Springtide Rosalia 2021 - A Rose By Any Other Name

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Description: Matthias von Podiebrad has come to Castle Alucard with his Podiebrad brethren. But rather than wage an assault on the vampire master of the castle, he is content to look for some nice roses and tea leaves to bring back to the manor. But as he looks around an abandoned greenhouse, he stumbles upon Lady Briar Rose Blackthorne, who takes more than a passing interest in him.

"Oh my, what are all these pumpkins doing here?"

The large, sturdily built priest step in through the broken, overgrown doorway of the abandoned greenhouse. The large priest had a large sack on his back, and he had a trowel at his belt. The air was heavy with humidity, the smell the stench of fertilizer and earth permeated all around. Sickly streams of moonlight pour pale and cold across the stained and broken glass of the greenhouse. It is too large, practically a crystal palace. Wrought iron and panes of glass are structured in a modular, hierarchical design. The geometry was like a gallery; the layout was a rectangular shape with grid-like sections for the various sections of planters and plant life. The greenhouse had two floors, and the center pathway across the greenhouse was opened above to the second floor. THe wrought-iron stairways have long been crushed and rusted by the runaway vines and pumpkins. There is a sense at one point, the diversity of plant life here would rival the greatest of arboretum on Earth, with the exotic cultivated flowers and herbs being unrivaled. But instead of the flowers and plants that the priest was looking for?

It was only the shattered remains of pumpkins.

He had heard sounds earlier, a long time earlier. But he had been wandering the halls for a while anyways. He had his invitation, yes, and he was expected to be bring entertainment. But Matthias had never thought of himself as being very entertaining. He was mostly nice. And it was okay to be mostly nice. He just wanted to collect some things while he was allowed in Castle Alucard. IN the past, there wasn't many problems. But now... as he steps past the shattered pumpkin shells, the paths sticky and thick with a strange slurry of pumpkin guts. There was burnt out jack o lanterns everywhere, and deep lacerations against the metal frame, the signs of a fresh melee here. He reaches past what looks like a collapsed shape of a -massive- pumpkin, almost as big as him, covered in ropey vines. He was trying to -find- any signs of any plants, but everything was just... just destroyed pumpkins. He gasps distantly, touching the shell of it. "Oh my goodness..." He whispers.

"What happened here?"

It would seem that the greenhouse is truly silent and empty save for the priest and his sack and his trowel, the twisted metal and pumpkin gore a grim testament to some horrific and untimely party that must have taken place with some recency - though establishing a precise timeline for events taking place within Castle Alucard is problematic.

All is still...

...Until Matthias places his hand on the enormous pumpkin shell.

Suddenly, yet slowly, a number of the vines slung over the sides of the shattered shell start to slither steadily up the smooth surface. As they retreat, there's a faint whimpering sound from behind the shell, and up at the top, a singular, pale arm stretches upward, each of its smooth, delicate fingers tipped by a long fingernail and encircled by a ring made of tiny purple flowers.


There's a sound of a young woman waking from a slumber as the fingers latch onto the upper crust of the pumpkin shell, gripping firmly to pull its owner up. A second arm appears, fingers similarly adorned, draping over the side of the shell, then a raven-black crown dressed in a thorny wooden tiara, midnight black hair spilling down in straight tresses - and finally, the visage: an exquisite, pale face with silver eyes and rose-red lips. The woman looks as though she can't be much older than her early twenties - and despite looking ever-so-slightly wrecked, she seems to wear the disheveled look with aplomb. As she heaves herself sleepily up over the pumpkin's crest, it becomes apparent that the young lady is in a disrobed state, modesty barely preserved by the pumpkin itself as she slumps against it - and what can be seen of her upper body is covered in fading pink scratch marks and stains of ichorous red and bilious green.

Strangely, she still manages to smell of roses.

"Could you try and keep quiet, old man? I'm trying to sleep..."


"I am sorry!" Matthias seems to almost supernaturally capable of keeping his gaze averted. It is a skill honed from a lifetime at the Podiebrad Manor, where you had the freedom to go anywhere in the manor grounds, but always had to be wary of a brother, father, sister, uncle, cousin, aunt, really any relation you could imagine being in a state of undress and embarrassment, that quickly required you to ignore it. The strange lady was no different; as lovely as she was, Matthias was interrupting her sleep! And as unusual looking she was, in the brief glimpse, well, there are all kinds in god's creation, especially at this castle. He blushes, as he averts his gaze.

"I should have announced myself better!"

Looking at his feet, he announces himself. "I am Matthias von Podiebrad, the Head Caretaker and Spiritual Leader of the House of Podiebrad!" Matthias was very honest, as he turns his back away from the pumpkin shell, bringing his hands behind his back timidly. "I am looking for the beautiful roses of Castle Alucard, and even some of the wonderful tea shrubs as well. I like them very much, and they are very rare. I will be looking around here, I will try to be very quiet, and let you sleep. Again, I am very sorry!" He looks around the interior of the greenhouse, shaking his head distantly. "I had thought there would be some in this greenhouse, but..." He trails off, keeping his back to the strange lady out of respect of her modesty, and a general trust with strangers.

"Are there only pumpkins in here?"

The dozy dark-haired damsel doesn't seem to be particularly distressed by the wanderings of Matthias' eyes, whether they be hither or thither. As her eyes seem to gain focus, they rest half-lidded upon the Podiebrad priest, seeming to take him in with only the faintest of interest. A floral fragrance wafts through the air from the young lady, overpowering the scent of decay and pumpkins with a much more pleasant, natural aroma. Her lips press together like petals as the priest expounds on his intents. He isn't being quiet, like she'd asked him to, politely, even though he was - is he a peasant? At the very least, a foreigner, and therefore a valid target for her derision. Mayhaps he'd be more silent with her tendrils around his throat, she thinks, propping her cheeks up with her knuckles and leaning against the shell as the vines that were retreating start to slither silently down toward Matthias' turned back...

It is perhaps only Matthias' fondness for flowers that spares him a nasty fate.

"Well, there is one Rose here, at least," the lady says in a languorous tone as the tendrils hold themselves at bay, lacing together like two hands in contemplation. "And enough pumpkins mashed to feed a worthier garden for a fortnight. What do you want these roses and shrubs for? Roses are delicate things, and they don't like being mishandled."

"Oh! There is?!"

Matthias perks up, looking around a bit as the intoxicating aroma fills around him. He keeps his gaze away, trusting with his back turned. Folding his hands together, he begins to slump. "Oh, but if you know of one rose, and... of gardening. You must be interested in plants too!" Matthias says with an air of communal joy. And then, it slumps away. "But if there is only one... I won't take it from you." He sighs a bit, but not a mournful sigh, but one of acceptance. "There will be another Rosalia, I hope. Maybe I can use fix this place before I go... I did not answer your question! I am sorry. My mind is not very good. I forget things." He bows away from the creature.

"I do gardening at the Podiebrad Manor!"

His spirits liift a bit, as he considers all he could do. "It is good to grow vegetables and fruits, because they are very tasty. And grapes make good wine! Herbs are good in cooking, and tea is good for calming you down! And flowers are the most beautiful to look at." He looks a little bit more sad at that last one. "A bad man came to destroy my flowers, and he took the Patriarch away. I am afraid for him, we had come with him, but his soul is sick. I hope Miss Alucard..." He trails off, unsure.

"... I worry she is going to be angry at me."

A girlish giggle comes from behind Matthias at his reaction to the revelation of the rose.

"You won't find the Rose looking that way, silly man~"

The raven-haired beauty stretches her arms above her head before brushing her fingers along the locks behind her tiara, causing a previously concealed red rosebud to bloom into sight in her hair - though the spectacle may go unobserved by the caretaker as he keeps his gaze off of her. The vines start to slide with a slurping sound back up the pumpkin as the lady clambers over the pumpkin shell, one leg, then the other - before dropping down to the greenhouse floor behind Matthias. The tips of the tendrils could only just be seen if he were to look - disappearing hideously into splits in the skin that vanish moments later. There's a brief window of impropriety - claw marks of varying severity across the pale body hinting at what may have became of her clothing - before the form of the woman starts to sprout with greenery, restoring modesty in the fashion of Eden as criss-crossing leafy vines spread across her body, covering her from chest to thighs.

Depending on if and when Matthias decides to turn, he may be greeted by a very different view - horror, beauty or life; it is nature in any of its forms.

"I reckon the monsters have the run of this place. No proper gardener would have so dear a need for pumpkins - or let their produce fall into this state."

The green-clad lady starts to circle around Matthias, trying to meet his eyes with her own silvery orbs.

"You seem like a tolerable sort. If you'd like to have a go of restoring this garden, then mayhap I can offer you aid - and mayhap we can find these roses of yours."

She twitches her nose a little.

"I'm not sure what this 'tea' you're speaking of is."

A strange claim - considering that the woman's accent seems to be caught somewhere between London and Northumberland, and tea is practically the national pastime of England.

Matthias does not find it unusual she does not know what tea is!

He doesn't know how to properly ask if she is dressed, or not. So when she comes around to meet his eyes, his cheeks turn a little red, though he absolutely relaxes now that she is decent. More decent. Strange and alluring in appearance, but that's not unusual in the House of Podiebrad either. "You look as pretty as a rose yourself!" Matthias states brightly. He does not seem disturbed by the alien appearance of this woman. But when she talks about monsters, he nods along. "Then it is good that we should work! We can find more roses after we clear it out! And if we do not, then it can be cleared to grow in next year!" The caretaker's vernacular was stilted and stiff, with his own accent slipping through. He stretches a hand out.

There is a surge of indigo light.

It is a blazing tool of pure soul energy, the force of it an extension of the will of the House of Podiebrad. What the monk shapes it into is a rake. The long tendrils flicker and flash indigo motes at the teeth of the rake, and Matthias grips the handle of it. With great heaves, he begins to clear away the pumpkin remains with the force of ten or twenty men. "I don't know very much about tea, either. But they have leaves that you can stew in very hot water. When you drink the water, it tastes very good. I like it with milk!" Matthias explains as he works hard and diligently, clearing away the vines and debris in the middle, stacking it in a heap. He holds up a single piece of something from the heap.

"What do you think we should do with the seeds?"

Matthias' flattery seems to be well-placed and well-executed; the black-haired Eve's rosy lips curve into a smile at his choice of compliment. It may be low-hanging fruit, but the leaf-clad lady seems pleased by his decision to pluck it. Her expression returns to its more alien coolness at his further words, though it remains soft.

"I don't like to work," she says with a straightforward petulance as the caretaker prepares his own tool with which to do so. She observes passively with her silvery eyes as he begins to heave the remains aside, listening to his explanation of tea. Tiring of standing, she stoops and places a hand to one of the plants; as she does, a fresh gourd starts to swell from the tangled vines, growing from a fresh little thing to full size in seconds - then swelling further, till it's the perfect height.

"A sort of stew, then," she confirms to herself as she plops herself down on her new orange chair, letting her legs dangle over the sides. Her head cants to one side languidly as she gazes upon the caretaker's efforts, eyes flitting to the seed in his hands when he turns.

"There are far too many here; such ugly things belong in a serf's field. You may take them if you wish; I think I'll satisfy myself to keep one, as a curiousity."

She holds her hand out expectantly, apparently too preoccupied with her lounging to find one herself.

"Are you a lord's servant, then?"

As Matthias has been shoveling, what looks like a large, strange bell-capped plant lying limp on the floor is revealed - only to start to prop itself upright at the intrusion. At its full height, it's over six feet; a strange pistil hangs from its flower like a tongue glistening with drool as it rises up to loom over Matthias.

"Oh, Wendell! There you are~" the strange woman addresses the plant like a personal hound.

For Matthias, it was flattery, it was just stating the obvious!

"At my house, all my family doesn't like to work." Matthias admits, as he studies the pumpkin seed. "You sound an awful lot like them. You must be a noble too!" He states, dimly understanding only pieces of it. "But little things in life are important. If there were no servants, then the nobles would have to turn on each other to make them!" There was a rather sharp edge to that comment, and Matthias quickly adds to it. "That's what my father would say. I will be happy to take these pumpkin seeds!" He quickly pockets the seed. "Pumpkins make for very good pies, so Zsa Zsa will be pleased!" He whispers a bit, as he toddles over, raking the great slurry with powerful pulls. "I think she has a girlfriend! I hope she finds someone that will make her happy, that also treats her like a human be-"

He looks up at the plant, with big eyes.

For a moment, he readies his rake, just in case it snaps at him. But when the nice lady gives it a name, he relaxes a bit. "Wendell!" He says, like one would talk to a particularly sloopy pug. "What a handsome plant! Oh, sorry for being so frightened. These plants have given me trouble before! Sometimes they can even spit things at you! Sometimes seeds, sometimes poison, sometimes even fire!" He tilts his head at it. "This looks awfully healthy-" And he gasps.

"Oh, except for his stem here."

"Oh dear!" He coos, touching the stem of the giant plant tenderly. "Look at the cottony mess here." He gestures to what looks like a little bit of cotton on it. "Mealybugs! You have little scale bugs Wendel! Oh and they must be sucking your juices up, and attracting ants!" "Has Wendell been getting too much nitrogen, water, and food?" He asks innocently, rubbing the lip of the great plant softly. "Mealybugs like plants with lots of nitrogen, it makes them very sweet! Too much fertilizer can do that... There are good creatures that can help eat them too..."

"Have you tried encouraging healthy insects on him?"

"Oh, yes," the lady says, folding her hands over her knee as she folds it in turn over her other knee and sitting up straighter, seeming encouraged by the caretaker's recognition of her nobility even if it implied certain traits about her that could be considered negative. "I am Lady Briar Rose Blackthorne. My father legitimized me, even though my mother was a servant. He liked me better than his wife's children." The woman has a self-assured air as she makes her declaration. "Which is probably just as well. I suspect they're all food for mealybugs now." The thought brings a smug smile to Briar's rosy lips.

It's a smile that quickly disappears.

"Oh, Wendell! Has he got bugs in him?"

This is enough to get Lady Blackthorne off of her leafy backside, approaching the plant and caretaker on dainty feet. She leans and cranes to get a better view of the plant's problem. The plant, meanwhile, seems to bob a little as if on an invisible breeze, or like a panting dog - an image aided by the tongue-like extrusion that hangs dripping some sort of secretion from its bell. Briar runs her own fingertips over the plant's stem.

"What if I just bathed him in a bit of poison? Not poisonous to plants, mind you - only to bugs.

The dark-haired woman looks thoughtful for a moment.

"And animals."

Another beat passes.

"And people, I suppose."

As she explains her family, the monk listens carefully.

He doesn't interrupt, slowly mulling in his thoughts as he pets the plant, studying it with careful eyes. When she reaches the end with poison, he doesn't respond immediately, still slowly thinking through it. And finally, he responds. "My father felt that way too with his bastards. Oh, I am sorry." Matthias says suddenly. "In our House, we call the children who are born out of a church wedding a bastard. It is there title. It's not a very nice title. But my father, Aurel von Podiebrad, loved many of his children, even his illegitimate ones. Especially his daughters." "He would bounce them in his lap, pinch their cheeks, and stroke their hair. I think father always thought better of his daughters than the boys. He loved us too, but it was always so different..." Matthias squints and frowns a moment. And then, he eyes go wide.

"No no, you musn't use poison!"

Whether he was changing the topic on purpose or not isn't clear, but he looks to Briar Rose, with the utmost seriousness. "Poison goes into the plants, into the soil. Insects learn to live with it, and then they become poisonous! The birds and animals that eat the bugs will get sick, and the bad bugs no longer get sick from poison, and it ruins the land." He explains, as he scratches the stem, focusing hard. It's slow, diligent work, but every little scale bug is peeled away. "Poison may be easy to use, but it does not replace hard work not harmony with all creatures of the garden." He places the mealybugs on some pumpkin. "They should be much happier there than on you!" He wipes his hands clean.

"Is your daddy still around?"

Briar Rose lets Matthias meander through his recounting of his tale of Aurel von Podiebrad. She seems less interested in the talk of the father than in the condition of her pet; there is little recognition of the sort of relationship that Matthias describes shown. She turns her eyes to him when he reacts to her poisonous proposition.

"If they learn to live with one poison, there are ever so many more to use," she says with a miffed, pouting tone. "I can always devise a new one - and little enough that it shan't rest long in the soil!"

Perhaps the plant-clothed lady simply really likes poison - she seems almost fretful of Matthias' condemnation of the strategy, fingers lacing together and wringing. When Matthias scrapes away the scale bugs and relocates them, she looks slightly relieved.

"Is that better, Wendell?" she asks the plant.

The bell of the plant turns toward Briar, bobbing animatedly, fluid trickling faster down the tongue-like protrusion as if the hound were excited.

Briar claps her hands together with delight.

"Oh! He says that he feels much better!"

As if in conformation of her claim, Wendell's roots pull up from the soil - revealing a trio of root pods that start to shuffle slowly to one side like a set of stumpy legs.

"What a good boy," Lady Blackthorne praises, "Lady Alucard was right about you."

She turns to Matthias, breaking out of her distraction.

"Daddy? Still around?"

She looks up at the roof of the greenhouse, frowning.

"I don't know. I suppose that Lady Alucard referred to him as the 'late' Lord Blackthorne - and she said she has a secret to confide regarding him - but I failed in her quest, and I suppose it shall be cruelly kept from me."

Briar Rose lowers her hed with a dejected sigh as she clasps her hands below her waist.

"Father never bounced me on his lap or pinched my cheeks - but he spoke kindly to me, as he never did to the rest. He let me join him in his laboratory when he played question games with the faeries and wolves."

Matthias pats Wendell gently, pleased with his improvement.

He doesn't say anything though, at the comment of Lady Alucard. There was just so much to think about, that he had to carefully think about every thing. He knew what his intuition was telling him. But he didn't know what it meant. Especially with the talk of all the poison. And her father. Matthias quietly begins to continue his raking. He makes sure to not hurt any of Wendell roots, and not bump him or scrape him! And after a moment, with him working hard to clean the floor of the greenhouse, he begins to speak.

"That reminds me of something that happened to me."

"There was a girl who was very concerned about how her family felt about her. Especially her father. It happens a lot, because people are so close, that it hurts sometimes, when it doesn't feel close. She was afraid because father wasn't paying attention to her anymore. Father would be like that, eventually he would focus on someone else. Maybe he wants to have a new wife, maybe he wants to have new sons and daughters. It's normal, but it doesn't change how people feel about it. It really hurts, and father never found a way to make that transition not hurt. And she felt so strongly about it, that she wanted to die. To kill herself, which is a sin before god. Because it hurt so much. I had to help her. Her feelings were real, and the pain she was suffering was real."

"But the time they spent together was real, and special."

"That is what I told her. Fathers all show affection in different ways. You can tell when you have special attention from them, just like you can tell when you don't. And you can tell when other people are making him take it away from you. It doesn't change how much they love you, and how strongly they cared for you. And caring for you is part of preparing you for when you grow up. You love plants a lot, so he must have done a very good job of loving you. He wanted you to learn and grow into someone special, and someone important. And that person was Lady Briar Rose Blackthorne, the keeper of the family name!" Matthias smiles calmly.

"And I think you'll find out the secret sooner than later!"

Matthias continues to bring the rake along, working even more diligently than before. "I think that Lady Alucard likes to play tricks on people. I think she will tell you, after she has her fun. The others in the house don't think she is very nice, but I think she is very nice. She just likes to play tricks. She doesn't like to hurt people. Bela von- I mean, the Patriarch felt like she was not inviting him on purpose, but that would hurt too much. It must have gotten lost in the mail. That's why I let him share my invitation." He steadies the energy rake to his side, and let it dissipate. In his slow, steady talking, the entire atrium of the greenhouse floor was cleared of pumpkin, heaped into piles. He wasn't smiling a lot, only a little bit, as he looks over the results of his work.

"I'm worried that I made a mistake when I did that."

The leafy lady's head lifts as she listens to Matthias' tale, and she returns to her pumpkin perch with her triffid in tow. Wendell drapes its 'head' across Lady Blackthorne's lap as the caretaker works, and its mistress strokes the long stalk idly. She takes in the story with a distant look as her final memories of her father before her long slumber sink in. Of the faerie, and the way it screamed... screamed, and cursed...

A wistful look lingers in the glossy silver gaze of the Rose Lady by the time that Matthias finishes; the mention of her name seems to draw her out of her waking dream, pulling her lips once more into a smile - albeit one tinged with sadness; a genuine depth of emotion. A teardrop rolls down her cheek; an unnatural, blackish-purple bead that's wiped away with the back of a hand a moment later.

"I like to play tricks sometimes, too. Especially on naughty and unkind people. I don't think that you're naughty or unkind, though."

Briar's eyes suddenly blink once as she takes in the greenhouse - and the great work that has been carried out by the caretaker in clearing away the hideous, bludgeoned pumpkins. The only one that remains is the one upon which she seats herself, freshly grown by her own hand. She claps her hands together.

"Oh, how wonderful! Now we can see whether the earth in here still holds any treasures for us."

Sliding back off of the great pumpkin, she rubs her hands together slowly, before dropping down to her hands and knees. She uses one long-nailed index finger to begin tracing lines and shapes in the dirt - trappings of rituals from olden times, already a fading memory when the Blackthorne pried and plied their secrets from witches and wood-monsters and other keepers of forbidden lore.

"I hope that I've learned Father's lessons well enough," Briar Rose says pleasantly as she takes one of her long nails and draws it across her own hand - opening the vessels of her own tainted blood, which trickles in discoloured rivulets into the center of her ritual symbol. She then places her hand on the soil, fingers splayed.

"And the words..."

The words aren't as important to the sorcery as might be believed, but she attempts to recount them - chanting in a dead language as she calls on the spark of mystical talent within her to begin shaping the life-forces of the greenhouse - and to see if they can be harnessed for this great undertaking.

The veins beneath Briar Rose's pale skin become green and visible as she begins her invocation. It is necromancy, of a sort, but more pure; dead plants can carry the potential for life, and if there is potential for life in the soil of the greenhouse, and the ritual is allowed, then life will bloom forth - wilder and more abundant than before.

"Oh!" Matthias speaks up with wonderment, as Briar Rose begins her rites. Rather than be offended by the witchcraft, he brushes his hands clean, smiling a bit from his morose pit. Maybe it was the words of encouragement, and he was just slow. Or maybe it was the opportunity of hard work and cooperation. "You know magic too! When I was younger, I sometimes would use magic like that for the plants. I do not like it as much now, because I like following the natural way." He moves besides Briar Rose, syncing up himself with the woman in breath and motion. "It is the cycle of life and death, as plants will die, and will grow new plants later. It is good to give happiness and joy, and it is godly to appreciate the fruits of creation." He spreads his arms apart, widening his stance. Indigo motes surge around, as the ritual is tempered by Matthias's own power. Less finesse, far less finesse, but a direct grip on the very essence of life and death. And from there, past rites and rituals, he almost can directly seize and place the life essence around with the same toil as his work with the planters. That sadness seeps in, however, as he works with Briar Rose.

"I said that to the bad man, who destroyed my garden."

For someone who listens to people who are distressed, it seem that Matthias had trouble finding people to listen to his distress. He doesn't become distracted as he works, but it's impossible to hide his sadness. "I am afraid I let him in here. I think he did bad magic to the Patriarch. He is a very evil person, who is part of an even more evil demon. I can see the good and evil in people, like light and color. There are very bad people with very good souls, and very good people with very evil souls. But this was a demon. He was a Satan, and he frightened me. I think he wanted to use my half-brother to come here... And I think he succeeded." There is a great unease around him. For a moment, it seems he might skip and stumble in the ritual. He grips quickly, correcting himself.

"But it's so hard to think sometimes, especially for someone as slow as me!"

There's a little frown from Briar when the caretaker joins in with her ritual. Her dark and delicate brows furrow as she chants her incantation, a green glow starting to emanate from her roving palms, through the channels that she's created in the dirt. A space arrives in the ritual where her chanting can be suspended, and she takes the opportunity to chide Matthias:

"Be careful. If you break my concentration, you'll ruin it."

It's a simple reprimand, and a statement perhaps less true than she believes it to be - one that smacks of a master speaking to an apprentice, or perhaps the sort that a parent might give to a child.

The ritual holds, though. As Matthias speaks about a bad man destroying his garden, describing the stranger at length, the silver eyes glaze with meditative focus. The words are allowed to enter, but the sorrow does not penetrate. It reminds her of the words of a priest who denounced her father with a fiery sermon, claiming that he was a servant of the devil, and how he would be judged and found wanting at his reckoning. She can still remember the way that the priest railed and ranted even as the noose was draped around his neck.

She can still remember the sound of his neck when it cracked.

Most of them didn't crack. They just turned purple and struggled till they couldn't anymore.

Her father liked the priest.


Throughout the greenhouse, the soil begins to quake and shudder as it gives birth, tiny verdant tendrils cracking through the surface like a thousand squirming maggots.

Then comes the shrieking.

Something else is stirred by the ritual. Hundreds of souls, bound with another form of magic, cry out in torment at the clash, as if an alarm has been triggered by an intruder.

"Oh, dear. What a mess."

At first, Lady Blackthorne seems mildly dismayed, but as the sproutlings' continued rapid growth is accompanied by renewed sounds of pain, her expression becomes angered and distressed.

"Oh, stop it! Stop it! You'll make a shambles of it!"

The plants continue to grow and begin to express their individual natures, budding and leafing and burying their roots into the earth, but toward the centre of the garden, a mass of mottled greenery seems to writhe and swell like a festering boil. Agonized faces seem to appear and disappear in the rumbling, rampant mass as the rituals intersect.

"Someone has been terribly untidy here!" Briar Rose declares, perplexed by the vexatious hex.

Matthias begins to see what was happening

"This is..." Matthias says dimly. "... This is a bad thing!" He declares. Was he going to blame Briar Rose? Was he going to turn on her? "These should not be here!" The caretaker's insights were astounding sometimes. But as they come up, he changes his stance. Where before he was moving around the souls, he was shaping a deep furrow. He wasn't trying to build the plants up anymore. He was opening a chasm, and funneling them. The souls, once pouring into the plants, were now being pulled from them. There is a great shudder, a great howl and churning.

And they begin to draw away.

Matthias groans awfully, as the agonized souls are drawn away, drained away within him. The harrowing spirits pour into Matthias, pour into the caretaker. He writhes and struggles, the soul's agony becoming his own. But in drawing them, the energy to grow the plants were... were being sapped away. It was absolutely disrupting the ritual now, and breaking the cycle of growth and rebirth. Matthias moans, as the sea of anguish is finally drawn within, sucked away from the greenhouse.

And the place seems a bit brighter now.

"There was evil magic here!" Matthias states matter of factly, as he refuses to move. "They are all hurt, and sad. Souls should not be angry! They are not peaceful! I am taking them away, putting them far away." Matthias tightens his hands, clenching them into fists a moment, before bringing his palms together into a prayer position. "I am sorry! Please forgive me!" He falls to his knees, body shuddering. Was he speaking to Briar Rose?

Or was he speaking to the souls themselves?

The cacophony of souls causes the lady dressed in leaves to eventually cover her head and ears with her arms as Matthias steps in to take charge of the chaotic, macabre turn that the ritual magicks have taken. From her shoulders sprout a pair of slick, tentacle-like green vines, each covered in thorns - flailing in a defensive reflex, each latching onto bars of metal overhead and wrenching with outpoured distress.

At the same time, the disruption of the ritual is taking a horrible toll on the plants at they grow - some start to wither and wilt, the vibrant colours that their buds promised fading, while others grow and distend and warp beyond what their roots and stalks can handle, leaving them disfigured and stooped. The writhing mass in the middle surges for a moment into what appears to be some nearly-humanoid, shambling monstrosity - before collapsing in on itself as the souls that were animating it are sucked away, leaving a pile of vines and roots that might be compared to a heap of dead worms.

Briar Rose's grey eyes finally open as the sound stops.

As she beholds the misshapen mockery of what her ritual promised, she bellows with rage, her vine-tentacles twisting and pulling at the rusted metal until it bends and snaps, pulling down stretches of catwalk and reducing them to scrap metal.

"Ruined! Ruined, ruined, ruined!"

The rusted hulks of metal go flying, one after enough, landing and squashing two of the thorny dryad's mutant offspring.

"Why did you ruin it?! All these children, so ugly and useless!"

Briar Rose turns on Matthias as her own hideous truth is revealed, her face's enchanting beauty marred by a furious, scorned expression.

"You tricked me, old man! Made me think you weren't just another pest like the others! Then, you ruined my spell! How dare you?!"

Ruined, ruined, ruined.

Matthias was not a man who didn't know that phrase. He was all too aware of it. As he kneels and clasps his hands together, he works hard to stifle the angry souls within. The rage of the woman. "I have no malice in it." He pleads, as he brings his forehead to the earth below. As the horrible sounds burst around, he keeps himself focused in spite of his fear. He did what was good, wasn't it? But the nice lady was not so nice now. Peering up, he looks at that visage. It was horrifying. It was all horrifying. He wanted to roll over.

But he would not release those souls again.

"Plants created with hateful spirits will hold hatred in them, and will pass on that hatred to others!" He states, the wrath of Briar Rose pouring over him, drowning him in it. The anger around him. The howling anger within. And yet, he drops his head once again into a bow, his whole form prostate. "Broken spirits must be calmed and healed! They must become whole again. To use those souls will only harm those plants. Please. A complete life makes a complete life." He keeps his head down, unable to rise himself up at Briar Rose. Instead, he cups his hands before him, palms down. Tears were coming down his cheeks, the pain too much to confine within, as he openly weeps. "Please. Please look and see."

"I beg you to see!"

Two more bramble-tentacles sprout forth from Lady Blackthorne's spine, thrashing and snatching at the artificial elements of the scenery. More plants are crushed, others uprooted by the yanking vines as the green lady flails in her unholy tantrum. All that does not match her vision of perfection, it seems, must be sundered - even, as she calls them, her own 'children.'

The fragrance that rises off of Briar Rose, however, is increasingly potent in its pleasantness, in strange contrast to her violent outburst - pores that might have once released sweat instead exude a natural perfume. And as Briar Rose's fury is spent, her back turned to Matthias, the tension drains from her, shoulders sinking, her midnight-hued hair drifting back into place.

She starts to sob.

The vines cease their lashing and instead burrow into the soil, a strange suctioning sound audible as one by one, the broken and unsightly plants are pulled back into the ground. Bulges run through the thick vines as soil and seeds are drawn into the once-human dryad. The tentacles lift and strike at the soil again and again, apparently intent on absorbing the seed of each and every plant. Whether they are being subsumed or safe-kept is uncertain as green teardrops fall to the floor.

"It is I who should apologize," Briar Rose says softly, her back still turned.

Matthias keeps himself kneeled over.

He doesn't lash out. He wasn't even angry at her. ANd when she cries, he feels that same sadness in his heart. And she wanted to apologize? No. He is quiet, as he squeezes it all into a tight, small ball. And he pushes to the ground. He begins to rise up. The hateful souls were gone. But he was sweaty, very sick looking. The aroma was even stronger now; were they overpowering his senses in his weakened state? He trembles, as he breaths hard, keeping his eyes down, speaking to the woman's back. "You are upset, because you love what you make. You love plants and nature, whether good or bad. You do not need to be sorry. You should not be sorry to feel angry. But..." He gestures to the ground.

"Come see."

It's only a little sprout. A little green sprout, with two little leaves. Hardly the grandiose of the vast range of creation that Briar Rose was leveraging. But the plant had all the souls, the toxic, hateful souls in it. But the souls were clean now. Pure. At peace. It was only a single plant. It wasn't clear what it would grow into. But with time, love, and care, it would grow. The cycle of life and death.

"Please understand..."

The last of the seedlings are sucked from the soil, and the tentacles slither and slurp their way back into Briar Rose's flesh, the gaps in the skin sealing over without so much as scars.

'Come see.'

The raven-haired woman turns, a sadness in her glistening silver eyes. She lifts an arm, wiping the green streaks from her cheeks as she sniffles. She approaches, slowly, the noble grace of her legs slowly returning as her eyes settle on the sprout, arms held down at her sides with fingers extended as if in curtsey. She bends down, and as she takes in the sight, her rosy lips curve into a smile, the hideous rage and sorrow lifting from her visage as she stoops fetchingly, delight radiating from her features.

"Oh, how beautiful!"

Her hands ball against each other beneath her chin as she leans in.

"Oh, I am ever so sorry! I hope you will forgive me~"

She reaches her hands down, palms opening upturned, as if to accept the offering - but there is something in the palms; a pink, powdery and aromatic pile of spores that weren't there before. And with a puff of her cheeks, Briar Rose blows the sleep-inducing spores at the kneeling caretaker's face.

Against most humans, it would take seconds to induce unconsciousness; a fighter's will might reduce the effects to a pleasant daze, if inhaled, though the effect might be more difficult to resist in the caretaker's current state.

"But I am in terrible need of a good gardener."

Her hands reach out delicately for the ensoulled sproutling.

Matthias, for a moment, believes that she can finally see as he can see.

As she looks at the sproutling, the deacon smiles a broad, simple smile. He felt dizzy, the strange aromas bewitching his senses. But he is hopeful. He is always hopeful. As she states it beauty, he brings his hands together. And then, she says she is sorry again. He shakes his head. "But you don't need to be sorry. You don't need to-"

And the powder is blown into his face.

"No." Was his response. It was such a small response. So quiet, so little. So meek. The world, the crushed and damaged greenhouse spins around. "No... I musn't... my family..." Matthias's will is strong. It is very strong. But the poison is strong too. He stumbles, falling into Briar Rose. Does he fight her? No, his grip slips, as he sinks to the ground. Curling up into a ball, he falls into a slumber. The sproutling is hers. It is all hers. It is small.

But it would be a second prize for her journey to the Rosalia.

"Look, Wendell - a little baby brother," Briar says to the tripod as it shuffles up to lean its bell over her shoulder, turning the sproutling cradled in her hands to the flower and showing it to him. "Take care of him - mummy needs to carry the nice man."

The infant plant is placed on Wendell's back, and a green tinge starts to spread up Briar's arms from the fingertips and her legs from the toes as her skin takes on a plant=like texture, hardening to fortify her against the burden she is about to bear as she bends down and lifts Matthias up and over her shoulder.

"Now, Wendell = whither shall we roam?"

Matthias is certainly a heavy man, being as large as he is.

But as he is captured by the Briar Rose, there is no one here to save him. No one to stop it; least of all himself. The greenhouse was almost cleaned up, not restored. His bag, meant for bundles of roses and tea leaves, is left behind. Old relics of what was his old life, into the new one that his captor would take him. Wasn't Rachel supposed to be protecting the guests? Wasn't she watching, ready to intervene. There is no response, no sign of it.

Only a building sound of an organ playing in the distance, far away from the activities of the castle grounds.

Log created on 09:48:21 07/08/2021 by Jezebel, and last modified on 22:29:01 07/14/2021.