[Another excerpt from Alchemic Maiden.]
Arven always laughed at me for liking flowers. Though I frequently saw him rubbing primrose blossoms between his fingers when he thought no one else was watching. He might think I was filled to the core with ice and snow, but I know that behind his mocking and pretense, there was a wondrous little boy still trying to break free.
Pulling my velvet cloak around me, I made my way towards the hedge maze towards the back of the gardens. A few courtesans were mulling around in front of the entrance, chatting and laughing with each other while they sipped from glasses of wine. I caught a few outright glares thrown in my direction. They watched me pass by and into the maze without hesitating.
I knew the maze as if it was my home. So much so that I no longer had to think about which direction to take to get the other side. I loved being in the maze, alone with my thoughts, comforted by the familiarity and monotony of the green leafy walls that measured two men’s height and one man’s girth. The hedge didn’t talk about me behind my back. The leaves harbored no ill-conceived misconceptions about who I was and what I could do. In actuality, the hedge was probably the only being besides my parents that knew I could cry and used to often—before my lessons with father started.
I heard muffled voices drifting through the hedge in front of me. It was rare to find someone this far through the maze in the middle of the day. Usually young nobles dared each other after dinner to try and navigate through the maze in the dark. Usually, the gardeners found them early in the morning, lost and shivering from the night’s cold winds. I took lighter steps as I approached further.