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Musing 14: White flowers

The afternoon crowds through Celephais had thinned considerably from the time we’d slunk through with Mr…no...Lightfeather in a ‘crate’. Knowing that Theo was probably still about looking for his boss, I didn’t want to be out in public too long. We’d won a big victory for us by taking …Lightfeather,  I didn’t want to mess it up by being caught only hours later.  Besides, I wasn’t feeling so great after the day’s adventures, Theo had really rattled my loaf.

But there are things sometimes more important than a little discomfort. Traditions give us purpose and meaning, especially when they’re my traditions.

I remembered seeing a flower seller not far from the stalls full of fresh fruit and vegetables and hoped they hadn’t sold out or left for the day.  I slipped through the crowd as if I belonged, and after two days I was almost indistinguishable from the locals around me.  I didn’t draw attention to myself and only nod to those who recognised me and waved.  I was on a mission and would not be distracted.

As remembered, the stall was there, but due to the lateness of the day, they have precious little on offer.  Not that I’m particularly fussy. Over the years I have taken roses, poppies and even strawberry flowers.  One grim year I reluctantly picked onion weed growing in an unkempt corner of a city cemetery.  As long as the petals are white and the centre is green, or close enough.  Unfortunately, Celephais’ flowers, like their people, were a riot of colours that would brighten any home, but were not suitable for my purposes.  

“Excuse me mother, “ I called to the stallkeeper, an elderly woman packing up her last remaining blooms with the help of a strapping young grandson, “I find myself in need to a particular flower, do you know where I could find it?”  I described the flower and watched her expression change from late-in-the-day irritation, to interest to…sympathy?

“I see your need, young man.  Death does not wait for our convenience.” She gestured to the flowers around her and being loaded into a handcard, “But as you see, my blooms are for the living, I keep none for the dead, not in the Eternal city.  You should try the gentler slopes of Mount Aran,” And she pointed over my shoulder to an imposing snow-clad mountain that rose above the shining brass spires of the city, “That land is…inspired by another place I think.  There you will find the flowers you seek.”

I turned to look up at the mountain.  Its snowy peaks were menacingly steep, and the lower slopes were treeless and craggy.  It was not a friendly sight so late on a very long and exhausting day.  But there was no help for it.  I asked for advice for the best places to look from the old women and thanked her with a small gem before cutting across town to the nearest gate to the mountain.

Through an immaculately whitewashed city arch, a path of broken chalk lead up and around the mountain’s lower slopes in the direction of the sea.  At first, I only focused on the task at hand, I didn’t notice the landscape around me as I slipped further and further away from civilisation. Eventually, my mind wandered and I became aware of the white chalk giving away to grey spines of granite.  The sound of waves crashing around algae encrusted outcroppings, that protecting white sandy beaches could be heard before seen over the edge of a steep cliff and slowly I became aware that I knew this place. 

Thousands of miles and decades in the past, I walked slopes just like these on a rare trip to the sea for the foster children of the Morris household.  Without a thought,  I found my box in my hand, the compartment open and the shell I had found on that trip in my right hand. A small, now white scallop shell that had survived the decades and miles by being once hidden away in a puzzle box by a small boy.  

On a nearby rock, I found a seat and took in the view as the sun slowly sank into the waves, the moon following.  This was the Cornwall of my childhood, or a small slice of it, transplanted into an alien recursion.  The mix of past and present was dizzying (probably exacerbated by a knock to the head earlier) and for a moment, I could do nothing but take in the view, my mind focused on the moment.

That day, so many years ago had been a very good memory.  There had been a lot of darkness in between, much of it embodied in Lightfeather himself.  Today, right now was another good day and as I breathed out I felt the release of …a knot of tension, a burden I didn’t know I’d been carrying.  It left me to swirl around in the sea air before being carried off by the freshening off-shore breeze.

Eventually, like waking up, I took another breath and noticed a patch of ox-eyed daisies just like the ones we’d made daisy chains out of on that trip.  Placing the scallop shell down on the rock,  I slowly stood and took seven of the best blooms.  One I held up to the breeze letting it slowly slip from my fingers before it too was carried out over the cliff edge to the rocks below.

“In remembrance,” I whispered, the words even lost to me as a gust swept past and took those as well. 

The sun was low now, the moon dominated the darkening sky as I realised I was cold.  Carefully, I wrapped the other six bloom in a handkerchief and started the walk back to town. The path back was faster, as these things often are, and I was soon back at the warehouse, comforted by Bruce’s lecture about leaving the group.

“You didn’t even say where you were going?  Theo or Caw Eh Carve’s  men could have found you and we would have been none the wiser.”

I must admit I’d forgotten about Caw Eh Carve, he just didn’t seem to matter in the enormity of the day’s events.  I didn’t answer Bruce, just smiled and placed a bloom in a buttonhole of his tunic.

“What’s this?” He looked down at the flower suspiciously.

“When I looked at my notes this morning, I realised that today was 11th July.”

“What of it?”

“Well,” I took a breath, but the usual bittersweet tightness I usually felt at this question was not present, “I celebrate the 11 July as my birthday.”

“I thought you didn’t know…” Algernon said, having sidled over to hear my explanation.  I pulled another flower out and tucked it behind his ear.  

“I don’t,” I replied knowing that he’d look it up at his earliest convenience.

“Er…Thanks.”  Bruce fingering the flower as he felt the weight of the gesture, “But don’t go out alone again.”

I shook my head, “I just follow the path, Bruce. But I know I don’t follow it alone.”  

I found Peggy watching Eldin as he stirred in his bonds. The old thrill of fear was still there, but it was muted as if coming from far away.  I got Peggy’s attention before I started to place a flower in her dark curls.  She stiffened, and with a silent smile, I placed it in her hand instead.  

“You went out for this?”  She picked up the flower by the stem and spun it between her fingers.

I nodded.


I hunted a moment for the right words.  Falling back on that feeling of release, I answered, “Somethings need remembering, but they don’t need to be remembered with pain and…” I looked at Eldin, under our control, “they don’t need to define us.”

A small smile slipped out the side of her mouth as she placed the flower in her own hair.

“Happy Birthday.” She said.

Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons existbut because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Published by Miztres

I'd just like to say a few words... nee phtang! fribble

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