The garden, if that innocuous word could be used in this situation, held a grandness that surpassed anything he’d ever seen. Not that he was a garden connoisseur or had ever bothered to stop to gaze in wonder at the trees.
The morning glories blooming along the stone walls during this early hour did little to cheer him, for they were just another obstacle in this well-intentioned, but likely fool-hardy quest.
The self-proclaimed queen–really, little more than a half-bred fae with marginal skill but deadly precision–would likely not take kindly to him sifting about in this expansive garden of hers. But she had her hands, and likely other parts, filled with some other ignorant youth who had decided her beauty somehow outweighed the warnings of all those who loved him.
Which meant Ethanial could conceivably get in and get out before a morning’s worth of bedroom activities found the lovely woman out on her veranda with her newest conquest.
He did not so much scale the wall as he climbed a thick lattice that had been erected at random intervals. The flowering brush scratched at him and the thick scent of cracked vines followed him up and over. He paused, hands lost within the foliage as he twisted to glance across the garden. Though there wasn’t much to see, not from this height. The trees, plums and apricots and taller walnuts spreading branches out grandly, blocked much of the underside of the garden, but he could see the moss-edged stone paths here and there erupting from underneath the canopy.
He hopped the last few lattice holes and narrowly avoided trampling a line of jasmine. To the right, where the stone path meandered out of sight, he saw the slim edge of the veranda off the back of the fae woman’s home. The lights remained dim, but here in the garden blue will-o-wisps blinked.
“I’ll not be but a few moments,” he muttered to a cluster of the wisps when they hovered close. He waved a hand through them, scattering them back about the garden where they continued to linger, but at a distance.
Rubbing the tiny scratches on his arms, he moved away from the house, keeping just off the stone path so his footsteps would not echo. Randomly, he’d pause and touch the dirt, sensing the death and decay that led to sweet-smelling blossoms and heavy growth. He could feel them, bones of long lost youths, men too short for the world according to some.
He would pause just long enough to ascertain that no, this one wasn’t the naive young man he sought. And then he would move on, weaving through the garden at a quick pace. He was careful where he stepped, not wanting to be too obvious in his passage, but not too careful, for he didn’t worry whether he trampled some living thing, for life, really, was a passing entertainment. Nothing to worry over when death could be undone just as simply.
He passed a wooden wheelbarrow with an overflowing strawberry plant, then a fountain made of the same stones as the paths. The water bubbled, a noisy, irritating sound that grated on his nerves more than it calmed them.
The garden seemed never-ending. The dirt beneath Ethanial’s feet filled with past lives stolen long, long ago. It became hard to concentrate. Hard to determine whether he truly was in the right place, all these lost souls blending together as if they’d become one in their tortured end.
He decided that it wasn’t so much the similarities of their deaths that made them difficult to distinguish, but the lustful art they had produced in life within this very garden. Men just turned from boys pushing into the most beautiful woman they’d seen, thrusting against her as she clutched at the dirt, twirling slender fingers through flaxen hair.
Flaxen…that was their word for her bright hair, its softness trailing against their chests, slipping through their fingers.
Ethanial hesitated. Shivered.
He’d responded, not to the desire running rampant among the underside of the garden where it was rife with emotion, their ever-present desire for that woman. But the muscled thighs that had pushed forward to enter her, the curves of shafts of all sizes and shapes, the flat stomachs that had tensed as they’d caught themselves before falling against that bosom.
“You’re a lustful garden,” he muttered, eyeing the wisps as they floated closer. “No wonder men still fall to her charms.” Continue reading