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Author's note:The story of Alesso and Raímon is set in the Quattrocitte, a fantasy world of mine literally meaning Four Cities. The four cities are Ababwh, where Raímon lived, Anderthal, where Luis and his studio were, the Imperial City of Cyllinda and the city of Rhana.
Raímon lived during the 1200s (the dates are not equivalent to those of our own world, as you'll guess from the costume). This epilogue is set some 200 years later. It is a sample of another story I plan to upload to fanfiction.net in the near future, with a similar theme to that of Raímon's story.
Actually, I wrote this story long before Raímon's. It is the story of a young man called Fabrizio, whose troubled childhood and adolescence casts him up in Anderthal with only his title of 'Don' and his wits to keep him out of trouble. Of course, there's lots of angst, but you'll have to read the whole story for that!
Keep an eye open for it. It'll be called Fabrizio's Story.
In this extract, Fabrizio and his lover Mario (both aged in their early twenties) go to the cathedral. Mario wants to show Fabrizio some art by a particular painter – yes, you've guessed it. This is where Raímon and Alesso were first written about. Enjoy it – and if you do enjoy it, first review it, and then read the rest !
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We went to the cathedral, in what seemed to me to be a daring and stupid flirtation with disaster - what we hoped to achieve, I still don't know. All I think we wanted was to be under that roof and to be together and for the priests perhaps to see us and to understand that our love was stronger than any damnation they threw at us.
Even eternal damnation didn't sound such a bad place to be, if Mario could be there with me. But the rationality of thought came later. Then was just the action.
We came into the body of the Church and stood in the great aisle. I stared at the altarpiece, the great crucifix above the draped table with the twisted, tortured body of Christ nailed to it in artistic agony.
His eyes were turned to the ceiling in some kind of supplication and the tendons in his stretching fingers were so real that I expected him to move at any moment. Mario glanced sideways and saw my fixation with it. Smiling, as if to a transfixed child, he bent close to my ear.
"See how the sculptor gave him muscles and slenderness. Even their own Christ is subject, to the interpretation of an artist who loves the masculine body. Yet they don't see that as wrong, do they? Because their sculptor has created something for their glory and they couldn't care less that he probably used a naked young man as his model. Why is it so different when we come into the picture?"
His voice, low and controlled to stop the priests hearing us, sent a thrill of desire down my spine. I turned to shrug and saw another damning thing - a painting of San Sebastian, in his torturous martyrdom, impaled with arrows and with his head thrown back to implore the pity of the observer.
But he too was naked to the waist and wore only a loincloth! I let my shoulders fall.
"They condemn us, yet they fill their own house with images of tortured bodies, of men made beautiful by artists who have desires as strong as ours!"
Mario smiled with resignation and murmured something about the artist who had painted San Sebastian. I was too incensed to hear, but it was something about the fact he came from Ababwh. Mario had said before that, in Ababwh nowadays, they couldn't care less if you loved men or women, or both.
I couldn't understand how these priests could worship the male body and yet turn away from our commitment to each other - which was much more due to personality than to the beauty of each other's body!
"Hypocrites," I muttered sullenly.
"They have much more art by Raímon in the side chapels, I think," Mario said with a glance over his shoulder. "It's been years since I came in here, but I doubt they'll have moved them. The King himself commented on their artistry, last time he visited the city, so I've heard tell. You want to see how a sensitive painter interprets his cravings, then I remember these paintings are really something".
He paused and glanced behind again. I followed and saw a priest watching us suspiciously from beneath a hooded robe.
"I didn't realise this would turn out to be an education in the art of the 1200s," he said casually, strolling away from me towards one of the side aisles of the cathedral.
"Mario," I whispered. He turned. "Hold my hand," I said, smiling, that same lust for self-destruction returning to my heart. "Let them see us, corazon, let them realise!"
He shook his head slowly; I knew the expression in his eyes. Fabrizio, you're mad.
"You want to be thrown out into the street with the word 'sodomite' strung about your neck?" he demanded in a low voice, clapping his hand on my back to hurry me along with almost fraternal impatience. "We might not be ashamed of loving each other, but it's something that they think we should be ashamed of. They're already suspicious, see? Now stop being so childish. Do you want us both to be banned from this beautiful place for the rest of our lives?"
I tossed my head in indignation.
"Aye, but beauty can be cruel!" He looked sideways at me.
"Don't I know that, just from being your lover? Come on".
The side chapels were deserted, save for an elderly aristo woman who knelt on an embroidered hassock, chanting her rosary as she strung the beads along the string. She had her eyes tightly closed in devotion, and didn't notice our godforsaken presence in the shadows at the back of her shrine.
Mario silently pointed out a couple more paintings, this time miniatures, but all of saints and all with the same barely-clothed male body.
For the first time I understood how unnerving it could be for the Church to see this painter, this brilliant Raímon churning out these seductive and wicked images of his obsession. And all the paintings, all the saints, be they in Heaven, or kneeling to the lions, or caught in a mist of hungry arrows, all bore the same face. The same, unchanging dark eyes, the same hesitant frown and the same soft mouth, all identical.
"Mario, it's the same boy," I breathed, hardly daring to speak for fear of alerting the old devotee. "All of the painter's saints bear the same face! It's his model, Mario, his lover, see? Not a visage plucked at random from his mind, but a real person and Raímon was so enamoured of him, he used this boy as a model for everything! But don't you think he was beautiful, Mario?"
There was helpless innocence, a naïve and trusting grace about the face, so girlish that, apart from the shadow of beard always present on the painted cheeks, it could have been a woman. I was chilled suddenly. Had I looked like that once? Had I seemed so vulnerable, so sweetly effeminate?
I looked at the other paintings in the shrine. All by Raímon. Even the tiny panel of the Mary Magdalene at the door of the tomb of the risen Christ bore the stamp of the face. The angels were like twins, though one had a mass of blond hair and the other curls of darkest black. Even the Magdalene herself, eyes turned in horror from the abandoned grave to the radiant glory of the seraphim, had the faint touch of that naiveté in her eyes.
I suddenly felt a little sick. Portraying your lover as a woman, no matter how girlish he might look, was something that took the boundaries of love, art and good taste to the point of breaking. I wondered who the boy was.
Had he grown up? Left Raímon and his obsessive painting, gone to find a new lover, or perhaps a wife? Or had he died young, with this face still, a saint or angel incarnate on the harsh pillows of a deathbed? And had Raímon wept over this broken, empty body, with the sweet face he so loved?
"Fabrizio, are you all right?" Mario reached out to support my arm. I felt dizzy.
"Please take me home, corazon. I can only take so much fine art in a day".
He laughed softly and directed me out of the chapel, towards the portals of the main doorway and the sunlight in the plaza. I looked up at the painting of San Sebastian as we passed.
The boy's face, unchanged, tranquil amidst the mass of arrows, face raised to heaven, but eyes meeting mine as I passed. I shuddered. He was too real for me. Too precisely painted and too beautiful. Because beauty can be cruel. Under the pretence of loving you, it can twist and turn your soul and mind until suddenly you go crazy. Like Raímon.
It was no secret to Mario that this nameless, eternally young boy haunted me and yet I saw that he too was powerfully affected by Raímon's art. That night, as I sat before the fire, he came in softly and sat down at my side, with a tankard of ale in his hand. I tore my eyes away from the curly-haired Narcissus leaping in the flames and met his tender gaze.
God, he was beautiful!
He reached out to touch my cheek; with a swift pang of annoyance, I wondered why he always treated me so much like a child. Then he put his arm around my shoulders and I moved closer to him, my brief irritation gone, only wanting the security and warmth of his embrace.
"Forget about the boy, Fabrizio," he said quietly "He's long dead".
"But Raímon achieved his dream, didn't he?" I replied. "His lover lived forever".