Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Greybell Flower (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the immensely talented Rick "Hoomi" Higginson over at his blog, Pod Tales and Ponderings. Click here to read and share more great fiction! 

A/N: I meant to do a second installment to my Craegen story, but I haven't been able to sit down long enough to type it out. This piece I am sharing today is actually the stub of a character sketch I'd started on Wednesday and finally had a moment to expand. I hope you enjoy it. Happy weekend!

found on Google images. I own nothing

“It looks like blight,” Andy stepped away from the exotic, bell-shaped flower, frowning down at his thin gardening gloves. They were coated in a substance to help identify certain plant diseases based on the resulting color. He now rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, watching the fabric fingertips turn blue in confirmation.

His frown deepened. The curling velvet petals of the hand-sized blossom looked as if it would shrivel and die if he so much as glared at it. Greybells were strange, rare flowers, said to adopt a melancholy air and personality of their own.

In the twenty years since he’d arrived at the Emerald Garden Emporium, he’d worked with countless plants of all kinds. This assignment had his toes curling in his waterproof boots as he stripped off the testing glove and dropped it in the waiting baggie held by his assistant, Nena. They would have to request an expert and there was no guarantee that said expert would arrive in time for him to fulfill the special order for the Greybell.

There were two of the troublesome flowers, one to flank each side of the podium during Ambassador Lianne’s speech on interspecies agricultural advancement between their races. Greybells were the result of a strange mixture of black Irises and pointed tea roses, a treasured plant on Ambassador Lianne’s native homeworld, Celphei.

“We’ll have to call someone then?” Nena carefully sealed the baggie and drew a sharpie marker from her messy bun. She propped the bag on Andy’s shoulder and scribbled in the label section. “Anyone in mind?”

“Whoever is fastest,” he twitched. “Would you stop-?”

Nena capped the marker and stuck it over her ear, holding up the test glove sample to the light. She stood a whole head and shoulders taller than him, her thin lips pursed into a complicated shape. “It looks kind of pale blue, doesn’t it?”

Andy picked up his glasses and perched them on the end of his upturned nose. “A mild shade of blue,” he admitted. “Now hurry up and mail it before we lose viability and-”

“I’m going, I’m going. Sheesh.” Nena turned away, gliding over to the little office cubicle to retrieve shipping supplies. She addressed the package to the Garden Council and requested the best that they could spare within the confines of their budget.

At the far end of the central worktable, a glowing clear box pulsed with soft, golden light. Placing the package inside, she keyed in the coordinates for the Garden Council receiving room and verified the transaction with a thumbprint.

Once the confirmation chime sounded out in the empty office, she headed for the refreshment bar, snagging a packet of the popular flowering mirage candy on the way out. Andy lost himself in his work too many times to track and she did not want to be the one scolded for allowing the famous head gardener to neglect the necessary functions of the living.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Their expert arrived right on time.

When Liandra appeared at the headquarters of Emerald Garden Emporium, she came with a handsome translator and a frilly black umbrella with a curved handle that resembled a toucan. Her translator, Marcus, explained that she did not speak, but would be more than happy to take a look at the Greybell, as it was her preferred area of expertise.

“She doesn’t speak?” Nena looked from the petite brunette to her giant of a translator. That could be more of a problem than she wanted it to be. Andy’s scowl remained, so she made herself smile and continue speaking. “I guess that’s fine, as long as you’re with her. You say she’s worked with Greybells before?

“She’s very good,” Marcus said. His easy smile was perfectly bland as he rested a hand on Liandra’s thin shoulder. “You might be surprised.”

“I already am,” Andy muttered. He skirted the odd duo, angling towards the westside greenhouse. They’d had to move the Greybells into a section of their own, quarantined for special care. “The greenhouses are this way. If we could hurry this up? There’s a week and a half until the conference and inauguration. Personally, I’d like some leeway in case this falls through.”

“It won’t,” Marcus said. His chin lifted a few degrees higher. “Believe me, it won’t. We wouldn’t have come all this way if it were a lost cost. I shall stay with Liandra as she needs me.”

“Now we’re worried.” Nena muttered to herself. She trotted out of the main offices and locked the door behind them. The small group followed after Andy, leaving perfect footprints in the thin layer of dust on the concrete path.

They entered the sunlit greenhouse in single file as per Andy’s instructions. This particular greenhouse was reserved for expert horticulturalists and high-ranking scientists only. The experts could treat and care for unhealthy plants, while the scientists tested their creations with the greenhouse’s living bodyguard.

The circular greenhouse was protected by thick, spiraling thorned vines that grew outward from the underside of the center of the ceiling, creeping downward to the floor and twisting into the shape of a deformed hedge. These vines were vicious, bloodthirsty plants with enough sense to leave familiar auras alone, but well-trained to attack fresh blood. They would reach out to any living creatures if one ventured too close, so Marcus and Liandra were instructed to mimic Andy’s footsteps exactly. Nena simply brushed them aside when an inquisitive tendril curled over her shoulder. It curved along her cheek, then withdrew when she pressed a kiss to one smooth, thick-veined leaf.

Liandra kept one hand fisted in the unbuttoned cuff of Marcus’s silk shirt and the other wrapped around the toucan’s beak of her umbrella. Her footsteps were barely audible as she kept her eyes riveted to the floor.

The vines stretched out to Marcus, but shrank back at a death glare from Andy, who finally came to a stop in front of a dull, mosaic wall. The handcrafted backdrop did nothing to enhance the beautifully planters holding two drooping, lifeless Greybells.

Liandra stared at them for a moment, then tugged on Marcus’s hand. They exchanged a look and then he checked his watch. “I can stay an hour.”

“An hour?” Nena looked between them. “And then what?” She leaned away from another thorned vine that crept around her shoulder. “We can bring anything you need, name it and I’ll see to it.” She bit her lip, sneaking a glance at Andy. “He’ll sign off on it.”

Andy gave a terse nod.

“Thank you, but that is not necessary.” Marcus squeezed Liandra’s hand. “I am sure whatever you have on hand will be more than sufficient. Where is your equipment? Is it kept nearby?”

“Back supply closet,” Nena pointed to a barely visible indentation at the left corner of the mosaic wall. “I have a key.” She fished inside her shirt to pull out a thin, golden chain with a dainty, bejeweled key at the end. “Did you bring anything of your own?”

The odd duo shrugged in sync.

Nena swatted away another vine and stepped around the Greybells, to reach the door. She unlocked the supply closet with the key and another requested thumbprint, standing aside for them to enter.

Marcus nudged Liandra forward and remained where he was, casting a wary look up at the ceiling where the mass of tangled, prickly vines shifted in restless movement. “Do you need these to be shipped or will someone come for them?”

Andy’s pale green eyes darkened a few degrees. “That’s classified,” he said, shortly.

“Of course, apologies.” Marcus forced a smile that translated into a grimace. “Liandra?”

Liandra appeared a moment later, her arms filled with empty terra cotta planters, the umbrella swinging merrily from her left arm. She held out the pots and gave a funny jerk of her head.

With a resigned sigh, Marcus helped her with the armload. Together, they arranged them in an odd pattern on the floor, occasionally moving the Greybells, until the drooping plants were surrounded on all sides.

“Now what?” Nena looked from the empty planters to Liandra.

Andy grunted. “How long will this take?”

“As long as it must,” Marcus snapped. “Can you please be quiet?”

Nena’s eyebrows arched upwards and she exchanged a look with Andy.

Liandra swung the umbrella slowly from her hand, head cocked towards the nearest Greybell flower. Her own pale grey eyes took on a distant faraway look, her posture rigid, her lips slightly parted.

A minute later, she twitched to life, the umbrella snapping up and open to prevent one of the thorned vines from stabbing at Marcus’s unprotected side. The taller man flinched, edging closer to Liandra with a slight shadow settling over his features.

“She says we should wait outside,” Marcus glowered at the plant that seemed to be hovering, still poised to attack him. “Are those venomous?”


© Sara Harricharan

I hope you enjoyed that little snippet into Liandra and the Emerald Garden Emporium. Let me know what you'd like to read more--the continuation of Greybell or the second installment of Cassie's story in the world of the Craegens or something else entirely and I'll set my muse to the task. Thanks for reading!

1 comments:

Hoomi said...

Interesting concepts! You've left me wondering what Liandra is going to do next.