Sabotage by Topiary - Experimental Scene Thing (Work in Progress)

For some context, this is just me fooling around with a backstory that didn't make it into the cut of The Blighted Earth, and a character I was hoping to introduce a lot later in the plot. This is very much a work in progress, but I've decided to post it just to get something outside of the draft pile. One day, maybe I'll finish this short-event-in-the-backstory-post. Regardless of whether or not that happens, it helped me with writing the characters in the actual plot.

Oh ho, she was going to kill him.

Amh'jurah reached into the dense foliage of the topiary, her fingers latching onto a thick branch near its core. With a strangled growl, wood cracked and separated as she a tore a chunk off the leafy sculpture before turning on her heel and stomping out of her room. Fellow students saw her tirade through the hall and pressed into the walls out of her way. She ignored them when she heard comments in her wake, her mind directed to the horticulture and botany room at the first floor of the building. Lit sconces burned brighter beside her with every frustrated breath she took and extinguished as if they were as fearful as the students that fled at the sight of her fury.

Topiary piece still in one hand, she used her other to help her pivot around the spiral staircase, the wooden handrail charred where her white-knuckled grip made contact with it, small wafts of smoke rising from her burning grasp.

As soon as she made it to the ground floor, she caught sight of a familiar blue coat turning a corner into what she knew was the horticulture lecture room. She picked up speed, her hands wanting to ignite in flames to throw a wad of fire in his direction. She refrained, however, since she might get kicked out of the academy. Elementalists have already caused a lot of problems for the building in the past, she wouldn't be the first, but she just might be the last and have them enact that ban again.

"Alir!" she cried as she drew closer to the lecture room. "Get over here!"

"Amh'jurah," Alir groaned as he shuffled out of the classroom to meet her. "Can't you see that the lecture is about to start?"

She shoved the chunk of leaves in his face. "You think this is funny?"

He sputtered around the branches, pushing the mass of leaves away from him and glared at her. He straightened his disheveled hair and dusted off leaves from his blue coat. He bit back at her, "Jurah, what are you going on about?"

"Look! Who does this look like?" She held up the hunk of foliage for him to take a better look at it.

"Is that... Jekas's head?"

Amh'jurah threw the leafy caricature of her ex-fiancé's face on the floor and pointed an accusatory finger under Alir's chin, a rise of smoke curling around his jaw from her fingertip. Alir held up both of his shaking hands, eyeing her burning touch with wide, green eyes.

"I told no one else about Jekas," she spat, drawing a filed fingernail closer to his face.

"And you think that I would do something like mock you with a topiary?" Alir asked his voice even despite his fear, his eyebrows knitting together. "Be rational, Jurah. We're both scientists, after all."

She couldn't believe that he was lying right to her face. All the evidence pointed to him doing this, after all. Plant magic, borderline sociopath (though he did reign it in better as he continued in the academy), competitive, and above all likely insane with all his theories about the Blight; Alir wouldn't "stoop" to mock her, no -- to make sure she'd get angry enough to get her expelled from the Academy of Avamir? It was just crazy enough for it to be his doing. He didn't have any hesitation to try to sabotage her research (keyword: try) in the past, after all.

What made it worse was that she knew that she was falling for it, and still she found herself wanting to wring his throat.

"Mister Cael," Amh'jurah snarled, "this will be the end of your academic career and you know it."

"I swear I didn't do this."

"I told you specifically that anything about Jekas was off limits. Here I thought that little heart-to-heart the other day was the two of us finally seeing each other as humans instead of a threat to our continued enrollment here."

Alir looked hurt, the gasp that escaped him melodramatic.

She looked around and saw that they were drawing in a crowd, the lecture she pulled the horticulturist from was interrupted by their exchange.

A rustle of leaves, and suddenly she found herself face-planting on the floor, Alir kicking up dust in the marble-tiled floor of the building with his navy coattails whipping around him as he ran around a corner. She looked at her feet and saw the topiary head had grown longer branches, tangling her legs within the twigs and leaves.

"That conniving, manipulative, salt-addict"--she rendered the plant into a pile of smoking ash and embers--"only wanted me vulnerable to make me angry. Well, then. He wants to sabotage my reputation? Two can play at that game."

She didn't want to stoop so low, but if Alir was going to mess with her sanity, she might as well mess with what little he had.

To the city's salt-keeper it was.


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