The Flower Courting Ritual
When I wrote The Fifth Son, I wanted to include a courting ritual, but I had no idea what shape that would take. I wanted something different from our traditional exchange of rings. Something different meant Googling… for hours, because it’s so easy to sink into the quick sand that’s Google. And I found many alternatives, from knotted bracelets to shared tattoos. Most of which were interesting, but didn’t call out to me… or Llyskel and Ariv.
Google being Google, there’s always something that doesn’t quite match a search, so I was surprised, but intrigued, when I stumbled across a mention of the meaning of flowers. It sparked something of recognition in me. I was sure I’d read about the meanings of flowers before, and I clicked the link, though more out of curiosity about which plants meant what than in connection to the courting ritual. But once I started reading, images formed in my head. Images of Llyskel offering Ariv a sprig, and receiving a lonely bud from Ariv. And I knew I’d found what I’d been looking for.
Of course, these flowers needed to have a meaning that reflected what Llyskel and Ariv wanted out of their relationship as well as the inclusive nature of the people of Eizyrr. I also felt the flowers would need some made up traditional sayings to go with them.
It took a bit of puzzling, but this is how the people of Eizyrr perform the courting ritual. One note: the flowers have to be given in public.
The giver surprises the receiver with a basket containing a single kozal bud on a leafless stem, which is their request to court the receiver. When handing them over, the giver speaks the following traditional lines: “Our paths have crossed and twined. You complete mine. I hope you will let me complete yours.”
The receiver then either declines the offer, or accepts the basket. No words are needed because accepting shows a willingness to consider the offer. The offer will have to be returned in the same traditional way with the gift of a flower to express the receiver’s own intentions.
This return offer can have many forms. In The Fifth Son I only mention a few of those possibilities:
– a sprig of dark green leaves from the venoli tree to indicate the receiver has no intention of sharing their lover with another.
– a blue roset leaf to mean the receiver isn’t opposed to including a third into their relationship.
– a lavender zei blossom to indicate the receiver’s desire for an open relationship.
Like the first gift, this one is also accompanied by some traditional lines: “Our paths have crossed and twined. I would gladly merge my path with yours.”
When the receiver offers his gift, the original giver can, again, decline the offer, but more often, since they made the offer to court in the first place, they’ll accept the gift, showing the receiver a willingness to consider their offer. Should they accept the offer as given, the giver then pins the receiver’s gift onto their clothes to publicly show their agreement, and the pair is now officially courting.
Of course, it can happen that the giver feels they can’t accept the offer, even though most people involved in a courtship already know each other pretty well. But they could have misread the signs. Maybe they prefer an exclusive relationship versus an open one. In that case, out comes the basket again, in which the giver places the gift they received and a counter offer. But this time, the offer does not have to be public, and they can add a note stating their desires, should a flower not express them accurately enough.
Considering that I only came up with three different offers of relationships. What sort of flower—real or made up—would you give the person you’d like to court? What would that flower mean?
Illustrations By: Yana Goya
Blurb: A prince without power
In a land where magic is commonplace, Prince Llyskel has none. He can’t command spells, he has never been taught to fight, and as the fifth son of the King, he will never rule. Everyone believes he’s a weakling, most of all himself.
Powerlessness is Llyskel’s problem-and his pleasure. In his secret fantasies, the prince dreams of nothing more than finding himself helpless at another man’s hands… particularly the hands of Captain Ariv of the Guards.
Then Ariv makes Llyskel’s dream a reality, and as the powerless prince surrenders to the soldier’s desire, he finds his own true strength at last. But a web of royal politics is closing around Llyskel, threatening to tear him from his lover, and it will take all his newfound courage to escape…
Excerpt: “Good morning, little brother. The flowers in the garden are particularly vibrant today, are they not?”
I had no clue what to say to that. I hadn’t even looked out of my window this morning. I had been too busy gazing at Ariv as he dressed. Lerran moved on and greeted our parents as jovially as always, while I was still waiting for a comment, a jibe at yesterday’s altercation. None came. Instead it seemed business as usual. Lerran sat next to Danen and immediately started chatting about training schedules for the morning, though I did notice he and Father exchanging glances.
Aside from the work discussions and the occasional question from Mother-to me about what I planned to paint, and to Danen about Inau’s increasing tiredness and Sirr’s volatile moods-breakfast was rather quiet. I found myself touching my wrists every chance I got, though I didn’t dare look at them. I couldn’t stop myself. Knowing the rope marks were still visible-faint, but visible-touching them, just rubbing my thumb across them, made me shudder and remember. At times I had to fight not to close my eyes and forget where I was. It was as if I’d never had sex before. I smiled at myself. Not like this, I hadn’t. Not this satisfying.
Being so wrapped up in my own little world, I almost missed someone entering the room. Had not my entire family fallen quiet, I wouldn’t have noticed. I turned my head towards the door and froze. Ariv stood in the doorway, dressed in full captain’s garb, carrying a small wicker basket.
“Good morning, Your Majesty,” Ariv said as he bowed towards Father, before turning to Mother. “Your Majesty, Highnesses. I hope I’m not disturbing your meal.”
“Not at all, Captain,” Father answered him. “Enter and state your business.”
Ariv bowed again and walked towards me, slowly, looking straight at me with a serious expression on his face. I didn’t know whether to shiver or swallow, and I ended up gripping the sides of my seat as I tried to keep breathing.
“Your Highness,” Ariv said as he reached out with one hand.
I grabbed it, and Ariv pulled me up so we stood face to face.
He held out the basket as he spoke the traditional request to court me. “Llyskel. Our paths have crossed and twined. You complete mine. I hope you will let me complete yours.”
In the basket lay a single kozal bud on a leafless stem. It was rather backwards for Ariv to ask permission to court me after we had sex, but, from what I’d seen of him over the years, it didn’t surprise me that he was a traditional man, sexual appetite aside.
I took the basket without a word. Taking the basket was to show my consent, my willingness to consider his offer. My answer to Ariv would have to be returned in the same traditional way: a return gift of a flower to express my own intentions. After what he’d done for me, I had no desire to let him go, and I couldn’t wait to see what he would come up with for our first public outing as a couple.
As Ariv disappeared through the door, I sat, holding the basket in my lap, and looked at the beautiful bud. I tried not to wonder whether he would have asked if his rope trick hadn’t worked. Hidden by the basket, I lifted my sleeve and smiled at the faint rope marks around my wrists.
The Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED