A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

6.02 – Ortus Elici {Rising Cog}

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***

There was no foe around for Elena to intimidate, so she wasn’t sure why she spun the hammer in her hand, spinning the wood beneath her hand absentmindedly and watching the hammerhead twirl out of the corner of her eye.

Maybe the sight of the metal hammerhead catching the lanternlight was a constant reminder that she was armed and not helpless, or maybe the buzz of the Storm in her fingertips was comforting at this point.

Or maybe I’m showing off, Elena thought, suddenly realizing that she was being watched. Behind her the two Crivelli, two Nencia, and three De Luca garzoni watched, and the hammer stilled in her hand.

“What’s wrong?” Mapsmith asked, glancing over her shoulder at the hallway behind them, “did you see something, Cog?”

‘What’s wrong’, as if the answer isn’t “everything”, Elena shook her head, “nothing, keep going.” When the group approached a fork in the hall they travelled, Mapsmith consulted the piece of parchment in her hand, then pointed, and the small crew followed.

Elena bit her lip as she moved, trying to gauge how long it would be before they emerged from the tunnels and into the courtyard.

“I’m nervous, Elena,” Lorenzo spoke up, his voice startling her, “this has thus far been easier than I expected.”

Elena didn’t know what she had expected. The history books spoke of rebellions in terms of chaos and flames and destruction, of mayhem and violence, but there was none of that here. On the contrary, the underground hallways that led up and into the palace courtyard were quiet and dark, which is why the little groups carried lanterns. They had seen the Prince and Little One standing on the balcony as the Studio students approached, which meant the rebels had some idea they were here, but as Lorenzo pointed out, there had been nothing to stop them so far.

“Hello Cog, this is Voicebox from Studio Malatesta,” the little box in Elena’s pocket chirped quietly, “I just had your groups one, two, six, seven, and eight reports in, and they say they haven’t encountered any resistance. No word from three or five.”

Although the Machinator couldn’t see the action, Elena nodded. It went along with what they were seeing as well, the lack of soldiers, the lack of chaos. She withdrew the little box and pressed the sides together, bracing for the shock of lightning that would run down her arm as soon as she released.

“We’ve been seeing that as well, tell everyone to be on their guard when we get to the courtyard. If the rebels aren’t meeting us within the hallways they’re laying in wait for us. Wait at the doorways for further instructions before going into the courtyard, this could be a trap.”

Elena braced herself and released the sides of the box. The pain was bad, but she grit her teeth and muscled through it, and it soon passed. If the Malatesta garzoni could put up with the pain to go on studio raids, she could put up with it for something so much more important. It helped that she was too concerned with the buzzing tracks of information furrowing through her head to focus on much of anything.

“Ambush waiting in the courtyard,” Elena said shortly to her little group of eight, then refocused on the Storm. The information was too much for her brain to process, the pounding headache that had been throbbing in her head since she’d started commanding them told her that much. If she tried to understand or track all of the information, chances are it would overwhelm her and she’d pass out. Instead she focused on the bigger picture.

In the grand scheme of warfare and a rebellion, her chances weren’t wonderful, Elena knew that, especially since Prince Langone and Little One would’ve had time to organize defenses. The two of them working together would be a dangerous combination to try to out-strategize, and forty-eight students wasn’t enough to make any headway against the entire Milian army.

But forty-three Stormtouched and the Mortalis that fight with them? Elena winced as another surge of the Storm threatened to make her dizzy, ten Lanisti, thirteen Saggitari, three Machinator, four Faberi, seven Calaetor, six Artifex, five Mortalis…that might be enough…

“Someone coming,” Mapsmith said in a hush without looking up from her parchment, pointing to the fork they approached, “on the left.”

Elena could see the flickering light of the soldier’s lantern, which meant that he could see theirs as well. Without a thought, she broke into a run headed straight toward him, letting the grip on her hammer slide until it hung at the perfect balance. The guard was wearing Milian colours, but Elena wasn’t going to risk asking questions now, especially not when he began to draw his sword.

Time didn’t slow like it had other times she used her Storm to fight, but Elena could read the man’s movements all the same. Her hammer swung up to catch the wrist of his sword arm before the blade was even drawn, bringing the handle up and around to crack him in the chin before the sound of the first crack had finished echoing in the hallway.

He was still on his feet, and Elena reached out to hook the hammerhead behind his neck and yank him forward, holding out her leg so that he would sprawl over it to land in a heap in front of the students who followed, his lantern shattering on the ground. She turned to make sure he stayed down, and saw the others staring.

Mapsmith and Proper, the two Studio Crivelli garzoni, wore careful, neutral expressions, though Mapsmith’s Echo seemed less careful about guarding her own expression. Silverhand and Ironhand from Studio Nencia looked approving. Lorenzo was tilting head to one side, fixing her with a puzzled look from where he hovered a few feet off the ground, held aloft by the magnes in his clothing, and on the ground at his side Lore looked just as intrigued. Leanarda looked actually terrified, half-hiding behind Niccolo, and Leo looked angry. Niccolo had a hard, mistrustful look in his eyes, and Nicci was staring at her with a look of such concern that it ought to have melted her heart.

Elena found with surprise that she didn’t care. At her side, Ele was already moving again, staying a few paces in front of the group.

“He’ll stay down long enough for us to do our business,” she said shortly with a jerk of her head, “courtyard.” Without another word she turned, not bothering to see if the others were following. Before too long, the soft blue glow of moonlight filtered through the tunnel ahead of them, and Elena lifted the little box to her lips again.

“We’re approaching the courtyard now, what are the statuses of the other groups?” she said.

“I thought you said Cog was a Fabera,” Silverhand whispered to someone as they slowed.

“She is, I trained with her,” Leanarda whispered back.

“Then where’d she learn to fight like that?”

Elena held up a hand as they approached the door that separated the tunnels from the courtyard, then gestured at the heavy lock. “Garzoni Balance, the lock,” she said shortly. Even though her feelings for the Saggitari had long passed, the formality made her feel more comfortable. Niccolo unslung his bow from his shoulders, still looking at her strangely as he fitted one of his needle-thin arrows to the string.

“I’m curious too, Garzona Cog,” he said, “do you have any idea what rumors about you have been running through the Studios? They’re saying you worked with His Princeps, and people from the Florenzian courts…you’ve managed to convince most of the Masters of the city to give you their students…you were just a naive little Fabera, Elena, what happened to you?”

“It’s ‘Cog’,” Elena shifted uncomfortably, “are you shooting the lock or what?”

Niccolo drew and fired, and the needle-arrow pierced the heavy lock and sunk halfway through. Elena frowned as she rattled the suddenly-loose lock, trying to open the door. Anyone who had spent every day doing physical and combat training with soldiers for months would’ve picked up what she had. The rumors were true, but only if viewed through the most charitable lens. She had had a lot of help to get to where she was.

“Don’t believe everything you hear, Garzoni Balance.” The door rattled in its frame, but wouldn’t open no matter how she tried to wrench and twist.

“Don’t give me that, Garzona Cog,” Niccolo pressed, “you can’t tell me something hasn’t changed. The Cog I knew wouldn’t have taken out that guard, and as for the rest of it…I was there, at the raid on the Street of Red Artisans, in the crowd. I saw you, Leanarda and I both did. You came out covered in blood, and then rode with someone they swear was Master Apollo. I don’t even know who you are, what have you done with the Elena I used to know?”

Elena opened her mouth to argue, but the box in her pocket crackled to life.

“All groups are ready at the doors to the courtyard, ready for your next orders,” Voicebox’s voice said, “Deluge is hurt, but beyond that none of your troops sustained injury.”

“Good,” Elena said, “move on my signal.”

Niccolo caught her by the arm as she turned back to the door. “Who are you, Cog?” he whispered.

My troops, Elena thought, the buzz of the Storm giving her a sudden fuzzy rush of knowledge. She could feel them positioned just inside of the doors that led into the courtyard, six groups of eight waiting on her command. Perhaps reminded by the mention of Master Apollo, she suddenly remembered the very first piece of advice he had given her.

Never fight your own reputation.

Elena turned back to the door that separated her from the people in the castle she needed to save, her mind carefully turning it over. The door was in her way, and she needed it gone. There were more manners of ownership than to create something, or to be given something. This door was hers because she claimed it, and if anyone had an issue with that they could object at their own peril.

An impurity in the metal at the base of one of the hinges made it weak near the top. Splintered wood and years of wind and rain surrounded the other hinge. Elena swung once, and a spray of splinters and wood chips exploded from the end of her hammer, and when she swung again the top hinge bent with a screech of grinding nails and metal. She used the momentum to spin, swinging one foot up to plant into a kick directly in the door’s center of balance, sending it flying off of its hinges and clattering into the silent courtyard with the resounding crash of oak and steel.

A quarter of the Milian army waited in the courtyard beyond in neat regimented squadrons. Although they seemed ready, the suddenness of the huge door collapsing onto the stone left a brief moment of shocked quiet. In that moment, Elena turned to glance over her shoulder at Niccolo and the others.

“It’s ‘Master Cog’,” she said quietly, before turning to attack the enemy.

***

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***

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14 responses

  1. Eeeeeh. That whole owning the door is flimsy. You can’t just claim a piece of a building for yourself. What are you gonna do, take it home? Are you going to stop people from going there? I don’t think you can truly claim something like this until you are challenged. But hey, Elena’s storm has been deluded by way less. It isn’t the smartest of storms. Which raises the question as to why they are sentient?

    Elena bit her lip as she moved, trying to juggle both It wouldn’t be long before they emerged into the courtyard. -> there seems to be something missing. Juggling both what? Walking and playing with the hammer? There is at least a missing full stop.

    Thank you for the chapter, Maddi! Wonder if Elena will be a Master after this. I kind of feel De Luca wouldn’t make it so easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    2016-01-04 at 11:54 pm

    • Daemion

      She just found a way to make her storm work better and more often. Claiming something -is- ownership if it’s uncontested. The more authority Elena gathers, the more often this approach will work for her.
      This is an upgrade for her and her storm, not a plothole. ;)

      Like

      2016-01-05 at 6:18 am

      • She can very well claim the whole of… unclaimed land in the planet for herself. And the Sun, and the Moon, and the planets. Not exactly useful, but she could do something like that. More useful, she could claim buildings. If “the door of the castle of the prince of Milia” doesn’t count as property of the prince of Milia, then why should a whole corridor, or tower, or the entire thing?

        I say, for her claim to be valid, she either needs to be able to either take the thing with her, or otherwise stake her claim and be able to protect it.

        Anybody can say “this door is mine”. That doesn’t make it so, nor does it mean anybody will believe it. If Elena were to say that out loud to her group, they’d look at her with funny faces, rather than nod in agreement.

        I mean, yeah, it’s not like anybody ever is going to challenge Elena for the door. But she never had any control over it nor will she retain any control over it.

        Like

        2016-01-05 at 6:31 am

        • Interestingly, I arrive to the conclusion that Elena’s storm must be empathetic enough (or make use of her brain) to understand the concept of ownership.

          Like

          2016-01-05 at 6:33 am

          • If you’re about to destroy something, you own it. Pwnage is also a thing.

            Like

            2016-01-09 at 2:57 am

        • Jeray20000

          I think it’s more about her ability to convince herslef. Doesn’t matter if a court of law or anybody else would agree, as long as she believes it the storm works. That’s why it’s so powerful.

          Like

          2016-01-05 at 10:16 am

    • George

      She owns the plan to destroy the door so she gets information on how to destroy the door. It wouldn’t help if she wanted to fix it, for instance.

      Like

      2016-01-05 at 9:02 am

    • That’s for the catch, I have no idea how that juggling line made it through to publishing!

      It might clear things up a bit if I point out that nowhere in this story has it been confirmed that Elena is 100% correct about how her Storm works (she’s just very very close).

      Like

      2016-01-05 at 9:13 am

    • IronTarkus

      Ridiculous, of course you can claim something like that. That is the very basis of the whole concept of ownership, until you are challenged it is for all intents and purposes yours.

      Like

      2016-01-05 at 6:15 pm

    • Unmaker

      The door was owned by the Prince. Without a clear line of succession, and there apparently isn’t, then ownership of the palace is by whichever side has the strongest ability to force a claim over it. Which means ownership is sectional and fluid. At that moment, Elena’s force had more power over the door.

      My real problem here isn’t the door, it is that she should already be dead from the injuries caused by moving so much after just having internal surgery.

      Like

      2016-01-06 at 7:17 pm

    • Byzantine

      Her power seems to work by her believing she owns it. She can’t trick herself because on some level she is aware of what she is attempting. But if she actually believes it her Storm treats it as if it was true. In the hands of a megalomaniac her Storm would be nightmarishly broken.

      Like

      2017-04-02 at 10:00 pm

  2. maybem

    ought to have melted her heard > ought to have melted her heart

    Also omg Elena! She’s come a really long way, hasn’t she.

    Like

    2016-01-05 at 2:54 am

  3. gnibbles

    Was…. was that the signal? The door collapsing? O_o;;;

    Like

    2016-01-05 at 1:53 pm

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