So engrossed was Sir Lucian Silveste in pruning his precious rose bush that in his surprise, he snipped off one of the red blossoms. He caught it and winced at its thorns before turning around and properly greeting the Blumaroo page behind him.
“Oh... hi, Reynold... you’re Reynold, right?” asked Lucian, standing up and stretching out his arms. He squinted skyward at the clear blue sky and its sparse white patches. “What time is it?”
“About midmorning, sir,” said Reynold respectfully.
The cloud Wocky chuckled. “Wow... I’ve been at this for a while. Good thing I remembered to take breakfast before coming out here. Well, it’s all right; I’m nearly done.” He set his tools aside and lifted a monocle up to his left eye. “What brings you here on such a fine Saturday morning?”
“I wanted to ask about the White River Rebellion, Sir Lucian. You mentioned it in your lecture yesterday.”
Lucian blinked. “Hmm... ah, yes, the White River Rebellion was one of the biggest uprisings in the past century. But if I’m not mistaken, I won’t talk about it much till Monday. I know you love to learn and you seem to be reading ahead of your fellow pages, but you do need to take a break every now and then like I do...” He examined the rose he had accidentally cut. “Gardening is a very rewarding hobby, don’t you think? Although it’s a pity I accidentally cut this one off when I heard you call...”
The yellow Blumaroo’s eyes widened. “Oh, I’m so sorry, sir! I didn’t mean to...”
“No, no, it’s all right.” Lucian began to gently trim down the rose’s thorns with a small blade. “Not only is it neither your fault nor mine – although it might be more mine because I lost focus – but these things happen for a reason. There are no accidents or coincidences in this world.” He creased his forehead in deep thought, suddenly looking several years older. “There could be a reason why I cut this rose. I think I should give it to you.”
Reynold shook his head vigorously, tugging at his sleeves. “Uh... remember when I talked about the Cheery Plant my parents gave me for a gift before I became a page?” He grinned sheepishly. “I’m no good with plants. You could keep the rose... put it on your table in your office or something...”
Lucian laughed shortly before saying, “All right. The rose will stay in my study. Feel free to take it when you think you need it. I really think you might... otherwise, why would I have cut it?”
“It was an accident?”
The knight smiled and placed a strong hand on Reynold’s head. “There are no accidents, youngling. Everything happens for a reason, even those things that we call accidents. Anyway, what do you plan to do today?”
Reynold considered this for a while before answering, “I’ll probably find someone to spar with. I don’t know what else to do – my homework’s all done and I already sent a letter to my family with some gifts I bought from the nearest marketplace. Maybe I should practice my kicks for the next practical test.”
“I see. Well, good luck then, and see you later.”
“See you later, Sir Lucian.”
Lucian watched as the page walked away toward the training grounds before gathering up his gardening tools in a small basket. Somehow, he had a feeling he would see this impressionable Blumaroo a lot sooner than he thought.
* * *
Melissa sat under a large apple tree at the training grounds, but she wasn’t watching the fighters showing off their skills, or even the spectators who were watching them. In fact, she only had eyes for a little purple flower sprouting from the grass beside her – she longed to pick it, but she would rather let it stay where it was and grow. Besides, someone might tell her off if she picked the flower and she would get in trouble...
“There you are, Mel.”
A pink Scorchio in a simple blue dress walked up to her with a basket with bread, cheese, grapes and a bottle of apple juice. “Ma wanted me to bring this to you in case you were hungry – I thought you were with your friends and our brothers.”
“They’re not here, Geri,” the white Blumaroo answered, her mouth turning down into a slight frown.
“So where are they?”
“They went to someone’s house in King’s Preserve,” said Melissa, smoothing out her immaculate pinafore. “I can’t go there, remember?”
Geri nodded, handing the basket over. “Oh right – you’re allergic to the poppies there. It must be hard, being allergic to something. I don’t really know what it’s like... and I remember the first time we found out. It was scary, and your face swelled up so much that you couldn’t even talk properly! Of course, that was only the least of your problems. Anyway, I have to go back. Ma told me to go back to the kitchen, but I’ll play with you later.”
“I wish I could help out in the kitchen.” Melissa sighed. “Cooking looks fun.”
“No, it’s not,” the Scorchio disagreed.
“But Ma always smiles when she’s cooking.”
“True, but Ma and I don’t like the same things, in case you remember, my dear little sister.” Geri reached out to touch a lock of Melissa’s long, curly hair, which was a very light shade of blond. “See you later.”
And with that, Geri left the Blumaroo alone under the tree and returned to the castle. Melissa went back to staring longingly at the purple blossom. She touched its petals and smiled; they were soft, colorful, and best of all, they didn’t make her sick. Melissa had seen the poppies on tapestries and paintings, and she thought that this particular flower resembled a poppy in some way...
* * *
Reynold sighed, wiping the sweat from his brow with his sleeve. His friends had gone on ahead to go exploring in the castle, but he had stayed behind to work some more on his moves – not to mention the proper ways of falling down. He wondered why he had to learn that too and remembered that bad falls could cost him on the battlefield, but it was still an odd, though important, lesson.
He also noticed that there were very few others on the training grounds with him – an archer here and there, perhaps a couple of knights sparring with wooden swords – and decided to follow the rest of the pages, assuming they didn’t get lost. Reynold shook his head and his mouth curled into an amused grin as he remembered the days when they were entirely new to the place. They were constantly lost, winding up late for meals, lessons and practice.
The page caught sight of something from the corner of his eye – something white and red. He saw a white Blumaroo under an apple tree, staring at something in the grass – a flower? Perhaps; many, if not all, girls liked flowers.
She was alone. When she glanced up, Reynold paused instead of going on his way, and for a long time, the two of them gazed at each other.
Then he continued onward, certain that the girl was following him with her eyes until he disappeared into Meridell Castle.
* * *
It didn’t take long for Reynold to get bored with wandering the corridors of the kingdom’s stronghold. He returned to the grounds and kicked a stray pebble. Lunch wasn’t going to be served for at least a couple of hours, and he was looking for something else to do as he stepped onto the grass.
The white Blumaroo was still there, under the tree with a purple flower close to her. A basket on her lap was almost empty save for a half-full bottle and a few grapes.
“What are you doing here?” Reynold asked at last, walking toward her. “You were here when I left, and you never moved. Are you... lost?”
She shook her head.
“Are you waiting for someone?”
Another shake of the head.
“Are you... I dunno, bored?”
This time, she shrugged and caught a glimpse of the emblem stitched to the page’s white shirt – a shield half red and half blue depicting his rank.
“Ah, you were looking at that flower.” The yellow Blumaroo pointed to it. “If you like it so much, why don’t you pick it?”
At last, she spoke. “I don’t want to.”
“I might get in trouble... some people don’t like it when you pick their flowers. Besides, maybe it’s still growing and I have to let it grow first.”
Reynold rolled his eyes. “That’s stupid. Nobody cares about that.”
“But I never see anyone doing it... umm, what’s your name?”
“I’m Reynold. And like I said, nobody really cares... uh...”
“Melissa,” the white Blumaroo introduced herself. “I’m Melissa Leah Amaranth, and I care!”
“All right, all right,” Reynold muttered, waving his hands. “You do have a point... we have to let it grow first. It does look pretty small. It’s downright puny.” He held two of his fingers an inch apart to illustrate his point.
“It’s not that puny,” Melissa replied, her soft lilt with an edge of finality. “But maybe... maybe there’re flowers around here that are big enough to take...”
* * *
Lucian paused, his quill almost touching his chin. He raised his scroll of parchment and squinted at his minuscule handwriting before nodding and continuing to write while checking a large, open book that occupied almost the entire right side of his study table. These days, Meridell was rather quiet; there were no uprisings, no battles... he almost missed the action. Stopping again, he closed his eyes and thought of the last battle he had fought before the kingdom sank into a peaceful lull; not that the solitude was a bad thing, of course.
A knock on the door snapped him out of his reverie before it could even begin, but somehow, he expected it.
Reynold made his obeisance before crossing the room. “Hello, Sir Lucian.”
“What brings you here, Reynold?” asked the cloud Wocky casually. But before the page could answer, he already knew what was next in their conversation.
“Could I have the rose?”
“I thought you said you weren’t good with plants,” said Lucian, grinning.
The yellow Blumaroo nodded and answered, “Well... I’m not. But... I know someone who might like it, and... ”
“Yes, you may take the rose. I was right – you really did come back for it, didn’t you?”
“You could be a fortune teller or something,” Reynold remarked, plucking the rose from its vase. “Thank you!”
“I’m not a fortune teller. I just –”
But before Lucian could finish his sentence, his young visitor was gone, taking the rose and shutting the door after him. The Wocky smiled to himself and went back to work. That Reynold was always in a hurry – in a hurry to learn, in a hurry to train, in a hurry to leave.
When he was done filling up the scroll, he rolled it up and placed it aside before returning his quill to its little gilded case. Then he closed the heavy book and strode over to his window, which opened out into the training grounds. He watched an archer miss his target completely and send an arrow into a tree trunk instead, a couple of squires practicing with their wooden staffs... and two young Blumaroos under a tree, one giving a rose to the other.
“Uncle Ian?” The voice was followed by yet another knock on his door; he would have more guests than he thought.
His second guest was a pink Scorchio clutching a book. “Thanks for letting me borrow this. You were right; history really is interesting!”
“Ah, Geri,” said Lucian, taking the book from her. “Thank you. I’m glad you liked it.”
“Did I disturb you in your work?”
“Not really... I just wrapped up my research about some of the more far-flung lands in Meridell. I was merely gazing out the window, taking a break and waiting for lunch. By the way, there is a sight that might interest you.”
He led Geri to his window, and the two of them stared down into the grounds. “I told one of the pages I teach to take a break from training and studying; I know he wants to be a knight more than anything else, but it doesn’t hurt to stop and smell the roses. And isn’t that your little sister with him?”
“Melissa!” Geri nodded. “Well, I’m glad to see that she found someone to talk to. I was wondering if I should have just dragged her into the kitchen with me...”
“Then perhaps there is a reason why you never thought about it and left her there, in the same way that there was a reason why I accidentally cut that rose – yes, it’s the one the page has right now. For all I know, these little events could be part of something bigger. Reynold finally has a reason to relax and make a new friend who isn’t a page, or a squire, or even a knight.”
The Scorchio turned to him with a shrewd, suspicious grin. “It sounds like you planned the entire thing.”
“Maybe I did, and maybe I didn’t. There are no coincidences in this world, after all.”