A tiny droplet of blood glimmered on the sharp point of one of the many protrusions that fiercely guarded the stems. In the pale light of the cloud obscured moon, the world did not easily give up its secrets, but the pale flower buds collected the faint moonlight and cast it back out. From afar the countless buds gleamed like so many stars; an entrancing beacon that had drawn the four men across the valley.
Like sleepwalkers they had stumbled until they stood before the expansive bush, and Wren, the fool that he was, reached out to pluck himself a flower. At his yelp the other three leaned in to inspect the defences of the unusual plant. As they did so, one of the many lights winked out and a sweet floral scent began to fill the air. Wren squinted, sucking on his injured finger. The bud that he had tried to pick was no longer there; he reached out bravely, and his fingers met the soft silk of petals. Petals of a flower fully bloomed, with such deep color that they blended in with the night itself.
The men stared, uncertainty overriding their sense of wonder.
“What is it?” Aoin muttered beneath his breath, the scrawniest and youngest of the three he tended to be the one sacrificed as the scapegoat whenever one of their enterprises went awry, and he had the sinking feeling that this was one of those moments that would landslide into catastrophe. His wife would kill him if he came home with any more bumps and bruises from this trek.
“It’s magic.” said Alaarik. Ever the weaver of tall tales. Determined to see more in the world than it could ever hope to offer. Strong of body, but oh so delicate of heart.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Magic has been gone for so long that no one is sure it existed in the first place. It wouldn’t just materialize back into existence. And if it did, it certainly wouldn’t show up in a little wreck of a place like this.” The final member of the quad gestured at the rotting barn that stood nearby, the only structure on this side of the valley that hadn’t been completely consumed by neglect. His tone was imperious, certain. Lei, always the leader.
As his words fell into the silence, the moon banished the last of the wispy clouds that obscured its view of the events taking place so far below. The sudden light lit the landscape and the bloom, no longer cast in shadow, stood out among the white, a deep velvet red. The color of the droplet of blood that no longer stained the thorn.
Alaarik stumbled back, his feet tripping him up as he attempted to put some distance between himself and the bush.
“I know what these are.” his voice trembled, part in awe and part in stark raving terror, “That,” his finger pointed like a spear at the flower, “Is a rose.”