She swept a shed feather across the parchment, the thick texture of the handmade surface striping delicately with the last of the indigo paint. The layers of colors were subtle and deep: the yellowed ivory of the canvas itself was buried under midnight blue, pine green, charcoal grey, and nebula-violet. Around her, the neutrality of the pale, unadorned walls and black stone flooring was a stark womb for such vibrant art.
The feather that she used to spread these colors was as brilliant and tinted as the canvas now, and she studied it thoughtfully, the pliant quill resting in the curl of her tentacle. It drooped, long and silky barbs glistening with still-wet paint, and she wondered for the umpteenth time what would happen if she pressed it to one of the blank walls and left it there, an artist’s print, a rebellion.
The room opened behind her, half of the thin wall sliding into the other half, and she heard the click of talons sharp from disuse. She downturned the color-seeing eyes that tipped two short tentacles branching from the nape of her long neck, tucking them inwards until the heavy eyelids pressed into the soft ruff of her feathered chest; and only then did she turn her slender head to see who had come in, the rest of her body motionless.
Her mentor gave a trill of approval, but the sound faded into a confused coo as he studied the canvas more closely. Every step was a clatter, but he didn’t have a vane out of place in his entire plumage, so his disconcertion was belied by his impeccable grooming.
“This is very good,” he crawed. His own tentacle-eyes shifted away from his body so he could better measure the richness of her colors, but his body’s eyes– the eyes present in his small, streamlined head– were looking at her body’s eyes. “But… it is very similar to the others, yes?”
“It is subsumable,” she replied tactfully.
He enfolded his color-eyes back into the ruff of his feathers, then stretched out a primary tentacle, the fringed proto-digits splayed; she passed him her painting feather. “Are you happy with the work?” he asked, just as tactfully.
She fluffed her feathered tail in one whisk, and it made a noise like a sigh. “I would enjoy a new medium,” she answered. “But I do love these colors.”
He bobbed his head in assent. “Tomorrow,” he said thoughtfully, “I will give you a new room.”
Her mentor was waiting, quiet and beautiful, in front of a new door in the studio complex when she arrived in the late morning of the following day. Her body was already protesting her presence away from her home; it had learned that her growing boredom and restlessness was easily matched by niggling aches and gingerness in her flesh, and she had not yet made the effort to train out the association. So the pads of her strong talons felt overly sensitive against the flat, smooth, cold floor as she stopped in front of the closed doorway.
“Try this,” her mentor said, and she thought she could hear a preen in his voice. He slid the wall open before her.
Light streamed down from a ceiling-less sky, and she was dazzled as she stepped over the threshold. The wall closed quietly behind her, leaving her to the room-that-was-a-courtyard.
It was sand. All sand, and smooth polished stones that had been retrieved from the rivers, and leafy ivy eating roads up the old-styled brick walls that replaced the pale surface of indoor walls. A thin rake was leaning against the doorway; different lengths of prongs formed a triangle at its base, so an artist could use any given side independently of the others.
She surveyed this new kingdom with unabashed delight. Sand as golden as rich cream, and vines as green as gardens, and stones of varying shades of deep and mottled gray. She had graduated from creating art of the world to creating art from the world, and it thrilled her.
Her first foray into the middle of her new domain showed her footprints in excited spirals, her tracks trailing her as loyally as her own shadow, and when she realized the mess she’d made of the untouched sand, she only laughed. She took the rake in both manipulatory tentacles and danced with it, changing edges and sets of prongs with no heed to strategy, and she bathed in the sunlight beating down on her feathers until she was hot and tired and sated. She set the rake against the wall and began rearranging the stones, then noticed how much deeper her footprints were when she carried a stone in the sling of her tentacles, and she danced again with them– slower, stately, whirling, leaving talon-shaped craters in her wake.
When she was fully weary, she sat in the perfect center of the sand, nestling into the embrace of the sun-baked earth, and closed all of her eyes in contentment.
The wall slid open only a slit, just enough for her mentor to peek through, and when he saw what she had done, he smiled to himself. Much better, he thought, and closed the wall to let her enjoy the haven she had created.
Prompts given: subsume, crater.