Day Eight

After all the excitement I decided a quiet, at-home day was on the cards the next morning.

Chloe had left me a message in the crystal ball. She’d gone up to the tower to visit Ulfgar and I supposed I should follow her up there later. Or not.

I sipped my morning cup of tea as I wandered in the garden, and decided it was the perfect day to make a start on a new batch of candles.

I finished my tea and took myself off to the hives to speak with the bees. I had plenty of beeswax already collected and stored, but it’s always polite to check.

They applauded the idea and recommended I stock up on my rosemary and sandalwood variety. The reasons behind their suggestions rarely make sense to me, but the advice is always good and I had no reason to ignore it in favour of other scents. It’s not like I wasn’t going to make my favourite lavender ones, I was just going to do fewer of them, and more of the others.

I tended to the animals, then pulled out my melting pot and set it over the fire, before retrieving the stored wax from the second larder.

The melting and mixing and dipping took much of the morning but I was happy with my progress as I stopped for lunch and reviewed the slim columns of wax hanging from the string between my rafters. They needed several more layers, but a bit of time to properly set now wouldn’t hurt, and I could complete the process the next day.

A whirl of wind came into the cottage and resolved itself into a happy, bouncing Chloe. She was a merry little thing now, especially for a ghost.

She skipped over to the crystal ball and poked a finger into it. She’d had a busy morning. She’d scared the daylights out of her two murderers when she first appeared, but it seemed they were even more terrified of the ambulatory portrait.

Chloe tilted a question at me and I grinned. “If Ulfgar is open to the idea of a mural up the inside of his tower, so the portrait has a little more room to move, I’m more than happy to come and help paint it.”

Chloe spun into a shower of stars. She would have been terrifying as a sorceress, I keep finding new reasons to be angry at that vile pair Ulfgar was holding.

“We should plan the picture before we paint it. Does the portrait have any preferences?”

Chloe showed me a kaleidoscope of forest scenes. I nodded, finished lunch and tucked my paints into the pocket of my cardigan.

They lodged in the main part of the pocket and I looked down. Oh drat, the knitting had finally frayed a little too far and one corner of the pocket was no longer attached. I’d have to hunt through the stitches for my pocket dimension and either darn it back into place, or do what I should have done ages ago and made myself a new cardigan.

I fiddled a bit, in the hope I’d stumble on the edge of the dimension and got lucky. With a pin in place, it would last the afternoon, then a mend for a few weeks, to give me time to collect the wool and start the process of creating a new home for my odds and ends.

I tucked the paints in successfully this time and we left the cottage.

Ulgar met us at the outside door to the tower. “Chloe had fun this morning. Do you know what she wanted?”

“She’s keen to paint a mural up the stairs of the tower to allow your portrait friend full capacity to roam.”

Ulfgar laughed. “She’s a resourceful little thing isn’t she. I’m happy with that idea, it’ll confuse the hell out of any questers I get. Just keep it pleasant if you don’t mind.”

“Chloe says the portrait would like a forest scene. Although that could be her putting her own opinion on things.”

“No, I’ve noticed he tends to gravitate towards the woodland landscapes.”

He stepped back and waved an arm. “Have at it. The prisoners are currently retiling the roof in between whimpers so you’ve got free reign.”

I smiled and thanked him, then stood in the centre of the ground floor and thought things through. It would take months, or longer to paint even the simplest of murals spiralling up beside the stairs in the tower. I needed to be a bit more clever about this.

The candles, of course. The bees’ advice was useful yet again. I left Chloe contemplating the walls and sped back down the mountain to return with my new tapers, a large sheet of paper and the crystal ball.

“First, we need a long thin strip of paper, something the right dimensions to make a miniature version of our mural.”

I cut a spiral out of the paper and laid it out, spreading the coils a little, just so we could see where the edges were. I tapped the outside coil. “This is the ground floor, then it swirls in as we go up. Show me the scene you’d like.”

Chloe swooshed off, then returned as the portrait appeared in a painting next to the base of the stairs.

She spun a forest path up, out of the crystal ball and looked to the portrait who nodded eagerly.

I took that as permission from both of them, and set my paints to work, duplicating Chloe’s scene.

Once it was done, I attached the inner end of the paper to some string and flipped it up, over a convenient chandelier in the centre of the space. Then, I lit one of my candles and set the bottom of the picture alight.

Chloe looked worried, I winked at her. “Watch the smoke.”

She did, and clapped her hands in silent delight as the smoke from my candle wafted from the paper out to the walls and stroked over them, leaving a larger version of our painting behind. I lit another candle, then another, and another.

By the time the paper was completely burnt, I only had two of my new candle batch left. Ah well, I do make them to be used after all.

Chloe and the portrait were racing each other up and down the tower. Ulfgar stuck his head in through the inside door. “All done?”

I waved my hand at the wood he now had marching up his tower. He grinned. “Very nice, and just in time for our two little mice to enjoy it.”

“I’ll leave you to that.” I showed him my cardigan. “I have a pocket dimension to re-anchor.”

He smiled and waved me off. I left the crystal ball with him, Chloe seemed to want to stay there and it was fairly easy for me to pick up another.

I’m wondering whether a quiet day will ever eventuate.

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