Mandalore in motion, like a bottomless solid puzzle to the eye. Sundari. A city of blue, white, and gray-shaded cubes and protruding rectangles of sharp edges. At first glance, it has the appearance of a cubism piece, while in truth, it is a impressionistic piece, an accurate rendering of the design and reign of the New Mandalorian era, where Duchess Satine Kyrze decreed a rebirth of Mandalore, a new world order to mature from the ashes of its past.
What he didn't illustrate on his canvas was the procession of Mandalorian protesters, marching in a visible circle, waving signs with their perverted portrait of the Duchess, her eyes blacked out.
Their political march obstructed the expanse of the view, a hindrance--or addendum--to Mandalore's dimensions. But otherwise, he knew Sundari by memory, painting despite the obstruction of protesters. He preferred Sundari without the fire of politics, so the political stage never made its appearance in the geometric shapes of his impressionistic craft.
Over his shoulder, he felt the heavy presence of a passing stranger glancing at his in-progress work. That was common. In fact, he had been painting in public areas as of subtle advertisement.
That stranger staring over his shoulder was his chance. He could place down his paintbrush. But maybe he should continue the motions of professionalism and keep the brushstrokes going for a few seconds more.
He decided to finish coloring in the silver-blue of a foundation. Then he turned to the man and held out a business card.
"Portraits, weddings, experimental, murals, mosaics. I specialize in tech installations too."
Three out of a hundred recipients of his business card contacted him. The more cards he could get into the hands of potential clients, the better he could win the lottery of a deal.
But the man didn't even accept.
Just another disinterested person, no lottery chances here. So the artist turned back to his impressionism of Sundari.
Yet the stranger sure seemed interested enough to inquire, "Artist, tell me, do you have an opinion of warriors culture?"
He kept his eyes on the painted Sundari, filling in the cavity of another building. This struck him as a random political probing, a conversational cue that nosed around his stance, daring the other into a debate. What answer did this man wanted? Duchess Satine had started a controversial campaign to ban the warrior-focused curriculum, only reserving the topic of warrior ways for the history books, which even disgruntled some of his pro-peace friends ("We can't lose that history!").
He thought of a museum gallery of armored Mandalorians in their prideful shapes, poise in front of the halo of stars. "Warrior history makes for classic art. It's quite underrated really." He couldn't be too sure if that was the "right" comment. Vague enough.
"Do you know of the honorable Countess San Wren?"
Familiar, but where?
"Can you do funeral?"
An instinct told him not to hesitate in blurting, "Yes."
"I'm of Clan Wren."
He did straightforward portraits and weddings, but the craft of a momento mori was expert level. He did not fib, he had done a few hypothetical practiced pieces in his school, the prompts simple: A father who loved libraries, an actress who craved the spotlight, a tea-lover with a passion for theater. However, due to their completionist grade nature, there was no reliable measurement of his competency in this craft.
The name of "Wren" had sounded familiar and research on the Holo-net refreshed his memory: Clan Wren was a name that had made few appearance on the Holo-nets, enough to put it on prominence around Sundari, though scant enough it didn't linger in his consciousness. It popped up on the list of Clans that have disagreed with Duchess Satine Kyrze's rule, an old money family that retained its aristocracy and profit and political prowess.
Clan Wren was wealthy enough to fund his trip to their headquarters on the planet of Krownest. Admittedly, he found that borderline spendthrift, but he didn't say that. And what did he know, he wasn't of a Clan member with money at his whims.
But enticing as an all-expense paid trip to a Clan stronghold was, he calculated the risk, cautious not to think of it as a lottery of a free vacation. He called the repair shop and called in sick, knowing well that he could risk permanent unemployment. But a commission for a Clan was something he could not turn down, a challenge that couldn't go unanswered, and a hefty paycheck that could fulfill three months worth of rent and meals and go toward his school debt--he tried not to hope that he could impress the Clan into becoming a frequent client. He made a game plan to scour for employment at another repair shop.
He rarely traveled, even if exploration was one of the proclaimed marks of the ideal immersive artist, for he preferred to seek close sources in books and holos for research of foreign subjects to depict. But he had to contain himself, stifle back any boasting to his friends, for he had to adhere to the confidentiality of his trip to the seat of an ancient Clan.
In the air, through the window, the pearl-whiteness of this new territory exhilarated his heart, his grin superimposed on the window of the rolling scenery. But once his boot-clad foot sunk into the snow, the muteness of the scenery disenchanted him, more so than the icy temperature, of which he was at least warned about to pack a coat. To sustain his professionalism, he forced a solid polite smile and tried not to clutch himself in the cold as he walked through the snow to the entrance of the headquarters, which was itself was an acquired taste with meritable qualities in its wall of glass and geometric design.
Only the color of the Wren armors stuck out, a tint of gold among dull white, and seeing these warriors was like time-traveling, though it was a silly notion. While the warrior attire was not banned by New Mandalore laws--yet, some political preachers bemoaned on the Holo-nets--warrior-aligned Clans forgo their armor on the surface of Mandalore to avoid disapproval of the pro-peace environment.
Castro Wren, the man who impromptu employed him on Sundari, lead him down a hallway. Passing gold-cladded Wrens glanced at him apathetically through their cold visors and continued about their business.
Well, this is a five-star hotel, compared to my shack on Sundari. Nice to start somewhere without my plague of paint stains. Better not stain that place.
His only misgiving about his quarters was the open window, revealing that damned shape-limited landscape. His eyes must have really melded with the sharp deepness of Sundari. But before his hands made it to the window flap, a blast, too soft to alarm, loud enough to startle, sent a mild shudder up his spine.
In the gray of dusk, he could see the blur of a person, presumably a Wren, the stick of their arm raised with an instrument that fired a blaze of crimson upward. Don't they have a target practice soundproof room? Or is that weather just more soundproof?
Better get used to this. He shut out the dull scenery, the sight of the stranger Wren, though it did not damp out much of the beats of the distant blaster.
He racked up his easel and canvas in the center of the room and arranged his all his tubes of red, blue, black, gold, gray, etcetera.
He focused his eyes on the blankness of the canvas. Nothing. So far.
Popping off his boots, he threw himself, zipped-up in his coat and all, onto his bed and shut his eyes, hoping to drift off.
Echoing in his head, was the pop of gunfire and the Wren's order, perhaps his greatest challenge of his meager freelance art career.
"On behalf of the late Countess's eldest daughter, this is her request. Countess and Chieftess San Wren, a warrior, loved the blackness and fire of the war field, Veteran of the Mandalorian Civil War. Put a Shriek-hawk somewhere. The Chieftess-to-be will decide whether your work satisfies her."