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Rafi Hoult

 
Raphael Hoult: The Shadow of Vienna

by Rafi Hoult, posted May 30, 2013

Rafi Hoult (Grade 11) tied  for Second Place  in the Senior's category at Gray Academy for the Fern Shawna Rykiss Award . The following is his winning composition.

Vienna, Austrian Empire,  September 8th, 1812 

 The smoke was rising from within a villa – the blaze was fully under control.

Graf Fabian Jakob Dassanowsky lay back against the stone pillar behind him, and gave a sigh of relief. In his right hand was a quill, and in his left was a book, freshly bound (in England, no less), the gold inlay on its cover making it appear to be far more valuable than it actually was. On the marble floor next to him sat a reservoir in which he kept his ink – a small, glass pot.

Below him was the hubbub of Vienna, people hurrying about their various businesses as the stores began to close down for the night. His feet hung out over the edge of his balcony, through the hole in the railing where some time, decades before, the railing had broken away, letting a man fall to his death upon the hard, unyielding cobblestones below.

The building had sold fairly cheaply after that.

Fabian turned back to look at the bookshelves kept here, in his study, practically bursting at the seams with literature. If the smoke he had spotted while reading his newest novel (“Zastrozzi: A Romance”, by P.B.S.) had indeed been a wildfire, there would have been a chance that his entire works would have gone up in flame.

The works in his library were far ranging, from trashy romance (such as what he was reading right now. Atheistic nonsense! Percy Shelley was far too radical even for his tastes) to novellas such as Undine, and books such as St. Irvyne (also trash by Shelley). Now that he thought about it, he had quite a bit by Shelley, if you can count two gothic novels as being ‘quite a bit’.

The aristocrat put down his writing book, and let out a large yawn. Now that he paid more attention to the sky, he realized that the sky was not quite as blue as it had been before – it was streaked with orange and purple, the sign of the coming dusk. It would soon be dark, and Fabian would have to light candles if he wished to continue reading– something he couldn’t do in his current comfortable abode.
Stretching, the Graf rose and scratched the back of his head. He put the quill in the ink well, picked it up, and turned away from the balcony. He was about to exit the study, when—

“Erlaucht Dassanowsky!”

Turning back to the balcony, Fabian looked down in to the street to see a young man (a boy, really)  standing in the street, staring up at him meekly, as though awaiting a response… which, now that Fabian thought about it, he probably was.

“Yes?” The Graf replied, placing the inkwell on a nearby oaken table. “What do you want?”

“Edler von Webenau would request an audience with you!”

Fabian groaned silently to himself, and then said, “Tell him he may present himself in half an hour’s time.”

The boy nodded, and ran off down the street.

Fabian turned on his heel and strode out of the room, cursing under his breath. It was going to be a long night, full of arguing and hammering out agreements. Law was not one of his strong points, and though his family had prestige, they were not currently in the possession of a lawyer who could reach his abode within three days, let alone half an hour.

“Giorgio!” He roared, storming down the stairs from his study to the living room, where his servant sat on a chair by the blazing hearth, sipping a cup of what appeared to be coffee. The man jumped, and spat out his drink in to the flames, making them sputter indignantly. Coughing, he turned to the Graf and wheezed, “Gesù Maria, my lord! Please, do not frighten me so!“
Italians. Awfully jumpy people.

“Giorgio. Edler von Webenau will be arriving in half an hour. Tell Bartolo to prepare a light meal, and then go upstairs and prepare a suit for me – the Baker City Vest should be nice, as well as the Highland pants. Once you’re done with that, I will require a wine from the cellar – perhaps that Bordeaux from 1793?”

“Quite good, my lord,” said Giorgio miserably. He’d been looking forward to a quiet evening with no interruptions. Those plans were apparently to be shattered by the unfortunate visit of the Edler. He wondered briefly why Fabian was going to all this effort for such a low ranking member of the nobility, then decided it was none of his concern.

“Also, take the… package down to the coal cellar. It wouldn’t do for it to be found. Is that understood?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Fabian nodded, and then sat down in the chair Giorgio had just occupied. The fire was rather low, so he threw a log on the fire. The blaze raged once more, and the Graf relaxed.  His eyes began to sag, and, despite his will, he began to drift off to sleep. His dreams, though vague, involved advancing armies, the blast of artillery, and the repeated bang of a musket. Who, he wondered, was this advancing man, taking over Europe and forcing his will upon the continent?

If he had been awake, of course, he would have known. Austria was on the brink of war.
He was roused by a shaking of his shoulder, and the insistent voice of Giorgio saying, “My lord, wake up – Edler von Webenau will be here shortly. Your clothes are ready, and await you upstairs.”

Groaning, Fabian rose from the chair, and felt his muscles tighten. He’d clearly been asleep for more than fifteen minutes – far longer than he’d intended. As his muscles protested, he walked over to the stairs, and made his way up them. Passing the door to his study, which was right on the landing, he proceeded to the door at the far end of the hall, on the left. As he opened the door, a small chime let out as the small silver rods hanging from the ceiling swayed in the draft let in by the opening entrance.
On the large bed there lay, neatly sorted out, the clothes he planned to wear that evening.

Quickly, he changed in to the articles, and as he finished putting on the vest, Giorgio came in to the room after a curt knock.

“My lord, the Edler is downstairs, in the dining room. He and his small entourage are… rather impatient.”

“Entourage? What sort of entourage?”

“Lawyers, my lord.”

Fabian cursed, and then swept out of the room. The servant followed meekly behind.

The men downstairs were indeed growing impatient, though they hid it well – their faces only betrayed by the slightest twitching of the muscles around their mouths. These men, Fabian thought as he entered, were professionals. He really wasn’t eager to see what points they’d brought forward.

The Edler von Webenau was really not a sight to behold. Though he had once been large and muscular, that muscle had turned to fat as the years

 
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