65. His Lordship Used to Model, But He Was Young and Needed the Money

The pace of operations increases. In their second month, the Magnificent Five stop eight shipments, and ride out two and three nights a week. Their fame spreads beyond political circles, and all five become minor folk heroes.

As they’re riding back early one morning, Aramil says, “Inglorion, don’t let me forget. My friend John Lawrence wants to paint you.”

“Never heard of him,” says Inglorion. “Tell him I used to model, but only because I was young and I needed the money. Matters are different now.”

“I’d do it if I were you. He’s skilled, and is starting to build a reputation. His piece in the last Academy exhibition created quite a stir. He’s hot to paint you — says you’re a heroic figure. In a year, you won’t be able to afford him.”

“Aramil, did you tell him I’m a Shelawn? I wish you wouldn’t spread lies like that.”

“No, no, he knows the whole story.”

“Why on earth would he want to paint me, then? I mean, I’m happy to oblige him. Tell him my only condition is that I insist on wearing drag.”

“I think he had something more heroic in mind,” says Aramil primly. “He’s very taken with that Reynolds portrait of Tereus.”

“God, no,” says Inglorion with real revulsion. “I will not have every subsequent Shelawn saying, ‘Here’s the Reynolds portrait of Tereus Shelawn, nobly leading his people into battle against the marauding Drow, and over here, on this much smaller panel, for some reason we have this little daub of a degenerate Drow spy on a pony.’”

“Like a real elf, but much, much smaller?” asks Aramil.

“Let the record reflect that where it really mattered, His Lordship was not lacking in inches,” says Inglorion. “I’m thinking of having that put on my headstone. What do you think?”

Valentine chimes in, “I think you’re remarkably defensive on the subject. Just as a neutral observer.”

Aramil nods. “If you feel proof is needed, you can always commission something to hang unobtrusively, perhaps in the library.”

“‘Here, on this five by eight canvas in landscape orientation, we have a life-sized depiction of the ducal junk,’” says Valentine. “I believe Tereus did that with Copenhagen you know — had a portrait painted when he was put out to stud.”

“Just of his dick? I don’t want to meet the man who can make a judgment on that basis, even if he does breed horses for a living,” says Inglorion. “Besides, it should be at least nine by twelve. The ducal junk needs room to breathe. If Lawrence wants to paint me, I’m game. I won’t be painted like Tereus, though.” He gazes thoughtfully between his horse’s ears, then a smile suddenly spreads over his face. “I’ve got it! Aramil, you know how Saint Augustine is depicted?”

“At the head of a mob of bearded dudes?”

“No, not as a church father. You know, the conversion scene from the Confessions, ‘Take and read.’”

Aramil chortles, “God, yes! Dropping to your knees in a garden, with light pouring down through a gap in the clouds!”

“Yup. Though I’d settle for, ‘Guy sitting in his study gazing pensively out the window.’”

“You want to be painted as a saint?” says Valentine. “No one will fall for that.”

“No, no, it’s perfect,” says Inglorion. “Augustine was my man: ‘God give me chastity, but not yet’? Come on, he’s my spirit animal. We’ll skip the bishop’s vestments, though. That would be weird.”

“Oh, yeah,” says Aramil. “It needs to be the young Augustine, an idealistic convert dazzled by the light of revelation.”

When they return to Liamelia, then, Aramil arranges for Inglorion to visit the studio of the most promising young portrait artist of the era.

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