Petals of a Sweetbriar Rose: Stories

A thread for various Eglantine story snippets. There’ll likely be a few, so this is where I’ll be keeping them. Spoilers ahead!

A Legacy

&quotHow old are you anyway?&quot she asks, turning a sapphire over in her hands.

Eglantine smiles. &quotNot old enough to be any parent of yours, or even the girl whose name you took.&quot

For the first time, the Deceitful Daughter’s confidence wavers. &quotThen why did you let me into your life?&quot

Eglantine leans back, sipping a glass of wine. &quotMy name’s on the girl’s papers, right enough. But the poor thing was fathered by a murderer, hanged before she even drew breath. No kind of life, she’d have, with that name. And so my brother - you may call him Mallow - suggested that I give her my name. If she lived her life in peace, well and good. If she came to me for money, it’d be easy to prove I wasn’t the one that had sired her.&quot

Mallow, laughing even as he took strange pity upon the girl. ‘It’s going to be perfect, you’ll see. She’ll be happy and you’ll be safe from responsibilities.’

Eglantine, eyeing their brother dubiously, had nodded slowly. ‘So that’s why you won’t claim her? She could put a responsibility on you?’

Mallow’s exuberant laugh, a kiss to each cheek. ‘Got it in one, little mischief. These shoulders of mine are far too elegant to lay such a burden on.’ He’d preened, and laughed some more.

&quotMallow? Did your parents breed a garden?&quot the Deceitful Daughter asks skeptically.

Eglantine waggles a finger reprovingly. &quotNaughty, naughty. Our names are our own affair.&quot

&quotSo why welcome me? If it was all arranged, no responsibility?&quot

For the first time, Eglantine looks serious. &quotIf she was old enough to seek me out, she was old enough that I rather felt I owed her the truth.&quot

They drink in silence, reflecting on honesty and lies.

First Stone

It’s Mallow’s idea, of course. Running away to have adventures, before their family can push them into any kind of duty? That has Mallow’s name written all over it.

If he stays, heaven knows what they’ll make him do, for they’ve long since tired of his ways. And if he goes… why go alone?

He’s retrieved a bundle of servants’ clothing, to make the Grand Escape in, and spread it out over his bed.

Eglantine looks at the assortment, and reaches out for one set, then another, darting a nervous look at Mallow.

He shrugs and laughs. &quotWear what you like. Be what you like. We’re making ourselves into new people for this adventure anyway.&quot Reading their expression, he adds, &quotLittle mischief, last week I ran naked across three fields to get away from a farmer who shouldn’t catch me with his daughter. I think I’ve run out of room to preach at you.&quot

Eglantine nods, and takes both sets. They might be useful.


It turns out that when one runs away, one forfeits access to a ready supply of money. Their funds are growing thin when Mallow comes to Eglantine, eyes far too bright with plans. &quotThe dress. Put on the dress. We need money, and this is how we’ll get it.&quot

Eglantine obeys, confused.

That night, Mallow inveigles his way into a minor lordling’s home. They drink, and celebrate, and Eglantine is left waiting until after midnight, when Mallow returns for them.

&quotRumple your dress and get into his bed. He’ll never remember what he did or didn’t do, by morning.&quot

Mallow pricks his fingers with a knife, and smears a little blood upon the sheets beside the snoring man, and then tucks Eglantine in beside him.

When they wake, it’s to Mallow’s roar of anger.

&quotUp, wretch! I offered you good coin for your hospitality, but instead you despoil my sister!? You’ve dishonoured her, and your duties as a host! She’ll never be wed now, and the magistrates will agree, you’ve wronged us more deeply than any heart could bear.&quot

The lordling stammers and babbles and is browbeaten into paying a mighty fee to forgive his shameful deeds, while Eglantine stands nearby in the mussed gown and stares at the floor, looking suitably distressed.

Mallow laughs all the more as they ride away on new horses, coins jingling in their pockets. &quotSee, little mischief? The world will look after us, if only we coax it to in just the right way.&quot


It starts the night that Mallow catches a man trying to pick his pocket. He takes the man up to their room and ever so kindly, ever so gently, explains that he can either teach this pair his tricks, or be turned over to the authorities.

Eglantine learns the arts of theft and deception willingly enough, though they still don’t quite understand why it’s so necessary.

When asked, Mallow answers, &quotFor the money. For the fun of it. For the secrets. You like those things, don’t you?&quot

&quotWell… yes.&quot

&quotGood. Now let’s see if you can’t charm a kiss from the innkeeper’s daughter, eh? You’ve seen me do it enough times. Be the boy she’s dreaming of meeting, the one that says all the right things.&quot Mallow grins. &quotIf you get a kiss from her, we eat whatever you want tomorrow night. If you get more…&quot He ruffles Eglantine’s hair. &quotWell, we’ll see.&quot

The innkeeper’s daughter is pretty and golden-haired and very shy. This might have something to do with her stammer, which interrupts every sentence she tries to say.

Eglantine brings her daisies, and reads aloud her favourite verses for her, the ones she cannot herself say, and earns a kiss on the cheek and a blue hair-ribbon as a memento.

Mallow just sighs good-naturedly and mutters something about incurable innocents.

In the next inn, he does all the talking, and brings a girl to Eglantine who teaches them rather a lot about kissing, and almost as much about wanting.

Eglantine starts getting to choose their dinners a lot more often thereafter.
edited by Eglantine-Fox on 7/17/2016

A Touch of Green

Mallow’s friends of this week are poets and artists. They are prone to long, rambling discussions on… something, or several somethings. Eglantine isn’t quite sure, having lost track of the conversation.

At last, Mallow seems to realise they’ve been left out, and beckons them over. &quotHere, Babington’s brought us something good, this time.&quot

Eglantine eyes the glasses on the table. &quotIt’s green.&quot

&quotIt’s supposed to be green. It’s absinthe.&quot Mallow gestures grandly at the array of glasses, bottles and spoons on the table, nearly upsetting a carafe of water. &quotIt’s splendid stuff. Let me show you.&quot

He demonstrates with a glass the proper method of pouring iced water over sugar into the drink, and beckons Eglantine closer to watch the absinthe turn milky in colour, bidding them watch and smell and appreciate the way it changes. Then, at last, he hands them the glass.

&quotYou might as well know how it tastes, eh?&quot

Eglantine sips, grimaces, and sips again. Once they’re past the initial shock of the flavour, they can taste the subtler herbal mixture within.

&quotThere we are!&quot Mallow looks delighted, and his friends are paying very close attention.

Later, one of them manages to explain that they were hoping to recapture ‘innocence enlightened’, those first moments of discovery that are long behind their jaded palates. It will be an inspiration to their work.

Not a one of them pays for that inspiration, but Mallow turns a profit anyway, in secrets garnered from careless lips, and hints upon what the latest fashions may be - there’s always someone who’ll pay for those.
edited by Eglantine-Fox on 7/27/2016

A Wound

They’ve travelled far and wide, spoken to barons and beggars who thought them equals. Mallow’s little games will do that to a person. Usually, the pair of them move on hastily, before they can be blamed for the sudden redistributions of wealth that seem, so inexplicably, to pop up wherever they go.

Eglantine’s face has lost its round cheeks and childish cast, becoming an elegant echo of Mallow’s own features. And he has taught his younger sibling well, when it comes to how to dress and move to heighten one’s charm. (He could not, admittedly, teach them any ‘feminine wiles,’ but there have been plenty of ladies whose time and company are monetarily acquired, and can be asked to instruct someone in just such things. And their gossip! Eglantine used to blush, hearing it. Now, they just laugh.)

How to fight, how to speak the local languages, how to sound like an expert in things one knows little about; Mallow’s taught them everything he can. They’ve debated the merits of Latin texts by morning, and practiced forging signatures by evening on the same day. It’s a peculiar sort of education, but they’re living a peculiar sort of life, and Mallow’s assured them that all these varied kinds of knowledge are keys on the ring that will unlock every door to wealth and success that they can find.

This week, Mallow is a trading entrepreneur, offering an apparent panoply of contacts who can be made aware of the wonderful opportunities one’s business has to offer. He even has a temporary office. (&quotAn office! I’m officially respectable!&quot he laughs, one night. &quotThis will be the big one. We’ll make a fortune, trust me. We’ll be rich enough to retire, even - in France, maybe, with a good home and servants and invitations to parties every week. It’s going to be perfect.&quot)

Eglantine’s not quite clear on the details, but Mallow always explains those afterwards so they can learn how it’s done. They can wait. And he’s sent them off to dancing lessons, to master the fashionable steps, so there’s enough fun involved that they don’t really mind being on the very periphery of this scheme.

The dancing-master’s son blushes whenever Eglantine smiles at him, and gives such interesting presents if one takes him aside and kisses him soundly while his father’s not watching. He makes a good dance partner, too, and Eglantine loses themself over and over in the music, and in the joy of floating across a wide floor in a ballgown, moving gracefully and feeling as though everything is just right.

Nothing feels right when Eglantine comes home (as if the old lodging-house could be called a home, but they haven’t had a real one in years, and this is about as close as it gets.). The door to their rooms has been locked from the inside, and some kind of metallic intrusion broken off inside the lock, so that it can’t even be picked. Mallow doesn’t bring women here, not while his schemes demand he seem perfectly respectable, so it can’t be his privacy that door’s preserving.

Eglantine hammers on the door, and hears a scraping and groaning from inside. Near-weeping from frustration and a cold, intuitive terror, they race outside and scale the building, not caring who might see. There, through the window, a streak of deep red upon the floor. And the next window over is broken. Something came in, or out, this way. Scrambling in, hands bleeding from cuts inflicted by broken glass in their haste, Eglantine races toward that bloody swathe.

Mallow is face-down upon the floor, unmoving now, though the blood’s still fresh and bright around him. He’s dragged himself almost to the door. They were so close! If the door could only have been opened, perhaps Eglantine could have reached him before - before -

They crumple to their knees beside their brother’s body, and with shaking hands turn him over. His face is pale and empty of life, and there are stab-wounds to his body that tell Eglantine whoever did this fully intended Mallow’s death. This wasn’t a mishap, or an impulsive blow in an argument. This was murder, cold and deliberate, they’re sure of it.

Moving almost mechanically, Eglantine searches for clues. The petals of a strange rose. Mallow’s day-planner, with ‘Scathewick?’ the current entry.

They will find the man who did this. They will find out why. And they will repay this, blood for blood, death for death.

Because they must.