“Will that really happen?” - Vlad, his oldest son, asked.
The only interest that Vlad had in fruit was eating them. He spent most of his days riding and annoying Veran, their military leader, or the other guards to duel with him.
“Of course not. Omens and legends have nothing to do with our house’s future.” - Stan, the middle son, replied.
Stan preferred the company of books over that of the sword. He knew how to hold a quill before his father’s scholars had the chance to teach him. At the same time, putting him in armor made him look like a fish out of water.
“The reality is that generations before us have labored to make sure this orchard lives. It’s more of a garden. It’s a symbol - we even have the apple flower on our flags, for god’s sake. I refuse to let it die in my lifetime.” - Ivan said.
“But why is it so important?” - they continued the stream of questions.
“Pour me another one, would you?” - Ivan said, handing his cup to the housemaid.
“Our family was given this piece of land because no one else wanted it. No one else believed that anything could grow here. But our ancestors knew differently. They settled here and turned it into what we have today. They made this garden in defiance of everyone who doubted them.”
“So what are we going to do, father?” - Ozren, the youngest brother, asked with bulging eyes.
“I will call upon priests from the capital to send prayers and bless the soil with holy water. The dead god has been with our house for a hundred years. He will not let us down now.”
The black-robed priests were greeted like saviors. The boyar brought out his best wine from the cellar under the keep, and bakers made bred as soft as cotton. For the priests to pray with full hearts, he had to fill their bellies first. One of them led the procession with a smoking chandelier hanging on silver chains. The rest walked behind him, dipping crane’s-bill in holy water and spraying the ground of the orchard.
Ivan was full of hope. Surely this should please god enough to breathe life into the apple trees. But his disappointment was immeasurable when summer and autumn passed, and the gardeners once again came to him empty-handed. Ozren and his brothers heard him scream and yell from his chambers. It took them three days to gather the courage to enter. When they did, they found the ground littered with pieces of plates, glass, and pages torn from books.
“Don’t worry, my boys. This orchard was created long ago before the dead god had come into our lands. It was the old gods that we should have prayed to. They will listen.”
This year instead of priests, he invited healers and druids from the nearby villages. The visitors sacrificed a goat, letting its blood soak into the ground. They sang and burned prayers to every deity that could answer house Bozmaroff’s call. But once again, the orchard gave no apples, and Ivan’s blinding rage was rotting his body from the inside.