This month I saw an opportunity to write about The Gardener again. This is kind of an origin story of sorts. I hope you like of it. I’m quite pleased with it.
You can see the stimulus for this month here.
Testing The Gardener.
A dim orange light gleamed through the high window of the long curving hall. Nestled at the desk sat a golden skinned boy, his red eyes glowing as he tended to a small pot plant. The glassy leaves bounced the afternoon light around the hall adding colour to his smokey grey vestments. In the distance heavy boots clicked against the stone floor, with the occasional tapping of steel cutting through the other sounds of the institute. The footsteps drew closer and their purpose became clear as they cut off behind the boy.
“I am Gal’rah. You are to come with me.” Her voice had weight to it, a burden. The gilded boy turned his shaved head away from his fragile plant.
“Am I to receive a name and posting at last?” The words were out of place, to hard edged for such a tender voice.
The woman towered over him as she stood motionless. Clad in heavy brown robes with thin segmented armour half concealed beneath. A staff of black and gold metal in one hand studded with orbs of rainbow glass. She breathed slowly through yellow and blue mask, the visage of some alien predator. Letting the boys words linger in the space about them. Before speaking she sucked her teeth, a sharp click resounding through the halls.
“You will be tested. A name may come later foundling.” She reached out with her staff, pressing it lightly to his back, before tracing it across his shoulders.
A click again, then words; lighter this time. “Bring the plant Gardener.”
They marched through the stone and iron halls spiralling towards the centre of their monastic home. As the atrium drew ever closer the halls began to clog with gray robbed youngsters, and teachers clad in blue. Their faces were all human, though some had silver skin, or glowing pink eyes; strange permutations and variances of colour. The giant mosaic glass doors that usually sealed the atrium stood wide open. Inside a choir of people dressed similarly to Gal’rah, but holding white staves. The doors sealed shut behind the boy as he stepped into the large central chamber. A spiraling room of sleek timber open to an orange sky, and the middle a stone dais inlayed with rainbow glass.
Gal’rah paused, for a moment before gently pulling the pot plant out of the hands of the boy. It’s glass leaves and steely stem swayed in the slight wind of the atrium.
“I am impressed that you have cultivated this. Such a plant would normally die outside it’s own ‘verse.” The weight in her persona returned as she passed the plant to an attendant.
“I’m not sure your botany will help you in this life, but I have faith. You are only the second child from your earth to be accepted by the institute.” She paused, waiting for the child to say something. He stood silent, weary. His grey garb hanging from his tiny frame.
The giant woman reached up with a metal wrapped hand pulling her mask away to reveal red eyes sunk into hagged golden skin. The young gardener stood mouth a gap.
“I will not show favoritism, but I’ll also not stack the game against you.” She held something back as she motioned towards the platform in the centre of the complex.
The crowd parted as he climbed the dais, a low hum stretched through the space. Once he reach the centre a group on the edge of the room, welding yellow and black staves began to speak as one.
OUR PATH IS NOT TO INTERFERE, IT IS TO OBSERVE.
OUR HOME IS A FORGOTTEN EARTH.
OUR RECRUITS ARE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN.
OUR NAMES ARE NOT OUR OWN.
OUR LIVES BELONG TO THE INSTITUTE.
OUR ATTACHMENTS ARE HERE.
OUR LOVED ONES ARE HERE.
OUR FAMILY IS HERE.
An old man stepped out of the throng, draping the boy in a heavy grey cloak, before hand the kid a spear. At its head was a crescent of bronze, and balanced in the negative space; a single red glass orb.
Gal’rah beat her staff on the floor three times before speaking.
“This is your test. Your staff is incomplete. It can only channel this world and another. We will send you there. You must return here.” Her dense voice reverbed around the hall as she nodded towards the old man. And he jammed a needle into the boy’s chest, forcing dull purple fluid in his flesh.
It burned and tickled as it surged and itched its way through his system. He tried to stay standing but his legs buckled, and his back bent.
On the edge of his perception cloudy and echoed he heard Gal’rah speak to him.
“This tracer will bind to every cell in your body. every molecule, every atom, every part of you.”
He could feel his fingers trying to bend back on themselves. He tried to clutch at the staff he’d dropped but could barely control his arms.
“…It will stay with you for all eternity. It will allow you to push the energy of the staff through your body, and let your comrades track you through the multiverse.”
The fire burning behind his eyes was too much. He screamed out till he felt like his throat would bleed. The crowd of indifferent faces stood stoically and watched.
She waited till the screaming had stopped. “…When you die the tracer will bring you home to your brothers and sisters.”
The pain still lingered as the old man left the dais, and the throng of robbed figures shuffled back. His hand finally found the staff as light began to shine from the ground beneath.
“If you die child, know that your name is Siorus.” Was the last thing he heard before the room disappeared in a shower of rainbow light.