A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

3.2 – Domesticam Vinculum {Familial Ties}

My Dearest Elena,

 

I was so glad to hear from you, my dear. You have no idea how worried I’ve been after your little outburst at Studio DaRose, turning down a better studio like that, I very nearly despaired of you. It is such a joy to learn that, even after your little mistake, there are some in the courts who can still see the value in a Lucciano.

 

I would love to visit, to see the castle and see how you are getting along. I was quite concerned with your attitude when I visited Studio DaRose, but I could tell that you only needed some time alone to gather your thoughts before you recalled that I have always taught you the value of an even temper and a careful tongue. I am sure we will not have a repeat performance.

 

I should arrive in Milia on the fourth of Renier, so please make sure that there are accommodations ready for me, for I will naturally have to spend the night. I look forward to seeing you, Elena, and I hope you are looking forward to seeing me just as much.

 

With Love,

~Joanna Lucciano

 

Elena practically skipped down the hallway, reading the letter a second time with a smile on her face.

Ele followed behind with a scowl. “Two entire days,” he muttered.

“An evening and a morning, Ele, it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be,” Emerald smiled. “Miss Lucciano will even have her own room, so you won’t even see her the entire time.”

“That’s easy for you to say, you didn’t grow up with her.”

Elena refused to let his grumpiness ruin her mood. The last time her mother had visited, at the request of Master Malatesta, things hadn’t gone well, but this time would be much better. She had needed some time without her mother to gather her thoughts, and it seemed so long ago that she had stood with fists clenched, yelling at Masters DaRose and Malatesta and her own mother. It hadn’t been appropriate at all, but she had been through a lot since then. If nothing else, her further interaction with the Twisted had taught her how to act with grace and dignity. Even if they were angry…

The mental image of Little One strung up against the ship wall, of golden blood, and of her perfectly composed and calm face, flashed up in Elena’s mind’s eye, and for just a moment her step faltered.

There I go, modelling myself after Little One again… she furrowed her brow, worried. It had been happening more and more often, ever since her success in the jail with Be Pullo. She still wasn’t entirely sure what, if anything, it indicated.

“Elena!” Arta’s voice pulled her out of her reverie, and Elena looked up with a start to find that she had arrived at her destination.

The workroom was less ornate than De Luca’s long wooden workshop, but it was large enough to accommodate the work of all four of Elena’s retinue, by their own request. The large window at its end was open to allow for the sound and smell of the light rain to waft in, and by the window Arturo was working on a painting, largely ignoring the others in the room, as he had for the past several months. A dark creature hid in the shadows on his canvas, and Elena wondered briefly how that would translate to his particular Storm. Arta had turned back to her Stormtouched and seemed content to watch him paint, not giving suggestions but occasionally looking ‘round the rest of the room.

Frederica sat on the floor in the corner, on a large piece of fabric that had been laid out to catch the wood chips that her knife carved from the piece of wood in her hand. Elena’s little wooden ermine Frell scampered and played in the wood shavings around her legs, Fred cross-legged to her right, and the wooden girl, Freja, sat to her left with Frederica’s woodcarving tools spread across her lap. The little tribe was quiet, besides the scuffle of Frell through the wood chips, or Fred occasionally calling out a knife that Frederica needed which Freja would supply, taking the old knife and carefully slotting it back into place.

Owl was working at the actual workstations set up for the group, his tools and lock pieces spread out over both his and Frederica’s tabletops. He sat on the desk itself with his feet propped on a stool, biting his tongue as he carefully tightened something within the little golden shell he held.

“Good morning everyone!” Elena sang as she set her books down at her own little desk, “I’m happy to see you all!”

Frederica looked up from her work with a glare for a moment, but Elena was used to her Caelator friend and didn’t let it bother her.

“You’re quite chipper this morning, I thought all of the paperwork was bringing you down,” Owl said without looking up from his work.

“I’ll finish with them soon enough,” Elena let the stack of papers she held fall to the table with a thud, flipping the top book open and in front of her, “and besides, my mama is visiting today!”

Frederica stopped carving for a moment and fixed Elena with a long, neutral look, but she turned back to her work without saying anything.

The comforting feeling of the Storm in her fingertips matched the comfortable sound of the rain outside, and Elena let herself lapse into the silence that the little room had fallen to. The little metallic clicks of Owl’s work, the soft and steady scraping of Frederica’s knife, and the scratch of her pen on the books all contributed to the effect, and for awhile Elena let herself drift off and enjoy the lull.

Her work didn’t require much concentration; she had taken over Be Pullo’s place as the accountant of the group, a job that was simple but require a lot of filling out forms and keeping track of numbers. Luckily for Elena, the numbers belonged to the project, and she could let her Storm do most of the work, only writing down what the tingles in her temples told her to.

Certain merchants always needed a few florins before they “recalled” comings and goings, the crown compensated citizens whose goods they confiscated, and even now there was an entire cart full of decoy supplies being sent to a warehouse that they suspected of siphoning a steady stream of items to the smugglers. All of it had to be paid for, and Elena liked having it written down and itemized.

After a while, she gauged that her friend’s annoyance at the first interruption had passed. “What are you working on, Frederica?” she asked, “I thought you had been making another person like Freja.”

“Making a bird, now,” Frederica replied without looking up. “I’ve never been able to make one that was Touched, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

“What happened to the-” Elena began, but Frederica jerked her head to indicate the corner of the room, where the front half of a figure rested against the wall. “But why is there only half of it?”

“One of the Lords showed me these archives, down in the library. I read some journals from old Calaetors, and they gave me an idea. It was…nice. Interesting.” Frederica didn’t supply any more information, but she actually paused and gave a half smile before returning to her work.

She’s happier than I’ve ever seen her before, Elena smiled.

“Here, Elena would you mind helping me?” Owl held out two halves of a lock, and Elena accepted them gingerly, “just snap those two together.”

“You’re trying to make lock pieces now?” Elena slid the two mechanisms together, trying to adjust them so they fit, “something that people without your Storm can assemble?”

“Exactly right,” Owl nodded, watching her gently twist and slide the pieces, “there are good opportunities for a locksmith in the palace, especially a Stormtouched locksmith. There’s a chance that I could even…ah, but that won’t happen if I can’t figure this out.”

He frowned and took the two pieces back from her, and they clicked together as soon as he had them in his hands.

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out, Owl!” Elena had to try hard to keep herself from bouncing up and down in her chair.

“I keep telling you to call me Tommas, you silly Cog.” Despite his words, the frown on Owl’s face was cracked by his small smile, and Elena grinned back at him.

“Okay, Owl,” she teased. There was nothing that could bring her down today, and nothing that would stop her from infecting her friends with the same joy. She was in such a good mood that she even turned and smiled at the Artifex in the corner. “How’s the foot, Arturo?”

“Well, the toes haven’t grown back yet, ha ha,” he said, saying the words rather than actually laughing. “No apology from the Eye, not that I’m surprised. They’re no different than De Luca, really, thinking they’re above us normal people just because they have more power right now.”

“You don’t know a thing about Master De Luca,” Frederica said shortly, “you sound smarter when you don’t talk about things you don’t know.”

“She asked,” Arturo said sullenly.

“You sound smarter when you listen to what people say.”

Elena opened her mouth to stop the two before a fight broke out, but at that instant Belloza appeared in the doorway, her cheeks flushed and her drenched clothes and hair dripping water all over the floor.

“Exercises with Captain Giatelle,” she explained with a grin in answer to the questioning looks, “I can’t exactly fire a crossbow indoors! The Captain says I’m one of the most ‘down to earth’ Saggitara he’s ever worked with.”

“What does a Saggitara need with training?” Owl asked.

“Um…anyways,” Beloza’s already flushed face turned a fraction redder, and she brushed a wet strand of hair behind one ear, “Elena, the Captain got a message from His Principessa, he said he knew I’d be with the Captain and I’d know where to find you, Elena. Your mother has arrived earlier than expected, they’re waiting for you in the lower sunroom of the western wing.”

“Ooh I’m so excited!” Elena hurriedly marked her place in her book and rose.

 

“I’d love to meet your mother, Elena,” Owl said, “You’ll have to bring her by before she leaves.”

“I will! Frederica has already met her, but I can introduce her to the rest of you!” Elena brushed down the front of her dress and checked the ribbon that held her curls in place. “I don’t think-” she broke off suddenly, as with a soft dread the exact wording Belloza had used filtered through.

“Belloza, did…” she had to swallow before the words would come out, “…did you say ‘they’?”

 

***

 

When Elena pushed the wide doors of the sunroom open, she could hear the laughter of her mother and two others, and her stomach did flip-flops. It was a beautiful room, designed with a wall of windows to let in the sunlight even in the season of Rain, a few couches arranged to allow for both a view of the city and conversation between those who enjoyed it.

On one of the couches, covering her mouth with a hand and giggling, was Elena’s mother. She had clearly gone to some effort, her black hair done in a long braid, her best dress clean and pressed, if a little threadbare. Utterly at ease with one leg slung over the other, chuckling along with her, Prince Langone lounged on the other couch.

His crown was missing, and without the pomp of the court or the regal gild of his throne, the man looked…normal. Average, and not even a particularly good average. There were worry lines on his face, his hair was messy, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes.

Elena had spoken with His Princeps a few times since their first meeting, but it was always in the throne room, never without his advisors and guards and ceremony. Certainly never in a context in which he would lounge as he was doing now.

Why is he here? What is this about? Elena’s legs carried her towards the couches automatically as she tried to process the scene before her, isn’t he even worried about his safety?

Elena’s mouth was dry, but she cleared her throat, “Your Prin-”

“Ah, Lucciano!” Elena hadn’t even noticed Principessa Rodiano in the room, but he had crossed the distance between the couches and her in the blink of an eye, clasping her hands in greeting while at the same time preventing her from curtseying, “I hope you don’t mind, we waylaid your lovely mother for a bit. We were just telling her about how we work with you sometimes. Peers, if you will.”

Elena’s face as blank as her mind, but she was able to follow Rodiano enough to keep her mouth shut, neither curtseying nor greeting the pair by title. The Princess must’ve seen the question in her eyes. His gaze flicked to the Prince and he gave a small sigh, rolling his eyes. He was clearly not impressed with whatever game his husband was playing.

“It’s good to see you, mama,” putting aside her confusion, Elena bent down to hug her mother.

“Oh Elena, it’s so good to see you again, my child,” Joanna smiled and patted the seat next to her, and Elena happily sat with her mother, pulling her legs up beneath her. “And…well, I’ve been doing some reading, and talking…well, tell your friend, your Echo, tell him that I say ‘hello’ to him as well.”

Even with the social terror of the far-too-casual Prince sitting across from her, Elena beamed, turning to see Ele’s reaction. He scowled and shoved both hands in his pockets.

“Glad to hear that all it takes for her to believe her own daughter is loads of books and third party confirmation,” he mumbled, avoiding Elena’s gaze and staring through the window. Elena frowned. Her first instinct was to note how rude it was of him, not to accept her mother’s olive branch…but on the other hand, he wasn’t exactly wrong.

“Elena,” Joanna said, “your friend Patroclo was just telling me that you have been helping a Captain of the Guard in- why Elena, whatever is the matter?”

Hearing her mother refer to the Prince by his first name had made Elena wince as if she’d been slapped.

“It’s probably just that Elena doesn’t know what to do with herself when complimented on her exploits,” The Prince said, leaning forward.

“Modesty is a virtue, Elena, but only up to a point,” Joanna smiled and patted Elena on the hand, “if you don’t take credit for your own accomplishments, no one else will.”

“I do take credit, mama,” Elena said, “I just don’t like to brag when I’ve gotten help-”

“Bragging a little is quite normal for those of our standing. You’ve always been far too” Joanna interrupted with a wave of her hand, “so tell me Patroclo,” Elena winced again, “what exploits has my little Elena gotten up to?”

“Well, my husband is quite interested in how well she has performed in combat, if rumors are to be believed,” the Prince said, indicating Rodiano, “but I’m more impressed with how handy she’s proven to be with organizing information, leading projects,.

“I taught her well,” Joanna said proudly, “she definitely gets that from me, we Luccianos are natural-born leaders.”

Elena’s temples prickled, but she tried ignore them.

“Is ‘Lucciano’ your name, then, not your husband’s?” The Prince asked.

“When Elena’s father died, I decided to take my old name again,” Joanna said offhandedly, “there’s no sense in his wretched family taking the credit for Lucciano accomplishments.” Elena was beginning to see why Prince Langone hadn’t revealed his true station to her mother; the woman wouldn’t have been anywhere near this talkative in the presence of the ruler of Milia.

“I had no idea your father had passed, Elena,” the Prince raised his eyebrows.

“It’s not-” Elena began.

“She doesn’t remember him,” her mother interrupted, “he died when she was just a baby.”

“Will you please stop her from doing that?” Ele snapped, “you’re perfectly capable of speaking for yourself, Elena, you don’t have to put up with it anymore when she interrupts you.”

Elena’s temples prickled again, more insistently, enough that her head throbbed. She rubbed them, briefly trying to process the information so that she could focus more on the conversation.

“It must’ve been hard for you,” the Prince was saying.

“Oh you have no idea,” Joanna sniffed, “the sacrifices I had to make…but I suppose it was all worth it, to see her rise to such heights now. I know she realizes how much I’ve done for her, so her gratitude is some small comfort.”

“Oh come on-” Ele began.

“Stop,” Elena said briefly, “quiet.”

“What?” Joanna reeled back, “Elena Lucciano, you don’t speak to-”

“Mother,” Elena said, her voice quiet but firm, “hush. Now.” She didn’t pay attention to the reaction, she just closed her eyes and tried to focus on taking deep breaths and following the information the Storm was giving her.

It had been an off-chance, a halfhearted thought. A few of the warehouses had missing goods, of the same type that the smugglers traded in, and Vecelio had wondered if they were supplementing their smuggled exports with stolen products. Requisitioning a crate of supplies to store in one of the warehouses had only taken a small amount of money, and once they were purchased, they belonged to the project. They belonged to Elena’s Storm.

And now they were moving. Travelling down the Street of Red Artisans, her crates were being carted away, presumably towards whatever central location the smugglers were operating from.

“Your Princeps, I need to go,” Elena said, rising smoothly.

“His…Princeps?” Joanna’s face went white.

“Your Storm has told you something about the smugglers.” The Prince’s demeanor went from relaxed and casual to serious in an instant.

“I’ll need a squadron of soldiers, and Captain Vecelio and Confrancesco.”

“I’ll sign off on the soldiers, but only if you’re leading them.”

“Are Master Apollo and Master Artemis still here? If I could convince them to help…”

“You don’t need to convince them of anything,” Princess Rodiano said, “I’ll order them.”

“This is…this is preposterous!” Joanna spluttered, “I mean…I mean your highness. Your highnesses. I cannot let my daughter…soldiers? Smugglers? Elena, I can’t let you do…whatever it is you’re talking about. I forbid it.”

Elena was already at the door, but she paused and turned to face her mother.

“This is what I’ve become, Mama,” she said simply. “I’m going whether you forbid it or not.”

As soon as she was out of sight, Elena braced herself for the wave of guilt, but to her surprise she didn’t feel the slightest bit sorry.

***

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9 responses

  1. stormblessed

    Yay! Fuck Joanna! That little shit!

    It’s just really nice to see Elena change in this fashion finally.

    Like

    2015-07-27 at 1:10 am

  2. Yaaaaaay! Fingers crossed that Elena will be busy all day and night and day so that we won’t see Joanna again and toes crossed that Joanna won’t interrupt somehow.

    I’m curious about what goes on between Arturo and Arta. Wasn’t Arta that said that when Echos and their humans distance themselves from each other, the Echo tends to wear away? That might have been metaphorical, but…

    “Good morning everyone!” Elena sang as she set her books down at her own little desk, “I’m happy to see you all!”

    “I’ll finish with them soon enough,” Elena let the stack of papers she held fall to the table with a thud, flipping the top book open and in front of her, “and besides, my mama is visiting today!”

    I’m not sure if there is a typo in the above two paragraphs. Elena first sets her books down, then she sets a stack of papers down. Were they meant to be the same thing, or was she carrying both books and papers and she set them down individually?

    Ahm. I have a feeling Beloza will be the protagonist of the next Twisted Smut.

    Like

    2015-07-27 at 1:39 am

  3. AceOfSpade

    YES AT LEAST! Elena rocks!

    Seriously the letter at the beggining was infuriating, Joanna is unable to give any real praise to her daughter or see the reality. You’d think she would have understood by now that outside of Carpi the Lucciano name as almost no weight but noooo their reputation has to be responsible for Elena going to court! Not the fact that she stayed in the least prestigious studio and turned it into the most prestigious one in record time.

    Like

    2015-07-27 at 6:06 am

  4. danielmc73

    The last few times you have shown Joanna I have felt pity for her more and more. She is absolutely delusional, I’m suprised she can function run her business like that but I suppose a stormtouched making the furniture makes up for a lot.

    I am so happy for Elena. She decided to go against her mother while calm and thinking straight. That is a big step, the last time was in anger but here she just weighed her mother’s opinion and decided it was wrong. :)

    Like

    2015-07-27 at 10:30 am

    • Unmaker

      Pushy people get amazingly far in life sometimes (says someone who worked for at least two business owners who didn’t acknowledge reality very often). Often, you can get amazingly far just by ignoring people and trying to have your own way. Mind you, I don’t think that’s the best life strategy, but it does sometimes work.

      Liked by 1 person

      2015-07-29 at 2:36 pm

  5. Stellan

    I just caught up! Noooo! Also, yay, because now I won’t stay up all night for this anymore! ;D

    This chapter makes me so incredibly happy. ELENA IS OUT FROM UNDER HER MOTHER’S THUMB! AND SHE’S BEING A BADASS AND GETTING STUFF DONE!

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-07-27 at 3:05 pm

  6. naturalnuke

    And now I’ll get notifications. :)

    Like

    2015-08-02 at 4:16 am

  7. ^_^

    “What does a Saggitara need with training?”

    ^_^

    “… already flushed face…”

    O_O

    Oh my, Belloza. Training indeed.

    Like

    2015-09-02 at 3:33 pm

  8. DOOMPOTATO

    Your princeps is wrong, since your is used when ascribing attributes. Calling someone princeps is an act of submition, since to call someone prince (in a conversation) is to say that they are above all around them, the “first”. Therefore the correct form of adress for a ruling prince would be my prince (similar to how you use my lord or my king) if using the yielding form or your grace/your princeship (not actually used) if using the attributing form.

    Like

    2016-02-26 at 5:11 am

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