|Summary:||Saffron tells the story of the Rose.|
|May 17 289|
Once upon a time, not so long ago, when Winter had fallen over the Kingdoms, a woman came upon a garden. It had wilted and withered in the cold — a frost-covered skeleton of what had been a beautiful expanse of roses, junipers, and carpets of clover. The snows had freshly come, spreading a blanket of white over the barren soil. Something amongst the dead called to her, something that she felt deep within her bones and heard through the still, wintry air. Unable to resist the call, she stepped into the garden.
She followed the call all through the clumps of decrepit flora until she happened upon something strange. There, surrounded by a ring of stone cobbles, was a rosebush. Its leaves were as dark as evergreen and blooms as red as blood; they glistened with dew, further defying the Winter and speaking of a Summer long forgotten. She approached it, though in caution. What could have caused these beautiful things to grow while the world around them died, she wondered. She also wondered that if perhaps she was dreaming. She knew she must touch them to find out their truth, and as her fingers reached out to the first of the red blossoms, a figure appeared at the corner of her eye.
Startled, she turned suddenly. Standing there in the snow, bare of foot and more beautiful than dawn itself, was a Lady. Her hair was as golden as sunkissed wheat, her eyes as bright as a Summer's day; she wore a gown that looked to be woven out of the sunrise itself. The woman was startled by the sight, dropping a knee into the snow both in surprise and reverence.
"You honor me," the Lady said, and she smiled to the woman as she stepped forward. "But, please… rise."
The woman did, her eyes still wide and mouth gaped. It took her a few moments before she could finally speak. "My Lady," she whispered, "I am sorry, I did not mean to trespass."
"You didn't," the Lady said. "I asked you here. I was the one who called. I have seen you, walking each day. There is something you seek."
The woman nodded, her hands coming to her heart. "I seek answers, My Lady," she said in a desperate voice. "I am torn… between love and duty."
The Lady continued to smile. "Yes, between the man you love, and the man you are promised to marry. One woman, two men. You wish to know which one to choose."
"Do I even have a choice?" The woman implored. "To choose love means to break a promise, and what will I pay for that sin?"
The Lady stepped forward to the evergreen bush, plucking from it one of those red, red roses. The Lady offered it to the woman, saying, "One rose, one life… around the center, many petals. Each petal is a choice we make, and once we make it, once we pluck it from the bud, we cannot reverse it. However," the Lady said, raising one finger. "I give you a chance, my dear… to see where either choice will take you. All you must do, is pluck a petal."
The woman looked down at the rose, with its fullness of petals and radiant life. So desperate she was to know which choice to make, to know which road to take, that she plucked the first of the petals. In a flash, visions passed over her eyes. She saw herself marrying the man she was promised to, she saw herself bearing him many children, and she loved each and every one of them; she saw herself finding happiness in hearth and family. She died as she brought the last of their children into the world, but oh the happiness she had known up to then. It brought tears to her eyes.
"That is just one choice," the Lady said as the woman's vision cleared. "Now, pluck the other and see what that choice will bring."
And so the woman did. Again, the visions danced before her. She saw herself running away with the man her heart so loved. They lived in poverty with little to eat day by day, and their children were fewer and smaller than those of her sisters. Her husband loved her well, filling the lack of prosperty with happiness. He would die too early, leaving her to mourn and wallow in his loss. She would live on much longer, becoming a maid at the keep ruled by her former betrothed. He would remember her as the woman he was meant to wed, and he would take her into his bed against his marriage vows. She would become his lover for years until she joined her husband in death.
"And now you see both," said the Lady once the woman opened her eyes once more. The woman had begun to cry, tears pouring down her soft, youthful cheeks. The Lady watched her for a moment before she tilted her head. "And why now do you cry, my dear? Did I not give you the answers you sought?"
"Yes," she said as she wept, "but, neither end in the happiness I seek."
"You do not live to seek happiness," the Lady of Summer said with little sympathy in her voice. "You live only to seek death, for all choices, no matter their path, always end in death."