Author: Serendipitist Swan PM
The rose is beautiful. She was beautiful. So what better way to express one's love for someone than giving a rose? -A story of when logic isn't logical, a quest isn't worth it, and all that glitters isn't gold.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Words: 6,541 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 2 - Published: 06-16-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2924177
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The rose is beautiful. The rose represents love in a number of societies. She was beautiful. A swan among an unkindness of ravens. A star among the inky blackness of space. And he loved her. He believed, and he was only a youth so he had little to base this one, that he loved her more than any man had ever loved a woman.
So what better way to express one's love for someone than giving a rose? That's what he thought. He thought that giving the girl of his dreams a rose would be the same as calling her beautiful and professing his indefatigable devotion for her. This was not a very profound though, for how would the rose have become a symbol of love if it wasn't, but what he did next almost made up for it. He knew how much women folk liked to be given a chose, and to ultimately have their way. So he set off to the house of his beloved and asked her what kind of rose he would like him to bring her, thinking himself quite clever for doing so.
She was not similarly impressed. To her the gift of a rose, and all flowers for that matter, was a trite gesture, an offering so cliché it had become meaningless. She encouraged him to be more original. But it came across as more of an order, he was to bribe her into submission. Carve her image into a mountain. Write an epic poem in which it was her and not Helen's face that launched a thousand ships. Complete a Herculean task in her name. Anything but a rose.
He agreed, and prepared to think long and hard about what his next step should be. He had not thought very long or very hard before he commenced his quest of love, and that lack of meditation showed through what his quest was for. Roses.
In his defense, he was not looking for ordinary roses. Only a special rose would do. The kind that bloomed under the light of the full moon and turned blue, changed colors when one looked at them from different angles, or were made of gold even though they had grown from fertile earth and not a blacksmith's furnace. That was what his flame deserved. And if he had to travel across blistering deserts or the briny sea he would, and gladly too.
It turned out that he did not have to go so far. The nearest florist was in the next town over with only a thick jungle of woods separating them. She was a witch, said the village people, and had enchanted flowers that could fulfill one's wildest desires.
Knowing that fate had decreed that their paths must cross, he ventured into the woods, serenely, or perhaps stupidly, optimistic about his impending journey.
The haze of tranquility around his mind cleared with the first scream of a screech owl. Inside the woods it was always night. The trees were limbless hulking beasts that towered over everything in the forest, spreading out a blinding canopy of leaves thirty feet up. No sunlight could bypass them, and the ground was thick with the decomposing sludge of their leaves which they shed during winter, the only season where the sun didn't shine. Standing water pooled around the roots. Bloated white tendrils bobbed up and down in the putrid water, looking disquietingly like human fingers. The strangest thing about the place was that, despite the sight and sounds of life all around him, the place felt dead. Artificial. Perhaps even vampiric, in the same way the moon reflects the light of the sun. The place mimicked the essence of a living ecosystem. But that didn't make it anymore than a cold, dead parasite.
He panicked, the placidity he had once felt dissipated just as rapidly as the sun had. There was something about the darkness around him that caused him dismay. It was a frenzied darkness that tried to hide the secrets that lurked within. It failed, and the glimpses of ferocious beasts with ravenous eyes and even hungrier teeth quickly pushed him to the brink of hysteria. Every flutter of razor sharp wings above his head made him bolt in a different direction. Branches cracked behind him and he darted off to the side. Hot breath stinking of rotten meet and the coppery smell of blood were at his neck and he dashed forward, running for countless miles before stopping.
Inevitably, he soon found himself lost. At the mercy of the woods and all of its monsters he collapsed onto his knees. His insides cramped up from his fear induced flight, and his bladder threatened to empty its contents down his legs. Somehow a wind had made its way through the mess of trees and the gust chilled his breath. Still, somehow he felt warmer than he had before when he was running. Perhaps it was the body heat of some loathsome creature poised to bite off his head…
He sniffed the air, did he smell flowers?
He looked up to find that his eyes unaccustomed to the light that shone down from a cloudless sky. All the trees in the forest that lay only a few feet behind him rustled their displeasure at losing a victim. But he couldn't be happier. The scent of flowers hung strongly in the air and the village of the florist was within his line of sight. He shrugged off his fear the same way one shrugs of their dread after they've woken up from a nightmare they could barely remember and rose to his feet. Smiling, he ran off toward the village, never once looking back to see the multitudes of disappointed eyes slowly become extinguished in the darkness of the woods.
The florists shop was built next to a cliff. It was more like a greenhouse than a shop and when he looked up through the glass ceiling he saw the white jagged mountain of rock teetering over them perilously. It was not an ideal location and it was built on the fringes of the village instead of the middle like most shops, but the florist did not seem to mind. After only a few minutes in her presence he was starting to believe that she was a witch. She was particularly beautiful and her raven-haired elegance was almost comparable to his love's. But not quite. She was too mysterious, too dangerous looking. She stood aloof even as she wandered aimlessly, appearing detached from the world as much as her shop was. She never tried to make conversation, but yet, her eyes followed him as he gandered at her wares. Her eyes were disconcerting to say the least. They were pale blue and flecked with spots that lacked any color whatsoever, and resembled cracked ice or broken mirrors.
So it was her flowers that really deserved praise. Every arrangement was in a crystal vase with no water and placed on a pedestal, and even though he suspected they had been there for a long time they were not wilted. But each and every one was amazing. There was a bouquet of lilies that were white for the most part, but each petal was striped with opal and spotted with tiny diamonds. There were violets made of rubies, their smell was so pungent it messed with his head and their very existence obliterated a certain love poem that every child knew. Most impressively, there was a chrome colored orchid as big as his head and with a subtle aroma that smelt like desire.
But none of them were for him.
Dejected and a little desperate, he if she had anything else, knowing full well that there was only one room in the shop and he had already seen everything she had. To his surprise she walked toward the back of the store. There was no back wall, only a cliff face that must have taken hours upon hours to smooth. She pressed her hands on the polished surface and pushed with all her might, looking purposeful and controlled all the while as not even a gasp of strain passed through her dark lips. A slate of rock fell inwards, swinging on hinges that had appeared out of the air thick with floral smells. The witch slipped inside fluidly and did not bother to look back and see if he was following her. He caught the door on its return swing back and its weight knocked the wind out of him. It must have been as heavy as the entire mountain, and after he had stopped it he found he could not make it move. Struggling, he squeezed his way through the small crack left. Making his way into the room he gasped, hardly able to process the wonders that were laid out before him.
The flower bouquets on these pedestals were ethereal. The one closest to him were made out of spider webs. They were bell shaped delicacies that nodded their heads shyly, balanced precariously on stems made of the same gossamer fiber. He badly wanted to reach out and touch the small miracles, but loathed the thought of doing so for fear of destroying them. Obliteration besides, they were anomalous as much for the fact they had been untouched by human hands as for their beauty.
The other bouquets were just as astonishing. One was made out of light, a rainbow in fact, and he had to kneel down as he passed it by so his shadow would not consume it. Another was like a sun flower except that its petals were a dusky apricot color, like a sunrise or sunset, and that color was tangible, fragile, and dusty like a moth's wing. Most of all, every bouquet was pure, incorruptible. He knew that, even though the witch had brought him here, she had no intention of ever letting one of her marvels leave the store.
But that was okay. There were no roses.
He asked her if she had anything else and she walked over to the back wall, another slab of hard stone, and proceeded to make it into a door. This time though, she stood in the doorway as he passed, and watched him warily with her cold eyes. Once he had passed she sniffed disdainfully, the closest she had gotten to talking since he had arrived, and shut the door with a slam that reeked of finality.
He did not notice. In this room, each pedestal contained only one flower. And they were all roses. Each one sparkled with dew that pooled in the perfect curves of the petals and reflected sunlight, starlight, and perhaps even heaven on their glossy surfaces, despite being hidden away in the darkness of the mountain. Each rose was different. One was pure gold, another as white as an angel's wings, and one was a green color that could only be found in one other place. Paradise.
But his favorite was the one colored pink. There was nothing to compare it to, other than the lips of his beloved. This was the highest honor he could have given anything, whether they be rose or not, and for a moment he wanted that flower more than he had ever wanted anything in the world. But soon the moment passed, and he realized that something was not quite right. He could not put his finger on it, but the fact was that the roses were cold. So hyperborean in fact, that the dew drops he had admired were frozen so much they might as well have been glass. The roses were as cold as the rain that comes after great disappoint, or the light of a candle in an empty home, or maybe even as cold as the heart of a woman who leads men on so they would go to ridiculous measures for her unwinnable hand.
"Do you have anything else?" He asked, surprised by the strained quality his voice had taken. Somewhere in the love clouded mind of his he had realized exactly whose heart the cold roses resembled.
"One," said the witch, her expression dipping into a deep frown. Quickly, her face went from impartial to furious. Her chipped eyes accused him. Blamed him. Hated him for making her speak and break the vow of silence that was also the root of her power. Around them the roses let out a sigh, though if it was one of relief or pain he did not know, and shriveled into wizened piles of glass. They melted as the witch formed a door out of yet another back wall that had become meaningless. The water dripped onto the floor, the closest thing to rain this room had ever experienced, and as the silence grew so did the new sprout that had sprung up from the wood of the pedestal to take the place of its predecessor.
The next and last room had no light. It was as dark as the forest he had emerged from, but it was not dead. This was living, breathing darkness. The comforting kind that wrapped around him while he slept and dreamed of love. And the source of the life came from the rose on the only pedestal in the room. The flower emitted a soft glow that despite being rather low, allowed him to see all he needed to in the room. But he wanted nothing to do with the room, not when the rose itself was so beautiful. It was a red color with tips of a luxurious purple color, the color that love might have been personified. While it was covered in dew, the water drops rolled and moved about the petals in a way that frozen water could not do. This rose was so warm it seemed to course with life blood. And when he paused to listen, he found that it had a muted pulse, the throb of a heartbeat. He knew then that the rose must fall into his possession by any means possible.
"What do you want for this rose?"
The witch sighed, as if this was all a burden for her rather than a business transaction. "A kiss," she said reluctantly.
While he did worry about the state of his soul after kissing a witch, and if such an act would be punished in the afterlife, he knew he would do anything for that rose and, by extension, the girl who deserved such a flower. He did not let his apprehension show as he pressed his mouth against her's. He tried to conjure up an image of his beloved, so he could pretend to be kissing her instead, but the image of the witch in front of him canceled out any such figment. She was unyielding and cold and unbelievably bored. She had suffered through many a year with an unchangeable expression of neutrality, biding her time no matter how pathetic she found everyone who stumbled into her presence. All and all, it was not that different from kissing death.
She pulled away from him with a look of disdain. "No," she said briskly. "This flower is not for you." The witch raised her finger to cut off his protests before they escaped his mouth. "There is a rose, this one's brother, on top of the cliff that is as beautiful as this one. You should be able to get that one." Though the rose quivered at the sound of her voice, it did not fall apart or even lose a petal. The witch would have hated to admit it but that flower might have been more powerful than she was.
He blinked. "Will you show me out?" Before he had finished the sentence she had pushed away the back wall to reveal a spiraling staircase leading up through the mountain. "Thank you," he said, more than a little hesitantly.
The witch said nothing, already rekindling her power through silence, as she slammed the wall shut behind him.
Swift was his footsteps as he made his course up the shrouded staircase. There was no light, just as there had been no light in the room with the rose, but here it was the face of his beloved in his mind's eye that acted as his candle and not the flower. But that face did not shine light on what was truly important, or he would have seen the rats hiding in the darkness around him. They did not provide him any threat, they knew that he must have been sent by the witch and they were scared of her power. But had he seen them he would have been able to coax a few pieces of good advice from their tongues that spoke the same language he did. They were very clever rats, one could not live so near a witch and be dull after all.
But he did not see them and though they waited expectantly, he never acknowledged them. After he had passed they shrugged their furry shoulders and vanished into the cracks in the walls, becoming one with the darkness that they had long forgotten to fear.
Perhaps it was okay that he did not hear their advice, for when he emerged from the staircase he found himself in a clearing with someone all too willing to tell him what to do. He did not notice that at first though, too entranced by the flower only a few inches from where he stood. It was like the rose in the witch's final room. Except this one, he was certain, was much more beautiful. It was pure gold and shone far brighter than the one before. It was seamless and all the petals were exactly the same, lacked no dents, pits, or anything else that he had once called nature's work and what he then called imperfections. Though the dry ground indicated rainless days, drops of fresh smelling water dripped from its petals and fell to the ground. Convinced that it was weeping over having not been picked, he reached out for it, only to be stopped by a wise voice from the trees.
"I wouldn't do that if I was you."
He looked up, to see a young man about his age sitting in the tree branches above him. Around the young man sat a group of six children, and all of them were clad in a mixture of clothes of different time periods and styles. And they all wore feathers. Black and white magpie feathers for that matter, and it was that that convinced him he was in the presence of the Tiding, and he felt a sudden distaste for the wild people.
"Well it is good that you are not me then," he said before turning his attention back to the flower.
The Tiding Man was quick to speak again; magpies are like rats in that way, very clever creatures that think on their feet. "How do you know I'm not you?" He asked as he peered out through the branched of the tree. "I haven't introduced myself yet. I am Truth and these good children here," he gestured to the youths up front. "Are Curiosity and Brash. I'm happy to say that Blythe is also here, as well as Zeal. And I know Mirth arrived too, I heard her laugh. And…"
"I do not care," he said sharply, eager to take his flower and leave. He could feel the glares of the children fixing on him through the leaves.
"To be honest. I don't like you much either. But I feel obligated to tell you that that there rose isn't gonna do what you want it to."
"I do not expect it to do anything for me!" He exclaimed. "I am going to give it to the girl I love."
"Why not tell your lady love about your journey here?" Asked Truth, and unlike the way other people talked his question was just that, an inquiry. Not a suggestion or order. "A nice girl would think highly of a fellow who traveled a long way, rose or no rose."
He did not plan on answering, but in the presence of Truth there were no secrets. "She would not believe me."
Truth shared a glance at the children, all of which had pity showing clearly in their eyes. Truth then turned back to them. "Pardon me for saying this but, if she doesn't trust you is she really worth it?"
"Yes," he said shortly, though whether he was brief because he did not want to confront Truth or himself was unclear, and yanked the rose out of the ground.
It's golden splendor finally in his hands, he turned to the Tiding. He remembered that magpies were quite attached to all things glittery and golden, and he was more than a little nervous about his situations. Would they let him keep his, and he had already begun to think of it as 'his', flower? Or would they mob him and drive him away while they clutched his prize in their sharp, beak-like hands?
Truth knew what he was thinking, and the magpie man waved him along, humoring him. The children looked on, obviously astonished by the act of generosity. Curiosity and Brash and another boy, perhaps the one called Zeal, were ready to protest but Truth raised a finger to his lips. This meant something very different to the Tiding than to other folks. Rather than meaning 'quiet, I do not want to hear what you have to say' it meant 'hold off until a better time'.
And that was exactly what the children did, kept their mouths shut until he had walked off with his glittering prize. The moment he had disappeared back down the staircase, they clustered around Truth.
"Why did you let him have the flower?" Asked Curiosity, her youthful face set into an expression of puzzlement. She was more confused than petulant, which couldn't be said for the rest of her companions.
"Yeah! Why?" Brash asked accusatorially. His arms uncrossed and he reached out to pull on Truth's arms, his hands stained from play leaving smudges as he tugged and in between jerks he shouted, "He wasn't. Very. Nice to us. You know!"
" I know," said Truth simply.
The youngest girl's, Blythe's, cheery demeanor slipped at the realization of the loss that she felt as strongly as if the rose had been her favorite toy. "It was such a pretty flower," she sobbed, fat tears oozing down her freckled cheeks.
"I know that too," said Truth as he put a reassuring hand on the girl's shoulder. "In fact, I know something that both he and you don't know. And that's why I let him have that there rose."
Before the other children could ask what he knew, Curiosity was already speculating. "Is it gold plated and not really gold?" She asked. Even as she spoke her face filled with astonishment at the thought of such a trick. "And by the end of the day all of the gold will be gone and all he'll have is a regular rose?"
"No no. Nothing like that." Truth did a quick headcount. "How many of you are Here? Seven of us total? Good. Gather 'round everyone. It's time for a secret that can never be told." The children pressed forward through the tree top, converging around a single mass of branches. Another girl, Mirth, giggled with anticipation.
Truth whispered his words to the children. "That there flower is one of many. Each one is pretty, but that's it. Nothing good ever comes of owning one. Still, there's always some fool who wants one. And new one grows every time someone picks it. But we're lucky, we get to look at it and not own it so we don't get misfortune!"
And the children rejoiced, cawing with harsh cruel laughter. Just like magpies.
With the rose in hand, he left the witch's shop feeling happier than he ever had. Coming down the staircase he had found no witch, and no rooms built into the cliff either. Just the façade of an ordinary shop with ordinary arrangements on display. Not even the first flowers he had seen were still there, having been replaced by have wilted wildflowers doomed to rot. Besides death, which now loomed inevitably over the shop and every flower in it, he was alone. But he did not feel that way. With the rose he could never truly be by himself, for he could see the face of the fair-haired maiden he cared for reflecting in every petal. He walked into the forest without a care in the world, and it was this apathy that kept the beasts at bay. They wanted fear and there was none, and each time they came calling they found that he neither saw nor heard them and they sulked away. Though they did not do so with their tail behind their legs. They were not forced to retreat, they chose to, and it was a fragile bubble of protection indeed that surrounded him. But surround it did and he made it out of the forest unharmed; hardly realizing he had entered in the first place.
His beloved lived by the lake, the body of water serving as her mirror. It was above and beyond narcissistic, the life she lived. She could not go more than one minute without someone telling her how beautiful she was or trying to impress her. The worst thing about her was her boredom; she quickly became tired of flattery and needed someone to prove how much they truly believed in her beauty. In that way her house had become filled with gifts, offerings, and libations from doting admirers. The hallways were carpeted with bouquets of dead flowers. Every time she took a step she crushed the withered head of a rose beneath her feet.
But he did not know this, having never been given the privilege of being allowed into her house. As it turned out though he did not need to see the interior of her home to know what kind of person she truly was. The water of the lake lapped at his shoes, soaking his feet in frigid water. At that moment he would have suffered through more than just a little discomfort to see the girl of dreams. Soon though, as he approached the house what he saw made him freeze as cold as the water of the lake. The rose grew hot in his hand, urging him to continue. But he could not. He could not move forward in the face of the betrayal before him.
His beloved, his dream, the person he had crossed a forest of darkness for, the person he had bartered with a witch for, the person he had stolen from the magpies for, was with another man. They held each other's hands as they walked down the shore of the lake, taking turns at admiring each other in the water.
It did not matter to him whether their relationship was purely platonic, which he doubted, it was the fact that he had expected her to be worried about him. Maybe not even that, just having her care would have been good enough. It would have been good enough for him because he was a fool. He had been a fool to do so much for a girl did not love him and, as he could clearly see now looking back on all the interactions he had had with her, had never loved him. He saw then that it should not have been a matter of how to impress her, but why he should impress her. What had she ever done for him? Nothing. And what had he done for her? Everything.
The glint of the golden rose caught his eye. The stupid, useless, golden rose. It had done everything Truth had said it would do, that is, nothing. Just like her.
He found himself filled with rage. He did not know it, but it was the same rage that filled the beast in the forest and the action he took against the flower was the same as what they did to foolish, useless, love struck travelers. With one jerk he had ripped the flower from its stem and proceeded to tear the petals off one by one only hate filled thoughts.
Soon the rose was no more. Nothing but shreds of gold at his feet. He blinked the red from his eyes and looked up, only to find that neither one of them had seen him. Once again, he was a beast in the forest, staring straight in the face of blind apathy. And he too sulked off, with one notable difference between himself and the creatures of the dark. He had his tail between his legs.
Afterwards he did not leave his home for several days. He was too sick, too weak, too miserable to see anyone or do anything. After all, he had already done everything, what was there left? He supposed that he should find a job. His inheritance would not last forever. But he could not bring himself to do anything but listen to the foxes haunting barks in the middle of the night. And sometimes he even slept through that. The world had become barren and bleak to him. The sharp bite of cynicism, more of a killer than death, had crept into his thoughts. As much as he hated to admit it, he needed beauty in his life. Something to inspire him. Something to make him move forward. It was a shame that he had nothing. No love. No rose. Nothing beautiful.
One day, after contemplating the glories of early death, he realized that something had to change. Desperate, he hauled himself out of his house. That made no difference though. The lack of beauty, the lack of everything really, forced him to shamble about like a zombie. Somehow he made it to the lake. Not the side where the onetime girl of dreams, who now haunted his nightmares, lived, but on the other side in the wilderness that his town did not extend to. Though unsure of how he got there, he figured it was for the best. Perhaps he could seek inspiration from the beauties of nature.
Nothing came of that. All he saw was trees and leaves. Not beauty. Beauty was the face of a girl one loved, the pleasure of spending time with her. With a sigh verging on a groan, he climbed onto a large rock that hung over the lake, not unlike how the cliff had hung over the witch's shop. He stared into the deep water under him, hoping to see a sparkling rock or a fish. What he saw was something completely different.
She looked up at him, her mouth forming an 'o' of surprise. Then she laughed, a soundless giggle rising in the form of bubbles to the surface. Was he funny? Possibly. He appeared so at least. He wondered what someone who's hair and clothes did not float upwards and had the ability of being able to look down without having the rest of you facing up, would look like to a person who did exactly that.
Yes. He must have appeared incredibly funny to her. And while she laughed he gawked, because he had never seen anyone like her before. She was less put together than the people he saw, less stuffy really. And it made her look all the more free. Her skin was pale, probably because she had never felt the sun without a curtain of water pressing down on her. Her face was bright, and though the water made her look desaturated, he saw that her eyes were a sparkling sky blue and her lips were roses, not rosebuds, but roses. Her mouth opened and closed, talking, but he could hear none of the words she had to say. Realizing this, she smiled sadly. It was obvious, inevitable even. Roses also symbolized silence.
He went to see her every day, her beauty giving him enough inspiration to get him around the lake. And day after day he became more and more sure that she was the true girl of his dreams. Only she, an ethereal creature of insurmountable majesty, could haunt such a desolate place as his mind and make it flowing and green again. She was the one who encouraged him, however inadvertently, to get a job. It wasn't much, but he was able to make a living by doing odd jobs for the people of the village. Ironically, or maybe not, he had never been the best student, one of the main jobs he performed was chopping down trees in the forest. Or saplings rather, the trees were much too large. He learned to recognize the signs that a monster was sneaking up behind him, they were not the quietest things, and how to make his mind go blank so he would neither hear, see, nor even think about them, so they would be encouraged to leave. This was only a temporary solution though; he would need to find a more effective way of banishing them if he was going to make a living out of working in the forest.
No matter how hard he worked, he always managed to find time to go to the lake. She was there when he was, materializing in waves of fine silt. Neither of them ever tried to join the other, he did not swim to her nor did she try to break the surface. But she was always there. Until the day she was not. He searched, frantically so, for days. He stalked up and down the bank, looking under every water logged rock. He even borrowed his neighbor's rowboat so he could look in the deepest part of the lake. Defeated, he retreated back to his house, prepared to spend the rest of his life drowning in melancholy rather than the beautiful features of the lady in the water. But something inside him protested. Even though she was gone, his face was still engrained into his memory. That lovely face was still spurring him onward. He needed to do something for her. Something that would bring her back. Halfway out the door he paused. What had she done for him?
Before he knew it he was inside the dark forest. The beasts pressed in around him, their hungry teeth, claws, and eyes glinting in the shadows. They clawed at him, tore at his clothes and any bare flesh they could find. Tempting him to turn around so they could see the terror in his eyes as they killed him. But when he turned back all they saw was purpose, a feeling that this was a person they must not distract. He had a mission that was far bigger than them, far bigger than him even. The light in his eyes burned the wicked intent right out of their souls, and they slunk away with their tails between their legs.
When he reached the witch's shop he did not mince any words. "Take me to the last rose."
The witch looked him over quickly, and it seemed as though what she saw was satisfying because she did not turn him into a toad on the spot. Instead she ushered him through her stone rooms, and though the jeweled flowers had grown back he paid no attention to any of them except the one made of cobwebs. To him it symbolized love, how delicate and fleeting it was. But very beautiful.
The warm rose calmed him as soon as he stepped into the room. It was like being in the presence of his second, and true, love. He forgot the witch entirely until she stopped him from picking the rose off the pedestal. She did not need to say anything to let him know her price was the same as before.
Sighing, he thought at first that he would be willing to kiss the witch, and this time she would not be able to refuse him. Then he stopped. He had never kissed the underwater maiden, it seemed impossible, but it would be unfaithful to her if showed any affection to this woman. Why, it would be as bad as what his old flame had done to him. Playing with the hearts of women to satisfy his own needs.
He shook his head violently. "I…I cannot do it. I will not betray her."
The witch studied him with her mirror eyes that had somehow pieced themselves together from the shattered glass they once were. He could see himself, as she would see him reflecting back on their pale surfaces. A strong man with a loyal heart. A smile crept up her lips and wordlessly, she handed him the rose with the purple edges of love.
He ran back to the lake as fast as he could. The beasts did not bother him on the way back and the villagers shook their heads as he ran past. The love struck boy was at it again.
He waded into the lake, embracing the water that lapped up against his legs, cherishing anything that was connected with her. When his feet did not touch the bottom he swam. He swam until he reached the rock where he had first met her. The rose, though wet, was unharmed, and he clutched it tightly in hand as he stared out at the water. Unlike the golden one, the new rose had thorns, and he relished the way they pierced his hands as he thought of her.
Suddenly she was there, looking at his dripping clothes incredulously. Her hands were hidden behind her back and a coy smile graced her face that had become slightly worn after some unknown journey or tribulation. His heart jumped along with the corners of his mouth. He reached the rose out to her, letting the petals skim the tops of the water.
Her face wore the same expression it had when he had first seen her, surprise. And then she laughed, bubbles streaming from her mouth. She pulled her hands out from behind her back and held the token in them out to him. A rose.
AN: This is my favorite thing I ever wrote. I love how I actually pulled through on writing it, I loved looking up rose symbolism and pictures on Deviantart, and I love the story itself. Well most of it. The part with the Tiding seems a bit iffy. I originally planned on having the witch's sister guarding the rose, and a fight ensues. But I didn't feel like writing that.
Obviously this takes place in a fantasy world. Perhaps I will use it in other stories.