Shadows of Sanctuary | Chapter 4 of 5 - Part: 1 of 21

Author: Robert Lynn Asprin | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2765 Views | Add a Review

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'I might model for the Goddess ...' suggested Lady Rosanda, twitching an improbably auburn curl over one plump shoulder and looking arch. '

Lalo swallowed. 'My Lady is too kind, but modelling is exacting work -1 wouldn't consider asking someone of your refinement to spend hours posing in such uncomfortable positions and scanty attire ...' His panic eased into relief as the lady simpered and smiled. His own vision of the Goddess was characterized by a compassionate majesty which he doubted Lady Rosanda could even visualize, much less portray. Finding a model for Sabellia would be his hardest task.

'Now that you understand the work, how much time will you require?'

'What?' Lalo forced himself to the present again.

'When can you bring us the designs?' Danlis repeated tartly.

'I must consider ... and choose my models ...' he faltered. 'It will take two or three days.'

'Oh Lalo ...'

The limner jerked, turned, and realized that he had come all the way from Molin Torchholder's well-guarded gatehouse to the Street of the Goldsmiths without conscious direction, as if his feet were under a charm to carry him home.

'My dear friend!' Puffing a little, Sandol the rug dealer drew up beside Lalo, who looked at him in bewilderment. It had not been 'my friend' the last time they met, when Sandol had refused to pay the full price for his wife's portrait because she said it made her look fat.

'I have wanted to tell you how much enjoyment your painting brings us. As they say, a work of art is a lasting pleasure - perhaps we ought to have a portrait of myself to balance my wife's. What do you say?' He wiped his brow with a large handkerchief of purple silk.

'Well of course I would be happy - but I don't know just when

- my time may be occupied for a while ...' answered Lalo, confused.

'Yes indeed -' Sandol smiled unctuously. 'I understand that your work will shortly grace a much more august residence than my own. My wife was saying just this morning what an honour it was to have been painted by the man who is decorating Molin Torchholder's feasting hall!'

Suddenly Lalo understood. The news of his prospective commission must be all over town by now. He suppressed a grin of triumph, remembering how he had humbled himself to this man to get even a part of his fee. Perhaps he should do the picture -the rug merchant was as porcine as his lady, and they would make a good pair.

'Well, I must not discuss it yet...' replied Lalo modestly. 'But it is true that I have been approached... I fear that an opportunity to serve the representative of the gods of Ranke must take precedence over lesser commitments.' Interested commentary followed them like an echo down the busy street, apprentices telling their masters, silk-veiled matrons whispering to each other as they tried on rings.

'Oh indeed I do understand,' Sandol assured him fervently. 'AH I ask is that you keep me in mind ...'

'I'll let you know,' said Lalo graciously, 'when I have time.' He increased his pace, leaving the rug merchant standing like a melting icicle in the sea of people behind him. When he had crossed the Path of Money into the Corridor of Steel, Lalo permitted himself a discreet skip or two.

'Not only my feet but my entire life is charmed now!' he told himself. 'May all the gods of Ranke and Ilsig bless Enas Yorl!'

Sunshine glared from the whitewashed walls around him, flashed from polished swords and daggers displayed in the armourers' stalls, glittered in myriad points of light from linked mail. But the brilliance around him was less dazzling than the vistas opening to Lalo's imagination now. He would have not merely a comfortable living, but riches; not only respect, but fame! Everything he had ever desired was within his grasp ...

Cutpurses flowed around him like shadows as he passed through an alleyway, but despite the rumours, his purse still swung slackly, and they drew back again without his having noticed them. Someone called out to him as he passed the more modest establishments near the warehouses, but Lalo's eyes were blinded by his visions.

It was not until his feet had carried him on to the Wideway that edged the harbour that he realized that he had been hailed by Farsi the Coppersmith, who had loaned him money when Gilla was sick after the birth of their second child. He thought of turning back, but surely he could visit Farsi another time. He was too busy now.

Plans for the new project were boiling in his brain. He had to come up with something that could transcend the rest of Molin's decor without trying to compete with its vulgarity. Colours, details, the interplay of line and mass, rippled before his mind's eye like a painted veil between him and the sordid streets of the town.

So much would depend on the models he chose for the figures in the design! Sabellia and her nymphs must display a beauty that would uplift the imagination even as it pleased the eye, an air at once both regal and innocent.

Lalo slipped on a fishhead. He flailed wildly for a moment, then regained his balance and stood panting and blinking in the bright sun.

'And where will I find such maidens in Sanctuary?' he asked himself aloud. 'Where mothers sell their daughters into whoredom as soon as their breasts begin to show?' Even the girls who retained some outward beauty were swiftly corrupted within. In the past, he had found his models among the street singers and the girls who eked out a weaver's paltry daylight wages on their backs, at night. He would have to look elsewhere now.

He sighed and turned his face to the sea. It was cooler here, and the changing wind brought a fresh sea breeze to compete with the rotting fish odour of the shore. The blue water sparkled like a virgin's eye.

A woman with a child in her arms waved to him, and after a moment Lalo recognized Valira, come to the shore for an hour or two of sunshine with her baby before it was time for her to ply her trade with the sailors there. She lifted the child for him to see, and he noted with a pang that although her eyes were painted, and glass beads glittered in her hennaed hair, her arms were still childishly thin. He remembered when she had been one of his oldest daughter's playmates, and had often come to Lalo's house for supper when there was no food at her own.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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