Disclaimer: Everything here is mine.
Summary: A banished elf tells a strange rose of his lover-- only to discover the rose is more then just a flower. Can he ease the pain of his lover's burdened soul by telling the flower something he never her?
Petals like silk ribbons curled as arms waving me nearer. As red as blood, with dew dripping and reflecting dangerously, as if life itself were mutilated by this single image of beauty. Though she possessed no mouth to smile, she mocked me with her haunting song, gentle as a whisper and yet it made me shake as if it were as forceful as thunder. In the grey-hued garden, it was the only color, and I was drawn to her like a moth to the flame. I looked nowhere else as I crawled to the flower, my palms scratched and bleeding from the dead leaves and sticks left on the ground.
Wisps of warmth lit the air with white when I breathed, and I watched the silent beast in front of me, waiting for her to speak. Though my eyes were pained as I never bothered to blink, the flower did not respond. Instead she looked up at me with unseen eyes, waiting for me to pick her, to speak to her, to add more blood to her ribbons. I did nothing.
"Am I seeing nothing, blood one?" I whispered, shakily reaching with stiffened arms to brush my fingertips on her petals. She did not react, and no shiver crawled her stem and shook her blood covered ribbons. She never smiled at me when I snapped my hand away from her, unable to breath. I was frightened.
"You're real then..." my voice sounded strange to me, for I hadn't heard it in so long. I heard no echo return to me from the stone walls around me. The air was gray and thick, like the gods themselves had breathed their warm air to keep me comfortable in the striking cold.
"I have seen no life for so long," I told her, entranced by her color. "You are a sign, my blood one... perhaps life will return to these planes once again. Are you the sign of my savior, blood one?"
She did not answer me. She only watched me, smiling in her strange crimson way, her petals like red clouds, soft and inviting for sleep. I did not know true sleep in this place, and I found myself staring at her, eyes suddenly stung with hot tears.
"I've forgotten how to smile..." I said through clenched teeth, blinking and wiping the salt from my eyes with the back of my hand. "Yours is the only one I have seen since... gods, I don't even know. They sent me here when I was young... so young. Does age matter to you, red one?"
Though I heard no words from her, I felt her answer... no, time did not matter to a flower.
"It was hundreds of years ago..." I whispered, wringing my fingers together, watching her. She did not respond, and let me speak my words. Words that I had spoken to no creature. "I was a young elf... very young. A fool at heart, you know... I was only two hundred. I... I don't know how that would be equivalent to human. Humans age so much faster... faster, yes..." Perhaps not on my will, my eyes strayed to survey the gray garden around me, the mist hiding the far away trees. It hurt to look at life. "Do you want to hear my tale? I suppose you do. I don't guess many talk to you, blood one. Yes, talk... I have not talked in so long. No one, nothing to talk to... with..."
"I was a noble... the son of a powerful elf... yes, right hand to the king my father was... a very powerful man among our race, our culture," I swallowed my breath and covered my eyes with my hands, shutting them tightly and swaying back and forth on my knees, whimpering like a child. "I was so young when she came, the daughter of a human ambassador... a human girl, very small and strong, so much different from elvish women, so much less beauty... but she was so alive." I stopped, letting myself gasp shuddering breaths, leveling my head. "You remind me of her, blood one... she was like you. So much like you... her hair was as red as the holiest blood of the elvish clerics. Yes, blood is what she always reminded me of. She was like blood, life in itself, danger in the hands of a mortal girl... I grew toward her, and loved her like the moth loves the flame... my precious flame, my life..."
The flower said nothing to me, though I felt her sorrow for me. I felt her soul, her small red soul, touching mine in a warm comfort I had long since forgotten.
"It was forbidden!" I cried, shuddering violently and rocking forward and back now, letting myself weep. "We were discovered, and it was... like hell. She was killed shortly afterwards when we tried to run... no, no, no running... she was killed for it, and I lost my life when hers was taken. She was my life! Mine, my own!" I bit my lip until my teeth broke into the skin, and I tasted my own blood, that was never as bright as my lover's hair... never. "They did not kill me, but banished me into the Gray. This... this place, this death. This haven of cold, stale air and dormancy..." I took a shuddering breath and looked back at the flower, who regarded me with sympathy. "This place is my home, for I don't know how long now. That is my story, blood one..."
I had ventured away from her in my speaking, so once more I crawled, my eyes swollen and stained, fixed upon her. My flame, a flame just like the first of life I loved.
"Are you..." I swallowed a sob and reached a trembling hand to touch her. "Are you her? Is it you, sweet Ashlin? Gods, please..." I pleaded to the flower, stroking her ribbons gently. She did not answer me. "Please, Ashlin! Please say it is you... say it is so... you have returned to me, yes? The gods released your soul to keep me company... you came for me, did you not? My love, my life, my blood one..." the corners of my mouth shivered and stretched, a weak smile at the flower. "Please tell me... are you my Ashlin?"
She did not respond directly, but her petals invited me closer, to touch her more, to pick her from the ground and hold her like I used to hold Ashlin. I smiled shakily and reached deeper for her, wrapped my thin fingers weakly around her stem. She waited as I seized hold of her.
I screamed in pain and snatched my hand away, more tears springing back to my eyes. My hand lifted to my face and I could now see, in my horror, the pricks on my skin, the blood it drew. Looking back at the flower, I could now see something I hadn't before. Below her ribbons was concealed her stem, sharp with thorns protruding from the gentle green.
"Ashlin..." I wept. "Why? It is you, isn't it?" I held my hand tightly to my sleeve to halt the flow. "But... if it is you... you would never hurt me... you loved me the same as I loved you, didn't you? Don't you?" I watched her, but she didn't answer. I felt sorrow from her, an apology... she hadn't wanted to hurt me. "But..." I sniffed and looked at the cracked ground. "It must be you. I can feel you..."
The flower looked cold now, and the dew on her petals thickened and fell to the ground. She was weeping.
Suddenly I understood. I cried still; but now for something different. I felt my body loosen and fall limp to the ground, the rose inches from my face. I breathed silently onto her and she stood still, still weeping, feeling my breath.
"It is you," I choked, reaching gingerly and very carefully touching her petals, as soft as I remembered Ashlin's skin. I laughed hollowly. "Who sent you, Ashlin? Who... who played this trick on me?"
She didn't answer; she couldn't. Roses don't talk.
I leaned in and brushed my face with her petals. My tears mixed with her dew, and together we cried. I felt her soul in the flower, reaching to me with unseen arms, crying for me to hold her again. My hand still bleeding, I kept away from her stem, but my soul cried for her.
"Together again," I whispered to her, my voice cracked. "But never truly, will we be. It was always hopeless, wasn't it?" My hands trembled for her. "I love you, Ashlin. I adore you, I've longed for you for such a time I... I've forgotten how much. I've even prayed for a reunion... I never dreamed it would be one like this..."
The rose seemed to whisper to me, Ashlin's soul wanted to speak. But there was no mouth on the flower to use. I couldn't discern her words.
"I never told you everything about you that I loved," I said. "I was young, a fool... I wanted you so much, but I never realized..." I swallowed. "I never realized what it meant when I told you I loved you and your eyes flickered, waiting for something more."
The rose waited.
"I loved your life," I whispered shakily, stroking her petals and gently brushing away the dewdrops. "You weren't afraid to be who you were. Elvish women had all the time in the world; they were cold and concerned with the earth itself and life meant little to them. But you understood, unlike so many humans, how precious life was. You lived it to the fullest, never allowing a moment of idleness or regret. I saw you dancing that first night at the festival. Your clothes were as yellow as the sunflower, and you turned your face to the sky the same way a flower did. Your eyes were so bright and full of eagerness, you soaked in the spirit of everything around you. When you smiled, the life you absorbed was given to those who saw you. For the first time in my years, I felt such a surge of happiness, such a will to live."
I heard thunder in the distance. The flower shivered and I breathed on her.
"I watched you for days, expecting you to become tired eventually. I was negative, waiting for your vigor to wear off... it never did. Every time I saw you, you were... dancing, laughing, talking, dreaming, picking flowers in the field, looking at paintings, singing, climbing walls and trees. Your clothes were always bright and friendly, your hair long and so red, vibrant. You talked to me, and it seemed you didn't even care that I was the arrogant race of elves that most of your kind loathed. You treated me as an equal, even when my people considered you vulgar. I wanted to be your friend, and you gladly obliged." I smiled with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. "You taught me how to sneak out at night and get a taste of the life after the sun set. You danced even more amazingly in the moonlight. I fell in love with you for your life, Ashlin. For everything you showed me."
The flower wept more dewdrops.
"I suppose you remember our kiss," I said gently. "The first one, that is. There were many more after it." I sighed. "It was after dark, in the street of the city. You had just finished dancing with the gypsies. You danced away from them, pulling me with you, making me dance. We danced behind a barn slightly outside the city, laughing in the moonlight. The city lights were farther away, but not far enough to drown out the sound of lively music. You loved music, and you were grinning at me. Your eyes sparkled... they always did... but this time I noticed, for the first time, that your eyes looked different when you were with me alone. That's when you kissed me." Now I began laughing and crying at once. "Such a jolt of life, electric in me when you touched me that way. Your lips were as soft as petals, cool as marble and you tasted like fresh rain. I asked you why you kissed me... you called me a fool and told me that you loved me."
The thunder was low behind us, and I felt fear from the rose. Her soul clung to mine and I held her, still whispering.
"All of that, Ashlin... your life, your love, your heart... all of it made me love you... I never told you that... is..." I shook. "Is that why you came here to me? To know that?"
I felt her sorrow.
The thunder grew around us.
"It is then..." I wept with her. "To listen, and not to speak... to know why an immortal elf fell in love with a mortal. I suppose you always wanted to know. I never told you. Now you know and... and that's it then. You'll die again and leave me in the Gray."
The rose petals clung to my damp face, and I felt her strong soul screaming to me, begging for forgiveness. I felt her love, her life in this flower. My soul, body and mind longed for her and I felt now only her soul, and knew it was all I could have. And not even that would last.
"Is the storm here to take you away?" I asked softly.
Her soul answered yes.
"Do... do you know if... if I'll see you again? If we'll be truly together?"
The flower was silent and so was her soul for a moment. She didn't know, but she held me fast anyway. She gave me hope, and through her my heart swelled with warmth. Then I felt her urging me away. I understood, and still weeping, I kissed her petals over and again, tasting the dew and reminded so painfully of her lips. Pulling away regretfully, I pulled myself over to the stone wall a ways away. My eyes never left Ashlin-- the rose in my dead garden.
Above me, the storm was violent and as dark and bleak as everything but Ashlin. The rose stood , her face turned stubbornly to the sky. She waited with strength for her end-- the same way she had before. Just like Ashlin's life as a human, her life as a rose would be short. The storm raged patiently, as if asking if she was ready now. Ashlin responded yes.
The storm took her.
I remember screaming her name as a jagged knife of lightning shot from the clouds and stabbed her. The electric blade cut her into pieces and burned her. I screamed and clawed at my own head, feeling my own blood on my hands again. Her soul was torn away from me a second time-- my life was shredded once more.
The storm left.
I was alone again.
The Gray became hollow again, and the breeze howled in lonely lamentation. Crawling and sobbing violently, I dropped to the ground by the burnt rose, smoke whispering from her dead form. The petals were black and the thorns had all burned away. Her soul had returned to wherever angels went.
I lamented with the wind. I cried out into nothing for my Ashlin, my rose, my life, my beloved.
But she had given me warmth, hope, a light in my heart. Someday I might see my angelic rose again, and dance with her in the curve of a crescent moon, listen to her sing with a choir of goddesses, sleep with her on blue-hued clouds. I slept in the Gray, and for the first time in hundreds of years, I dreamed with a smile.
For I dreamed of the blood one.
I dreamed of Ashlin.