49. Lying Chastely in the Arms of a Beautiful Young Man

From that night on, Inglorion and Lucius are together almost constantly. A typical afternoon and evening with Lucius begins with both of them dressing up, Lucius as Greta X or Terminator X, depending on what bit he’s practicing or where he’s performing that night. His warpaint as Terminator X is elaborate, often covering his face and bare chest entirely. It’s sometimes based on prints or traveling shows that Lucius has seen, sometimes entirely made up.

“I used to think I’d like to be more authentic,” he says on one occasion, “To research a single tribe and create a consistent character. But there’s little reliable information, and I’m always aware that being authentic and seeming authentic to an audience are two different things, and when they come into conflict, you should choose what seems authentic. The same is true of drag — you’re creating an illusion, and at times you must sacrifice authenticity to illusion.”

Once they’re dressed, Lucius will rehearse for an upcoming performance, or work on choreography. He occasionally asks for Inglorion’s help with something, or points out a technique, but mostly Inglorion spends the time reviewing or writing reports, writing in cypher, or pursuing whatever translation project has caught his fancy.

If Lucius has a performance scheduled, Inglorion often accompanies him and watches from the audience or wings; if he’s absorbed in his own work, he’ll stay behind in Lucius’s dressing room or quarters. Lucius is out quite late, especially for cabaret performances. They first spend the night together because Inglorion settled into trance waiting for Lucius, and when Lucius got back, he simply poked Inglorion until he moved over, then joined him in bed. To Lucius this is unremarkable — he’s used to sleeping over with friends of both sexes and every possible sexual orientation. In the morning Inglorion feels calm and cheerful, just like he used to when he and Sieia would sleep together as children.

Inglorion feels that with women other than Sieia, he has to police himself, consider what his actions may mean, whether he’s leading some poor lass on. With women, it seems necessary to have periodic discussions that cannot be other than uncomfortable. Inglorion provides laborious explanations of his situation: He lives in the Underdark, not here, and eventually must leave; he finds her charming, and hopes that they can continue to do this, though not forever; he hopes she will continue to allow whatever liberties he’s taken, but she must understand that their intimacy could end at any time.

Lucius doesn’t require explanations. His deeper feelings find expression indirectly, through song or dance. Though he has tender feelings for Inglorion, he doesn’t analyze them. He wants to snuggle and talk, and to spar, and sing duets, and work in each other’s company. It makes him happy to fall asleep in Inglorion’s arms and wake up next to him, so he does that with little thought or worry. 

Inglorion’s habits are deeply private, so he spends several nights with Lucius before Aramil and Valentine begin to suspect anything. One afternoon when Aramil stops by, he finds Lucius and Inglorion sparring with rapiers in Inglorion’s sitting room. Aramil is introduced to Lucius in his day-to-day male persona, and finds him to be calm, reserved, sweet — an odd companion for his crazy Drow uncle, who, when Aramil comes to think of it, has little time for men other than himself and Valentine. He mentions the meeting to Valentine that evening, and Valentine merely says, “It’s probably the Drow thing. You’d be surprised how strong that bond can be. I’m sure they have a lot in common.”

The following morning, Valentine seeks Inglorion out in the library to pass on a bit of intelligence. He’s surprised to find Lucius there wearing one of Inglorion’s smoking jackets. Inglorion spends his mornings drinking coffee and studying, and he guards that time jealously. How does it happen, then, that a lovely little female impersonator should be padding around the flat in Inglorion’s clothes, eating buttered toast?

“Hello, Valentine,” says Inglorion. “There’s still coffee if you want some.” His manner is unembarrassed, but that doesn’t mean much. Inglorion is entirely shameless.

“I can always use another cup,” says Valentine. He pours it out, adds cream. Inglorion and Lucius have set their chairs and the tea-table as far as possible from the fire, Drow-style, so Valentine pulls a chair over to join them. 

“Valentine, I think you’ve only seen Lucius when he was dressed as Greta X,” says Inglorion. “Meet Lucius Scaevola, then. He’s a gladiator by day. Very handy with ranged weapons and a rapier.” 

Valentine and Lucius exchange bows. “Yes, we didn’t meet properly that night, though you did meet Aramil.”

Inglorion offers, “Valentine is my brother Marcus’s heir. He was raised in the Underdark, so he knows more of Drow ways than you or I.”

Lucius smiles, but seems shy, and disinclined to chat.

Inglorion and Valentine exchange a few more commonplaces, then Valentine says, “If you’re busy we can talk later. I had some information to pass on, but it’s not time-sensitive.”

To take an intelligence report from Valentine, Inglorion would have to ask Lucius to leave, and he doesn’t choose to do that, so he laughs and says, “I was working on a translation of Ovid. If your news can wait a few hours, I’ll seek you out later.”

When they see each other over luncheon, Valentine doesn’t ask about his cousin’s breakfast guest, and Inglorion offers no explanation.

Indeed, he can’t explain Lucius’s presence to himself. They’re enchanted with each other, and find each other beautiful and fascinating. Inglorion is not sexually attracted to Lucius — the idea is distinctly uncomfortable and taboo, much as it would be with Sieia — and he’s certain that Lucius feels the same. Inglorion is drawn to Lucius — fascinated with him, protective of him, interested in his welfare in a way he doesn’t commonly feel for either men or women. When they’re together, their connection doesn’t require explanation. Inglorion is reluctant to discuss it with anyone, though — Valentine or Aramil or, God forbid, Artemisia — because it seems impossible to list all the things it isn’t and still leave room for the affectionate bond that it is. 

For now, they’re both neglecting their work and social obligations. Inglorion has not seen Artemisia since he and Lucius met. Instead, he sends notes excusing himself from escorting her to this dinner or that salon, and ignores new invitations as they arrive. He feels odd about avoiding his nephew and cousin, but he’s never shared his emotional life with either one of them, and it can’t be denied that his relationship with Lucius is deeply emotional. 

The peculiar result of all this is that Inglorion spends several nights a week lying chastely in the arms of a beautiful young man.

Eventually Valentine and Aramil can’t ignore that there’s been a sudden shift in Inglorion’s schedule and associations. In the weeks following their group outing, Inglorion disappears for long stretches in the afternoon and evening, and is often out all night. Valentine and Aramil assume that he and Artemisia have made up their differences, and are enjoying a honeymoon. This illusion is destroyed when Valentine receives a stiff letter from Artemisia asking if he’s seen his cousin, who has broken a series of engagements, and has failed to present himself at her townhouse for weeks now. Valentine sends the following reply:

Madam,

I am not privy to my cousin’s day-to-day social calendar. If he has not provided you with a means of contact beyond your normal correspondence, it is not my place to do so.

Your very obedient servant,

Valentine Claudius Shelawn

With any other woman, Valentine would soften the tone a bit, perhaps refer to her distress, and remind her that it’s unlikely that Inglorion is dying dead in a ditch, the victim of assassins. However, like most people who wish Inglorion well, he has conceived a strong dislike of Artemisia. He suspects that Inglorion has found more congenial female companionship, and while he is happy for Inglorion, he sees no reason why he should stand the shock of Artemisia’s jealous rage.

That very afternoon, as he and Aramil are sparring idly in the armory, Valentine’s butler enters and gives an ominous cough that’s meant to be discreet. He hands Valentine a visiting card, and says, “The lady was very insistent — demanded to see you personally.”

“Oh, dear,” says Valentine. “‘Artemisia Anna de la Viña.’ We’re in trouble now, Aramil.”

“I can leave,” says Aramil with alacrity. “Especially if the lady was very insistent.”

“No, I’ll need a second. Porson, take her to the library and offer her refreshment. Aramil and I will see her once we’ve tidied up.”

Porson withdraws with an air of doom.

Valentine says, “Someone’s been a bad boy.” He pauses, then adds, “In all seriousness, I don’t like the lady. I trust Inglorion to manage his own affairs. I’m not telling her shit.”

Aramil considers, nods. “I don’t have the pleasure of her acquaintance, but if I can do Inglorion a service by stonewalling, I’m happy to do it.”

With this minimal plan Inglorion and Aramil wash up and head to the library. Valentine was introduced to Artemisia once, and has seen her occasionally in passing. Though she’s richly dressed, she’s not in her best looks. His impression is that she’s exhausted and agitated, perhaps ill. If he cared about her even slightly, he’d be concerned. To Aramil she seems shrewish and unpleasant, almost deranged — not Inglorion’s style at all.

“Madam, allow me to introduce my cousin Aramil,” Valentine says. Aramil and Artemisia exchange bows. “I hope Porson offered you refreshment.”

“Yes, he did,” says Artemisia. 

“I’m honored by this visit,” says Valentine, “but our acquaintance is so slight — perhaps you can explain why you’ve come?” It’s a rude beginning, and Artemisia flushes at the deliberate slight.

“As I said in my note, I haven’t heard from Inglorion in several days. I’m concerned for his welfare.”

“As I said in my reply, my cousin does not provide me with the details of his social calendar. If he came to any harm, Aramil and I would be notified. We’ve heard nothing, therefore we’re confident that Inglorion is enjoying his usual good health.”

“It’s unlike him to remain silent for so long. I’m worried.”

“Again, madam, I’m not privy to his social obligations. I will mention your concern when I see him next.”

“Did you know he’s been out every night this week?” He voice is sharp, too loud for the room and the company.

Valentine’s manner becomes, if possible, more coldly formal. “Madam, surely you can appreciate that it’s not my place to track my cousin’s movements, and that he would take it very ill if I attempted to do so.”

“When did you last see him?”

“Madam, I’ve told you all I intend to tell you.” He shrugs. “Honestly, if you have an argument with Inglorion, I think I would make a poor third.”

“I might have known I would receive no help from you,” she says waspishly. 

“Well, yes, you might have,” says Valentine. “I trust you will remember it in the future.” He rings for the butler. “Porson will see you out now.”

Artemisia looks poised to argue, but is abashed when Porson slips through the door immediately, as if he’s been waiting outside. She follows him out silently, darting an angry look at Valentine.

When the door has closed behind her, Aramil whistles. “You settled her hash.”

“Incivility wins the day, as usual.”

“Where do you think Inglorion is?”

“Knowing him, showing the sights to a visiting Egyptologist, or entertaining a set of Swedish triplets attached to a gymnastics troupe. He’ll reconcile his accounts when he’s good and ready. I don’t admire it, but that’s his way. I’m surprised that connection lasted as long as it did.”

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