Lady Lucy's Paintings
My mother, the Duchess of Brabant, owns a great collection of paintings, most of which are quite peculiar. For much of my life, I had no knowledge of the extent of the collection, as by far the greatest bulk of it is kept in several quarters located in the middle of our castle, which were off limits to me. Of course, knowing that there were spaces within my own home that I was not allowed to visit was as frustrating as it was captivating.
One day I managed to persuade our cook to steal a set of keys that would allow us access to the forbidden chambers. He had never been there either. The rooms were full of paintings, the walls were covered with them from top to bottom, and once my eyes had accustomed themselves to the dim light I instantly understood why I had never been given permission to behold the things I was seeing.
The cook was highly alarmed by what we had stumbled upon. He put his hands over my eyes and dragged me back out. Alas, it was too late, as my soul had been scorched and my innocence had been destroyed!
That cook I never saw again, but in my mind, I saw these images of monsters and bizarre, clownish creatures, those visions of so many hells and heavens and anything in between but Earth itself. And there had been indecent images, things my mind could have never conjured up on its own and that were now there, in that same mind, clearer than anything else, clearer than the light of the sun.
I could never go back to those rooms, I would never go, yet I still went...
Why now? Yes, I'm a young lady, I must be able to face these things, I told myself. One day I will marry and my husband and I will do... well, I knew all about it already, but still, I flustered. My friend Alana, the Duchess of Kleef, spent many evenings reading me the most inappropriate stories concerning affairs of the heart as well as of the flesh. Most of them had been assembled by an Italian named Giovanni Boccaccio.
But I'm drifting... why did I go back? Surely I can't blame it all on the potion. Uncle Theophrastus – who I usually, teasingly called by his rather silly second name Bombastus – once left a keg filled with one of the concoctions he had been brewing for mother.
It is indeed curious that I couldn't resist the urge to dip my finger in it and bring a tiny drop of this unseemly stuff to my mouth. The taste was strong, salty, prickly, unlike anything I was accustomed to; it was appealing while it shouldn't have been so.
Later that day my perception of the world around me began to alter. As I sat on my bed I watched the wrinkles in the blankets transform into magnificent pink flowers. There were buds that opened and new flowers grew out and began to bloom.
Then it became clear to me that the painting on my wall demanded my attention. I looked up and did not see what I was expecting to see, what I had always seen, for all these years. Although the extraordinary landscape filled with otherworldly plants was still there and still looked as it had done before, the saint had magically been transformed into a young man.
A beautiful young squire. As if that was not strange enough he began to gesture. I walked up to the painting to examine it closer and also to rid my mind of these fallacies. Though the closer I got, the better I could see the handsome squire. He seemed to urge me to join him. And this is quite possibly strangest of all: I responded to his calls and decided to accept the invitation.
We were on a strange island. We lay together between soft bushes. We did not speak, there was no need. Instead, we stroked each other with our fingertips. He touched my earlobes, my cheeks, my throat – my breasts. Then, suddenly, I was alone in my room, in front of that painting. The squire was gone, yet my nipples were swollen. I could still feel his touch.
After this night weeks went by in which I tried to live a decent, respectable life. I prayed a lot and eventually concluded that I might find a potent antidote to my unwholesome cravings in the stories of Scripture. My mother, the perfect Humanist, reluctantly agreed to find a Latin tutor for me.
You will be as learned as Mary of France, my mother said, but I don't know what good it will do you.
She found a young Dominican named Lorenzo. I don't know how she had managed to convince him to teach me, for he was even more skeptical about this task than she was.
I often heard him muttering: young ladies learning Latin – what is the world coming to?!
During my lessons I was often distracted, I was still regularly thinking about those paintings, but there was also the teacher, Lorenzo, himself. He was undeniably a handsome young man, with his Lombardic aquiline features and his blonde hair that seemed to produce light all on its own. The paintings had taught me what such young men could be capable of...
I began following him around to spy on him as he performed menial tasks for my mother. I particularly enjoyed watching him gathering and chopping pieces of wood in the garden. I began to dream of him, of us together on that island of the saint, him touching me like that squire. It was driving me mad.
One day I decided that I indeed was losing my mind and that it was time to face my fears. During a particularly dark night, I managed to steal a set of twelve keys from our castle attendant. I went to my room and drank a thistle full of uncle Theophrastus' elixir. I then swiftly made my way to the forbidden chambers.
Once inside I lit many candles in order to properly behold the paintings. I sat down in front of one of the largest and most extraordinary panels. I was still in my right mind, for I could watch the images without noticing anything supernatural. But what a bizarre spectacle I was beholding! I could hardly make sense of what I was seeing! It began to overwhelm me, all this lunacy and depravity. I had to take my eyes of it for a while just to regain my composure. Then a voice said: if you look back things will be different.
Slowly the focus of my gaze returned to the painting in front of me.
And then... I was standing on a large field. The grass was intense, almost sickeningly green and there were many flowers. I was standing near the opening of a cave out of which thousands of birds flew, forming an S-curved flock. In the distance I beheld a man and woman frolicking amidst a group of animals.
The man and the woman actually behaved like animals themselves and they were completely naked. I did not want to have anything to do with them and thus I walked into the opening of one of the caves. I was not sure whether I walked or fell through, but soon I was on the other side.
Here was another field and... how do I describe that?!
All the singing, all the birds and all the sounds of laughter I had heard since I had entered this strange place had been replaced by an altogether more disconcerting array of noises; a droning bee-like humming interrupted with screams... not of pain, or perhaps of some sort of transcendental pain, for these were screams of pleasure.
In front of me, there was a pond wherein stood an enormous pink sculpture, or perhaps a plant, or some sort of previously unknown hybrid of the two. Around this pond, a savage parade of beasts and men and manly beasts and beastly men was marching counter-clockwise. To my left, there was a larger lake that seemed to be fed by two rivers that streamed from two mountainous plant-sculptures. One of them even seemed to be made of some material that resembled human flesh and skin.
Suddenly an angelic young man came up to me and took my hand.
Come, don't be afraid, don't resist, he said.
Talking thus he coaxed me to approach the savage parade that still frightened me out of wits. And of course, it did so, for as I came closer and saw more clearly what was going on it became ever more bewildering. Dozens of men and women, stark naked, riding all kinds of animals and other creatures that can hardly be classed as such. Some people were riding birds that were larger than themselves. Men and woman were having intercourse, one couple was copulating inside of a round, glass carriage. I had never seen an erect phallus before (only some copies of Roman drawings of them in one of Alana von Kleef's books), and now I saw dozens of them at the same time. In fact, one of the parading creatures seemed to be a giant erect phallus on legs!
This is too much, I stammered.
Don't be afraid, don't resist, my angelic companion spoke again soothingly.
And suddenly I took part of the dance myself. And it was magnificent. So much merriment, so much laughter and excitement, it was beyond words!
My angelic companion noticed that I was becoming exhausted eventually and he took me aside, out of the dance, to a quiet field. There we lay together. I was already undressed (apparently I had lost my clothes in the frenzied dance) and now I began to undress him. His body seemed to radiate light. He touched me, all over, applying even more skill and finesse than the squire had done. I caressed him to, his muscular body – so uncannily alike Lorenzo's – made my hand tremble.
Then he lay on top of me and entered me. It was as if the world began to melt. And things still managed to get more perplexing, for you see, I was suddenly him and he was mounting me! I was... it was all so very confusing indeed!
I woke up in the forbidden room, in the midst of the paintings. Their magic had seized and most of the candles had already burned out. I realized the night was almost over and I had to quickly and quietly clear up the room and return to bed.
I was ill for a few days and my mother said I had been uttering worrying things in my delirious sleep. But a few days later I began to recover. And it was now very clear to me what I had to do. I knew I had to seduce Lorenzo. And I know I was going to. I even knew how - I had been well instructed!
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