Their brutal emotions sated, the assassins buried Lily in the ducal gardens and took her head to the Marquess for their promised reward. The Marquess reveled in the destruction of whom she had been so intently jealous, and had the head cast into a sphere of pure crystal to set amongst her most cherished trophies in the crypt beneath her manor. It would serve, she thought, as both a reminder of her triumph and an immortalization of the beauty that she had pruned from the world.

The assassins, as it happened, buried the body beneath a weak and woody rosebush. The Duchess, distraught at the seeming disappearance of her only child, withdrew into herself and left the once-rich gardens to rot. There was therefore no gardener to arrest the sudden and intense rosebush growth that followed. It was visible to passersby through the locked and barred gate, and every day a few more stopped by to gawk.

In a way that few rosebushes do, the plant in the Duchess’s garden had a large and woody stem made from the seeming fusion of many smaller growths. In time, it was over five feet tall, with roses only at the end of two long branches; people began to notice shortly thereafter that the woody stem had developed on such a way, with twin knots above and below, that it resembled mothing so much as a female form.

Around the time the Duchess began to sicken, her mental collapse becoming a physical one as well, a bud appeared at the top of the “form” right around the place a head might have been. Wasting away took nearly six months for the poor Duchess, and during that time–in defiance of botanical logic–the bud grew larger and larger but never opened.

It was only with the peal of the bell announcing the Duchess’s death that an immense and blood-red rose opened atop the woody form. And it was only with her burial three days later that the humanlike form began to move.

Its ultimate destination? The Marquess’s crypts.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements