Story for the Day: The Painter
The Haanta Series has over 300 characters, some minor some major, but all important in their own way. I often like to write short stories about minor characters simply to see where their paths take me. Sometimes they come and go, as the reporter in the Reporter from Marridon does: he visits Frewyn in hopes of getting some fresh gossip to take back to the Triumvirate; but sometimes characters who demand to have a short story written about them end up becoming major players in later books. Mr Bradbureigh, Kai Linaa's art teacher, is one such character, one who began as just a little old grumpy man in a paint shoppe and flourished into one of Frewyn's heroes.
To ensure that Kai Linaa would not be plagued by any further distress, Unghaahi followed her to the painter's, prepared to scowl at any who would hinder her from finishing her errand and flex his gargantuan arms toward those who would show her any further unkindness. He remained as well as he could in the shadows of the moderately sized buildings, slipping in and out of the alleyways each time Kai Linaa looked over her shoulder or turned her head to descry the shingles on the opposing side of the street. He did not wish to make her feel oppressed by his continued presence, but that she should not be stopped or questioned for having so great a sum on her person was his object.Unaware of her mate's following her, Kai Linaa skipped down the lanes lined with shoppes on each side, her eye falling everywhere met with colour and brilliancy, and her attention upon everything other than the immense shadow trailing behind her. In raptures over the sum she was entreated to spend on her newfound talents, she could not have found everything more agreeable than it had ever been before: the ribbons bringing down from the millinery shelves seemed more vibrant, the street vendors more convivial and obliging, the patrons more courteous, the children less riotous, and altogether the capital was cast under a joyful light. She bounded down the lane and hopped up the steps to the painter's shoppe where fresh paints were just being mixed, charcoals were being kilned, and colours of every distinction were being created.
The bell atop the front door pealed as she slowly crept over the threshold, and here was a trove of delights to discover: stacks of coloured chalks, charcoals in every shade rolled in thick paper, bottled oils and pressed watercolours, finished and framed portraits hanging along the back wall: an array all lighted up by one shaft of golden afternoon light illuminating the flecks of dust drifting along the gentle gales wafting through the partially opened window. The space, warmed by the brilliant and varying hues, was cool and dry, guarded so, as Kai Linaa suspected, to keep the carefully alloyed paints from separating. A temperate humidity might be preferable to the painter during a Frewyn winter but could never agree with the paints: the colours must leap from the canvas when placed against the white of the heavy Frewyn snows, and painting in winter when the cold provided an excellent drying ground made painting the perfect art for the season. Sitting indoors with lemon tea in one hand and a brush or pencil in the other was all Kai Linaa's aspiration, and the moment the first wave of astonishment had done with her after walking through the door and eyeing every treasure within, she approached the counter and said in a timid voice, "Excuse me, sir?"
The painter, sitting behind the counter and engaged with his work, grinding dried elderberries and making dyes, looked up momentarily to see the eyes peering back at him from above the counter's edge. "What do you want, girly?" he grunted, glowering at her from over his round spectacles.
Kai Linaa tried not to smirk at the disgruntled old man. His manner amused her, and his tall cloth hat folded over at the top granted him a something like oafishness. "I was wondering," she hemmed, "if you had a collection of paints and brushes together in one box that I could buy."
The painter humphed. "We got paints and we got brushes, girly," he grumbled. "You want a box, you go to the stationer across the street."
It was said with a dismissiveness that offended Kai Linaa. She knew that her efforts in art were novel at best, but she was learning and must have the tools of the trade if she was to heighten her abilities. She inhaled, and exhaling declared, "Well, maybe you can show me the paints that you would suggest."
The painter fleered and rasped, "Are you an artist, girly, or ain't you?"
Her brow bent in consternation. "I am," she professed, with unanswerable dignity.
"Then what do you need me to tell you what to buy for?"
There was a pause. Kai Linaa was bemused, and the painter continued crushing the elderberry with his mortar and pestle, the grinding clink of stone upon stone pervading the thick air of the shoppe. She waited for the painter to say more, but when there was nothing, she parted her lips to speak. Her remonstrances were by him glancing upward from his work and suddenly saying, "The artist has to choose the medium, girly. I can tell you all manner of things what to buy, if I were greedy. A young pretty girly like you coming here with a full purse? Pah! Too easy to leech off you. You'll have to choose the paints for yourself."
Kai Linaa’s parted lips now closed and she made a slight sigh. She felt now she had misjudged the old and bent painter. She had begun to believe him improprietous and was ready to accuse him of mistreatment until he had made her aware of her misunderstanding. With renewed zeal and a nervous smile did she take up a basket from beside the counter and begin to peruse the shelves when the sight of the door suddenly closing drew her attention. I didn’t hear anyone come in behind me, she conceived, her eyes tapering as she observed the door slink closed without causing the bell to sound.
The painter’s gave a low and guttural laugh. "Ha, you can't scare me, girly," he rasped.
Kai Linaa regarded the painter with a confused aspect. "Scare you?"
"That grey mountain what walked in after you. He belong to you?"
Her eyes flared, and she half smiled. "Grey mountain? You mean Unghaahi?"
"He was trying to broil me with those eyes of his when I asked you if you were an artist." He chuffed and began adding the oils to his mixture. "I explained myself for him, not for you. Lummox coming into my shoppe, grimacing at me and cracking his big knuckles. Huh. Well,” waving a dismissive hand, “I ain't scared of him. His frowning face may fool me, but his eyes are no great liar. There's too much love in them. Get on, girly. Find your paints." He nodded toward, and turning around to grab the mortar, he said to himself, "I still ain't getting you a box."
The old man continued with his work, leaving Kai Linaa to parade the shoppe and examine the numerous shelves as she would. A smile or two as she spied the ends of Unghaahi’s long braids from the window was all the recognition that she allow herself at present. That he had come to advocate for her in his quiet way was all her exultation, and she inspected every item before her with a glowing countenance, trying not to exude too much happiness while the painter was by and failing miserably.