This is a story about Magenta. Recall that Magenta, formerly known as Hot Pink, is a recently qualified witch, now cut loose from the master who abused her as an apprentice. Previous stories in this setting can be seen here.
With her ex-master disposed of, Magenta felt freer than she had in her life. No longer forced to live in his house, no longer forced to obey anyone’s rules, and cleared of any wrongdoing by the Archmages who ruled the small community of wizards, Magenta had no obligations to anyone.
It was a choice she made unconsciously, the sort of thing that “just sort of happens” when someone knows what she wants instinctively. Magenta cut herself off from the rest of the wizards and witches. Not from magic. After all, she hadn’t just spent seven years studying the art for nothing. She learned not only how to use magic, but how to hide it from others. So she she didn’t need anyone else any more, really. Not even her friend Plum, now called Cyan. It had been his idea to do in their former masters, but now she had come to associate him with them, and just stopped seeing or talking to him. To repeat: Magenta cut herself off from her fellows.
Instead, she decided to take a cover name and enroll in a university. Magenta’s magical education hadn’t covered anything except magic. Magic helped her get into the school of her choice, a prestigious school in a big city. Once there, things started to become challenging again. Magenta took a major in Psychology. She figured being able to cast thought-reading and mind-bending spells would be a big help to her there, but she did find the lectures pretty boring. So, she took a minor in another subject – art history.
And it was on a field trip for art history, that something quite extraordinary happened involving Magenta, the lost kingdom, the curious canvas, the court magician, and an unsolved art heist.
In Magenta’s sophomore year, she and her art history class went out to one of the city’s fine art museums for a guided tour, with additional commentary from their professor about the High Renaissance masters. Magenta paid rapt attention. At least, for the first half of the tour she did.
“Step around, everyone, and have a good look at this Madonna and Child,” said the professor, straightening his tie. He always dressed formally, and Magenta thought it made him look more like a butler than a professor. But he was also responsible for this museum trip, so far be it from her to criticize his mode of dress. “This painting is much more realistic than anything in the previous gallery, isn’t it. This is a perfect example of a High Renaissance style I spoke about on Tuesday. That style would be…?”
Magenta, standing in front of the small throng of students, put her hand in the air. But behind her, a guy in her class called out, “Naturalism!”
“Right. Could everyone hear Karl? Naturalism,” the professor repeated, loudly. Magenta turned around to see Karl, a glasses-wearing but otherwise good-looking guy, staring around impressively, as though anyone in the class would have gotten that answer wrong. Magenta scowled at him, but he looked quickly back at the professor, with a sanctimonious look that rebuked anyone who was not doing likewise. The professor went on. “Note the artist’s photographic perspective, as opposed to the simple linear perspective, and his realistic depiction of the scenery and subjects. The intent being not to portray a narrative, but rather…?”
Magenta turned back around, and saw Karl’s mouth start to move. Once again, no consideration for the other students with hands raised. Magenta hardly knew this Karl, but she pegged him for a jackass. It took less than half a second for Magenta to make up her mind what to do with him. It took another half second for her to whisper the incantation and make the arcane gesture with her left hand, which she covered by making it look like a bid to attract the professor’s attention.
“To give a wonky snuggle muffin for the ponies in Italian carrotcakes,” spoke Karl, confidently.
The professor managed to attract the class’ attention again, after the laughter had subsided. “Yes… what I was going to say is, the artist’s intent was simply to depict the world as it is.”
“Did I swindle a poopy oyster?” whispered Karl to his friend behind Magenta’s back. This caused another outbreak of giggles.
“Now, really, folks, try to pay attention,” said the professor, tugging on his lapels sternly. “I’m trying to get you to appreciate just how important this is, how different from other styles of the time. For possibly the first time, artists actually endeavored to show us reality, to let us see life as they saw it. They gave us a window into their world, inviting us to step in and see it with them. Now, if you’ll follow me to the next gallery, we will be able to contrast a naturalist painting with a classicist work, in which the artist…”
And so they walked on. Magenta really did find this interesting, but her attention started to waver. Her mind was on her tiny little revenge just now. Okay, maybe it was a juvenile bit of bewitchment. He’d get the hint to keep his mouth shut, if he hadn’t already, and she’d fix him up on the bus back to campus.
Her thoughts thus wandering, she had stopped walking at the front of the class, and allowed her gaze to turn to other works that the professor deemed off-topic. Magenta wondered about each one, about the worlds they were trying to depict. Not for the first time, Magenta felt she could spend her whole life getting to know each and every bit of this museum.
“Ah. All right, this wing is closed, so let’s go straight to the next wing,” said the professor. That’s when Magenta saw the door. It was marked “Neuberger-Perlman Gallery”, but it had a big red sign on it. “NO ENTRY – CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS” the sign said. Well, what was the use of that? What precious works of art was she not seeing because of some silly construction mess?
Magenta slipped away from the crowd of students, and hurried over to the door. She tried the handle. It was locked. She cast a quiet spell and tried again. Much better. In she went, and shut the door quietly behind her.
Well, it was definitely being renovated. Parts of the ceiling were missing, construction supplies practically littered the floor, and a stepladder had been left in front of a painting that had been covered. With some disappointment, Magenta noticed that all of the paintings in this room had blue cloth coverings, blocking them from sight. But a doorway showed her an adjacent room. She wandered in there, and to her delight, the goods were on full display. None of these paintings had plaques identifying them, but that was fine. She just looked at the bright colors, the Renaissance subjects engaged in historical acts of some kind or another, and grinned. With no one else here, she had the gallery all to herself. And there were more than two rooms. The third room didn’t have any plaques either, but it was clearly an exhibition of one particular Renaissance artist. She wished she knew who it was. The fourth room only had paintings of popes, or so it looked to Magenta. The lack of plaques made her realize just how little she yet knew about history and art.
But the fifth room that really stumped Magenta. In this room, there was just one canvas. And it was blank. She gave it a quizzical look. “Modern art?” she wondered aloud. If so, it was pretty lame. But why else would someone hang a blank canvas? And frame it, too?
She pondered this mystery for a moment or three. But soon, it occurred to Magenta that she would be missed if she stayed too long. With a disappointed sigh, she resigned herself to rejoining the masses, and headed for the exit.
“I thought it was in the room with the ladder,” she said to herself, puzzling. After ten minutes of wandering, Magenta realized that she couldn’t find the exit. How big was this wing, exactly? She tried retracing her steps. “There definitely used to be a door here,” she said at one point, putting her hands on her hips as she faced a blank wall. She tried a different route, and a few minutes later, ended up in the room with the blank canvas again. “What if I just always go left?” she thought, starting to get desperate. She went left, left, left, blank canvas room again. “Well, there’s only one other door here, so…” Right, right, right, right, right, blank canvas room.
“Oh my god,” she said, spinning looking around in shock. “There’s no way out!”
TO BE CONTINUED!