This tale follows directly from The Tale of a Jewellery Box That Wasn’t.
With only 17 hours until he was due to meet Artemisia and no crafted box to deliver, Reo’ris went for a late night walk in the neighbourhood to consider his options. The streets were quiet but his neighbour Tora was out tending her sunflowers, as she always seemed to be, no matter the time.
The sunflowers seemed to have closed their petals tight in the middle of the night but Tora was stroking and very quietly singing to them. As Reo’ris approached, the sunflowers opened their petals and whispered his name. Tora perked up on seeing him and told him the new species is trained to respond to the presence of a specific individual. Her eyelids bossanova-ed.
Seeing the subflowers, it occurred to Reo’ris that perhaps a gift might mollify Artemisia. He said, “Perhaps you might be able to help me with a little problem I have at the moment.”
“A problem? What is the problem? I’m not very good at problems. Just sunflowers,” she replied.
“Well a sunflower may be just the thing I need. I have to give a gift to a customer to apologise for a late delivery and I think one of your flowers might be unusual enough to have a good impact. Would I be able to buy one?”
She pondered for a moment. “Hmmm. I might be able to help with that. Do you have something in mind? A flower with a particular talent?”
“What kinds of talents do they have?”
“Many kinds! It is what we do after all. My flowers tell me what they want to do, and I help them do it. Just the other day, one decided that he liked colours. He was bored of being yellow. He wanted to experience colour through the eyes of others. And so I taught him. He now changes colour! Quite delightful! He turns the favourite colour of the last person who touched him.”
“Well I need one for a lady. Something that she might like to show off at a social engagement? Perhaps a singing one? Or one that tells jokes?”
“The singing ones are quite fun. But they have a tendency to drift off key. Some kid ran by the other day and called them ‘pitchy’. I don’t even know what that means.”
“What else do you suggest?”
“I do have one that tells jokes, yes. Not always the best but you can’t expect everything.” She turned once in a circle and upon facing Reo’ris had in her hands a pot with a single flower.
“Wonderful! What do I owe you?”
The flower twisted its petals to looks at Reo’ris and said, “What does a flower therapist ask her patients? Are you feeling bouquet?”
“Hah! What wit!” Reo’ris beamed with amusement.
Tora replied to his question, “Ahh, Reo’ris, you can just take this one. But give her a good home, would you?”
With a nod, Reo’ris took the flower, saying, “I am in your debt.”
Before Tora could say anything, the flower piped up again, “Why didn’t the flower get a second date? He was garden variety.”
She laughed, slightly embarrassed, but passed the pot.
As Reo’ris wandered off, Tora’s eyelids start fluttering again, in an energetic swing rhythm.
He walked back to his studio to find a slightly nicer pot for the flower. Thinking a wood pot might be a bit of an affront to a sentient flower, he considered stone or bone.
But having been up all night, he began to drift off to sleep. The last thing he heard: “How do you know flowers are capable of kissing? They have tulips.”
Waking with a start, Reo’ris realised he would need to hurry to make his appointment with Artemisia at Cafe, the night time version of Cafe/Bar. Reo’ris hadn’t made a nicer pot so grabbed a large silk cloth to drape over the sunflower as he headed out the door.
It didn’t take long to walk to Cafe. On arrival, he saw Artemisia sitting prominently in a window seat, where she could see all. And be seen by all.
Her eyes lit up as she spied Reo’ris, clearly in anticipation.
“Madame Artemisia! I received your message,” Reo’ris said.
“Sarai, he is here!” she exclaimed to the proprietor of Cafe/Bar. “I think this warrants a bottle of the Gheilbower Acescence.”
Reo’ris looked serious for a moment. “Unfortunately there has been a hitch in my making, as sometimes happens. Your device is not quite ready yet.
“As a token of my esteem, I’ve brought you a small gift to make up for the delay.”
Artemisia’s face fell. “But that can’t be! The social event of the season is about to happen! I’m on my way there now. I can’t possibly arrive at Lorelei’s without the very best!”
As she said this, a very tall woman appeared, even taller because of the impossibly high heels she wears. The towering presence was such that it took Reo’ris a moment to realise that her skin was literally silver. Not silver in colour, but made of silver. She was carrying a bottle of wine and, by the looks of the other patrons, of some importance in this place, not just a mere sommelier or server.
Reo’ris looked back to Artemisia to say, “I assure you, you will be the very centre of attention in no time at all. This was merely an unavoidable delay.”
Artemisia took the gift and pulled the silk shroud from the flower. She looked at it quizzically.
“Your flower!” says Reo’ris.
“I know you do like puzzles, Reo’ris, but where do I find the jewellery in this? Surely I don’t dig in the dirt!” laughing at her own quip.
Reo’ris nudged the sunflower awake, saying to Artemisia, “I think you will find this very amusing.”
“Hey bud, how’s it growing?” said the flower.
“Surely a delightful item for any social occasion,” Reo’ris ventured.
“You look like a pretty lady,” the flower said. “Why don’t you plant one on me? Why don’t we put our tulips together?”
Reo’ris clapped his hands enthusiastically in response. “Hah! Amazing! I love it.”
Artemisia looked about and let out a quite false chuckle, clearly worried by who might be watching.
“Please accept this as a small token of respect. Your commission will be ready in only another week or two.”
The flower seemed to sense her discomfort and looked right at her saying, “Lady. Get clover it.”
“Another week or two? I have an hour, perhaps two, at most! The party is due to begin!
“This is not acceptable! What ever will I do? I’ll be the laughing stock of the town!”
Reo’ris countered, “Not at all! Take this beautiful flower instead, to amuse the others. It will make you the hit of the party!”
Artemisia fretted, “Surely there is something else you have to get me through this! A flower? I can’t wear a flower, not like this!”
“But madame!” said Reo’ris.
The flower chimed in, “I’ll be the hit of the party! I was MC Hammer’s cactus once… Doo, doo, doo, doo…doo, doo…Can’t touch this…”
Attempting to save the situation, Reo’ris suggested, “Perhaps a boutonnière?”
“I heard you could supply what I needed, sir. And now it appears you cannot.”
“I can, I can I assure you, I just need a little more time.”
With a furrowed brow, Artemisia considered his suggestion further. “A boutonnière? On this? It is made of the finest oggelery. Attaching anything to it would destroy any chance it has of reciting the evening’s literary contributions!”
Reo’ris thought about how me might try to calm her, scanning his mind for an appropriate incantation.
Just then, Sarai, sensing the trouble, appeared. She leaned down to put her hands on each of Artemisia’s and Reo’ris’ shoulders. Each felt an inexplicable wave of happiness rush over them.
Artemisia looked at Reo’ris and said, “Well, Reo’ris, I suppose that the flower might do. It is quite interesting after all. I suspect Lorelai has not seen one quite like this, although I do hope her birds aren’t upset.”
The flower looked at Reo’ris and whispered, “Well, you really rose to the occasion.”
Ignoring the flower, Reo’ris replied to Artemesia with a smile, “I am sure the party will prove to be most memorable!”
“Memorable. Yes, memorable. That is definitely positive. Most definitely. Isn’t it?”
Reo’ris lifted his glass saying, “Let’s drink to memorable things!”
He spied Sarai who smiled slightly at him and he gave a slight nod in thanks.
Artemisia raised her glass in response. “This Gheilbower is the best. Sarai gets it for me specially. She has a deal with Zero’s.”
Artemisia seemed content for now although Reo’ris had a gnawing concern that the flower might not do exactly what she needed on this occasion.
The flower bent its petals into the shape of a glass and said “I hope thistle cheer you up!”
It then whispered to Reo’ris, “You barely managed to nip that in the bud. I’m rooting for you.”
Reo’ris drained his glass and stood to bid the lady good evening.
She also rose, trying to figure out how to hold the flower, or affix it to her clothes but clearly concerned about damaging them. Decision made, she placed it on top of her head, an addition to her fascinator.
“Escaped the frying pan!” Reo’ris thought to himself. “Or is it the fire you escape from? I never remember.”
The flower looked about, observing the world from a higher-than-usual vantage point. It looked down to Artemisia and said, “Now where is this party? I hope they serve a nice rosé.”
Reo’ris addressed the flower quietly, saying. “Go little flower, and kick some bud!”
“Farewell Madame Artemisia, and Sarai. I bid you good night. I must get back to my workshop.”
Sarai nodded her head ever so slightly in acknowledgment and turns back to her other customers.
Artemisia, now looking flushed with excitement, collected her things, and started to leave, turning to say “Thank you, Reo’ris, but I will be back to get the item soon, I have another big party in three days.”
“Three days?!”, he thought. He needed to find a better solution than talking flowers.Related NPCs
Written by David Harris and Reo'ris