160: The Brazen Bull
There are two (2) NEW colored artworks & one (1) NEW black & white sketch for DISCIPLE and ACOLYTE members; and one (1) colored artwork variation free to view. Sign up & log in to view to images by visiting our secret fine dining establishment. For more details on membership tiers, ways to support the site and how to purchase comics/collections, click here. The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.
Today and tomorrow we will feature a double update, this one and another for DISCIPLE members featuring a selection "juicy" and "outrageous" extremely NSFW dishes that some consider a little too...
Not to say that this update isn't unnatural in itself as you will see.
This Carte du Jour features a of the stories that I'm currently working on takes place in Sweden, and is somewhat inspired by the horror film Midsommar. Instead, this ritual takes place on a day that's less known, that is Walpurgisnacht marking the end to the fallow season and some of you will find an object quite familiar, that is the Brazen Bull.
There's a possibility I will extend the Library to include longer form stories that takes place in the world of the Tales of the Vanished and possibly the more complete form of this story just like what I did with the other tales at the Short Stories Page written by yours truly. (Forgive me for the rather incomplete nature of the story, but I fear that it is more irresponsible of me to miss my update than to wait for a while to finish this. No doubt I will find that the works here will still titillate your senses.
Vignettes from a story called "Far From Home"
The Architect looked as if he was reading articles from the Svenska Dagbladet but his attention laid elsewhere. Blonde, weather-aged and sporting thin rimmed glasses, his stoic feature did not dispel any stereotypes a foreigner has of what they think a Swede should look. If anything, it helps to not stand out for any anomaly would bring attention to him and his designs. He prefers it this way. Even his false name is as Swedish as can be. Sven, the perfectionist. Sven, the professional. Sven, the host. And he was observing the group of American students on the terminal lounge where one of the girls caught his eye.
She was different. Beautiful. Exotic. Quite certainly one they call a Native American or more politically correct, from the First Nation. She was unlike the others in the sense that she had an air of calm resiliency about her. Her eyes belied pain and her posture oozed wisdom and muted inner strength. She almost felt magical and this made her the perfect candidate.
He noted that she was sitting alone from the others listening to something upbeat that made her rhythmically bob her ankle and he thought that was charming. Good. A black sheep. Not playing to the rules of her ethnic heritage or her peers. They've always made the best candidates. It was then when he tucked the paper under his arm and made his move. Patience was a virtue. He's done this many times before. He knew what to say, and what seeds to plant. If that tree did not grow he would just move on other pastures.
Fawn felt it refreshing to be lavished with so much attention by the Scandinavians who had never seen an American native girl before. Back at her college campus at UNLV and in the Navajo reservation in the desert of New Mexico where she grew up, she didn't feel special. She felt the invisible weight of expectation that came with her heritage and part of it meant being just that... invisible. Or being patronized. Above all, she wanted to be seen as who she was. It was true that she didn't even know what that meant or who she was supposed to become, but she was young and still searching for that ever elusive "center of one's being" whatever that entailed.
For all her insecurities, there was a saving grace in that Fawn never did truly hate herself. Yes, she was pretty and she tried her best not to tell herself that. Her mother said it all the time, the look the boys gave her up till middle school to her oft-drunk stepfather who once made a move on her one night before she damaged his rapist balls before he could damage her soul with his prick of a dick. She managed to stay trauma-free in a world where trauma did come to a young pretty girl quite easily and especially one from a broken home, and a week later, with the help of social services, she lay in the comforting arms of an aunt in Pahrump and never looked back.
And now she was on a plane to Stockholm with her fellow UNLV colleagues and a whole spring of possibilities through the student exchange program. Looking out the window of the airplane, onto the exotic ice caps of the Arctic, she wondered how the European explorers felt like as they sailed to the New World and took the land away from her people? She strangely didn't feel resentment. If anything, she blamed her ancestors for not being adaptable enough to stand up against the invaders. She knew her parents, cousins and grandparents, they held on to long traditions and wasted their lives away with the drink and gambling. Go ahead. Be played by the game or adapt and play the games of the conquerors. And that was what she thought she was doing as she traveled to the lands of the conquerors. Maybe in her own way it would be a stepping stone for her to reclaim her own destiny.
She had felt a slight resentment towards her home, her family, her ancestry and heritage. She felt that her name and her culture was a yoke, a ball and chain to keep her grounded, docile and agreeable. Yes, the white Europeans came and conquered, but among her people, how did they fall so easily? What did they do right that her people did wrong? All her growing life she had always ran away from home be it to go to a party, to hide from her parents when dad and mom got drunk and argued again, or when she just wanted to look at the stars above and dream of stories and tales of other places. She worked hard for her college scholarship. She repaid her aunt's generosity in full with hard work. She dug her heels in and never looked back. So, when the opportunity arose to study in Uppsala for the summer for a university exchange trip, she snapped at the chance with her aunt's blessing. She may not change the path of her people. She was realistic unlike some of her more progressive classmates. All this talk is huge and beyond her at this moment, but at least she could begin somewhere by reclaiming her own life.
Looking at blank whiteness of glaciers, snow and ice made her think too much.
It was then when Fawn had thought about the Swede's proposition at the terminal lounge a few hours earlier. She was wary, after all, he was the age of her step-father when he tried to put the moves on her almost six years ago. On one hand, the attention was flattering. But in another. She couldnt' help but feel objectified. Tokenized as this wonderful specimen of diversity, brought from a faraway land to be scrutinized like a museum centerpiece. Or was it all in her head? But he was so thoughtful, handsome and charming in his rather stoic Swedish way. If he was ten years younger, she might even accept his advances if her ever gave it. He reminded her of a professional. Someone like an engineer or a scientist. Perhaps it was in the impeccable way he dressed and composed himself. Or was it in the way he spoke. And then she realize he never did tell her what he did for work.
What did he say when she asked what brought him to Las Vegas?
It was... Business. My work is *hush-hush* top secret. Maybe I'll tell you one day. But one of the things I can tell is that I own an eco-lodge in Gotland.
Then he showed her the pictures of his rustic and creatively designed property dug into the ground like some hobbit-hole, but with Swedish architectural excellence and in the style of the old Vikings. Fawn had to admit, it was hard to pass up the opportunity. The weight, the balance of the dangers of being with a stranger to the thrill of a new adventure.
Why go to the places all the tourists go? Is the height of your Swedish experience is to visit our viking museums, Christian cathedrals and have a summer fling with a blond haired blue eyed native or boast about to your friends is daring yourself to eat our Surströmming? Have you heard of the Labyrinths of Trojaborg in Gotland or the beautiful Laplands of the North? There is more to Sweden than you know! But if you'd like an adventure, come with me to Gotland. You can come stay with us of course for free, and in return, I only ask for stories from you and your wonderful company and that you do the same to your friends in America.
Through his iPhone, he showed her the drone footage of Uppsala's Walpurgis Night's bonfire. Fascinating! And more of the weird and wild. There was a lot of the country to discover. After all, this was Sweden. Nothing bad ever happened in Sweden. It was a place swathed in clean, white and the modern, so unlike the dust, the rust and the cement cracks of New Mexico.
No way. Not with a stranger in a strange land. That's out of the question!
But if she ever felt unsafe or lonely, perhaps she could convince Lanie to come with her. She looked at her sleeping seat neighbor and snoring mildly with a sleep mask unevenly covering her eyes. They weren't exactly the best of friends as they'd only just met since the start of the Spring Exchange Program, but if there was one she saw the most potential in being good friends with in this group, the red-headed sleeping beauty would be the one. If she said yes, then she'd go. So maybe. It would be madness. But just... maybe.
Gode Gud, the Architect muttered under his breath. It was finally here. The crate large enough to fit a small tank was lowered carefully onto the ground from large Scania truck's flatbed with careful reverence as if it held the Ark of the Covenant. The truck pulled away and the half dozen men began working on the wood with crowbars until the content within finally saw light after years of subterranean concealment.
The Brazen Bull, dark, sleek and glistening stood proud behind the backdrop of the setting sun in full regal repose and a hush fell upon the men and the meadow. The Architect's cohorts stood in varying poses of quiet awe, either hands on waists or palms on foreheads and the like, heads looking up with varying expressions of reverence and wonder under the dying light of the sun prompted the Architect to form a mental image of a scene he might have seen in a painting the likes of Johan Tirén or Norman Rockwell.
The Bull, stark, majestic and masculine had endured for more than two millennia. Burned, worn and beaten over the years, it still looked pristine to the Architect despite some scars marking its journey through history. It felt like an object out of time whether from the moment of its creation to the present. Whenever it existed, it seemed simultaneously ancient and modern. It had seen much blood spilled within and without, presided over the times of Christ, the Middle Ages, the discovery of the Americas, the French Revolution, the Great World War and its sequel, and now it is here in the Architect's presence. He did well to not betray his excitement to his fellows. The bull had returned to the labyrinth, and not the one in Minoa, its ancestral home, but here, in Trojaborg, its Dark Age successor.
It was a time before it had been absconded to England, becoming one of the holy artifacts at the center of the Hellfire Club and the clandestine witch hunts it inflicted upon its female victims who would burn within its belly. No wonder the bull to this day remains an adversarial nemesis to this day to that of which is feminine. The witch hunt practice died out soon enough, but in its place, the clandestine traditions of the Hellfire Club was born and a few more women would go missing here and there, no one the wiser save for the anguished families they left. The witch hunts continued but no more under the sun as an institutionalized practice.
The bull's meaning in modern times had since changed to be a symbol of the Patriarchy. Man's dominance over the weak and female. Such shallow thinking, the Architect thought. If they only knew its true origins. Will they open their minds to a truth more sinister? The Brazen Bull did not look unlike his brother in Wall Street. As symbol of the rich and powerful, furious, about to charge at the world unconquered and emerge victorious with gold and wealth aplenty.
What did they install just a few months ago? The Fearless Girl they called her. Staring down the face of her oppressor. A cute gesture born from petty ideaologies. The real secret, the real animus of their oppression stood here in Trojaborg. It was simple, nondescript, placid. And most importantly, anonymous. And that was fine as long as his counterpart remained that puppet king, with all its fiery bluster, soaking the ire from the masses like a sponge, the good little bovine that he truly was meant to be. An empty shell.
And here, in the twilight on the day before Walpurgisnacht, in Trojaborg. In Gotland. The Brazen Bull will not be as hollow as the other and the fearless girl will not seem so triumphant after all.
... to be continued?
And these are excerpts of the story I'm working on. Writing tales and illustrating them do take a major investment of my time. Months or even years for it to bear fruit in its complete form. So I found it easier to write and illustrate piecemeal in vignettes. Hopefully these are good and well enough to sate your appetites. The following now are the illustrations everyone is waiting for and in a way, you could call this "spoiler alert" as it shows the fate of Fawn, the Tribute. Two full artworks and a sketch of a different angle of the tribute.
April 7, 2022 @ 4:13 am
Thanks for restoring these, older stories! So happy! /bow