Sue Vincent’s #writephoto this week is this
Drognad the Green leant on his hoe and mopped his brow. The double suns of the First Spring had been unusually intense just as Magrod the Seer had prophesied. ‘You need to moisten the seeds, Drognad.’
Stupid crone, he’d thought . What did she think he did? Wish them well? He was a bloody gardener. Watering was part of his very nature.
But he’d give her credit. The soil might have been friable, the compost fecund and the worms just the right side of slimy, but this year the little darlings had needed that little bit extra.
Behind the bulging screens, Drognad wondered at the crowd’s mood. He always tried to ignore their chants and entreaties, their speculations about the year’s harvest. Was it his own doubts that infected them and made them seem especially keen this year to see the results of his efforts. He had planted their seeds, as they asked, he had offered nourishment and the usual incantations but had he given them enough of a soul drenching?
It reminded him of the Year of the Ice Blasts when the evil winds of Gormorrad had bitten into the very core of his garden. Even then he’d ensured the crops had remained unburned, the base material free of frost. And yet the few failures preyed heavily on his conscience. Could he have done more?
Oh those suns and that silly myth. He narrowed his eyes to slits and squinted at Pecule, the larger of the two orbs. It had to be a trick of the optics, didn’t it? It was actually nearer this year. Was it?
Drognad hit the screen with his hoe, temporally stilling the pressure. That charlatan, His Bigness the Observant was trouble, though. Telling all and sundry that the Grogans of Gormorrad had lassoed Pecule, as it had been in ancient times and were dragging it nearer, to inflict the Sin of Sterility on their happy land. What was it with all this Evils of Gormorrad guff? Weren’t they beyond such superstitions?
He sighed. No one was going to listen to him, mind. He was but a servant of the soil; theologising about gods and evils and wisdom-seekers was not his place. Not unless it affected the seedlings, his voice carried about as much weight as a cranapula blossom.
Maybe he needed to spend less time on philosophy and more on his allotted task. He had enough problems, satisfying this year’s chosen seed-givers. And today they’d all know if he’d got it right or if he’d inadvertently handed Bigness his big break.
It was time to disconnect the Sorce-plate and still the agglomeration of essences that had provided the nutriments to each planting.
Drognad became aware that a hush had fallen over the crowd. The Priestlings had arrived. He bent a stiff back to the bottom catch on the Shutters. Time for the Seed-givers to see. Time for the Priestlings to bless. Time for him to breathe.
He nodded and the Priestlings, excitable little things, dispersed around the garden, each to their allotted place. Drognad waited for each to coo their readiness and then began to pull away the Source-plate.
Usually Drognad waited for the First Sign. This time, however he eased himself away to be hidden by an open shutter. He held his breath again, waiting for the first cry.
At first Drognad thought someone must have collapsed. Hardly surprising in the heat. Then he realised it was a Murmur. A full blown Murmur. It was like a rippling wave, surfing along apertures as the Seed-givers spotted their plots and the reaction of their dedicated Priestlings. His father had told him about Murmurs, about the impact on a Gardener. It was their despair, a deep vibration that bit into his core, like a planted seed that began to grow, fuelled first by disbelief then disappointment and finally an unreasoning anger.
They trusted him. He was there to ensure success, but here was the evidence he feared. Shrivelled corpses and deformed unborns littered the ground. The lack of that essential extra moisture was now so apparent.
Drognad peered at the rows of untimely death and he understood. If he’d believed, if he’d listened to Magrod the Seer and had the necessary faith, then this failure wouldn’t have happened. Hubris was for the more educated but he had a role and he thought he knew better.
He stepped from his hiding place and the noise subsided. Carefully he collected the nearest seared torso and brought it to its Seed-giver. He met the angry, uncomprehending face with a steady gaze, one that slowly seemed to ease some of the pain in the expression facing him.
It wasn’t for him to challenge their ideals. If they believed he had tainted their seed, allowed the Evils of Gormorrad into his Garden to wreck havoc on a generation by interfering with Pecule’s orbit, if they needed a Sun-puller to blame, how could he deny them?
The Priestlings were trying to stop the crowd climbing though the unshuttered openings but he waved them away. Moments ago he had wanted to run, to hide and never return, but he wouldn’t. No, as his father had said, the Garden is the responsibility of the Gardener and he alone accepts the praise for success and the consequences of failure.
He knew now, better than most that the world relied on three pillars to survive: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of those is love. He would try and make them understand, but if that failed then they could bury him in his beloved Garden and he could fertilise the next generation.