WIP – A Story of the Rose Kingdom

Picture of a stone lantern.This is from a military fantasy story currently in progress. It’s set in the same world as Tabat, although it does not take place in that city, and is referenced in two other works (“Love’s Footsteps” and The Beasts of Tabat.) I hope you enjoy it:

You cannot smell the roses in the hours before dawn. It is only when sunlight touches the vast blossoms, each as large as a human head, that crowd the tallest branches of the Hedge, that the petals loosen. The perfume seeps out into the air then, first as a hint of sweetness, then stronger.

By midmorning, the smell is so intoxicating that approaching enemies lay down their arms and sit, staring into the air, nostrils flared, breathing, smelling. It grows heavier and heavier throughout all the day, and only begins to ebb when the sun completely slips below the ocean horizon to the west. The Hedge borders the Rose Kingdom on three sides, and on the west is that blue line.

This is what has protected the Rose Kingdom for three handfuls of centuries, years and years of peace and protection engendered by a great ancient enchantment whose details are still argued.

But pieces of that enchantment still linger and are renewed each year when a child is given up to the Hedge to become a Knight of the Rose.

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When Jordan’s mother gave him up to the Gardeners, he was four years old. He knew this because much of it been made of his fourth birthday. He was given cake and a folded paper boat of his very own. And most preciously a caress from his mother, which was a rare thing indeed.

Most of the time he was an extremely solitary child. Because everyone knew he was would be given to the Hedge, there was no point in teaching him anything. There was no point in wasting any of the household’s resources on him, other than what was necessary to keep him alive and healthy until it was time to give him up.

He had two younger brothers, Coulin and Fedyrmor, but they were only babies. Coulin barely knew enough to talk and Fedyrmor more only cried. Anyway they were watched over by their nursemaids most of the time.

He knew that he was to be taken to the Gardeners. No one had made much secret of it, speaking freely before him though rarely to him. He found himself looking forward to it. Anything might be better then An existence spent lingering in hallways and edges of rooms, ignored and unnoticed. The Gardeners wanted him. That was important. They wanted him, not either of the other two. He was promised to the hedge, it was meant for him. He had a destiny, where most people had to bob around in the streams of their lives not knowing where they would land. At least that was how Jen the housekeeper’s son, with whom Jordan socialized with whenever (although sadly rare) the occasion presented itself, described it all.

“You will have a role,” he said, as Jordan trailed after him helping him spread bird netting over the pillline bushes and their ripening fruit, scarlet hearted berries whose flesh was a watery pink.

“A role?” Jordan tugged the netting around the branches, trying to pull it as Jen did, so it slid over the thorns rather than snagging on them. His efforts were less successful.

Jen secured the netting to the main trunk with a strip of white cotton with edges tipped in blue to show that this harvest was destined for household use rather than commercial purpose.

“An important role, I mean. I’ll be a housekeeper like my mother. but you’ll be a Rose Knight. You’ll defend the kingdom. You’ll keep everyone safe from harm.”

“I suppose.” Jordan considered. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it, the idea that he would be important.

That he would matter.

That people would look at him and see him.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 100+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.
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