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April 2008

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et_fantomes in aapa

Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth

27 March, 17--
Riva del Ferro
Venice, Italy

CARO HAD long held fast to the belief that holidays were to be celebrated in proper Bacchanalian fashion: lavishly, with company, and in varying states of inebriation. The term ‘holiday’ was of course used altogether loosely in her vasty lexicon: any event worth note, from Christmas to a new ally to laying down the winning hand at whist, merited a loud toast or five – and tonight, being the last day of Carnivale, was of course no exception.

This time around, though, Caro felt a pressing need to get an early start. (Excitement, p’raps? Or the bone-chill fear of losing her nerve again? She supposed it was some hybrid beast of both; some vicious greedy succubus to whom she didn’t dare refuse anything.) Fortunately, this was accomplished easily enough. Up at nine-thirty, warm bath till eleven, nuncheon at midday, and at one she liberated a dusty bottle of Madeira – that Portuguese liquid sunshine – from a forgotten cabinet down in the cellar and spent the afternoon hours very well-lubricated, piping lewd French ditties and compliments from the windows to the noisome populous below, and o, how they loved it.

And Caro loved it, too. Ever the braggadocio, she caught blown kisses with outstretched palms (these she pressed playfully to her cheeks and neck, to raucous cheers) and blew handfuls of her own in return, batting her eyelashes and laughing at the vulgar propositions of which these lusty Mediterraneans were so cheerfully fond; making brazen love to all who looked her way. The world, as the saying went, was her oyster once more, and she fully intended to swallow it down whole before the day was through.

Awash with wine-soaked pleasure and the thrill of an audience, Caro charmed, pouted, sparkled and teased from her perch until the shadows lengthened and the lamps were lit; only then did she tear herself from her sunwarm terra cotta seat. The crowd was thinning anyhow; headed t’wards the Campi, no doubt. It was time to get ready. (Though the idea of carousing publickly in her underthings was a powerful temptation.)

As she turned from the canal to look for Orion, she thought she glimpsed Sparrow’s supple form slip into the eddying crowd from the corner of her well-trained eye. And good riddance, she thought suddenly. Grimly.

Maybe, finally, he wouldn’t come back.


Men who wore metal hats were mad. It was the only logical conclusion. Of course a Venetian summer wouldn't hold a candle to a West Indian one, but hot was hot, and placing a metal bucket hat over one's head was an excellent way to go good and apoplectic in a hurry. Mad, impractical Italians.

Amused, Orion tugged the ridiculous thing off his own head and turned his attention to an old book half-wedged beneath a mysteriously sheet-covered pile of Things stacked on an ancient, spindly table. Curious, he tucked the helmet beneath one arm and began to work the book out from beneath the stack. The idea had been that he'd be able to gently slip it free; unfortunately, gravity had other plans. The sheet, mouldy and moth-eaten, had by some dubious substance become adhered to the cracked leather binding of the manuscript. It was just enough of a resistance to shift the balance in the Mystery Stack ever so slightly, and the entire thing (mouldy sheet and all) toppled over onto him in a great plume of thick dust. The almighty crash from the spill resounded through the house, shaking dust and cobwebs from the ceiling beams in Caro's room directly below.
Caro yelped, managing to sidestep a surge of ceiling grime before it got all over and nixed that morning’s bath and ruined her hair, which she’d spent a good three quarters of an hour pinning up into its perfect cascade of curls and pearls.

“Orion?” She peered at the beams overhead. “What you doin’ in the ceilin’, cher?”

She crossed through the hall to the attic door, which had been left ajar, and peered up the stairs. Footprints twice the size of her own had been cast in the dust that coated each ancient step – Caro would know those anywhere.

Careful to lift the hem of her gauzy shift so it wouldn’t drag, she padded up the steps till her head poked over the landing; no sooner had she did so than she burst out laughing at the scene before her: a big damn mess, dust, and Orion right in the middle of it all.

“Dahlin!” she cried. “You is absolutely filthy! You gonna need a bath, and – and a bath. What did you do?”

It was meant to be a Severe Reprimand, so eager was she to dance and drink and sing and play, but it was rather difficult when Caro kept dissolving into fits.
"It has pictures," Orion declared calmly, sounding pleased, from amidst the cascade of debris half-burying him. He was sitting on the floor, only visible from the waist up. Surrounding him were vestments two centuries out of fashion (a moth-eaten green velvet doublet lurked near his knee), ledgers of reciepts and sales, snapped quills, children's toys, a bust of some pope or other, and all manner of household paraphanalia, all of it stained, rusted, or broken. A torn portrait of a young woman wearing outrageously elevated platformed shoes and a twin-horn-like hairstyle lay near the door, and what looked to be the skeleton of a cat rested, twisted and fragmented, by the knight's helmet.

Orion, for his part, looked unruffled for all that he was coated ashy-grey in dust. He held the manuscript he'd successfully recovered up for Caro to see; he couldn't have read a word even if it'd not been in Latin, but the vibrant-colored inkings were charming. He had never seen color illustrations before in any book, and was rather taken with them.

"You see? Pictures. And I do not need a bath. De point is to wear masks, non?"