      Like

      2015-06-10 at 3:23 pm

  9. Hey, Maddi. When you say chapters update at 11:59, is that AM or PM?

    And I think I know what smut chapter is coming soon involving certain prince and princess ;3

    Like

    2015-06-10 at 11:23 am

    • Chapters update at 11:59pm, the ‘turning’ minute between one day and the next. Of course, as subscribers can tell you, often I release the chapter earlier than that because I like my sleep :)

      Smut chapter involving the Prince and Princess, WHAT? Noooooo-*closes ‘Twisted Smut WIP: Principessa Et Legumen’ quickly*-ooooo that doesn’t sound like a thing at all…

      Like

      2015-06-10 at 3:21 pm

      • Princess and beans??? Did the Princess have too much chipotle before (the totally not a thing at all) sexy times?

        Like

        2015-06-10 at 4:15 pm

        • It’s The Princess and the Pea…come on now…

          Like

          2015-06-10 at 5:32 pm

          • lucinthius

            So, golden showers?

            Like

            2015-06-12 at 10:45 am

  10. I can’t stop laughing how at how her Storm’s gotten sick of waiting for Elena, and just started dumping the information on her. Hahahaha! Poor her – she got the one Storm with an attitude.

    Like

    2015-08-31 at 9:39 am

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