I can’t find the picture that inspired this.
It was pretty intense.
If you see it, let me know!
Dagga shuddered and looked away from the picture. The whole scene, depicted in somber greys, murky blues and vivid, sinister orange, was shudder worthy.
“I’m convinced of it.” Fiera said, running her white gloved hand across the frame again. “This is the same as my dream. It’s the prophecy!”
Dagga stalled. “The prophecy is supposed to be written, isn’t it?” He found his gaze pulled back to the eyes of the prince in the painting, staring at them with a look that was undoubtedly supposed to be heroic. It came off as helpless. And terrified. There was definitely some terror in there.
The prince was kneeling. The attendants of death stood by him. One was holding two skulls by what looked like black hair and smiling gently. Presumably it was spirit hair or something, since the skulls were sans flesh. The other, wearing an equally gentle smile, was pouring what looked suspiciously like molten iron into the prince’s mouth.
Definitely not a dude Dagga wanted to be.
Fiera stepped back from the painting, shoulders straightening. When she spoke again her voice was gaining strength, preparing to go into full-flight debate mode. “Why should that be the case? Certainly the ‘conventional’ prophecy is written. But the Lore has it that the Prophet was Terrance DeWalt, and he was a famous painter, not a writer.”
Dagga shifted, looking away again. The painted prince’s stare made his stomach churn. The castle, the ruin, around them didn’t help with his mood. There was only light enough to see the painting by because an entire chunk of wall just a few paces down had been completely destroyed, perhaps by a boulder. It was summer outside, but it wouldn’t come in. Despite the hole the stone passage was dim and cool.
“Every expected element is here!” Fiera went on, not realizing that he wasn’t really listening. “The prince, the handmaidens of death, the throne. And so much more!” She leaned into the painting again.
Some of the running carpet was turning black with mold, where once it had been green (or possibly blue). Other parts of it had dissolved entirely. There were no other paintings in the hallway. The stone was grey and unpolished. The torch brackets, every twenty feet and very plain, were rusting away.
And then the painting, in the middle of the hall, in the thinnest of frames. In an out of the way hallway, way up high, in a castle that hadn’t been occupied in several hundred years. In perfect condition, of course.
Even the looters hadn’t taken it.
Obviously Fiera couldn’t have found what she was looking for in, say, a bar or something.
Dagga shuddered again. There really wasn’t any getting around it.
“Look at the sufferers in the background!” Fiera was gushing. “This scene may actually be taking place in Hell! We never considered that possibility!”
Dagga stepped away, and since she didn’t immediately notice, he stepped further away, heading for the lonely, leaking lake of sunlight made by the hole in the wall. The chill was starting to settle into his bones.
Fiera chattered on for a while.
Dagga tuned out. He couldn’t muster the strength to listen. Instead, he stood on the edge of the hole in the floor, part of the chunk knocked out of the wall, and looked out over the fields.
They spread out below, dark jade in the sun. The castle was on top of a hill, in a wide plain. To the west the green stretched away, the deep, rich and thick growth of once well-tended fields gone to seed. On the east and north a thick forest grew. A good land. Game would be plentiful, the wind wouldn’t bite, and the fortress had a clear view of the land around.
Why hadn’t the lord who had knocked the hole in the wall taken over?
He could see his troops below, just the two squads he’d brought. The absolute minimum he was allowed to travel with. A watch was being maintained, but it didn’t look like anyone was very serious about it. At the bottom of the hill, a few men had set up what looked like an impromptu horse race.
Dagga almost smiled. Summer mornings seemed to do that to people.
“You aren’t listening, are you?” Fiera’s question was kind, with built in worry.
“Sorry.” Dagga said. He didn’t turn around. The thought of turning away from the sunlight made his shoulders weak.”It’s all.” He paused, looking for the right words. “A bit much.”
There was a thoughtful silence, and then her small arm wrapped around his waist. “I’m sorry.” She said, quietly. “I got a bit carried away, didn’t I?”
Dagga managed a half smile, and slipped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her a little closer. It was good to have her close. It was kind of like summer. “Nah.” He excused her, after a bit. “That’s your job, right?”
She chuckled. “Are they going to pay me, do you think?”
“Probably not as well as I do.” He turned to look at her, and since she was lifting her face high enough, he kissed her.
That was nice. That was like summer too, and the warmth leaked into the castle a little more.
She wrapped her arms around him, and they stood there for a while. Dagga closed his eyes and held her, her head resting on his shoulder, and absorbed the sunlight.
She waited. Patiently, so he could hardly feel her waiting at all. After a time he felt stronger. Dagga took a deep breath.
“Alright.” He said, loosening his arms.
Fiera pulled back, smiling up at him. “Are you ready?”
There was no way the answer to that question was ever going to be yes. “Ready enough.” He said. Dagga stepped back into the shadow, keeping hold of one of her hands, to help keep all the sunlight from fleeing at once.
The hall was dark as a cellar after the sunlight. They were standing in front of the picture again before his eyes had finished adjusting. The blacks eased to grey. He could feel it, like the chill of winter’s fingers seeping into his face, chest and arms.
His vision began to clear, revealing the tortured face of the prince, mouth open, as he swallowed that molten iron. The cold sank into his skin.
But his bones were full of sunlight.