Serana’s Blue Period
Blue eyes opened to a sea of organza. Falls of blue, white, and teal cascaded from a single point above, creating a canopy as it reached the floor. As she looked down, her eyes were met with sterile white sheets. Odd, she thought, feeling the unexpectedly rough cotton beneath her fingers. I know it’s been a while since I’ve seen my own bed, but I could have sworn my sheets were better than this. She pushed herself up, using her right arm as leverage, and threw her feet to the floor. Her body felt heavy, but she willed it to move forward. Pain radiated through her, sharp and dark and red and aching, with every step that she took. Off to the side, the Oculus Arcanum sat neglected in the corner, along with her old adventuring gear, hidden under a sheet.
It occurred to her then that pain was the last thing she remembered. Blinding, bright, white fire consuming her vision along with her body, eventually claiming her consciousness. She ran a hand through her hair. Elias will know, she thought, adding to her mental list of unanswered questions. He had been there when it happened. She remembered a look of horror on his face, an uncharacteristic shriek of fear from Tamir, a call of Serana! from a terrified Amorette, and a look of shock on Uira’s usually unreadable face. Whatever had happened must have been bad. She clenched her fists at her side, careful not to disturb her left arm too much. That seemed to be where the pain was coming from.
Finally, she reached the mirror. A familiar face stared back at her, exhaustion darkening her eyes. Bright white curls hung limp from the top of her head. Looks like someone washed it, she mused. She wondered who. Serana allowed her eyes to roam across the image reflected back at her, taking stock of the damage. Bandages bound her chest, her stomach, her hips, her left thigh. Looks like I took one hell of a beating, she cringed, perusing them all. She flexed her left hand — or tried to. Nothing moved. Her arm wasn’t bandaged to her chest as she had briefly thought. It just wasn’t there.
Somewhere, someone screamed. A cry of grief and desolation. Serana couldn’t be sure who it was. She was too busy lamenting the loss of something that never should have been missing. Something she had forgotten was missing.
Suddenly, warm arm arms wrapped around her, gently lifting her from the floor. “I’m glad to see you awake,” said a voice evocative of the crackling fire in a hearth, “I’m sorry you had to face the truth alone, though. Probably should have waited for someone to come back before you tried to get up, but when do you ever do what’s best for you?” Elias soothed, a hint of a smile in his voice but none on his face. His eyes shone with relief.
“Elias,” she choked out, unable to shake the cold shock that had overtaken her. “Elias, where’s… where is…” She couldn’t bring herself to say it. To admit the truth. Instead, she gestured to her left shoulder.
Sorrow and guilt filled Elias’s eyes. “I’m sorry, Ana, Amorette did all she could. There uh…wasn’t much left to work with.” He held her as the tears finally overtook her, sobs shaking her smaller body. He buried his face in her short hair, sharing in her grief. They stayed that way until she stilled, sleep overtaking her once more.
Days passed. Weeks. Months. The physical damage had been healed with little scarring left behind to mark the incident. Serana couldn’t help but be impressed. Amorette always had done fine work, but this was possibly her best. If only she could heal Ana’s heart as easily.
When Elias wasn’t sitting with her, making sure she wasn’t about to do something she’d regret, the others would stay. Her father would join them as often as he could, spending his time cooking to make sure that they all had enough to eat and fussing over them out of concern. Occasionally her mothers and sisters would join him, but Telakir mostly came alone as Molly traveled often and Zara stayed home with Ava, since she wasn’t old enough or responsible enough to be on her own yet.
On that particular day, Serana didn’t join them in the small kitchen area. She stayed in her bedroom, watching the people walking through the street, carrying on with their lives. She often did this — never speaking, barely eating, occasionally acknowledging whoever sat with her that day.
“I just wish that I could find something she would be interested in again. I’ve asked if she wants to go out for a walk, sit on the beach to watch the ships, hell, even if she wanted to paint again. She only ever says Elias, I told you no, please stop then waits for me to leave. It’s been three months already,” the genasi sighed. It pained him to see the woman he called sister and friend become this empty husk of her once-vibrant self.
“Give her time,” Telakir said, stirring the finely-minced garlic into the gazpacho he’d been working on. “She’ll find her way back to us sooner rather than later. Besides, you of all people should know how stubborn my daughter is. Never has been interested in doing what others tell her to do.”
Elias nodded. “I think I may have a plan.”
Elias had been leaving paints, brushes, and canvases within easy reach for weeks now. She knew what he was doing. Serana had held out for quite some time, but the blank canvas drew her in. That stretched nothingness irritated her. It always had. Canvas was meant to be flooded with color.
Elias had told her he planned to buy the space downstairs and turn it into an art studio, just like they’d talked about for years. Neither of them had planned to retire so young. She had tossed a sack of coins in his direction, her share of The Company of the Sparrows’ final adventure. It was the first big reaction she’d had in months. A ghost of her old cocky smile graced her sullen features as she said “hey, we said we’d do this together, so at least let me invest on the ground level or whatever those merchant-types say.” Elias wouldn’t to say no to that.
Serana wasn’t about to let him fill up their new gallery all on his own. Sculpture had its place, but the walls needed some color. They needed her paintings.
Eventually, she sat in front of that blank canvas. The white expanse stared back at her, taunting her, daring her to mar its surface with pigments. Usually the canvas would win out, wearing its blankness as a badge of honor for yet another day.
Today it wouldn’t win.
She hated that bright white canvas.
A smear of blue slashed across the surface. A satisfied smile crossed her face. It felt nice, right, to attack the canvas like that. She needed to do it again.
She slashed again and again, adding blue wounds to the canvas each time. It would not win. She would defeat her biggest enemy.
She cried when it was finished, catharsis taking over. Elias praised it, saying he was glad to see her paint again. She didn’t feel like it was worth the praise. She never had been good at painting with her right hand.
Her heart still felt as empty as the canvas had been. Somehow, though, the usual dull ache had lessened. Maybe she could paint herself a map back to normal. She hoped so.
Elias finished his work, allowing Amorette to heal the damage he caused. “There, now try to move it,” he asked, pointing at the foreign hand at her side. It was smooth, the same pale purple as the rest of her, but it was not hers. She lifted the hand, turning it over as she stared at it.
Elias looked very pleased with himself. “How does it feel?”
The smile fell from his face. He had started drawing up plans the moment they got her stabilized. Others in the city could make prosthetics, but none were up to his incredibly high standards. “You don’t have to use it. I just thought you might feel better if you had your arm back.”
She nodded. “I’ll…I’ll try it out.” She gave him a weak smile, barely more than a grimace. “Thank you.”
The final piece had finally been added. The walls were no longer bare, the windows draped with colorful silk organza that tinted the sunlight to compliment the décor. Smokepowder Fine Arts was in business. Elias and Serana had created the gallery of their dreams. With a studio in the back and the small apartment above that they still shared, it was their personal refuge.
“I’ve got something for you, call it a celebration gift,” Elias told her, pointing to a long box on a table in the studio. She pulled the ribbons, letting the left hand hang at her side. It still didn’t feel like hers.
Inside the box was a new arm, translucent blue and polished to a shine. “You already built me an arm, why do I need another?” she asked as she pushed back the colorful paper cushioning it.
“Feel it!” Elias said, bouncing with excitement. Her fingers touched the surface. Cold. Hard. “It’s glass!” he cried. “I noticed that you’ve been having trouble working on bigger pieces. Your arm was my first go at something like that. I considered just doing some tune-ups and calling it good, but I knew I could have done better.” He helped her take off her arm, disconnecting it at the socket installed in her shoulder.
The glass arm had a bit more weight, but something about it just felt right. She flexed her fingers, marveling at how it finally felt like hers. “It’s glass so you can use it as a palette,” Elias offered. “What do you think, Ana?”
She grinned, already reaching for a brush. “I love it, Lias. It’s perfect. A new arm for a new me.” She then turned back to the blank canvas she had set up only moments ago, getting lost in the colors as they followed her brush. Elias let her be, returning to the sculpture he had started that morning.
“Okay, I think it’s finished. What do you think?” she proclaimed a few hours later.
Elias slung an arm around her shoulders, smiling down at her. “Honestly? Eh, it’s fine, I’ve seen better.” A gentle glass elbow to the gut earned her a pleading “Alright, alright, I was just kidding! Really, Ana, I think it’s your best work yet. We’re not selling this one, I claim it as a shop piece. We can put it behind the reception desk. Unless the Marquis offers us a few hundred thousand for it, then I might be persuaded to let it go.”
“Thanks,” she said, staring at the sparrow soaring through a clouded blue sky. “It’s like it wasn’t even painted by me. It’s almost *too* good.”
“To be fair, you haven’t exactly been the Serana we all know and love since you started painting again. You’ve done a lot of changing.”
A sly grin overtook her features as she finished wiping the paint from her arm. “Well, then, maybe Serana didn’t paint them. I’ve been getting bored of that name anyways. It’s never really fit as well as I wanted it to.”
He returned her grin, a look of pure mischief on his face. “Alright, Dorasen.” He ducked as a green-loaded brush was hurled in his direction, a venomous look on his best friend’s face.
“I need something powerful, yet elegant. Classy,” she muttered, her new hand drifting over her paints, debating what to create next. She picked up a tube, squeezing a small amount of the oil paint onto her freshly cleaned glass arm. Her brush drifted across a new canvas, leaving color in its wake. “Now, *that* is elegant and powerful,” she said confidently.
She turned to Elias, offering a grandiose mock bow in his direction, brush still in hand. When she met his eyes again, an accidental smear of paint on her cheek and in her hair, she spoke.
“Pleased to meet you. The name’s Alizarin Crimson.”