Chrysanthemum wrinkled her nose at the man. “You’re afraid,” she said. “What are you afraid of? I can’t even cast a shield, nevermind anything dangerous.”
She slid off of the cot and walked towards the basin. “Unless you’re afraid of the wizard?” she said, picked up one of the bundles, pulled at the ties. “I don’t blame you, he’s really scary.” The bundle unrolled in her hands. It was another dress, simpler, greener, and when she held it up to her body she could tell she’d have to tailor it.
“But he’s not all covered in spikes and walls,” she said, setting the dress aside. She started to wash her hands. “He’s got holes-” she held her hands up to her chest, fingers shaped like chinks - “holes in his armor. I’ve seen it.”
Her voice got quiet and somber, almost like she’d forgotten Mikael was standing there. “And I’m gonna get in those holes, and I’m gonna make sure he can’t hurt me anymore.”
The dark mood lifted as suddenly as it had fallen and she continued washing her scarred hands, humming.
Mikael twitched when the girl started sounding much too like Ithiano for his comfort, but settled again when her black mood disappeared as quickly as it had come and she started humming a soft little tune to herself. “The chinks in his armor are jagged and sharp,” Mikael said softly, giving Chrysanthemum a weighted look. “Be mindful that you don’t hurt yourself when you try to get in there. And I must ask you to be careful. He won’t hesitate to kill you if he thinks you’re becoming a threat, even with all the trouble he’s gone through making sure you stay away from his pets.”
The Burned Man shook his head with a soft curse. “Forgive me, little one. He’s probably not something you want to think about right now.” Brightening a bit, he gave Chrysanthemum a hopeful smile. “How about you change clothes and I’ll show you a place you can go if you’re feeling particularly sad or upset?” He nearly quivered with excitement as he got to his feet. “How do you feel about flowers?”
When Mikael opened the door to an unassuming little gardener’s shack set aside in the fortress’s courtyard, he beamed when Chrysanthemum let out a soft gasp of wonder. Inside, the floor was covered in a cool, plush moss that cradled the feet. The perimeter of the room was lined with planters and pots of mixed sizes and shapes, and housed innumerable different types of plants and flowers. Hanging from the ceiling and even set into the walls were assorted crystals and stones that bounced the light from the wall sconces on either side of the door. It was warm in the shack, and humid, and the life that bled from the place chased away the chill that permeated the fortress and those that resided within it. “I made this place in honor of my wife, and the family that I’ve lost,” he told Chrysanthemum, laying a gentle hand on her back. “It’s peaceful, here. Safe. And it’s open to you, now, whenever you have need of it.”
Chrysanthemum’s wide eyes drank in the lush garden. It was a shock - how strange to find a pocket of health and vitality in a place of such death and depravity. She took a large leaf in her hands, looking over its bright surface. It had been so long since she’d seen anything so alive.