Kethryll the Brushmaster: The Hero’s Gaze
A Literature Prompt - Flash Fiction
The brush danced across the canvas, leaving a trail of soft gold pigments, accentuating the sunset through distant clouds. Soft greens and yellows intricately captured the grasses of the valley, shades of crimson depicting batches of flowers. Thick impasto strokes created the rough, craggy texture of rocky outcroppings flanking the lone survivor of the Battle of the Ironkeep. The Rivercrest Citadel, on the banks of the Saphire Mountains River, filled the background. Its ancient spires were built high enough to pierce the clouds.
The smell of fresh paint hung heavy in the air, the pungent aroma filling the painter’s studio. It was a heavy mix of chemicals, solvents and pigments that melted together, a scent that the artist had grown addicted to during a lifetime of painting. It had a sharp, clean quality to it, like the crisp tang of a winter morning. It was a smell that spoke of new beginnings, of fresh starts and unspoiled potential, a reminder that every blank canvas held the possibility for a new masterpiece.
The artist's studio was a large, airy space with high ceilings and large windows that allow ample natural light to flood the room. The walls are adorned with half-finished paintings and sketches of various subjects, organized but cluttered, with canvases, paints, brushes, and other art supplies scattered about.
A fine brush added tiny details, like the hero's hair blowing in the wind and the castle's windows glinting in the fading light. And when he was done, he stepped back to admire his work, marvelling at the way the hero seemed to leap off the canvas and into the world beyond.
“I have captured the essence of a hero.”
“I don’t have an essence.” scowled Aelric Battleborn, Shadowbane to enemies of the realm, hero to all.
Kethryll the Brushmaster motioned for Aelric to come and look upon greatness. "Ah, but that is where you are wrong, my friend. Your essence is what makes you a hero, what sets you apart from others. It is the very thing that makes you worthy of a portrait."
Slowly Aelric rose from the stool, stretching out his body from being motionless for what felt like the better part of two days. "Well, I guess that makes sense."
“Come, come, be the first to witness a masterpiece that will outlast your legendary feats”.
Aelric stepped around the easel and stared intently at the canvas. His eyes darted over every inch, absorbing the vibrant colours and intricate details. His brow furrowed as he focused on the lone figure in the painting, facing away from the viewer, looking over the majestic valley towards Rivercrest Citadel.
After a few moments of silence, he turned to the painter and asked, "Is this me?"
"Of course it's you," Kethryll replied with a weak smile. "Who else would it be?"
Aelric let out a deep sigh, his shoulders slumped in defeat.
"Well, it's the back of you, but it's definitely you."
"Why did you paint me from behind?"
"Well, I thought it would be more...dramatic. You know, looking out over the valley with the Citadel in the distance. The hero returns with the prized sceptre”.
Aelric turned to the artist with a bewildered look, “But I didn’t carry it on my back.”
"Ah, well, artistic license, you know?" Kethryll waved his hands dismissively.
Aelric took a few steps back and examined the painting again, his hand slowly rubbing his chin. "I suppose it does capture the moment."
“I’m glad you like it. I call it…The Hero's Gaze.”
Suddenly, Aelric spun around to face the artist again, with a worried look on his face. “Wait a minute, is that what I look like from behind?”
Kethryll the Brushmaster winced “Um, well, not exactly. I have added some, extra proportions to the shoulders.”
Aelric instinctively ran his hand over his slender shoulder muscles.
“You’re not exactly model material from that angle Aelric.”
“From any angle?”
Kethryll’s eyes fell to the floor as he turned away from Aelric’s glare. He quickly collected his brushes and started cleaning them with a singular focus. Hoping Aelric would leave.
“Well?” Aelric asked.
“Oh.” Kethryll cleared his throat and spoke delicately. "Well, you see, my dear hero, your features are, ahem, quite unusual, to say the least. And as an artist, I must confess that capturing them accurately would be a rather daunting task."
"What do you mean?" Aelric asked.
The artist hesitated for a moment before continuing. "Well, it's just that, uh, your nose is a bit crooked, and your chin is rather pronounced, and...well, let's just say that your overall countenance presents a certain degree of, ah, challenge for an artist such as myself."
The hero's expression darkened. "Are you saying that I'm ugly?" he demanded.
The artist quickly backpedalled. "No, no, of course not! I simply mean that your unique features are not the easiest to capture in paint. But fear not, my dear hero, for I shall do my best to create a portrait that does justice to your...erm...individuality."
"Fine, do what you can," he grumbled. "Just make sure it looks impressive, okay?"
"You have my word, my friend," Kethryll smiled weakly as he went to fetch a blank canvas, from his second studio, several leagues away.