Free Flowercrash by Stephen Palmer

Book: Flowercrash by Stephen Palmer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen Palmer
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy
you’ve pure heartwood. You’re intense. You scribe clearly, with fervent precision. You like the Green Man.”
    “I love the Green Man,” Nuïy said, in an effort to endear himself to Deomouvadaïn.
    But the old man slapped him across the cheek and said, “Men don’t love. We like. Loving is for un-men and shrivelled leaves.”
    “Now, then. Is this description of you accurate?”
    Deomouvadaïn indicated that Nuïy should follow him around the herb garden. After a minute, he said, “The Leafmaster said you come from up north. Where?”
    “From the very southernmost belt of the crone urb.”
    “Hmph. Yer family’s there?”
    Nuïy had all but forgotten his family over the previous week; now the mention of what he had escaped stirred up his guts. He replied in a soft voice, “I suppose so.”
    “Why d’you leave?”
    Nuïy writhed in indecision, unable to guess what the old man wanted to know. At length he said, “They forced a guardian on me.”
    “You didn’t want that?”
    “Good. The crones force their filthy flowers on us. In Emeralddis we reject them. You did wisely.”
    Nuïy smiled, and stood straighter. “Thank you.”
    Deomouvadaïn slapped him across the cheek, this time harder. “Never puff yerself up with pride, leaf.”
    Nuïy looked to the ground. “Yes.”
    “Now, then. D’you hate un-men?”
    “Hmph. And d’you hate the crones?”
    Deomouvadaïn thought a moment, then said, “Which un-men did you grow up with?”
    “My sis… my sibling un-man, and my parent un-man.”
    “D’you hate them?”
    Nuïy took some time to compose his reply. “I hate them because they forced me to be like them, and I’m not like them, I’ll never be like them. They made me do things that were wrong. They were wrong because they were un-men things, and I knew I had to escape to Emeralddis to find a proper home for myself, among men.”
    Deomouvadaïn raised one hand and glared at Nuïy. “Don’t speak flowery to me, leaf.”
    Nuïy froze.
    Deomouvadaïn relaxed, then continued to walk around the garden. “What about yer father?”
    “Nothing but a grey-skinned cripple, a dribbling child. I hate him almost as much as them.”
    “But he’s a man.”
    Nuïy thought again. “The Green Man is the epitome of what a man should be. He is tall, strong, with noble heartwood and thick sap. My father is none of those things. He doesn’t deserve to be a man. He’s just pink.”
    “Hmph. Pink. That’s bile indeed.”
    Nuïy said nothing. Old emotions roiled within him, but he repressed them. Being with Deomouvadaïn and getting things right was all that mattered at the moment. Forget the past.
    “Why have you picked me out?” he asked.
    Deomouvadaïn coughed. “In classes yer the top leaf of the pile. Yer intellect is worthy. The Shrine of the Green Man is pleased to have yer heartwood.”
    “I’m pleased to serve here.”
    “That being so, I’ll be giving you extra lessons. I’ll arrange times with the Leafmaster.”
    Nuïy controlled his joy. He managed to say, “Thank you. I will live up to your every expectation.”
    “You don’t know my expectations,” Deomouvadaïn warned. “But I expect you to do yer best.”
    “I will.”
    “Now, then. Return to the Leafmaster. You can tell yer dorm mates about this. But once we start learning, you’ll have to keep secrets. Betray me and you kiss humus. Is that clear?”
    “Completely clear.”
    “All right. Off you go. No dawdling.”
    Nuïy ran all the way back to the yards, where he found that the physical training had ended. It was late afternoon and classes were over.
    That evening Drowaïtash and Eletela wanted to know what had happened, but Nuïy refused to tell them anything of the conversation. “He took me aside and led me to his house,” he said. “I don’t know what happens next. I expect I will see him more in the future.”
    “But why?”

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