The Knights, the Gale and the Rose by Rohinton Daruwala

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The Knights, the Gale and the Rose

Narrated by Rohinton Daruwala


The Knights, the Gale and the Rose by Rohinton Daruwala
Illustration by Sue Babcock

*741 H.E.*

Consider, this soldier on patrol.
Consider, this planet he’s on,
where they’re desperately trying to save
all the species they’ve been
terraforming to death over the
last few hundred years.

Consider this fact –
there are no grey flowers.
Blues, yellows, reds yes,
colours crowding out the rainbow.
Blacks, whites, and when you relax
your definitions,
a surprising number of greens,
but no greys.

Consider then,
that it is most unusual
that our soldier stumbles upon a
grey flower no one has seen before.
He has a rotation due in three days,
and a biologist he’d like to impress
with how he knows she knows
there are no grey flowers.

And a grey flower from a
dying landscape is plucked
to die in a vase somewhere
three days later.

*218,000 B.H.E.*

This is a momentous occasion,
no less important
for being conducted in secret.

Thiras and Uthiras –
the land dwelling race and
the sea dwelling one,
bodies so different and yet
faces with the same
curious yellow eyes below
a single large white horn.

Tiled floor and air and
separated by glass panels
that seem to each side like
a bridge into another world.

Siann of the Thiras is the elder
by far, in her third female cycle.
She eyes the young Turia curiously.
By her understanding the young Uthiras
has been male and nothing else yet.
Strange to send someone without yet
the experience of both sexes,
and yet clearly the audacity
of youth is worth something.
He has pressed a single drowning
grey rose against the glass.
Siann will laugh and
fetch one of her own to
press against her side of
the cold transparent border.
She knows that just as
her garden bred rose is a blood red
to her,
Turia’s, obtained from an estuary
the Uthiras frequent,
is a dark sea-blue to him.

These then are the first
Knights of the Grey Roses.
They will help to keep two species
away from each other’s throats,
and even to rise and prosper
and sail together across the stars
before they fall together
their tombs entwined in calamity.

*18,000 B.H.E.*

Jacintho blinks at the roses.
With sixteen compound eyes,
this takes a while.
One rose is red, one blue, but
Jacintho knows with the right
combination of open and closed eyes,
they’re both grey.
He experiments with closing a couple
and then another,
and then decides to stop
as a colleague from across the room
winks back lasciviously.

Jacintho is clever and bored,
and he likes
blending things.
The storm of war rages on but
there are only so many toxins
you can make without
drowning in your own despair.
Away from his superior’s gazes,
Jacintho blends red and blue,
splices, regrows, retries and
has just enough time to leave
something entirely new
in a garden
in a station, abandoned
so quickly by those
borne back to battle
in a gale of fresh fighting.

*741 H.E.*

Two roses by the same name
can often be very different.
Lata received the rose yesterday.
It’s on her desk failing
to be revived by its vase of water,
and ignored until Hemlata
is puzzled by the grey rose
on her friend’s desk.
Puzzled and intrigued of course,
because there are no grey roses.
Her superior has only two eyes,
and so she has the time to
test, retest and refuse to believe the
strangeness of her own results.

Seven days from now she will,
entirely without authorization,
retrace our amorous soldier’s steps,
and then,
go further than he did,
beyond what is safe or sane –
into barely terraformed air
that scrapes at her lungs
and knocks her unconscious
just as she finds
a rose bush.

Seven days after that, from a
hospital bed, the mad botanist,
nearly well enough to be fired,
will begin talking to a bush
covered in ugly grey roses
that she has refused to part with.
She talks more to the bush
than to people, allows its thorns
to prick her fingers.

Twelve days into recovery
a nurse checking up on her
will go silent in shock and,
in her worst bedside manner,
wake her patient to tell her the bush
is covered in roses of every
nameable colour she has seen –
noonday yellows, sunset oranges,
blood reds and dark ocean blues.

Her patient will lie still, stare
at the ceiling away from the bush,
and say, “I know.”
She knows the roses have adjusted
themselves to her spectrum and
hence the nurse’s, but she knows
little else about them, and
has a lifetime left to learn.
In her heart, she understands now
that this is what love is –
to be transformed in an instant
and to know that now,
whatever happens,
for the rest of your life
your love will spend your time
unfolding itself to you.

BIO: Rohinton Daruwala lives and works in Pune, India. He writes code for a living, and speculative fiction and poetry in his spare time. He tweets as @wordbandar and blogs at His work has previously appeared in Strange Horizons, New Myths, Star*Line, Liminality and Through the Gate.