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The Magician's Florist

Novel By: Splendins

A florist's life is changed forever when she comes into contact with a magician who holds a holds the key to peace between two nations. View table of contents...


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Submitted:Aug 8, 2009    Reads: 136    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

The sun rose on another glorious day in Dewsberry. As the light crested over the rolling hills surrounding the quiet little town it was greet by the early morning movements of market day. Carts clattered over the cobbles, their cargo bouncing up and down, squawking chickens to silvery fish were sent this way and that in the stallholders attempts to get a good spot in the main Market square.
Already the air was filled with the smells of early morning, the sweet wafting of freshly baked bread, the tangy exotic smell of eastern spice and all around the sounds to match them. The holler of the fishmongers wife at the bakers wife, the clang of shutters being flung wide and the distant bellow of the steam engine as it pulled into the station, a great iron horse, rolling to a stop amidst billowing clouds of white steam, the smells of coal mingling with the fresh drew damp of the morning.
From the carriages came yet more people. A shepherd jumped down onto the platform and behind him followed a mass of white woolly sheep, bleating and tottering on the flagstones, closely followed by a sharp steak of black and white as the collie kept them all in line. From the more upper-class carriages stepped the travelling ladies and gentlemen. The ladies spun lacy parasols and wore tight bodice dresses, there were brightly coloured feathers in their hats and shiny gold buckles on their shoes. The gentlemen sported dark jackets and waistcoats with silken lapels and pocket watches on bronze chains that dangled at their chests. Their shoes were polished black and their top and bola hats could be seen as they made their way through the streets to Market Square, an arm offered in support to their lady friend.
In the square, small ragger-muffin children jumped and dodged on the warming paving stones and held their hands out to the more wealthy arrivals, their grubby faces turned upwards in looks of hope.
Market Square was teaming before the great Town Hall Clock struck the seventh hour in big booming notes as the bells were pulled by the bell ringers. On the first ring the pigeons and doves took off in fright in a cloud of feathers, white and grey, and left the large circular fountain for the people of Dewsberry.
Around the square, on the mark of the chiming clock, shopkeepers began to open, to draw the blinds up from the front of their shops and display their wares. All four sides of the square revealed shops of every kind, from butchers to candlestick makers, from sweet shops surrounded by staring children, to hat shops and boot makers. In the arches leading to Market Square farriers set up shop and shoed the horses for travellers and farmers. Here and there horses whinnied and small bangs were let off as street performers exhibited their magic tricks to growing crowds. In the furthest left hand corner, away from the imposing sounds of the clock tower, sat a small shop with a green front and a big glass window.
Shiny gold lettering proclaimed 'Florists' on the dark green background and around the door a luscious ivy trailed and coiled, with large, heart-shaped leaves speckled with light lime green and dark mossy splodges. From a few branches hung little round baubles, the fruit of the ivy, which swung gently in the morning breeze. There were none of these succulent fruits on the lower branches as they had all been plucked off by the children earlier that morning, the ones that were left were just too high to reach.
As the sun reached the little florists and began to make the windows glint and gleam there was movement inside. The little brass letterbox clattered and the door opened with a tinkling noise as it struck the brass bell over the doorway. A girl staggered out clutching in her arms a big barrelful of flowers. In one hand she gripped a letter and as she set the barrel down she was careful not to get the letter wet as water slopped over the rim. She sighed triumphantly and carefully put the letter into a pocket on her apron before dusting her hands down and returning to the shop for the next barrel.
Over the next few minutes she lifted, heaved, waltzed and walked barrels of all different sizes out to the front of her shop until her long dark hair clung a little to her face and her pristine apron, white on that morning, was mottled with patches of brown.
She stood back and surveyed her handy work. A cascade of flowers ran in front of her shop. A rainbow of colours, each intensified by the clear morning air, greeted the customers of market square. Scarlet's and crimsons, oranges and burnt umber, wide brazen flower heads to delicate little drifts of baby blue. Teya had been up before the sun and down to the station, like she did everyday, to collect the freshest batches of flowers on the early train and to gather and collect the flowers and the plants from around Dewsberry to attract the best customers.
She went back into the shop and began to sweep up the mess that the barrels had caused. Damp spots and leaves littered the floor, little piles of petals discarded in silken piles stuck into the welcome mat.
The interior of her little shop was a mass of plant life as it was much cheaper for Teya to grow and pick her own products than it was it order them from the bigger cities like Havern or Wentscon . Plants climbed up the supports and rang along the beams. Pots of every shape and colour littered her small potting bench and there rarer flowers spewed their colours and scents into the small room. On the counter a large glass tank sat full of murky water, here were Teya's favourite plants but she couldn't just show them to anybody, they only showed once in contact with air and sunlight, but if left their they withered up and died.
Along the main support was the home of the fruiting vines and they dripped bushels of berries and sweet, juicy grapes, round little lemons and peaches. Their sweet tangy smell wafted around and in the breeze little chrysalises swung. The largest one was almost as big as Teya's hand and was expected any day now. Butterflies and moths often found their way in her little florist shop, drawn by the sweet smells.
Teya dissolved a sugar block in water to stop them eating her fruits and they rested on the rim of the bowl and fanned their wings in the golden sunshine.
Teya brushed a leaf from the chair behind the counter and sat surveying her small kingdom. She sighed contentedly and reached for the letter inside her apron.
The address on the front bore the familiar swirling, curling handwriting of Father and the postal mark showed a picture of the infamous Hiedien Mountains.
Teya's father was a botanist and an adventurer, travelling all over their world to find the most exotic and fabulous plants to document. He only kept in contact with Teya, he didn't send letters to her sister or her brother, but then, neither of them had followed in his path.
Teya's sister, Miriam, was married to a rich gentleman and lived in Havern. Her husband was a trader, or had the money of a traders family, and they lived a comfortable life where Miriam spent all the money she could get her hands on. Jenson, Teya's brother, could not have been more different.
When their mother had died he had moved away to Wentscon, a city by the sea and he spent his days sailing the wide ocean, a life as a fisherman bobbing up and down on the white creasted waves.
Teya was the youngest and Miriam the oldest. Their mother had run the small florists in Market Square, as had her mother and her mother before that and now Teya minded it. She loved the little shop and with her fathers little expeditions she made a reasonable living.
Sure enough, as Teya turned the envelope upside down, a small brown envelope fell out and with it a letter and a diagram, a sketch.
Teya smiled. She looked forward to her fathers letters, telling her of distant places and exotic plants. His little sketches she kept in a leather bound notebook at the back of her shop, almost a manual to the strange plants he posted to her. The tinkling of the bell made her look up.
A tall woman walked in carrying a bunch of yellow sunflowers. Her apron gave her away as the bakers wife.
"Morning Teya, how is business today?"
"Slow as yet ma'am."
"Another letter from your father?" she said catching sight of the paper in Teya's hand.
"Yes, it arrived this morning."
"And where has the old fool got himself to this time?"
"A temple on the side of the Heidien Mountains."
"Ah, that man never could be contented with little old Dewsberry, always had to be off gallivanting away to some far flung part of the world." She clicked her tongue disapprovingly and Teya grinned.
The people of Dewsberry were not known for their far-flung exploits or great infamous people. As far as Teya knew her small family was a bit of an oddity among the people of Dewsberry, that is apart from Teya. She wrapped up the flowers cleanly and expertly and handed them back to the baker's wife. The bell tinkled again. Teya said farewell and looked to the next customer. A look of surprise filled her features.
Miriam stood in the doorway.
She looked every bit the city lady. She was dressed in a light pastel blue dress that flowed to just above her ankle and that pinched in her waist giving her the figure of an hourglass. She had a large brimmed hat that was decorated with fine blue and white feathers that wafted in the breeze and that framed her round face that was rimmed with carefully curled gold ringlets. She closed up the white lace parasol and, on seeing no where to lean it, she tapped it against her white boots.
Teya hurried over and hugged her big sister.
"Careful, careful darling! I just had this dress delivered. You'll never guess how much Ernie spent on me, he's such a gem. Is there no where in this clutter, you call a shop, to sit down?"
Eagerly Teya pulled up the chair behind the counter and Miriam sat. she looked around the shop with a mixture of mild bewilderment and when her eyes came to rest on her sister she raised an eyebrow.
She was about to say how much Teya had grown but, in truth, it didn't seem Teya had grown at all since she last saw her. She still had the lean figure of a child, her dark hair was straight down her back and loosely knotted to stop it getting in the way. Her hands, with petite long fingers, were grubby, her nails broken. She was an unfashionable shade of tan and, caught in her apron strings, a leaf nestled. Miriam settled for a change of tact.
"Is business good?"
Teya nodded "it has been good, especially in the last few weeks, its wedding season you see, all the brides want huge posies."
"That's fantastic darling, then you can come with me and do some shopping while the day is still young?"
Teya shook her head slowly " I need all the money I can to pay for the flowers from Havern but I'll come with you, after shop shuts."
"that's what I was afraid of. This trade is a dying trade Teya, no wants flowers and plants anymore; its all about the silk flowers that don't die or animal skins and jewellery. I've come here with a proposition for you."
Miriam cleared her throat and Teya went to protest but she held up her hand;
"Mother left me this shop, as I was the oldest, and Ernie thinks that it would be more profitable for me to sell it on than let it just struggle through the months-"
"What! No! Mother loved this shop, you cant sell, this is my job, my home, my life!"
"I'll set you up a new life in Havern, a dressmakers apprentice perhaps and you can be closer to me and Ernie. I do worry about you sometimes, being so far away. You're not that old and Ernie says-"
"Why are you listening to Ernie and not to me! I don't want to sell this shop…mother loved it and you're a fool to think her love will be gain-said by Ernie's money!"
Miriam pursed her lips and stood abruptly.
"Mother is dead now Teya and Ernie is my husband. We've sold the shop deeds to a man from the West Country. I'll come by tomorrow morning and pick you and your things up to leave for Havern."
She turned and walked out of the shop. The door banged shut so forcefully the large chrysalis trembled and then fell to the floor below, clacking open prematurely on the dusty stone.
Teya stood in the middle of her shop, numb. How could Miriam do this to her? She loved this shop. She could feel the first hot tears begin to seep out of her eyes and run down her cheeks. The droplets splattered on the floor and on the broken chrysalis. She bent down and began to pick up the pieces. What was she going to do?
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything?"
Startled, Teya stood up, cradling the chrysalis in her hands. A man stood in the doorway. He was well dressed with a waistcoat of black and red over a black shirt, long black trousers and shiny shoes. She had not heard him come in. Teya frantically wiped the tears away and set the chrysalis on the counter.
"No, no, of course not sir. How can I help you?"
The gentleman, for that is what Teya supposed he was, made his way around the shop slowly as he talked, stopping every now and then to touch a leaf, or fruit or flower.
"I'm looking for something quite exotic, it's a present for someone…"
"A beautiful someone?" Teya asked and the man looked at her. He smiled.
"Yes, a very beautiful someone. A someone who is perhaps fond of water and everything that surrounds it."
"Oh, I have just the thing…"
Teya rolled up her sleeves and motioned the gentleman closer to the glass tank on the counter. He strolled over and she dipped her arms into the cool darkness. She felt around for a moment and churned up the mud at the bottom making the water even more grimy. Slowly she drew out what looked like a shrivelled up bulb. It was round in shape and fitted in the palm of her hand. Brown and soggy it lay there.
Teya walked over to the window and held the ugly thing out to the light. The young gentleman followed her without saying a word.
There was the tiniest crackling sound as if the thinnest metal foil was being scrunched up. The top of the bulb moved and a slither of white appeared. It crept out of the hole it had made and then another and another. Long white petals began to unfurl one after another pushing the hole wider and wider until the entire flower was spread over Teya's palm.
The petals were ivory white and seemed to glow in the sunshine. In the centre of the flower was a brilliant splash of honey and it seemed to glow golden too. Teya sighed contentedly and her breath made the fine silk petals sway.
"Its very beautiful." Said the gentleman "do you know where these are found?"
"Yes, their usually found in a damp places, around the edges of streams and the like. If you would like this one I can put it in a jar of water for you?"
"Actually I was going to ask for something else…a favour."
Teya looked at him. He was a good deal taller than her and he had sandy blond hair, the colour of sunshine in the autumn, and the bluest eyes she had ever seen and they were staring very intently at her. Teya looked away, embarrassed for staring. She re-submerged the bulb in the muddy depths;
"There are other varieties, or other water flowers I could get for you, but that will take time…"
"That's what I want. But I don't want them from Dewsberry and I don't have time…"
Teya began to pick up the pieces of the chrysalis "I don't know what I can do for you then, you may have to find another florist…"
"Its not that. I would like to ask you to come with me to find these other varieties."
Teya looked up and found him in front of her. He reached forwards and took the chrysalis from her. He drew it up to his mouth and breathed on it.
The dry husk cracked even more and the remnants were shed on the table. Out from his palms crawled a grey insect with long antennae that waved around. As the light hit the ugly things' back it began to expand and its wings began to unfurl. They were beautiful.
As they folded outwards they revealed a mix of turquoise and deep royal blue from a black body. Lines of aquamarine danced along the folds and in the centre of the wing the colours rolled together, swirling around two black circles so it seemed as if there were a pair of eyes staring out from the back of the insect. It flexed its magnificent wings that were larger than Teya's hand span.
The gentleman held out the amazing creature to Teya's arm where it crawled up and sat fanning itself in the warm sunshine.
"What do you say?" he said.
Teya was speechless. Loosing her shop and now this?
"I don't think I'll be of any use…" she said out loud "I'm closing down. This time tomorrow I wont be a florist anymore."
"I don't need a florist, I need someone who can help me find these…" he pointed to the tank "…I need someone to show me where to look and how to recognise them. I think you might just do the job. What do you say?"
"Are you a gentleman?" Teya said suddenly.
"No ma'am" he said with a glint in his eye "I am a magician."


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