The March of the Rose
Copyright© 2015 by R22CoolGuy
Dao's forge within a mountain on a deserted island within the archipelagos south of Re-An, Andor
Aaron slowly approached Dao at his work table, shielding Dana behind him. He stopped several steps in front of The Creator and placed his hand on DeathBringer's hilt.
"What are you doing here?" Aaron asked Dao menacingly.
"It is my forge, after all," Dao turned from his work and replied with a smile and added. "But I am really here to see you. Good day, Your Majesty. It is nice to see you. Might I have a word alone with your mate?"
"If you look over there you will find a fissure in the cavern wall," he continued, pointing toward an opening in the cavern wall. "If you go through it you will find a path that leads down to my cottage. Princess Karith and friends are inside. They will be happy to see you."
Dana moved to Aaron's side and arched a brow, questioningly. He nodded and leaned over to kiss her.
"Do not be long," she added, kissing him once more, and then followed Dao's instruction.
Aaron watched her leave the cavern and smiled when he saw her put a little extra into the sway of her hips. As soon as she exited the cavern he turned back around and crossed his arms.
"Well?" Aaron asked angrily.
"I see you have drawn DeathBringer, but am surprised as to the shape it takes. Although, nothing DeathBringer does these days should surprise me."
"It is easier to wield two swords when one is a shortsword and the other is a longsword," Aaron replied, and shrugged. "It was their idea, but that is not why you are here. What game are you playing at, Creator?"
"Game? This is no game, my lad," Dao replied and sighed. "This is more serious than that, much more serious. Please, take a seat."
Aaron approached the offered stool and leaned against the seat, waiting.
"My Lord, perhaps an open mind?" Caledor implored. "The Creator has shown no hostility and appears to want to talk."
"Are you thirsty? Perhaps some Gnomish?"
"No, thank you. I want to keep my wits about me."
"Hmm?" Dao closed his eyes in concentration and then opened them. "Some tea, perhaps?"
"Yes, tea would be fine."
Dao held his hand out and a tea setting appeared on a silver tray. Aaron could not be sure but it looked awfully similar to the one Dao had served him from in his cottage, all those lifetimes ago. Dao set the serving down and poured two cups.
"I remember that you like a little honey in your tea?" Dao both asked and stated, holding the spoon in front of the honey jar.
Aaron nodded and Dao added a little to Aaron's cup and a substantially more to his own. He handed a cup to Aaron and brought the one he was holding to his lips and sipped the hot brew. Aaron followed him and drank a little of his own. Dao brought his cup down and stared off into the cavern as he collected his thoughts.
"Can I tell you a quick story before I answer all of your questions?" Dao asked, and when he received no answer, continued.
"Before this group of planets existed there was a single large planet circling an elder sun. The star was dying, but you have to understand that every star, or sun, is dying. They burn, consuming their fuel, until there is nothing left and then one of several things happen. This star had many years left in its cosmic life when it inexplicably exploded, taking the orbiting world with it. My world. You see, my people were highly evolved and many had reached the ultimate ascension: non-corporal life amongst the stars. We existed as pure energy. I was one, recently reaching that particular life goal when my world blew apart, killing millions that had not reached that particular life event. I was blown across the heavens and it took me lifetimes to return. When I did make it back I found this collection of planets and that life had started anew with the Wyrms and Guthards."
"Are you saying that someone or something destroyed your world on purpose?" Aaron asked. "To what end?"
"To stop ascension is my best guest. Or, possibly limit the number of ascensions. Or, perhaps because they could. Anyway, I made it my mission to come up with a way to protect this new world and its sisters from the same kind of attack that destroyed my home. DeathBringer was that way. Melvina and her brothers created the three races, under my tutelage, that would make use of the Runeswords that I had wrought, but none of their creations could harness enough power to provide DeathBringer what it might need to accomplish its task. In that I had failed. I created a weapon that no one could fully make use of, and then you came along."
"But I am a Tarran, as well. A creation of Melvina."
"My lad, we both know that you are not. You are significantly more than just a Tarran. But you needed time to come into your own and I was afraid that you might not be afforded that time. So I interfered, a little."
"I am Goyle, am I not?"
"Yes, my boy, you are, as am I and the rest of the Constants. You have yet to ascend and perhaps you never will but that possibility exists as well."
"When your mother learned that she carried twins and that one was male she knew you would be in danger. That was partially my fault. My inaction caused a lot of problems, one of which was the unfortunate situation with the triplets at the end of the second age. You corrected that oversight of mine and I appreciate it. Anyway, your mother knew that you would be killed because of your sex and sent you here, where you lived in relative anonymity until you unlocked your sword. The first step. I did not think that unlocking Black Rose would send you down the path toward the throne, but I miscalculated. Love point back it is easy to see that you would try to recover the Rose Throne and undo that misfortunate covenant."
"Miscalculated?" Aaron asked incredulously. "It was a great deal more than a miscalculation."
"Yes, well, we all make mistakes. When you started on the path toward the throne of Tarra I feared you might be discovered. And then when your mate, Tanith, was slain I feared you might take up DeathBringer before you were ready. At the same time someone or something was manipulating events on different worlds throughout the multiverse. I realized that I could protect, hide you, as well as make use of your particular talents all at the same time. I created Caledor so your memories could be locked away and you would not be found out. I am not particularly proud of that but I thought it was your best chance of survival. And it worked! You corrected many instances of meddling and Caledor protected you, right up until you stumbled upon a world to which several Wyrms had fled. When you met Karith, a similar soul to your slain mate, and she assimilated Tanith's soul, which had been attached to you, it set things in motion that I could no longer control."
"You awoke Caledor that night in the inn," Aaron stated instead of asking. "I figured that out a while ago but not why."
"Your connection to Karith was forcing you to remember, actually pulling memories from Caledor. I was afraid one or possibly both of you would not survive that exchange if it continued unchecked. By then your ascension was fairly complete and I wanted you to have full access to Caledor's abilities. Caledor will be able to identify the traitor and DeathBringer will be able to remove the threat."
"Then why have you aligned yourself against me?"
"Have I? I do not believe I have. I did manipulate things in France so that it would seem so, but that was to protect both of us. To muddy the waters. However, I did not count on you being able to summon DeathBringer by its true name. Well done on that as well, my boy."
"Now what?" Aaron asked, his opinion of Dao undergoing a change.
"Now, I hope we go down to the cottage and you introduce me to your children."
"Why?" Aaron asked, his hackles back up.
"No nefarious reasons, I can assure you," Dao replied. "I just wish to meet your children, of whom, by the way, you should be proud."
"I am," Aaron replied in agreement. "By why do you think so?"
"I was in my cottage when they first arrived and tried to strike up a conversation. Introduce myself and all that, but neither would talk to me and your daughter suggested that I gain your permission before trying to talk to them."
"To be honest, I had serious reservations about you meeting them," Aaron explained. "However, I am beginning to rethink those now. I guess I see no reason why you cannot. Come, I will introduce you."
Aaron led Dao through the fissure and down the cliff side toward the cottage.
Dana was initially worried when the Creator, Dao, first asked to speak to Aaron alone but Aaron seemed to be all right with the meeting. She was excited to see Tanith, well Karith now, and hurried down the path, but a cautious hurry. Reaching the bottom she skirted the pool and approached the cottage and stopped. She was not sure what she should do, but the door opening solved her dilemma.
"Please, come in, Your Majesty," a beautiful woman said, holding the door open.
Dana smiled, nodded her head, and entered the cottage. She was immediately struck with how spacious the inside as compared to the outside dimensions. She immediately concluded that this cottage was enchanted and slowly, almost imperceptibly, draw power in protection. She quickly looked around and saw Tanith, Karith now, Master Reginald, and two young children as well as the woman who let her in.
"Dana!" Karith exclaimed as she rose from the table and crossed the room, arms open wide.
Dana took a step back as she looked Karith over. She looked like Tanith but then again she did not. But, Dana could feel Tanith's essence emanating from the bond. But Tanith said she was Karith too.
"Tanith?" Dana asked, hesitantly.
"One and the same," Karith replied, wrapping Dana in a warm hug. "It is so good to see you, and even more to feel you."
"Aaron and Dao are up in the cavern having a discussion," Dana explained. "He sent me down ahead."
Karith released Dana and offered her some tea. They had turned back toward the table where the tea serving was when it inexplicably disappeared.
"Hmm, I guess things are going well with their discussion," Melvina offered. "We have not formally met. I am Melvina. I will go and make more tea."
Karith had Dana sit down while she made the introductions. The children were curious about the relationship with this Queen of Tarra and their father. Karith went a long way to assure them that the relationship between her and their father would not be affected by Dana. She also went on to say that Dana had a lot to give and would be a wealth of information for the children. Dana, for her part, could not get over how grown they were as compared to her own child, who at almost four could talk and walk but had yet to demonstrate any abilities. Melvina finally joined them with tea and poured everyone before sitting down to the discussion.
Reg, for his part, just sat back and watched the interaction between the three women.
Aaron could hear laughing coming from the cottage as he and Dao rounded the pool of water.
"That is a sound that I have not heard coming from the cottage in a very long time," Dao remarked, stopping and reveling in the sounds. "It seems as if the womenfolk are getting along."
"Womenfolk? Really?" Aaron laughed. "Do not let them hear you call them that. You are not around women much, are you? Even I have more sense than that."
"You are probably right, my lad," Dao replied, chuckling. "Let us just keep that between us, all right?"
"You keep using that particular term of endearment," Aaron stated, all kidding aside. "Is there something you are trying to tell me?"
"I do not believe so," Dao replied with a grin from ear to ear, and opened the door. "Come, we better get inside. You have a busy few days ahead of you."
Aaron just shook his head and entered the cottage, finding Reg sitting off to one side and the rest sitting around a fairly large table talking and reacquainting themselves.
"Father, is everything all right?" Elswith asked, eyeing Dao.
"Everything is fine, sweetheart," Aaron replied with a chuckle.
"Manarn, Elswith, this is Mistress Melvina's father, Master Dao," Aaron made the introductions. "He may pop in from time to time during Melvina's training. He has probably forgotten more about Eldritch than I will ever know, and possibly Mistress Melvina, too. Please take a moment and show him your power."
To say Dao was impressed and surprised with the level of control and the pure strength of both children would have been an understatement. The depth of Elswith's power was only surpassed by the pure uniqueness of Manarn's. Dao admitted that he had no idea of either child's potential but he was excited and honored to be a part of their development. As the discussion concerning the children's abilities wound down Dana asked the question at the forefront of everyone's mind.
"I think that is my cue to leave," Dao stated as he stood up. "You can stay here and discuss strategy if you wish, but I should have no part in it."
"Plausible deniability?" Reg asked.
"Whatever do you mean?" Dao replied, a twinkle in his eye. "I was just sitting here in relative solitude enjoying a cup of tea when you all showed up. Good day, everyone, and I hope to see you all very soon."
Dao kissed Melvina's cheek and shook Reg's hand. He turned and waved to the children, smiled at Aaron, and bowed to Karith and Dana. He placed his index finger at the side of his nose and vanished.
"Melvina, I believe we should return to Karith's lair," Aaron explained. "I am sure the children will feel better in their own territory and you can watch them from there."
Melvina nodded in acceptance and after she cleaned up, with help from both Karith and Dana, shifted them back to Karith's lair.
They reappeared in the great room at Karith's lair and Melvina accompanied the children outside while the others made plans to intercept the battle where Annastasia was killed.
"Now that the children and Melvina are not here how do we turn events around?" Karith asked, after filling Dana in on said events.
"DeathBringer, you have authority over death, correct?" Aaron mentally sent, placing his hand on the sword's pommel and holding the other up to forestall any discussion.
"I do My Lord, and by extension so do you," the sword replied and then added. "As you already know. What is it you require, My Lord?"
"Reg, ask TimeKeeper if I now have the authority to send us back and adjust the shift in the timeline?"
Reg, after conferring with his sword, who said that Aaron in fact did, relayed TimeKeeper's words.
"So I understand that we are going to go back and prevent an event but what happens after?" Dana asked.
"Honestly, I am not quite sure," Aaron replied. "I know we have to rescue Rac-Nur and I know a quest needs to be fulfilled, but after that we are going to have to play it by ear."
"Oh, a musical reference," Reg remarked and chuckled. "What Aaron is saying is; go back, stop a killing, find a friend, kill some people, probably stop an invasion and by doing so hopefully flush out the entity behind the curtain. Did I neglect anything?"
"No, I think that about covers it," Karith replied and turned to Dana. "As usual, we do not know what we are doing and are going to make it up as we go along."
"Whew," Dana replied, wiping her brow mockingly. "For a minute there I thought there might actually be a plan.
"All right, any more jesters?" Aaron asked, smiling.
Aaron then asked everyone if they needed anything before they shifted. Karith wanted to say goodbye to the children, but other than that no one else had any pressing needs. Reg did bring up the possible need of mounts but Aaron said that he had that covered. Karith took a moment to change into traveling clothes, as did Reg, before they all announced they were ready. Aaron asked Reg to inform Melvina that they would be leaving soon and wanted to say goodbye to the children. Melvina returned with Elswith and Manarn and everyone said goodbye. Aaron cautioned them to be careful, explaining that he was worried that as they corrected things that there might be retaliation against them. Melvina reassured everyone that she and the children would be all right. Aaron nodded and asked Reg to have TimeKeeper open a gate to take them back.
Aaron watched the doorway open within the fabric of time and after another goodbye the travelers stepped through and the doorway closed behind them.
The siege of the mining town of Dria, Eastern Realm, Andor.
Ragnar enlarged the breach in the blockade enough that the soldiers of the Vanguard could enter side-by-side and fan out engaging the defenders. Arrows flew, thick as swamp mosquitoes, into the opening in an attempt to slow the onrush of attackers, but was failing miserably. Lord Ragnar held the second rank in check as the first rank pushed further forward into the defenders.
"My Paladin, an opportunity presents itself," Nightbringer announced. "Our enemy is close and vulnerable."
"Where?" Ragar mentally replied, holding his hand up in preparation of sending the next wave forward.
"To the north and west of here," Nightbringer replied. "Take 15 of your best."
Ragnar turned over the control of the assault to another and pointed out fifteen of his men to attend him. When the chosen gathered about he had Nightbringer shift them to the location of the opportunity.
Ragnar felt the momentary shiver of the teleportation spell, but then it faded and he was still standing with the 15 men he had chosen, more importantly they had not shifted anywhere.
"Nightbringer?" Ragnar asked in confusion, hand on the sword's pommel.
"My Paladin, the window has closed on that opportunity," Nightbringer replied.
"What happened?" Ragnar mentally asked and then dismissed the men. "Something has come up and I will no longer require you. Return to your duties."
"Our enemy has received aid from an unlikely source. Meeting him now would likely not turn out well for you," the sword mentally replied and would say no more.
"There will be other opportunities, I am sure," Ragnar replied with a shrugged and turned his attention back to the sacking of the mining town.
The party had settled down around a small campfire and were making small conversation. Dunin had drawn first watch and was outside of the campfire making his rounds; checking on the horses, and keeping a watch for trouble. Tristan and Anastasia were sitting by the fire when Tristan stood and said he was going to check on Dunin.
"Tristan, I know you said that you did not have one specific master during your training but I have to say that I find your style very familiar," Anna pushed, again. "Do you not agree that our styles are similar?"
"It is funny that you bring that up, again because I have been thinking on that very same subject," Tristan replied, turning toward her and smiling. "I really want to check on Dunin, ask me again some time."
Tristan turned and continued his previous desire to check on Dunin when he started to get a very bad feeling. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and a shiver went down his spine. The feelings of foreboding were so strong they were almost palpable. He knew that feeling! They were in danger! He quickly turned back around to call out the danger when the feeling washed away. He shook his head and turned back toward where Dunin should be patrolling when he heard someone call out from outside of the camp.
"Hello to the camp! Will you share your fire and hospitality with four weary travelers?"
TimeKeeper brought them to a small clearing to the west of where Anastasia's party had settled down for the night. Aaron drew DeathBringer and had everyone prepare for battle when TimeKeeper interrupted.
"Herald, there will be no battle," the sword explained, speaking audibly. "Our just being here has altered the timeline and that specific event will not happen."
"Now we move on to plan 'B' and approach the camp," Aaron replied. "See, I had a plan. First, though, I had better call for mounts."
Aaron brought his fingers to his lips and quickly whistled while everyone else waited to see what would happen. In the distance Aaron could hear the thunder of hooves, more than just a single horse.
"You called Thorn?" Karith asked.
"Yes, and apparently he brought friends," Aaron replied, pointing to the other side of the clearing.
Four horses appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and slowly approached the group, splitting up and stopping in front of each person.
"It is good to see you well, old friend," Aaron murmured, rubbing the horse behind the ears. "Are we ready?"
The four companions each grabbed the reins of their respective mounts and swung up into the saddle. Aaron reached out with Eldritch and searched for Anastasia's location and spurred his horse forward when he found it. As they approached he started to pick up the Elfen Witch and the two Runeswords. He slowed his horse and finally stopped before dismounting. The others followed suit and waited on Aaron.
"Hello to the camp!" Aaron called out. "Will you share your fire and hospitality with four weary travelers?"
"Come into the light, slowly," he heard in reply, recognizing Tristan's voice.
Aaron motioned for everyone to spread out and he started forward, slowly leading his horse into the light of the campfire. He could see Anastasia, Tristan, the Elfen Witch, Beriwen, and the High Paladin, Graydon with his retinue spread out in an arc with swords drawn.
"We mean you no harm," Aaron called out.
"Aaron?" Anastasia called out. "Aaron!"
Anastasia quickly sheathed her sword and took off at a run with arms wide. Aaron dropped Thorn's reins and took one step back to anchor himself as Anastasia leaped into his outstretched arms.
"You are alive!" she cried. "You are alive! I knew it! I never gave up!"
Aaron slowly lowered her to the ground and continued to hug her as she cried, her head tucked under his chin. He gently rubbed her back as she cried herself out.
"It is all right, now," Aaron whispered, rubbing her back. "I am here now."
"N-no," Anastasia replied, pushing back and wiping her eyes. "This is all my mess. I will make it all right. I need to make it all right!"
"Our home was attacked while it was my responsibility to protect it," Anastasia continued. "Rac-Nur has been captured and I intend to get him back."
"Would you like our help?" Aaron asked, sweeping his hand to encompass the other three.
"Yes, as long as I am in charge," Anastasia replied. "Could you and the others follow my orders? Will you maintain a low profile? I need to do this, Aaron."
"Anna, is everything all right?" Beriwen asked.
"Yes, everything is fine, great really," Anna replied to Beriwen and then added to Aaron. "Will you allow me this?"