“Painting for me lies in the pure pleasure of invention,” Francis Picabia wrote in 1927.
“Working on the Picabia exhibition even led to my own inventions! Here I am in my hand-painted costume inspired by the artist’s designs for his Relâche dancers. Everything is more fun when you’re wearing dots!”
Wrote this after seeing the tumblr prompt “Remember Me” where one character helps another remember something and wanted to to a little reincarnation one.
Loki finds an old mask inside The Teutoburg Forest.
They say finding a mask inside The Teutoburg Forest is quite rare. So When Loki and his parents joined the rest of the group and ventured into the forest, following their balding tour guide, Loki didn’t really expect to find one. Except he did.
It was sunny when they went it. The skies were clear and Loki rolled the sleeves of his leather jacket up until they reached his elbows. He zipped the jacket all the way up when they got ready to leave the hotel because his dad took one look outside and said that everything looks so grey out there it has to be chilly but it wasn’t. It was warm inside the bus and Loki took the jacket off for a while and kept it on his knees, but when they all spotted those dark treetops inching closer to the large windows he put it back on and he heard his dad’s voice over the music swaying in his ears going ‘good call’. It was still warm when they stepped out of the bus and by the time they were walking around the Hermann Monument soaking in all those details about the war chief Arminius defeating three Roman legions under Varus in 9 CE, his hair felt like it was beginning to stick to the back of his neck and his cheeks got all red.
They had their lunch there in the shade of some trees with that 175.3 ft tall monument standing motionless in the sun and Loki watched the shadows catching in all the right places, clinging to the crook of Arminius’ elbow, to the folds of skin right above his knees, and covering his eyes and Loki couldn’t see them at all. Arminius was wielding a sword, pointing it at the sun and half of it was light and the other half was shadow.
His mom and dad kept taking pictures of it while sharing a cigarette and it wasn’t long before Loki started toying with his phone, shuffling through all that music with the glare of the sun making his eyes all itchy and watery, forcing him to squint, touching the light colored birthmark resting there over his heart because sometimes it got all tender. He loved everything history related, but this monument with all its shadows and hot copper plates made him feel uneasy. So when their tour guide made sure no one left a single plastic bag or fork or some kind of wrapper lying around and said it’s time to go Loki jumped to his feet so fast his parents gave him a look and he only shrugged, took his earphones out and stuffed them in his pocket along with his phone.
The Hermann Monument is located on a tiny hill and their little group of maybe twenty or so had to make its way down and retrace its steps in order to get back to their tiny bus where the seats were so crowded there was no way you could just sit there without having your shoulders pressing against the shoulders of those sitting to your left and right.
Loki hadn’t really noticed when it started to get cold; it felt like it was really warm until suddenly it wasn’t and he found himself tugging on the sleeves of his jacket , bringing them down to his wrists and zipping the jacket up.
This light breeze came out of nowhere and when it moved over his cheeks it felt like glass dust. Loki paused for a moment and looked up. The sun was almost gone and the trees along the path were whispering in soft female voices that made the hairs on Loki’s arms stand on end.
It was his mom and his dad was standing next to her with one hand in his pocket motioning for him to catch up because he was day dreaming again and it wasn’t exactly this new thing.
This time Loki was grateful for the warmth inside the tour bus and spent the following hour and a half sitting there with his earphones on but he wasn’t listening to music or to an audiobook, he just had them on so his mom and dad won’t bother him because that view of those tall trees just turning into a soft blur of green and grey and brown with the speed and time passing it by just had him captivated and he couldn’t and didn’t want to look away.
It was supposed to be just this little peek into the area inside The Teutoburg Forest where Arminius’ men slaughtered three Roman legions sent by the Emperor Augustus and led by Varus to cross the Rhine and conquer the lands. With Melville the tour guide leading the way, they left the bus behind and ventured deeper into the forest, following what Melville believed was the path the Romans took when they marched forward to their deaths.
Loki’s parents were more than a few steps ahead of Loki, talking, using that tone of voice people use when they converse about horrible things that happened a long time ago, sad, but also a little excited.
All forests are filled with silence but this one felt so quiet it made Loki’s ears hurt and the trees were so pale they looked like endless columns of smoke and the yellowing grass reminded him of tiny sparks of fire jumping all over the place with the touch of some wind.
An ambush, the tour guide said and Loki looked far ahead into the shadows and as he was walking slowly the wind was there to keep him company, smelling like old flowers and grey skies.
At some point he got so cold he had to stop and try to get the zipper to go all the way up. He watched it glinting bronze in the faint light, blinking between his fingers and tugged on it because for some reason it got stuck. He tugged on it and pulled, yanking it up and down and then up again, trying to get it to run smoothly and when it finally did and he felt the collar embracing his neck so it felt all nice and warm, he looked up and found himself alone.
No mom and dad. No tour guide. No people he didn’t take the time to actually try and see what their faces looked like. Everyone was gone and for some reason he wasn’t afraid.
He started walking, stepping on long fragile shadows, the cool breeze moving his lashes, sticking to his lips, making his hair all sleek and soft and at some point it started to rain, soft and lazy. The forest breathed around him and each exhale moved him forward and moving through the rustling grass and the pale light made him lose all track of time. He walked until his feet hurt, until each and every one of his breaths felt like an entire galaxy expanding inside his lungs , until his mom and dad were just a reflection on a still body of water and that’s when he saw it.
It was a brass mask. Half of it was buried in the ground, the other half peeking out, the silent light moving over it drawing silvery circles around one eye hole. It was right there next to the roots of some tree and Loki got on his knees and used his fingers to dig around it. The dirt hurt getting under his fingernails but Loki kept filling his fist with more until he could pull it out.
He ran his palm over it once and exposed a wide stripe of bronze. He did it again and the dirt sticking to and blocking the eye hole, fell away and through the hole he could see some very light fog hovering over the grass, tiny flowers looking like little blooms of smoke turning their heads towards the shadows.
Loki used the tiny droplets of rain dotting the sleek bright surface to wipe the mask clean. It looked like the face of a sleeping man. He stuck his little finger inside the cut that was the mouth and ran his finger over the edges.
The Romans used these masks in battle to protect the face. Battle masks, they were called.
Loki stood up and with the tip of the brass nose pressing hard into the palm of his hand, put it on. It felt wet and the cold made his cheeks sting. He parted his lips to breathe and the air he drew in tasted like chalk. The edges of the eye holes were pressing against his lashes, pushing them back and with his pupils exposed like that he watched the forest and there was nothing there that could make him believe it wasn’t the same forest from such a long time ago, using that light rain to wash away those deep burgundy stains sticking to the roots and the leaves and the grass.
When Loki removed it, that’s when he first saw him. He appeared in the second it took Loki to pull the mask to the side, a boy about his age, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, dark blonde hair sticking to his temples, damp from the rain.
He smiled at Loki and Loki studied his face with the sound of the falling rain filling his ears with whispers.
Was this boy a part of their group?
Loki couldn’t remember.
“A face mask,” the boy said and ran his fingers over the mask from temple to chin.
Loki watched him, the way his lashes fluttered in the light drizzle, the softness of his lips, the kindness in his eyes and his heart was full of longing for an unnamed memory.
“The Romans used them to protect the face,” the boy said and Loki blinked slow.
“I know. The tour guide told us about it. Were you with us? I don’t remember seeing your face before.”
The boy smiled and moved the mask in front of his own face so it obscured it from Loki’s eyes, one strong thumb pressing down on a pair of bronze lips, holding the mask up.
“Did your tour guide tell you this story?” he asked Loki and brought the mask down little by little, exposing a soft brow, a blue eye, a straight nose and a pair of beautiful lips dotted with raindrops.
Loki raised his brows and the boy leaned in a bit closer and his voice like a summer storm, quiet and comforting, “many of Varus’ men died here. It was raining then, just as it’s raining now. They were ambushed. Slaughtered one by one. Breath gone and all memory gone with it. So many unnamed. Tales of bravery forgotten. One tale remains. The tale of two of Varus’ soldiers. They were young. They were in love. They were only boys when they were drafted and as much as they wanted to fill Augustus’ heart with pride, they also wanted to return home alive, to hold hands in the sun, to see the stars in each other’s eyes. They marched side by side in the rain. The sound of it was everywhere. They were cold and tired, but they had a long way to go before they could set up camp. One of them thought of the way his lover looked with the golden outline of their beloved city reflecting in his eyes, with all that glorious sunlight bathing his shoulders, with the taste of infinity and freedom on his lips and the other looked at him in the dark and saw all that longing in his eyes and reached over to touch his hand. Only one of them saw the spear flying out of the shadows, starlight moving over it like a bolt of lightning, and covered the other with his body. That spear pierced two hearts that night. They never made it home.”
The boy grasped the collar of his t-shirt and tugged on it.
And there it was, a birthmark identical to his own, just over his heart and Loki pressed his palm to his own chest and the boy gave him a sad smile and took his hand.
“George Lucas’s designers must have found inspiration in these smoke helmets.”
This pair of early rescue masks, shown above, dates from between the mid-1800s and World War I. They look a bit familiar, right? Almost 100 years before Darth Vader and C-3PO hit the big screen in “Star Wars” in 1977, these two smoke helmets were worn by firefighters carrying out rescues in smoke-logged buildings. The buzz among collectors is that George Lucas’s designers must have found inspiration in these smoke helmets and others like them. In fact, one well-known 19th-century manufacturer was named Vajen-Bader—you could easily get the name Vader from that.
The black leather helmet on the left is labeled “Respirations Apparat” by “G.B.Konic Altona,” was made in Hamburg, Germany, and has the look of an African Dan mask. The brass, three-quarter face mask to its right was made in Paris by J. Mandet. This type of breathing mask had a very simple apparatus, allowing only a short range of operation. When used, air would be forced into the helmet through no more than 13 meters of flexible tubing by means of a bellows operated remotely from the outside. Both of these masks have mica lenses to help protect the eyes from heat.
The wild and colorful costumes and masquerades that precede the Christian season of Lent have created popular festival traditions in Spain and Portugal. One of Portugal’s most famous Carnival events takes place in the northcentral town of Lazarin, with its pagan ‘careto’ ritual of young men in colored woolen quilts donning brass, leather or wooden masks as they dance and chase people — especially young women — through the streets, trying to scare them by making lots of noise and jingling bells.
To expand further on my certainty that Barristan will die in TWOW:
The knight nicknamed “the Bold” at age ten is not easily frightened, but there is something that spooks the hell out of him throughout ADWD.
“A mask can hide many things, Your Grace. Is the man behind the owl mask the same owl who guarded you yesterday and the day before? How can we know?”
He wore an owl mask when he spoke to you. By now he could be a jackal, a tiger, a sloth. Ser Barristan had hated the masks from the start and never more than now.
“A cat?” said Barristan Selmy when he saw the brass beneath the hood. When the Shavepate had commanded the Brazen Beasts, he had favored a serpent’s-head mask, imperious and frightening.
“Cats go everywhere,” replied the familiar voice of Skahaz mo Kandaq. “No one ever looks at them.”
Skahaz could be in the hall as well, Selmy realized, that ugly face of his concealed behind a mask. Two score Brazen Beasts stood between the pillars, torchlight shining off the polished brass of their masks. The Shavepate could be any one of them.
Selmy wondered if the masks had meaning to the men who wore them. Did the same men wear the same masks every day, or did they choose new faces every morning?
Six Brazen Beasts were with him. All were masked as insects, identical to one another.
Locusts,Selmy realized. “Groleo,” he said.
“Groleo,” one of the locusts replied.
“I have more locusts if you need them,” said Skahaz.
I take that last line as a hint that the Shavepate poisoned the locusts. Indeed, broadly speaking, we see in these quotes an aura of secrets, conspiracies, hidden identities, masked observers–everything Barristan dislikes. And the masks also seem to disturb him at a deeper, existential level, one he can’t quite explain; the sheer amount of times this subject comes up in ADWD, and the hypnotically creepy language GRRM uses to describe the masks, hint that there’s something at work here beyond politics.
What it is IMO is foreshadowing that it’s the Beasts who will kill Barristan the Bold, after he reacts furiously and violently to their massacring their leader’s political opponents (including Hizdahr, whom Barristan feels obliged to keep safe, and the child hostages, of whom Barristan has grown very fond) while Barristan was fighting outside the walls. Our last sight from Barristan’s POV will be the masks that haunted him throughout ADWD surrounding him, and as with Kevan, “in their hands, the daggers.”