The Old Ones
The Wedding of Arnolfini
The wedding of Arnolfini is immortalized in this portrait
The painting actually depicts (as a 936-941 Mechelen inventory correctly records) a noble of Vornheim named Arnault Fin and a succubus (Isvin Othvyx of the Fourth Insidious) wearing the skin of the deceased heiress Constanza Trenta.
Folkloric texts found in treasure hoards and sages of highly civilized lands reveal that just before their (essentially shotgun) marriage, Fin woke late one night to find his fiance missing. He headed to the pantry to get a pear and then chanced to glimpse her, naked atop a wide and spreading oak, throwing stones at the moon and eating the loosened flakes as they fell to the ground. Fin instantly recognized that this was not a proper diversion for a potential bride.
Othvyx’s scheme was simple: seduce-, become impregnated by-, and marry- the prosperous Fin and proceed to birth into the emerging merchant aristocracy of Vornheim a strain of tieflings with which to manipulate and intrigue to the advantage of Hell against- and from within- the great cities of the Northern Continent.
Two minor obstacles obtained:
-According to the law of Vornheim, a spouse must obey any promise made to their partner during the first month of marriage.
-Demons can’t break contracts.
Othvyx planned to circumvent these by using the false name that went with her false skin: Constanza Trenta.
However, once Fin discovered his wife’s demonic nature, he consulted a witch-hunter, who instructed Fin to go on with the marriage and the usual marriage contract, but to also, unbeknownst to his new wife, enact the contract in a non-verbal form—thus the commission of the painting, which Othvyx, unschooled in art, mistook for a mere curio. Fin then playfully extracted from his new bride a pillow-promise to always be good and to teach their children and all the fruits of their line good things and Othvyx agreed, thinking herself safe due to the treacheries embedded in the written contract. Fin then burned the written contract, leaving only the painting—a loophole-free document of the reality of their marriage, and Othvyx was forced to be good and to teach her tiefling children goodness for all time.
The line of Fin is, incidentally, the source of all Tieflings.
As for Othvyx (immortal and still extant long after the natural death of Arnault Fin) This rankles.
The Hellish siblings of the Fourth Insidious have inculcated many schemes over the years to free their sister and her descendants from her long-ago promise to Arnault Fin. Their various stratagems include:
-Destroy the painting
Seemingly the most straightforward scheme, but a demon can’t destroy a contract, so it requires either manipulating resourceful mortals with unusual access into doing it. Complicating this is the fact that the artwork is discreetly protected by the Knights of the Conduit.
-Besmirch the good name of Arnault Fin
Divorce won’t do it, but if the Church or State can be somehow persuaded that the Fins could never have been married in the first place and thus trigger an annulment then Othvyx is free to work once more her wicked way in the world. Either way, the most obvious way to do this would be to somehow smear Arnault Fin, finding someone in authority willing to retroactively and officially declare him a close relation of Othvyx, a changeling, a bard, or some other entity denied the ordinary rights of a citizen.
-Get the witnesses to recant or be declared unfit
The convex mirror in the painting shows two witnesses. One is presumed to be the half-elven painter himself, Jan Van Eyck.
Agents of demonic forces might hunt down these people themselves and cause them by threat or guile to recant their witness to the marriage of Fin and Othvyxx. The task of ruining the witnesses is not unlike discrediting Fin himself—it will require convincing an authority figure that the witnesses were not what they seemed or in a state of disordered mind (drunk or possessed) rendering them incapable of proper witness.
While the painting exists, no Tiefling can ever raise a hand in anger against an aristocrat of the Vornish blood. Incidentally, the Imperial bodyguards at the court of Vornheim are made up entirely of Tieflings….