This is written in response to Rachael’s weekly blog battle, using the word ‘Garden’ and genre ‘Fantasy’ as prompts
Drognad the Green lent on his hoe and mopped his brow. The double suns of the First Spring were intense this year just as Magrod the Seer had surmised. But that didn’t matter because she’d also Touched the white earth and expressed her belief in this year’s fertility. The soil was friable, the compost fecund and the worms just the right side of slimy. Yes, the cropping would be good.
Behind the Gardener the screens bulged as the crowd pressed forward. He smiled. They had never been so keen to see the results of his efforts. He had planted their seeds as they asked, he had offered nourishment and the usual incantations. During the winter hollowing when the ice blasts from Gormorrad bite into his very soul, he’d ensured the screens keep the earth free of frost.
And yet, and yet, those suns. He narrowed his eyes to slits and stared at the Pecule, the larger orb. Surely it was closer this time, closer than before.
Of course he’d heard the stories from the city visitors saying things were changing; how Bigness the Observant had prayed for Pecule to be lassoed as it had in ancient times so it could be brought closer, the better to keep the evils of Gormorrad at bay. But he was but a servant of the soil; theologising about gods and wisdom seekers was not his place. Not unless it affected his seedlings, his children.
Thinking of the suns spurred him to drop the hoe and hurry to check the Sorce-place. It never ceased to fascinate Drognad, how the Seedgivers gave their essence to create the feedstock that ran via the pipes to each seeded hope. The agglomeration of essences thrummed with life, squeezing the nutriments that Drognad offered it into the fertiliser for each planting. This year like never before in his eons of custodianship he had added the holy water, just to keep every seed succulent.
A hush had fallen in the crowd; Drognad looked towards the priestlings guarding the shutters. It was time for the weekly Showing. He marvelled at how the Seedgivers would peer at their plots, able to discern the slightest changes in the surface soil or in the pulsing of the feedpipes in ways that, despite years in post Drognad had never managed to spot.
He nodded and the priestlings, excitable little things, dispersed to start the process of unhinging the shutters. Someone would see a Sign this time, Drognad knew. Hadn’t Magrod foreseen that this would be the time for the first Show? Earlier than ever but hardly a surprise given the heat and the extra feedings.
Drognad moved to stand with his back to the screens, so as not to interfere with the sightlines. He held his breath, waiting for the first cry.
At first Drognad thought someone had collapsed. Hardly surprising in the heat. Then he realised it was a Murmur. It started at the far end where the shutters had been opened first and, like a rippling wave, surfed the screens as the Seedgivers sought out their plots. Thrice before he had experienced a Murmur and each time it was despair, as it became clear that the crop had failed for many. But that Murmur had been sporadic, affecting a random selection of shutters. This was different. It felt uniform, across each shutter. And it was a different type of Murmur. Anger. Disbelief.
Drognad peered at the rows and he began to understand. For weeks he had wondered at how few were the signs of growth. How the soil seemed to remain a crusty cover, yet the Sorce-plate showed the croppings were still alive, still growing.
Now he understood. As the crowd of Seedgivers, soon to become Birthers began to howl he rushed to the first plot. What he had taken to be the smooth white surface of the earth was the rounded back of a new child, its skin bleached to a pale hue by the sun, losing its expected dark lustre. He moved between plots, recognising each child was not what the crowd expected.
He turned to look at the angry, uncomprehending faces. He knew what they were thinking. That he had tainted their seed, allowed the Ice king Gormorrad his way to create a generation of hybrid monsters. But surely this was the result of interference with Pecule? Sun-pullers had caused this, trying to use nature to defeat an enemy and instead releasing a power and creating a bigger problem.
The priestlings were trying to stop the crowd climbing though the unshuttered openings but they couldn’t on their own. He wanted to run, to hide and never return, but he wouldn’t. No, as his father had said, after a poor crop, the Garden is the responsibility of the Gardener and he alone accepts the praise for success and the consequences of failure. He would try and explain but if that didn’t work then they could bury him in his beloved Garden.