Selena Upshaw had always been in love with nature!...all aspects of nature, and it both delighted and fascinated her large family. She had been raised as most girls from wealth were, on an estate handed down generation to generation and finally to her father, the Earl of Benthaven. He adored his daughter (his eldest child), and he lavished every luxury on her, particularly when it nurtured her brilliant mind. The Earl boasted about her achievements scholastically and in the fields of music, poetry, and in the fine arts of painting, sculpture, and origami. She won numerous awards and medals for exotic napkin-folding. As she entered her teens, two of her greatest hobbies moved to the forefront; exotic flower botany and her apiculture ….”bee-keeping”. Selena soon began to breed and crossbreed the most extraordinary examples of flowers in all the different classes, orders, genuses, and species. And she used her allies, her beloved allies, the bees in her journeys. She adored them, watching them for hours working cheerfully away on all the plants in her huge gardens and in the specially built and maintained greenhouses and arboretums. The Earl spared no expense on Selena’s staff although she insisted on doing most of the work herself, often leaving her assistants to sit idly by, watching intently as she schooled them on the fine points of botany and zoology. So dedicated was Selena, that she began doing experiments on insect and arachnid venoms, as well as the poisons that could be found in hundreds of different flower and fruit species….encouraged by medical professionals who were friends of her parents. Physicians and researchers from Edinburgh and Oxford informed her that many common “poisons” and venoms might, in the right dosages, be used to cure the terrible illnesses that afflicted humanity. Selena took to this new journey as avidly as she continued with her flowers and bee-keeping. And then it happened… it started with some faint itching, a little blurring of the vision, excessive thirst, a ringing in the ears…or a buzzing… and strange cravings; chocolate, the darker the better. Sugar. …and of course… honey. Selena knew she was lucky to be so wealthy. Her parents and the rest of her family were worried at first, but saw that she was so calm in the face of such a shocking stroke of …well, not “good-luck” certainly. Selena dictated the course of her life to all of them and the few servants who were of the inner circle and trusted completely. Life would go on as usual. Her meals and needs would be met and provided within the walls of the enormous estate. She would receive no visitors, and all enquiries about her would be deflected with stories of “foreign travel”, “living overseas”, vague evasions, and changes of the subject….and of course, there could be no mirrors… never again. But that was alright with Selena. She had always looked for the beauty of life outside of her…the sights and smells of all her flowers...and the company of the other insects in the vast gardens...all that beauty... and that, that had been a choice that worked out quite well…….
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