Rose Ink (Part 1)

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Ronan picked up a rose. His fingers glided over its velvety petals. He held the stem in his other hand, examining its almost perfect cylinder shape and deep hue of forest green. Its thorns curled at their tips, bending towards the stem. In one hand he held romance, simplicity and beauty. In the other hand he held protection, defence, and even danger. A rose, Ronan thought to himself, is a symbol of nature: a balance between beauty and disaster.

He looked up into the misty morning sun and inhaled deeply. The dewy cool air was a fresh blow of purity through his body. The valley was still and hushed, yet bursting with sweet smells. He looked down at the rose that lay between his two calloused palms. I don't belong here, it seemed to say. Ronan tapped his finger at the end of the stem. Purple liquid slowly squeezed onto his thumb. It's still got some left, he thought.

Ronan crept over the mint sea of fallen leaves. The crackling and squelching underneath his boots echoed through the Aken forest valley. He reached an aged Hawthorn tree and raised the rose up to the bark. Carefully, Ronan pressed the end of the stem against the tree and started to write with long flourishing strokes. The berry-bitten purple ink clung to the wood and dried immediately. Ronan then lifted the rose off of the bark and took a step back.

Nature's balance is shown through a rose, he had written. The velvety petals of the rose broke off from the stem one by one, and dissolved into a dark purple powder. Panicking, Ronan retrieved a small leather pouch from his knapsack and tried to gather up the falling dust while holding the curling rose stem in his other hand.

"Yes! Got it!" He whispered loudly as the last bits of powder descended into the pouch. Ronan's eyes danced with surprise and enchantment. This is so unexpected! He thought eagerly. Smiling, he tucked the filled pouch into his knapsack and laid the shrivelled rose stem on the moist ground.

Ronan looked up at the Hawthorn tree. The rose's ink was caked onto the rough bark. But just as he thought all was settled, the ink began to dribble and fly across the wood. It created a new arrangement of words: Powder creates words, words create poems, poems create help.

"What?" Ronan said in astonishment. The ink melted and oozed over the tree's knobbly surface and retained its original arrangement of words. Perplexed and stunned, Ronan backed away from the tree and glanced around the surrounding forest for reassurance.

"This ink...helps people. What?" He repeated.

A voice sounded behind Ronan.

"You looking for help?" She called.

He turned around. Ronan's eyes were quickly pulled towards two light blue eyes. The woman's silky black hair framed her face like a flowing open curtain. Her beauty was recognizable. She was Edina.

In awe, Ronan stood there with his lips slightly parted. Edina raised an eyebrow.

"Are you going to say something or just stand there?" She snapped.

"Uhh," he began nervously. "I'm Ronan. And you...you must be the mistress Edina!" He couldn't believe he just said those words.

"Yes, and I see you felt the desire to meet me on my morning stroll. Intentionally?" Edina smoothly added.

"No! No I--I had this rose and..." Ronan began.

"A what?"

"A rose. It gave me this powder and told me that poetry creates help and..."

Edina gave him a confused look. She then smiled.

"Your adventure has just begun," she noted, and vanished into the frosty fog.

Ronan looked back into the valley. It seemed so calm, so peaceful, and so worriless. What did she mean by 'an adventure'? And how does poetry help people?

He heard a creak and turned around. The bark on the tree rustled as the deep purple ink flowed into a new position for a few seconds. The beautiful script read: You will learn. Then the ink melted back into the phrase he originally wrote.

Ronan shook his head with confusion. He breathed deeply and walked towards the bottom of the valley. As he walked over innocent weeds and twisted tree roots, Ronan noticed a star still glistening in the morning sky. It twinkled at him.

"Hold on for the ride ahead," it said.

*


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*


The midmorning sun speared through the evergreen treetops and illuminated the forest's path. The dawn mist had cleared slightly, yet there were still a few lingering clouds. Red-breasted birds chirped lively from the cool wood branches.

Ronan aimlessly wandered through the Aken forest. He bore no map, no compass, only a hope of civilization. As he walked, he noticed a trail of earth-borne flowers twisting over the forest floor. The tree's words flashed in his mind: You will learn. Ronan pondered this as he examined the flow of peach, aqua, and lilac flowers that lay below him.

Crack! A thin tree branch snapped and fell to the ground. A gust of wind whispered through the forest, followed by soft clinks of metal wind chimes.

Curious and slightly nervous, Ronan crept toward the sound of the soothing jingles. The forest suddenly felt mysterious and less trustworthy to him. It was still beautiful, yet now an uneasy air cloaked it.

"Di-dum!" sounded a mezzo-soprano chorus of strings. Ronan breathed in quickly and backed against a Hawthorn tree. A short major melody then echoed through the forest, followed by the same "di-dum!" as before. The wind chimes then clunked with a one-two-one-two rhythm. The musical phrase repeated over and over, growing louder each time. Ronan, eyes alight with fear and wariness, turned and ran. The tune instantly switched to a minor key and sped up as he tried to escape. Breathing nervously, Ronan frantically scanned the horizon. Would this forest ever end? He bit his lip in fear. He decided to keep running, hoping that the uneasy music would cease haunting him.

The tune had now become so quick that it was just a blur of violin bows complemented by a constant jingle of cold steel chimes.

Ronan entered the thicker part of the Aken forest. Sun rays only pierced through the canopy; the clusters of branches and leaves were too dense. A log quickly entered Ronan's path. As he leapt mightily, the violin notes hushed. The tinkling of the wind chimes boomed louder, and time
slowed down. Ronan was caught in mid jump, and gradually fell towards the ground.

Suddenly, a black misty oval swirled on the ground where he would land. The chimes clinked once again, and time sped up. Ronan then fell uncontrollably into the smoky pool. It quickly absorbed him and sent Ronan across the universe to an extremely unfamiliar place.



*


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*


Ronan moaned and flicked his thick chestnut hair out of his eyes. He blinked. A jungle of weeds loomed around him. Soft ripples of murky brown water lapped at his body. Reacting to the warm ting of the waves, Ronan leapt up and staggered in the runny mud. A low field of weeds stretched upon the horizon. Their strands rustled in the dim marsh breeze.

He noticed the steamy air had laid sweat beads upon his rough skin. Ronan felt like he was baking in his tough leather hides. He quickly stripped down to his long cloth shirt and leggings, and threw his garments in his knapsack.

Looking up to the bleak sky, Ronan could not help to wonder where he was. He felt alone, isolated.

"Who did this to me?" He asked the sky.

The low hum of an old boat motor sounded in the distance. Ronan turned.

Put, put, put. A thin chimney of grey smoke rose out of the weeds. Curiously, Ronan edged towards the odd creature. As he waded through the murky water, planks of coloured wooden boards came into sight. They appeared to be tied together in a sort of bowl structure that drifted atop the waters.

"Ay!" a voice yelled. Ronan snapped out of his dreamy confusion. He ducked behind some yellow-green weeds. Some other foreign words boomed from the boat.

People, Ronan thought. He caught a few glimpses of tanned, exotic people bopping around the structure. The people spotted him and froze.

"Ay you! Speak English?" One shouted. Ronan gasped and cowered in the mud.

"Who are you?" another bellowed.

Ronan slowly exhaled and stood up with courage.

"I'm Ronan," he began.

The men curiously looked at one another. They mumbled something and nodded. One of them held out a sweaty palm and beckoned Ronan over.

Scared yet secretly excited, Ronan grabbed his satchel and joined the men at the marsh's edge. The faded multicolour structure bopped and rocked as the grey lake next to the marshland tossed with discomfort. Ronan cautiously boarded the structure--or what the men called "boat"--and grasped its side when he sat down. He noticed that his knapsack was glowing mysteriously. A thought came to him.

"The rose!" He exclaimed. Ronan frantically searched inside his bag and found the leather pouch glowing.

Does it have a time limit? Do I need to use this soon? He thought. The tanned men crowded around him. Ronan flushed.

The tallest man uttered something in the same foreign language. The motor started and spewed dusty smoke into the humid air. The boat jerked forward and propelled out to the dark grey lake. A village awaited them.





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