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I wrote this 1,097 word story in response to ng_moonmoth's prompt "As for the prompt, there is the gardener's eternal engagement (I *won't say "struggle" -- it's part of nature, after all!) with local critters that sample the vegetation." It's actually in the same part of its world as Project 3c, but there's no character overlap....

Silver rillue vine trailed down the stone walls that had been darkened by air exposure and algae, the supporting roots making a fretwork across the stone above adult head level where they would be undisturbed and could absorb moisture from the air and the surface to which they clung.  A row of lemon trees, neatly spaced but of differing ages, some being truly venerable, marched beside the southern wall while leaving enough room for the espaliered berry bushes with their ripening fruit: grand whortle; grouse currant; blackenberry; marsh remp; golden creckle berry; blue henbane; lesser mistberry; and purple dwort.  On the opposite side of the garden, tea trees and ti trees thrived in the shade of the northern wall, trimmed back so they did not exceed its twelve foot height.

Dried snail or slug trails on the stone walls glistened silver or iridesced like tiny rainbows.  Common white, citrus, and blue triangle butterflies, some glowing when they ventured into the shade, danced over beds of common, rare, and semi-mythical herbs.  Bees buzzed as they went about their business.  In the midst of this, facing each other on two wooden garden seats, were the garden’s owner and her guests.

Withemistress Jidah Wheale sat confidently in the middle of one seat, her hands folded in her lap over her skirts and apron.  She was not a small or bony woman and with her golden fawn skin, light brown hair, and dun dress she looked all of a piece.  Opposite her sat two other women and three children who were all around the age of ten.  Both of the other women were dressed in darker colours than the Withemistress; Heirou Galoum’s dark green attire set off her fading red coiled bun of hair and Beppilar Ramoud’s sepia skin let her choice of reddish purple glow in contrast.

The Withemistress listened to Beppilar’s pleasant alto voice explain her visitors’ problem, and then she replied with a smile, “Yes, I can see why you’re concerned but I can’t see why the children’s current state is my fault.”

The children, separated from each other by the two women squirmed uncomfortably,  The Withemistress noted that not only did the children glow, but when mildly stressed they emitted a faint mist of light.

The middle child, who was one of Beppilar’s nieces and shared her dark hair, said in a guilty voice, “We wanted to make lemonade, but no-one else had any lemons left and Papa always tells us that taking fruit from a neighbours’ tree is alright if you only take one or two of many….”

“Your father’s stories of our childhood are somewhat exaggerated,” said Beppilar firmly.  “I will remind him of a few things he seems to have conveniently forgotten when he and your mother get home from their voyage.”

“So you wanted to make lemonade,” acknowledged Withemistress Wheale.  “Why today?  It’s been hot all this week.”

The child with short red curls sitting next to Heirou piped up, “One of my name sponsors, the Trader Alzool over on Lime Alley, promised us a jug of ice to go with our afternoon snack.”

“A serious consideration,” agreed the Withemistress.  “So you waited until I went out, found a way over my garden wall, took some of my lemons and got out again?”

The children all nodded vigorously.  The one that hadn’t spoken yet added, “With the oak tree outside and the wisteria, it wasn’t that hard, and we had a rope.”

“Indeed,” said the Withemistress.  “And then you made lemonade and drank it all yourselves, just the three of you?”

Children nodded again.  “It was really good lemonade,” offered the middle one.

Heirou asked, “So, what will happen to them Withemistress?  When will they stop glowing?  Will it do anything else to them?”

Jidah said carefully, “My garden has twelve foot high walls around it for a reason.  Many of my plants are poisonous, others are extremely rare, and others are magical either by their very nature or because they are unusual, like these lemon trees or that rosebush.”  She pointed to the western end of the garden to where a blush-flowered rosebush grew within a cage.  “The oldest of those lemon trees was collected by my great grandmother after the battle of Gerhengdas when she dug up and brought home a broken magical stave that had taken root.  Apparently she was quite surprised when it turned out to be a lemon tree.”

The Withemistress paused as if to allow for questions but although the other two women looked at each other in a speaking manner no-one else said anything.

She went on, “As the magic in the trees comes from a weapon of unknown ability, we’ve never used the lemons for anything people take internally.”  Jidah made a small gesture with her hands as she explained, “I normally use the juice in certain magical inks or for some etching purposes.  The zest is useful too for a number of things like ointments and candles, but I’ve never fed anything from the tree to a human.”

Beppilar put a protective hand on each of the children beside her and asked sharply, “What have you fed it to then, Withemistress?”

The calm, prosaic answer was, “They're lemon trees, and things eat them all the time.  I don’t think it likely that the continuous diet of lemon leaves eaten by a caterpillar or a stink bug’s siphoning of sap are going to be quite the same as one or two glasses of lemonade drunk by a child on one occasion.”  The Withemistress frowned and added honestly, “The truth is that although I expect the glow should fade with time, I don’t know if it will and I don’t know how long it will take if it does.  Whatever happens, we are all going to learn something.”

The child with red hair, her inherent glow rendering her skin tones undiscernible, asked carefully, “So you’re not going to punish us?”

“Well, not the way Withemistresses and masters in old stories punish people who steal from them,” said Jidah Wheale cheerfully.  “I’m going to give you each a notebook and a pencil.  Each of you is going to write down for me exactly how you remember the three of you making your lemonade.  Then you’re going to write down what happened after that – drinking the lemonade, the onset of your glow, and anything else that happened.  I will probably ask questions,” she added happily.

“That’s schoolwork,” said the middle child accusingly.

“Yes,” agreed the Withemistress, “but just think what else I could have done to you.”

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I really like this. :) This world is fascinating. I hope we get to see if the lemons do anything more to the children.

Edited at 2016-11-12 01:08 pm (UTC)

Thank you!. I'm glad you liked it. :)

That's what you get for eating things you don't know the whole story behind!!

They didn't know they were magical lemon trees, then. I mean they can see them glowing now, but they haven't mentioned that, have they?

Congratulations, kids, you just volunteered to be guinea pigs and lab assistants. Perhaps you'll learn something in the process, whether you want to or not.

Aside from learning not to eat the fruit of a tree grown from the remains of a ruined magical weapon?

Their handwriting will probably improve too, practice will do that.

To be fair, it seems unlikely they knew the lemon tree(s) came from an unknown magical weapon. However, the glow-in-the-dark critters flying nearby should've been a hint that something was not quite right.

That said, the father telling them it was all right to take a few from many may need a stern talking-to himself.

And Aunty will be providing it.

Marvelous! Plus SCIENCE!

Thank you for writing this; reading it has measurably improved my day.

And so nice that the consequences may well benefit the lives of the children subject to them, rather than merely being punishment.

Re: Marvelous! Plus SCIENCE!

Who knows, maybe they will grow up to become scientist-magicians! Because science is a lot more interesting when it's about you.

Re: Marvelous! Plus SCIENCE!

Also if there are things you need to know that no-one else can tell you.

Re: Marvelous! Plus SCIENCE!

I am glad you liked it.

At the moment the Withemistress doesn't know that she can help if they don't just stop glowing on their own, or if more things are going to happen to them before their magical adventure finishes. Of course, becoming magical practitioners themselves might be the a course of action they need to consider - in which case, there's no time like the present to get started.

"No! Not schoooooool work! Anything but that!"

*leans over and whispers possibilities in ear of slowly paling and ever more glowing child*

"I meant should it be all written all essay like? With double spacing and stuff?"

I like :)

They're ten. It's cruel of you to even bring up such things. Besides, it would all have to be handwritten.

bwahahaha! I agree. Liked this very much.

It's not schoolwork, it's science! Admittedly, there is a significant overlap, but presenting it in a different light may make a difference.

I am rather curious about the semi-mythical herbs. In particular, is the mythical part simply not there, and the nonmythical part present?

And if there weren't already stories about the weird things that can happen in the Withemistress's garden before, there certainly will be now.

Semi-mythical in that you hear about them , in stories and things, but rarely actually see them.

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