Title: The Colors Inside Author: Raissa Baiard Era: Saga, 12 BBY Genre: Character study, family drama Characters: Sabine Wren (age 8), Ursa Wren, Alrich Wren Synopsis: When young Sabine Wren is too ill to attend the Clan Meet, her father’s gift inspires her to create a new form of art. Thank you, as always, to @Findswoman , who brings beta-reading to art form! ---------- “It’s not fair!” Sabine exclaimed as she trailed her parents down the hall. How could she have overslept today, of all days? After she’d been awake all night, coughing from this stupid virus, couldn’t she have stayed awake just a little longer? Just long enough to properly gear up for the annual Clan Meet at the Wren Stronghold? As it was, she’d only had time to throw on her practice armor before her parents announced they were leaving for the Meet. It fit badly over her pajamas and her slippers were flapping in a most undignified fashion. No wonder Mother wouldn’t take her seriously. “Why does Tristan get to go to the Clan Meet and not me? He’s too little to act right, and he doesn’t even care! But I do! I want to be there for Clan Wren.” Her little brother would be lucky if he managed to sit quietly and not disgrace the Clan by complaining. Sabine, on the other hand, knew how to sit at attention like a warrior should, even when the grown-ups’ talk got boring. That, and she wanted to make sketches of the Clan representatives’ beskar’kandar for her collection; when she designed her own armor, it was going be the finest on all of Mandalore. “It’s not fair!” Ursa Wren stopped in the middle of the hallway, her lips pursed, and set both of her hands on her daughter’s shoulders, “Sabine, a Mandalorian does not whine.” She shifted one of her hands to Sabine’s forehead, and her frown deepened. “Go back to your room and lie down; you’re still feverish.” “A Mandalorian doesn’t let a little thing like being sick stop her, either!” Sabine straightened, trying to ignore the tickle in her throat that was threatening to become another coughing fit. Unfortunately, it proved too much for even her Mandalorian restraint; she spent several minutes struggling against the cough, but it was a losing battle. Her mother sighed. “You are not coming to the Clan Meet because you are ill and contagious, and that is final. There will be other years.” The hand on Sabine’s shoulder tightened a little and turned her back the way she had come. “Now go, rest so you can get your strength back. A warrior knows not to push her body too far past its limits.” “Come, Sabine, listen to your mother.” Her father laid a hand on the opposite shoulder and gently steered her towards her room. “We’ll be back to check on you in an hour. In the meantime, I have something to help you pass the time. It’s a quiet, restful activity,” he assured his wife, seeing her exasperated expression. He settled Sabine in her bed, tucking her blankets up around her, and picked up her lap desk and sketch book from the floor. He pulled a small box from his belt satchel and handed it to her. “Here you go.” Sabine opened the lid; inside were a dozen brightly colored sticks. She picked one up, and something about its texture made her fingernails itch. “It’s chalk.” “Pastels,” her father corrected. “In art, they’re called pastels. You’re doing quite well with your colored pencils. I thought you might enjoy trying a new medium.” He flipped open her sketchbook, chose the blue pastel and made some quick strokes. “You can make bold lines…” he flipped the chalk onto its side and rubbed it against the paper. “Or soft tones. And the colors blend together quite well.” He demonstrated, blurring the edge a line with a fingertip, then handed the stick to her. “Hmm.” Sabine made some experimental squiggles to test out this new material. The chalk—pastel—made some nice fat lines and sweeping curves, not like the narrow points of her colored pencils, and it was easy to fill an area with color in just a few strokes. It had some interesting possibilities, she decided. She could make a landscape with them, maybe clouds at sunset… “I like it!” “Good!” Her father smiled as he stood and kissed the top of her head. “Your mother and I will be back in a bit. I hope you’ll have something to show me then.” She nodded, hardly noticing when he left as she planned out her next drawing. Sabine flipped to a fresh page and began laying down the colors—dark green and brown for the land, blue for the sky. She picked up the red to add the setting sun and noticed that the side of her hand had smeared the dark colors of the ground up into the sky. She frowned and ripped out the page, wadded it into a ball and tossed it onto the floor. All right, well, it always took some time to learn the right technique for a medium; she’d try again. This time, Sabine decided, she’d do the sky first and add the landscape after she’d finished so she wouldn’t muddy up the colors like that again. She sketched the shapes of the clouds in orange and magenta, and then smudged the shape like her father had shown her, to soften the edges…and blurred her beautiful puffy sunset clouds into shapeless blobs. Sabine scowled and ripped out the page; this was not turning out like she’d planned it! But a Mandalorian was nothing if not determined—artists and warriors both needed practice to perfect their craft. Her third attempt reminded her of the time Tristan had thrown an entire bowl of tiingilar against the wall, streaking red-orange sauce everywhere. It had been an interesting abstract design, but it was not the sunset over the Stronghold. The fourth picture was pink. Very pink. The magenta from the clouds had gotten all over her hands and left splotches and smears of brilliant pink in all the wrong places “Poodoo!” Sabine snarled, dragging her hands through her hair and tugging on the ends in frustration. She ripped out the offending piece of pinkness, tore it into little pieces, wadded them all up, and hurled it across the room. It hit the small, rectangular mirror over her dresser and knocked it off the wall. “Poodoo!” she yelped again. She’d be in big trouble if her mother found out that she’d knocked the mirror down. Sabine tossed off her covers and scrambled out of bed. The dresser was tall enough that she had to climb on top of it to reach the mirror, and she crouched there as she replaced it on its hook. While she straightened the mirror precisely so that Mother wouldn’t notice anything was amiss, Sabine caught a glimpse of herself. There were faint streaks of orange and magenta in her hair. She frowned at her reflection and leaned closer to inspect it. She couldn’t say exactly why, but those pale wisps of intrigued her. It was like...like the colors she’d imagined were part of her! Sabine leapt down, got her box of pastels and climbed back up, sitting cross-legged on the dresser. She pulled out the orange pastel and rubbed against her hair the way she had against the paper. It took a few tries to get enough color to cover the dark brown of her hair but she managed to make a wide streak of color with chalk from the top of her head down past her right ear. She sat back and examined her reflection. Interesting! Really interesting. She wasn’t just making art, she was the art! She didn’t have to limit herself to trying to capture the sunset on paper. She could be the sunset! Or a rainbow. A river. A meadow of flowers. A flame! Whatever she felt like inside. She laughed out loud, delighted by her discovery; this was the best idea she’d ever had! She’d never felt so inspired. Sabine chose the magenta pastel and began to add some shading to the roots of her hair. She was still sitting atop her dresser, blending streaks of red and gold into her hair when her bedroom door swung open. “Sabine? Are you awake?” came her mother’s voice. “Sabine? What are you—?” Her stifled shriek pulled Sabine out of her artistic reverie. Behind her in the mirror, she saw her mother and father standing in the doorway; her mother’s face was turning the same crimson as the nub of pastel in Sabine’s hand. “Sabine Polyhymnia Wren! What in the name of the Mandalore have you done to yourself?!” Sabine barely heard her mother’s dismay as she sprang down and ran to her father. “Dad, look! I wanted to make a picture of the sunset over the Stronghold, but instead I made myself the sunset!” She twirled to give him a better view of her new creation. “Hmm...innovative,” he said approvingly, regarding her hair with a smile. “It’s an application of that medium I certainly wouldn’t have thought of. Next time, perhaps you might consider choosing just two or three colors to work with. You’ve gotten a bit muddy in places where you’ve tried to do more.” “Next time?! Alrich, there’s not going to be a next time!” Her mother looked down at Sabine, scandalized. “Pink hair! What were you thinking? You’re a Mandalorian, a warrior, not some Theelin dancer in a Hutt’s palace!” “Relax, Ursa. It’s only chalk dust. It will wash right out, no harm done.” He ruffled Sabine’s hair, raising a small cloud of multi-colored chalk dust that made her sneeze. Her mother snorted, and put her hand against Sabine’s forehead. “At least your fever’s broken...no thanks to you climbing your furniture like a lizard-monkey and painting yourself up like a cantina dancer. So you can march yourself straight to the ’fresher and wash all of that out of your hair!” “Mother, no!” Sabine exclaimed. She loved how her hair looked, how it made her feel! She felt like the sunset, all gold and pink and orange. Vibrant. Glowing. Beautiful. She’d worked so hard on it! She’d become her art! She couldn’t just wash it all away now. “Sabine.” Mother’s voice was her flattest do-not-argue-with-me tone. “Imagine what the other Clan representatives would say if they saw you looking like this. Go.” “Is it that bad?” Sabine whispered to her father as Mother marched back downstairs, stiff and straight as a force-pike. “I thought...I thought it was nice. It’s all the colors I feel inside.” “It’s more than nice.” Dad knelt down in front of her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “All great artists face criticism, kar’ta, especially when they make something daring and new. Don’t worry about your mother; we’ll bring her around, you and I. You be true to your art...and your colors.” She threw her arms around his neck, and hugged him tight. “Thanks, Dad.” He smiled as he brushed off the smear of chalk dust she’d left on his shoulder. “For now, though, you’d best follow your mother’s instructions. But I’ll get you a new box of pastels as soon as I can.” ---- Sabine fought back tears as she watched the sunset in her hair dissolve into rivulets that trickled down the drain. Mandalorians didn’t cry, and artists turned adversity into inspiration. The pastels were a good start, but maybe there was a better medium, one that would give her richer, truer color. One that her mother couldn’t make her wash out. She’d find a way to be true to the colors inside her, somehow.