Chapter Four–What Came of a Day’s Excursions

The library of the International Archeological Society was a large and imposing marble edifice attached to several other buildings very like it that housed artifacts and curiosities.  It opened onto a street featuring theaters, art museums and galleries, and the entrance to the botanical gardens.  Only nicely dressed people came here, Ellea noted, holding Mother’s hand as they all walked down together toward the library.  Uncle Eabrey was explaining to Djaren and Jon about the research they were conducting, and how they might split it up.  Anna pointed out to Tam all the museums she wanted to visit, and Tam was quietly shocked at the advertisements for a new play in town that featured an exotic foreign princess who didn’t like to wear much.  They were all brought up short by the attendant at the wide library doors.

He noted Hellin’s card of admittance, but frowned at the crowd of children.  “No small children are allowed within the library, Madam,” the man said, with a pointed glance at Jon and Ellea.

“But–” Jon looked surprised and more than a little heartbroken.  “I’ll be very good.  I’m in libraries all the time.  I never bend pages.  I promise.”

“It is our strict policy.”  The man sniffed.

Mother looked to Anna.

“We’ll go to the museums,” Anna said brightly.  “You and Ellea can see all the paintings with me, Jon.  We’ll have a fine time.”

“We will,” Tam agreed, cheerfully adding himself to the group not heading for a long spell in a library.  “I’ll look after them, Lady Blackfeather.”

“We’ll share all our notes later, Jon,” Djaren said, with a look of sympathy.  “You won’t be left out.  We’re depending on you.”

Jon nodded, still miserable, and followed Anna as she all but bolted for the museum.

“Finally!”  Anna grinned.  “We’re going to go see the works of Veriscinthe DeAngelli!”

“Who?” Tam asked.

“I’ll look after them, Mother,” Ellea said solemnly.  “Excuse me.”

Mother’s smile was bemused.  “We’ll meet you for dinner at the hotel.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“And Anna, take these gelenmarks to buy yourselves some tea,”

“Thank you, Lady Hellin.”

Ellea spent the next hour trailing after Anna and Tam through halls of paintings and statuary, side by side with a still disconsolate Jon.  “I’m very good with books,” he murmured plaintively.  “I’ve always been careful.”

Tam couldn’t seem to find a decent way to appreciate art, as every room had at least one prevalent nude, and one was entirely full of white marble men wearing nothing at all.  Anna giggled at the boys’ faces, and steered them on to the next gallery.

“I don’t think this place is suitable for children either,” Tam said.

Jon peered up at a big battle scene.  “That horse is going to land on that man.  And that lady is only wearing a sheet.  Won’t she be cold?”

“That’s not very practical for fighting, either,” Ellea agreed.

“I can’t take you lot anywhere.”  Anna sighed.  “Tam, can you take them to the tea hall for cakes or something?  I really do want to see the next room, with the DeAngelli’s, and I know you won’t like it.  There are Bocchelli marbles in there.”

Tam craned his neck.  “Why do you want to go in there?”

“Verescinthe DeAngelli, the greatest female Shandorian painter ever, left only so many paintings in the world, and four of them are through that door.  No one is going to spoil that for me.  Please?” Anna gave Tam a look.

He relented immediately.  “I’ll get them cakes.”

Anna pressed the money Mother had given her into his hand.  “Thank you!” she said, and was off to the last gallery.

Tam looked at Jon and Ellea and sighed.

“I want lemon,” Ellea informed him.

Jon was frowning at his hand.

Tam took the hand, and led them to the tea hall, where a lady at a marble counter was selling tea and pastries for an amount of money that seemed to surprise Tam mightily.  He settled them down at a little table and looked round.  “I’d like to see Anna’s DeAngelli’s after all.  Will you two stay here and keep out of trouble?”

“You know I don’t cause trouble,” Jon told his brother.

Ellea blinked at Tam demurely.

“Right, then, I’ll be back soon.  Stay here.”  Tam gave them five backward glances on his way to the gallery.

Jon pushed at a cake on his plate.

Ellea divided her lemon cake into neat little pieces and ate them one by one.

Jon pushed his cake about some more, then ate the icing.

Dear children, what a lovely surprise!”  A shrill voice interrupted the brief silence.  The sparkling lady and a few other bright people were standing nearby, with a thin man in a tweed coat who wore a rather silly moustache.  The lady had a turban today, with a big purple crystal like something off the hotel chandelier.

Ellea and Jon blinked up at the sparkling people.  Ellea gripped her fork.  Jon wiped icing from his mouth, looking alarmed, and gripped the napkin tight.  A silver glow leaked around the napkin’s edges.  Jon hurriedly stuffed his glowing hand into his lap.

Tea Room

“These dear children are Ellea Blackfeather and her little friend,” the sparkling lady told the man with the moustache.  “Children, this is Mister Pumphrey.”

Mister Pumphrey coughed and looked awkward. “Mmm,” he said.

He didn’t look like much to Ellea.  He was thin, and had no chin really, just a large ball in his throat that bounced up and down.

“I was hoping to see your mother, dear,” the sparkling lady told Ellea.

“She’s in the Society Library,” Ellea said, with a sudden smile for the lady and Mister Pumphrey both, as she reflected that they couldn’t get in there any more than she and Jon could.

“Oh,” the lady said, “Well, I’ve brought her a copy of Mister Pumphrey’s latest book.  I do know she wants it, to give to your father.  Be a dear and hand it on to her, will you?”

The lady set a book upon the table, wrapped with a bow.

Ellea looked at it.  It was titled, “The Divine Mysteries of the Ancient World.

“I’m a small child.  We aren’t trusted near books,” Ellea said blandly.

“You seem a bright boy,” Pumphrey said to Jon.  “You can see that Doctor Blackfeather gets my book, can’t you?”

“Er.” Jon glanced at Ellea.  A pale silver glow was emanating from his lap.  He grabbed another napkin with his other hand.  “Um.”

The sparkling lady sighed, picked up the book and set it down in Ellea’s lap.  “I know you’ll give this safely to your mother.”  The woman smiled tightly.

“Has Doctor Blackfeather spoken to you about whether he will be attending my lecture?” Mister Pumphrey asked them.

The light from Jon’s hand was getting brighter.  Ellea stood quickly, snatching up the book.  Jon got up too, leaving his uneaten cake, and clamping his two hands, filled with napkins, together and low.

“Is there something wrong?” the lady asked.

“He has to go to the bathroom,” Ellea said.  “We should leave.”

Jon gave her a brief aggrieved glare, but he hurried after her as she turned and dashed off back toward the galleries.

*  *  *  *  *

Anna stared in delight and awe at the paintings of Verescinthe DeAngelli.  There weren’t just four, there were six!  True, two were small studies, but they were brilliant.  The gallery also displayed, unusually, two paintings by Verescinthe’s husband, Davi.  Both were wildly colorful landscapes, lovely and mountainous and very Shandorian.  Anna had spent only a few moments on them, though, before going to stand before the DeAngellis.

She picked out one at once as her favorite.  An armored figure stood at the window of a white tower.  The sky was the red of sunset, and the figure, a strong featured but beautiful woman with gold hair, wore a crimson cloak.  The figure was a common one in Shandorian art: the hero Amryn at the castle siege, from the Corestemarian war, but Verescinthe had made the scene moody and heartbreaking, rich with color and shadow.  The woman’s hand, wrapped around the hilt of a black greatsword, had the thin delicate lines of old scars and her eyes, deep set and haunting, were a brilliant glowing green, catching the dying light.

The next painting was more airy, full of clouds over mountains.  A man in the foreground was laughing, his handsome face daubed with a few spots of blue paint.  He had a canvas, too, and his style was carefully and fondly mimicked upon it.  Beside him, in a dark corner of the painting amid tumbled rock formations, a neater and more subdued young man with black hair seemed nearly to disappear into Verescinthe’s rich shadows.  Children climbed rocks on the other side of the canvas, under the eye of a red-haired girl who had her back to the painter.

The red-haired girl appeared again in one of the small studies.  She looked about Anna’s own age, with freckles and green eyes, and a bit of a similarity to Lady Hellin Blackfeather.  She was quite possibly an ancestor, Anna considered.  The painting was almost a hundred years old.  She decided to bring Lady Blackfeather here next time so she could ask if any of her grandmothers and great-aunts had known the famous artist, or even apprenticed with her.  With Lady Blackfeather, at least she would have an ally about art.  One who wouldn’t go shocky at every single nude.

Tam had returned, she noted, and was trying hard not to stare at the large reclining statue in the center of the room.  Instead, he studied a battle scene on the other wall.

Anna put all thoughts of annoyance out of her head as she drank in yet another stunning DeAngelli.  This one showed a family of darkly warm-skinned people in a library of books and scrolls, their bright clothing echoing the jewel tones of the stained glass in the background.  A paler elderly man was reading to them, and one very small child vied with the book for a place in his lap.

“That’s where I’ve seen colors like yours,” a low male voice with an Arienish accent said, behind her.  Anna turned to find Varden Chauncellor standing there, in a severe dark blue greatcoat, holding Morly’s hand.  “Your style is similar to DeAngelli’s.”

Varden and Morly in the Gallery

“She’s my favorite,” Anna said, smiling at Varden and Morly.  There was a cough from across the gallery. Anna looked over at Tam, who gave Varden’s back a pointed glare.  She ignored him.  “Verescinthe DeAngelli was the greatest Shandorian painter.”

“She was Arienish,” Varden said, though not disagreeably.  “She married a Shandorian landscape painter.”

“Davi Sheridan, yes.” Anna said.

“Her style changed a good deal, between her work in Arien and that done in Shandor.”

“I thought there was no work surviving from her early years,” Anna said.

“There’s some controversy over it.”  Varden directed Anna’s eye to another painting, rich with shadows, of a cathedral interior where a dark scene from Arienish mythology was unfolding.  “You see the plaque says this was by the master of Sente Gavrelle, but it was rumored at the end of his long life that most of his last work was done by his promising secret pupil.”

“Verescinthe,” Anna breathed.  The shadows and the rich reds and blues were unmistakable.

“But then came the revolution.  She fled, Sente Gavrelle’s studio burned along with a quarter of Logansburg and the royal palaces, and she resurfaced years later in Shandor, with a different style.”

“You don’t like it as well,” Anna guessed.

“She painted battles and histories when she was younger.  Later it was landscapes, flowers, and children.  Her subject matter became . . .” Varden trailed off, perhaps looking for some polite phrase.

“Softer?  More feminine?” Anna raised an eyebrow.  “Maybe she’d seen enough blood.  She did paint battles later, though, and histories.  There are some especially large and impressive works at the castle in Shandor.”

“Where no one can see them without venturing into the wild wastes.”

Another cough, sounding aggrieved this time, came from Tam’s direction.  Anna ignored it, but not Varden’s comment.  “The wild wastes of Shandor might surprise you. This is the view from the north tower of that castle.”  She indicated another DeAngelli, a sweeping vista of mountains and waterfalls with tiny figures climbing down the tumbled rocks.

“You’ve traveled a great deal then.”

“All my life,” Anna said amiably.  The K’shay tanna clans of Shandor were nomadic, after all, and her own family more than most, following the Blackfeathers everywhere.

“Have you been to Narmos?” Morly asked, with curiosity.  Varden hushed him quickly.

“No.”  Anna wondered when this was leading.

“We have,” Morly said.  “We were.  We didn’t see much.”

“There’s nothing to talk about there.”  Varden frowned.

“But isn’t your father giving a lecture all about it?” Anna asked.  “I thought you might present a paper there.”

Varden blinked at her, his intense blue eyes surprised.  “I didn’t know you’d read any of my, er . . .”  His face clouded.  “Well, it’s all off anyway.  There won’t be a lecture.”

“Father’s really angry.  Thieves took everything we brought back,” Morly said.

“Hush,” Varden told him, a little sharply.

“And it’s a secret, so don’t tell,” Morly added, apologetically.

“I’m so sorry,” Anna said.  There was misery in Varden’s eyes and in Morly’s too.

“Father is yelling and throwing things, so we wanted to be somewhere pretty instead,” Morly continued, encouraged by Anna’s sympathy.

Varden looked pained.  “Morly, the lady doesn’t need to hear all this.  It isn’t polite to say.”

“Oh.”  Morly’s voice was small.

“I’m very sorry to hear you won’t be speaking,” Anna said to Varden, sincerely.  “I was looking forward to that lecture.”

Varden’s lips parted.  “Oh.  Well . . . have you seen the Berdrach collection?  It’s across town.  My father knows Lord Berdrach.  I could get us in.  Did you, would you, like to go?  Tomorrow?  I could send my coach for you.  That is, if you wished it.”

Anna’s world spun a little.  The Berdrach was not a collection anyone but well connected nobility got to see.  “I, I’ll have my, er, coachman bring me.  Tomorrow.”  Anna glanced over at Tam.  Varden followed her gaze.  “Ah, so that’s what that lout is doing in the gallery.  Tomorrow, then.  At two?”

“Um, yes, thank you.”

Dear young lord Chauncellor,” a familiarly shrill voice exclaimed, interrupting them.  “You will be attending Mister Pumphrey’s lecture of course, won’t you?”

Varden turned incredulous eyes on a woman in a violet turban who was crossing the room with a small collection of people in clashing colors, and a thin man with no chin and a funny moustache.
“There will be a seance beforehand, in the Derdrien house, at dusk.  The place is an anchor for spirits, you know.  We shall be calling on the spirits of departed loved ones.  If you came we could perhaps even contact your dear mother,” the woman gushed.

Anna saw the flash of fury and disgust in Varden’s eyes before he spoke.  “I’ve seen my share of charlatans and bald-faced liars, thank you.  I am not interested in your parlor tricks.  Pray go practice your weak wiles on the dull-witted.”  Varden wheeled on the mustached man, whose eyes opened wide.  “Unscientific fools and the uneducated masses may have tolerated you, but here you’ll find people aren’t as gullible.”

Varden grabbed Morly’s hand firmly and wheeled away, leaving the gallery and the shocked spiritualists behind him.

Tam collected Anna in much the same way.  “Let’s get out of here.  Those people aren’t right, somehow.”

They were halfway down the gallery passage when Tam at last slowed and frowned.  “What was that about a coachman?”

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