The Drowned

Of all the trinkets I keep in the backroom, the most mysterious and dangerous one is certainly the portrait of the Drowned. In the wrong hands, it would be the ultimate assassination tool. I use it to ward off burglars and bad-payers.


So long, captain Verti


The artwork is a fairly old painting that I estimate around the 13th or 14th century, according to the pigments and materials of the frame. However, it is not impossible for the sorcery embedded in the relic to actually be way older, as the sorcerers of old far outpowered modern practitioners. In fact, I once hypothesised that the original predates even civilisation.


The painting represents a man in marine attire, the golden buttons on his closed jacket identifying him as a sea captain. He has a brown beard and an pointy nose, the rest of his face is a bit blurry at times. In the background, a steamboat is anchored in a port that I assume to be London's. Under him, a text in golden letters reads "So long, captain Verti. From down the sea you will drown once again". If it wasn't for this last sentence, it would have looked like a commemorative portrait. But then you notice that the face of the poor man is not disfigured by chipped-off paint. Rather, it seems like great care has been put into making the face look like a rotten corpse.


The face like the setting are probably not original. The paint used to depict the steamboat is several centuries old, despite the age of the earliest steam engine in the two digits. I suppose the picture adapts to the current era it's in. The kind of uniform captain Verti is wearing is two decades old, at most. I already know of no mage able to produce an artifact able to reflect its current era so accurately, and it isn't even the main feature of the relic.

So long, captain Verti by Rumengol via

Using the Drowned


Most enchanted objects need a special phrase to be activated, and the portrait is no exception. In its case, reading out loud the sentence "So long, captain Verti" blanks out the face of the man in the frame. Then, anyone with some brushes and paint can render whatever they want on this canvas, as long as it is related to a specific person. Any other stroke is immediately erased as if nothing went out of the paintbrush.


As far as I know, just about anything can be painted there. Skillful artists may represent the face of their target, but I am not so good with art. Names and words work just as well, even something as vague as "the person who robbed me yesterday", or poorly painted facial features. Once the link is established, the fresh paint will heat up until it turns into vapor and the exact face the painter has been looking for will appear in the uniform.


From now on, the person painted in place of captain Verti will share his unfortunate fate. It usually takes no longer than a week for the poor soul to drown, most of the time in the Thames. The cause may vary: a drunkard slips and falls into the river, a brawl ends badly, or someone has a heart attack while walking near, but the end result is the same. Once the victim is done, their face will twist slowly until the original Verti comes back. This process takes about 5 days to complete, which means the ritual is possible roughly once every two weeks.


This is what is terrifying about the Drowned. Even vague information about the victim and a few brush strokes are enough to seal one's fate. So far, none have been able to escape their impending doom, as even staying away from water doesn't cut it. I recall one ruffian was found suffocated by a glass of water, drowned with a sip.


Early mistakes


When I first came to London, I used the painting quite recklessly, punishing anyone who dared to wrong me. I realised as of late how foolish it was. I was playing with forces I did not fully understood, and others were surely searching for this unique relic. I spread a rumor to make people think I had ties with an underground mob that threw in the Thames bad payers and thieves. I left out all the cases where the victim did not drown in the river. Better call them coincidences.


Since that first year, I barely used the painting. But I will not get rid of it. If anything, it is now my duty to guard it and make sure nobody ever puts their hands on it. I could've destroyed it, but that remains my last line of defense against powerful enemies that I could never face otherwise.


Locked up


At all times the painting is locked up in the basement, only accessible through a trapdoor in the backroom, under the carpet and locked by another trinket, the Wax Seal. The name is a bit misleading, as this seal is actually a candle, made from a very special wax. By making some of the wax drip over the trapdoor, the lid, as well as the basement, are sealed off reality. As in a different dimension, even digging through the floor would not get to the room. Only the light of the candle can reveal the secret entrance.


In the basement, the painting is lying with dozens of others, all depicting some kind of port activities and captains. I tried my hand with some, but most are orders to fill in the room and confuse any potential robber getting there. I also hid there seven candles, in case I ever forget to bring one with me, or an accident occurs. One can never be too cautious with ancient artifacts.


Getting to the painting is a long and tedious process, but as the effect takes several days to trigger, it would make no sense to get there in a rush. I believe this system not to be over-wary, as the painting is definitely among the most dangerous objects of this city. Maybe the most dangerous, period. I know of no other weapon able to end a god.

Cover image: Roofs of London by Rumengol via MidJourney


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25 Oct, 2022 19:14

An artifact that basically creates Vertis - A Daeath Note like Painting that drwons its victims - I like it. EVen though no actual Verti is directly named in here. Maybe the original depicted person was?

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26 Oct, 2022 10:11

Yeah, the original picture was the first Verti that drowned after a mutiny threw him overboard. The curse merely binds hits fate to whoever is drawn over his face. The painter really had a grudge against him...