"Stone and Paint" (Downtime Ep 19)

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If one were to step into Cyl’s bedroom, nestled at the back of the Maestro’s studio, one would at first think they’d stumbled upon a secret Goa council meeting. Closer inspection of the figures on the walls, the shelving, and the floors, would reveal unfinished statues. Broken full model sculptures, busts with malformed features. All of them discarded drafts from her mentor, the Maestro Alvar.
The Maestro’s skills with painting, to most, seemed to border on the supernatural. But to Cyl, and his patron, the King, they very clearly crossed that border. But when it came to sculpture, he was still fallible, still mortal. It was one of the reasons Cyl had garnered employment with him so quickly when she came to Cinderhaven. She offered advice and insight from a lifetime raised among the craft.
The Elf Boy With Uneven Ears, The Dragonborn With Half a Tail, The Noseless corner, Hidden Rust Vein, Brittle Haunches: she was expected to destroy these cast-offs, but she didn’t have the heart to. They reminded her too much of home. They gave her center.
But today was not a day for sculptures. It was a day for her life’s blood: paint-making. Though the mood was considerably more sullen than normal.
The paint that the Maestro had requested of Cyl would have been difficult to produce on her own. The ingredients for blue pigment – the variety that she was familiar with, anyway – were expensive to import and even harder to gather in large amounts. But a shipping crate had arrived at the workshop with everything she needed, carefully and meticulously packaged. The King had spared no expense.
With all the ingredients accounted for, the pigment would be short work, and the paint itself would be simple to make from a color theory standpoint. Cyl knew it all too well: The blue of an early morning sky, inching towards lavender. A soft, introspective shade. Gentle, melancholy.
Seldanna’s blue was not easy to forget.
As the day grew late, Cyl had produced buckets of paint, dyes, and stains: all to be used in the publicity and celebration of Seldanna’s betrothal to the King. Cyl now knew full well about the wedding, not from her friend, but from the gently urgent instructions of the Maestro. Banners, murals, and invitations all needed to be produced before the week’s end.
She didn’t understand why Seldanna had kept it secret. They were all together trying to overthrow the King, weren’t they? Why wouldn’t she have wanted their help?
But Cyl wasn’t mixing anymore blue right now. As a bit of a break, she’d started on a much darker, uglier project. She didn’t think of it that way lightly. Color was beauty. Black tones had a strength to them, a combination of every color conceivable, all together in one bold shadow. Grays were dull, but relaxing: the curtain that overtook late evening and early morning when daylight began to dim. Greens and blues were the ocean, the jungle. Vibrant and powerful. Life itself.
But together – black, gray, and blue-green – they formed the impression of the eirshale rot.
As they dried, though, the damn colors wouldn’t set right. Half of her test swatches became a dull muddled brown. She couldn’t get the colors to look right on the thick linen paper. She needed to recreate the colors accurately so that she could safely document the outbreak. So she could safely show her mother, when the time came. Well…IF the time came. She grimaced, wiggling her toes with a grunt. The itching in the soles of her feet was getting hard to ignore.
Not to mention there was an added ache now along with the sensation of pins and needles. The scraping samples Pinbol took for his research would take time to heal.
No. The linen wasn’t going to work, by the look of things. She’d need something closer to eirshale. She glanced around the studio at her roommates. Marble, stone, granite…
For a moment, she reminded herself that there were better canvases to work with. She glanced down at her macabre paint palette, and then at her bare hand. Hesitantly, she dipped her fingers into the paint and began streaking small deliberate lines across her arm in grays, and blacks, and green-blues. Almost like a moldy cheese.
But that wasn’t the reference point she was working from. Cyl recalled the boat lift with unnerving detail. The dark veins of the disease as it corroded the eirshale frame. She thinks about the chunks of rotted eirshale in the drawer at the safe house. Remembering how her body surged with fear. Her people did not need to breath, but the idea of even sharing air with the rot sent her body into a panic.
Along with the memory of that panic, the tingling in her feet became unbearable, and she couldn’t fight the shiver that ran through her. Shaking, she smeared the paint along her arm, rubbing out the delicate lines.
Cyl shuffled to her feet and dunked her hands in her wash basin. Scrubbing and scraping at the wet paint to get herself clean.
But she wasn’t sure there was any way to feel truly clean anymore…
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