• Open • Travelling pictures, talking trees [Open]

Darragh invents postcards. Feel free to join her as trees start talking!

Once an isolated and dying township, an influx of academics, adventurers and thrill seekers have made Scalvoris Town their home. From scholars' tea shops to a new satellite campus for Viden Academy, this is an exciting place to visit or make your home!

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Darragh
Approved Character
Posts: 20
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2021 3:34 am
Race: Human
Renown: 0
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Wealth Tier: Tier 1

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Travelling pictures, talking trees [Open]

24th of Cylus, Scalvoris Town

Every passing Cylus, Darragh felt the absence of her crew even deeper.

Cylus was a time when families huddled together for warmth and light. She looked up to see a stray snowflake in lead-colored sky, and imagined her old ship cruising over the waves, a white beacon cutting through the edges of storms. Below the deck, there would be board games and the drunken rattle of bottles, for when the weather was clear, and an old man with shaky hands who was unbeatable at darts, and music to hold the oppressive darkness at bay. There would be the smell of spices hanging heavy in the air. In the corner…Her parents…Darragh’s heart ached. Would they be proud at the life she’d made for herself? Were they even alive?

She looked down at the pristinely white pavement, and willed herself to move. The snow was up to her knees. The more she dallied, the less she would be able to do today. The morning was getting lively, with people starting to go about their lives, one cracking the ice lid on a well, another letting out a puff of sweet-smelling smoke that followed her down the road, but somehow all Darragh could focus on was the crackle of her own steps. Prolonged darkness toys with one’s mind, a stranger in a grey cloak had told her. Darragh struggled not to linger over what happened at the Flowerlight Festival.

She settled, as the day before, by the corner of the bakery in the Indoor Market. Here, the pockmarked snow just reached her ankles, and with the stool she was allowed to borrow from inside, her feet wouldn’t even have to touch it. The market wasn’t truly indoors, but a couple of enterprising craftsmen had attached sturdy wooden panels to neighboring houses, which could be tethered horizontally between buildings as extra roofs, or vertically as windbreaks. Even after the heaviest snows of Cylus, the narrow, labyrinthine alleys of the Market remained pulsing with life.

At her back, the stone was warm. It would get even warmer throughout the day, Darragh knew, as the great oven inside continued churning out fresh loaves and sweet-smelling cakes. It would be warm enough for her to paint outside. She took out her fishing rod, her fishing line and hooks, and set up a web to display her small, intricate landscapes. There would be enough light coming from the inside, combined with the lamp she’d also borrowed, for others to browse. She sat down with a sigh, having helped split some of the logs used for the fire as part of her understanding with the baker. Some might call her foolish, laughing at the preposterous idea of a vagabond artist trying to peddle her creations outside, during the darkest, coldest, quietest season of the year.

But Darragh smiled, because art is a lie, and as her lie was beginning to catch. Her luck was turning.

It had started a couple of trials ago. The travelling painter was lurking by the papermaker’s, hoping to grab some scraps for practice in exchange for some chores. From the waste basket by the fire, she ‘rescued’ a wad of fails crafted by an apprentice. She didn’t realize her luck, at first. This paper was hard, far thicker than it should have been. Practically cardboard. Even for practice, it was unfriendly, and would be too heavy to lug it all around once she was back on the road.

The second piece of the puzzle came to her during the Sea of Light. A young girl had been charmed by her creations - some which Darragh had painted that very night – gleefully remarking on the shimmering effect which, to be honest, had been just the painter’s trembling hands. The girl wished she could send the scene to her grandmother in Egilrun. Her mother took her away, commenting that paintings were too fragile to withstand travel. Still, the travelling painter didn’t realize it. But that comment was the seed of what was to come.

The third piece was the context, the fertile soil of the mind. What was the ‘use’ of art, Darragh had often wondered. For the travelling painter, it was catharsis. She couldn’t help but paint. For her people, it was an expression of the inner soul that had to be sheltered. Highly educated artists from Viden Academy would say that art is its own purpose, and look down their noses at clothing embroidery and metalwork, no matter how beautiful, for it had to compromise with utility. Craftsmen would chide artists for making things that, although beautiful, were ultimately hollow. Could painting be useful? Of what use would it be? For a few days, Darragh used her cardboard to draw croissants and other pastries on small price labels, the idea which first brought her to the bakery. This got her used to using the harsh paper. But landscapes were her passion, and so in her free time, she sketched waves.

Then realization broke through.

It went like an icicle down her spine. That trial, she cut the cardboard into neat, envelope-sized pieces. The landscapes which were already on it, she touched up; others, she copied from her earlier sketches, or drew anew. On the back, she wrote three words: ‘From:’, ‘To:’, ‘Address:’. A few straight lines underneath, to help align future text. A completely blank half, for as much or as little text as the user desired.

Because the simplest lies are the easiest to take root.

“These are travelling pictures,” Darragh explained to an interested passer-by. “Far-away landscapes to send to friends in the city, or local landscapes to send to far-away friends.” She flipped the painting backwards. “You can just write the address here, a short message, find a courier, and that’s it! Don’t even need an envelope, if you don’t have one on hand.” She tapped the edge of the card. “Quite hardy, so it will withstand the perils of travel.” She flicked it in her hand. “Light, so it won’t be too expensive.” Darragh kept silent, allowing the man to peruse everything from a ship made of stars sailing across the night sky, to glowing webs up tree branches, to floating lanterns. Scalvoris held many wonders. He looked thoughtful. “Is there anyone that you think might enjoy this?” She attempted.

His eyes lit up.

In trying to understand what art meant for potential customers, Darragh had come to a few conclusions. Nearly all people liked beautiful things; however, most would see paying for beauty alone as an extravagance. Even rich people would look at it as a matter of ‘completing the look of a room’ or ‘expressing an esthetic’, and it’s not like her painting was fancy enough for their tastes anyway. It was easiest to lie to yourself that you bought something functional that happened to be pretty, such as a hairpin, rather than pay for pretty things and struggle to find them a purpose. But what if there was somebody inventing a purpose for something that in essence was just a pretty thing…?

People liked those sorts of lies, Darragh was starting to realize.

It was almost frightening, how they were practically throwing money at her these days. At least, in comparison to what she was used to. Sharps and a few of his Cadouri friends had walked by, and been completely enamored with the idea of being able to buy gifts for friends who were far away. Darragh had almost stopped them, unwilling to take advantage of their naiveté, but she couldn’t find it in her to treat them like children. Still, just for them, she made a return policy.

Halfway through the most recent morning, she entered the bakery, and warmed up with a mug of hot milk. With painfully sweet anticipation, she ordered a slice of sponge cake to go along with it. She could afford cake. She could afford seconds. And that, after replenishing her painting supplies the previous day. When she walked back outside in the snow, the traveling painter felt as if she was walking on clouds.

Returning to her spot, Darragh caught a crackling sound from her side of the alley. Then another. A stray, perhaps? Then she caught the voice, so faint that she had to stop moving lest the brush of her coat against her cheeks covered it.

‘cold, so cold still…’

‘so dark…light, thin light, too thin for spinning into sugar, for now…dreaming of sugar, dreaming of growth, dreaming of light-’

Darragh carefully stood up, and moved in the direction of the voice. There was nothing she could see apart from a bare-branched peach tree, and the corner of the bakery. Maybe behind it?

“Excuse me…” Her heart beat oddly in her chest.

“E-excuse me, where are you?” She asked, resting her palm on the trunk. Hypothermia could affect one with gentle inevitability.

‘person? Speaker talks like person…but speaker has no roots. I can’t feel your roots, entwined. how do you talk?’

The voice suddenly was louder, as if the speaker was right in her face, and Darragh was too shocked to peel her hand away.

There was no one behind the tree.
word count: 1561

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