When the first rays of the sun hit my face, I felt like I had been brought back to life after the demise my spirit had to go through at the hands of the cruel King who was currently holding my hand and leading me out of the castle and into the gardens.
“It is a beautiful day, is it not?” King Bancroft said as we walked towards what looked like a carpet of flowers. It took everything in me not to gasp out loud at the beauty that laid before me. Flowers were everywhere, they were stretched out as far as the eye could see. Where did this garden end? Did it even end?
“Yes, my Lord. It is a beautiful day indeed,” I responded, my voice soft, my eyes unable to break out of the trance which this beautiful garden have captured them in.
“This is one of the many gardens in this Kingdom. It is certainly one of my favorites, which is why I decided to bring you here.” He told me, stopping in front of a couple of rocks. The rocks were big enough to sit on and Lord Bancroft did just that, sitting down on one of the rocks, straightening his robes. “You can walk around. You can take as many flowers as you wish.”
“My Lord, I couldn’t possibly—“ he cut me off.
“You can. I have spoken to Aboloft and you can take as many flowers as you like. Now go, look at the flowers.” This command was one I had no difficulty following. Pushing thoughts and fears about Lord Bancroft to the back of my mind, I walked amidst the flowers, making sure to be careful so as not to crush the beautiful, fragile petals.
I did not know the names of the flowers I was looking at but they were big with the petals slightly pointed at the top and they were of different colors. Some were yellow while others were white and some were purple. I had never seen flowers this big and my hands itched to pluck them out and take them back to the harem and show them to Ethel. Perhaps I would give some to her as a gift for helping me escape the Kingdom. She had been the kindest soul and has helped me in every way she could. I wanted to give her something in return for all that she’d done for me.
“My Lord?” I turned to look at King Bancroft who sat atop a rock, his piercing green eyes on me.
“Yes?” He asked.
“May I take some flowers for my friend Ethel? She is very dear to me and I would like to give some to her.” Even though he said I could take as many flowers as I desired I did not trust his word. This man had hurt me in the worst of ways, I could never trust him to be kind to me.
“Like I said, my fierce nymph, you can take as flowers as you wish, for whoever you wish,” he answered.
I nodded. “Thank you, my Lord.”
’You can look around for now and take the flowers when we leave. If you pluck them right now then your hands will be full and the flowers may get crushed,” he stated. He was right, the flowers might die if I pick them so soon.
I nodded again. “Yes, my Lord. As you say.” Turning around I gazed at the flowers before me and wondered just how hard the gardeners must’ve worked to make this garden so beautiful. I wish I knew the name of these flowers.
The sun looked to be at the perfect place, making this garden look as if it had been plucked straight from heaven. I wished I could stay here forever with Ethel, she would love to see so many majestic flowers laid out before her and with the sun’s rays shining down upon them; I felt like I was in heaven.
With a smile I ventured deeper into the garden, gently caressing the soft petals as I did not wish to harm them in any way. These delicate beauties were a work of art, they made me appreciate nature all the more. It was strange how beauty had so many different faces; some were soft and delicate like these flowers while others were cold and ruthless like Lord Bancroft. Beauty was indeed everywhere, even in the ugly.
I bent down on my knees to get a closer look at the stunning flowers. The orange petals stared at me and I moved my face closer to smell them. As soon as I breathed in their scent I couldn’t control the sigh of bliss from escaping me. This flower looked beautiful and smelled beautiful; I wished this flower was present in the harem, it would bring happiness and beauty in such a dirty and dark place.
Even though Lord Bancroft was the one who brought me here I couldn’t think about him as I eyed the flowers which looked as happy as I felt on the inside. I did not want Lord Bancroft to ruin my happiness right now, which was why I decided not to think about him. If I did, then all that he’d done to me would come back to destroy the small amount of happiness I’d managed to achieve by stepping foot in this garden.
No, I must not think about him.
Taking a deep breath, I walked further towards the purple flowers, the color pulling me forward. It was strange how powerful colors could be; they could lure you to them and make you forget the world around you. They were beautiful and they could turn one thing ugly while the other extremely pretty.
However, before I could bend down and touch the purple flower, another flower caught my eye and fortunately it was one I knew the name of. A few rose bushes stood tall and proud with big, fat roses blooming with all their might. The red blooms were a sharp contrast to the green leaves surrounding them, as if trying to protect them.
“Be careful with the roses, Hildred.” Lord Bancroft’s voice had me jumping in surprise. My goodness, I really had forgotten about him. And how peaceful I felt when I wasn’t thinking about him or what he could possibly do to me.
I looked at him and gave him a slight nod, letting him know that I heard him. I knew if I did not respond then he would be angry and might even take me back to the harem and I did not want to go back as yet. He gave me a small smile in return and I turned to look at the roses once again.
These roses were bigger than the normal ones I’d seen growing around Quopia when I had the rare occasion to step foot outside of the castle. Were these roses grown differently as compared to the others? Were they special in any way? Perhaps they were big because they were residing in the King’s castle. Or maybe they were for Lady Sabina. Had Lady Sabina visited this garden? Did Lord Aboloft make this garden for her?
Unable to stop myself, I reached forward and plucked one of the roses, a part of its stem coming along with it. The petals were soft just like I imagined them to be. A strong desire to protect this delicate flower arose in me and I brought the flower close to me, the crimson petals resting on my bosom. I caressed the petals before moving on to the stem where I came across something I had forgotten was present in roses. Thorns.
I counted about five of them, three sprouting on one side and two on the other. The thorns were sharp and I knew that’s what Lord Bancroft meant when he said to be careful around them. Looking at the roses had me thinking just how deceptive this plant was. It was beautiful with big, red petals yet it was hiding deadly thorns behind its beauty. It was strong yet beautiful. People would never consider is strong because all they saw were the petals; they chose to ignore the thorns that could potentially harm them.
And it was while staring at the deadly thorns did I realize how I desired to be just like this rose. I wished to be strong and dangerous. I desired to have the power to harm people if the need arose. Men considered me to be weak and helpless, I did not wish to be like that. I needed them to fear me just like how Lord Bancroft feared Lady Sabina. I wished he would do what I desired instead of harming me every chance he got.
“What are you doing? You’ve been holding on to the rose as if it were your own babe.” Lord Bancroft’s voice should’ve had my need for survival taking over but as soon as I heard his voice a sudden, sinister thought entered my mind and dug its talons deep until I could do nothing but surrender to it.
Kill him. Stab him to death with the thorns. Be the rose.
“I—I like this flower, my Lord. I wish to take it with me.” I knew if I became a prisoner of my thoughts right now then he would be furious because he expected me to answer immediately. But I could not stop the sinister echo of Lord Bancroft’s death from ruling my mind. The thought ignited something I never knew I possessed: bloodlust. I became thirsty for his blood. I yearned for his cries. I longed to have him beg me for mercy as I’d begged him.
The smile he bestowed on me made me question whether he was the same cold-hearted King who sliced me open only because I dared to talk back to him. The smile touched something deep within me, something that went against the darkness swimming in my blood. The two sensations warred with each other, leaving me in a turmoil.
“Roses are beautiful but I prefer lilies,” Lord Bancroft said.
“Lilies, my Lord?” What were these lilies he spoke of?
“Yes, the lily flower.” He pointed at the flowers which I had been wondering about earlier. Oh so they were known as lilies. It was a beautiful name for an equally stunning flower.
“Oh, they are delicate,” I remarked as darkness dug its claws deeper into my soul, fighting against love and kindness.
King Bancroft came closer and wrapped his strong arms around me. I stiffened as I was not used to him being so affectionate but then relaxed after I realized he would not let me go. He held me in silence for quite some time, the scent of flowers our only companion.
“You are just as delicate as these flowers,” he stated, kissing the top of my head and sighing deeply. He was right, I was weak and delicate but I refused to stay that way for long. This man made me bleed and I desired to do the same to him. He believed he could change me but he did not realize that he already has, just not in a way he was expecting.
“You must not compare me to these flowers, my Lord, they are much too pure and should not be compared with a human,” I argued.
“I agree, my nymph, comparing you to these flowers does not do your beauty justice. I doubt your beauty can be compared to anything.” His words should’ve had me sighing in utter bliss but all I could think about was his blood on my hands. How would he feel when he would know I was not weak and fragile as he considered me to be?
“Thank you for bringing me here, my Lord. I am truly grateful for the privilege.” I told him. Could he tell that I was planning to harm him?
“I can see you are grateful, my fiery nymph, for you have been smiling since the moment we arrived. I can see the happiness radiating out of you and it gives you a beautiful, healthy glow. I knew bringing you here will be beneficial for your health,” he replied.
“Is it time to go back, my Lord?” I enquired.
“If that is what you wish, then we will go back. However, we can choose to stay and watch the sunset since you have never witnessed it,” he responded, caressing the side of my face.
I smiled. “I would like to see the sunset, my Lord. Are you sure Lord Aboloft will not be cross?”
“Rest assured, my beautiful rose, it will not matter to him if you are inside the harem or not. He is on the seventh heaven these days, so do not fret. Come, let’s go sit down and talk. I wish to know about you.” With his arm around me, Lord Bancroft begun leading me away from the rose bushes towards the rocks where he was sitting earlier. Even though he was being kind to me right now I knew the Devil that was his very soul. And I would not allow the Devil to destroy me.
“I am sure you already know everything there is to know about me, my Lord,” I said as I glanced at the flowers around me. What would life be like as a flower? I knew it would be short but it would be peaceful as well. There wouldn’t be a King who would tear you to shreds. You could enjoy a short simple life with other flowers.
“I may know some things about you but I do not know everything and I am not ashamed to admit it. Which is why I have this insatiable desire to know you,” he said before sitting down on the rock with me sitting down on the other.
“What you already know is more than enough, my Lord. There is nothing else to know.” Now that the thought of his death had entered my mind I couldn’t expel it and I was surprised to know that I did not wish to eradicate it.
“There is plenty to know, my delicate rose. Tell me do you prefer the white snow of winter or do you prefer the golden warmth of summer?” He questioned, taking a hold of my hand.
His question was one I already had the answer for. I liked winter as compared to the warmth of summer. Winter was cold and deadly and that was how I wished to be.
“I liked the cold winters, my Lord,” I answered with a smile as I pictured the snow around me and Lord Bancroft lying on the snow with his blood flowing, bathing the ivory a deep crimson, as I stood in front of him with his blood dripping from my fingers.
Yes, that’s what I wished for.
I wished for power against this cruel King.