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Episode Three: Chapter Eighteen

The Beginning Of The End

Euripedes Hark was not entirely surprised to see Tycho Brahe and his associate, a hulking thing which clung to him like a dark moon, knocking on his door in the dead of night.  He was considerably more surprised when his door burst inward at The Brute’s swift command, his master crossing the threshold, hungry as a plague.

Hark’s Curatorium adjoined the Museum itself, and housed a subset of his own storied collection.  This included the masks, certainly; but we’ll get to those.  It also includes many items of a demimagical nature, charms of mid-range sorcerous expression; Hark snaps one off the desk, and as it dangles he says:

Hence, thing!  To that place below,

 Where liars and their long-knives…

“Are you fucking serious with this shit?  Knock it off,” ejects the son of Brahe, juxtaposing his knuckles with the bones girding Hark’s face.  He hisses while he bends Hark’s fingers out of Crownsign.  “Send me to hell?  I was never going anywhere else.”

He prowls now, back and forth, like a great cat behind conservatory glass.  “Are you the dumbest cult ever?  Is there somebody keeping track of this?  Because you should save some room for the trophy,” Tycho says, tipping a bust off its dias and slapping the newly available space with an open palm.  “Put that motherfucker right here, maybe.  It’s like, you get yourself a God, you cut him up, and then you keep all the parts in the same town?”

“I don’t know,” says Gabriel.  “Maybe they should set up a franchise, somewhere.”

Tycho snorts.  “You think?”

After a centering breath, he continues.  “So, where is it, Hark?”

Hark holds his jaw, pulls the tine of his spectacles back over his left ear.

Okay, that was it.

“It’s not me you have to worry about, idiot,” says Tycho, an umbral darkness at the edges, just beginning to form.  “I’m not stealing these Goddamn things.  I didn’t even know about them until you rolled me up in all of your stupid crap.  If you had come to me even one hour earlier, we’d be three for four right now.  Where is the last painting?”

Hark makes a play for a drawer in what he must imagine is a furtive manner, but in actual practice is as clandestine as skywriting.  Gabriel nods “No,” swipes over the desk, flips Hark by his collar upside down and onto the floor.  Hunches over him.  For the first time, Hark can smell the hot clay of his breath.

Tycho yanks out the drawer, turning it over and spreading the contents.  There is a mask buried in these entrails, immediately recognizable: the perfect face of Michelangelo’s David.  Undeservedly proud, and irredeemably wry; that is to say, it is immanently human.

He is raising the mask to his own face, and he is not entirely sure why.  He certainly doesn’t want to.  But, like so much else, it was never really his choice. 

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