The Hollow Crown
The Sacred and Profane
Port Ecole 1673
Merisi looked out from the taverna. Whilst he had some respite during the day at night he knew the hellhound would return from the shadows. He had been wrong to paint his own image as Samson, the true monster was the mocking giant despatched from the bastard German langue. It made no difference how far he ran, how often he changed his plans, the teutonic giant would be suddenly appear one night and he would once again be forced to flee.
He was convinced that the beast had entered his studio in Syracuse, saw his salvation, and now intended to steal it from him. Drawing his cloak around him, he went out into the evening, distressed to see the apothecaries casting their duckbills as they sought out another fool desperate enough to play the plague tax. It was then he saw him – standing, smiling with those too blue eyes like the frozen ice he had been told about that moved so slowly in the far north.
As he ran from one monster, he hit the others, and cursed as he realised the giant had nothing to do with the langue. A single straight jab, the dagger comes back slick with dark blood, hitting the organs and the vein. He slumps down, the stench of the pickled meat they ate filling his last breaths. Then before they could finish him, a sudden blinding light, and the giant almost in a halo. In old latin ‘do you want to live artiste?’ his broken yes, the glorious fire in his belly as the man bit into his hand and dripped the ichor into him.
New Orleans 1780
I agree she is pretty, but really Mikael” Merisi was still to work out why a man with the ability to spin a tale on a bottle couldn’t pronounce his name right, “ is she worth it?”
“She is no worse than my sister, Heloise, and perhaps more honest. She plays her role to perfection, she may well yet be our gift to the Ventrue” he touched the Venetian inkwell in his pocket with the lightest motion, if his sire permits it, then in time she may feel his memory of when he purchased it on the Rialto.
“Fair enough. Make arrangements with the Ventrue that you will do this, then make her leave this place, the town is overcrowded as it is. In fact, you do the same. Go north, see what they make of this new world”
“It will still be there in the morning.” The officer, Dutch in origin he thinks, looks up at banner flapping poorly in the breeze over the stockade.
“These Englanders are a vicious lot, with their German allies I fear your new capital will burn.”
“You are wrong – I’ll wager the cost of one of your paintings on it. This flag will hold, they will not pass.”
A shudder of foreboding goes through him at these words, he now sees what the Brujah see in him. “ A wager I will gladly take if you live.” He turns into the night, watching the preposterous flag of this nation, stars and stripes indeed, flutter in the wind, already pockmarked by bullet holes.
New England 1813
“I am a man of my word, sir. Although this fishing port is hardly ‘cultural’ unless you mean the sort scientists chase after.” He pauses as he continues with the portrait. He had intended to simply dash off the young man of letters image, clear his debt quickly, but something makes him pause. He realises the darkness , the shadows, crowd around this young man. He hasn’t pained like this for a long century, not since he tried to buy entry ad forgiveness into the Order with his work.
Then, he had seen a Chamberlain look to close a door with an ancient key, that one spark had made the painting come alive. Looking into this rake’s eyes he sees the truth and starts to paint quickly. “Grab the sword, yes that sword the one with eagle head on it. Rest it across the book…” he moves quicker than any mortal has a right to, throwing the sitter into the correct pose “Now if you can manage not to shake to much from your drinking, then we have a chance to finish this Mr Van Den Berg”
It is his truth that this sitter holds a sword in the shadows.
“Really, its so dark” the breying fool makes dark into a five syllable sentence of it’s own d’eh’aa’ar’k, by the Lady Mary how had these inbred sheep fuckers ended up running the world, their accent was only matched by the weakness of their vitae, so thin and sun starved he’d have been better feeding off of a spectre. “I was in Vienitz don’t cha know” where the fuck was this puta claiming he’d been, why the hell did he care about Austria? “ Grand Canal just wonderful, and the cannaloni pictures” oh Jesu, he meant he’d been to the motherland and now he was about to get the bloody pretty pictures of a fucking gondola speech. At least he could comfort himself in the knowledge that a taste for piss poor portraiture wasn’t the only thing this fool had collected on his trip, judging by the tremble in his hand he’d wager the famous Venetian defence against all comers was still in effect, two years till the lesion, maybe three till it became obvious what little brain this fool had would be gone. He built these warnings into the picture, hoping if it was a betrothal gift it would at least save the girl.
“I mean I don’t get why we have to do this by caaandleeeeleight.” Because his father sees a bargain, and whilst this fopp thinks hes nobility, the father knows they are only a few syllables away from trade and needs to give the appearance of old money.
Its then he realises she’s gone. It hits him quickly, a sudden wrenching, whilst shes disappointed him as a childe she deserved longer than this. With rapid brush stokes, he finishes the painting, leaving the man looking slightly green with the oils. “Have your man send the rest of the payment by the tomorrow’s boat to the America’s. I leave with the evening’s tide.”
St Louis 1925
“American, I lived there long enough to be born.” The caitiff’s reply. “You moved around, I’m guessing Milan or Florence and then Rome. After that not Italy” said as a statement, not a question.
“You were quick, I have looked for this man for almost sixty years.” Silence as agreement.
“He’s good at hiding his tracks, but he has a weakness for a mystery. I drew him out that way.” The detective looks down, as if contemplating his next statement, “From what I have pieced together he is a man of principal sir, rarely feeds on unwilling victims, has not killed in at least 25 years. His actions against his sire seem to be motivated from a belief her cause was unjust. Also I believe he was made against his will.”
“Tell me where to find him, I’ll deal with my own grandchilde”
“He will be in one of two places, Scott’s a speakeasy opposite the Old Courthouse or the telegraph office at Union Station.”
“Your proof it is him?”
“A Venetian inkwell with memories of the Rialto. Yours I believe? I obtained it from him for some services I performed.” He slides the inkwell across the table. “Now my information on the member of your clan that made me?”