Rosie twisted the rose she held, letting its tiny light push back the ocean of darkness which had swallowed her. The enchanted, mechanical flower was the one tool she had with her. It was her only link to Betty and her only link home. For all she knew, it’s light was the only thing that was keeping her safe from whatever sort of creatures lay beyond the tiny bubble of its light.
So, of course, she started disassembling it.
The pieces which made up the Spelling Rose had required jewelers tools to work with back in her room. Their alignment had been positioned precisely, each piece placed at an exact angle and pitch to the rest, in order to evoke the magic which pulsed through the device.
Working with only her hands, in a dark and gloomy realm to try to alter the Spelling Rose’s functions meant risking losing that magic, and the light it provided, but Rosie couldn’t see that she had any other choice.
I got myself into this mess, she thought, I’m going to get myself out of it.
On its own the Rose wasn’t capable of opening a portal back to her world, but its powers could be turned to other functions, similar the one it was originally intended to provide. The trick was convincing the magical device that it could be more than it was designed to be.
In crafting the device, Rosie had spent a lot of time understanding the basic theories that drove the creation of communication spells. In some senses they were similar to technological solutions to the same problems. The method the Spelling Rose used to decrypt signals was quite similar to the encryption used in cell phones for example.
In other areas though, the two were markedly different. Where cellphones relied on a network and a series of a cell towers to pick up and carry the signal from one phone to another, Spelling Roses were bound together as matched sets. That meant that no matter how far they seemed to be apart, in a sense they were always together.
Rosie smiled at the thought that on some level she wasn’t really lose yet. Betty was still no farther away than the flower she carried.
Rosie also smiled at the idea that, like a cellphone, the magics bound into the Spelling Rose were capable of more than simple sending and receiving signals.
Where a microprocessor sat in a cell phone, a tiny little whisp of heat from an elemental sat in the Spelling Rose. It coordinated the flow of the magic but like a microprocessor it could also parse and manipulate the data given to it. That was how it knew to turn speech into a written form.
“There,” Rosie said, as she twisted the last of the tiny dials on the Spelling Rose into place. In place of programming a computer chip for a cellphone, Rosie had encoded her wishes for the Spelling Rose into the glyphs she’d etched into the tiny components of the device. Altering the function of the Rose was partially a matter of changing the configuration of those glyphs until they formed new words and partially a matter of coaxing the magic in the Rose that flowing in new directions was something it wanted to do.
The trick with it, Rosie felt, was not to rush things. Everything changes, all the time, but few things find change easy. Flowers, even mechanical ones, can be delicate and the magic which is attracted to them even more so. Guiding that magic to do something new meant being patient with it while it discovered how it could manage what was being asked of it.
That was why, when the glow vanished and darkness washed over Rosie, leaving her completely blind, she didn’t panic.
The magical flower was still warm in her hands, it was still working, just not how it had been.
With the fading of the light though, the munching noises that surrounded her grew closer. She couldn’t tell what sort of creature would make that particular kind of sound except that it had to be a fairly large sort of creature.
As big as a dog? she wondered.
The sounds grew closer and she thought, Not a dog. Something bigger. A lion?
The tearing and heavy mashing got louder still but nothing touched her and Rosie revised her estimate upwards again. An elephant? Bigger?
The Spelling Rose resumed its glow, purring back to life in her hands. It glowed brighter and brighter still before stabilizing at the level of a large candle flame.
In the renewed light, Rosie finally saw her surroundings clearly.
There were scaled beasts which were easily as large as two elephants all around her. With the return of the Spelling Rose’s light, they all turned to look at her, their pupils long slits against yellow, inhuman eyes.
Their bodies were long and sinuous, with short legs and a pair of large, leathery wings, which some of them had stretched out, while others kept theirs pressed to their bodies.
Each of the beasts glanced at the others, tilting and nodding their heads in surprise, before they began tramping forwards, closing in on the spot where Rosie was sitting. They stopped a small distance away from her and began scenting the air with their tongues, which did nothing at all to calm Rosie’s nerves.
The smallest of the bunch gave a keening hiss that warbled and cut off in sharp clicks. Rosie had no idea what it could mean until the translation spell she’d coaxed the Spelling Rose into accepting spoke up.
“Why, this is a new thing, isn’t it?” the smallest of the creatures said.
“Indeed it is,” another said. “I wonder where it’s come from?”
“Likely far away,” a third said. “And it seems to have a Spelling Rose in its hand. Do you think it’s intelligent?”
“It’s looking at us in a manner that suggests it must be,” the first one said. “We should see if it needs our assistance. It’s so tiny, it can’t be safe for it to be traveling alone.”