Dandelion Crowns and Paper Butterflies

The Curse of Nick's Knife

Flore is smiling uncontrollably while putting on the Slicers' clothes; an old-school white apron, simple black pants and a pair of black boots.

Maybe she shouldn't have hugged Winston – he didn't really seem to like it – but she is feeling so happy that she doesn't care. Happy and relieved.

She has fulfilled her mission to become a Slicer, so now nothing bad is going to happen to her or to someone she loves. She doesn't know who those 'loved ones' are, though. Perhaps Miss Paige meant Flore's parents or something, even though she doesn't even remember them. Anyway, she doesn't want that someone's life is being risked if she doesn't succeed in doing her missions – 'missions' in its plural form, because that woman had said that it'll be more of them.

Flore doesn't even want to know what those other missions are, for Miss Paige said that this was an 'easy one'. If this is easy, then what is hard?

She quickly puts the thoughts out of her head, telling herself that she has to focus now, and throws her short hair into a ponytail.

When she walks out of the door, she sees that Winston is waiting for her outside. He smiles at her before gesturing that she has to follow him.

When they emerge from behind the farm, Winston starts to show her where all animals are.

"Over there," he says, pointing a small shed on their left, at the edge of the Deadheads, "is the poultry house. The cows' stable is right behind it."

He points at two stalls in the corner of the East Wall and the Gardens, each surrounded by fences.

"There are the pigs and the sheep," he explains, turning around to walk into the farm.

Inside the small house, it is, well, a lot cosier than Flore expected. She expected lots of blood and black stuff and darkness, which doesn't appear to be right. This place is quite big, and clean. Slicers are walking around in small groups, cheerfully talking to each other. They are all wearing the same outfit as Flore.

She feels a smile pulling at her lips; this is the job she has to do. She can feel it in her blood, and in her bones, and in the rest of her body.

She gets pulled out of her thoughts by a brown-haired Slicer, who walks over to her and Winston, broadly grinning.

"Hey, Winston," he friendly greets the Keeper.

"Hey, Jack," Winston replies.

The other Slicer – Jack – seems to notice Flore only then.

"Who do we've got here?" he asks, bending down to Flore; he is much longer than she is. "Are you sure you want to make this one a Slicer, Winston? She looks more like a tiny Med-Jack or something."

Flore feels that she is blushing of embarrassment and anger, and she is on the edge of slapping the rude Slicer when Winston intervenes.

"Jack, please, don't underestimate her," he says. "She has just pinned a chicken on the wall by throwing a knife from five metres. I know what I'm doing."

Jack nods, but Flore can't really see whether he is impressed or just making fun of her.

"All right, if you say so," he says, standing up. "We'll see what you've got, little one."

Then he walks away.

Winston looks Flore in the eyes.

"Don't mind him," he says. "Jack can be a bit arrogant sometimes, but he's a good guy."

Flore nods.

"All right," she says, suddenly feeling quite enthusiastic. "So, when do we start?"

Winston laughs.

"You're a real business woman, aren't you?" he asks, snickering. "The real work starts after breakfast, in half an hour. Before that time, we usually make some preparations."

He points at a red-painted door in the back of the hall. "Perhaps we should get you a knife."

Flore grins, nodding. "Okay."

They walk through the door, into a smaller room. The walls are filled with knives in all different sizes, and ropes, and some kind of collars.

Winston takes a blade off the wall. It is about as long as Flore's lower arm, and razor-sharp.

"I think that this is about your size," he says, giving the knife to her.

It is heavier than she expected, but not really heavy.

"Yeah, I think that this is all right," she says, spinning the weapon around in one hand.

An elegant 'N' is carved into the clean metal, just above the hilt.

"Why is that written there?" she asks Winston, pointing at the letter.

The corner of the Slicer's mouth twitches a little, as if he isn't sure if he is going to tell it or not.

"This knife used to be Nick's," he says, quieter than first.

Flore frowns; she hasn't heard that name before.

"Was he a Slicer, too?" she asks.

Winston shakes his head. "No. He was our leader before Alby. Passed away a while ago, while trying to escape." He frowns. "You can keep the knife, though. It wouldn't make sense if it would just stay here, hanging on the wall forever. No one here dares to use it; they think that it's cursed or something."

"Do you think that, too?" Flore asks, feeling that she pales. What if the weapon is really cursed?

Winston shakes his head again, smiling a little.

"No. I think that it's just an excuse to not use that knife, because they don't want to cry out loud when they think of someone who died. It just makes them think of the leader they lost, and they don't want to use it because they don't want to be constantly sad. But you never met Nick, so you can't be sad about it, right?"

Flore nods, half lost in her thoughts.

That was surprisingly... deep, she thinks. I didn't expect that.

Winston walks out of the small room.

"Come on," he says, gesturing that she has to follow him. "We need to feed the animals."

Flore goes after him, smiling; she is already feeling like today.

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