Jax and I exchanged glances. Artificial flowers do not usually drop petals. The saguin hopped up onto the table and examined first the petal, then the flower itself.
“It’s hinged,” he observed. “It looks like it was meant to fall.” He gave it to me.
The metal was smooth between my fingers. I rubbed my thumb along the inside. The concave surface was marred by a rough groove too uniform to be a simple scratch. “There’s something written here,” I said. Jax sat up straighter, his eyes bright with interest.
I pulled the silk curtains open. There was no morning fog, no soothing gray horizon here. I avoided looking down, and instead tilted the petal this way and that, trying to read the inscription. The petal caught the stinging white light and flung it back into my eyes.
Lest you think you have outgrown me, a rose for remembrance, and sweet memory.
The words coiled around my heart, thorny and sweet. A hot rage tinged with terror bloomed in my throat.
“Who put this here?” I asked the steward, who was waiting in the doorway. My voice grated in my own ears. The steward blanched, and I struggled for composure. I had not meant to frighten the man.
“I don’t know, mistress,” he said. “Shall I… Would you like me to ask the Chief Steward?”
I shook my head. It did not matter who had put it here. I knew who had sent it. “No. Take it away.”
The man scurried into the room.
“No, wait!” Jax leapt to the steward’s shoulder, an act of such radical intimacy that I almost dropped the petal.
It was too late. The steward brushed his fingers along the stem, triggering a hidden catch. A thorn sprang out and pricked the soft flesh of his thumb. His eyes widened. He grew even paler. With a sound like wind across the sand he crumpled to the floor.
RADICAL (adjective) (I deleted the first 2 definitions for brevity’s sake)
3a : very different from the usual or traditional : extreme
b : favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
c : associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change
d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs <the radical right>
It also hints at one of the prompts for Studio30 Plus: Grey skies. In this case, the lack thereof. If I understand correctly, the Studio30 prompts are pretty loose, and as long as it inspired the post, it should fit. In this case, it did.