By T.K. Wilson
Word Count: 15261
Rating: PG for depictions of PTSD panic attacks and violence
Summary: When Lady Goewyn of House Meridian meets the long missing treeman of roses, Lord Rhodon of the Western March, her eyes are opened to a new world of danger, magic, and healing.
““Lord Rhodon of the Western March. The King of the Flowers. But that’s impossible!”
Goewyn rose to one knee, deciding that if this was the garden of Rhodon, it would be wise for her to leave. He might not take kindly to trespassers.
“Wait, young lady!” called a resonant voice from somewhere.
““My Garden has long been bereft of laughter and song from someone other than the birds. Please, come and visit me in the future, fill my garden with song and joy. The gates will always be open to you.””
““Do I need a reason to visit my good friends and mentors?”
“No, I suppose not, but I can tell, something is on your mind.”
Goewyn smiled slightly.
“It’s true. I went hiking in the Western March yesterday and I met your kinsman, Lord Rhodon.”
Ablach almost spit out his tea in surprise, while Maia choked on a bite of scone.
“Rhodon?! And he talked to you?””
“He hated Rhodon, Maia and I, but once Akasma, a reminder of his defeat at Shangri-La married Rhodon, he hated the two of them even more than either separately, or even Maia and I. The power of their love, ridiculous as it sounds, was like poison to him.”
“Love and Light are things he couldn’t understand or control, of course he hated what he couldn’t have.”
Ablach and Maia nodded.
“One strike from their rose vines was death to shadow magic. The scent of roses alone repelled the Dark Man and his ilk, not as well as my apples or Maia’s hawthorns, but well enough to keep him well away. But we got careless. We all got careless.””
“The sound of another voice speaking Akasma’s name had set in motion events in his mind Rhodon could not escape, though Goewyn’s presence and music had kept it at bay for a while. The smell of ashes and smoke stung the back of his throat, Rhodon’s mind went, unbidden and certainly unasked, to a place he never wished to see again.”
“Please, please, do not cry over me!” he exclaimed in distress.
Rhodon pushed Goewyn’s face up gently, fitting his fingers under her chin.
“I have learned in my many years under the sun that this is part of life. Yes, I will always miss Akasma and I will always love her, but do not mourn for me. I have done that already, and I do not wish to see you grieve for me. Akasma would not want to see you weep for her either.”
““Excuse me, I didn’t realise that the fire was in use.” apologized Goewyn, getting up.
“Sure was.” growled the girl.
“You really should have put it in a little pit with some stones, fires can get out of hand fast in the forest.”
“That was kind of the point.”
““Fire takes everything from me.” gasped the dryad. “My garden, my wife, my very sanity!”
Rhodon buried his head in his hands so Goewyn couldn’t see him cry.
“Talk to me, Rhodon. What are you feeling?” said Goewyn, trying to keep him with her.
“I cannot bear it. When I close my eyes I see the fire, in my dreams I hear Akasma calling for me, but I cannot reach her. I smell the smoke and the ashes. And I find nothing!””
“Rhodon took off through the garden at a sprint. After about fifteen minutes, Goewyn heard a burst of raised voices directing her attention towards the three treepeople walking towards her.
“This is outrageous!” spluttered Rhodon.
“How do you think we feel about it!? That’s our orchard! Not even the Dark Man was mad enough to attack us.””
“Rhodon’s head twitched toward the entrance to the garden.
“Someone is here.”
Ablach looked out the door squinting into the sun.
“It’s Raven. He’s got a message in his talons.”
Raven landed outside the door, suddenly formal.
“I seek an audience with the Lord of the Western March.”
““What did this witch look like?” asked Betsan.
“It was very strange. She was young, can’t have been older than twenty three earth years. And she was angry. I don’t think she was really evil-”
“She is a witch, Goewyn!” snapped Rhodon.
“Not all who turn to magic are evil. Some only seek solace and some with true talent are seduced to the side of darkness because they know no better.””
“I am a witch!”
“You’re not a witch! You don’t know what that means, you only know it’s a chance to seek vengeance or justice on those who hurt you. Who was it? A boyfriend? A childhood friend? A parent? A sibling?”
The last one struck a nerve. Hecate stopped short, looking confused at first, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. Then her face hardened back into a mask of anger.
“You don’t know me! You don’t know anything!””
“Goewyn reached up and undid the scarf from around her head. It was a cotton scarf, embroidered with the heraldic symbol for the House Meridian.
“Rhodon, I want to request something from you.”
“Name what you will.”
“I would like you to be one of my knights.” she said tying the scarf to Rhodon’s arm.”
“This Queen of the Flowers
Put all in her power
To tell of a love that’s far stronger than death!”
““My father and Aunt Betsan sent me out here to find you.”
“Yes, they want to invite you to our Christmas Eve celebration. It’s only two days away, you know.”
Only two days from Christmas, already? If the winter rain didn’t come soon…
“You know I have never been fond of parties, Goewyn.””