The inklyman’s mustachios danced as he shouted. His blackish blue eyes threatened to leap off of his reddening face. How colorful, those inklymen. Their coats never matched their trousers, so far as I could tell.
“Yes, sir,” I said. On the way back to my desk I patted him on the shoulder, draped today with garish yellow fabric.
My business partner, Marco, leaned toward me from his adjoining desk. “Are you going to let him yell at you like that? He may be one of them, but he’s only a stable hand.”
“The client is always right,” I said, feigning resignation. “He asked for a statuette all the colors of the rainbow. Apparently the inklymen’s rainbow has more than seven colors.”
Marco’s eyes widened. “Don’t call them that. They might be unforgivably rude, but they’ll have you in the stocks without a second thought.”
“Without a first thought,” I muttered.
The shop bell pealed, playing a single crisp note. Marco set down his brush and strode into our storefront.
“Good afternoon, fair wizard,” Marco’s voice boomed from the other room. “How can I aid you?”
I knocked the unsold statuette to the floor in my haste to get up. A young man stood beneath the doorframe. If it weren’t for his long, midnight purple robe, he could have been a simple farmboy. His long beard, too white to be natural, cemented the notion.
“I hear the foreigners are not happy with your traditional palette, kind artisans.” The wizard took a step into the shop and closed the door.
“You hear the truth,” Marco replied. His hand moved to his own short-cropped beard. He frowned.
The wizard pulled a small burlap sack from one of his inner pockets and tossed it into my hand. I untied the drawstring to reveal several dozen tiny vials of paint. They ranged from the shade of deepest blood to the ocean’s hue at noontime. Holding one up to the light, it almost seemed to sparkle. No, it did indeed sparkle. “These paints are magicked, wizard?”
“They are heavily magicked, artisan. My time entertaining in the foreigners’ courts proved very inspirational, one might say.” He twisted his head slightly, pulling up one end of his grin in a sneer.
“Not fond of them either?” I guessed aloud. I stuffed the sack into the pocket of my plain brown trousers.
“That’s one way of saying it.”
Marco looked over at me nervously. “How much for the paints?” he asked, turning back around.
The wizard opened the door and paused, drawing in a deep breath of cool air. “I ask only that you use them on all your projects for the foreigners. That is a fair enough price, I think.” With that he walked out into the street. There appeared to be a slight spring in his step.
“Magic paints?” Marco asked. “Are you certain of this?”
“They’re menaces, Marco. Even that wise wizard saw it.” I sucked on the bristles of my finest brush, then dipped it into shining amber pigment. The statuette in the center of my desk gleamed so bright my eyes burned. Those inklymen wouldn’t be able to stop staring at it by the time I finished it.
“But you don’t even know what the paints do. What if they end up hurting someone of our race by mistake?”
“I don’t. I’m willing to take that chance. Look, I’ve been painting this for hours and besides my throbbing eyes I feel fine. Chipper even. Hand me that tealish, greenish, blue. That one.”
Marco swapped me vials with a shake of his head. “I’m going home to my family. I want nothing more to do with this plot of yours. Good night.”
“Night, Marco. By morning that inklyman will have his statuette. Or will the statuette have him…”
“It is about time,” said the inklyman from the day before. “You finally found some reasonable colors, I see.” He turned the statuette over in his palm. His eyes bulged, larger and larger as he leered.
I kept my eyes on his, not daring to glance at the statuette. My eyes still pulsed with pain from finishing the paint work that dawn.
The inklyman huffed. Or was it a groan? Both, I decided. He blinked furiously, screaming, throwing the statuette to the mahogany floor planks. When he finally looked up at me, I took a rapid step back. My body shook.
The inklyman’s eyes were solid white, still living, but eternally blind. He fell to his knees and began to cry.
I gently removed him from my shop.