The Painter: Part One
It was a day like no other throughout the kingdom. The sun was gone, vanished and hidden by a thick cover of raging and writhing blanket of clouds above. Raindrops pelted down from the heavens as if the sky were tossing tiny missiles to curse the people below. The ground was muddy and pockmarked with these little raindrops, and every few seconds, the Alabrisses would slip as they feverishly dragged the carriage up the long, steep path to the castle.
Inside the carriage was a girl. She had toneless blue grey fur and long wilting ears, and on the lush magenta but slightly damp cushioned seat of the carriage, she sat not as a lady, but slumped and dejected. She did not care to look around her vessel, as many others would have, and she did not see the velvet curtains swishing over the glass windows gently as the carriage bounced, nor did she see the exquisite yellowing lace, slightly soiled and neglected, that rimmed the bottom of the seats. Indeed, the only thing she could perceive was the polished dark wood floor, and by this, she was not impressed at all.
The Alabrisses came the the final stretch of the mountain's path, the steepest and most treacherous of all. Inside the carriage, the girl could heard their strained breathing over the sound of the fat raindrops tumbling over the roof of the carriage. She felt the downwards pull as they continued their ascent almost vertically up the mountain, and she wondered if the King would care if her carriage fell off the mountain before she arrived at the castle.
The girl knew why she had been summoned. Her mother had told her to keep her art a secret, but only a year ago, her mother had died of a cold in a rainstorm not unlike this. As she got poorer and more impoverished and her emaciation began to show through her thin, matted coat, she could no longer take heed of the needs of the artwork.
The paint began peel, the pigments began to fade, and the color began to thin. She could barely take proper care of herself, much less the paintings. And then, one day, she did what her mother had forbidden the moment she had learnt of her talent. She sold a painting, and was well paid for it.
Before she knew it, the kings' men were hauling her from the defiled alleyway that she had been living out what she had suspected were her last days, and she had been shoved unceremoniously into a carriage and sent on her way. Quite soon she would be in the King's presence, and heaven knows what he would ask her to do.
"Follow me," said the courier in a way that suggested that he could care less whether the girl trailing behind him was saturated with water or about to drop of hunger. He swept through the elaborate corridors so quickly the girl had no time to take in anything but the squishy carpet beneath her feet and the uncomfortable squelching sounds her threadbare slippers were making.
Quite abruptly, they stopped, and the poor girl nearly crashed headlong into the courier, such was the pace at which they were moving
Before them was a monumental oaken door, embossed in intricate carvings of royal Elephantes leading a procession of oddities and anomalies; dancing Myncies in sheer veils sashaying along on their hands, flocks of weewoos flying in formations, and just in the middle of where the two great doors met, a king, surrounded by the ladies of the court, looking quite grand on his coach indeed.
He thrust open the door, and the first thing the girl noticed was the king, looking a bit like an overgrown baby Buzz, though he was clearly a Gelert. His green fur was shiny and lustrous, but his thick, padded attire-pantaloons lined with lace on the cuffs, a blue vest with an atrocious cut, fake seeming pink and white fur- only contributed to the appearance of one who has never had to do a pace of exercise in their entire life.
The rest of the throne room was embellished until ones eyes throbbed; the roof was held up by wide stone columns plated in tiny mirrored tiles, the walls in between these columns were manned by standard bearers holding royal purple pennants on posts with the lavishly decorated golden crown on them. The walls themselves were draped in tapestries of scenes of wild hunts, heroic battles fought, Draiks slain and maidens kissed. The long walkway that led to the kings throne, which appeared to be solid old, was the same heavy, slightly moldy purple carpet.
It was, thought the girl, possibly the tackiest throne room that could have existed.
"Sire, I have brought the girl you desire," puffed the courier as if he had just saved the kingdom from a demented Draik and not pulled a small girl from a carriage in the rain. "She's the painter, to replace the last one."
The king squinted at the girl- that is to say, he narrowed his eyes even further than they had already been, for he looked half asleep. "She's rather small. And not very pretty." The girl felt her face flush under her grey coat. "Are you sure?"
"Your majesty, she was the one in the carriage... So I assume so." The girl felt a bit of guilty smugness at his hesitance.
"Not good enough..." muttered the king, furrowing his brow. "Need proof..." he looked as though he was doing some very laborious thinking. "Oh! I have had the most brilliant idea!" he nodded and beamed. "She'll paint! If it's not right, she'll be executed and if it's good, she'll be kept!"
The courier nodded erratically in agreement. "Yes, sire. I shall send for the paint and canvas straight away." He nodded his way out of the throne room, leaving the girl situated in a very awkward situation.
"So," boomed the King, finally turning his focus to the girl. "Have you a name, or shall I just call you 'The Painter'?" He chuckled as if he had said something extremely witty.
The girl bobbed her head. "My name is Emma," she mumbled to the ground.
"I can't hear you!" declared the king, looking very smug. "So I suppose you want to be called The Painter, then."
Emma swallowed and tried to correct him, but her voice didn't seem to be functional at the moment. After a moment of trying, she nodded her assent mutely.
"Ha ha! Well then painter- oh, here is the paint and canvas! You shall paint me something or lose your head!" The King laughed with a kind perverse happiness. Emma wondered if his easy existence gave him an eccentric sense of humor.
"Sir..." Emma coughed once to get her voice working. "Sir... Sire... What shall I paint?"
The King shook his head. "Oh I don't know. Paint what you like- no, paint my pet Bookie. My faerie Gruslen; see?" He extracted a rather squished looking Gruslen from his lap, where it had been suffocating. He leaned down, stretched, making his buttons pop, and dropped his Gruslen a few inches from the floor, where it shook itself, looking a bit disgruntled.
Emma scrutinized the Faerie Gruslen. After many moments of this, she nodded, and drifted over to the canvas in a way that suggest that her confidence had been reinvigorated, being so close to the medium she was at ease with.
At a glance, Emma could see that the canvas was much more high quality than that of any of her others. The fibers that made it up were thin and delicate, it was stretched over its frame expertly, the intertwined threads were well woven and made a smooth, flat surface. And the paints... More colors than she could have ever imagined: Blues ranging from flat, dull robins egg blue to stunning, translucent-yet-not aqua blue, like looking into the eyes of the spirit of the ocean. The reds went from deep and warm and comforting, to bright, loud, and bloody. The greens spanned green so pale it cause discomfort to look at directly and seemed to slosh about merrily in its canister as if it were having a jolly time, to the type of green one could find deep in the forest, the type that only grew more engaging and deep as time wore on.
Emma felt herself drawn to the paints, and without thinking, dipped her hand in a steely blue, just to see if it was as cool as it looked- to her surprise, it was like liquid ice, her hand seemed to crackled and go rigid with the cold. Startled, she pulled it out, barely hearing the amused chortles of the court.
Gingerly picking up one of the many paintbrushes she had been supplied with, taking a moment to admire their elegant uni-hair tips, she dipped it into one of the browns that would be part of the background with care, just wetting the tip.
And before the eyes of the court, the depiction of the of the Gruslen bloomed like a flowering vine. And though they rubbed their eyes and blinked and shook their heads and whispered, they saw what everyone else saw- the Gruslen was trotting and shaking its head and prancing. It fluttered its wings and lifted itself up to its hind legs before falling backward on its back and flailing before jumping up and chasing its tail- and everyone laughed, both at the painting and at the real Gruslen, which was doing the same- and then, they saw the little girl, standing proudly before her painting. With a jolt, they saw the painting, and they saw the little girl, and they realized what had happened. And they clapped and cheered and brava-ed for the small girl with a magical touch.
To be continued...