“So, what’s it like to be the great master’s apprentice?” Silek looked up to see two of the local girls with milky caramel skin and midnight black hair regarding her with interest. They were minor noblewomen by their dress.
“My ladies,” she bowed in mannish fashion to suit her smock and full hands. “I’m not the master’s apprentice. I just clean up afterwards and,” she gestured towards the moulding she was painting, “prepare the hanging spaces for the finished works.”
“That’s very…colourful,” said the girl on Silek’s right diplomatically.
Silek turned her attention back to the mosaic of green, red, blue and yellow. “Oh, it won’t look like this when it’s done. This is just the base coat over the primer. There are two coats of gold to go over the top of this once it’s done. This layer is just to give depth to the gold.”
“Does it have any effect, through two layers of gold paint?” The girl on the left was dubious.
“Oh yes,” Silek assured her glibly then added honestly, “I use this technique all the time and it really works.”
“So does the master mix the paints for this as well?” That was the first girl again, attractively dressed in the local style of a long tunic over ankle length skirts, all in varying shades of red silk in her case. “I hadn’t realised before we were asked to leave the room that the pigments in paint are secret.”
“Oh yes,” Silek answered, “All professional painters try to find out each other’s recipes. Master Brughesti is known for her clear, deep blues so she has to keep an eye out for those who are trying to steal her secrets. It’s amazing who’s tried to find out her secrets on the promise of a few coins and no understanding of the value of what they’re trying to take.” That got a reaction from both the young ladies and Silek added slyly, “I suppose the king must feel that way about his secrets too sometimes, not being sure who he can trust, and a person who cannot be trusted with a painter’s secrets surely cannot be trusted with a king’s.”
Both girls flushed. “Wise words,” agreed the left hand girl in her brown and yellow silks. “We should remember them. Pray excuse us, we should attend upon my lady mother.” With that the two of them curtsied and went on their way.
Silek turned back to her work on the king’s other commission, painting in the protections for the king, the royal family and the court so they could be hidden under the gold paint. After the interruption she would have to make sure she didn’t dawdle so the magical pigments she’d blended wouldn’t dry out before she was done. Travelling as Master Brughesti’s assistant was a most useful disguise.
It was a good thing both of them could keep secrets.