Alizarin’s Gilded Impressionism: Part I

The gentle ring of a bell heralded the announcement of yet another customer. Alizarin smiled, enjoying that soft sound as she had hundreds- no, thousands- of times since the grand opening of Smokepowder Fine Arts five years ago. The gallery had been more of a success than she could have ever dreamed. The people of Port Damali flocked to the unique pieces, easily funding the shop’s move to the Gilded Esplanade only a year and a half after its initial opening.

Alizarin still lived above the shop in a small apartment, but this time, she was alone. Elias had had the bright idea to hire a receptionist once he realized how busy they had become. Little did he know he’d inadvertently hired the man that would steal his fiery, passionate heart. Eyal complimented Elias well. Certainly helps that he’s the only person I know who makes drinkable coffee, Alizarin thought to herself, eyeing her now-empty cup with an affectionate smile.

Life had been kind to her. Almost too kind. She was starting to get suspicious. Something would have to break sooner or later.

A knock on the studio’s empty door frame caught her attention. “Somebody dropped off a letter for you, Liz,” Eyal sighed. In his hand was a drab, dingy envelope. It was clear the sender had no intentions of making a lasting impression on her.

She took the envelope with an equally deep sigh. “Thanks, Eyal. I hope it’s not someone else claiming that Elias and I stole an original idea again. As if we’d ever do that, that’s just boring.”

Slim, black filigree fingers pried open the flap. Alizarin hoped this wouldn’t take long. She was expecting some noble or other to arrive for a consultation soon. She’d put on her best gauzy blue dress, all her favorite gold jewelry, and her clockwork arm just for the occasion. The sender of the letter may not be out to impress anyone, but she certainly was.

Inside the envelope was a note written on a scrap sheet of paper. Couldn’t even be bothered with a full sheet, she thought, or even to put it in the envelope right. She flipped it over.

Dorasen,

Please come home. We need you. Molly is missing.

Love,

Zara

Her heart dropped. Molly, missing? How? She had always been the clever one, talking her way out of any situation she found herself in. Alizarin had always admired the charm the bard exuded, using the sly techniques she learned from her mother when charming customers into large purchases herself.

Molly couldn’t be missing. Yet…they’d gotten no letters from the traveling company in a while. Molly’s troupe sent letters home at every city they stopped in. Then, suddenly, there were no more letters.

“Eyal!” she shouted as she raced for the door. “Tell ‘Lias he’s gonna have to deal with the consult today, I have to go! No time to explain!” She dropped the note on the reception desk, the only explanation that she could offer in that moment.

Alizarin raced through the streets of Port Damali, her dress billowing out behind her in the warm sea breeze. People passed her by as if nothing was new — after all, it was commonplace to see Alizarin or Elias running through the city chasing after a new harebrained idea. She wasn’t sure when, but at some point she pulled the silk slippers from her feet. They were great for a meeting, not so much for rushing through crowds. She finally slowed as she reached the familiar bright teal door. The door that she had painted with Molly so many years ago. Filigree fingers ran over the surface, their owner losing herself momentarily in memory.

She had hoped to never see the scene that greeted her again. Her father, cooking something yet staring at a point on the wall, tears filling his eyes. Zara, her mother, gently weeping as she held a younger girl close. The girl jumped at the sound of the closing door. Once she realized who had arrived, she ran into Alizarin’s arms.

“Ava, I’m here. It’s okay,” Alizarin whispered, stroking the long, straight white hair of her sister. “We’ll find a way to get Mom back. I promise.” Zara remained the picture of elegance from her perch on the sofa, her deep purple face stained with trails of tears that had not yet had the time to dry. The tiefling had given her moment of emotion — now she would become the unflappable rock they all knew her to be.

Alizarin moved farther into the room, guiding Ava back to her seat beside their tiefling mother.

Telakir abandoned his cooking to join them. Once he was seated, he took her hand. “Dora, my dear. We don’t know what to do,” he sobbed, finally releasing the tears held in his eyes.

“We’ll figure it out, father, don’t worry,” she comforted. “Now, tell me everything.”

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