Breezes of brilliant hues flowed from the Painter’s brushes to stroke the canvas with shadow and light. This evening, a summer night indefinite in time, she danced a mirror upon the canvas, sunset flashing through the paint-flecked gate as it flashed through the real gate outside.
Yet it was a broken mirror in one aspect: in the real world, the gate was locked and could not be opened by her. Her patron refused to release her, save when she needed inspiration, a new scene to paint. Then she went boarded up in a carriage and concealed from prying eyes. By these machinations, the Duke hoped to convince the City the paintings were his, but rumors of the Painter were enough to sustain the truth of her work. There was too much of her in the paintings, too much life, too much brilliance set free.
She had never painted the gate before, open or closed. Every one of the Duke’s tamed gardens and exotic curiosities had been depicted by her hand – but never the gate. It was the one pain in her heart, and it ached to look at the reminder of her captivity.
Even as she painted it, the gate changed in her mind. It became a thing of light and hope, beckoning, inviting… as if the world in canvas were as real as the world in flesh.
She sensed when the Duke entered the room and did not turn, rapt upon the tumult of tones. He would often watch her for a time, but never interrupted her.
The Painter finished smoothing the last daubed shadow and turned to face him. She did not need to stand back or study her work to know it was complete. The rich orange sun gleamed, bathing the path outside in promise.
The Duke’s eyes flashed with a moment’s wonder, but he dismissed it. “I wish you would do portraits,” he said. “That’s where the money and the fame is. The artist who captured my late wife works for the High King now.”