The Cyrilis and Fanercords, prized blooming bushes belonging to the Sun God Eclisolus, lined the
outer fencing of the garden. They spilled their tough, viney branches through the woven knots of the fence and sought to take
over the small walkway that served as one of the many concentric circles of the garden's design. To navigate one's way to
the very center, where the Shora was kept, a person would have to spend much time exploring the maze of bushes and flowering
plants that prevented access to the inner circles. Detrich had had little trouble with this. For him, it was simply a matter
of knowing the growing patterns of the plants, and spotting the natural holes they left in the greenery.
He paused at the very entrance, listening carefully for any straggling garden-maids, but confident
there would be none. The people of the town, and especially the people directly employed at the Sun House, were made deathly
uncomfortable by the rain. If he were to come across anyone out here in a rain like this, it would likely be a person that
would pose him no threat. There were others like him, even if they were quite few.
A small, thorny clump of Karick Weed snagged in his coat and nearly ripped it, bringing a reflexive
curse to his lips. For such a tiny little plant, it could surely tear a man to bits- part of the reason it was placed so strategically
near the inside of the first circle.
The large holes he had expected to find in his coat were smaller than anticipated, but the weed
had also taken hold of his pants near the ankles. As he knelt to examine himself and to get a closer look at the plant itself,
he was struck with a melancholy memory of a carpenter he had known, many years ago. The man had collected strange plants from
the countryside- catalogued them, you might say- and was always eager to show Detrich any new find. He had come back from
a trip to the country with his fiancee and bragged to no end about a thick, thorny vine he had salvaged from an overturned
wagon, and of course, Detrich had taken a look, identifying it as a form of Karick.
Allen the carpenter had later been accused of the murder of his own lady, who had been strangled
with the tough vine and found by a laborer of Allen's. Detrich hadn't been given the chance to heal her wounds before she
was set to the pyre, but what he saw was enough to know that she probably had wounds no one would ever see. Allen was given
no chance to do anything at all. He was assigned an execution in Eclisolus's divine rite- "to each as he gives"- and killed
appropriately with a vine from this very garden.
Of course, Detrich had known the man for five years. There was no way he would have done such
a thing to his Beloved- and as usual, there was no convincing any authorities of that. Voices from the Vespers were hardly
voices at all, and it was with this sad truth that Detrich was forced to walk alone in the rain when there was no shortage
of sunny days...or people, for that matter.
He took a bone knife from an inside pocket of his coat and clipped a few inches of Karick where
it would not harm the plant. He put the knife and the vine back into his pocket and closed his coat tightly, glancing back
at the tall fence hiding him from the town. People would be tucked away in their homes, frantically praying, and later feasting-
celebrating their kind God's ability to communicate their earthly wrongs to them. The rain was a sign that they had erred,
and should collectively ponder the lesson to be learned. Detrich thought he would do his pondering from the middle of their
garden, if that was okay with them.
His shaggy, coal black hair was so wet now it felt like nothing but liquid. He pushed it up and
back over his head, leaving his eyes wide open to find their well-travelled path to the Shora-clad center. With careful steps,
he moved through a grove of harmless, berried bushes with sinister Karicks skirting them. He picked up the low hem of his
coat and carried it wrapped at his belly as he slid sideways between what seemed like hundreds of needled trees, their bright
verdence a natural encouragement. He slumped for a breath when his feet found the edge of the second paved circle, which was
less overgrown with foliage than the outer one had been.
His steel-lined boots were coated with a thin slab of dark mud from the walk, and he immediately
pulled his knife free once more to scrape them off before walking on the pristine stone. Although it was done out of respect,
he took notice of underlying motives- such as the one about not wanting anyone to know he had been here until he was long
gone, or perhaps not at all. Muddy footprints all over the most popularly sacred place in the whole town would raise a few
eyebrows that he didn't need raised.
He had been here three times before- the first of which hadn't got him past the first circle.
A blonde-haired teenage girl in a plain, cream-colored Sun House frock had stepped into the garden not ten paces behind him
and had raised the alarm. She had not even asked him his name or given him a chance to explain himself. It was because of
her that he still listened carefully for garden maids...nearly three years later.
That particular young girl was no longer in the employment of the Sun House. Word had drifted
into the Vespers that she had been caught with some of the more rare garden flowers in a vase, decorating her dressing table.
They had told her only to approach the Sun House in prayer from then on, and had given her the standard mark of the dishonorable
servant... an identical pair of circular lye scars on the backs of her hands. He was just glad she hadnt been wrongfully blamed
for flowers he had taken, and would leave the unusual punishments to the people who supported them.
There was another ring of Fanercords here, marking the line of shrubberies that would lead to
the next inner circle. He could see more trees ahead, but were smaller and closer together. He was reminded suddenly of his
last visit to the garden and all the copper coins he had lost in the mud after tripping. He smiled and promised not to let
it happen again. He cared little for the copper, but did not fancy walking back into the Vespers with black, wet knees and
muddy palms for the others to ask about.
He knew he should make quick work of the next few circles. The rain could let up at any moment,
really (or as the common phrase was in Palmer Ellis "Ecli willing"), and people would roll back into the streets like sand.
He wanted to be at least past the square and on his way back down the hill to the Vespers by then. The people on the hill
wouldn't give him a second look, which was how he liked it.
With this in mind, he thought about the Carpenter, his dead lover, and the dishonorable servant
girl as he dug his way deeper into the soulless and pleasantly empty Sun Garden.