|Florence, by Thermos|
|Venice, by Paolo da Reggio|
A tourist brochure, perhaps from the city of Venice itself, I can’t remember now, featured images from carnevale. One of these was the famous character, Bauta. This costume consists of a unadorned white mask, flared at the bottom where the mouth should be, a black tricorned hat, and a black cloak. It is impossible to tell if the person wearing it is old or young, man or woman, rich or poor – a true disguise for that brief time of merry-making when such distinctions no longer hold sway. In the publicity image, indirect, diffuse lighting cast the figure in mysterious shadows. You can see something of what it looked like here.
Oh my, I thought. Story material.
When I returned to the US, I pinned the picture on my bulletin board beside my computer. Although I worked on other projects, my eyes kept drifting back to this enigmatic, slightly menacing figure. I had a chance to take some of those shivers and weave them into a story when I was invited to submit to an anthology of historical fantasy, Ancient Enchantresses, edited by Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch. I based my story, "Unmasking the Ancient Light," on the life of Dona Gracia Nasi, one of the most extraordinary Jewish women of the Renaissance. My friend Bauta did not put in an appearance in my story, but furnished a wealth inspiration for an ancient, brooding menace.
Then, as I was reading stories for The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring, I opened the one Jay and Shannon had sent me and read:
I peered around the rough-edged corner of the Palazzo Martelli, searching down the long, night-shadowed lane but seeing nothing save the muddy path to the river Arno below. The Ponte Vecchio glimmered in the distance, lit by a single torch at the near end.
|Palazzo Martelli, by sailko|
And what a marvelous time this is! Florence is ancient and brooding, but infused with the vigor of magic, of a living, working city, not a vacation destination. This is not the Florence of picture postcards and tourist brochures. Dangerous things lurk in waters, and watch you from the rooftops…and behind the gaity and mercantile riches, a battle is being waged, one whose stakes are hearts as well as souls. Jay and Shannon weave the vivid details into an erotic tale of desire, sorcery, and power.