Title: Shadows of the World (4/4)
Characters: Canonical Torchwood Three members… sort of.
Rating: Some chapters definitely not safe for work.
Disclaimer: Oh, please. If I owned them, would I let some of those idiots write the scripts? And if I were making any money off them, would I be where they could find me?
Summary: Torchwood battles a terrible curse to save a beautiful woman
Author's Note: This takes the place of A Day in the Death
Part one is here; Part two is here; Part three is here
There was no doubt that Anne Cavanaugh was a de Gray; she had the height, the honey-blond hair, and the sharp Norman features. But where Leonora seemed carved out of the finest ivory, Anne was more like plastic. A flawed copy of the real thing.
“Anne, why are you doing this?” Leonora held herself like a princess. “Where is Alexander?"
Anne giggled. “He's away. With Mother. She needed him more.” She pulled herself up into an obvious imitation of Leonora's manner. “You are not permitted to question me. I am the Lady de Gray, as was my mother before me.”
The de Grays hadn't used their Norman titles in centuries, much as they had left the Catholic Church for the Celtic Christian one. But if they had, Leonora would have been Lady de Gray. Actually, if I remembered correctly from my brief teenage obsession with the aristocracy, she would have been Leonora, Countess Flewelling de Gray and Baroness Edevane. Jack had been right. This was all about human greed and hate.
“Your mother?” I could hear the small command hidden underneath Jack's casual tone. “I thought she was the younger sister.”
“She was a de Gray by blood!” Anne shrieked. “She should have had the title! She was a true de Gray, not that bumbling old man!”
Lenora sat down. “So that was why your mother was exiled by grandfather. She tried to take the title.”
“He s..ss....aid ss..he had n..no right.” Anne shook with rage. “No right!”
“She didn't.” Leonora's voice held all the power of being Lady de Gray. “My father was eldest. He was of sound mind. A respected scholar and justice of the peace. There was no reason to set him aside.”
“There was! There was! Mother wanted it!”
“So you are claiming the titles and priviledges of de Gray?” Jack actually sounded curious. “The problem, of course, is that you have no standing in law. That leaves only your standing in ecclesia. Will you be filing a claim?”
Leonora drew herself up, a queen offended. I moved as quietly as I dared, trying to not attract Anne's attention. Not that it would have mattered if I had sounded like a herd of runaway buffalo; she was completely focused on Jack. Before Leonora could say anything I wrapped my fingers around her wrist and tugged. After a moment, she dipped her chin slightly. Sighing with relief, I stepped back and waited for Jack's lead.
“Yes, of course, you can,” he was answering Anne's breathless question. “The Court must listen to all claimants. However, the claim must have some evidence to be granted space in the Court calendar. At least, something that will trump the Confirmation.”
Anne's eyes flickered as if she were listening to a voice no-one else could hear. “Confirmation?”
“Before he died, your grandfather asked the Court to Confirm his heir in his title and holdings. That cannot be reversed except for crimen laesae, imminutae, diminutae, minutae, majestatis.” He shrugged. “And if your claim is not upheld you get to deal with a very pissed off King and Church.”
“What kind of evidence would the Court accept?” Anne asked. “Documents? Testimony from experts?”
Jack shook his head. “An ecclesiastical court requires spiritual proofs. The only appropriate expert is one approved by the Court.” He waved towards me. “Like Rhiannon here.”
Her eyes flickered again. I wondered how much real independence of thought and action she had, or had ever had. Her mother had been brought up as part of the Cardiff governing elite; she would have known Jack was carefully glossing over a great deal. I was indeed a Court-approved expert, but only in matters of art, and I had actually testified in only four cases in six years and then only on questions of provenance.
“What can she do?”
Jack looked directly at me. “She is a soul painter.”
The words seemed to echo in the air between us as thunder rolled overhead. I bit down on a hysterical giggle. Trust Jack to Name me and Confirm me while we were trapped inside a grand mansion with madwoman and a thing from the pit of Hell.
After a moment's reflection, I shrugged. It was as good a time as any.
“What does that mean?” Anne hopped from one foot to another in excitement. “Can she make me Lady de Gray?”
“Only the King and the Church can do that. But a soul painter can show a person's innermost self. If you are truly Lady de Grey, Rhiannon cannot help but paint you as Lady de Grey.”
The gun swung towards me. “Do it! Do it!”
“All right.” I said, praying my voice would hold steady. “I need to get my paints and a canvas. They're in my car.”
She stamped her foot. “No!”
I shrugged. “I must have paint and canvas.”
She glared, then looked past me at the others. As her eyes slid over Ianto, I realized the thing was as blind to him as Leonora and Carlos were. The knowledge that my little brother was powerful enough to cloud the mind of a demon should have shocked me, but I seemed to have lost the ability for shock sometime during the night.
“You!” The shotgun pointed at Carlos. “Go get them!”
I held out my keys. He took them and headed out. Ianto fell in step with him. As he did he vanished completely from my Sight. Anne's thing must have felt something because her head swiveled back towards us, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Do you have anything you'd like me to include in the portrait?” I asked, hoping my hunch about Anne's own reasoning ability was right. “It helps the process if the sitter chooses a few things that are important to her.”
Her eyes lit up. I had the impression that if she hadn't been holding the shotgun she would have clapped her hands and squealed.
“The tiara! I want the tiara!”
I nodded. The de Grey jewelry collection held several famous tiaras, but she really didn't need to specify which one. The Nimue tiara was one of Wales' greatest treasures: four ancient ladies' brooches in the shape of lover's knots, set in two wide strips of white gold worked in enamel and diamonds to resemble braided sea pinks. Legend had it that the brooches had been crafted by Myrddin Emrys himself for his beloved Lady of the Lake. It was one of three items in Wales that an owner was forbidden to sell except to the Crown. The de Grey matriarchs wore it at coronations and royal weddings – and to have their portrait painted.
“It's at the bank,” Leonora said coolly. “You know we don't keep the state pieces at home.”
Anne pouted and the shotgun swung up.
“That won't be a problem.” I spoke fast. “I can paint it in later. As long as I know what you want.”
She nodded in a ghastly parody of grandeur. “Very well. Where shall I sit?”
I made a show of looking around. I already knew where I would pose her; I had known from the beginning.
“Over here,” I said, pointing at the wicker fan back chair with the elaborate peacock feather design. “It looks very royal, doesn't it? Sit. I would suggest your hands folded on your lap...” I made a face. “The gun is a problem. The Lady de Gray would never pose for an official portrait with a gun. I will have to work around it until I get to the hands.” I looked over my shoulder. “Here's Carlos with the paints. Oh, good, he remembered to bring one of the prepped canvases and an easel.”
Anne sat, her petite frame swallowed by the oversize chair, watching as Carlos helped me set up. He moved one of the smaller tables to within easy reach and opened the paint box while I positioned the easel. Once I had everything I needed, I picked up my brush and my palette.
It's just another job, I told myself. Paint what you see.
It went quickly. Once in a while I wondered what Ianto was doing as Jack sat next to Leonora, watching me work. But that was a distant concern. My mind was filled with color and texture and shade and I painted fast, almost blind to what I was doing. Parts of me – wrist, throat, temples – ached with the effort. I had done this once before, when I had painted John, but I hadn't known what I was doing. Now I knew and while it gave me a sense of power it also scared me to death, so I trusted the Power and painted. Finally, just as I thought I couldn't hold the brush any longer, the ferocious drive left me. I sighed and set down the palette.
Anne jumped to her feet. “Let me see! Let me see!”
I moved the easel so she – and everyone else – could see it. The painting showed a small girl in blue shorts and a white jumper, hair pulled back with an Alice band. Her knees were pulled up to her chest and one thin arm wrapped around them. The other one dangled, hand gripping a brown teddy bear. Her eyes were huge and terrified. Behind her a monstrous shape loomed, a thing with a human face. Her mother's face.
The scream rose to an eldritch wail that dissolved into the terrified sobbing of a little girl. I could see tears pouring down Leonora's cheeks. There were none in mine, not yet. I could feel the thing struggling to regain control of Anne; beyond that, in a soul-place born of our closeness, I could feel Ianto, mind fully twinned with Jack's, bring down their joined Power to sever the filaments that bound the house and the last of the de Grays to its monstrous hunger.
Unbound energy drew great arcs in the air as the filaments snapped and recoiled. The thing howled in agony, and its scream was echoed by both Anne and Leonora. Jack was in motion even before the sound had died away, shoving Leonora into Carlos' arms and rushing towards Anne. She screamed again as she aimed the shotgun directly at his heart.
I flung myself at her, pushing the gun up. It went off. Delicate scales of yellow paint showered down on us as the bullet struck one of the cupola's support beams and the whole structure shook. I pulled and twisted, trying to break Anne's death grip on the shotgun, but she had the strength of the mad, and I barely held on, arms and wrists in agony.
And then Jack was there, wrapping his arms around Anne. The fight seemed to go out of her, and she sagged, whimpering. I pulled the gun out of her hands and backed out of reach, holding myself upright by sheer will as I tried and failed miserably to get some air into my lungs. I could hear doors slamming open and people running, and then a pair of familiar arms came around me and a hand took the shotgun away. I leaned back into the wonderful safety of Andy's body and let my breathing slow to as close to normal as I could manage.
“And so the spell was broken and the princess walked in the sunlight, strong and sure.”
I looked over at Leonora. “She will be all right now.”
“She will.” He pressed his lips to my temple. “But I wasn't talking about her.”