Four months later, just after his niece’s birthday party, the emperor sent a contingent of men to check in on Szolnoky. Annoyed, he gave orders for them to recover the artwork if complete or the payment if not. The artist, however, proved elusive—in fact, he could not be found at all. Now livid, the emperor dispatched a unit of jaegers to find Szolnoky no matter the cost. And find him they did, in a secluded cabin in the mountains, many hours from the nearest village. Few of the villagers would talk about the artist, much less admit to seeing him, and the jaegers soon found out why.

Szolnoky was in the midst of the emperor’s commission–it was about half painted. But there were no pigments, no ink, no oils. Only a pathetic and half-dead prisoner, chained next to the foul remains of his dead predecessor. Szolnoky would, every so often, dip his brush in the man’s open wounds, and healed incisions covered the man’s forearms and back.

The portraits were, in fact, painted in blood.

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