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Gloriana Tenebrae

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Mar 22 2016, 08:44 PM
A place to put some random gubbins that would otherwise never see the light of day.

This is some random crap I wrote ages ago for a roleplay in which the narrative was entirely constructed from secondary sources (letters, diaries, newspaper articles, police reports, poetry, academic texts etc.) from multiple different time periods. It was a good idea, but it never really got off the ground, so these letters languished in the digital equivalent of a dusty old bureau for years. I came across them again recently and used them as backstory for a tabletop roleplay I was doing. Thought I might as well post them here for the delectation of random strangers. I resisted the urge to edit or rewrite them, cos I thought they'd be an interesting snapshot of a younger me, so please excuse their many faults. The style is “Lovecraft Pastiche” obviously, because that's what you do when you're young.




From the correspondence of Mr Marcus Zorn


18th May, 1924
61 Rue de Auseill
Paris

My dearest Cicely,
I’m sorry I have not written for so long. Our current financial straits have become so dire I was forced to use up all my paper drawing pictures of food, which we then devoured with gusto. V. had high hopes of the Riesling exhibition, but it has been cancelled or delayed, no-one seems sure which, and I fear he will never see a penny of the money owed him. We took our overcoats to pawn (pray for a hot summer ahead), but received only a derisory sum from the Jew, and it was barely enough to cover the rest of our rent. But never fear! faint hearts etc. - it may be my situation has taken a turn for the better, for Thursday last I received some sad but rather perplexing news. A letter arrived from lawyers acting on behalf of my uncle Thomas telling me the old boy had passed away, and has left me a comparatively substantial bequest. Not money, he was apparently penniless when he died, but his house in England and many of his papers and workbooks. I was surprised to learn of his death, and even more surprised that he remembered me in his will. I have not seen him since I was a child, and we have had no contact since he left Boston in disgrace. Mother, naturally, refused to tell me where he had gone (if she ever knew), and I assumed the poor chap had passed on years ago. Why was I made a beneficiary? Who knows? Perhaps it was an act of perverse solidarity, as we are both the black sheep of our family (tho my own rebellion is rather feeble compared to the scandals he wrought). Not sure what I will do with a house in some ghastly provincial northern town, but perhaps I can sell it. If I raise enough money, I will try and bringJess over, at least for a visit. Mother will kick up a fuss no doubt, but if I have the money there isn’t much the silly goose can do to stop me and it would do J. good to get out from under her thumb. Am attempting to raise the fare to get to England by buttering up one of Broshears’ toadies who has claimed interest in my work; a simply ghastly cove, but never short of a buck. He seemed interested when I told him I could introduce him to the ever elusive Max B. Now all I have to do is find him, not an easy task - he has become even more reclusive of late, and even V. has lost contact with him. I will write you again, once I am back in Paris.

Yr ever loving brother, Mark




1 October, 1924
1134 Rue De St Juste
Paris

I was delighted to hear from you last week. I was frantic with worry, but I trust your rest-cure has done you a world of good. You will notice the new address, somewhat more salubrious than before. At last I am moving up in the world. Finally managed to track down the Bordenghast painting. It was bought from his estate by T. Szasz, (whom I have mentioned before) no doubt attracted by the slight whiff of scandal and strangeness that surrounds it. I doubt very much the philistine dabbler knows what he has, but V. managed to get us on the guest list for the opening of his collection and I was able to restrain myself and perform the requisite amount of smarming and toadying. Honey rather than vinegar etc. Meeting Szasz in person confirmed my worst fears. He is a vulgar little wretch, with more money than sense, who thinks he can buy a freakish reputation by leaching off the talents of others. He had a singularly bizarre appearance. Ugly and almost homunculus like, rather young but with snow white hair and unnaturally pale skin. I thought at first he was an albino, and longed to whip his dark glasses off to confirm, but then I noticed the roots of his hair are black. What a sham! Everyone else seemed taken in by his execrable theatrics but I found it hard not to laugh. He reminds me of that fraud Dali, with his silly pretensions and his “look at me” stunts. He might as well have gone the whole hog and dressed in an opera cloak and fangs. It was worth it to see the painting first hand though. It sent shivers down my spine. How something so seemingly ordinary can project such a feeling of almost hateful alienness and creeping dread I do not know, but it was a rare genius that touched that canvas, and we are all sorry for his loss. Poor Max. I always thought his eccentricity was mostly an act, as mad painters are all the rage these days, but it seems his demons were very real, to him at least. I was in Glasgow when I heard of his death and by the time I made it back, the vultures had already descended, most of his unsolds had been spirited away to cover his debts. Everyone was very closemouthed about the circumstances. I suppose France is still a Catholic country, despite its superficial modernism, and suicide is regarded as a heinous sin, so perhaps that explains it. (tho I did hear rumours that something ghastly had been discovered in his rooms along with his body, and V. muttered about “the writing on the walls” when he was deep in his cups). Perhaps it was the Hungry Painting, preying on his mind that caused his final descent, but I suppose I shall never know. The rest of the collection was much as you might guess: apart from the trashy “shocking” modern art, it was mainly silly relics pilfered from some poor heathens’ graves, all skulls and carved idols and disgustingly suggestive bass-reliefs and scrolls. One thing intrigued me however. There were two boxes, rosewood, carved in a very similar fashion to the one in my uncle’s desk. They were behind glass, so I couldn’t closely examine them, but perhaps I can swallow my pride and ask Szasz about them at a later date. They intrigue me, and after spotting them I am possessed by that same peculiar nagging familiarity.
I am more comfortably off, and have enclosed a postal order covering what I owe you. I hate to be a charity case, but your help was gratefully received and in retrospect I’m glad you ignored my pigheaded refusal of assistance. it’s a shame old Tom’s will stipulated I couldn’t sell the house, but at least now it’s rented out I have a steady (if meagre) source of income. I will have to return at some later date to properly examine his papers and bring them back with me but there were so many and Glasgow seemed such a dreary place I didn’t wish to hang around. Dumping everything in the attic study and sealing it off from the rest of the house seemed the easiest thing to do, but perhaps after I return from Rome I will arrange passage north. As for my work, it proceeds as ever. I am drowning in extravagant praise, yet still find it nearly impossible to sell anything. Everyone coos over my latest, yet the idea of hanging it in their gallery or home seems to fill them with not a little apprehension. I thought I moved in sophisticated circles but I am still a tad outré even by their standards. No doubt when I die my daubs will become all the rage but it seems unfair that one can be alive or successful rather than both at once. I will arrange for my lawyers to spread sinister rumours in the event of my death, after all, the notoriety didn’t do poor Max’s reputation any harm. I am half tempted to take up those awful commissions V. arranged, though the thought turns my stomach.


yrs ever, Mark





25th November, 1926
43 Starometskaya
Praha

Cissy,
V has left, finally. I thought I’d be glad to see the back of him, but now he is gone I find I miss him terribly. We have been friends through so much I feel strangely empty without him, even though by the end we were at each others throats. It’s a shame we don’t see eye to eye anymore and his ideas and pious lectures are maddening, but I hope he makes a go of it in Athens. I had to vacate my rooms on Karlstad post haste as my money never arrived from Greece and I am now penniless. Capek has graciously allowed me to stay on his couch these last few days, until I can raise the train fare back to Paris. Hopefully I will be able to pick up some old contacts and make a go of it. How the wheel turns, eh? Fame and fortune as ephemeral as the wind. I am beginning to wish I hadn’t destroyed those earlier paintings. The muse appears to have left me and I doubt I will ever paint anything as good again. V. refused to help me find S., said the man was a bad influence and I’m better off without him. If only he knew. I will take up my investigations back in Paris. He must have left some clues as to his whereabouts. I assume he had a run in with the law and had to vacate the country, C. Gerlath told me of rumours S. had been robbing his bank blind to pay for his exotic imports and paintings. I wonder if he ever managed to track down the last of Max’s paintings? I suppose in the circumstances it is lucky I’ve had no overt contact with him for quite some time. Will be sorry to leave Prague, it is quite beautiful and a bastion of civilization in a sea of Ruritanian ghastliness, but needs must etc. Will contact you as soon as I arrive in Paris. I hope your recent escapades have not further damaged your nerves. You were always the sensible one, and I the hysteric (artistic temperament etc). It would be in terribly bad taste if you were to have a breakdown. I hope your doctor friend is assisting you and has no baser interest in your case than professional curiosity.) Have you been to see Sissy recently? I have not heard from her for some time tho in all fairness she was never good at keeping in contact.

I remain as ever, your devoted servant, Mark






January 10th, 1927
Benalder Street
Glasgow

Here I am, finally, in the frozen north. The old house had been empty for some time and there was frost on the inside of the windows. Some homecoming! Was having second thoughts about coming back, but despite the cold the ramshackle old building now seems charming and homely in its eccentricity and dilapidation. I can’t say the same for the town itself, a rather dreary and miserable place, tho not as ghastly as I remember it from my last trip. Perhaps the snow has a smoothed off the coarser and dirtier aspects. I’m glad I took your advice. In retrospect it does seem silly to wander the streets of Paris trying to find lodgings when I have a house of my own sitting empty. Also it took some time away to realise how much I hate Paris, and its small-minded prosaic attitudes. Not to say Glasgow is likely to be any better in that regard, but a change is as good as a rest, and at least the equivalent of the tedious Parisian bores will have some novelty value before they begin to test my patience. The landlord was quite relieved I had come back, apparently he found it difficult to keep tenants here for any length of time and had to deal with endless complaints. Personally I cannot see the problem. It may be a little tumbledown, but at least it has all its windows and its roof doesn’t leak, which puts it a class above most houses in this rundown city. The attic is exactly as I left it, with its mouldering books and that strange rosewood box of curiously hateful aspect. The box I shoved into a back cupboard, but I will make a start on the books and papers. Maybe S. was right and there will be something here that can help me, but I have no idea how far my uncle got in his research. It will take months to arrange them into any kind of order, but I should make good progress as I am unlikely to be distracted by the meagre delights of the city outside. Perhaps you could come and visit. I tactfully suggest a change of scenery would be beneficial to you as well, and the seashore is not too far away

Love, always M
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