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Aoiroo

Portraits

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It was a clear pretty day at Parkhurst. Out on the back lawn, there were several people enjoying it. Josephine was swinging from a swing hanging from one of the trees with her mother pushing her. Custos was sitting with Joe discussing some building techniques they saw on DIY network and ways to apply it to the outside of the house if nessicary, and Milly, who normally was busy around the house was trying very hard to sit perfectly still. Which you'd think would be easier if you didn't need to breath,

"How much longer mistress?"

Etain raised an eyebrow as she peered around the eisel. She was dressed in something like a layered white sundress. If it wasn't for the brown apron and brush both of which were smeared with paint you'd of think she was the one posing,

"Not much, once I get the pose right, I should be able to fill in the details adequitely. The formality of your addressing still troubles me slightly, it is a relic of your time, and of a society far left behind."
Milly smiled at her and piped,

"Yes mistress,"
Etain let out a breath and put some peachish color on her brush as she painted the outline of an arm for an otherwise drab and colorless ghost.

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There was a small crunch crunch crunch from the deck nearby, and a figure clad in black coat, black shirt, black pants, and black...socks...rounded the corner of the house - a small plate of Millie's homemade cookies occupying one hand, and one of said cookies currently half-filling his mouth. The figure stopped, blinking at the tableau before him, and looked down at the plate. Then promptly hid it behind his back.

 

"Urrm...hi." A bit muffled by a mouthful of cookie, Morgan gave a somewhat weak wave to Etain and Millie. Loud gulp - no more muffling. He cast about for an additional comment, if only to avoid focus on the aforementioned gulp; the hand holding half a cookie gestured to the easel. "Practicing the arts?"

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Etain looked up at Morgan and smiled,

"You are dressed rather warmly,"
She took the brush and finished a line,

"You can go Milly."
The ghost smiled and got up, walking over to talk to Joe. Etain turned on her stool and put her hands in her lap. They were nearly as white as the paper and lacking their usual gloves. They were also smugged with paint that she wiped off on the apron,

"I have been talking a lot with Rene, he suggested it as a way to pass the time, and let me borrow some supplies. Though I have been staying away from the oils, apparently they are never quite dry, just less damp. It is easier to do from observation."
She gestured to the portrait which unlike the current Milly, was in full color, showing her in dark maid attire, but with peach skin and bright sunbleached curls that rarely showed in her now ghostly form. There was also something odd, on her apron was a stain that was very dark on the white, and was blotched over her abdomen.

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A shrug. "You never know when evil might strike." Munch munch munch. "And Millie's getting better at hiding the cookie jar."

 

And on that completely mature note, he stepped forward to appraise the painting - Etain's description of her methods falling on...actually, surprisingly attentive ears. For an exercise-nut like Morgan, the arts were likely expected to be less than a major point in his education; probably even disparaged - but that honestly couldn't be further from the truth. The crafting of runes was a delicate process, involving lengthy periods of trial and error, precise shaping, a dab hand with a brush or even a hammer and chisel.

 

To be truthful, on an academic basis he was no art historian or critic - but on a practical basis, he was rather competent. Which is what lead to his eyebrows going up, and a hand rubbing his chin with a thoughtful noise.

 

"...huh. Nicely done, E - this is very good. I take it it's more of an abstract representation?" He gestured to the stain over her abdomen - taking the view that it was a metaphor for something. A stab wound, maybe? Best not ask how he was getting familiar with those.

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Etain blinked,

"What do you mean?"
Etain looked at the picture and turned. She grabbed a brush and started a bit more on the fact that was mostly blank except for the base outline of the eyes and the nose. Taking some brown, she started on the shadows around where the hair shaded the face. She stopped, and took her thumb to smudge it a bit more smoothly then with her brush.
"I've been practicing a bit, mostly with Custos, he's the best at staying still. I think I have it around here somewhere."

Pulling down the eisel she revealed another canvas behind it. This was more completed, noting a few details. It was the gargoyle, standing in stance and ease. Though, he was somewhat different, he didn't exactly look like stone. In fact, he looked to be cloaked more in dark leathery flesh, his wings slightly more transparent and spread, and his fangs and eyes having whites as opposed to the normal monochromatic that was seen.

Edited by Aoiroo

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"An abstract - what should be, or what can be; not a precise copy." Textbook answer - straight from the Claremont art books, actually. He looked at the Custos, and marvelled at it for a moment - if Custos wasn't made out of rock, that'd have been a damnably accurate portrait of the sort of beastie he would be. "...that or the artist's perception of the individual. Damn, E - it looks like he's about to jump right off the canvas!"

 

He leaned left, looking past the portrait at the gargoyle in the distance. Leaned back, looked at the portrait. Leaned left, looking at the gargoyle. Goggled a moment. Then turned back to Etain. "Realism is putting it mildly - what did Custos think of the picture?"

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Etain put her head to the side. Like she was going to say something in retort, but decided not too.

"Nothing."
She tucked the picture behind that of Milly. Before turning back to Morgan,

"It is not done, so he does not get to see it yet."

Wiping the paint again before she looked at Milly's portrait,

"I may need to come back to this, I am running out of yellow."
Standing up she pulled a tarp and put it on the canvas. Then reached for a fresh canvas from a pile near the eisel, she looked around,
"Huh, wonder wonder, Joe does not want me to draw him, Josephine will not sit still for long enough. Rene says I cannot paint him unless he can do me at the same time."

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"Why not a still of Parkhurst? Do the whole house from the lawn?"

 

He tilted his head at Millie's picture again, looking over at her...manifestation? Then back at the portrait. Then back at her. Then back at the portrait. He really was impressed; didn't quite vocalize it, but the look on his face was quite clear vis-a-vis that emotion. Morgan cocked his head sideways, and turned to look at Etain herself - quite frankly up and down, then at her face. It was an...odd thing - Morgan got along fairly well with all the Irregulars; including Etain, but she was always...unique. High in his esteem, certainly - she had both his fear and his respect; a rare combination. Whether that was good or bad was undetermined, at least for the moment. There was a lot more to her than met the eye - in manners both familiar and unfamiliar to him.

 

To his credit, he had never enquired - or even tried digging. Whether she knew of this was unknown to him, and he wasn't quite game to push the matter. But right now...he shook his head, tried to avoid the directions his thoughts were going. Just pushed forward with the thought that occured later earlier.

 

"...how about a self-portrait, though?"

Edited by Quinn

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Etain looked at Parkhurst and put the end of the brush on her chin. She had a small array of tubes of acrylic paint. She started visibly counting them, there was nearly twenty in the tray under the table, several of the same shade or color. She looked back at Parkhurst again and turned her head and then shook it,

"No, I do not have enough paint."

She started to go through her collection so far. She'd used a lot of yellow, the brown was waning too but that wasn't hard, you could mix for brown. She was looking through the paints when Morgan asked about the self portrait, she didn't even respond. Or seem to respond, she just moved forward,

"Huh, I have a lot of black."
She looked up, she did in fact have have several unopened tubes of black paint,

"Black, black, Nick is more grey. Huh,"
She glanced over at Morgan for a few seconds, then put up her brush against her thumb as if measuring,

"Would you like to be painted?"

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There was a long few seconds as Morgan processed the question. A painting? Of him? Oddly enough, he hesitated.

 

It wasn't that he didn't picture himself as photogenic or anything like that, more a case of the last time a painting had been done on Parkhurst Grounds. A clone of himself wasn't exactly fun - and given what was in his head at the moment...there was a goodly few seconds of consideration as he addressed the situation in his head. But whilst he expected an inner battle...it was actually fairly silent up there - he found himself oddly at peace with the question. The more he thought about it, the more it appealed - Etain was a good painter, this would be nice for her, and he'd have something to hang on an office wall somewhere.

 

And if clones showed up, he was far more competent than before at expeditious removal.

 

"...uh...sure, I guess. I mean, I'm used to standing still from perching on lampposts all evening - you want me to find something to stand on?" Beat. "...and should I get rid of the cookie plate?"

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Etain laughed, a rich laugh as she set up the eisel,

"Not nessicary,"
She opened a couple of tubes of black and pulled several sets of colors to do the same,

"I just need a model for basic outlines and observation. It is easier. You may continue eating."

Dipping the brush in some at that point very dirty water, she grabbed a larger brush and dipped it in there before wiping it on her apron and putting it down and liberally coating it with a stroke of pure black. She started to move the brush against the canvas, and spoke as she did so,

"I do not think I have ever seen you so still Morgan."

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"Well, most of the time you see me is in sparring, E - or when we were all together at the same time." He'd adopted a fairly sedate position against the deck, just leaning there - the plate up on the railing, his hands in his pockets, an oddly relaxed look. Or it would be, save for three minor things. One, his eyes flickered left and right - constantly. Evaluating the landscape. Noting movement. Picking up details. Checking peripheral vision.

 

Two, his shoulders weren't relaxed. They remained up, slightly - as if ready for his arms to come up at any second. Either for a throw or for a punch. They didn't twitch, per se - just remained slightly raised; and anyone who knew long combats would pick up on that.

 

And three, he wasn't actually still - though it'd take an eye better than most to pick up on it. His muscles constantly tensed and then relaxed; something usually hidden by his clothes, but staring at him for a long enough time (say, painting a portrait) would likely spot that. Tense. Relax. Tense. Relax. Avoiding cramps, or numbness - keep blood flowing.

 

Every movement he made was calculated, for a reason. Given his temperament, Etain likely wasn't surprised.

 

"Spend enough time on stakeouts, you learn not to budge for a few minutes. Or hours. More fun when you're in the rafters - then you can hunker down. Really can mess your spine up, tho'."

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"Is that what you do when you patrol?"
Etain moved the brush against the canvas, using strokes both exaguarrated and small for the opening though, it was mostly around the edges,
"I always found that strange."
She dipped the paintbrush and peeked around the canvas,

"Since this place was built, I would just go down to the scrying pool, ask specifically where there was trouble, and if I felt the need to intervene, teleport there."

She put down the paintbrush, and switched to a smaller one,

"I always found it perplexing that no one else ever seemed to use it, it seems like such a useful tool for this sort of thing."

Edited by Aoiroo

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"Eh, the scrying pool's useful, but that still leaves you here an' not there. Plus, the last time I used both that and the teleporter, I got splashed and nearly broke the thing, respectively. Better exercise, either way - and lets me stop by some places I'm fond of for lunch and dinner."

 

Straightforward and practical, that was Morgan alright. He would have shrugged if he wasn't holding his casual position for her; or maybe munched a cookie. As-is, he maintained his twitch and eye-shifts, maybe shrinking them a bit so as not to vex her paintbrush. "Still, I'll give it some thought - and hope Nick doesn't drop wrath on me for thinking about it." He had to fight not to give an abashed expression - Nick hadn't read him the riot act for tweaking the teleporter, but he highly suspected the fellow wasn't impressed, either.

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"He likely minds less then you think, you did after all help considerably with the grounding energies of the hotel itself."
She flourished the brush a few more strokes, before switching to another smaller brush. This one, she did much shorter deliberate strokes.
"You are the expert in crafting runes, which have a much more stable output then most magics since the symbols themselves channel the energies nessicary for execution. I doubt anybody else in the house could craft them as effectively, I most certainly could not. It would be disasterous if I even tried."

Dipping the brush into a bit of white, she hesitated, but only for a second before she started swirling the brush on the surface.

"I would like if you would be more careful with the ones in your room, I nearly singed my skirts when I went in to deliver the laundry."

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"Yeah, well - guy's still scarier than me when he's angry; I'd rather not push the point." He adopted a somewhat amusing look of embarassment (not to mention blushing at her compliment) at that, nearly reaching up to rub the back of his head before catching himself. The hand returned to his pocket. "Eh, runes are just symbols of power - you guys wield that power all the time. I'm just a swiss army knife - you're the claymores and the battleaxes and assorted large sharp implements of pointy doom and I think I lost my metaphor there."

 

Inferior. Shut up. Weak. Shut up!

 

At her mention of a singed skirt, he promptly started flop-sweating and pondering apologies, before the significance of the comment entered his head. "Wait, you mean the hotfoot booby trap worked? Sweet! I'd been hoping those spray-on runes would work properly this time; last time all they did was spark and sputter."

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"That is because one of the lines were not connected all the way."
She pulled the paintbrush back which was now marked with grey. She dipped the paintbrush in the white again and started smudging the canvas,

"And to be quite honest, my magic is not terribly impressive, it is barely even what you consider magic,"
She streaked a few lines across the canvas before she continued,

"Magic by its very definition is a force of change, but my magic does not change things. It projects a change, like a film, but in reality it is nothing substancial. You have noticed, no one is ever actually injured, they are simply overwhelmed."

Etain thought for a few seconds and she tapped the end of her paintbrush on her chin,

"You know what is strange, we use under and over as prefixes for that word, but I do not believe I have heard an actual definition for simply whelmed, what does it mean when someone is whelmed in the first place?"

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Hearing her describe her magic as 'not very impressive' nearly made him snort in derision of the very idea - at least until he remembered that guys like him didn't snort in derision. Hearing Etain's reasoning behind it, however, was rather sound - and he cogitated on it for a few moments; at least on the nature of creation versus illusion. There was a sticking point to it, though - one he didn't quite vocalize, at least not yet; it was something that just popped up, and he examined it from various angles.

 

He crafted hard objects, yes - but everything he did...well, he had a reason for it, right? It was a weapon or a tool or something that he used to bust heads for great justice. He never...huh. He knew art, but he never actually made art. And here was Etain, painting for the pleasure of it, and he knew full well she used her magic for more than just crime-fighting.

 

...the point stuck in his head - and while he adopted a look of pensive internal examination as he did so, he wasn't game to follow the rabbit hole down or start arguing the point. Hell, Morgan didn't think he had the words for it, at least at the moment. It was something to consider, though.

 

"Well, over and under imply a different kind of status...maybe whelmed is basically status quo? Neither over or under, just maintaining a normal mental state?"

 

Unlike you. Shut up.

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"Maybe,"
She put the brush down entirely and reached for a rag which she used to dab around the painting, slowly and move stuff around. She did so for a minute or two without speaking,
"I may ask Quentin, he may know more about the base word. Or I will google it later."
Pulling the rag aside, she looked around the painting at Morgan,

"I do not believe I have ever been whelmed. When I arrived, I was, underwhelmed, and then now, I am just, overwhelmed, always overwhelmed. Such a strange, strange place, so many things to see. Both beautiful, and,"
She paused and looked at Morgan for a few seconds, grabbing some colors from the bottom and mixing them together,

"Very interesting this world."

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"Terrible?" was his reflexive word, having seen a particular fantasy movie quite recently. The irony of an ethereal woman saying that was not lost on him, and he promptly bit back further comment - the fact that she cut off that sentence as she looked at him left him with that sick feeling in his gut he got more of these days; for a collection of reasons, truthfully.

 

Clever girl. Can we...do something? To those eyes? Please? It would be so entertaining... I swear to mom, if you had a face I would punch it. That isn't a no... NO!

 

Morgan just shuffled his feet slightly, and made a noncommittal noise to her comment of 'very interesting'. There was a long few moments of silence, and he eventually ventured to speak again. "It can't be all bad - gods only know what man did before pizza was invented, right?"

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"Most people know that before and after pizza people slaughtered other people in droves. Mind you, they also did so for resources, political intrigue, and simple greed which on an instinctive level all humans have. In fact, generosity as a whole can be considered an entirely society generated concept. Even generosity is in itself, an act of greed. You gain something from it after all, a good feeling is something immaterially gained by the giving of something material, and as such a greedy act."
She made several swipes with her brushes when she spouted that out, without pause at all,

"But then again, the gods did not help to stifle this greed in the least. The quest to gain favor in those on a higher power scale, now that has done quite a number on our history. Even supposedly benevolent forces have had atrosities done in their names. Which is of course one reason for the current cultural rejection of magic and isolationist attitude of the older generation of magic users. But then, the newer generations greatly outstretch them by sheer optimism. It is fasinating and horrifying at the same time, but not without cause. Outer worlds other then this one are exactly the same without the same justifications, or even the scale of society that has on some level accepted the oddities of those around them out of the nessicity of protection and advancement."

Edited by Aoiroo

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"...ah."

 

What. ...eyes? NO.

 

Morgan's reply pretty much summed up what he could glean from that discourse on human fallibility and tendencies - intellectually speaking he grasped it, but on a fine summer's day with a cookie in hand and a fantastic tan coming, he was a bit lacking in ability to keep up. So he didn't, sadly. Just nodded. Tried to log it away for later. He had a good memory, at least.

 

"Etain, I have to ask - what were your grades like in history courses?"

Edited by Quinn

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Etain glanced up from her painting before she looked over at Morgan,

"Which ones?"
She had to actually think about this,

"I took at least six of them, including the advance courses. They were all required via a special circulum suggested by the headmaster, as well as sociology, psychology, as well as for some reason college level Latin. Though they transfered me out of that course when I kept correcting the teachers grammar mid semester, and I took French instead."

Etain started to count on her fingers,

"Then there was American Politics, as well as the introductory class pertaining to superheros involvement in law enforcement. Those were both night classes."

She tapped her paintbrush before she dipped it again,

"I also took a course on modern fashion trends, I think that was them subtly trying to nudge me towards a more contemporary wardrobe."
 

Edited by Aoiroo

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That explained so very, very much. To his credit, Morgan didn't boggle - his curriculum was no less thick last year, compounded with the training regimen he set for himself. Instead, he nodded understandingly, idly wishing he could scratch his nose. Bloody itches.

 

"Don't change the wardrobe, E - it'd be a travesty to both class, distinction, and style." And he actually meant that - to change the way Etain Maher dressed would be a travesty towards mankind. You just didn't get class and elegance like that anymore. He'd have wagered Wisp would have slugged whoever implied that change, and he wasn't sure he'd have stopped her. Why was he thinking about Etain and fashion now? Oh, right, avoiding thinking about human history. Agh.

 

"I was more on the practical sciences and arts, along with a pileup in criminal psychology and general psych. And a single course in spooky English Literature. I think the Headmaster was trying to tell me something there - though I'll be damned if I start quoting Poe over Blake."

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"I only took one literature class, it consisted of a drilling about how certain literatures were important and expected as common knowledge. They also had us watch several films. Though I am not exactly sure how Young Frankenstein was that culturally relevant, especially since it was so very divergent from the source materials."

She did more swirls with the brush, but with a smaller brush then before,

"It was still entertaining, though I am not sure I did not wholely understand the humor behind it."

Putting down the brush she then, put her fingers on the canvas and started to move them around on it,

"But then again, I do not get most of the humor in what is called situational comedy. Most of the situations seem to revolve almost wholey on two people who want to have intercourse misunderstanding the intentions of each other, as well as not so subtle hints inbetween. Intercourse seems such a large theme in modern media, which I find rather strange. It must be incredibly isolating for people who feel no such needs. Then of course there is the plots revolving entirely around peoples inabilities to talk to other people about minor inconviences or otherwise small mistakes for whatever reason which somehow esculates to misfortune on a massive scale. Or simply because people do not pick up their phones and look something up when they are unsure, I can think of several modern movies that I have seen that could of been solved with a smartphone."

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