I've been a fan of the work of fantasy author Gene Wolfe for a long time. Back in the 1980s I read his "New Sun" series and did a number of illustrations for them, including this one. This piece depicts Severian, the torturer hero in his fuligin-black outfit, holding the executioner's sword in front of him. "Fuligin," a word perhaps invented by Wolfe, is the black that is darker than black, nowadays produced with carbon nanotubes. In the story, he falls in love with one of his prisoners, Thecla, who is eventually sentenced to die in a particularly horrible way. He slips her a knife so that she can slay herself before she meets that fate. For this, he is exiled and that is how his adventures begin. She shows up in his imagination, or perhaps as a ghost. In the picture, his ghostly lady, Thecla, is in the background. This is not a very good photo but it is the only one I have.
Severian portrait is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 20", August 1983.