Adrian: A Portrait Rendered
Lord Inquisitor Barthalemiew Barlott walked through the vast halls of the art museum. His practiced eye caught the glories of works rendered and ideas brought to light. He had been here before; years ago when he was a boy around thirteen years of age.
That had been a long time ago indeed. He had been dying of an illness that had ravaged his lungs and his parents had brought him here upon the request of the museums facilitator. She had said that art could heal all but the most broken of souls.
The Lord Inquisitor smiled as he thought of that day. The sickness did go away, not because of the art but because of the Apothecaries administrations.
One hundred and seventeen years had passed since he had set foot into this place. Almost everything had changed. The ceiling bore a mural of the Emperor dressed in battle plate and terrifying in his vengeance as he destroyed the works of his wayward sons.
The walls held portraits of magnificence, glorious depictions of landscapes, oceans, figureheads and animals. Some of the artwork bore the cruel faces of brutal overlords and criminals, masterminds of atrocities and destroyers of worlds. These were called “Historical Remembrances”.
Lord Inquisitor Barlott stopped before one of these portraits and allowed his eye to take in the full detail of what was before him. The likeness, color, skin-tones, the hair and even the look in the man’s eyes were perfection.
He saw the signature of the artist and recognized the name as the person that he was there to see. Mrs. Millissa Hecktar. Her work was renowned for the skill and awareness she put into it. The work she did could not be matched throughout the known galaxies.
‘Lord Inquisitor.’ The elder servant said. ‘Lady Hecktar will see you now.’
The woman was surrounded by her own private collection of portraits the world had never seen. Thousands of faces stared down as silent witnesses to the floor below.
‘Are you comfortable?’ The Lady asked kindly. The Lord Inquisitor was taken aback when he first had seen her. She was much older then she sounded, wrinkles over a once beautiful face, gray hair that once was raven black. Her shoulders were hunched from the weight of years.
‘Yes, I am quite comfortable. You may begin when ready.’
The artist smiled and approached the Lord Inquisitor. ‘Sir, if my work is to be authentic and truly a union of your very soul to the canvas, I will need a pinprick of your blood to add to the paints.’
‘A union of my soul?’ The Lord Inquisitor asked. ‘Simply a figure of speech, sir.’ She answered.
The Lord Inquisitor politely extended his hand and consented to the pinprick. ‘Now, can we begin? I have appointments and schedules that must be kept.’
The woman bowed her head and whispered something over the paints as she mixed in the blood. Lord Barlott did not hear what it was she had said.
Slowly she began to apply the paint, fashioning the details in perfection. ‘Lord Inquisitor Barthalemiew Barlott. Your name does not escape me.’ She said quietly while intricately detailing the set of the man’s jaw.
He tried to speak but found he could not open his mouth. That was odd. As he watched her work his body settled into the warmth of comfort. He was too comfortable so he tried to move, but found that he could not.
The woman looked up from her work to study her subject. She smiled warmly before beginning again. ‘Your heart is in the right place, Lord Inquisitor, but you lack mercy. In your zeal you have become a tyrant and a murderer. You have sought out the heretic and the denizens of evil, but never once have you looked into your own soul and seen what it is you have become.’
As she worked he began to feel himself slipping away. Fear stabbed at his heart and gnawed at his very soul. Within his great robes he held weapons enough to destroy cities, but now, at this very moment an old woman held him bound with powers he could not resist.
‘You destroyed my home world because you detected taint from a single person. You said where there is one heretic there are thousands and where there are thousands there are billions. My family was there, upon that world and they died. Their flesh fell from their bones.’
The woman stopped speaking as she considered her next words. The lord inquisitor watched her now from two places. It was strange. He could see her from the portrait and from his own eyes. He knew that what she said was true and terror clutched his soul as he sat before his judge.
The old woman dipped her brush into the paint and began once more. She set to work upon the nose and mouth, the crows-feet at the sides of the eyes. She flecked grays along the hairline and placed the sternness into eyes that had caused nations to tremble.
There was a crowd of witnesses watching from the walls. Lord Inquisitor Barlott suddenly understood what was happening and screamed with a voice that only he could hear. The portraits bore the souls of those who had committed great evils. He recognized them now for what they were, cages for the damned!
‘For the longest time all I wanted to do was kill you and take the vengeance that I was owed, but I learned something about vengeance and cruelty from people like you. In mercy I will allow you to live. You will be bound in art for eternity. You will never die.’ She was no longer talking to the man in the chair, but the man in the portrait.
She could see into his very soul and what she saw was no longer pride of position, coldness of heart or determination to seek out the heretic, but raw uncontrolled terror.
‘You ordered the deaths of billions in the Emperor’s name and said that it was a mercy to the universe. Billions died without ever knowing why. Most never got the chance to repent, but this is the mercy that I will show you Lord Inquisitor Barthalemiew Barlott. I give you everlasting life in order for you to consider what you have done.’
The portrait complete, Mrs. Millissa Hecktar turned to the chair. It was empty.