3sums t1_j9pjslc wrote

They say you can get anything in Salliverna. Unfortunately, that includes not just goods and services, but also guests. Part and parcel of being the last major city before the most dangerous wilderness known to civilization.

As a royally-blessed inn and tavern for the extremely powerful (who are often rich, or useful enough that they don't need money), we have been put to the test again and again. Hurriedly built sky stables for a flock of young Wyverns, who will accept fish but are partial to rabbit; custom smithing for honeymooning royalty after he got caught with a courtesan who was not as discreet as ours would have been; the bones of the recently deceased, ethically sourced, are actually one of our more common offerings. But this?

The young lord is one of the better clients. He tips generously, does not start or encourage trouble, and makes no unreasonable requests. He seems embarrassed to be making this one.

"Yes, I was hoping for a flourless bread. Flour breads seem to disturb my stomach greatly, but I miss the taste."

"Would a bread made of rye be suitable?" I inquire.

He checks a scrivened list. I recognize Merdockai's monogrammed parchment.

"I'm afraid not."

"Perhaps I may examine the list of ingredients that are to be avoided in the bread? I can not make any guarantees that we will be able to get it today, but if such a thing can be arranged I will take care of it."

Wheat, rye, oats, barley. I wonder if I can think of grains that are not included on the list. I fail. I note down these requirements. If he wanted something simple, like the head of a lesser dragon, it'd be a small matter of posting a notice on our request board. Some intrepid adventurer would slay one for a mere two nights and fare in our standard rooms. Even the horns of a Skerrelack could be gained by sending a sparrowhawk to Hardegger, the great hermit of the Deep Wilds. But flourless bread?

The in-house baker suggests an alchemist. The Alchemist suggests a witch with culinary specialty. The witch laughs in my face. I am forced to my last resort. It feels almost like a failure to do it, but I am compelled once more.

I cover my work attire with a ragged cloak as I pass from the clean, safe, cobbled streets, into a labyrinth of gravel strewn alleys. The reek of urine, rotting vegetables, and some complex, horrid mix of other things assaults my nose. Bodies lay on the sides of the ditches, pressed up against the squat, unsteady daub and wattle houses. The bodies may or may not still be breathing. I clutch my dagger close. No one makes eye contact on this street, but all of our eyes are flicking and active as we move quickly, knowingly through the maze. There are only two kinds in this place, locals and prey.

I arrive at the wooden door. It is more solid than it looks. I take a deep breath.


The young lord checks with me twice, that no flour of wheat, rye, oats, or barley has touched this bread. It looks like bread. It smells like bread, but there is some subtle difference. I inform him it won't be entirely the same, but it ought to be fairly close. Imported rice is sourced from the far east and finely powdered. Mountain roots from the lofty empires of the Ocolacolt range, boiled, mashed, dried. Yeast cultivated in the hotels own vats. Seeds from the great mill cities. I am not merely fishing for tips. I have written a recipe so that he may request it in the future. He smiles. He lifts it to his mouth.


I knock at the door. It swings open, a waft of other scents overriding the foul miasma of the labyrinthine ghetto. Familiar eyes crinkle. "Mishalla! You do not come here enough, you ungrateful wretch."

I hug the old woman. "I know. I've got another work problem, mom."

She waves a hand that somehow manages to be at once pudgy and bony. "Work later, have some tea first."


The young lord's face loosens in pleasure. He chews, and murmurs in delight. He opens his eyes.

"How do you do it?" he asks. "No place I've been has managed it before."

"An old, and powerful magic," I reply.


3sums t1_j6spe0e wrote

Mother threw a fit when we took away her cauldron and animal bits from her apothecary. She had blood oozing out of my ears, which I let drip into the cauldron. She swore about all the things she'd do to someone who crossed a witch, and the ways she'd find new rats and bats, and ewe guts. If Puddles wasn't her familiar, I'm sure she'd have cannibalized her for ingredients too. But the nurse , Angela, who keeps calling me a good boy instead of Marko, comes by once a week to reapply the bandages to mother's legs, and my mother still manages to keep some curses in store. It's odd. She can't read a clock anymore, but she still can utter, word-perfect, a flesh-eating curse faster than most people these days can... well, read a clock.

Angela is the only nurse who's stayed. She drops by my office to be uncursed, on the days where I'm too busy to supervise mother. Sometimes when Angela shows up to the house, just as tough, cheery, and uncursed as the last time she came to help my mother, my mother will remember. From a note, perhaps that she scrawled somewhere in her calendar. I've found these kinds of notes. She'll read it and astral project till she finds me and put a minor curse on me, for uncursing Angela. Those are good days, when she's mostly clear, and getting up to mischief. But she's gotten lost in the astral plain before, and it is not easy to track someone down there.

I do it, because I moved in with her and she's my mother, but it was no simple task. Angela had called, panicked for the first time. She's familiar with witches, coming from the old country and all, but usually mother gets back from astral projection fairly quickly. We got her back, but that day hurt. It was a nice, good day, the next time I felt her reach from the astral realm, and dump cold water over my astral head. My own patient was shocked by the way I froze up suddenly. I excused myself, hoping I wouldn't have to hunt her down again and saw her astral form gleefully swooping away, following a trail of cut hair she had left for herself, just in case.

A few months later Angela called again. Concerned in that stern, inconvenienced manner of hers.

"Two weeks now, in a row, no curses. Docile like sheep."

"Thanks, Angela, I'll look into it."

"Witches, they don't like this. It's not good for her. She will do something herself."

"Thanks, Angela."

"Okay, I know you are good boy, you will do something."

"Take care of yourself, Angela."

There was nothing I could do. The corridors of her mind were falling apart, and she was doing her best to leap between them, but the moments of lucidity were coming less and less frequently. She was upset a lot of the time, not angry or mischevious but lost. Like a child, in a way. I never thought I'd miss the curses, the frustration of having to undo another one, untangle the web of them before. But I did. Because they were a part of her.

"Marko," she said, on one of her lucid days.

"Yes, mama?"

"Don't make me do it myself. I'll curse you worse than anything I've done if you do."

"Are you ready?"

"No," she said. "But I never will be. Make it peaceful. When I lose myself in there again, I don't want to wake up."

"I love you, mama," I said.

"Mmmm." she said. "A witch's love never dies."

She opened her arms to me.

When I nodded off watching her favourite TV show, puddles on my lap, she made hair grow out of every part of my body until I looked like a Sasquatch. And for my part, when I woke before her, I soothed every ache in her body, felt her breathing easy, and invited her soul to move on. She did feel ready to go. I think it was a relief for both of us.


3sums t1_j6n5a3n wrote

That's a solid name haha Was this sort of thing what you had in mind for florapunk? I admit I enjoyed writing it quite a lot, but it ended up being heavier on world-building than characters


3sums t1_j6kd3f5 wrote

I need this thing to hibernate. I wrap my left hand in several layers to keep the infection contained and go to my desert environment. I have to borrow several sprays of water suckers. Seeding them in my lab, which is warmer than the desert garden, they immediately, joyfully expand.  

My phone rings and I answer it.


“Yes,” I reply.

“This is Dr Saunders. We saw you move out of your lab, what’s going on?”

“I got some water suckers. Trying to dry the fungus into hibernation. It’s spread to my entire left hand.”

“Okay. Be careful, we’re working on this on our end too.”

“Sure. I’m gonna sleep now.”


The spread seems to slow in the dry environment, it remains only on the hand, but I feel thirsty more, and I suspect my blood is providing an inefficient water-substitute to my own infection. The night-glimmer seems perfectly healthy. Even the leaf I tore has reappeared. Healthy, but covered in lace.

I use a heavily-controlled algae, that reproduces quickly with any amount of moisture, and introduce it to one of the three environments, as well as a fourth environment with untouched species. Fire bloom, it’s called, as it tends to spread like fire. I find that this is not enough to kill the fungus, but it does keep it from expanding any further, containing it like a ring of green fuzz around the lace.

After another conversation with Dr Saunders, I am told to examine my skin above the hand, and to test a blood sample. I do both, and both are lacking any trace of the fungus. He says he’ll get back to me. I do not wait for him to get back to me. I use fire bloom on my wet wrist, creating a green fuzz. My skin feels itchy and dry beneath the algae, but through the day, the fungus reaches, but does not go past the fire bloom.

Dr Saunders is surprised and impressed, when he hears what I’ve done. He offers a means of escape. I would have to undergo thorough testing and decontamination, which is perfectly fine. But I can hear his grimace at the next words.

“You’d have to cut off your hand.”

After two days of isolation, it sounds insane. But two days drags into two weeks, with daily applied fire bloom keeping the infection where it is. I begin to run low on food plants. Mine is a garden, not a farm. When the hunger kicks in, the low blood sugar, the two weeks of isolation talking only to suits and lab coats on a phone, I agree to do it. With my phone on speaker, I get an axe, a saw, shears. I inject coca into my arm, just above the ring of fire bloom on my wrist. Aloe is there, and a powder muddled from an agave that serves as a coagulant. A garden can be a pharmacy too. Rather than try to hack my own hand off, we concoct a scheme to attach it to something very heavy, and let it drop onto my hand. Precision and force. I have the saw ready should it go wrong.

The blade drops. My coca-numbed arm feels nothing, and I blink stupidly as I lift my blood-pulsing stump of an arm. I pass out.


When I wake, I am in a hospital bed, in a head fog. Dr Saunders is there, in a yellow rubber hazmat suit. Behind a window. He’s bigger than I expected. I’m still in a clean room. Still in plastic.

“What happened.”

“We’ve moved you to a containment lab for the time being. We don’t think you’re infectious, but… well, we’re not taking any chances.”

“But I cut my hand off,” I say. My own voice sounds strange.

“I know,” he says. “But look at it.”

And I do. There on my wrist is my left hand, fully intact, fresh and new as a baby’s.

Part 2/2


3sums t1_j6kd210 wrote


I lead the young lady through the neutral environment corridor, through a cursed moment of a sterilizer, and into the living bulb which keeps the desert balance. The moisture is kept down through thirsty fibrous vines that suck it from the air, and, it being day, the sunlight is concentrated making the place warm. It will drop to near-freezing come the night, forcing the water suckers to retreat until the morning.

With her help we coax her cistern-cactus, which filters and stores water, from the loose, rocky soil. It is healthy now. I place it on a wooden wheelbarrow and we walk it out of my gardens and into her barge on the wide canal, one that cuts through every part of the city.

I hand her a pack of seed-stuffed soil.

“Spread them well, be sure to prune them the moment they stop being fearful of the sun. Call me if you have any trouble.”

“Thanks, Rose!” She waves as she poles her boat away. She will call me, of course, and one of my assistants will remind her. Most of our clients come to us because they don’t understand how their plants work. They see them as tools, as purely functional, rather than living, spirit-filled things that care for us and need care in return.

I pat the wood of my gardens, living wood, active wood, chimerical and multi-faceted. On the one hand, she requires a lot of care herself, but for everything she receives, she gives back twice as much. Few living woods could house this many different growing environments. The next client is waiting in a neutral environment, on mossy wood. The neutral part is a misnomer. Diversity of life has a diversity of needs. There is no such thing as neutral, but rather a place that is not deadly to most, nor is it a place where many can thrive.

In his lap, he holds a pot with a wilting broad-leafed plant. A common night-glimmer. He looks up from beneath long dark curls as I approach. His eyes are full of worry.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I’ve tried everything,” he pleads.

I am touched. Many would have recycled such a common plant, gotten a new one, grumbled about the cost. Certainly it would be cheaper. I tell him as much, knowing some would be upset if I haven’t. He doesn’t mind the added price.

“Follow me,” I say. I lead him to my lab, and a high counter, flattened for convenience. I indicate for him to place the night-glimmer on it. I rip a clipping off on a dead leaf. Examine it under concentrated sunlight. It has somehow been choked out, moisture cut off, discoloured, but not in any of the common neglect ways.

“Hmmm, hmmm, you’ve never spoken like this to me before,” I whisper under my breath. I put my ripping beneath a microscope. Find the culprit. Thin, charcoal grey, netted tendrils creep across its stem. But they are not merely spreading across the surface. They dig into just below the surface of the leaf, clinging to the veins. A fungal infection, most likely. Not one I’m familiar with though. I tear the piece into three, and put it into three contained test environments, small goldfish bowls with lids and varying levels of humidity, soil types, and even air pressures. Not all fungal infections can outlive their hosts in sub-optimal environments. I know in this case, we humans choose a survivor. In the meantime, I search fungal databases for a descriptive match. I explain what I’m doing to the man, who remains stoic. I have no answers for him yet. This fungus is not catalogued, or hasn’t parasitically consumed a night-glimmer before. Not all of them are, so I will likely have to add it to the database. But plants of this size tend to go through time quickly. Where the wood that houses my gardens takes time for everything, waits patiently for times of growth, blooming, seeding, plants of this size can be accelerated into full reproductive cycles up to five times a year. Some fungus move more quickly. I keep his plant in its own little quarantine tank with its own ideal environment, hoping it will be nurtured enough to survive its parasite.

The next morning I am shocked to find that this fungal infection moves faster still. Rather than thriving in some environments, and weakening in others, this fungus has taken over all three. All other test plants, cuttings, some still living, are now showing the same signs as the night-glimmer. Choked out but microscopic webbing, digging into their veins.

No matter what I do, the fungus outlives its hosts. I find it also consuming insects that contribute to the soil health. Some fungus can infect insects. Some can infect humans, such as athlete’s foot. As an afterthought, I examine my dirty, calloused finger under the microscope.

A charcoal grey lace spreads across my skin, digging in, searching for veins. I call the man, insist on him getting his fingers examined, struggling to keep my own voice calm through my heavily beating heart, my own head feeling lighter and airier than it should. I quarantine my little lab room. Locking the door, hoping that the fungus will not spread to the motherwood that holds my gardens.

I call colleagues, my teachers, professors, floropaths. None of them have heard of this before. By now, three fingers on my left hand have turned red. The lace, has reached my capillaries and joined them. I should have used gloves, but I cannot bear the sterile vinyl. I’ve always preferred the feeling of damp, soft humus and soil.

I keep working. Perhaps things will go badly for me, but perhaps I will cure myself. I am putting the fungus through every test I can think of, as well as any means of destroying it, including killing its host. Fire successfully kills the host and the fungus. Drying it out seems to put it into hibernation. Drowning it just seems to encourage it.

Calls come in, from increasing levels of experts and contamination authorities. They have questions, and suggestions for other types of tests, but are unwilling to break my self-imposed quarantine. The infection is isolated to myself and my lab. The poor boy--the one whom I now realize could have prevented this by burning the plant and buying a new one--he is lucky enough to be uninfected. I conclude that wood samples from the mother tree are not vulnerable to infection, which is a major relief. Leafy plants, with capillaries near the surface, not so lucky.

The Contamination Authority sets up camp outside my gardens. As a precaution, they seal my bulbous gardens in a layer of transparent sheet-plastic. Enough to let in the life-giving sun, the one that is setting. Any novel infection that can quickly take over entire plant populations is a danger to a flora-tech society. They call in suggestions.

Night falls. I fall asleep quickly after a long day. I wake, feeling thirsty. My entire left hand is covered, red. I know I will see that greedy lace if I check the microscope. I drink water. Blood is not an environment where fungus can survive, but this one seems to be taking in mine anyway. I notice, in its contained environment, the night-glimmer is glowing away happily, healthily; the soft pale blue lights up. I rip a piece off and examine it beneath the microscope. The lace is still there, but it too is now glowing. I examine the other test plants. They are all looking sickly, and greyer than they should be, but they’re also a day behind the night-glimmer on their infection.

Part 1/2


3sums t1_j5xbxi2 wrote

Thanks! It was a good, prompt. I tend to prefer ones with characters, or seed situations, and your prompt really felt like the beginning of a story


3sums t1_j5vrka5 wrote

Finally, I open the car door and hold her hand as she slides onto the seat, and walk around, and grin like a maniac and wave and when I shut the door, the smile must stay pasted on. She too is smiling her pretty little smile and waving, and looking at everyone crowding around. I start slowly, so as not to run over any of these imbeciles, and hold the smile until we turn off and they begin to disappear from sight.

I let out a deep sigh, my jaw aching from the forced smiles. “All those people,” I say shaking my head.

“Darling, what do you mean?” she asks with concern. She brushes a coiffed bang from her face.

“Dearest, they’re all so lovely, but I’m sure we now have three of the same toaster.” Then I remember I don’t have to act anymore. The habit stuck for a second, but she is now powerless. “Melodia, sweet,” I say without feeling, without the need or desire to feign it any longer, “By the laws of this land, I now have full control of your inherited assets. I married you solely for those assets so that I can finally wrest control of this city from the incompetent bleeding hearts that run it. I’d say I regret to tell you this, but it is without regret. This was planned from the beginning."

“What?” she cries. But her protest is insincere. I look over at her and her shocked face transforms into a wicked grin, and she shrieks with laughter.

“Do be serious, Winstead. You have no more access to my inheritance than I decide you do.” She chuffs in delight. “To take over the city? This measly city? Winstead, you think so small.”

“No, by law—”

“Yes, by law, but hours before our legal binding, all my assets were transferred in ownership to a trust, over which I have sole authority.”

I let the car roll to the side of the road. “This whole wedding… We’re… married.”

“Oh don’t be dramatic, so many of us play these games, sometimes you lose. I needed a man because nobody in this place will take a woman seriously. I need a face, a man’s face, with a moustache, and it’s not a bad moustache. All the better a man’s face that can smile at loathsome people. Through you I can conduct my affairs. You’ll live well, likely better than you did before, excellent fare, lodgings, wherever we go. Disobey me and I will concoct a strategy to have you dead, or your reputation destroyed, and I will find someone else. It would be extremely annoying if I had to do that. And if I should happen to die before you, you can have the inheritance. As if I’d give any to my family.”

She took a long look at me, as I tried to process this.

“Darling, start the car.”

I turned the key. I began to drive.

What followed were more indignities. At more of these farce meetings, with people every bit as disgusting as I, I smiled and shook hands, and made small talk, and every moment I did not satisfy my darling wife, her voice would slide in; Friendly disapproval, “Winstead,” the latter vowel dragged out and high. And every time I heard that disapproval in public I heard it worse in private. She would deride me, explain my shortcomings in considerable detail. All the various things she needed for her plan to gain control of not just the city, but the province, then to worm our way into the capital. And they were working. These skills I had used to wed her, were now being used to woo public officials, and important businessmen. But all the thrill I’d have had was gone, because the plans were not mine, but hers. She had near full control of the city, were expanding to neighbouring ones. I became infamous for power, but took also the reputation of a puppet.

It got to the point where my peers and rivals would smirk whenever they heard her public disapproval. How I would wince for a fraction of a second when she said my name in that mockery of chiding. They knew what sort of relationship this was. Every private moment was smiling and good cheer, and every private moment me snapping at her, which she would wave away until I broke. Then, the only thing that left my lips was a glum “yes, dearest.”

It was one such night, where I’d gone to my own, separate bedroom, and found a bottle on the table near the fireplace, an old-fashioned one with the fire already burning. Next to the bottle was a note. In the firelight, I read it. “I never wanted your unhappiness, but it is a price I will pay for the power I seek. You chose this for yourself, but perhaps this will make it a little easier. Don’t drink too much, I need you functional in the morning. – Your wife, Melodia”

I barked a bitter laugh. I suppose I had been ready to do to her every bit of what she was doing to me. I poured the whiskey into a fine crystal glass. Tasted it on my lips and, perhaps because she was on my mind, I could not help seeing the parallels between them. Oily smooth, rich, a touch of sweetness, but how it burnt me from the inside.

There was a breeze coming in and I snarled to myself about disciplining the manservant who had neglected to close the window on such a cold night. But it wasn’t the manservant who had opened it. It was a man, all in tight-fitting dark navy blue.

“Who are you?”

“I am a shadow, an angel of hope, and a demon of death.”

“Well shut the window, it’s cold out.”

The man complied.

“Will you have a drink?” I asked.

“You are a strange one,” the man replied. “I’m working. Drinks will come later.”

“Suit yourself,” I said as I sat next to the bottle.

“Would you like to know why I’m here?” the man asked.

I thought about it for a moment. “May as well tell me,”

“I am here to save you. You see, you are very close to controlling this city. But your wife has unmanned you, done horrid things to you. So I offer you a way out. You can have your freedom from her, and you can keep this city for yourself also.”

I look up at him, brows scrunched. I’d almost forgotten what it was to have desires of my own.

He held a vial to the light of the fire. “This is poison. Untraceable, no odour, nor taste. It’s rare. Nobody would ever suspect a thing. She does, in fact, have a family history of this kind of thing. You could do it, and take the story to a much later grave, or I could do it, and I’m afraid it would be obvious the two of you have been assassinated.”

I stood and held my hand out, he walked forward. I took the vial, held it to the firelight, marveled at it. A small quantity of what appeared to be water. A small vial of what appeared to be hope. With my spare hand I poured my glass full to the brim and took another sip of whiskey, this time straight from the bottle. This next part would be unpleasant. It’d be good to have a bit of haze in the mind while I did it.

In a single, silent motion, I dropped the vial, and two-hand swung the bottle at the man’s face. It shattered across the bridge of his nose and his orbital bone on his left side. He fell and I leapt on top of him. The neck of the bottle had remained intact, ending in jagged bits of glass, which I ground into the man’s neck.

“I am no less a dangerous man than I was,” I snarled into his face, as he gasped and clutched at his bleeding throat. “A kept tiger is still a tiger.”

When Melodia came in, I was sitting in the chair by the fire, drinking from a half-full, blood-stained, crystal glass of whiskey. The corpse was still lying where he’d fallen.

“This one was meant for you,” I said, and lifted the little vial. I didn’t look at her, just laid it back on the table. She sat in the armchair across from me.

“Winstead,” she said, putting her hand on my knee. I looked up into her eyes, which seemed full of some emotion that I couldn’t recognize in the sway of the liquor. “I knew you feared me,” she said. “But I never realized you loved me.”

She put her lips to mine, in a wet kiss, and I realized it too.

“Why wouldn’t I love you?” I mumbled. I looked up at her. “You’re everything I wanted to be.”