Henry of Scotland

Henry of Scotland was oddly restless.

He shifted edgily in his frame, absently stroking the hilt of his claymore, staring out at the dark corridor in front of him. Unlike King Baxter, he was a painting of a real person; not anyone important, just a minor Scottish lord who'd been forgotten by history. But because he was the image of someone who had lived, he had inherited certain things from that long-dead man; fuzzy, unclear memories (including a rather strange one involving a goat and what appeared to be an oversized sporran), a certain personality (mostly impatient and much given to exaggerated stories of his exploits, much to the chagrin of the paintings opposite and beside him)...and instincts.

And those instincts were prickling at him.

He paced from the rough patch of painted heather (skilfully executed by the minor but evidently very talented artist) at the right-hand side of his Highland scene to the yellow-flowering gorse bush on the left-hand side, muttering to himself in his broad Scottish accent. There was definately something wrong. He peered balefully out at the painting opposite him; it was an elegant lady in an arbour, currently fast asleep, snoring in a dainty, ladylike way. They didn't get on, but he needed to share this uncomfortable feeling with someone.

"Psst! Jennifer!"

The lady in the arbour stirred, opening one exquistely painted blue eye to stare at him with ingrained dislike.

"It is Lady Jennifer," she hissed haughtily, closing the eye again.  "Now leave me alone, I need my beauty sleep."

"Wake up, ye daft wench! Can ye no feel it?"

"I cannot feel anything," Lady Jennifer answered irritably, keeping her eyes firmly shut. "Except a certain uncouth barbarian bellowing into my shell-like ears."

"Shell-like, my foot," Henry snorted. "Use yer instincts, woman! I'm serious!"

"Oh, if it makes you happy," she sighed, opening her eyes and sitting up, stretching in a way that didn't quite match up to her projected image of ladylike beauty, especially since she was wearing a decidedly low-cut and rather filmy gown. Blinking her baby-blues several times, she tilted her head and listened. Silence fell.

Tap. Tap.

"Told ye I wasn't imaginin' things, woman," Henry immediately claimed, puffing out his chest and adjusting his kilt in the way he always did when he was proved right. It was an extremely irritating habit. "What d'ye think that was?"

"...Archie, with his cane," Lady Jennifer replied coolly. "Pray stop jumping to conclusions, it's annoying enough when you haven't woken me up to do it."

The Scotsman bristled with indignation. "That ain't Archie! That's too faint fer his cane, an' it were only two taps. And can't ye feel it? There's somethin' wrong round here."

Twitching the low neckline of her gown to a more chaste level, the lady tried to conceal her growing anxiety. She wouldn't admit it to the boorish Henry, but she was beginning to understand what he meant. There was a creeping, shivering, terrible feeling slinking through the corridors of paintings, reaching out with chilling fingers to set flesh that was nothing but brushstrokes tingling as though it were real.

Tap. Tap.

Even Henry was quiet now, no more bold comments left. The feeling was getting stronger, and it was malicious. The taps were closer as well; much closer.

For a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity for the two paintings, there was silence.

And then there was the flash of silver, and the dreadful, spine-chilling sound of ripping canvas. Lady Jennifer's high, terrified scream was abruptly cut off-and the silence returned.

More scared than he had ever been in his three-and-a-half centuries of painted life, Henry of Scotland gripped his claymore in a hand that shook uncontrollably and strained his smudged brown eyes (they had been sharp once, but spending fifty years in a damp cellar had blurred them) across the corridor. What he saw made him jerk backwards in sheer horror.

Right across Lady Jennifer's painting were three broad slashes, executed with such strength that the wall behind the canvas and backing frame was visible in several places.  Forlorn tatters hung miserably down almost to the floor, and Lady Jennifer herself had been sliced into three exactly equal pieces. Her face was obscured, but Henry didn't need to see it to imagine the pain and fear that would be twisting its gentle features.

There was no sign of the culprit.

The End

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