To hots or not to hots
One cool evening, Vivian, Kate and Lucian decided to arrange a secret birthday party for Acciper Sparrowhawk’s seventeenth Alarian birthday. The problem with their approach was that they set out to plot it in the absolute worst place one could choose for keeping something secret: a public garden. Moreover, unbeknownst to either of them, the garden hosted far-spreading vines of Whispering Roses, or Murmura Rossa. It was a rare species of flower whose main feature was to record nearby sounds, only to transport it away – from one flowery mouth to the next – all across the Queendom of Garlaan.
‘Right,’ said Vivian matter-of-factly. ‘Acciper’s secret birthday party HAS GOT to be perfect, hear you me?’
‘Yes, we heard you the first fifty times too,’ Lucian Blossom rolled his eyes.
He wasn’t the only one either. A few feet away, a white-glowing tuft of Whispering Roses recorded the message and began passing it on, flower to flower, across the gardens and beyond…
Kate sided with Lucian. ‘We all know you’ve got the hots for Ace—,‘ she paused under Vivian’s stern look, ‘—but let’s be reasonable, Viv. We can’t have the party in Palas Lumina.’
‘Why not?’ boomed Vivian. ‘I am the princess!’
‘Too many people, that’s why,’ said Lucian. ‘How are we to organize it with everyone coming and going? It’s supposed to be a secret. Acciper simply can’t know!’
At that moment, they heard it: the soft, drawn-out voice, creeping away from them across the field of light-giving roses. “Acciper’s secret birthday party— birthday party. Has got to be perfect – to be perfect – perfect…”
‘Oh no!’ said Vivian, Kate and Lucian, as one voice.
The Whispering Roses continued carrying the distorted message across the entire Queendom. “Supposed to be a secret—be a secret—secret. Acciper simply can’t know – can’t know— know!”
‘Acciper can’t know what?’ asked a voice, and Acciper Sparrowhawk stepped forward from behind the gazebo with a large dead animal on his back. At the sight of him, the trio let out a small yelp.
‘Ace! W-what are you doing here?’
‘Hunting Zmiraks,’ he pointed at the deer-like animal on his shoulder. ‘Acciper can’t know what?’ he repeated.
‘We were just—’ Kate started.
“Let’s be reasonable Viv –reasonable Viv –sonable Viv” exploded the voice of a million petalled mouths. "You’ve got the hots for Ace –got the hots for Ace –ots for Ace”
Vivian turned a burgundy-red from head to toe. Her mouth broke into a Cheshire cat ear-to-ear grin. Acciper gave her a look of deep confusion.
‘WE’RE HAVING A SECRET BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR YOU, INNIT GUYS? YAAAAY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ACE OH HOW YOU CAUGHT US RED-HANDED YOU SNEAKY DEVIL YOU!’ said Vivian without drawing breath.
‘Wow, thanks you lot!’ said Acciper, looking pleased.
‘YES WELL THE LEAST WE CAN DO FOR YOU AS YOU DO SO MUCH FOR US AND WELL, DID I SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY?’
‘Indeed you did,’ said Acciper. He then turned to Lucian and asked, ‘why Vivian screaming?’
‘She err, hrm-hrm,’ Lucian loudly cleared his throat with the patience of one thinking fast on his feet. ‘She was caught on the wrong end of a war-horn. Been deaf as a post since morning.’
‘Ouch. Well now, I thank the initiative. Sorry to bust the surprise. Will try to act surprised,’ said Acciper, walking away. As he passed Vivian by, he added, ‘SEE YOU AT THE PARTY!’
Vivian exhaled with relief when she heard Acciper call from the distance. ‘HEARD YOU GOT “HOTS” FOR ME. NO ONE EVER GIVE ME “HOTS” FOR BIRTHDAY. LOOK FORWARD TO!’ and disappeared from the garden.
Vivian turned to Lucian Blossom. ‘Lucian, you opened more books than I have hairs. What does “hots” mean in Ærria?’
Lucian whipped out the Alarian illustrated dictionary, turned to the designated page and lifted the book at Vivian’s eye-level. The drawing depicted two people snogging in the most embarrassingly lewd and lascivious manner available. Kate erupted in an angry fit of sniggering while Vivian’s heart sank in her throat.
‘Ace couldn’t possibly— probably a misunderstanding—‘
Vivian buried her face in her palms, the tips of her ears reddening. It didn’t help that Lucian had joined Kate in her furious bout of laughter.
‘I’ll just— get him some— some nice juicy apples. Ace loves em’ apples.’
And together they walked away from the garden, where a few lonely roses still whispered: “—ots for Ace –ots for Ace”, carrying their viral message, inch by inch, across the whole Alarian world.