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The Language of Flowers

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Orrig noticed that Thistle ate like someone who knew hunger.

She didn’t eat with the rest of the party often, but when she did it was with her arms guarding her plate, her posture hunched slightly in what the orc could only describe as protectiveness over her food. She tended to eat quickly while trying not to look like she wasn’t, and since Brent and Lyra never realized he supposed she was mostly successful. Orrig suspected magic was involved. Thistle never did show her face, even then.

It was troubling. Mages, even bad ones, could usually find work, and Thistle was not a bad mage. She was very good, possibly even great. Her raw ability was only outstripped by her desire to please, and unlike the disasters he’d worked with in the past, she did well as part of a team and took her responsibilities as an adventurer seriously.

The girl was a good mage and a good employee, yet she came to him penniless and wearing a shirt over her head to hide her appearance. There was a story there, but Orrig wouldn’t force it out of her.

He would, however, bring her home to meet his wife. Thistle couldn’t work if she kept fainting from exhaustion, and Dotra would make sure that the girl was properly fed.

Lyra’s mother had always said that the meek would inherit the earth. In context she had been trying to get Lyra to take up embroidery or something equally boring while waiting for some rich idiot to sweep her off her feet so Lyra could dance off into her inevitable future of baby-making.

And people wondered why she drank.

Meekness was a desirable virtue for any well-bred city elf girl, which was why Lyra rejected it outright. Of course her parents and tutors and everyone else had said that meekness wasn’t the same as weakness or submission, but as with so many other things, what Lyra heard and what she saw didn’t match up.

That was until she met Thistle. Some might call her shy, but Lyra didn’t think that was necessarily true. She did pretty good most of the time (and excelled with kids, a fact that Lyra exploited mercilessly while on the job) until the focus was turned on her. Thistle was a little awkward and a lot nervous—though Lyra couldn’t fathom why when she could liquidize anyone who looked at her crosswise, but whatever—soft-spoken and earnest in her quiet, kind of adorable way.

Thistle deferred to others. She emphasized the accomplishments of others over her own. She played peacemaker and would rather set herself on fire than hurt another person. She was a do-gooder and a book-thumper and sometimes so sickly-sweet that Lyra wanted to gag.

But—and this was a big but—goddess help you if you violated Thistle’s stringent moral code. Somewhere beneath all the layers of clothes and insecurities was a spine of steel. Loath as she was to admit it, Lyra was beginning to think her mother had the right of it after all.


Thistle loved flowers.

Maybe it was a little obvious, but Brent never claimed to be the sharpest sword in the shop. Besides, Thistle really, really loved flowers, and that was worth mentioning.

The one time he tried asking her what was so special about something he barely noticed Thistle got so flustered she ended up apologizing. The entire exchange left Brent flabbergasted and when he asked Lyra what he’d done wrong she smacked him upside the head for being insensitive.

And maybe he was, but that wasn’t his intent. He was genuinely curious why Thistle liked plants so much. Brent didn’t know if it was his mouth or her ears, but every time he tried talking with Thistle the message never seemed to get through.

He didn’t know how to tell her that he’d never seen anyone gush over a subject like she did botany without it sounding like she was doing something wrong. He couldn’t tell her he’d never met someone with so much passion without sounding like a creep. He wouldn’t say that he had no idea what she was talking about most of the time for fear that she would think he thought she was an insufferable know-it-all.

It was safest, Brent discovered, just to sit back and listen. Every once in a while he’d notice the excited lilt in Thistle's voice before she went on a long-winded discourse about whatever caught her attention at that moment. Sometimes it was a new magical ability she’d seen, or a random fact that interested her, but usually it was something about flowers.

And that was okay. In fact, if it made her happy when too-often she wasn’t, then it was more than okay. Brent wished had the words to tell her that, but he didn’t. Sometimes the frustration built up so much that Brent felt like screaming when all he wanted to do was give Thistle a hug and tell her how amazing she was.

Maybe someday he would understand the language of flowers. Until then he would let the silence speak for him.