Mourning Lady With A Rose / Trauernde Frau mit...
Mourning Lady With A Rose / Trauernde Frau mit Rose (01) (Photo credit: Georg Schwalbach (GS1311))

“Grandfather, before your nap: you promised me a story!”

“Certainly. What sort?”

“Spooky, please.”

“Very well. So, when I was a young redcap I was stationed in Istria, which is near Italy, but in the Transylvanian Tribunal. It’s a strange and history haunted place. There was a storm, and I’d had to leave the barn I was staying in because I’d stolen some wine from the farmer who owned it. Although, to be fair, his wife had drunk half of it and so I was kind of undressed…”

“Grandfather! I’m only twelve, remember?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! You were there when I was born!”

“Oh, yes. Lovely day. Anyway, there was a terrible storm, and so I was walking through the blinding rain and I’d lost my shoes again.  I found this sheltered nook where the road had caved in. It had been built over some sort of grotto tomb, and so I thought “Well, I mean, ghosts are people, and people are generally good, so I can shelter in here, and talk my way out of it if it is haunted.” So I tied a rope off to a nearby tree and lowered myself down the hole.

The tomb had a couple of magical traps, but they were marked with Hermetic symbols, so I was able to avoid triggering them. Older sorts of stuff, left over from the War, was often marked this way, after the Diedne were killed. They don’t teach younger people about it anymore. Not a lot of the old traps left,so they don’t need to. I’d read a book about them, though, in your great-grandmother’s study. So, I walked through to the tomb. It was one of those marble ones, you know. Good flat top, and warmed by a perpetual flame, so it seemed like just the spot for a nap, while the storm blew itself out.

I was awakened by a touch on my shoulder. It was a Tremere maga. She was prodding me with a stick, and her left hand had been transformed into a mass of five serpents, each spitting and snapping. She asked why I was prying into the affairs of her House. I promised I wasn’t, and let her read my mind…

“You’re about to make a lurid insinuation, aren’t you?”

“…um, no, not now. There’s a sort of timing to lurid insinuations which you seem to ruin with interruptions.”

“I know. So, why did she nearly kill you?”

“Well, the tomb was a leftover secret from the war. It belonged to — a psilos!”

“Ooh!  What’s a psilas?”

“You know what a psilos is. Your mother’s a psilos.”

“I know. So, why the big buildup?  She was a psilos.  La de dah. Aren’t we all?”

 
 

“Well, your mother’s family are, but you see, we don’t tell people.”

“Why not? What’s wrong with being a psilos?”

“It makes magi nervous. They don’t like the idea that mortals were ever trained to hunt and kill them.”

“But…we haven’t done it recently.”

“No, and they trained us to begin with. All of the psilos families, if you trace them back far enough, started with the Tremere.”

“The psilos you found, she served the Tremere?”

“Yes.”

“So, she didn’t kill you.”

“Who?”

“The Tremere maga. The one with the snakes for fingers?”

“Oh, no. She was distracted…”

“Grandfather!”

“..and convinced that I was no threat. And so I was allowed to go.”

“What, is that the story?”

“Yes, it even has a moral. Can you guess what it is?”

“Don’t tell magi you are a psilos?”

“Exactly right!”

“That wasn’t spooky at all! You said it would be spooky!”

“I crawled into a grave and fell asleep inside. That’s spooky!  I was attacked by someone with snaky fingers – like these!”

“Stop that!  I hate being tickled!”

“You loved it as a baby.”

” I’m not a baby! I’m twelve!”

“Say it was spooky!”

“Alright! Alright! It’s spooky!  … I was expecting a ghost, though.”

“There was a ghost.”

“Oh, pswah! You are going to say the maga was a ghost!”

“Have I told you this before?

“Oh, you are so infuriating at times! That’s so transparently a lie!”

“Hehe. Ask your grandmother…I’m having my nap.”

“Grandmother, did grandpa ever tell you about a ghostly woman with a set of snakes for a hand?”

“Yes, she showed up several times in his life.”

“And sleeping in a grave?”

“Also more than once. Did he trick you into finishing your story for him?”

“I think so. So it was all true?”

“No, there was no flat lid on the grave. He slept curled up with a marble statue of the woman with the serpents for her hand.”

“Oh, that’s far better, you know. Why didn’t he mention it?”

“I’ve no idea. Perhaps he didn’t want to mention the part where they tore off his arm.”

“His arm? He has two arms!”

“A magus restored the other for him, in exchange for some of the treasures he stole from that tomb.”

“This is nothing like the story he told me!”

“Well, you do keep insisting that you are twelve.”

“I am twelve!”

“Well, you can’t blame him for shielding you from the horrific things. Settle now. Have your supper.”

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