Part One Part Two
Part Three Part Four
Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight
Part Nine Part Ten
Part Eleven Part Twelve
Kipling and Ketrin
and Mowgli and Me
Jaskri and the Maiden
The Sculptor’s Model
Copyright © 2000 by Leem
This story may be posted on other sites provided that Leem is identified
as the author and that no unauthorised changes are made to the text.
In the fading years of the old century my master, the acclaimed sculptor Dornal of Farazel (who in his forty-seventh year remained as spry as any thirty-year-old), received the commission for what was to be his greatest work. I was as pleased and proud as could be, not only for his sake, but because being his apprentice I was to be the model for this masterpiece.
Dornal broke the news to me over dinner one evening.
“Earlier today, Verrian, while you were out buying the food and wine, I was visited by a somewhat high-ranking official from the Governor’s Palace.”
This was such a surprising thing to hear that I immediately replied with my mouth full. “The Governor’f Palafe? Then doef thif meam thaf...”
“Verrian, you’re dribbling. Chew and swallow like a civilised man while I tell you the tale.”
Feeling my face turning red, I finished my mouthful quickly. When I heard what my master had to say the rest of my meal went untouched.
“Yes, Verrian, it would seem that our City’s esteemed Governor has deigned to recognise my talents at last. He has commissioned me to produce a heroic statue that will stand next to Freneldo’s Spirit of Farazel in the Palace Forecourt itself, a statue that, like its predecessor, will symbolise the strength of the City and State of Farazel, and the pride of its citizens.”
“And cock a snook at those arrogant Rovellans, eh, master?” I chuckled.
“Hmm. You know, Verrian, you really shouldn’t allow yourself to get drawn into all this petty rivalry between the states. You know perfectly well that it’s just blown up by the Government to take people’s minds off taxes.”
In order to demonstrate this point he put on a pompous accent that might well have been an imitation of the Palace official who had visited him earlier.
“ ‘The city needs more public money for sewers, you say? Well, a quick war with Rovella ought to keep the people occupied, and we can always blame the poor sanitation on enemy sabotage.’ ”
“Oh yes, Verrian, you can laugh, but please don’t tell me that sort of conversation doesn’t take place in the Governor’s Palace every moon or two.”
“Well, master, you’d better not let any of the Governor’s spies hear you talking like that.”
“Don’t worry, Verrian, I prefer to keep all my body parts where I can find them. But don’t you want to hear about the statue?”
“Of course, master. After all, if I’m to model for it, I should have some idea of who I’m posing as, shouldn’t I?”
“Quite so. Well, Verrian, my boy, this is something that’s really going to put Farazel on the map. A giant marble statue of Darrizel, defender of ancient Thurra and conqueror of the Sholbeg hordes - ”
“Yes, master, I’ve studied the history books in your library. I know who Darrizel was.”
“Verrian, please don’t interrupt me when I’m in my stride. As I was saying: Darrizel, greatest hero of his age, rendered in pure white marble, twice as tall as in life, sword upraised...” Dornal had raised himself from his chair and leaned across toward me. “Every inch of his powerful, muscular body rendered in intricate detail as he stands tall, proud and erect...and...”
While he spoke I too had been leaning acros the table toward him. “Naked?” I breathed.
Dornal took my face in his hands. “Yes, Verrian,” he whispered. “Completely...”
He kissed me upon the lips.
The second kiss was more prolonged.
The third kiss was long, languid and sensuous. All thought of food was forgotten as Dornal and I were overtaken by a different kind of hunger. Plates and garments fell to the floor, as the table became, for an hour or more, our love-bed. I had come to notice that Dornal’s lovemaking always seemed more sensuous when he had an artistic commission, and this was no exception. I suspect he was aroused by the thought of seeing my body transformed, as it were, into stone.
I had been master Dornal’s model for almost a decade. Thanks to him I had been immortalised in countless paintings and sculptures. My face and body adorned representations of heroes, cherubs, angels, demons, and even maidens. It was always a source of great amusement to me that male clients always admired the beauty of Dornal’s marble goddesses, since that beauty belonged to me. Some of them even begged Dornal to introduce him to the gorgeous creature that had modelled for him, possibly not realising that artists were legally permitted only male models.
Since for the most part I performed household tasks while Dornal was entertaining, the clients seldom saw me, and those who did catch a glimpse of me could never have equated the simple household servant that I was with the model who had sat for such beautiful works of art.
Dornal, on the other hand, had immediately seen past the ragged clothing and filthy skin that were once mine. He had always told me that the day he saw me begging in the street he thought I was the most beautiful human being he had ever set eyes upon, an angel given flesh. There and then he had offered me a new life as his model.
I think I understood even then that I was also to become his lover. It was, after all, always rumoured of artists and their models. At the time I shared the general prejudice against love between men, but given that the alternative was to continue to beg for scraps, eat rodents, and quite probably die before my twentieth birthday (not that I had a birthday, but I thought that I must be seventeen or eighteen at the time), performing “unnatural” acts seemed a small price to pay for a real home, decent clothing and a regular source of food.
What I had not anticipated was not only that would I come to enjoy such acts, but that I would actually grow to love Dornal for his own sake and not just because he had rescued me from squalor.
And so it was that I found myself crying out with the most profound and intense climax I had ever experienced, heedless of the cold, hard table and the cramp in my legs.
After our impromptu dessert, we lay sprawled upon the table for some time, until Dornal declared that he too was getting cramp. And so we retrieved our scattered clothing, gathered up the scattered plates and knives and remnants of food and tidied the room as best we could before retiring to the library for wine. The dirty plates could wait until tomorrow.
“So, master,” I said, once we were seated amidst Dornal’s small but carefully chosen collection of books, “the statue. Twice life-size, you said?”
“Twice life-height, Verrian. Remember your mathematics.”
“I remember, master. I just chose my words carelessly. Twice the height, twice the width and twice the depth, making a total - sorry, product - of eight times a man’s volume.”
“Very good, Verrian,” he chuckled. “Perhaps education hasn’t been wasted upon you after all.”
“I hope not, master. But this commission is far bigger than anything you’ve attempted so far. How long do you suppose it will take? Three years? Four?”
“The Governor’s man was quite clear on that point,” Dornal replied. “The completed statue must be placed on display in the Palace Square before midnight on the last day of the century. If for any reason I should fail to meet this schedule... well, the messenger wasn’t too specific about that, though I did get the impression that he was not using the word ‘deadline’ in a metaphorical sense.”
I was shocked. “But master, the turn of the century is less than two years from now! You know as well as I do that the Spirit of Farazel took almost three years to complete, and they say Freneldo’s health was never the same afterward. Why did you ever accept such an impossible task?”
“Well, I gathered from the messenger’s attitude that this was not the kind of offer that I could refuse with impunity. It seems that the Governor originally commissioned the statue from Sarvis three years ago, but of course last moon there was that tragic fire in which not only the sculptor but all of his clay models were lost. They say it’s a miracle that his apprentice managed to escape without injury. What was his name, Ari-something.”
“Yes, I remember. I was surprised that you insisted on attending Sarvis’s memorial service. The two of you weren’t exactly friends.”
“We were bitter rivals to the end, Verrian. Fought tooth and nail, metaphorically speaking, through the media of paint and stone. Even so, I wouldn’t have wished such a horrible death on my worst enemy, and despite our rivalry Sarvis was hardly that. Still, had he survived I wouldn’t have been given this commission, and that’s a mixed blessing if ever there was one.” Dornal stared thoughtfully at nothing for a moment, then drained his wineglass and reached for the bottle again. I must have looked worried, for he reached forward and patted me on the shoulder. “Oh, don’t worry, Verrian. Tomorrow I’ll visit the quarry master and negotiate the purchase of a suitable block. I dare say I’ll be able to knock his price down a little since I’m such a good customer. Then you can begin posing for the clay model. That shouldn’t take more than a couple of tendays, and as soon as it’s done I can begin carving the block.”
“Even so, master, carving and polishing such a huge block... can you really do it in under two years?”
Dornal grinned. “Oh, don’t fret, Verrian. I know a few techniques that would have surprised old Freneldo. That statue will be standing proudly in the Governor’s courtyard on the first day of the new century or my name’s not Dornal, Greatest Artist of This or Any Age.”
“Master, I do believe you’re drunk.”
“And I suppose you’re not? Well, I suggest we both retire now. Tomorrow at the crack of dawn I want to see that of your arse in the studio.”
“Why not?” I laughed. ”You’ve seen it in every other room in the house.”
“I’ll whip it for you if you’re not careful. Now get off to bed.”
“But surely we have time for one more, master.”
“One more drink?”
“You know what I mean.”
And to my delight, he did.
It turned out to be three more.
That was how it was with us in those days. In return for being Dornal’s model, and for doing his shopping, household chores and routine assistance, I enjoyed the company - and the body - of one of the wisest, kindest and most passionate men of his day - perhaps of any day. In retrospect it was the happiest time of my life. I was like Ardan with Elvaya in the Gardens of Paradise, completely ignorant of the fall from innocence that was to come.
Over the course of the next few tendays, Dornal produced sketch after sketch, which I translated into poses for him. Naked, armed only with my wooden sword of justice, I froze in the act of lunging, thrusting, parrying and saluting at the phantom Sholbeg army that threatened to sweep down upon the golden city of Thurra (which for the purpose of posing was assumed to lie somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen). And while I stood unmoving for hours on end Dornal would capture my poses in detailed drawings and small clay maquettes.
“It’s tempting to choose the most dramatic pose one can think of,” said Dornal, during a break in one such session. “For instance, I might choose to depict Darrizel in the heat of battle, lunging forward and thrusting with his sword. But then I’d need to use a bigger, more expensive block to accommodate the length of his arm and sword, and just think how much stone I’d have to carve out in order to reveal them. Of course if I were to do such a thing I wouldn’t just chip away the area beneath his arm, but would carve out a smaller block that I could use later for a small statue. No sense wasting all that stone once I’d paid for it. But then, if such a huge statue were to stand with its arm outstretched I’m not sure its shoulder would be strong enough to take the weight. It would be rather embarrassing if Darrizel’s arm were to fall off, especially if someone were standing beneath it.”
I couldn’t help chuckling at the thought of some pompous Palace bureaucrat being flattened by a stone sword.
“Now, obviously, if I were to depict Darrizel simply standing upright I could use a nice narrow block and be finished in a fraction of the time and budget. But then I’m not sure the Governor would appreciate a statue called ‘Darrizel Standing with his Arms by his Sides in a Not Very Exciting Manner’.”
I chuckled again.
“And so we have to find a compromise. A pose that depicts Darrizel’s courage and vigour yet does so in as geometrically compact a way as possible.” So saying, Dornal sifted through his parchments until he came across a sketch he had executed some hours before. “Yes,” he muttered, showing the drawing to me. “Let’s try this one again, only this time try raising the sword a little higher....”
Some men would undoubtedly have found the act of posing unbearably tedious, but I found that with practice I was able to enter a kind of trance in which the passage of time was barely noticeable. Of course I felt stiff afterward, but that was easily cured by a little exercise and a run around the block - having dressed first, of course. Much as we Farazelians might admire the ancient Thurrans, we did not share their love of outdoor nakedness. I often thought that was a pity. A little more openness about our bodies - indeed, more openness in our society as a whole - might have done us all some good.
Between posing sessions domestic life went on as usual. Food, wine and art supplies still had to be bought, and it was on one such shopping trip that I happened to pass the ruin of a burned-out house. The layout of the house, as far as I could make out from its remains, seemed similar to Dornal’s, and I was immediately reminded of the fire that killed Master Sarvis. This had almost certainly been his house.
A number of men were at work knocking down what was left of the building and carting away the rubble. One of them, who seemed to be the foreman, saw me staring and came over. “Nothing here worth stealing,” he said. ”Move along.”
“Oh, I’m not a thief,” I told him. (At least, not any more, I could have added.) “I heard of Master Sarvis’s tragic death. This would be his house, I suppose.”
“That’s right, what’s left of it. Did you know him?”
“Only by reputation,” I said. “My master Dornal is also an artist. They were rivals. Not that I’ve come to gloat or anything. Neither my master nor I would wish that kind of death on anybody. But I heard that Sarvis’s model survived?”
“So they say. If you ask me the whole business was unnatural right from the start. There are some who say that Arilan boy was some kind of wizard. Just turns up one day, out of the blue, and suddenly Sarvis is all over him, if you take my meaning.”
“Yes...I guess you’d be a model too. You’re pretty enough.” His expression told me what he thought about the relationship between artists and their models. I did not react to it. I had seen that look often enough before, and knew better than to become defensive.
“Well, anyway,” he continued, “Sarvis’s last model just seemed to vanish into thin air soon after Arilan arrived. Then Sarvis started churning out paintings and statues faster than you could credit, and it looked like nothing could go wrong for him. But then suddenly there was this fire. Whole place burns to the ground, Sarvis included, yet young Arilan emerges from the ashes with nothing to show for it but a bit of soot on his tunic. Now you tell me, is that strange or is it?”
I thought his story over. “Then you think that - ”
“I don’t think nothing,” the foreman said, “and if you know what’s good for you, neither will you. Just watch yourself, that’s all. Remember, they never found Sarvis’s other model, and he was a pretty boy like you too. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do. Good day to you.”
With that he went back to his supervision and I went on my way.
A little further on I chanced to pass by the Chapel of Tarzel the Martyr. The Chapel was five hundred years old and had recently undergone some much-needed restoration work. There was still some scaffolding attached to the outer wall, which seemed to have been erected to support some rather rickety-looking gargoyles. I recalled hearing that Sarvis had contributed some sculptures to the rebuilt interior, probably as a mark of respect to his local place of worship. For all that I had heard of Sarvis lately, I was not at all familiar with his work, and this seemed as good an opportunity as any to acquaint myself with it.
The interior of the Chapel was cool and quiet. A few people sat in the pews, heads bowed silently in prayer, and I walked quietly so as not to disturbthem. Coloured light streamed in through a large stained glass window set in the end wall, which depicted scenes from the life and martyrdom of Tarzel. The architecture was a pleasing mixture of traditional and modern styles, and the walls and pillars were painted in soothing pastels. Along the side walls stood several stone angels, and I was in little doubt that they were indeed Sarvis’s work. One held a cup, another a balance; a third leaned upon a sword, while a fourth grasped a heartflower by its thorny stem and showed no pain. All of the angels were youthful and muscular and wore nothing but decorative drapery. On closer inspection I could see that they all had the same youthful face; undoubtedly the face of Sarvis’s vanished apprentice.
As I turned to leave, convinced that I had seen enough, I happened to glance into a small alcove near the rear of the Chapel. The alcove was mostly in shadow but a stray beam of sunlight had illuminated another stone figure that was not quite like the others. It was a miracle that I had seen it at all. A few minutes earlier or later and the light would have missed the spot. I would have left the Chapel never knowing what I had missed.
And that would have been a tragedy.
He did not stand, but rather lay, like a sphynx or a child, upon his stomach, with his head and shoulders raised up on his elbows, his legs bent with his feet in the air. His wings stood almost upright above his back, rather like a pair of praying hands. Unlike his fellow angels he was all naked, and as I gazed upon his face and body I could not help be struck by the sheer physical beauty of Sarvis’s model. The deaths of the sculptor and his apprentice had been tragic not only for the world of art but also for me, because I would never be privileged to know such beauty in the flesh. It was astonishing that such a masterpiece had been hidden away in the shadows where nobody could appreciate it.
Acting on a sudden impulse, I knelt beside the statue and kissed it upon the cheek, at the same time resting one hand upon its buttocks. “Oh, how I wish you were alive, angel,” I whispered, “so that I might tell you how much your beauty inspires me.” Once more I kissed the smooth marble, gently caressing the statue’s bottom as I did so. “Farewell.”
Then I heard footsteps behind me. Suddenly embarrassed I hastily removed myself from the statue and pretended to be looking for an inscription upon its base.
The newcomer proved to be the priest of the Chapel, who confirmed that the angels were indeed Sarvis’s work. In answer to my questions the priest confirmed most of what the foreman had told me. Together we said a prayer for the souls of Sarvis and Kendrith - for such, the priest informed me, was the name of Sarvis’s missing apprentice.
And if, to himself, the priest also said a prayer for all those who, like Kendrith and me, were led astray from the path of “natural relations”, then so be it.
As I finally headed home, thoughts of Sarvis and Arilan continued to haunt me. I could not help but wonder what Arilan was doing now. If the foreman’s story was to be believed, he had seduced Sarvis, possibly murdered his rival model, and when he grew bored with Sarvis had killed him as well. Not the kind of person I wanted to meet. But some instinct deep within me was beginning to hint that I would indeed meet him, perhaps sooner than I expected.
Over the course of the next few tendays, however, all thought of Arilan was driven from my mind by the need to concentrate on preparing the statue. Dornal placed his order for the block, having finally settled upon a pose that he felt would be both dramatic and practical. I (that is to say, Darrizel) would stand with one foot slightly advanced, left hand resting upon a narrow shield embossed with a device representing the flamehawk, symbol of our city’s freedom and ambition. My (Darrizel’s) right arm would be held in an L-shape, forearm outstretched at waist level, holding the sword of truth and justice firmly erect. I suspected the symbolism of that gesture would not be lost upon the admiring public.
Once the dimensions of the block were established, there remained the matter of transporting it from the quarry to Dornal’s house, and thence, once completed - in little under two years from now - to the Palace Forecourt. The studio workshop was too small, which meant that Dornal would have to carve the statue in the courtyard at the back of the house, and since the courtyard fence had only a small gate on its north side, a larger opening would have to be made.
“The slab won’t fit on a cart,” said Dornal, “and in any case no cart has axles strong enough to bear its weight. That means it will have to be transported on a wooden platform upon skids or rollers. The un-carved block can be transported in a horizontal position and raised once it reaches the courtyard. Once the statue’s finished, though, it will have to be transported upright, because raising and lowering it would place too much stress upon the material.”
“Raising it in the first place will require ropes and pulleys attached to a scaffold,” I said. “We’ll have to ask Harvalith the carpenter if he and his apprentices can help.”
“I’ve already spoken to him. He has agreed to do the work - for a consideration, of course.”
I sighed. “We’re not exactly swimming in gold here. I was hoping they might do it in trade.”
“I’m afraid there’s little chance of that in the current economic climate. Nowadays everyone wants cash on delivery, if not in advance.”
“And I don’t suppose the City would be willing to give you an advance on your fee.”
“Since when have you ever known the City to give credit, Verrian? No, as far as they’re concerned it’s cash on delivery, and not a copper bit beforehand.”
I sighed again.
“Oh, don’t fret, Verrian. We’ll get by. We always have done before. I still have a couple of paintings that I haven’t sold yet, and in an emergency I could always dash off a few more.”
“Paint? While you’re carving the statue as well? When would you ever sleep? The work load is certain to be punishing as it is.”
Dornal placed a reassuring hand upon my shoulder. “We’ll manage, Verrian, I promise. Trust me.”
To that, as always, I had no argument.
That night, while I slept blissfully in Dornal’s arms, I dreamt that I was visiting the Chapel of Tarzel once more. This time, though, rather than walking, I found myself gliding, silently and weightlessly and apparently without volition, down the aisle past Sarvis’s draped angels, toward the small corner alcove. There I found the nude angel reclining upon his pedestal just as I had left him. How could I have expected otherwise?
I did not stop in the archway, but continued to glide slowly around the statue, savouring his masculine beauty from every angle, until I came to a halt facing him from the direction of the wall. (In real life it would have been impossible to see him from that angle unless I was somehow embedded in the wall itself.) Then the stone archway, the surrounding wall and the statue’s pedestal, began to lose their colour, gradually becoming as transparent as the finest glass while the statue itself seemed to become translucent, and began to emit a faint reddish glow from within. Curiously enough this glow was radiating from the angel’s entire body except its wings, which were as transparent as the rest of the stonework.
Another curious feature was revealed by the transparency of the statue’s base. The underside of the sculpture was not flush with the pedestal, as it appeared to the casual observer, but was in fact carved in perfect anatomical detail and recessed into the base. And that anatomical detail included what must surely have been a joke on Sarvis’s part, knowing that the statue would be displayed in a church. For the angel boasted a magnificent erection, carved with loving attention to detail. And none of the flock who worshipped here would ever guess the shocking truth about this seemingly innocent statue, unless perhaps the figure were moved and somehow became detached from its base. It was a splendid jest, but perhaps not one that the Church Elders would fully appreciate. And in a way it might also be seen as Sarvis’s gesture of affection toward his model Kendrith.
After what might have been moments or hours I became aware that someone was approaching. The figure that entered the alcove appeared to be naked, until I realised that his clothing had become as transparent as the stonework. Like the statue’s, his body was glowing, but although the glow made his face difficult to see, I could make out the glassy outline of what appeared to be robes surrounding him and guessed him to be the priest I had seen during my earlier (real) visit.
Then to my surprise the priest knelt beside the statue as I had done, and began to stroke its upraised feet. At once they began to glow more brightly. The brightness spread in a series of pulses to the rest of the statue’s body (except its wings), then slowly faded until only the tip of its penis was illuminated. Before that too faded the priest began to stroke and fondle the statue’s buttocks with one hand, while the other appeared to reach beneath his robe. It was hardly the behaviour one might have expected from a man of the God, although it was just what I had fantasised about doing myself.
And the result of this behaviour was dramatic. As the priest caressed the angel’s buttocks, they flared into incandescence, quickly followed by the rest of its body (sans wings) until the light reached its erection and became almost blinding. The light made it difficult to see what the priest was doing but I had no doubt that as long as the statue continued to glow it meant that he was he continuing his unpriestly activities. When he finally departed after what seemed like several hours - no doubt to make confession for his sins, and probably not for anything like the first time - the angel’s brightness slowly faded until at length its glow became dull and ember-like once more. The stone was no longer transparent, and I was drifting back through the Chapel and out the door. And with that the dream ended.
What did it all mean? Had Sarvis really carved the statue with an erection, or did that image merely reflect my own fantasy? And did the priest really spend his evenings seeking release with the aid of a stone figure, or had some heretical impulse in my soul placed that irreverent image in my mind?
I might have spent most of the next day pondering these questions. I might even have considered discussing my dream with Dornal if I thought he wouldn’t laugh at it. But when I awoke the dream was gone. I remembered nothing of it then, or for a long time afterward.
Over the next few days we made preparations for the arrival of the block. Harvalith sent round several apprentices to help build the scaffolding that would support the pulleys needed to erect the block, and later arrived in person to begin taking measurements for the new enlarged gateway. Being unaccustomed to manual labour, I mainly continued with my domestic duties and supplied food and beverages to the workers. Over the course of the next few hours the scaffold began to take shape.
In mid-afternoon the workers took a break while I served snacks and a little wine. Dornal sat with Harvalith, no doubt discussing their financial arrangements, while the rest of the workmen chatted about their families or girlfriends or just stood back to admire their work. As I turned back toward the house I became aware of eyes upon and my back and turned to see one of the apprentices looking in my direction. He was a handsome young man, but there was something about the way he was looking at me that made me feel vaguely uncomfortable. I felt almost like a rodent that had attracted the gaze of a hungry flamehawk.
I tried to tell myself that I was just imagining things, but my disquiet persisted. I caught him looking at me several times that day, and each time I felt the same unease. After the workmen had left I must have continued to look uncomfortable, because Dornal asked me if I was feeling all right. I told him I was just tired.
That night I dreamt that the handsome apprentice wrestled an angel and stripped him naked. The angel tried to break free but was held by that hawk-like gaze. ”Help me!” cried the angel. “Somebody please help me! I can’t move! Oh, may the God help me, I can’t move!” As I tossed and turned in a half-sleep I told myself the dream was a clue to something; but once again when I woke the dream erased itself from my memory, leaving only fragments that I struggled unsuccessfully to piece together into a coherent picture.
The next day was much like the first. The scaffold grew a little larger and the new gateway took shape. The handsome youth worked as hard as any of his fellows, and each time he looked at me I felt a chill run down my spine.
Perhaps, I tried to tell myself, he was staring because he secretly fancied me. He did have a fantastic body, the kind that (like my own) would make a superb statue, and if I didn’t feel so uncomfortable about him I could certainly have indulged in some harmless fantasies about him. Suppose he was also attracted to me? What if he should ask me to join with him? I told myself I only had to decline politely. Yet, suppose he had some method of persuasion that I couldn’t resist?
I shook my head. This was ridiculous. I was indulging in unfounded speculation. I knew absolutely nothing about his desires or preferences, and here I was worrying about a completely hypothetical situation.
During that afternoon’s break I happened to notice him talking to Dornal. For a moment I felt an unreasoning anger welling up. I wanted to march over to the youth and demand to know what he wanted with my master - but then fortunately my rational side took hold of me and warned me not to make a complete idiot of myself. Nobody had passed any laws against talking.
Over dinner that night Dornal told me, “I expect you noticed me talking to young Seldrin today.”
I carefully kept my voice neutral. “The apprentice? Yes. What did he have to say for himself?”
“He seemed quite interested in art, as it happens. Asked if he could visit the workshop, take a look at some of my sketches and clay models.”
“How do you know he doesn’t just want to steal them?”
“I hardly think that’s likely. Anyway, how much could a few scraps of parchment bearing vague sketches be worth?” (This was an ironic question in view of the astronomical prices his work, even his “vague sketches”, would eventually command.) “No, I got the impression that he was quite interested in the creative process. I shouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t give up joinery and become a model himself. He’s got the body for it, don’t you think?”
“I suppose,” I muttered.
“Hmm. Are you sure you’re feeling all right, Verrian? I know you have an eye for masculine beauty, even of you are usually content to worship it from afar. I should have thought Seldrin’s body would have given you some interesting fantasies.”
“No, master, it doesn’t. Yes, I know he’s handsome, and yes, normally I’d be swooning over his lean muscular torso. But there’s something about him...I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel right about him somehow.”
“Whyever not? He seems like a perfectly nice young man to me. And he did glance in your direction a few times. I suspect he may fancy you.”
“Well, I don’t fancy him, all right?” I was surprised at my own vehemence. I had never lost my temper with Dornal before. “Anyway, just because I’m your apprentice, I don’t see that that gives you the right to play matchmaker for me.”
Dornal looked at me. “Maybe you are coming down with something,” he told me. “They say there’s an ocean fever going around that starts with melancholia and loss of desire.”
“I’m not feverish, master. I’m sorry, I guess I’m just being foolish. As for lack of desire - well, we’ll soon see about that, won’t we?”
Though I had not caught ocean fever, that night I made love to Dornal with feverish intensity, as if I were trying to use my lust to drive away my anxieties.
And for a while, at least, it worked.
When at last I fell into a deep sleep I found myself standing beside the naked angel once more. The angel spoke to me, not in my ears but in my mind.
+He thought it would be nicely ironic,+ the angel told me. +After all, I’d posed for so many statues before, one more with my face wouldn’t look any different. He told me it wasn’t the first time either.+
I wasn’t sure what the angel meant, but I knelt beside him and placed a hand upon his buttocks as I had before.
+Thank you. That feels so good. Of course, it would feel even better if you were here in person. If it weren’t for the priest and his wandering hands I think I would have gone insane long ago.+
“I don’t understand,” I told him.
+You have to try. You’re in danger, you and your master. Twice I’ve sent you dreams before, but you couldn’t remember them. You must remember this dream, otherwise you will surely become like me. It’s too late for me and for poor Master Sarvis, but I told myself that if I could only try to warn his next victim my fate might not be in vain.+
“I still don’t know what you mean.”
+Please, you have to try! Arilan is not who he seems. Next time he appears he will have another name. I know it’s you he’s searching for, because you were drawn to me in person. I may not have been the first - I can’t imagine how many statues Arilan may have created before me - but with your help I could be the last. Please, you have to try. I don’t have much time. The dream is ending. Remember the dream. Remem - - +
I was awakened by a severe cramp in my leg. The bedsheets were strewn about in a tangle and I lay entwined in a heap with Dornal. That had been quite some night. I had a vague memory of a dream...but no, it was gone.
Over the course of the next few days the scaffold took shape. It was more than ten cubits high to allow the block to fit underneath, and several pulleys were attached to the top beams. Once the ropes were in place the arrangement of pulleys would allow the huge block to be lifted by just two men - namely myself and Dornal. A series of movable platforms would be used to give Dornal access to the block at various heights. Meanwhile the new gateway - actually just a gap in the fence, closed off by the original fence-posts which were temporarily held in place by wooden bars - was ready.
Good, I thought. Now that the work was finally complete I wouldn’t have to worry about Seldrin any more. He had continued to stare at me whenever he got the chance, perhaps because he knew he was making me uncomfortable. He had even spoken to me a few times, and though he was always unfailingly polite and I had responded in kind, I felt when he was done as if I had somehow lost a battle.
As he had promised, Dornal had indeed shown Seldrin his studio. Seldrin had not stolen anything, but by Dornal’s account was fascinated by the whole business of sculpture. Once again Dornal mentioned that Seldrin was interested in becoming a model, and as he did so I noticed a speculative look in his eye that made me distinctly nervous.
By the time Seldrin and the other workmen were due to leave I was experiencing pounding headaches every night and was in no mood to join with Dornal. Dornal of course blamed my condition upon ocean fever, and insisted on plying me with vile herbal medicines. These admittedly cured my headache, only to replace it with a stomach ache.
Finally the workmen left, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now at last I wouldn’t have to worry about Seldrin any more.
Or so I thought.
Two mornings hence the block arrived, encased in a huge wooden crate and drawn upon a sled by a team of burly, muscular, bare-chested quarrymen (a feast for my eyes), followed by a crowd of curious onlookers and a party of civic guards. Dornal and I removed the bars and slid aside the loose fencing to allow the block access, the workmen manhandled the sled into the courtyard, the crowd continued to gawp, the guards kept telling the crowd to keep back, and finally the block came to rest beneath the scaffold and we replaced the fence. The crowd finally dispersed and the guards went away, no doubt in search of bribes. Dornal shook hands with the workmen, offered them some ale for their trouble, and depleted the house coffers even further by giving each of them a generous tip.
After lunch Dornal and I carefully hooked the ropes from the scaffold onto the metal loops attached to the crate and prepared to tilt it onto the wooden platform at the foot of the scaffold. This was to be the trickiest part of the operation. It might have been safer to use a whole team of men to raise the slab, but the fact was that we simply couldn’t afford to hire them. But Dornal had carefully studied Master Landravo’s books on engineering and was convinced that his effort-reducing pulley system could be adapted for our purposes. It certainly looked impressive. Each rope was looped back and forth several times between a pair of multiple pulley sets, in such a way that a large weight could be moved, albeit slowly, with a fraction of the effort needed to lift it by hand.
And to my surprise, it worked. As Dornal and I pulled each upon his own rope the block began to tilt upward, finger by finger. It was still harder work than either of us was used to, and we had to stop for frequent breaks, tying the ropes tightly to the scaffold frame while we rested. But by that evening the block was almost half-upright. Soon it would reach the point where its weight would cause it to tip upright of its own accord. To prevent that from happening we hooked more ropes to the side that would become its base and packed straw on the platform in case of accidents.
Dornal was concerned that to leave the block leaning at an angle might cause it to crack, and so we continued working into the night, illuminated by a couple of small lamps, exchanging one set of ropes for another as the block’s balance shifted. It was not until around midnight that finally the block came to rest in an upright position. We laughed and whooped and danced around each other for what seemed like the better part of an hour, until a guard knocked on the door and demanded that we keep the noise down. Fortunately for our finances he did not demand a bribe.
We spent the rest of the night celebrating, drinking and making love and drinking again until we were too drunk to make love, or do anything else for that matter.
In the morning I woke with the worst hangover of my life, and a vague memory of an angel warning me...warning...no, it was gone again. Master Dornal was in much the same condition, but had managed to stagger to the kitchen and prepare some tea laced with analgesic herbs. After drinking it we spent most of the day sitting quietly in the library with the curtains drawn. By the time the sun began to set we were feeling a little better and I prepared a light dinner consisting of a cold meat salad followed by sliced torvas in cream.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” Dornal said as we sat down to eat. It was the practically first word that had passed between us all day. “You remember that young Seldrin was thinking about becoming a model....”
At once I could feel my headache returning. “Master,” I said, “as far as I’m concerned, Seldrin can go and become a model on the far side of town. Or better still, some other town. Like Rovella, for instance. Next time there’s a war on, he can model for a dying soldier, the more authentic the better.”
“Oh, dear. You’re not still suspicious of him, are you? You know, Verrian, it’s really not like you to be so distrustful. I always found him perfectly agreeable. Witty, charming, polite...anyway, the thing I wanted to tell you....”
“Oh, wait a moment. You didn’t. You couldn’t have...oh, master, please tell me you didn’t offer him an apprenticeship!”
Dornal sighed, which was all the answer I needed.
“Master, we’ve never taken any other lodgers. It’s always just been you and me. Quite apart from the fact that I don’t like Seldrin, an extra person will just...get in the way. It won’t be the same between us.”
“I was really hoping you wouldn’t take it so hard, Verrian. Anyway, it’s not a full apprenticeship, just a temporary position, starting next moon.”
“Temporary positions have a way of becoming permanent,” I said. “Anyway, we’re already on a tight budget. How would we pay for his keep?”
“As it happens, Verrian, we don’t need to worry about that. He tells me he has a wealthy uncle who’d be more than happy to pay for his food and lodgings.”
“How very convenient for him,” I muttered. “So you’re hoping to make a little profit by charging for his tuition. Well, master, I can hardly fault your entrepreneurial spirit, but I really wish you could have chosen to teach some other wealthy scholar. I just don’t trust Seldrin, and that’s all there is to it.”
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, Verrian, but the fact is we do need the money, and whatever else you may think of him, Seldrin is a willing student. No, you needn’t say any more. My mind is made up. He will commence his tuition starting precisely three tendays from today.”
I sighed and pushed my plate away. “I think this torva is sour,” I muttered, and left the room. That night I slept alone.
+You must remember,+ cried the angel in my dream. +You must!+ But dawn brought forgetfulness once more.
The next day Dornal, doing his best to ignore my sour mood, asked me to help him remove the crate surrounding the block. The joints at the corner of the crate were held together with thick wooden pegs, which were designed to remain secure in transit yet be easily removable. In practice they proved to be very stiff and awkward to extract, but finally after some effort we managed to remove them and with the aid of the ropes lowered the side panels to reveal the block. This was the moment of truth. If the block was cracked or flawed the whole project would be doomed from the outset.
Dornal spent some time walking slowly around the block, inspecting it minutely for cracks. Then he slid one of the high platforms over to the scaffold, fastened it securely to the scaffold poles, fetched the ladder and climbed onto the platform so he could inspect the upper part of the block.
At length he climbed down and clapped me on the shoulders. “Perfect,” he cried. “It’s perfect, Verrian. I could not have wished for a finer piece of stone in my most devout prayers.”
“I’m happy for you master,” I muttered, but I cannot have looked very happy. I was still brooding about Seldrin’s imminent arrival.
“Oh, Verrian....” sighed Dornal. “I’m sorry I’ve upset you, really I am. But this is to be my hour of triumph, my crowning achievement. And don’t forget, Verrian, it’s your beautiful face and body that will be immortalised in stone. The City thinks this statue is to be a symbol of its power and achievement, but in reality it is an everlasting symbol of my love for you. And whatever else you may think of me right now, Verrian, never doubt that I love you.”
These words caused me such a confusion of emotions that I scarcely knew which way to turn. I did love Dornal, it was true, but I also felt guilty for my behaviour, and angry with Dornal for making me feel guilty, and ashamed of myself for being angry with Dornal...I felt as if I would burst into tears at any moment, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. Instead I took a deep breath, turned and embraced Dornal wordlessly for several long moments, all the while fighting the urge to strangle him.
I think I did weep a little, and Dornal as well. Then we dried our eyes, went inside and made love for the rest of the morning.
In the afternoon I had the privilege of seeing Dornal begin work on the statue. Standing upon the highest platform, armed with a hammer and chisel and with the clay model by his side for reference - although I suspect he could have carved the statue blindfolded - Dornal made the first incision.
Watching someone carve a block of stone might seem almost as tedious as watching paint dry, yet to me it was almost a magical activity. Somehow Dornal’s hand would be guided at all times to the exact depth needed to free the image from within the stone block, never too little and never too much. In just two moons short of two years, all being well, this featureless block of marble would have acquired arms, legs, a head, a chest, hands, feet, back, buttocks, nipples, a penis and scrotum, muscles, veins and tendons...and a face. My own face, and my own body, writ large and committed to stone forever. And for that, yes, I did love Dornal, however much I might condemn his judgement sometimes.
For the rest of that moon life went on as normal. I continued to eke out our slim finances on food and other necessities, while Dornal continued to carve the block, working some days from dawn to dusk. One day this routine was interrupted by the arrival of the Governor’s official, who spent some time inspecting the house, Dornal’s study, the drawings and clay studies and finally the block and scaffolding. Then after casting a few disapproving glances in my direction he announced that our arrangements were “adequate” and flounced out once more. Dornal and I tried hard not to laugh until he was well out of earshot. He might, after all, be responsible for authorising payment once the statue was completed.
And so the days passed, for the most part happily. Almost imperceptibly the statue was beginning to take shape, while marble dust accumulated in several sacks awaiting disposal. The days began to grow longer and more spring-like. But always at the back of my mind was the nagging thought of Seldrin’s impending arrival, and the vague, half-formed memory of disturbing dreams....
The night before Seldrin was due, I pleaded a headache and went off to my own room. I had taken an infusion that was supposed to promote relaxation and sleep, but spent a fitful night nonetheless.
I dreamt that I was lying naked upon my stomach and elbows in a small stone chamber, legs raised, with something heavy pressing upon my back. I tried to stand up, only to discover that I could not move a muscle. For hours I fought and struggled against the power that was holding me paralysed but to no avail. Then I heard footsteps approaching, and out of the corner of my eye I seemed to see a shadowy figure in what seemed to be a priest’s vestments. Placing one hand upon my buttocks in a most un-priestlike fashion, the priest began to chant a benediction, but I heard very little of it because I was becoming distracted. No sooner had he touched me than slow ripples of pleasure had begun to radiate from my buttocks to the rest of my body, becoming stronger and more sensuous with each passing moment until it felt as if I were having a non-stop orgasm. It was an extraordinary sensation, both physically intense and emotionally satisfying, and I would have cried aloud with the pleasure of it if I could.
What is this? I wanted to cry. Why can’t I move? What has happened to me?
At once a voice seemed to speak in my mind. +It isn’t happening to you. It’s happening to me. I am Kendrith, Sarvis’s apprentice. They told you I was dead, but I am doomed to live forever, locked within this stone angel’s body. You are feeling everything I’m feeling right now. The weight you feel is that of the stone wings upon my back. Arilan did this to me so I wouldn’t expose him to Sarvis, but he can’t have realised the side effect of the spell. Whenever anyone touches me, this orgasmic pleasure is the result, and nobody who sees me can resist touching me. The ecstasy keeps me sane. My only regret is that I couldn’t warn Sarvis, and so Arilan killed him when he had no further use for him. At least I was able to hear Sarvis’s funeral service because they held it in this Chapel. I have tried to warn you of the danger, but you keep forgetting the dreams. You must try to remember, Verrian, otherwise you will become like me, and Dornal will die just as Sarvis did. Arilan is coming for you, Verrian, but he is no longer Arilan. He is - +
I awoke with a start. I seemed to remember having an erotic yet oddly disturbing dream, but it faded when I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. The sun was streaming in through the window. Seldrin would be arriving in a couple of hours.
I sighed and began to dress myself. This was the day I had long dreaded, but I kept trying to tell myself that it wouldn’t be so bad. For all my suspicion of Seldrin, he had never actually done anything to me. It wasn’t as if he was...was as bad as......what?
For a moment it seemed that a thought had been trying to form, but then it was gone again like a forgotten dream. I shook my head and finished dressing, then went downstairs to break fast with Dornal and prepare for the arrival of our new guest.
The moment Seldrin walked through the door I felt the same indefinite apprehension as before, but he greeted Dornal and me warmly enough and expressed the hope that his stay with us would be a long and productive one. I think I responded in kind, although my head was already beginning to throb from the strain of trying to reconcile his pleasant manner with the way I felt about him.
Dornal continued to work on the statue for most of each day, and Seldrin sometimes assisted him by sharpening chisels, fetching the ladder, adjusting the platform and making sure it was securely fastened to the scaffold, and sweeping up marble dust into sacks. At other times he would assist with routine domestic chores, taking some of the workload off of me. If I had felt more kindly toward Seldrin I might have thanked him for that.
Dornal also set aside an hour or two each day for Seldrin’s drawing and clay modelling assignments. I had no objection to Seldrin painting bowls of fruit or sculpting equinoids, but when Dornal insisted that I pose nude for Seldrin we spent hours engaged in heated arguments. Seldrin must have heard, and I expect he drew a great deal of amusement from them. In the end I had no choice but to obey Dornal. I begged Dornal to attend, but he refused on the grounds that he only needed to see Seldrin’s finished sketches, and watching him draw would only take valuable time away from his carving.
And so it was that, with no end of discomfort at my plight, I stood naked before Seldrin, imagining his amusement at my embarrassment even though he showed no sign of it. Then, to my horror, after posing for less than an hour I found that I was developing an erection.
While posing for Dornal, I had often had erections, but because of our intimacy it never caused me any shame. Dornal would simply mutter, “Try to control your appetite, Verrian,” or, “Down, boy, you can have your walk later,” and in time the tumescence would disappear until a more appropriate occasion.
My immediate instinct when I found my penis hardening before Seldrin was to tell him I needed to make water, then go and splash cold water on it. But something was wrong. I couldn’t seem to move. The more I tried the harder my penis became, and I could feel Seldrin staring at it, and that only made it harder still....
Seldrin was doing this to me! I didn’t know how, but he was. Yet outwardly all he was doing was sitting quietly, sketching away as if he noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Meanwhile the only sound from outside was Dornal’s chisel, slowly freeing the giant from his stone prison while I remained encased in a prison of flesh and blood.
Finally, after an hour or so, I came to a sudden, powerful orgasm, moaning aloud from the strength of my sensations. Seldrin was already walking toward me.
“Why, Verrian,” said Seldrin in what sounded like genuine surprise. “Is that for me? Then I shall accept the gift of your potency.” As I began to spurt, Seldrin knelt before me, grasped my buttocks in both hands, took my penis in his mouth and began to drink my semen while I remained helpless and immobile. I remembered hearing that sorcerers were sometimes believed to derive power from the bodily fluids of their victims. Somebody like Arilan - -
My mind became a blank.
When I came to I was still posing before Seldrin, but he had set down his pencil and walked over to me. “Verrian? I said I’ve finished. You must have gone into one of those trances Dornal told me about.”
I blinked stupidly. I felt very stiff, and for some reason my balls ached. Had I fallen asleep? I could almost remember a disturbing event....
“Come on,” said Seldrin, slapping me on the bottom. “It’s nearly time for dinner. Get dressed and I’ll help you get it ready.”
Once I had hastily pulled my clothes on I took a look at the easel. Seldrin’s sketch had captured me in a casual nude pose, yet somehow there was a feeling of eroticism about it that rendered it almost pornographic.
One thing was certain. Seldrin certainly possessed a major talent. He scarcely seemed to need any artistic training at all.
But if that was so, what was he really doing here?
As the days slowly lengthened toward midsummer I continued to perform domestic duties as well as posing for Seldrin on seven afternoons out of every ten, not counting public feast days. And each posing session was the same: sooner or later I would develop an erection, then find myself standing rigid and helpless while Seldrin took my penis in his mouth, or pumped it rapidly by hand, or shafted me forcibly from behind. And all the while the only sound I could hear beside Seldrin’s gasps of pleasure was the steady tap-tap-tap of Dornal’s chisel out in the courtyard as little by little the giant took shape.
And then again I would forget everything that Seldrin had done to me and be left with only the stiffness and soreness of my body to warn me that anything was amiss.
During this time I found my relationship with Dornal becoming strained. I was often too tired for sex, although I never knew why, and although I was as eager as ever to see the statue completed I found to my surprise that I was coming to hate the sound of Dornal’s chisel. That constant tap, tap, tapping was beginning to drive me insane. At night, on those occasions when my aching head allowed me a few hours of sleep, I was visited by dreams that I could never recall upon waking, but which always caused me to wake with a start, head racing, desperate to remember something that always slipped away before I could bring it to mind.
Had I been capable of listening clearly to my inner mind, I might have heard the gates of Paradise beginning to creak behind me....
During this time I was usually too tired to actually view the progress that Dornal was making, but during one mid-tenday break I decided that I really ought to see how the great work was progressing. As I approached the back door it occurred to me that something was missing. I had grown so accustomed to the sound of Dornal’s chisel that its absence was almost deafening. Sure enough, although the platform was still attached to the scaffolding Dornal was not on it. That was strange. Not a day had gone by when Dornal had not done some work on the giant. I would have said it was becoming an obsession with him. So why would he abandon it? Then it occurred to me that I had not seen Seldrin since breakfast either (not that I was complaining about that).
I shook my head and turned my attention to the statue. Although still very rough the marble giant was taking shape nicely. The position of his arms, legs and head were well defined and Dornal had begun to carve out the vertical pole that would become Darrizel’s sword. It looked as if the great work was well on schedule for its unveiling at the turn of the century. Yet there was something about it that didn’t seem quite right, some little detail that kept nagging at me. Something about its proportions, perhaps? But then, since it was designed to be viewed from below the upper body had to be carved in slightly exaggerated proportion for the sake of perspective.
I sighed. Between lack of sleep, lack of sex and lack of appetite I was becoming a bag of nerves. There was nothing different about the statue. It was just my overactive imagination. Perhaps I should take some more herbal tea and then try to catch up on my sleep.
As I returned to the house I seemed to hear voices. But when I looked, Dornal and Seldrin were not in the studio, nor the kitchen or the library. Their voices seemed to be coming from upstairs.
A horrible suspicion was beginning to dawn on me. Why would Dornal take his temporary assistant upstairs, unless....
As I crept up the stairs, careful not to make a sound, I could hear them laughing. It was definitely coming from an upstairs room. By the time I reached the landing the sounds had grown more passionate, and when I peered through the half-open door of Dornal’s room - the room in which he and I had shared so many intimate moments - my worst suspicions were confirmed.
“Oh, yes, Seldrin, yes!” cried Dornal. “Don’t stop. Oh, by the God, don’t ever stop!”
“All right, master, I won’t stop - as long as you tell me what I want to hear.”
Dornal writhed and moaned. ”All right,” he managed to gasp. “I admit it. You’re better than he is.”
“I can’t hear you, master,” said Seldrin, still thrusting. “Say it again, only louder.”
“All right (gasp), all right...You’re better than Verrian. A hundred...(ohh)...times better...(aaaah)...a thousand...(aaaah...aaaah...aaaah...aaaah....aaaahoooohhh)...I LOVE YOU, SELDRIN! I NEVER LOVED HIM! I ONLY WANT TO...BE...WITH...YOU...FOREVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Rage exploded behind my eyes. My blood felt as if my veins could no longer contain its boiling fury. But it was their veins that I wanted to open, their blood that deserved to be spilled. With no clear plan in mind I prepared to burst into the room....
The cry seemed to come from within my own head, and it had the desired effect. I was so taken aback that all thought of confronting Dornal and Seldrin was forgotten. Then the voice in my mind spoke again.
+If Seldrin knows you’ve found out about him and Dornal he’ll just wipe the knowledge from your mind, like he’s wiped all my previous warnings, and the memory of him raping you every day.+
He what? I thought. What is this? Am I imagining things?
+No, Verrian. You have to listen to me now. Seldrin is using you and Dornal, just as he used me and Sarvis when he used to call himself Arilan. He’s been fucking you senseless for moons now, absorbing sexual energy from you so he can become more powerful. You can’t remember all the things he’s done to you, and perhaps that’s a small mercy, because he has made you forget. He used to make me forget too, but one day I managed to remember and threatened to expose him to Sarvis. That sounds naïve now, but I had no conception of the extent of his power. He just laughed and said I was no use to him any more and had to be prevented from talking, but because I had been a nice plaything he would not kill me but merely paralyse me instead. And so here I am, a mere statue forever.+
I was finding it difficult to comprehend half of what the mysterious voice was telling me. My head was reeling. Meanwhile from the bedroom the sounds of passion were becoming ever more frenzied.
Dornal betrayed me, I thought. I thought he would love me forever.
+He does not love Seldrin,+ the voice told me. +Seldrin has bewitched him. I am sorry, Verrian, but there is nothing you can do to combat Seldrin or restore your master’s loyalty. The only way to save your master is to leave this house, go somewhere Seldrin won’t come looking for you for a while and bide your time. Whatever Seldrin is planning, he won’t carry it out until the statue is complete.+
Leave? I was aghast. But...this is the only real home I have ever known. What can I do? Where can I go?
+You are young, intelligent, well read, good looking and able-bodied. You should have no difficulty learning a new trade, perhaps one with a patron who will appreciate your masculine charms - +
+Forgive me. I meant no disrespect to Master Dornal. But you must leave, Verrian. Now, before Seldrin sees you watching. Perhaps you could ask Harvalith to train you in woodwork. He seems like a fair man.+
I shivered, although the day was warm. I could hear the gates of Paradise slamming shut behind me, locked and barred by an angel with a flaming sword.
An angel, I thought. Are you an angel, voice? Is that how you know so much about me?
There was a sound like ironic laughter in my head. +Yes, Verrian, I am an angel. Your very own guardian angel. And now I say unto you, go forth and find another place to dwell. Do not grieve for Dornal. With my help you can still save his life and his soul, but you have to be well out of range of Seldrin’s mind scans in order to do so. Go. Now.+
And so, carrying only a small bag containing treasured possessions I lifted the bar on the fence and slipped away into the bustling city streets. Some people saw that I was weeping and asked if I was ill, but I made up some story about a deceased relative and they offered some clichéd condolences and went on their way.
Mid-afternoon saw me leaning upon a pillar in the Palace Forecourt considering my situation. Had I really heard an angel speaking to me? The voice had been silent ever since I had crept downstairs. Had I really seen Dornal and Seldrin performing such acts upon each other as I had never dreamt of performing with Dornal? Yes. I was certain that I could not have imagined Dornal doing such things.
Suppose I were to go back? I could always claim I had been for a walk to get some fresh air. But knowing what I knew, could I restore my relationship with Dornal? Could I perhaps reach...what was the word...an accommodation with him and Seldrin? That seemed unlikely. Someday I might forgive Dornal, but I knew I could never forgive Seldrin.
In the end I found my footsteps leading me toward Master Harvalith’s workshop. It seemed my instincts had decided to follow the angel’s advice and seek an honest trade. Given that the alternatives were to beg and steal and perhaps even sell my body to strangers, it was not a difficult decision.
Harvalith was surprised to find me asking him for employment, but my tale of being thrown out of Dornal’s service for fighting with Seldrin seemed to convince him of my sincerity. I certainly did not have to feign my misery and despair at having been forced to leave Dornal’s service. Harvalith told me he had no positions available, having already found a replacement for Seldrin, but kindly offered me temporary lodgings while he made enquiries on my behalf.
When Harvalith’s apprentices heard of my plight they were sympathetic.
“Never did trust that Seldrin,” one of them told me. “Something slimy about him, like something that crawled out of the swamp. When he left we all said we were better off without him, and the God help whoever he foisted himself upon next. Sorry it had to be you, lad. From what I heard of Dornal, he was a good man.”
“Yes,” I sighed. “I just hope some day he’ll come to his senses and take me back. In the meantime...well, a man has to eat, and carpentry is as honest a trade as any.”
“Right enough. Don’t forget that our Prophet himself was a carpenter by trade before he began to preach.”
“Well, then, may he watch over me. And all of us.”
“Amen to that, lad.”
Within a tenday I found myself apprenticed to a brother-in-law of Harvalith’s sister-in-law. Never underestimate the power of nepotism. His workshop was on the far side of town, which suited me well enough. As well as meeting new friends and becoming familiar with new places I was also a long way from Seldrin.
I don’t suppose I was ever the world’s best carpenter, but I managed as best I could and my fellow workers helped correct some of my worst mistakes. Meanwhile I soon struck up a friendship with an apprentice who was a little younger than me, and that soon developed into as intimate an accommodation as I could have wished for.
And so the moons went by, and despite my nostalgia for the paradise of Dornal’s love I was not altogether unhappy. I had heard no angelic voice in my head for some time, and wondered if it had not been some kind of hallucination brought on by stress and overwork. I could not help wondering what Dornal and Seldrin were up to, and as the moons rolled by I imagined the statue taking on more and more detail, becoming closer and closer to the shape of my body....
But then one day while busy planing a bench I was pondering the statue when an unpleasant thought struck me.
Then I wondered why it had never occurred to me before.
I cursed my own stupidity. I had not believed it because I had not wanted to believe it. Ever since Dornal had received the commission for the statue I had been looking forward to the day when I would proudly watch its installation at the Palace, seeing my own face and body committed to marble on a grand scale. In this way I would achieve immortality even if my name were forgotten.
But I was no longer Dornal’s apprentice. Did it follow, then, that he would still want to give the statue my face?
The thought of seeing Seldrin’s face leering down from Darrizel’s stone head was abhorrent to me. Perhaps that was why I had not thought of the possibility before. My mind simply had not been able to accept it.
But if my suspicion was correct, what could I do about it? It wasn’t as if I could destroy the statue, was it...?
“Verrian? Verrian, wake up, there, lad, you’re dreaming. Once you’ve finished on that board you can start polishing these chairs.”
To destroy the statue was unthinkable. Yet, to see the statue erected with Seldrin’s face instead of my own was doubly unthinkable.
And that was how the Plan first took shape in my mind.
With the celebrations for the new century fast approaching everyone was making plans for the holy days, and so nobody was too concerned when I slipped away early one evening twelve days from year’s end. This was the night I would carry out my plan. And afterward? I really hadn’t given any thought to the matter. If Dornal or Seldrin didn’t kill me I supposed I would be imprisoned. Dornal might plead for funds to start again, but I suspected they would not be forthcoming. Dornal would at the very least be disheartened by the destruction of his masterpiece and might be too discouraged to try again. The worst that could happen would be for Dornal to start over and complete a new statue with Seldrin’s face. Disturbing though the thought was, I might just have to kill them....
Within an hour I found myself back in my old neighbourhood, walking past the new house that stood on the site of Sarvis’s burnt-out studio, and a few minutes later I found myself at the door of the Chapel of Tarzel. I saw that the Chapel’s under-funded restoration work was still going on, with scaffolding being used to shore up some precarious-looking gargoyles. It was strange to think that it was almost two years since I had last seen inside the Chapel, and given the enormity of what I was about to do, prayer seemed appropriate. And so I sat in the front pew as the setting sun blazed through the Window of Tarzel’s Martyrdom, and prayed for the souls of Dornal and myself, but not of course for Seldrin’s. Let the God deal with him as He saw fit.
Then I walked back to the small alcove where the naked angel lay. The shadowy interior was lit by a few candles, and I found myself absently caressing the angel’s stone back, buttocks and legs while I contemplated the coming night.
+Be careful,+ said the voice in my mind.
Angel? I thought.
+Yes, Verrian. I am the angel. The stone angel. I am Kendrith, and I want to warn you of the danger you are in. Destroying the statue will only make Seldrin angry, and he has powers you can’t even guess. You may very well end up paralysed like me, or worse.+
But angel, didn’t you once tell me I had to act against Seldrin before the statue was completed?
+Yes, that’s true, but the fact is I haven’t been able to come up with a plan for defeating him. Just destroying the statue isn’t the answer. If you want to save Dornal you must bide your time until - +
“Ah, I see you are admiring our sculpture.”
The priest’s voice jolted me out of my reverie. For a moment I seemed to remember another voice...but then it was gone.
The priest and I made some small talk about Master Sarvis’s sculpture and his contributions to the chapel, and then I wished the priest a good night, placed some small coin in the poor box (recalling the later events of that night, I now regret my lack of generosity), and went back onto the street to wait for nightfall.
The north side of Dornal’s courtyard faced the street, while an alleyway ran along the west side. Since Dornal never had occasion to use the alley he had long since replaced the original gated fence with a taller, unbroken wooden barrier to deter intruders.
And now I was the intruder.
Midnight found me crouching beside the fence with a claw hammer and pliers (“borrowed”, of course, from my master carpenter’s workshop). I was using them to prise out nails from the lower boards in an attempt to make a large enough gap to slip under. The work took longer and was more of an effort than I had expected. Every time I heard a sound I was terrified that I might be discovered, and when a small rodent ran across my hand I had to stifle a scream that would have given me away. Finally, though, I managed to crawl between the boards and into the courtyard.
The courtyard was bathed in brilliant moonlight. Goldmoon was full and Silvermoon half-full. I hadn’t reckoned with the phases of the moons when formulating my little Plan.
I cursed my stupidity. It seemed that as saboteurs went, I would make a very good carpenter. But nobody could see over the fence, which meant the only people I had to avoid were Dornal and Seldrin. And if the faint sounds I heard emanating from within the house were anything to go by they would be busy for some time. Dornal’s bedroom was on the side of the house that faced away from the courtyard, so I should have no problems. I turned aside from the house and looked upon the statue for the first time in well over a year.
The statue was a masterpiece. Of that there could be no doubt. Fully twice the height of a man, magnificently naked, the marble hero seemed ready to spring to life at any moment and place his sword in the service of the City and State of Farazel. His smile was calm, self-confident and yet somehow smug. It was a smile I recognised only too well. I had often wished I could wipe it from Seldrin’s pretty face.
Well, now was my chance. I was only sorry it wasn’t Seldrin’s real face.
As I had suspected, the statue was being prepared for shipment. Ropes had been attached to the pulleys that would be used to raise it onto its sled. The sled itself leant against the fence nearby, as did the wooden boards and barrelfuls of straw that would be used to crate and cushion the statue.
This was the moment of decision. If I didn’t do it now I never would.
As quietly as I could, I made my way over to the base of the statue and attached two of the ropes from the pulleys to the hooks attached to the rear of the wooden platform on which the statue stood. The platform was of course meant to be lifted at all four corners, just high enough for the sled to be slid underneath. But I only needed to lift two corners. The statue was standing with its back to the wall but there was plenty of space to stand behind it.
For a moment I wrestled with my conscience. I was about to destroy a potentially irreplaceable work of art. But then, I told myself, a statue was only made of stone. Breaking a heart was arguably the more serious crime. Taking a rope in each hand I slowly began to pull.
The pulleys squeaked. Cursing my luck, I tried to pull more slowly so they would make less noise. But that of course meant that it would take longer to topple the statue, meaning there was a greater chance that I would be caught in the act. But there was no going back now. I had to go through with it.
With agonising slowness the statue began to tip forward upon its base. The effort-reducing pulley system allowed me to lift the enormous weight of the statue on my own, but required me to pull several cubits of rope for every fingerbreadth the statue was raised. I was also worried that the statue might slide off the base while it was still at a relatively shallow angle and simply rock upright, suffering only minor damage in the process.
An hour or so after midnight I was sweating profusely, not only from fear of discovery but from hard work. The pulleys might reduce effort, but they did not eliminate it. My back and shoulders were aching. But the statue was now leaning at an appreciable angle. How much further would I need to tip it in order to bring it down? I wasn’t sure, but I hoped it wouldn’t be much more. I even contemplated leaning forward to see how far it would take to fall, which only goes to show the mental fatigue I was under.
It must have been another hour later, judging by the moons, that I saw a lamp flare into life behind a downstairs window. Cursing my luck for the second time I began to pull more quickly. The pulleys squeaked more loudly. There might be a chance that whoever was awake would not hear and investigate, but then they might well have heard already....
I seemed to feel the strain lessening. It might have been my imagination, but it seemed as if the statue was finally beginning to overbalance. And at that very moment Dornal appeared in the doorway.
Turning to see what was happening, he saw his masterpiece leaning at a precarious angle and froze in shock. After a few moments of stunned silence he cried, “Stop! You fool! What are you doing?”
“Stay back, Dornal,” I warned him. “The last thing I want is to drop the statue on your head.”
“Verrian? Verrian, what are you doing? This is my masterpiece! My work!”
“It used to be our work, Dornal. Your skills, my likeness. That was how it always was between us until you took that serpent Seldrin to your bosom.” All the while I was continuing to haul on the ropes, while the statue crept closer and closer to its balancing point.
“But...but it was you who left me, Verrian, and without a word. I heard you had gone to work for some carpenter somewhere. I needed a new apprentice, and Seldrin was happy to agree....”
“Yes, Dornal, I’m sure he was. I left because you betrayed me, Dornal. I was your lover. I was always the only one for you. Until Seldrin came along, and then all at once he’s got you claiming he’s a hundred, no, a thousand times better than me, and you never truly loved me and wanted to be with him forever. Have you forgotten that, Master Sculptor? Have you forgotten? And then as if that wasn’t enough, you had to give the statue his face instead of mine! You have turned your great masterpiece into a monstrosity that has no right to exist!”
I could not have timed it better if I tried. At that exact moment the statue began to fall. It fell slowly at first as if trying to make up its mind, and then rolled majestically forward to shatter into a thousand pieces upon the stone floor of the courtyard. I had to leap aside as it fell to avoid the flailing ropes. When I looked up again it took a few moments for the dust to clear, but once it did I was relieved to see that Dornal was unhurt. At least physically.
“Oh, Verrian,” he wept, as he surveyed the pile of rubble that had been his masterwork, “in the God’s name, what have you done? I’m ruined. I shall be a pauper, or even banished from the city for failing to deliver the Governor’s statue. You have destroyed me.”
In all honesty I did feel pity for Dornal in that moment, and sympathy, even love, and a profound sense of regret for what I had done. But it was too late to change things now.
At that moment Seldrin, who must have been woken by the crash, emerged from the doorway and took in the scene in one swift glance. Dornal embraced him, and whatever sympathy I might have felt for Dornal vanished like dew.
“Look what he’s done, Seldrin,” cried Dornal. “Two years of work destroyed, and all because of Verrian’s petty jealousy!”
Seldrin’s eyes met mine for the first time in more than a year, and I felt like an insect that was about to be squashed.
“Don’t worry, master,” said Seldrin, as sweetly as ever. “Verrian is going to pay for what he’s done. Oh, yes, Dornal, he is going to pay in full.”
I quickly picked up a piece of rubble, intending to brain Seldrin with it and make my getaway. But at that moment he pointed at me, and spoke a quiet word that somehow hurt my ears and caused my mind to plummet into blackness.
When I awoke it was morning. I was standing upright on the wooden platform beneath the scaffolding, with the wreckage of the statue spread before me. Somebody, presumably Seldrin, had stripped me naked. When I tried to walk I found that my feet seemed to be fastened to the platform. When I bent down to look I could find no physical restraints, yet impossibly they remained rooted to the spot.
Presently Seldrin and Dornal emerged from the house. “You see, master? I told you he would soon wake. Now I’m sure he’s wondering what we have planned for him, so I’d better not keep him in suspense.”
“You may do as you please with him,” sighed Dornal, “but whatever you do, it won’t bring the statue back.”
“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. Take heart, Master Dornal. I tell you the Governor will be taking delivery of his statue on schedule, and your status as the greatest artist in the whole of Farazel - indeed, in all of the city-states - will be assured.”
“Master, don’t listen to him,” I cried. “He’s using you, exploiting you for his own ends. I don’t know what his real name is, but he used to call himself Arilan.” (I wasn’t sure where I had discovered that, but I had no doubt that it was the truth.) “He killed Sarvis and his apprentice and now he’s going to do the same to me.”
“You give me too much credit, Verrian,” Seldrin purred. “Yes, it’s true that Sarvis had to go. He had outlived his usefulness. But I didn’t kill young Kendrith. Raped him a few times, it’s true, but I couldn’t bring myself to burn him. His body was a work of art, so I found him a...a permanent position in the church. You’ll notice that Dornal isn’t taking any of this in, by the way. He hears only what I want him to hear, and what I have told him of you is that you raped me and ran away when I refused to become your lover.
“As to what I intend to do with you now...well, if our relationship had gone more smoothly you might have acquired a niche in the chapel alongside Kendrith, or even joined him on his pedestal. Just imagine: two loving angels together. You both might have liked that. But under the circumstances....” He indicated the pile of marble debris before me. “I have decided to give you your biggest ever modelling assignment. You, my friend, are going to replace the statue that you so wantonly destroyed.”
“Replace?” I said. ”What do you mean, replace?”
“You’ll soon find out,” he told me. Then he spoke another hideous word, and the stones began to move. Incredibly, the debris from the stone giant slowly began to melt and flow like tar while I watched in stunned disbelief. And it was flowing inexorably in my direction.
And then I began to understand what Seldrin meant about my “replacing” the statue. I reached down to try to pull my legs free from whatever held them, but to no avail.
“That won’t work,” Seldrin informed me. “Your feet are dimensionally bonded to a fixed set of spatial coordinates. Of course you have no idea what that means, but trust me, Verrian, you are a captive audience for this performance. It will be a few hours until the process is complete, so until then I think I’ll put Dornal to bed for a while. Oh, just to sleep this time, but when he wakes up he’ll have forgotten that you ever existed. Isn’t that deliciously ironic?”
The melted stones continued to ooze slowly toward my feet. “Wait!” I cried. “Seldrin, stop this! You can’t do this to me!”
Seldrin turned to me and smiled sweetly. “Verrian,” he purred, “the truth is that I can do anything I want to anybody. I don’t understand this thing people have that they call ‘conscience’. It just inhibits their behaviour and makes them weak. Now, toppling the statue - I admire that. I really do. It was an act of rebellion against your stifling moral codes. You forgot your ‘conscience’ and showed a bit of backbone for once in your life. When I’m ruler of this world, a few centuries from now, I think I’ll have you installed in my palace.”
Seldrin turned to go, leading Dornal, who seemed to be in a trance, but as he reached the doorway he turned to look at me once more.
“You know, Verrian, I was impressed by Dornal’s choice of subject matter. Darrizel’s defence of Thurra - that would be about twenty-three centuries ago, wouldn’t it? I was quite young then, but Darrizel was a terrific fuck. Now what did I do with him? The legend says he died in a drunken brawl, but actually I seem to recall leaving him standing somewhere in the desert. He probably ended up buried by sand dunes. Your carpenter-Prophet, though, he was a real bore. Said relations between men were an aberration. Well, that didn’t stop me fucking him blind for a moon or two, just before I made him into an erotic sculpture and told his other followers that he’d been carried into the heavens by a winged chariot. I’m almost fully mature now, and when that day comes the human race is in for a big surprise. Have a nice morning, Verrian.”
I spent the next hour frenziedly trying to break free from Seldrin’s spell, but it was hopeless. I didn’t know whether to credit his tale of being thousands of years old, but he certainly possessed powers beyond normal human understanding.
After an hour or so the first of the melted stones reached my feet and began to flow over them. Despite behaving like hot pitch, the substance was as cool as solid marble. I thought Seldrin’s plan was to encase me in stone, but instead the molten marble was absorbed into my feet. For a moment my feet were swollen, but then the material began to flow up the interior of my legs and spread itself throughout my entire body. It was an unpleasant and sobering sensation, almost like having ice-cold water poured over me. When it was done my body felt stiff and movement was more difficult. And then the next molten block flowed over and into my feet, then the next, and the next....
As each molten block was absorbed into my body I found myself growing bigger and stiffer. My heartbeat, which had been racing with fear, seemed to slow down and fade until I could no longer feel it. My breathing too became shallower and then stopped. But I remained alive, and if anything my senses became more alert than ever. Voluntary movement became harder and harder, and ultimately impossible, as my limbs were slowly but surely forced to assume Darrizel’s pose. Meanwhile some of the flowing stone shaped itself into a pedestal at my feet. Then the pedestal extruded a projection that slowly grew upward to meet my left hand while shaping itself into an embossed shield. At the same time, a small stone growth enclosed by my right hand gradually elongated and took on the shape of a sword.
Finally it was done. It must have been almost noon when the last piece of molten stone was absorbed into me and finally hardened into solid marble. My body felt cool and rigid. I couldn’t move a muscle, even assuming I still possessed muscles.
I had been transformed into a giant marble statue of Darrizel, defender of ancient Thurra and conqueror of the Sholbeg hordes. The greatest hero of his age, rendered in pure white marble, twice as tall as in life, sword upraised, every inch of his - my - powerful, muscular body rendered in intricate detail, as I stood tall, proud and erect. And naked. Completely and utterly naked.
And also helpless. Completely and utterly helpless.
There could be no escape. If Seldrin was to be believed, I was doomed to remain alive and conscious within my stone shell of a body forever.
+I’m sorry,+ cried a voice in my head, +I tried to warn you.+ All at once I remembered a hundred forgotten dreams and memories. All of the memories that Seldrin had stolen from me had returned, now that it was too late to act upon them.
I’m sorry too, Kendrith, I replied. If only I had remembered your warning and heeded it. But now there’s nothing we can do. I’m trapped, Seldrin is still at large and Dornal is at his mercy.
+Maybe it’s not too late yet,+ thought Kendrith.
But what can we do? Neither of us can ever speak, or move a muscle, or show the slightest sign of life.
+True, but maybe we’re not quite as helpless as we seem. After years of practice I’ve learned how to move small objects with my mind alone, and I have an idea....+
A little later, Seldrin and Dornal came out into the yard. It was strange to find myself looking down at their doll-like figures. “There, master, you see?” said Seldrin. “It was all just a dream. The statue is still standing just as you left it, large as life. Or should I say, larger. One of the pulleys seems to have fallen down in the night. It probably wasn’t fastened properly. Perhaps you heard it fall, and that was what caused you to dream of the statue falling.”
Dornal shook his head as if to clear it. “Yes...” he muttered. “Yes, we must make sure the pulleys are all fastened securely. It’s only seven days now until the statue must begin its journey to the Palace. Only eleven days to its unveiling.”
“Don’t you feel proud, master?” Seldrin cooed in Dornal’s ear. “Don’t you feel...excited?”
“Oh, yes, Seldrin,” moaned Dornal. “Yes!”
I could do nothing but watch as they tore off each other’s clothes and made love for hours on the cold stone floor of the yard. “I love you, Seldrin,” moaned Dornal. “I love you, my one and only apprentice, my model, my inspiration, my antique god.” And later: “Harder, Seldrin! Take me harder! Faster! Faster! Give me more! More! More, damn you! Give it to me till it hurts!”
I felt thoroughly nauseous, but of course it was impossible to vomit. I kept trying to tell myself that this was not the real Dornal, that Seldrin was influencing his mind. But perhaps there was some part of Dornal that did want to be forced to perform degrading and humiliating sexual acts, a part that had not been awakened until Seldrin’s arrival.
When they were finally done, not a moment too soon for my liking, they picked up their torn clothing and walked back to the house. Seldrin turned to me and said, “I hope you enjoyed that little performance, Verrian. You will remember it, I promise you. From now on you will remember all that has ever happened to you with perfect clarity. Now, if you will excuse....”
Then he broke off suddenly and frowned. I was puzzled. It was unlike Seldrin to be disturbed by anything. “Damn,” he muttered, apparently to himself although he was staring at my face. “Now how did I manage to overlook a detail like that? And it’s too late to change it now. Shit.” And with that he went back inside.
As the days passed I remained in a state of disbelief about my condition. It was inconceivable that living flesh could be transformed into cold marble. I told myself it had to be a trick, an illusion. Yet whenever I tried to move there was nothing, not the slightest response. I never felt hungry or thirsty, nor did I ever feel pressure in my bowels or bladder. But I could still see and hear and feel, and as Seldrin had warned me I could now recall everything that had ever happened to me from my earliest childhood to the present day. I was haunted by a thousand memories, and every one of them begged the question: what could I have done to change what had happened for the better?
Kendrith, whose fate I shared, did his best to help me. He often linked his thoughts with mine and allowed me to share the incredible pleasure he felt whenever somebody touched his stone body. +They will be moving you soon,+ he thought. +The route from Dornal’s house to the Palace passes close to the Chapel. We will only be a few tens of cubits apart.+
True, I thought, but I’m too big to fit through the door now. Pity. It would have been nice to see you again. In the flesh, as it were.
+Well, there are those who say that the ability to be in the right place is the key that unlocks a thousand doors. You know, I don’t think Seldrin ever realised that petrifying his victims would give them the power to project their thoughts, but it’s a power that may soon become his downfall. When you pass by the Chapel our link will be stronger than ever, and then we shall see what a pair of statues can do.+
Finally the day came when I was packed in bales of straw, roped securely to the platform, and boxed up for shipment. To my surprise the crate had been cut down to size, so that my head and shoulders projected above the sides. It seemed that Dornal, or perhaps Seldrin, wanted the public to get a glimpse of the statue before its official unveiling. That was fine by me. I’d be able to see where I was going. Four burly workmen hauled on the ropes and I was lifted two handsbreadths into the air while the sled was moved into position. Then my crate was securely lashed to the sled while the fence was opened to allow access to the street. And so, hauled by a team of muscular, bare-chested men and defended by a team of the Governor’s personal Guards in their splendid livery, I was slowly pulled through and past the cheering crowd with Dornal and Seldrin in attendance. After two years, the stone giant had begun the journey to his new home.
It was five days before the New Year, and it would take four to haul me by hand to the Palace. Dornal and Seldrin would remain with me every step of the way to ensure that nothing went wrong, sleeping at inns overnight.
It was on the second day that my slow progress through the city brought me to the street that ran alongside the Chapel of Tarzel. +It’s nearly time,+ thought Kendrith. +Get ready, Verrian.+
Get ready for what? I thought.
+Seldrin is almost under the eaves now, and those gargoyles still haven’t been secured. They’re just held on with ropes, some of which have been frayed by the elements.+
So what can we do?
+For the past few days I’ve been practicing,+ Kendrith told me. +If I concentrate really hard I can make the candles in my alcove shake. I even managed to blow the flame out the other night. Scared the poor priest half to death. So if we link minds now, while we’re close together, we should be strong enough to dislodge one of the gargoyles.+
It seemed like a slim chance, but it was better than nothing. From my lofty vantage point it was easy to see which of the gargoyles looked the most precarious, and linking minds with Kendrith I began to focus every last grain of concentration upon it. At first, though, nothing seemed to happen.
“Come on,” Seldrin was shouting. “Come on! What’s the hold up?”
“Sorry, sir,” said one of the workmen. “It’s these cobblestones. We can’t go so fast over them.”
Was the gargoyle beginning to rock? It was hard to tell, but...yes! It was moving! Just barely, though. Would we be able to dislodge it in time?
“I’m not interested in your excuses,” bellowed Seldrin. “We have a deadline to meet. Perhaps I should inform the Governor of your incompetence?”
A little more...just a little more....
“Who are you to be telling us how to do our job?” demanded the foreman. “You’re just an apprentice. A catamite. What does your master have to say for himself, eh?”
“As you can see, my master is very tired. He has been working on this statue every day for the past two years and has better things to do than stand around arguing with a mere labourer. That’s why he gave that unrewarding responsibility to me. Now as I say, if you do not wish to incur the Governor’s displeasure I suggest you stop arguing and - ”
We did it! The gargoyle rocked violently, the rope snapped and it fell, dislodging other stones as it did so. Seldrin, who was too busy arguing to notice, had been standing right underneath. The heavy stone carving stove in his skull, killing him instantly. It was better than he deserved.
“Seldrin!” cried Dornal, rushing forward. “Oh, Seldrin!” but even as he knelt beside Seldrin’s shattered body a small piece of stone that had been loosened by the falling gargoyle caught him a glancing blow to the temple. Dornal! I thought. Oh, master, what have I done?
Once the initial shock and confusion had passed, the Captain of the Guards took charge of the situation. “All right, stand back, there. Master Dornal is injured. I want two men to rig up a stretcher and take him to the Palace Infirmary. His apprentice is dead. Somebody fetch the priest from the Chapel to administer the last rites, and then - ”
“Look!” someone cried, pointing to Seldrin’s body.
The corpse was writhing, heaving, changing shape. I caught a glimpse of what looked like claws, tentacles, and more teeth than anything had a right to possess.
“A demon,” someone screamed. “A devil from Hell!”
Then there was a sudden flare and the crowd fell back as the creature that had been Seldrin and Arilan was consumed by flames. Within moments nothing was left but ash. Fortunately for Master Dornal, he had fallen backward, away from Seldrin’s body, and so had been saved from the fire.
For a long moment there was nothing but silence. Then the Captain muttered, “Well...I guess we won’t be needing the priest after all.”
A demon? I thought. Is that what Seldrin really was?
+Demons aren’t supposed to be mortal,+ replied Kendrith. +But I read an ancient legend once that claimed mankind came to this world from another, through a kind of window between planes of existence. But things followed mankind through the window and into this world, things that were by human standards evil and cunning and implacable. They were always said to be few in number, but there were enough of them to cause needless wars, enslave whole populations and cause untold suffering. If what Seldrin told you is true, he had not yet come into the fullness of his powers, and we must rejoice that we managed to kill him before he could do any real damage. I only wonder how many more of them may still be alive, and what horrors they may yet visit upon this poor world of ours.+
There is little more to tell. I was duly installed upon my pedestal next to Freneldo’s monumental nude Spirit of Farazel at the Governor’s Palace, and revealed in my equally naked glory before the cheering crowd. Kendrith and I continued to link minds and share our sensations. Seldrin had cursed me with a perfect memory, but as well as all the humiliations and betrayals, I was able to remember the good times I had had with Dornal. I was able to recall with perfect clarity every loving word, every touch, every caress, and every orgasm that we shared. Of course I was happy to share those memories with Kendrith, who was reminded of similar times he shared with Sarvis.
One bright spring day three moons after my unveiling, Master Dornal walked into the courtyard and glanced up at me. His head was bandaged and he walked with a cane, but I was overjoyed to see that he was alive. He spent a few moments scrutinising my face and body, and then spoke seemingly to himself.
“My memory is not what it used to be,” he said, “but it seems to me that I once had an apprentice whom I loved, and whom I wronged greatly. If he were here before me, I would kneel to beg his forgiveness.”
Oh, master, I thought, It is I who should be begging you for forgiveness!
Dornal looked up for a moment, as if he had heard my thoughts. Then he continued. “With the money I have made from the statue of Darrizel and the commissions I have received from wealthy patrons I am now set for life. I only wish my apprentice could have shared in my good fortune, but he has gone and no one knows where he may be. As it is...I shall take on a new apprentice. One who is young, tall and handsome and full of life. Between us we shall create such treasures as the world has never seen before, and I shall dedicate them all to the memory of...the memory of...huh! Memory!”
He shook his head.
“How can I dedicate something to the memory of someone whose name I can’t....” Then suddenly Dornal’s face lit up. “Verrian,” he whispered. “His name was Verrian.” Dornal looked into my stone face, his eyes brimming with tears. “Wherever you are now, Verrian, never forget that I love you. I will always love you.”
I know, master, I thought.
+We both know,+ added Kendrith.
Dornal looked up once more, then wiped his eyes and turned and walked away. He seemed to be placing less weight on his cane now.
And so here I stand, as I have stood for hundreds of years, while Kendrith continues to occupy his niche in the Chapel, and we share thoughts and sensations all the time. Both of us have learned how to generate ecstatic sensations spontaneously and so we share them with each other constantly in a feast of telepathic lovemaking. Dornal lived until his mid-eighties and continued to sculpt until the day he died, and in this age of colour printing, flying machines and global communications his works are now world-famous.
Over the centuries Kendrith and I have been able to contact many of Seldrin’s other frozen victims. During his inhumanly extended lifetime he froze hundreds of men into naked statues, usually after raping or at least seducing them. Many of them were driven insane by their ordeal, but between us we were able to gradually ease them back to sanity, one by one, and then offer them the option of joining our telepathic lovemaking. Among the living statues, as Seldrin himself had boasted to me, was the real Darrizel, as well as the Carpenter Prophet himself.
I found Darrizel to be a little boastful about his achievements, but his war stories were always fascinating. As for the Carpenter, he told us he had never sought to be worshipped as a messiah, but had preached simple moral virtues which he had hoped might bring about a better society. After being frozen by Seldrin, he had eventually become resigned to his fate, and had preserved his sanity by focusing his mind in quiet meditation. He remained disdainful of sex between men, and refused to participate in our shared ecstasy, fearing that it might corrupt his soul. Nonetheless, I respected him for the strength of his moral convictions, however much I might disagree with some of them.
Even my fellow giant, the Spirit of Farazel, also turned out to be a paralysed man. It seemed that I was not the first man upon whom Seldrin had used his flowing-rock spell. And there may be hundreds, or even thousands, more that we have not yet found. We will continue to spread our thoughts near and far in search of them.
Of the demonic beings of Seldrin’s kind, we have seen no others, although Kendrith suspects their involvement in several recent wars, and in the rumoured development of new and potentially devastating weapons. He thinks they may yet succeed in destroying humanity. But one thing gives me grounds for hope: they can make mistakes.
Upon seeing me as a statue for the first time Seldrin had asked, “Now how did I manage to overlook a detail like that?”
It took me a long while to realise what he meant, but when I finally did, I knew that I had won.
In his vanity Seldrin wanted the statue altered to resemble his human guise, but when the broken stones flowed back together through me it was my body that provided the template for the reconstructed Darrizel’s appearance.
The statue’s face is my own!
And that, in brief, is my story. So now it is time for you to tell me yours.
How exactly did you come to be a statue?
June 1999 - January 2000
Well, there it is, a little longer than originally planned but hopefully not so long as to outstay its welcome. The basic idea for this story came from...well, from a sexual fantasy, actually!
Certain details concerning the carving and transportation of the statue are derived from a book about Michelangelo’s David. The David wasn’t completed until a few years after the turn of the (16th) century, but what with the recent Millennium celebrations I thought it was appropriate to make the turn of the century the deadline for the statue’s erection (sic).
I hope I won’t be considered sexist for not including any female characters. Rest assured, there are lots of women enjoying worthwhile occupations in Farazel. It’s just that none of them come into this particular story.
Writing this story has been a bit like carving a statue, carefully chiselling words from the white screen (so to speak) in order to free the story trapped within. I’ve had a lot of fun writing it, so I hope you liked it too.
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