A Revisionist Painting

I know why the caged bird paints.

calligraphy brushes c Jennifer Pack.8058238_a16c6d3e55_oPhoto credit: Jennifer Pack

Two maidservants watched the young bharat painting in the palace garden.  She was always observed.  Never alone.

They whispered.

“The flowers are fine.  But she keeps changing those fable figures in the background, and they’re never quite right.”

“It keeps her occupied.”

“Imagine being a Sendra woman, married to our jayanta, with all he’s done to her people.”

“She renounced it, though.  Converted to true Sambaranism.”


“The jayanta visits her bed. He must trust her.”


The bharat dipped her brush in tempera, covered the tiger image, began revising again.

*     *     *

The man studied the painting by lamplight.  The tiger had turned from the swan, moved towards the river—one paw dipped in—the squirrel on its back.  The man’s jaw dropped.  So soon?

He paused, committing the scene to memory.  This was too dangerous to trust to a messenger.  He meandered through the stable yard, casually hailing other servants, until he was through the gate.

Once in shadow, he rushed toward the secret Sendra temple.  He hoped it wasn’t already too late.

Word count: 175.  Inspired by this week’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge.  Click the blue frog to read the other writers’ stories.  Here’s the real (modern) photo prompt:

Garden Graham Lawrence wpid-photo-20150921073220157© Graham Lawrence


13 thoughts on “A Revisionist Painting

  1. It seems messages are being sent in that painting. So the young bharat/Sendra woman was playing a duplicitous game. It would never be easy to forgive someone who had mistreated her people. I’d be interested to see how this situation turned out. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, definitely sending messages. so glad you got that! To clear up some terms (which is so hard to do with this flash fiction!) the jayanta is like a king, and the bharat is the title for his wife. Sendra is the name of a religious group — short for Kalyanji Jyotsendra, which means (in my made-up language) “people/children of the god couple”. This is a splinter religion off the traditional temple of the god Sambar, who call themselves the Govati — their church/religion is Gita Gov Indaerji, which means “church of the one true sun god.” When this story takes place, the Govati are strongly oppressing and even trying to wipe out these new Sendra.

      And her husband the jayanta is continuing to mistreat them, unfortunately. I was picturing the bit about the tiger heading toward the river to mean that the jayanta or his forces are moving into position to attack the Sendra, with the help of whomever the squirrel represents. I sure hope the spy got to his people to warn them in time!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I imagined something similar with the picture. I understood that the tiger represented help coming in some form or other. You’ve certainly planned out the background of your book(s) well – which is absolutely vital. It takes time, but so necessary to get things clear before you delve into the writing. I hope your book is coming on really well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The funny thing is that I’m probably using the world building more in my stories than in my two partially-finished novels, since each of those is pretty limited to a specific city or village.


    • Thanks Louise! It’s fun to finally be able to use some of this world building in my stories.

      One of the lines that I cut was something about how the maids noticed the bharat seemed happier now that she had (supposedly) renounced her religion and softened up to him. And taken up this hobby of painting. I was trying to imagine what it must be like to be forced to marry the enemy of your people, to be a symbol of their subjugation. I figured she made the decision that whatever the jayanta might do to her if he finds out couldn’t be worse than not trying to help her people.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I look forward to someday reading a whole book set in this world. 🙂 I’ve always found world building an enjoyable activity and I completely agree that it’s nice to finally use it in stories! I spent years creating a world – with languages, religions and thousands of years of history – which I then abandoned when I decided to set the story I was working on in English history! I’ve recently pulled out and dusted off my world, though, and I’m having great fun rediscovering all the intricacies of the societies I’d created. Many of my flash fictions are set there and I also have several novel ideas to play with. I’m planning to join NaNoWriMo this year in order to write the first of them. 🙂


    • Thank you! I’ve never read the “Mark of the Lion” series, but I just looked it up — and hey, feel free to compare me to any book series getting a 4.75 of 5 rating from over 8,000 GoodRead reviewers any time! 😉 It sounds like the two female protagonists are in similar situations, yes. I wasn’t planning to write more about these particular characters, but you never know…

      Liked by 1 person

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