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Green and Growing

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Gardening was the perfect way to pass one’s time. If the hobby seemed too mundane one could always spice it up with Deadly Nightshade or Invisible Dusk-Blooming Chokevines. Morwen, however, hardly cared whether her garden seemed mundane or not. Yes, she was proud of certain rare plants, but things like Lilies and Lilacs could be just as useful when concocting potions, and despite what her fellow witches claimed, every plant in her garden had a function.

Most were magical, some were medicinal, and others were used solely in cooking, baking, or cider-making, but everything had a use. Everything had a purpose. It was this that she fell back on whenever another witch criticized her garden, though she never said it out loud; it was more to help her keep her own composure, as criticizing someone else’s methods was sure to lead to a useless, nonsensical fight, no matter whether they began by criticizing her first. Ultimately, Morwen didn’t care about the thoughts of her fellow witches. Everything in her garden was meant to be there, and every plant had meaning, even if it only meant something to her.

***

When Morwen first settled in the Enchanted Forest, nothing had seemed willing to grow. It had been a good project for her, setting up her temporal and seasonal spells to allow plants to bloom no matter the time of the year, and it helped her from sinking into loneliness. She had always been independent, but being in the forest with few visitors, save for those who had problems that needed fixing, did bring about a feeling of isolation.

On a misty spring morning when she was tending to her Scorching Foxglove, her cat, Olive, approached her, looking rather put out. “There’s a dragon on the porch, Morwen. She’s blocking what little sun there is to be found.” he grumbled, clearly unimpressed at their surprise visitor. Morwen spared a brief thought to what could bring a dragon to her front step before she stood, brushing off her robes and walking into her library. She hadn’t quite perfected the spell on her door just yet, apparently; she had been trying to reach the kitchen. Morwen walked briskly through her library, into her kitchen, and out into the hallway that led to the front door, assuming that it would be rather unwise to leave a dragon waiting. After carefully sidestepping her second cat, Murgatroyd, she opened the door and looked up to meet her visitor’s eyes.

The dragon was of what Morwen believed to be medium height, with green scales of various shades and three horns crowning her head. “Welcome to my home, o dragon. If there is something you need, announce it, and I shall consider whether I can help in your affairs.” she recited, grateful that she had taken a course in the etiquette of various magical creatures. It was better to be formal with a dragon upon a first meeting than not. The dragon snorted, letting out a puff of smoke from her nostrils that made Morwen’s eyes water. “No need to be so formal. I heard you moved in from a witch near the Mountains of Morning, Aemilia. My name is Kazul.” she replied, and held out a large, clawed hand. Morwen took it, giving it a firm shake, and smiled. “My name is Morwen. Would you like to come in for tea?” she asked, stepping aside and letting Kazul enter her home. As she led her into the kitchen they passed Murgatroyd once again, and rather than scurry off, the sleepy kitten simply climbed onto Kazul’s tail and went back to sleep, which seemed to amuse the dragon to no end. Once they reached the kitchen, Morwen quickly cleared the table of the various scrolls and spellwork that she had been working on before she decided to deal with the Scorching Foxglove that had started spitting embers at the house the day before. “I would offer you cider, but I’m afraid my orchard has yet to adapt to the weather, even with the spells I use to help the trees adjust.” she said, turning to put her largest kettle over the fire and setting out a rather large earthenware mug. It would still be too small for Kazul, but it would at least be better than serving her tea in one of her smaller mugs.

“That’s a shame. I’m sure your cider is lovely. Perhaps the next time I visit you’ll have some?” Morwen barely held back a laugh at the plaintive tone in the dragon’s voice, setting a plate of apricot scones down on the table between them. “Perhaps. Is there anything I can help you with, Kazul? I appreciate the visit and the introduction, but it seems odd that you would travel all the way from the Mountains of Morning just to make a social call.” While her tone had been conversational, Kazul looked abashed for a moment before nodding. “Well, yes. I was hoping that you might have a copy of Torthen’s treatise on elemental magicks. No one else I’ve asked has had it, but Aemilia mentioned that you had the makings of an impressive library when she last visited you in Timbershire.” That was the explanation for her embarrassment, at least. Morwen had feared that asking a direct question regarding a dragon’s business was a grave offense. While she herself would consider such a thing to be nonsensical, she did try to accommodate the cultural and linguistic customs that belonged to different species.

“I might have it. I know I have his book on spell matrices used in elemental magic, but that focus is likely broader than what you are looking for.” she answered, turning as the kettle began to release a shrill whistle and preparing tea for both of them. She carried both mugs to the table, setting Kazul’s down in front of her and pushing the sugar and cream towards her. With her guest suitably taken care of, Morwen turned to her doorway, trying to remember where she had last seen the box that had contained Torthen’s works, and was pleased when the door opened to the library on her first try. Her mood immediately fell slightly as she eased into the room amid all of the many wooden crates that were covering every surface, most in stacks of two or three crates high. Morwen despised unnecessary mess and clutter, but she hadn’t yet worked out her new organizational system now that she had a much bigger space to work with, and she would rather deal with books in crates than having to move the entirety of her library multiple times before she was satisfied. She had learned from that mistake the last time she moved, and she had collected far fewer books then.

Thankfully she found the right crate after only a few minutes of searching, unearthing a lightly worn copy of the treatise that Kazul was looking for. Morwen carefully side-stepped the remaining crates on the floor and made her way back into the kitchen, pleased that her door cooperated with her once again. Kazul seemed to be enjoying the tea and the scones, given how few of them were left. “Here you are. I would like to ask that you be careful with it, it was a gift from a friend, and there are very few copies left.” she said, sitting back down in her chair and picking up her own mug of tea. Kazul gave her a toothy grin and gingerly picked up the book, setting it down beside her. “Thank you, I’ll make certain that no harm comes to it. Now, how are you enjoying the Enchanted Forest?” The question eased them into familiar conversational territory, and Morwen smiled. It had been far too long since she had company for tea.

By the time Kazul prepared to leave, the sun had finally broken through the mist, and Olive had taken up his customary spot on the railing of the front porch. Morwen carefully put together a basket for Kazul of baked goods and the book, which she handed to her on the front porch. Kazul took it, flashing her another toothy grin, before she stepped off the porch. “I’ll have it back to you in Autumn. Maybe then you’ll have some cider?” With that last parting question, she turned and took off at a quick pace through the forest. Olive opened one eye to peer after her, snorting quietly. “She seemed nice, for a dragon.” he purred, stretching out and letting the sun sink into his old bones. Morwen was inclined to agree. She stepped back into her cottage and slowly walked towards the kitchen. There was still so much to unpack and organize, but just when she began considering the merits of sitting down and sorting through the rest of her cookware, a small burst of embers hit the back window. With an exasperated sigh, Morwen set aside her plans of organization and headed back out to her garden. Scorching Foxgloves were irritating plants to work with, but if she was to be dealing with dragons, the burn salve that she could make from them would be more than worth the labor.

 

Kazul visited again in late autumn, returning Morwen’s book in excellent condition and complimenting her on her small apple orchard, which had finally begun producing fruit. Morwen in turn invited her in for a cup of cider and a chat, and Kazul’s compliments for her cider and gingerbread were even more effusive than those she had given her on her garden.

***

Three years after Morwen moved into the Enchanted Forest, the old King of the Enchanted Forest died; within a day, every single plant in her garden followed suit, wilting and dying at a rapid rate. While she was quite displeased herself, Chaos was absolutely distraught, though he tried not to show it. He spent all of his time moping in his dead apple tree, not responding to her, Murgatroyd, or her newest cat Scorn. Exactly a week after he had passed, every flower, tree, vegetable, and herb in her garden regrew and bloomed, all in shades of black, different when closely examined but similar enough in meaning. The Forest was mourning its king. Morwen, like every other self-respecting being in the forest, attended the funeral, despite having never met the king, and the very next day she was at the coronation. The new king Mendanbar seemed exceedingly young, but if supplied with the right tutors and advisers, Morwen was confident that he would be a great ruler for the forest, once he finally stepped fully into his role. In the weeks following, all of her flowers died in the night only to grow back in the day in their original colors, until all that was left was a single black rose bush. It never did change back.

***

Life for Morwen continued on in a relatively similar fashion; she would assist those who came to her in need of advice or healing, see Kazul on occasions when her friend visited the forest, and tend to her garden, growing as many useful and fantastic plants that she could. On very rare occasions, she would receive a letter from a colleague that she had met during her years learning magic, often asking for her input on a project or asking after a resource that they thought she might have.

While she was always happy to assist people when asked, Morwen devoted most of her time to her garden, which was where Kazul found her, with the oddest request her friend had asked of her yet. She stood up from where she had been transplanting Sleepshroud seedlings into a shady corner of her garden, dusting off her robes and looking Kazul over with a slightly critical eye. “A crepe pan, Kazul?” she asked, and apparently her tone exposed some of her disbelief. “Well, if you don’t have one...” Morwen shook her head, setting her spade down on the ground and heading into her cottage. “I do have one. I simply can’t understand why, exactly, you are in need of it. Or have you found yourself a princess with some sense this time around?”

As Kazul followed her inside, she pulled a step-stool out from the corner and pulled her crepe pan down from the higher shelf, where she left most of her pans and dishes that she didn’t often have a use for. “I have, yes. I think you’d like her, Morwen.” That was a high commendation coming from Kazul, and she nodded, handing her the crepe pan. “Perhaps I ought to meet her, then.” Kazul appeared to be very pleased by her answer, and she bade her goodbye without waiting for tea, citing that she didn't want to keep her princess waiting. Morwen returned to her seedlings, letting her mind drift slightly to consider Kazul's newest princess. The dragon had told her very little about her, aside from the fact she had a large assortment of knowledge that was quite practical for a dragon's princess to have. She sounded like an excellent match for Kazul, and Morwen was quite pleased that her friend had found someone competent. She would have to meet her soon.