The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Growing Together/Growing Apart by Ghost Cat
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: GROWING PAINS
This MWC idea was suggested by SwingGirl; many thanks. I just added a touch or two.
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a short scene or story featuring one or more Immortals who unexpectedly find themselves sharing space within a community garden. The outcome of the developments in this challenge should strongly reflect the stamp of the participating Immortal in character.
MWC (Am I the only one?) "Growing Together/Growing apart"
British Columbia, Canada; 1968
Maybe it was her roots as a hunter-gatherer, maybe it was the years in Donan Wood, but Cassandra could only feel truly at peace in a garden. There was something about being surrounded by growing things: nurturing, caring, protecting; and, yes, even weeding out the invaders when necessary. It made her feel truly alive. As any good "witch" knew, many plants and herbs had their uses: the dainty foxglove, once a dangerous poison, was once again being used to treat the heart; wintergreen was more than just a flavoring, it could be used as a topical antiseptic. With a smile, she gathered a handful of heart's ease; it didn't truly have the medicinal benefits claimed for it over the centuries, but she loved the purple-blue flowers nonetheless. For centuries, many native groups had used Amole as a soap product. To everything there is a purpose.
Then of course there were the plants that her neighbors would protest if they recognized them, or at least look at her strangely for growing them. The mandrake had a truly awful stench, and the root really did scream if you pulled it at midnight; not that she had the time or the desire to do that kind of thing anymore. Nightshade, the famous belladonna, was a deadly poison; but quite useful if treated with respect. Not to mention the hemp crop she shared with a group of communal gardeners of questionable morals. They had thoroughly embraced the new freedom and wild attitude of the 1960's; few believed her when she said she grew her crop for fabric, rope and lamp oil.
§ § §
Death wore a wide-brimmed straw hat and carried a hoe, not a scythe; but he attacked his enemies with a ruthless efficiency nonetheless. Weeds- truly the Immortals of the plant world: if you didn't eradicate them completely, they came back stronger the next time. He dumped the hated things into a basket for his goats; he bred them for milk and cheese; for meat as well when he felt the need to slaughter something. His old brothers-in-arms would have choice words if they could see him now, but he consoled himself with the thought that gardening was a thoroughly practical hobby.
He grew what he ate and ate what he grew; thus he was both independent and self-sufficient. His vegetable plot was growing nicely, especially the beets Old Baba would probably offer to pickle for him again. The grey-haired Ukrainian was always trying to feed him; "Eat Matthew, eat! You look skinny." It almost made him wonder what it would be like to have a mother. But Methos' garden held more than mere vegetables. Indigo grew in a small patch-he never knew when he might need a source of blue pigment again. He traded down the road for honey (traded, another word the Horsemen would have sneered at) to brew a good mead; an herb garden flavored both the mead and the goat... there was nothing worse than poorly spiced goat.
Finally, there were the Recreationals; one of the things he enjoyed the most about this decade. The whole "peace, love and brotherhood" movement set his teeth on edge, but these people sure knew how to party: poppy, hemp, magic mushrooms; and those were only the natural alternatives. As he worked, he hummed a song new on the charts from-- the Falling Rocks? Something like that, he wasn't sure if he liked the group but there was something about that one song that appealed to him. "Please to meet you, hope you've guessed my name...."
§ § §
Cassandra saw Babushka over in her own patch and waved: no one knew the old earth mother's real name, but the Ukrainian had adopted almost every gardener in the commune, herself included. Baba would often barter: berries traded for pickling spices, a good meal in exchange for an afternoon of canning; all in all, they got along quite well. She noticed another gardener a few plots down, a dark-haired man in a floppy straw hat, was putting out a Buzz. She wasn't too surprised, a fair percentage of the so-called draft dodgers who came up to Canada were actually Immortals tired of battle. Still, there was something vaguely familiar about that Buzz...
It had started off as such a good day, but things soon slid downhill. Someone, probably kids, had raided her poppies (they'd be disappointed to learn it wasn't that kind of poppy). A whole section of her garden lay trampled, and partly chewed, by what looked suspiciously like a rogue goat. Worst of all, there was a fungus growing in her hemp! Why did everything seem to happen at once?
§ § §
Methos was cold, tired and grumpy as he crept through the communal garden in the darkness. He had spent most of the day tracking one of his goats that got loose; thus he had missed any chance for an afternoon nap. This was his night to check on the Special mushrooms growing in the hemp plots, a task much more enjoyable without sleep deprivation. Stealthing through the tall plants, he froze instantly; a Buzz and a sound warned him at the same time: he was not alone.
"I don't know who you are, but you're in my territory; I'd suggest you get out while you still can." A female voice, unforgettable, what was she doing here? Some how he recognized her first, but it was only a matter of time...like waiting for a fuse to burn through. They had not parted company on the best of terms.
"Cassandra, so nice to see you again. You're looking well." The calm tone in his voice surprised even him.
He heard a sharp intake of breath and a sound that was almost a growl; "You! After all this time, what are you doing here?"
On the edge of panic himself, Methos tried to calm her down. "We're surrounded by living things; I'd hate to burn a whole field just to settle an old grudge."
"You didn't hesitate to burn whole villages!"
"That was then; this is now. I'm sure we can settle this in a civilized manner. Why don't we talk things over tomorrow? We can have a beer--" he saw her scowl in the moonlight-- "or some tea. I make a great brownie." He dared a smile, "Your place or mine?"
"I'll give you one chance, but I still don't trust you."
"Picnic at the cemetery it is then; though even I find that kind of thing a little morbid."
§ § §
The next morning, Methos arrived on Holy Ground with a bottle of home-brewed mead and a basket of brownies... very special brownies. He needed every advantage to survive this situation. He tried to present himself in an as unthreatening light as possible; he had a lot of bad blood to overcome.
Cassandra stepped onto the cemetery grounds, still not quite believing what she was doing. He had kidnapped her, killed her, raped her, and kept her in absolute slavery. He was monster, plain and simple; and now, on the strength of a few slick words, they were going to sit down to tea. After a cautious feeling out period, and a couple of brownies (when had he learned how to bake?), they were both quite relaxed. Talk wandered to the subject of the old days, and in the light of day, the memories didn't seem so bad. "Do you remember the time when I helped you put a laxative in Silas' food?"
Methos froze in fear, was she telling him she knew the food was drugged? Then she giggled, a sound he had never heard before. This witch was flying, and she didn't even need a broom. He'd have to be careful. She reached for the tray of brownies, "I'm so hungry, maybe I should have one more..." He pulled them away quickly. "I think you've had enough dear; you want to keep your figure don't you?"
She looked as if she was about to argue, but it seemed to be too much effort. Like a toppling tree, she slowly tipped over, drifting to sleep. It would be a shame to just to leave her here out in the open; the only problem was, he didn't know where she lived.
§ § §
Cassandra awoke on the cold ground, under a bedewed blanket, alone. She had a monster headache and a whole new sense of betrayal. She asked around, but no one had seen "Matthew" all day. Finally one scruffy-looking fellow admitted to have inherited the man's plot, crops and all, a fact he emphasized repeatedly. The other man didn't need them anymore; it looked like he was leaving in quite a hurry.
She growled low in her throat and made a solemn promise, "No matter what it takes, no matter how long, I will find you again. And next time, there will be no quarter!"