A GARDEN OF ROSES
BY JASMINE FROST
Chapter 1: The Academy
“I know it must be scary to trust someone like me, least of all a Droigheann, but this is serious. Bad things are going to happen, not just to the Academy but when we graduate the entire livelihood of the Garden is at stake.”
Be persecuted or accept the gift. Personally, the first option doesn’t sound all that appealing. If you are born with pure blood and into the right family, you can get away with almost anything. Luckily for me, I was born into one of the most prestigious families in the city. My family has always been gifted with the greatest abilities, so no doubt when it comes to Ascension Day, I’m sure to receive a gift unlike any other. My mother has always been able to manipulate memories, and my father has the ability to read people. My older sister can influence anyone with her thoughts, dangerous I know, and as for me...Well, I guess we will find out soon. For now, we are protected within the towering walls of the Academy, until graduation, which is only a couple of months away. My grandparents always told me never to worry. For generations, our family has always been gifted. But I just can’t scratch this feeling that something isn’t right.
“Ready for your ascension?” Kolbii asked as we walked into the school gates. My best friend Kolbii ascended a couple of weeks ago on his eighteenth birthday. His family bloodline was gifted with abilities from the element of water so when he ascended he received the gift of liquid transmutation. Pretty fancy I know, but Kolbs has never had a need to use it. He prefers the gift of knowledge. He believes that it is always best to be prepared for any situation.
“No Kolbs, I'm totally not counting down until I receive my gift. What only 5 days left?” I said sarcastically as we walked down the Academy's halls. In preparation for my ascension, it was mandatory to attend daily lessons a week prior. Soon I would be gifted with an ability and finally rise to my birthright.
“You know Kolbs, it’s not all that simple. I may be a Calliandra, but I don’t feel like one.” I said reaching the towering stained-glass doors.
“Maybe not, but you will, and everything will be how it should be,” he said as he hugged me. “Besides, if anything goes wrong, I can always create some chaos.” I smiled and waved goodbye.
“Miss Calliandra you are late!” Shit, it was the Headmaster of the Academy. She towered over me, her rich brown curls neatly tied up in a messy bun as her dark skin seemed to glow against the stained-glass doors.
“My apologies Headmaster Florecer,” I said as I shut the door behind me.
Entering the Planetarium, it was exactly like one would imagine, but made entirely of stained glass. It was a big dome, with the windows curved and draped with spectacular red curtains held in place by golden buckles in the shape of rose thorns. The floors were so polished you worried about the trail you would leave behind. And at the other end stood a magnificent pillar where you would stand and pledge your faith to the Garden. The Garden was a place we graduated into, fulfilling our duty as citizens, and being employed in our specialised field of work. It was a place with endless possibilities and where you weren't judged based on your ability but seen as equal. And once accepted into the Garden, anyone who is anyone would want to become a ‘Rose’. They say people thrive in a place only known as the Sanctuary.
“Miss Calliandra, if you are going to take your place with us then we really must keep to the schedule,” Mrs Florecer said. “I can tell you are nervous, but your family has never had any issues. You know, I was in charge of your sister's ascension, and it was quite spectacular as I recall.” I dropped my bag on the first row of chairs and made my way up to the pillar. My sister as I remember was always the popular one. Carrying our name came with great responsibility as our ancestors were members of a group who founded the Garden centuries ago. As a Calliandra it was our sole responsibility to protect the secrets of the Garden, always being gifted with abilities that would aid us, but it also carried a great burden as our bloodline was one of the most feared, for we could tamper with matters of the mind. My grandfather used to make people go insane. I never knew exactly what ability he was gifted with. All I knew was that people would never dare cross him. To be feared is to have power, and power in the Garden is everything. The only other bloodlines more powerful than ours were the Droigheann and the Orquídea Families. They were part of an elite group of gifted, with abilities so rare that no other pure blood would ever inherit or share. Some bloodlines started mixing over the centuries, so the gifts started becoming unpredictable and our ancestors grew cautious. Because of this, our kind decided to banish anyone who was found to betray their bloodlines, by stripping their powers and sending them to the mortal realm. It was forbidden to communicate with anyone who was banished, and it was especially frowned upon if you spoke about the land they were sent to. It is very rare for our kind to degrade themselves and fall in love with a mortal, but it is not unheard of.
After an excruciatingly long hour of practice, I was finally returned to class. I spotted Kolbii across the room as he patted the spare seat next to him.
“You’re late” he whispered.
“Shhh what did I miss?” I said as I sat down next to him.
“Oh, nothing you don’t already know” he mocked. Growing up a Calliandra meant I received only the best education. However, the Academy was the only place students of the Garden could ascend.
“Ah, Miss Calliandra nice to see you have finally decided to grace us with your presence” Mr Celtis called out in front of the class.
Everyone turned to look at me. “I’m glad that my presence has made your day sir as I'm sure you are not the only one” I replied winking at Kolbii, shaking his head in disapproval.
The end of the week was nearing, and I only had one more day left before my birthday. Graduation was also getting closer, with only three weeks left. I would be the second last person in my year to ascend, the last being Azaela Siv who everyone knew would surely inherit some ability to do with light. There was always a pattern with the gift. They would remain unique to each bloodline, always incorporating your family's element into your given power. Obviously, my family’s gift was highly sought-after in the Garden. Kolbii’s family belonged to a long line of caretakers, given the gift of the earth so no wonder he could create any form of storm he wanted. Me, well, if I'm anything like my family there is no telling what I could inherit.
“What about the power to make people fall in love with you?” Laughed Kolbii as we walked the halls of the campus together. “You could have anybody you wanted”.
“I already can” I replied smiling to myself.
“Ha, you think you're so clever? Just wait until you get a shit power, then I'll be the one laughing.”
I looked at him, “Well at least it will be better than Banksia’s.”
“Wow,” he said as we hugged arriving at my bedroom door.
Banksia was born into poor circumstances. Her father married a mortal woman from the human realm and as punishment, they were never to return back to the Garden. The only exception is that when you come of age, you could renounce your birthright, giving up everything and starting over. So that’s what she decided to do, leaving her loved ones with no memory of ever having her. She would live out the rest of her life alone forbidden to continue her bloodline, and so it would die with her.
I opened my door only to see Juniper Droigheann sitting at my desk. “Acacia, can we talk?”
Lord knows what she wants from me. Our bloodlines had a very violent history. Nothing worth mentioning except that our families absolutely hated one another, and so did we.
I closed the door behind me. “Droigheann,” I said uninterested in what she had to say. Anyone else at the Academy would surely pass out if she acknowledged them, but I wasn’t anyone. “I need you to promise me something” she replied, her voice sharp against my skin.
“Are you fucking with me Droigheann?” I said sarcastically, dragging out the ann.
“Yes, I purely just want to ask you for something…No, I’m being serious, Calliandra” she said as she could tell I obviously wasn’t having any of it.
“When you ascend tomorrow, something will happen.”
“I can’t tell you.”
“You’re fucking with me, aren’t you?”
“No, I promise you. By the Garden, I promise you. I am telling you the truth.” Juniper exclaimed.
“How can I trust you?” Last time I checked our families still hated one another.”
“I know you have no reason to believe anything that I am telling you, and I know it sounds like a joke, but Acacia I swear I am not fucking with you, not about this.” Juniper was now starting to get angry, which didn’t surprise me, but I for one did not want to get on her bad side.
“If this is your idea of a sick joke” I paused, taking a deep breath. “I appreciate the heads up but nothing bad has happened in years. The ascension has always been a moment of celebration and now all of a sudden something bad might happen. Something terrible, but you can’t tell me what it is?” I looked at her for an answer, but she said nothing. I sighed “I think you forget I’m a Calliandra.”
“And I’m a Droigheann. Please just trust me on this.” She looked at me, her hazel eyes screaming at me with desperation. I had never noticed the colour of her eyes until now or the colour of her soft olive skin as beams of sunlight came through the window hitting the freckles that were sprinkled across her face. We stood at the same height, around 5’6 but with her Droigheann blood coursing through her, she seemed to tower in comparison.
She had a point, if it was any other student at the Academy I would outrank them, but she was a goddam Droigheann so I composed myself. “I believe you are in my quarters so if that is all you have to say, the door is right over there.” She lowered her head, slowly making her way off my desk and towards the door. “Acacia, I know our families are rivals” she paused. “But that doesn’t mean we have to be” and she closed the door behind her leaving me to wonder what the hell had just happened. Fucking Droigheann.