Golden Bridge Chronicle
Chapter 1: The Painting
Copyright ©2017-2018 Beldro Mercier & CSU Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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To play during reading Bach – Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major
A lazy October morning sun was piercing through the bay windows of my apartment. It was an Indian summer in Quebec City; the leaves had changed to their full array of colours from a shiny golden to a deep purple, passing through the calm oranges and the bold reds, but still with some greens. The deep and permanent evergreens would soldier through the winter, but there were other bright greens still, defying the coming winter or having not yet realized that the end of a year was fast approaching. They had not fallen from the trees yet, clinging to their tree for just a little longer. These were the colours of the past few days, soothing yet invigorating to me.
The shining sun was warming my sleeping body on the bed. My slender frame, face buried in the pillow, just appreciating the comfort. I wasn’t exactly sleeping, but was in that twilight state, too tired to actually awake, but not sleepy enough to go back. I was just taking in the warmth on my body.
The light sheet was barely covering any of my body, mostly discarded during the tossing and turning of my sleepless night. That’s wasn’t new. I could hardly remember when the last time was that I had a completely restful sleep. My mind was anxious; I’ve always been anxious. Since I started primary school I was anxious. Anxious about the decisions and choices that I made. Anxious about what was happening around me, my security, my livelihood. Anxious about the opinions of others of me. Anxious about others, for the few persons I regularly met. Anxious about my future, my path, my destiny. My very soul was agitated. Even more so now than in the past. But at least I didn’t feel the itch to my soul that I have felt. It had ended some time ago.
My mind slowly woke to my familiar surroundings, my studio. I needed to start my day at some point and it decided that it was now. I opened my eyes to the windows, appreciating yet again the beauty of the autumn season. I sat on my bed, no more than a mattress thrown on the floor in a corner of the open space. I didn’t choose that studio for the multiple rooms, but the wide-open space with floor-to-ceiling windows all along one of the walls that gave luxurious light to the space. I chose this apartment, after graduating university, for its location. It was at the right place, far enough out of the city to be quiet, but near enough to access the city life easily. It was on the top floor of the complex, just a bit higher than all its surroundings, giving me an unrestricted view. I also fell in love with the well-kept, but old industrial feels of the place. There was a view, exposed old red brick walls, even wooden floors, and exposed wooden beams for the ceiling. It was bare without being sterile, functional without being artificial. The open space was divided into sections, a corner with my bedroom; along the wall opposite the windows, a small kitchen, and in a corner a dwarf blueberry bush, it presence being a centre piece of the space; along the windows, there were paints, brushes, canvas and easel, all you would need for painting. Finally, in a small separate room, a small bathroom. It was the most modern space of the studio, with separate bath and shower, lined with large ceramic tile, floating cabinets and bare suspended lights. Next, to the entrance, there was a wrought iron stair leading to the roof of the building, where, during the summer, I kept a small garden, my meditation space. On the walls, there were two things, either paintings I did, or bookshelves filled with art, history, cultural and philosophy books.
I stretched my slim frame, which was mostly hairless, more from genetics than choice. I was able to keep quite a low weight for someone in their early 20s; I was 170 lbs, mostly by my exercise, but also from a long time on an artist student wage. I was quite tall, 6′ 2″, and my slender body emphasized it. I had long dark brown hair, and I liked to tie it stylishly, but for exercise, a functional bun to help with the workout. After my routine, I felt relaxed and composed to start my day. I showered, ate, tended to my blueberries, and started painting. I didn’t bother to dress for any of that, since I wasn’t planning on going out. I busied myself preparing the paint and the canvas, but at the exact point I took a brush to begin, all the enthusiasm and glow I tried to absorb in the morning instantly left me. In that beautiful fall morning, I felt totally empty. It wasn’t the first time that I had a sudden malaise of the sort, but it was becoming more and more frequent lately. I felt profoundly sorrowful, gloomy and miserable. I didn’t feel that what was surrounding me meshed with what I felt. I calmed myself and emptied my mind’s eye. Concentrating on the feelings of the space surrounding me, the energies flowing through and around me. My mind drifting on the lines crisscrossing the environment. I constructed an image of what I wanted to do in my mind’s eye and I started to paint, not seeing the canvas, only doing, being in a trance state. I don’t know when I stopped but I opened my eyes back to reality, or were they already open? And I saw that I had completed the painting. It was a geometric and abstract painting, filled with shapes and lines, precise edges and yet diffused shapes, all in the autumn afternoon colours. It was at the same time radiant and oppressing. The process was completely exhausting. I used my power to be able to create, but I needed to rest. I didn’t bother to clean the paint stains on my body that I managed to get all over me, I just shuffled and fell straight in my bed.
I woke up in a panic, being totally confused about what was happening. Then I heard my phone ring and realized. I picked up the phone and stood up, looking at the paint stains on my body.
“Hello, Beldro Mercier,” I said.
“Hello, Beldro, it’s Charles, How are you? Did I wake you up? It’s 5 pm!”
I recognized the voice; it was a friend; or rather an acquaintance in the Order. “Yes, well I took a nap after painting all morning.”
“Good, being an artist and being able to do that.” He was sounding a bit denigrating; that’s why he wasn’t a friend.
“How can I help you?” I said, purposefully sounding irked.
“I would have a job for you. It came to the Order and it would fit your expertise. If you are interested, come to the Athenaeum.”
“Ok, I’m coming,” I said before I ended the call.
Taking more note of my stained body, I saw that I did a thorough job painting myself; and this time I even had managed to get some on my butt cheeks. How did I achieve that? I took another shower, making sure I was completely clean. I didn’t want to justify my starving artist status with a dishevelled artist image. Looking in the mirror, I saw deeply into my own deep green eyes, my favourite feature. I did up my long dark brown hair in a clean braided bun. I dressed smartly, but still with a creative flair. The sun was fast setting but it was warm enough for a light coat. I descended and took the bus to the Athenaeum. It was in the Old Quebec Upper town, in an old English library, underground. I always liked the old classical Britannic style of the building
I entered the building, wondering what kind of job the Mysterium could want from me. I was a university graduate in visual art with a good knowledge of design, computer graphics, and historical art analysis. Not that they proved to be of much use as skills in a mage order. I wondered if maybe it was my current Master’s study in art restoration and conservation. I was just starting the program, and it was only to keep my student status. Since my Awakening, I didn’t do much work to help them; I mostly took the training they asked me to do. They had shown me enlightening and convoluted concepts at the same time. At least my study methodology helped me learn fast on the first try; I took on learning everything I was allowed to know on the occult subject and since coming across geomancy. Specifically the study of ley lines, transferral of emotions, the inter-connectivity of place, people, and their past experiences; I was obsessed with the subject. Far from an adept of it, but an avid amateur of Feng shui and secret geometry. I had also picked out that it had affected my painting and my style; before I was more into impressionism and landscapes and now I am more into the abstract and geometric.
Once I arrived at the bottom of the stairs leading into the main hall of the Athenaeum, the beating heart of the Mysterium Order in Quebec, I spotted Charles sitting on an antique couch from the 1800s, haughtily looking at nothing, clearly lost in thought. He was higher in the Order then me, I was only an Initiate, but he wasn’t that much higher in the Order. I knew he was an accountant, a functionary or something like that in his day job and he was working with the Censor for the Order, but nothing gave him the right to his smugness toward me. I would have to have my payback another time; as he was my assigned handler at the moment and he possessed arcane knowledge I wanted. After all, knowledge is power. As long as he has that knowledge, he has power over me. I came up to him with purpose, stood in front of him rather than sitting down, in order to keep it short and to the point.
“Hi Beldro, happy to see you for some work. I knew you would need some.” He said.
“What is this job?” I said trying to avoid giving in to his jabs.
“Well, following the death of a prominent member of the Order, Kenneth Morin, also known as Melbourne, I, of course, was the one tasked, to review the estate for any illicit items. I came across an old painting that clearly is magic, but doesn’t seem dangerous. I figured you had the time to do an appraisal.” He answered..
“I can take a look at it and do an appraisal, but it would be more convenient for me to do it from my studio. I have my references and it would take some time. And considering you can assure me that it’s harmless, I don’t think it would be of any problem.” I didn’t want to have to spend any more time with him, so it was the best excuse to avoid him and flatter him at the same time.
“Indeed, I am sure it is a harmless dedicated magic tool or something. You can take it; I will bring it from the vault. It will take some time considering the security I have to be cleared through. One day, I might bring you to see, when you are ready.” He stood.
“I will be in the library while you go retrieve it.” I turned and didn’t even look back at him. I really had enough with him at this point.
I wandered through the stacks of the library fairly aimlessly, keeping an eye out for any magical artifact books. Eventually, I settled for a volume about the history of magic art and symbolism. I knew I was a fast reader; I always was able to fall into a rhythm and be able to skim through a text and easily grasp all of its meaning. I was also able to remember every detail in the text after the first read, having a mind map of all my reference and know exactly where I saw a piece of information.
I was about a quarter of the way into the volume when Charles arrived with a large, flat wooden box, clearly containing a painting. I silently took it, checked out the book, and went back home.
Once home I cleared away some space and laid the box down flat so that when I opened it the painting would face up. As I opened the box, I found a rather simple painting. It was about three feet by four feet with an unsophisticated frame. It was generally in good shape but clearly quite old. The painting itself was of a large oak tree alone on a hill in the centre with a separate forest on the right and a lake on the left. It was in an early Italian Renaissance to high Renaissance style. If it was an original, which I doubted, it would be quite rare, since it was a secular piece, without any character; a pure landscape. At that point, it was quite late in the day and I decided to leave the investigation for tomorrow when I had the time to continue my analysis. I prepared for my sleep, disrobed and fell asleep relatively easily.
My dreams wandered to the Renaissance, into an Italian workshop with a painter that was looking at sketches. There were many unfinished paintings, some seemed familiar but I was unable to remember from where. That was strange for me and it bothered me for a moment, but I wasn’t able to dwell on it for long because as I moved around the space, I spotted a young nude man posing for the artist. He looked familiar but I was so aroused by the sight that I became drawn to the model, unable to construct any complicated thought. At the exact moment I was about to touch him, he turned and looked straight at me and I woke up in a panic. I was aroused, confused, and drenched in sweat.
The sun had not come up yet, it was still in the early morning. I was fully awake and aware, and it was no use to go back to sleep. Noticing my excited state, I thought I could use some release. I wanted to calm myself before that and a shower seemed like a good idea. As I walked to the bathroom, I looked at the tree painting and I was shocked at what I saw: the painting had changed, and now there was an orange fox under the tree, curled up and sleeping. I moved closer to get a better look and it began to move.
Thank you to Jason Bellaraux and Vlad Strelok, authors of the Shamans In Love series, as my editor and as a good feedback source.
Thank you to Mark Christensen for his editing, review and comments.
If you are interested to listen to music and see art inspiration of Beldro: https://beldromercier.tumblr.com/