A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part Four.

The be-damned hound was still following him, right up until Richard closed the door of his room. To his surprise, she didn’t whine or bark. He wondered if he was going to end up tripping over her when he left his cramped room in the morning. He didn’t know if Rain had set the dog to trail after him or not, but couldn’t help to feel uneasy by the canine shadow.

He wasn’t sure if that was he own prudence speaking up or if he was over reacting. His whole body felt battered and his mind tender, as if it had been smashed in the face of his new reality.

Richard sighed and ran his hands through his hair, frowning.

But Lord, how he missed Anne. There had been many times in his life when Richard had no one by his side. When he and George had been sent away for their safety after their father was killed, Richard would sometimes ache from the crushing isolation that bore down on him. After George tried defecting to Warwick and Edward was bending over backwards to please the Woodvilles and his new wife, Richard had felt very alone in the London court. He hadn’t even had Lovell there.

Anne had often been able to sympathize with his feelings, having spent her own time away from her mother and sister, trapped with Henry and Margaret D’Anjou. Then again when George had trapped her, trying to steal her inheritance. Richard had known that with Anne by his side he would at least always have a steadfast companion, despite her sex.

But then after Ned and Anne had died, Richard knew that he’d lost his best connections to others and his isolation had been complete. Not even Catsby or Francis could ease the loneliness at the end. His solace had been in the thought that one day he’d meet them again in Heaven with the Lord.

Richard sat down on the bed very slowly.

But something had gone wrong, and now he was stuck here, still breathing, made up by some mad witch, and with Leonardo, the Italian who he couldn’t parse yet, and Robespierre who he already did not like. He scrubbed a hand over his face, the stubble of his beard scratching his palm.

He was beginning to tire, and very slowly laid down on the mattress, legs still hanging half off the bed. He closed his eyes and fell asleep almost at once.

Run faster, run faster, run faster. His heart was pounding and there was red blood splashed on his bristly white fur. He charged through the thick dark undergrowth, trees leering over and rose bush’s thorns adding to his scratches.

Behind Richard, he can hear the thunderous roars, the crackling of fire, and the hurricane like whooshes from wings. He was running like the wind, panting harshly, but he’s not going to be able to run forever. Even as the hunting beast bares down on him, Richard spun and instead charged fearlessly at his enemy.

Much larger than he, and filling the entire sky it seemed, was a red dragon, wings rending the stormy sky behind it. On it’s back was Henry Tudor, bearing a sword. Richard knew he could gore him, if only he can get close enough. He’s not afraid of a child, of a puffed-up traitor. He’s going to kill him and bring an end to all this suffering.  

But it was never going to be enough, because even as he raced to his foe, the dragon reached down and snatched him off the ground, teeth tearing into his side. There was a disorienting moment before the dragon closed his mouth that Richard could see out, into the sky, but then the beast swallowed and Richard was dropped into darkness.

He landed, squealing in shock, anger, and pain, in the sick of the stomach. Bile engulfed him and Richard paddled furiously to stay afloat in the foul liquid.

Around him he could see the bones and tusks of his family. His father’s head, crowned in a ring of white roses and thorns, his brothers, Edmund, Edward, and George, and sister, Margret. His son, like him but in miniature, flesh melting off his bones and flesh seared red.

Anne, throat torn out and eyes closed, was bobbing in the red sludge. Richard paddled harder, but the thick liquid was wearing him down and he knew that soon he would not be able to hold himself up any longer. He moved over to where Anne was, and slowly allowed himself to stop swimming.

Richard woke with a start, painfully banging his foot off the metal frame of the bed. Curing, Richard rolled over and grabbed the injury. Thankfully the pain chased the worst of the fog of the night terror away. By the time the ankle stopped throbbing Richard had nearly gotten his heart beat under control.

He laid back down and clapped a hand over his eyes, frowning grimly.

In that moment, he was eight years old again, homesick and mourning his family all over again.   

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part Three.

During the Revolution Maximilien’s habit had been to stay up until at least midnight, writing his drafts, revising, answering correspondence, and while working on the Committee, arguing bitterly with Collot d’Herbois and Barras.

However he found himself more easily tired now. It was as if death had sapped all of his energy, he thought, somewhat wryly.

Max persisted, eyes tracing over the familiar words of Rousseau. He knew that he it did him no good to dwell, but it didn’t stop him from wanting the comforting presence of what he knew.

Rainbow Miller kept hinting at his reputation after his death, but Max very carefully kept from that as well. For him, it had been less than a week since he made his speech to thunderous applause at the Jacobin club, tried to make his declamation to the Assembly, been arrested, escaped jail, seen his comrades shot, been injured, and finally sentenced to death.

It seemed to him that ripping open the wound, as if to blood let, would do nothing to aid his adjustment to his current situation.

So he re-read The Social Contract, Émile, and made it into Confessions, before inevitably, his eyes started to close.

He was in the Pantheon. Torchlight from a wildly swinging latern made shadows sway along the tombs. Maxime looked around and realized he was standing among familiar bodies. Camille and Lucile rested closest to him, eyes closed peacefully. At first Max convinced himself they were sleeping, but then he looked closer and realized that Camille’s head was actually simply placed near his neck, not on it.

There was no blood.

Max walked between the bodies of Augustin, Charlotte, Henriette. The Duplays. Horace. Saint-Just. Danton.

“These are yours.” Max suddenly realized that Marat had been standing next to him the entire time. He still had Corday’s knife sticking out of his chest. He gestured to Louis Capet and Marie Antoinette.

Max shook his head. He could not speak with the scent of death rising up around him.

Marat took his arm and started leading him past more bodies. Brissot, Couthon, Mirabeau, Bailey.

“These are all the ones that you caused to be killed,” Marat, in his typical fashion gesticulated wildly, arm sweeping around, the knife in his chest wobbling with every movement. His voice started to be pitched higher and higher. “Jacobins, Girondists, Indulgents.”

Max stumbled to a stop, and clapped a hand to his mouth. He could feel bile, oily and hot, rising in his throat. Grey mist rose in front of his eyes. Was it the torchlight or had Augustin’s head turned to him? Was Camille blinking slowly or was it his mind?

“The entire Revolution, lumped in with the ilk of Cromwell.” Marat finished, standing in front of Max. His yellow eyes seemed to burn in the strange atmosphere of the Pantheon.

He opened his mouth to speak and instead felt the bile rise, and rise until he was gagging.

But it was not bile at all. A huge, grey, slimy worm emerged from his mouth, spilling out down past his neck and chest, squirming lazily. Max’s mouth hung open dumbly as the weight of the worm forced his tongue to the side. He could taste the rot and dirt from the invertebrate in his mouth.

Marat took hold of the warm and yanked on it, and Maximilien nearly fell into him. The suddenly hands from all around were grabbing at him, at the issue of his mouth.

“Terror shall be the order of the day.”

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”

Words that he’d never said, never declared spilled from the worm while the dead tried to rip it from his body. Pale, stiff hands pawed at his face and shoulders.

With a final yank, delivered by Phillipe Lebas, still bleeding from temple, the worm was ripped from his mouth. Maximilien looked at the slimy appanage.

But it was not the disgusting insect from inside, it was a sluggishly bleeding tongue instead.

Max woke with a start, hands flying up to his face and knocking his new glasses askew. His skin was clammy and shivers ran over belly and back. He shuddered as his fingers brushed over the raised skin of the guillotine scar.

He put the book on the side of bed, and curled himself under the covers, still shaking with the aftershocks of the dream.

It took a long time for him to fall back asleep.    

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part Two.

Leonardo rubbed distractedly at his eyes, blinking in the harsh light. He’d gone to his borrowed room after dinner, and the collective decision to try and leave Rain had been made.

His mind felt crowed by too much, the past few days catching up with him.

One moment Leonardo had been dying in France and the next he was alive in North America. It felt to him like he was only half-awake, a disquieting feeling, as Leonardo had always prided himself on his ability to see things as they really were. However now he was reliant on Rain’s interpretation, locked inside of her home and blocked at odd junctures from outside information.

Leonardo found the animated laughing mask that blocked him from certain ‘websites’ infuriating.

He sighed and went back to staring at the tablet screen: he’d been reading his companions histories.

Richard, it turned out had a whole scandal behind his rule. Having lived in Milan for a good portion of his adult life, Leonardo found it hard to be scandalized by the theory that Richard may have had his nephews killed to clear his way to the throne. Abhorrent, but nothing that Leonardo had not heard from Nicco or seen Caesar Borgia before. He was mildly surprised to find that Richard had died younger than he or Robespierre, however. There was something so…ancient in the ex-king’s bearing, that it made Leonardo assume he’d been an old man when he’d died. He presumed that it had something to do with the man’s spine. The official biography said it was ‘scoliosis, a twisting of the spine that occurred in adolescent. It would account for the pained grimace the man seemed to carry constantly.

Meanwhile, he also found himself stunned and entranced by the times Maximilien Robespierre came from.

Leonardo could scarcely wrap his head around the philosophe of the period, phrases from ‘The Rights of Man’ swimming before his eyes, let alone the frantic action that followed. An entire populace rising against their sovereign. Leonardo thought he’d seen the height of madness during the French Occupation of Lombardy, he could only imagine the horrors of what all of France would be like in a riot.

He found himself drawn to the guillotine, drawing it over a dozen times in his notes, from different angles and sizes. Once he’d included a headless corpse, simply to amuse and frighten himself. It was such a perfect method of death, from the height of blade to the materials used. Leonardo already wanted to see if there was a way to improve it.

Robespierre, shockingly, seemed to be at the very epicenter of much of the Revolution. His name was repeated from 1789 to 1794, and even cited by the men who followed after him. For such a withdrawn and diminutive figure, Robespierre must have been an amazing orator when he put his mind to it, Leonardo concluded.

He rubbed his eyes again and smother his yawn. He spun the pen in his hand, and followed the spinning movement. Slowly, his eyes shut.

Falling asleep is something your brain does automatically. You close your eyes for one moment and your brain shuts down higher functions.

Leonardo was still sketching, firelight playing over his paper while his red chalk chased the flickering shadows. It seemed like hours later when a knock on the wooden door disturbed him. Without getting up he was at the door and opening it.

It was the Officers of the Night, but Leonardo could not identify their faces. They took him, and suddenly Leonardo was standing in front of the moral guardians of Florence. Except they wore tri colored slashes and had feathers in their hats. This didn’t strike Leonardo as odd.

“Leonardo ser Piedro da Vinci you stand accused of indecency and sodomy. Evidence has been brought before the court,” Salai, dressed as Bacchus, stepped forward and smiled at Leonardo, “and you have been sentenced to death.”

Leonardo blinked again and he was walking up to the scaffold. Except it wasn’t. The shape of the guillotine was back by the stars in the inky sky, were kites flew, calling out to one another before landing and pecking at the eyes of dead and skeletal bodies. Leonardo looked over at the executioner and found a crooked-backed Lorenzo de Medici holding the rope. He grimaced as he was tied down to the plank.

As it ever was, his own patrons were the most destructive aspect of his life.

He had the perfect angle to survey the crowd before the blade came down. He felt no fear, only a curious sensation of inevitability. He heard the blade fall, but felt no pain. His head fell and met the wood of the scaffold.

Leonardo sighed as he woke up. He groaned when he realized he’d drooled all over his sketches and the desk. The clock only read a half hour later. The dream had left nothing but a vague feeling of illness, a sudden queasiness that left an ache in his temples and a greasy feeling at the back of his throat.

He rubbed his eyes again, and surrendered to the inevitable: clearly it was time for bed.

A Fiction Agreed Upon. Episode Seven: Rest in Pain. Part One.

PART ONE.

Richard was back in the kitchen, face set soberly. His back was to a corner and his arms crossed over his chest.

He eyed them both when they sat down. Rain was nowhere to be seen. “She headed off to the basement, and told me not to leave the house.” He sneered. “Did Leonardo tell you what Miller told us? About the,” Richard waved his hand at the back of his neck.

Robespierre nodded grimly. “Oui.” He sat down, crossing his arms tightly over his chest.

Richard shook his head slowly and rubbed a hand over his face.

“I’ve never imagined a future could be like this,” he muttered lowly. “The barbarity of it.”

Robespierre nodded in agreement, and frowned sourly.

“I agree.” The words came out slowly and very quietly. Leonardo smiled slightly. Clearly it pained the other man to admit the two of them could agree on anything.

“So what do we do about it?” Leonardo asked quietly. Both of the other men looked at him.

“Do?” Richard asked.

“Si. We can’t just sit here and let ourselves be trapped here, as some entertainment to Rain,” Leonardo whispered urgently.

Robespierre nodded again. “We could leave in the middle of night. We’d have hours ahead of her.”

“She said the government here will catch up to us,” Richard pointed out.

“Maybe that’s what we want, to be caught.” Leonardo stroked a hand over his chin.

Richard turned his steely gaze to Leonardo. “What do you mean?”

“It’s clear that Rain will not let us go. And we cannot leave without help. Ergo, we should seek to be caught. Perhaps someone will be sympathetic to our plight.” Leonardo spread his hands out and shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s… not very optimistic,” Robespierre pointed out slowly.

Richard made an abortive frustrated movement, as if to draw a weapon from his belt, fingers scraping his belt. “I’m not fond of the idea of just waiting for our opportunity to leave,” he growled.

“What do you suggest, murdering Rain and running for it?” Robespierre suggested acerbically. Richard turned to the corner, hands braced on the countertop.

“No,” he finally said, after a heavy silence. “But if the opportunity doesn’t arrive within a fortnight, I’m taking my leave of this place, aid or no.”

Richard pushed his way past Leonardo on his way out of the kitchen.

“Well, that went well,” he sighed. Robespierre snorted.

“He won’t ever listen to good sense,” the Frenchman opinioned. “Only to his own.”

Leonardo shrugged again. “We can try at least.”

XXX

That night, dinner passed as a quiet, awkward affair. Rain, over a simple meal of bread, olives, wine, and fish, which all three of her guests were familiar with, and so spared her the quickly exhausting task of trying to explain every food in the replicator to them. Richard would eat whatever you in front of him, as long as it was hot, while Leonardo seemed intent on questioning her on every aspect of the dish.

Rain put her fork aside and looked at each of the three men in turn. Richard was tearing into the bread and chasing it with wine. He kept his eyes on his plate and Rain thought she could see a muscle in his cheek twitching. Leonardo was seemingly intent on his olives, and Robespierre was taking tiny delicate bites of fish, ignoring the wine entirely.

“Look, I know you don’t understand now, but really, the IDs were the best solution for the Federation. It brought some stability back to the planet after World War three and the environmental fallout.”

The flat unimpressed stares that she was met with made Rain half throw her hands up.

“Out of anyone, I’d think the three of you could appreciate that the most, you know, stability.”

“There’s a difference between stability and a leash,” Robespierre said quietly.

“Because the Terror was the most effective means of governing,” Rain snapped back. Robespierre tilted his head, myopic gaze glittering with confusion. Rain took a deep breath and flapped her hand in his direction. “Never mind.”

Leonardo cleared his throat gently. “When do you return to work? Surely you’ll be missed.”

Rain leaned back and smirked. “I have another month of leave before anyone expects me back.”

Richard glanced at Leonardo, who shrugged and smiled affably.

“Wonderful. I’m sure you still have much to show us.”

Rain brightened. “Yeah! There’s a lot you’ve missed being dead the past fifteen hundred years. Oh, I should show you movies tomorrow.” She smirked. “Disney is going blow your mind.”

Leonardo nodded, smiling pleasantly. He had methodically been tearing a slice of bread into smaller and smaller chunks.

“I’m sure it will be enlightening.”

Rain beamed and got up from the table, taking her dish to the replicator and recycling it.

“Don’t stay up too late, we have princess movies to watch tomorrow!” She ruffled Leonardo’s hair, and limped away.

XXX

Leonardo ran his hand through his hair, smoothing it back down from where Rain had touched it.

Richard and Robespierre were silent, both of them staring at him. He sighed.

“Two weeks, and I’m willing to try our fortune by leaving.”

Richard nodded grimly and looked at Robespierre. “And you?”

Robespierre glanced over the rim of his glasses and sighed. “I will not stay here, not if there is a chance to return to France.”

Leonardo nodded and smiled gently. “I would like to return to Italy, as well.”

“England. York.” Richard muttered.

The three man sat in silence, thinking of their homes, a calling in their bones that couldn’t be denied.