The old man stood by the window, impatiently tapping his fingernails against the wooden sill. They were kept rather long for a person in his line of work, but they were tough old nails that had only thickened as the years went by, worthy embellishments for his gnarled, callused hands. Despite their appearance, his fingers were deft, and he was known for his ability to bring life to his paintings with tiny, carefully applied strokes.

These days, he only accepted one or two commissions a year. If one was fortunate enough to catch him at work in his studio, they would be greeted by the sight of him with brush in hand, fingers darting across the canvas. Swiftly mixing a dab of this paint with that on the palette, his movements resembled the gentle hover-skip of dragonflies. A long time ago, when there’d been more red in his hair and his beard than whites and greys, he would paint like a fiend. Half the upper classes’ homes were filled with still life and landscape pieces that were said to move in the shadows, especially the shadows which came with late afternoon and chased the sun into dusk. 

The old man’s name was Arc, and Arc was waiting. His apprentice had, against all attempts at dissuasion, chosen to travel to the far reaches of Murkeshire to seek out the princess Nearach Arachne. This troubled him greatly, for he alone had crossed the princess and escaped with enough wits (all of them intact, in fact) to tell the tale. It had come at a price. She had left him with a web of scars that began at his left ear and ended at his right shoulder. Raised, hardened lines of skin stretched across his cheek, his nose, his jaw, and his neck, pure white at the very center of each path, like lightning.


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