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Willow, a woman in her mid-thirties, gazed down fondly at her garden. Plants of all types littered her yard, but only the most beautiful were allowed to seat themselves in the colorful patch that was her garden. A well-kept white fence separated her orderly yard from the wild forest of Macashnea.
As she gently stroked the silky yellow peddle of one of her Japanese Lilies, a sigh escaped her lips. Her life was peaceful, and she (as well as her family) were perfectly healthy and in good wealth. Of course, being human, there was still one thing her heart desired despite her perfect life. What her heart desired was a Shym Fern to be the prize of her garden.
Shym Ferns were rare and it was said that the only way to obtain one was to please a god or goddess by doing them a favor. It was a pale blue fern with dark purple ends; a lone, crimson flower bloomed in the center of the plant, keeping it together. The flower had six thick peddles that faced the sky, twisting together and having their thinner, golden tips come out of said twist in the shape of a star. It was indeed a beautiful plant that was the source of Willow’s fantasies.
Willow stared at the half-goat, half-man god in front of her. She had prayed to him, well, more precisely, any god that would listen, in hopes of striking up a deal and gaining a Shym Fern. He had answered her call, agreeing to help as long as she had something to offer in return. Her hands grew clammy and she swallowed nervously as a problematic thought went through her mind. What could she, a human, have to offer a god?
“Aw, young Willow. I understand that you yearn for a Shym Fern, yes? Well, I shall grant you the seeds to that majestic plant in return for a favor. You see, it is getting harder for me to, ehh… communicate with Nymphs, as they seem keen on fleeing. I am well aware of the fact that you, a nature loving women who has lived here for many years, are trusted by most Nymphs around here and I would like you to spread noble word of me to them. Do we have a deal?” Pan asked when he finished his explanation. Willow nodded eagerly. Grinning, Pan dropped a small sack of seeds into her petite hands before dancing away, playing his flute. “I expect word of me to be spread by the time those bloom!” his voice echoed as he disappeared into the trees. Willow released a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding and grinned, racing home giddily.
“Mommy!” her 7-year-old son, Aspen, exclaimed upon her return, racing towards her and tackling her with a hug. Steadying herself, she returned the sign of affection. His green eyes sparkled as he excitedly told her about his trip into Morimura, a village on the outskirts of the forest they lived in. She listened to her unruly black hared, lightly tanned son and smiled softly when he would flail his arms energetically in an attempt to explain something interesting he saw. However, she had her own story to tell and was quick to make that point when he finished his story. His eyes widened in amazement and wonder as the story was told, often asking questions like the curious boy he was. Her husband, Rhoe, came up behind her and wrapped his strong arms around her waist. He, too, listened to her tale with interest.
Willow had forgotten her part of the deal as she took extra care of her garden. She made sure that the sprouting Shym was safe at all times. Even when her friend, Wave, a water Nymph, came over she would neglect to spread noble word of the nature god. In fact, she spited him. She had heard that he was a flirting god who pursued Nymphs with no shame. Her encounter, despite granting her, her lifelong desire, did not prove those false and she refused to help lure her friends into such a trap. Besides… what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
Pan grew furious upon finding out what Willow was doing. His blood boiled as a small hatred formed for the young women. In his anger, he sought out a plan for revenge. He could kill the Fern before it sprouted, but that was too simple. Suddenly, a sadistic grin formed on his features. She would regret attempting to deceive him. No one angers a god and gets away with it!
Willow woke up at the crack of dawn, as usual, and prepared breakfast. Leaving it on the table for her family, she went outside. Although everything seemed peaceful, her stomach felt queasy. A sense of dread filled her. Biting her lip, she tried to ignore the sense of oncoming despair. As the day progressed, Willow’s uneasiness worsened. By the time noon came around, she entered the medium sized, wooden cottage she called home. The house was quieter than a mouse, and the food was left untouched where she had left it. Confused, although mainly worried, she wondered towards the bedrooms.
Willow screamed in despair and horror. She had entered Aspen’s room and found both Aspen and Rhoe lying lifeless in the pool of blood, throats slit. They stared up at her with dull eyes. The once cheerful, carefree 7-year-old she loved was now just a spiritless shell. As was her gentle protector. She sniffled and dropped to her knees. Grabbing her son’s lifeless body, she buried her face into his hair and sobbed. Her throat clenched and Willow didn’t even try to stop the hot liquid that poured from her eyes. Her heart was broken and her joy died with her family.
The strong scent of blood made her feel sick. She shakily stood up and staggered outside, just then realizing how hungry, thirsty, and weak she was. Not that she cared. Dragging her lifeless family with her, she laid them by her garden before she fell down next to them. Her eyes wondered to her garden, barely affected by the neglect or sorrow of its keeper. She dully noted that the Shym Fern was almost fully done sprouting.
“You… weren’t worth it. I… I can’t believe how stupid I was! Am! How idiotic you seem now…” she cried, her voice hoarse. Glancing around, her green eyes fell upon a small knife. It was what she used to cut her apple slices with whenever Wave came to visit. She crawled to it. “Don’t Worry, Aspen, Mommy will see you soon…” she whispered as she grabbed the knife and brought it down towards her heart. A metallic taste filled her mouth as she hacked up some blood. A small smile appeared on her face as she stared at the face of her husband and son, knowing she would soon be reunited with them. Her long, dark brown hair was sprawled out around her and her lightly tanned skin grew cold. With one last, painful exhale of air, her soul departed from her body and joined her family in the afterlife.
Demeter watched the event unfold in sorrow. She felt pity for the young women and, being the goddess of crops and family, decided she would do something for the deceased women. As a mother, she understood the damage losing a child could inflict. Appearing next to the once happy family, she set her hands on Willow’s cold forehead. Gold light embedded the women and she rose-up, growing and having whip like branches grow from her body and descend towards the ground. When the transformation was complete, a lone tree sat in the yard; a tree that from that day forth was forever known as a ‘Weeping Willow’. Beside the tree there was a fully bloomed and sprouted Shym Fern. Unattended, it quickly wilted in the environment unsuited for its needs.