The Spell of the Rose
by Toni Behm
(Fleex: Adventures Around the Worlds, #1)
Publication date: December 11th 2021
— Magic may take many forms, but love shall rule supreme —
Though wholly shorn of memories like all who dwell in the village of Fogland, Fleex knows this: his heart will always beat for Fin and Fin alone. However, when his dearest friend is hoodwinked by the Gossiper, he’ll need to venture beyond the safety of “home” to somehow save her.
Armed with but the oddities his guardians had found him with—a cryptic book and broken necklace—Fleex must find his way through countless worlds, collecting scattered clues. Accompanied by Flip and Flop, two Greenies sent by Fog Almighty, Fleex soon finds his quest means rather more than simply saving Fin. In fact, the very universe is hanging in the balance now, for music, knowledge, and all things good are slowly being swallowed by a monster made of light.
Awaiting Fleex are riddles from the Reader in the World of Word, demands from the Collector, and a slew of wicked on the path to where the High Priest lives.
Only time will tell if Fleex can mend the fractures greed has caused, but either way, he’ll reclaim Fin or meet his fate en route.
‘I travelled through many lands and, you know what? People outside Fogland don’t look like us. They are taller and they don’t have…,’ she hesitated for a moment, ‘for example, your family, you have tentacles which you call hats. The Gerions, on Round Street, have three arms. The Soleys have a light on their foreheads and they shine like torches all night. Where I come from, hair is hair, people have two arms, and their heads are not like bedside lamps in the dark. This is a strange place here.’
Fleex was thinking. Fogland was definitely a land which you could enter but could not leave. Not on your own. It was a place with a purpose. But exactly what that purpose was, none of the locals knew.
He turned to Fin, ‘What’s the last thing you remember before you came here?’
‘I remember a small forest, all green. I was walking along a path leading downwards. There was no other way, only down. In the thickest part of the forest, the path just disappeared. I was tired and sat down to have a rest. I must have fallen asleep because I remember that the path had reappeared when I woke up, and I followed it to the Rose Garden.’
Bright tears filled her eyes, held on for a moment and then ran down the silky skin of her cheeks. Fleex was looking at her with a heavy heart. So heavy that his face turned pale and the tentacles in his hair hung down like the dead limbs of an octofruit. He felt sorry for Fin. It was nice that she had chosen him to share her story with, and he was not going to tell anyone. And if she kept quiet, the fog was not going to take her.
A creepy, accusing shriek jolted him out of his thoughts. ‘Gold digger! Greedy, insensitive cow!’ Somebody was screaming and the voice was coming from the vines twisting over the café. Then there was a rumble as something round and clumsy rolled down the path and sped away.
‘The Gossiper! She’s been hiding above us all the time, eavesdropping!’ Fleex whispered, as he held the hands of his loved one. ‘Fin, whatever happens, I want you to know that I love you and…’
Before he could even finish, white and grey clouds of fog suddenly descended from all sides and surrounded Fin, blackening the sky and the garden. Wet cold froze them. The fog formed into the ugly face of an unknown creature, with black holes for eyes and sharp teeth. Fin was still squeezing Fleex’ hands when strangely fleshless yet strong fingers suddenly grabbed at his, forcing them apart. A powerful pull and then the fog monster pushed him aside with its enormous paw and opened its mouth. Fin sank inside, in a flood of tears. The fog spiralled up, taking Fin with it.
Fleex was stunned. It took him hours to realise she was gone and he was never going to see her again. Without looking at it, he took the piece of paper from the table and put it into his pocket. She had merely decided to share her secret with him, but the fog had taken her. Because of the Gossiper.
Born and raised in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, Toni Behm graduated MA in Bulgarian Language and Literature from the University of Plovdiv and later certified as a TEFL teacher. She worked for a time at a local radio station, newspaper, then she taught English at school and university. In 2008 she moved to the USA and started writing this story. The initial idea was that it would be a short humorous fantasy story, but later it turned into a longer fairy-tale.
Published under the pen name A.V. Osten as an e-book is her dystopian novelette The Head Employee Precedent, part of the Hemisphere series.
Toni lives in Michigan with her husband, daughter, and their two cats.
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