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"Father," I once asked, when I was just a slip of a girl, "What is the mystery of the manor on the island, the one covered in climbing white roses which flower down to meet the sea?"
"Long ago," my father said, "The Goddess of Roses lived upon that island, within that manor. In those days it was a lovely palace of brick and shaped glass, lead-lined greenhouse filigree and all manner of blooming things. The Rose-Goddess had gained the attentions of a demon of blue stone, who was hopelessly besotted with her. The Rose-Goddess was fond of him in a way, but as a brother and confidant, while the demon's heart was filled with a dep and stormful lust. He desired her day and night, but she did not love him, preferring the gentler company of her roses. When the demon finally came forward and revealed his true desires, the Rose-Goddess spurned his advances and he flew into a violent rage. But the Rose-Goddess was powerful, and defeated him handily with her many beautiful war-forms, multi-armed and shining with metabolic fire. The demon was exiled, but would constantly lurk around the fringes of the island, standing in the water just off the shores, staring up into the windows of the manor for hours into the night. The Rose-Goddess felt that if he ever attacked, she could likely defeat him a second time, but his continued presence began to wear on her mind. She feared that he would find some crack to slip through, some exploit in her power that would leave her unaware and defenseless at the crucial moment. So the Rose-Goddess descended to her laboratories, and wove the helixes of the rose upon her fine silver looms. She bred a new flower, and seeded it all throughout the island. This breed was the purest white, fragrant and free from thorns, a flawless gem of petal and scent. But whenever its petals were brushed by a demon, or indeed anyone with lust and violence in their heart, it would flush to the deepest, truest red."
"And that, my dear, is why the island of the manor is covered in white roses."
"But father!" I cried, "You have not answered me! What happened to the Rose-Goddess? And why does the manor stand empty to this day?"
My father ruffled my head kindly, but with a sadness in his eyes. "Be patient, my child. I fear that you will have to learn someday, when you are grown. But know that I love you with all my heart, so remember this story well, and keep this with you." And with that, he took the dried white rose from his buttonhole, fragile petals like tissue-paper trembling in the sea breeze, and curled it gently into my hand.
Many years later, I would sail to that island. I would find the golden-green bones of the Rose-Goddess, with her fine veils torn and a great sword of blue slate still through her heart. I would take cuttings from the white roses which mourned their mistress, growing through her ribcage like trellises in a funeral garden. Since then I have spread them across all the many islands of my homeland, and in spring the hills are coated in white. The paths and villages glow with the perfume of roses, and children pick them and play among them, with no fear of thorns.
But not all can afford to be so careless. It has been many years, but the knife on my hip is still sharp. In the early days, the islands would be criss-crossed with red, and I would follow the bloody track unerringly, seeing to each and every one. I do not believe my actions went unnoticed, but grateful wives soon spread rumors of an avenging spirit, which has kept the authorities far from my tracks.
have not needed to intervene for many years. The men-folk learned quickly, and the few exceptions did not linger, or were else removed by more permanent means. The roses now grow clean and white, and I bask in the fragrance of their blooms.
But every so often, a visitor comes to the islands, or a boy does not heed the warnings of his mother, and in my rounds I encounter a broad slash of defiling red. I do not worry. Though I have never met them, someone else has taken up the mantle in my age. In the night I see younger bodies than mine, leaping deftly across alleyways while cradling their glinting knives. I rest easy in the twilight of my life. The roses are never red for long.
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