8 min read

Clove & Moose 2: The Glittering Garden

Clove & Moose is a serial fiction story. While there is an overarching plot, each episode can be enjoyed on its own without reading what came before. However, if you want to get caught up, click the button below.

Previously, on Clove & Moose: After the Cataclysm dried up the earth and its magic, Clove left home to search for pools of corrupted magic left behind in the Cataclysm’s wake. Along with her cat Moose, she’s on a mission to find the corrupted magic, reverse its effects, and leave the world a better place.

“Where did you say you kids were headed?”

Clove looked around the makeshift campsite: three small tents in various states of disrepair, a circle of rocks with ashes in the middle, and a couple bundles of food hanging from the trees. It wasn’t much, but judging by the amount of ash in the pit, they’d been staying here for a while.

“We’re heading east,” Min said. She was the friendliest of the group and the one who did most of the talking. “Looking for work.”

“Uh huh.” Clove had run into the four teenagers while crossing through the forest, and they’d insisted she come back to their camp and share a meal. At the time they’d seemed friendly, but now she wondered if they were trying to trick an adult into taking care of them. “And where are your parents?”

“We don’t need parents,” said Nate. He was blond and stocky, with a square jaw. “Tynan’s eighteen already and the rest of us aren’t far behind.”

Min rolled her eyes. “What my brother isn’t telling you is that our parents lost it after the Cataclysm. Claimed it was a sign the world needed to be cleansed. They left on some holy journey. When we didn’t want to go, they left without us.”

Clove couldn’t imagine leaving family behind in the wake of the Cataclysm; if she had anyone left she’d be clinging to them for dear life. “What have you been doing for food?”

“We looted all three of our houses, so we’re set for a while.”

“What’s it matter to you, anyway?” asked Tynan, glowering at her. He was tall and lean, with a mop of red hair and a low brow. “We’re not asking for your life story.”

“Actually, I have a question,” Oli said, raising their hand. They stood next to Nate, their head coming just to his shoulder. 

“Okay,” Clove said warily. 

“Can I pet your cat?”

Clove looked down at Moose and shrugged. “That’s up to him.”

Oli approached Moose slowly, one hand outstretched, and crouched beside him. Moose sniffed the offered hand for a long moment before pushing his head up into Oli's hand to be petted. Oli's face split into a grin as they rubbed his ears.

"Great." Tynan rolled his eyes. "Can we get on with it now?"

"Get on with what?" Min asked. "Dinner? Or do you have somewhere more pressing to be?"

“Oh my god, Min, give it a rest,” he groaned. “I’m not the one who wanted to have a dinner party, so why don’t you come help me with this?”

Nate had crouched next Oli to join in petting Moose; the two of them were seemingly oblivious to the drama unfolding between their companions. Clove wondered how often they had to tune out arguments between the other two.

“I have my own food,” she said. The last thing she wanted was to be a burden to these kids. “If I can use your fire to heat it up, I’m set.”

“No, join us,” Min insisted. “We have lots. Seriously.”

She lowered the bundles from the trees. Tynan followed her over, and Clove trailed along behind. The least she could do was help with the cooking. By the time she reached them, Min had the bundles on the ground and was beginning to rustle through them. Something inside made a clanking sound like stones knocking together. What did they have in there?

When Tynan realized she had followed him, he whirled on her. “We don’t need your help with this, lady. Go stoke the fire or something if you can’t sit still.”

“Tynan!” Min exclaimed, standing up with a tin can in either hand. “No need to be rude. Clove, do you want to help open these?”

“Sure.” Clove stepped past Tynan and took the cans from Min before retreating to a safe spot next to the fire. Behind her, Min and Tynan were whisper-fighting, their voices hissing. She could see why the other two pretended not to hear them. 

The rest of the evening passed in much the same way. Oli and Nate blissfully orbited each other and paid little attention to anyone else, with the exception of Moose, who was only too happy to have two new fans willing to pet him endlessly.

It was a strange dynamic, and one Clove didn’t want any part of. By the time they were finished eating, the sky was almost dark, and she figured she’d been polite for long enough. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll hit the hay. I want to get on the road early.”

“Of course,” Min said. “Do you have a tent? I can help you set it up.”

They had Clove’s little solo hiking tent up in a flash, and she said her goodnights and crawled inside. Moose reluctantly left his new fan club to come join her, though he seemed happy enough once he was curled up inside her sleeping bag.

“Traitor,” Clove grumbled as she curled an arm around him. “Can’t stay here much longer or you won’t want to leave.”


When she woke at dawn, the camp was silent. Clove moved as quietly as she could to pack up her tent and slip away. She felt a twinge of guilt at leaving the teens to get by on their own, but they seemed to be doing fine before she came along. 

A trail passed through the camp; she left in the opposite direction from the way she’d arrived. She walked quietly until she figured she was out of earshot, then picked up her pace, aiming to put as much distance between them as she could. 

That plan went out the window when something crunched under her foot. When she stooped to see what she had stepped on, she found a delicate flower made from precious gems. 

Two oval emeralds were shaped into leaves at its base, while another formed the stem. At the top, a dainty teardrop of pink tourmaline hung down to make the flower. A perfect lady’s slipper. The craftsmanship was incredible.

It wasn’t the only one, either. When she started looking, she realized that the ground in front of her was covered in them. Lady’s slippers, mayflowers, even a bulging mushroom of white moonstone. 

Clove’s stomach sank. She looked ahead, peering through the trees, and caught the faint glow of orange magic against the still-dark sky.

She released a long sigh. “Guess we better go deal with that, huh?”

Moose extended a paw to bat at one of the dangling gem flowers. 

“No no, not a toy.” She picked him up and held him close to her chest. “That is super cursed, boy, not for playing.”

She picked her way carefully through the gems, trying to follow a safe path toward the magic. The farther she went, the more the gems had taken over; entire trees of glimmering stone hung their branches across her trail. 

When she finally reached the edge of the magic, Tynan was waiting for her.

“Well, well,” he drawled, “I guess I was right not to trust you.”

None of the other teens were here, unless they were hiding somewhere waiting to jump out at her. 

“You knew about this?”

“Don’t play dumb,” Tynan said. “You saw the gems in our bags last night, didn’t you? I told Min to be more careful.”

“That’s why you’re staying out here? Gathering cursed gems? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?”

“Your lies aren’t going to scare us out of this. If you don’t back off, I’ll make you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small hunting knife.

“You’re kidding, right?” Clove didn’t take her eyes off the blade. She clutched Moose more tightly. “This stuff is worthless. Look around; the world has changed. Besides, they’re killing the forest.

“They are?” Oli’s worried voice came from behind her.

Clove didn’t turn her back on Tynan, but she shifted so that she could see Oli, Nate, and Min in her peripheral vision.

“Yes. See?” She pointed to the ground. “Look at where the plants’ roots connect to the soil. The gems are destroying the plants.”

“I didn’t realize,” Oli said, bending down to examine the nearest glittering flower. “Why is that happening? What can we do?”

“I can stop it, if your friend puts his knife away.”

“Nice try,” Tynan scoffed. “Don’t listen to her, you idiots. We’ve got to stick to the plan. If we can sell enough of this stuff, we can–”

“She has a point,” Min broke in. “People are just trying to keep themselves fed these days. No one is going to give us money for a bunch of useless stones.”

Tynan hissed. “You always have to disagree with me.”

“Yeah, because your plans suck. I’m sick of always following what you want just because you’re the oldest.”

“Get out of the way and let Clove fix this,” Oli said, putting themself in front of both Min and Clove. “This isn’t right, Ty. We need to stop.”

“You’re a fool. The trees are going to die either way.”

“Put the knife down,” Oli said, taking a step toward him. 

“Make me,” Tynan snarled. 

Oli dove forward. Nate and Min both shouted “no!”

Tynan at least had the decency not to stab his friend, but he reached out with his free hand and shoved them hard. Clove tried to grab for Oli as they fell, but she was still holding Moose and couldn’t get a hand free fast enough. They hit the ground and rolled onto their side, shrieking in pain. They curled into a fetal position with their left arm clutched to their chest. The whole arm was crusted in garnet, and it was spreading.

“Oli!” Nate yelled, kneeling beside them. “Oli, it’s okay. I’ve got you.”

“You dumbass.” Min pushed past Clove and punched Tynan in the nose. 

He lurched back, dropping the knife, clutching his hands to his face. The blood streaming from his was nearly the same colour as the gem creeping across Oli’s body. Min snatched up the knife and stood over Tynan.

“Clove.” Nate’s voice was desperate. “Can you help?” The garnet was beginning to spread up one side of Oli’s neck. 

“I hope so.” She crouched beside them, releasing Moose. “Stay here.”

She retrieved the crystal from her pocket and spoke the words of her now-familiar spell. At the far edge of the magic circle, the gems began to melt away, leaving behind the flowers and trees. As the corrupted magic was sucked back toward the center, the tide turned on Oli’s body and the garnet began to shrink, away from their neck and down the arm, leaving nothing but bare, healthy flesh in its wake. 

A warm pulse of the crystal let her know the work was done. 

“Are you alright?” she asked Oli.

They stared at their hand as they flexed their fingers. “I think so. Thank you.”

Moose pressed his head into the freshly-healed hand. Oli laughed and patted him. Clove left Oli and Nate with the cat and turned back toward Min and Tynan. 

“Are you lot going to be alright?” she murmured to Min.

“Yeah.” Min sighed and lowered the knife. “But I’ll be holding onto this. And Tynan’s on cooking duty for at least a month.”

“And the rest of you?”

“We’ll get by. The get-rich-quick scheme was stupid, but we’ll find a way to make things work.”

“Good.” She turned to Tynan. “You’re lucky to have friends like these. You should give that some thought.”

He only rolled his eyes. 

Clove lifted Moose away from his new friends. “I think this is where I leave you, then. Good luck.”

“Thanks for saving me,” Oli said. 

“Don’t mention it. Just be careful. If you see anything like this again, steer clear.”

“Don’t worry,” Nate said, “I think it’s safe to say we’ve learnt our lesson.”

“Will you be alright out there?” Min asked. “On your own?”

“I’m not alone,” she said, “I’ve got Moose.”

Moose scrambled out of her arms, brushed against Min’s legs on his way past, and chased a leaf down the path. Clove waved goodbye to the teens and followed along behind him.

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Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find her on twitterinstagram, and tumblr.