The Serpent's Garden

Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under 't.

[Tanis] Final Farewell
Play this music. Playing? Great. Now read:

It is ironic that in the moment of my death, I remember everything.

I remember my mother, who loved me so deeply and profoundly that it aches to recall it, even as my intestines have been spilled on my kitchen floor.

I remember my father, whose embrace had the strength to crush mountains and was gentle enough to ease my first broken heart.

I remember him, too, my first kiss and subsequent broken heart, and how I thought I might die from the pain of it.

That, too, is ironic, when I can see my ribs broken through my skin, and my heart pumps the last of my blood.

I remember going to school and friends. I remember now how I followed a sparkling bit of nothing through a hedge maze.

I remember my keeper, who was glorious and beautiful and cruel.

I remember the tree I wrapped myself around while I tended her garden.

I remember forgetting.

I remember an entire lifetime in which I built my own garden, an unconscious imitation of hers, but mine, with my life and love and livelihood in it. I remember lovers and children and friends. I remember the oaths I took and wrought again and again.

And now I remember this last thing, the last thing I could do or say when the Shark tells me what he has done in pursuit of his vengeance.

I don’t blame him.

Not really.

In trying to kill what made him, he became evermore Hers.

And even as he kneels over my broken body now, half mad with rage and grief both, I do not regret what I said to him.

“I abjure you. My doors are barred against your entry, my windows shuttered against your eyes. My garden's bounty will shrivel in your grasp. My hearth cold to your touch. I love you and I abjure you. I wish it weren't so. I abjure you. Thrice have I said it and so it is said and so it shall be."

I remember everything.

[Vega] Neighbors
I take apples to the shark, even if it’s not exactly, I imagine, what a shark would want. But in the way that sometimes I know what men desire above all else, I know that he wants these.

The morning is crisp and cool, unseasonably so. It is well, it is well. I walk far, follow the way the snakes tell me, where the air tastes of ocean and the sand is cold.

A man in a truck stops and offers me a ride. I consult with the snake in my hands and decide to go with him. The man wants me, but thinks better of what he contemplates doing when I ask him about it. He drives in silence, drops me off in the little town by a shop that sells salt-water taffy. I give him an apple from my heavy basket and he drives away far faster than he should on the winding highway.

I consult the snakes again. One, a gray fellow with a bright orange underbelly, takes me on a circuitous route through the town and across a field full of lupine and dry grass. Taking directions from snakes is chancy work. They always take you where you wish to go, but they take you the way they know.

I walk for a long time and am surprised when I see the house. I sit on the front steps while I thank the gray snake in his hissing tongue. A man who smells like the shark, of salt and blood and greed, comes out of the house and sits beside me, waiting patiently. When I look up, the shark is wearing his Mask, even to me. He’s an older man who looks more like a shark than the shark head.

I push the heavy basket of apples to him and he is surprised. “For me?”

“For the house,” I tell him, whoever else might live here. I don’t think anyone else does, but a large dog-that-is-not-a-dog sniffs around the side of the house and eyes me warily. He doesn’t smell like dog. He smells more like me.

The shark invites me in. His house is expensively furnished in soft lines and rounded corners. It’s the house of someone who wishes to impress but doesn’t really live there.

We talk, he serves me the tea he had already brewed and that he had left to come to his door. I know the tea well – it’s one that I always recognize, one that I’ve come to associate with the shark because I serve it to him. Tea fixes things in the mind.

We talk of time and the knowing of people and things. His Mask melts away and I am grateful to see what he really is, the man mask showing a far uglier nature than he intends. The dog-that-is-not-a-dog clambers onto the sofa with me and allows me to pet him, his own Mask falling to reveal a beautiful, fiery dragon. I stroke his scales, scratch places I know must itch. He rolls on his back, and in this, he is more dog than dragon, and I pet and scratch, let myself be charmed by his beautiful scales and lovely mannerisms.

I surprise the shark when I call him beautiful. He is precisely what he is and the function of his form is precisely as it ought to be. He is well-made and beautiful as only we who escape from Arcadia are. He tells me that I remind him of someone, someone from his life before. I do not pry – I never pry. But he gives me the spare key to his home, as, he puts it, neighbors do.

And finally, before I take my leave, he thanks me for the apples and I know in the way that I sometimes know what men desire above all else, that I have given him exactly what he wants.

[Drabble] Thunder

I look up from my journal and smile at the boy who has come in smelling of rain. "Yes?"

"Storm's coming in. Shouldn't we make sure the windows are closed?" he asks gruffly.

I think on it some and can't remember if they are or not. I nod and lever myself up from the chair, hips creaking. "Yes, we should."

We make our way through the house, picking up others as we go until every resident has joined our search for an open window. In the end, we never find one, but the windows rattle under a roll of thunder.

[Drabble] Rain
The pouring rain is good for the drought, but the garden is starting to look bedraggled - it matches the knight toiling beside the house, unblocking the rain gutters.

"Will you come in now?" I ask when he has dislodged the last of the leaves and a plastic toy that found its way into the mess.

He casts about for a moment before he finds nothing else to occupy his hands and finally comes to stand beside me on the porch, dripping.


He grins, looking a great deal more like a knight than he has in ages. "Actually, yes."

[Drabble] Birth
I sit beside Melody's bed and hum to myself while she sleeps. The nurses look in occasionally with raised eyebrows. Once they try to usher me out with some nonsense about visiting hours but I patiently explain to them that we are not to be bothered. They leave us.

Later, she is awake and beaming happily over the new child in her arms. She asks shyly if I want to hold it. A part of me recoils at the thought, but a greater part gives in, and I discover a curious sensation of wanting something that I know I'll never have.

[Drabble] Sunrise
When I wake, I know the fountain by the hedge door needs to be cleared. It is old and broken, and it needs to be fixed. I pull on jeans and a sweater and hurry down the stairs into the gray light of dawn.

I've forgotten my shoes; my feet are cold. Even so, I set to work, pulling stones and clearing weeds. It is hard, difficult work.

When the door opens and a tall, broad man with skin that fairly shines in the dawn light stumbles out, I know that being here had nothing to do with the fountain.

[Drabble] Death
The shark doesn't understand me, but he certainly circles the garden often enough that I think he is trying. He drags his fingers across the shabby wooden gazebo rails, calculating the cost, what it would take to create something like this for himself, or take this one, which seems to be a greater likelihood. Whatever created him did so well: he takes and takes, destroys what he does not, to feed an insatiable hunger for power and wealth. Little good comes from such - only more destruction and, like everything, only ends in death... without the benefit of true life.
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[Drabble] Hours
He looks up from his book; a flash of irritation crosses his mirrored face and I wonder what I have done. "Do you know how long I have been waiting?" he asks.

I shrug.

"Hours," he answers himself. "I've been waiting for hours."

"Did we have something that needed to be done hours ago that can't be done now?" I ask him curiously.

He pauses at that, suddenly unsure, and shakes his head slowly.

"Then does it matter?"

At once, I see a glimmer of understanding behind his eyes as if he has found one more piece of the puzzle.

(no subject)
The field behind the Garden is getting drenched in the sudden storm and the cold is seeping into my bones. I can't go back in until I finish digging up my errant bulbs, so I just dig faster. I don't like cold.

I'm nearly done when the Hedge Door opens, guarded by standing hay bales like megaliths. From it emerges a compact, dark man with a shock of white hair and heavily muscled arms. He hesitates on the threshold, looking up at the gray sky and pouring rain, out across the green field and the hills shrouded with fog in the distance. He takes a step, then another before dropping to his knees and I see the tell-tale gashes across his skin, the kind that are only made by Hedge thorns when you are running very, very fast. Enter HoratioCollapse )

[Drabble] Choices
Painted Snake
At the potluck, the warm boy asks me in a nervous whisper, "What should I eat?"

I smile and shrug. Instead of making his own choices, he waits for me to make my selections before taking a little bit of everything I do. It is only at the end that his hand hovers over a bubbling pot of rich Mexican chocolate, darting sharp glances to me. I watch him, careful to neither encourage or discourage him. After a desperate look around the room, he finally ladles some of the spicy chocolate into a cup, holding it carefully to his chest.

[Drabble] Summer
I bask in the sun on the hottest day of the year while he drowses in the shade of the rotting gazebo. A book of military history is propped open on his slim chest, rising and falling with each breath. I contemplate the patterns the sun makes through the broken latticework on his silvery skin and the half dead garden. Suddenly, I have a vision of what could be; a garden full of life and laughter no matter the season and hold the thought tightly. When he wakes, I tell him of my plan and watch a slow smile spread.

[Drabble] Breakfast
My kitchen smells of gunpowder and oil, weak tea and strong coffee. My white haired boy, who was never once a boy, sits at the kitchen table fastidiously cleaning his guns even as dust covers almost every other surface. He smiles his thanks when I put a cup down next to him, a grim twist of lips as our hands brush.

"Do you know what's happening?" He asks it like the others do, as if they aren't certain how much I understand.

I shrug and busy myself in the spare and empty kitchen, dreaming of breakfast. "Probably better than most."

[Drabble] Sunset
Autumn Rose
The clockwork girl never asks me, "Do you remember?" I never do.

But sometimes, when the wind is crisp and chill, and my tree positively drips apples, I can recall things. I know that we have sat in the gazebo together, a pot of tea between us. I know that I have been inside her dreams and she in mine. I know that we have bent our heads together over freshly baked scones in the mornings and in the evenings we have walked down the lane, arm in arm, watching the sunset while we whisper each others secrets and laugh sadly.
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[Drabble] Why?
He stands in the doorway, arms crossed until I look up from my journal. I wave him inside, but he shakes his head. "I need to go, Tanis."

I nod, wondering how long he has been here and whether I've been keeping him from doing something important. "All right."

He steps into the room fully, stops just inside the door. "No, I need to go away."

Suddenly, I am sad and unsure, so I nod again. "As you wish."

Turning on his heel he leaves and it's only later that I understand that I was supposed to ask him, "Why?"

[Drabble] Touch
I see patterns now where before I did not. I see the way that the warm boy (why can't I keep their names?) flinches when I touch him and he doesn't expect it, or how he tenses for it even when he does. Even the most casual touches (fingers across his shoulders as I pass him on the walk, brushing some stray ash from his shirt) cause his back to stiffen, and his shoulders to climb to his ears. Only the careful application of words and tasks will put him at ease until the pattern is repeated over and again.

[Drabble] Taste
The air around the shark tastes like the sea during a storm and blood in the water. It rolls off him like ocean fog when he smiles rapaciously, showing row upon row of sharp teeth. I stick my nose in my tea cup, but even the strongest tea can't mask the scent of a predator. He may not hunt blood (doesn't he?) but his need for the regard and the jealousy of others hangs over him like a cloak. Not for the first time, I wonder why he has come here and if he thinks that I will envy him.

Vega's Side.
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[Drabble] Christmas
Christmas in the garden is full of the scent of pine boughs, cinnamon, and baking things. Tea, wassail and cider permeate every inch of the house. Carefully wrapped gifts in brown paper or newspaper, or occasionally gift wrap are piled under the Christmas tree in a careless cascade.

The man with mirrored skin sits down beside Tanis, his slight frame barely making an indentation in the cushions. She looks up and smiles when he shyly puts a small box in her hands, biting his lower lip nervously when she opens it to reveal a serpent pendant with tiny jeweled eyes.

[Housekeeping] Drabble Chart
I'm not sure why I haven't done a chart for Tanis yet. But here it is. The usual rules apply. Pick a prompt or three and tell me what they are. I will write a drabble with your character and mine, featuring that prompt. Chart Behind the CutCollapse )

[Drabble] Posture
"Stand up straight," I chide him gently.

He looks for a moment like he's been struck, then ducks his head and makes the effort, taking a deep breath. I can hear his vertebrae crack from the effort. He is handsome when he stands up, allows himself to be seen instead of hiding behind the skirts of whoever gives him an order. However, when that order has been given, when he has a clear purpose, he is magnificent. He moves gracefully, purposefully, as if there is nothing in the world that could stop him.

If only he would stand up straight.

[Drabble] Silver
His name is Silver.

He greets her by name and she is about to do the same, pleased at the memory and then has a moment of indecision before naming him. She leans in to taste him and remembers his odd, glassy scent, the warmth of summer grass that accompanies Summer Courtiers. There is a flash of being wrapped around him, arms and legs entangled in his and the taste of his mirrored skin on her forked tongue. But then, she shakes her head, smiles and welcomes him, but never quite gives him name, afraid that it will be wrong.


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