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The Garden Tender
Azalea picked her way around the library, careful not to drop any books. 9 books so far. It was more than she had ever carried or checked out. The books were really weighing her down. She picked up one of the baskets and carefully tipped the books in. Her face burned. People were already beginning to stare at her. Serves her right for being a bibliomaniac.
Azalea walked out of the fiction section into the nonfiction. She walked into some math books and grabbed some algebra and geometry books out along the way and dumped them into the already filled basket. She grabbed another one. How many more would she need?!
She slowly walked around until she reached the environmental section. She found Collapse and The Future of Life, The World Is Blue, and The End of Nature. She was about to leave when a blue and white book caught her attention. She turned back quickly and saw it again. The Earth Book, it was called. She grabbed it so quickly she cut herself. She bled immediately and had to pull out a band-aid to keep it from bleeding heavier.
Strangely enough, when she looked at the book again, there was no blood. Another thing was, it was a lot heavier than a normal book. Azalea shrugged to herself and put the book in her second basket. She then went down and checked out.
As Azalea walked home, she thought about The Earth Book. She had never seen it before, but then again, it might have been in transit.
Azalea began reading The Earth Book when she got home. When she reached chapter 5 about tending gardens, she saw that there was nothing but a blank page with a picture of a key. Her blue eyes widened and she touched the key. It immediately began shimmering in green light and it materialized out of thin air.
Azalea stared in wonder at the green key. The part where the key should have fit through the keyhole, there was a leaf. Azalea knew there was something dark in her future if she kept it, but she also felt the need that she needed to keep it.
When Azalea went to bed, she had a fascinating dream:
She was walking, walking towards a forest. She’d seen the forest before, how many times had she walked past it while she went to the library?
Yet it seemed different. Magical. As Azalea kept walking, she felt that magical power getting stronger and stronger. No one ever came into the forest. There were fallen trees everywhere, and there were rumors that people who went in there never came back out.
As Azalea kept walking, there showed more and more signs of life. There were lush bushes with ripe fruit and emerald green grass. Azalea walked further and further until she reached a gate made out of peridot-green ivy. Azalea then saw a keyhole in the shape of a leaf.
Her heart stopped. In that instant, she understood exactly why she had had this dream. She pulled out the green key and put it into the keyhole. There was a flash of green light. . .
Azalea woke up with a start. She cursed because she needed to find out more about that gate. The dream had seemed too real to be a dream.
Azalea quickly dressed. She put on some faded jeans, tossed on a black t-shirt advertising the periodic table, tied her long, wavy brown hair up in a bun, put on her silver heart locket with a tree and “Love” on it, and walked out the door.
Azalea walked quickly towards the forest with the key in her pocket.
It was like Azalea was back in her dream. She walked and walked until she reached the ivy door. She pulled out the key and put it in. There was a flash of green light. . .
Not far away, Nightfall’s black leaf key began shimmering. Smiling to herself, she picked up the key and let out a mirthless laugh.
The garden of Thrae had been opened once more.
Azalea walked in open-mouthed, into the garden. The garden was nothing more than a great plain of pure emerald grass. There was a great stone fountain in the middle of the garden with tree, flower, and leaf engravings.
It was only then that Azalea realized that there was a brown book floating in the fountain. When Azalea opened it, a note fell out. It read:
To the powerful one who discovers the Garden of Thrae,
The garden is as pure as the water in the fountain. If the key of Thrae were to be united with the key of Dark Eno, then the garden shall perish. Keep in mind that whatever you do in Thrae will happen around the world. I present to you the Book of Thrae. This book will give you instructions on becoming Thrae’s garden tender. Do not let the garden fall into the wrong hands.
When Azalea neared the end, she saw a silver necklace with an emerald leaf. She picked it up. She could see every vein as if it were real. It felt as thin and smooth as a real one, but it couldn’t be. Next to the necklace read:
This necklace will control and shape your magic. Do not perform magic without it. Without the necklace, the magic will reach its full potential; magic is wild and can consume you.
With that ominous note, Azalea picked up the book, sat on the grass, and began to read the strange script.
“Controlling and Shaping Your Magic,” Azalea translated, “To control your magic, you must have a strong will. Do not let the magic control you. Show who is in command. . .”
Azalea stopped. How had she known what the words were saying? It seemed that it was coming from her necklace. She could feel it pulsating on her chest, as if it had its own heartbeat. Azalea realized that the other pages were all about spells. She closed the book, laid it back in the fountain and vowed she would try to learn all of them. She already knew one. She turned back to the garden and muttered, “Crescere.”
At once buttercups, bushes, and trees began to grow. Fruits of all sizes, flowers of all kinds, anything you could think of came and grew. . .
Around the world, plants began to bloom everywhere, in the lushest lands and the marginal lands. Nightfall watched as dead flowers began to grow and thrive again. She knew the garden tender was already awakening the magic, and she knew who it was.
As the days progressed, Azalea always would quickly finish her schoolwork and would go and learn new spells while tending to the garden. She learned ways to protect herself by saying, praemunio and how to fight by saying, conlatus.
After a few weeks, Azalea began to feel a growing suspicion. She felt as if someone was following her. Her suspicions were finally confirmed one day.
It was a warm, Tuesday afternoon, and Azalea was making her daily trip to the library. She was walking when she felt the growing suspicion again. This time, instead of feeling afraid like she normally did, she smiled to herself. She had learned a new spell yesterday at the garden, and she had been itching to try it out.
Azalea felt in her pocket for a mirror. She found it and pulled it out. She opened it and whispered the words, “show the follower” or “Ostendere discipulum.” Instantly, the mirror fogged, then cleared to show a girl dressed in all black, trying to walk nonchalantly while following her.
Azalea hurried into the library and weaved among the familiar shelves to hide herself. She heard the door swing open again and saw the girl again, then disappear. Azalea knew her; she was Nightfall.
Nightfall had been her friend in elementary school. When they reached middle school though, Nightfall began to hang out with the goth kids. Azalea’s mom still thought they were friends, but Nightfall hated Azalea. She hated her because she thought that Azalea had “stolen” her “boyfriend”.
It was no secret that Nightfall had liked this boy, Cam. There had been a dance and Nightfall had told anyone who would listen that Cam was sure to ask her to it. On the day of the dance everyone was telling Nightfall that he wouldn’t ask her because he didn’t like her. She had insisted that he was being shy and that he would ask her at the dance. When she had gone to the dance though, Cam had chosen Azalea over her.
Nightfall was furious and told everyone that Azalea had told him lies about her and that Azalea was a deceitful witch. No one believed her but her friends, and it was that day that Nightfall swore in front of everyone that she would never be Azalea’s friend again.
Azalea now walked carelessly among the shelves; sure that Nightfall would never find her. She was walking to the fiction section when her luck ran out. Nightfall crept up behind her and whispered, “Thrae shall perish along with you.” Then the world went black.
Azalea woke when the intercom of the library went on and said, “The library will be closing in five minutes.”
Azalea jumped frantically to her feet. She no longer cared what people thought. She ran to the window of the library and already saw some newborn plants begin to shrivel. Azalea dug frantically in her coat pocket. Just as she thought, the key was gone. Azalea ran sobbing home.
Azalea turned on the news when she ran home. It was all over the news:
“What a catastrophe these past few weeks have been!” The newscaster was saying, “First, all around the world, in all different kinds of lands, plants are blooming. Now, all of a sudden, plants are dying, and not just old ones, new ones too. We’ve just had a recent attack by a rosebush. A lady was walking by when a rosebush sprang on her! It wrapped itself around her, scratching her with its thorns! The lady said that it must have been the wind and the rosebush must’ve gotten entangled on her clothes. What will happen next?”
Azalea began to sob anew. What was she going to do? She had to break into the garden, but how? She no longer had the key to open the gate.
As she crawled into bed, a plan began forming in her mind.
Azalea began preparing for her great battle at the garden. She knew the book would hold the secret of what to do. She pulled on a thick t-shirt, thick garden sleeves, and denim jeans and a pair of rubber boots for protection.
Azalea left without leaving a note for her family because she couldn’t bear to tell them the truth; they’d never believe it, and it could endanger them if she never made it out alive. Azalea walked quickly to the forest. When she reached the gate, she whispered, “Patefacio.” The gate slowly swung open.
The garden was no longer looked like what she had made it. The sky was gray and the grass dead and brown. Rosebushes with black roses grew spookily everywhere.
Azalea walked cautiously, afraid of waking anything up. Suddenly, a rosebush grabbed her arm.
She woke up all the rosebushes and they began to reel her in. Thorns were scratching her face and the black roses surrounded her. In a moment, Azalea knew what they were for. The black roses enveloped her into the suffocating darkness. The harder she struggled the more they pressed in and the tighter the branches gripped.
Azalea began to feel lightheaded. She knew she wouldn’t hold out to long. She tore at the branches and roses and whispered the words, “Praemunio.” At once the branches gave way and the path to the fountain cleared, as if reading her mind.
Azalea walked to the fountain and picked up the book. She flipped through the pages and found a prophecy:
The one who holds the truth and the one who knows only good shall sacrifice oneself to protect the future.
In that instant, Azalea knew what she had to do. She was overcome with grief, knowing she would never see them again, but she had to do it, had to save the world. Azalea looked up at the sky and whispered the words she thought she would never have to use, “To the great Holy one, I sacrifice my soul to burn the key of Thrae and the key of Dark Eno so that the garden Thrae may thrive and save the world. Sanctus magno, et immolo animam exurere Thrae clavem clavem paradisi Thrae vigere et Dog Eno ut salvificem mundum.”
Azalea braced herself for excruciating pain, but it never came. Instead, she felt as if the air had been knocked out of her, and she saw the ghost of her soul rise up. As the last of her soul drifted away, Azalea opened her locket and looked into the face of her mother and the young face of herself. She remembered her dream of a bright future when she was little.
The future that could have been.
Azalea’s mom sobbed in earnest as she listened to the newscaster report the death of her daughter, Azalea. Nightfall was at her side comforting her.
“It’s OK, it’s not your fault. It was Azalea’s, she had it coming, she walked into the forest near the library, no one ever makes it out alive.” Nightfall said. She turned away from Azalea’s sobbing mother so she would not see her satisfied smirk.