The Thief of the Rose - Cover

The Thief of the Rose

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

Chapter 8

Aaron was up before first light, stretching and practicing. After his morning ablutions, he packed his things and went to the kitchen in search of something to eat before heading out. he had just finished his meal when Caleb came in and sat down across from him.

"Have you heard?" Caleb asked. "Last night sixteen people were killed, one of whom was a cleric, and the Temple of the Hand was burnt to the ground. Of the remaining dead, ten were members of the Merchant's Guild, including the first assistant to the local Guildmaster."

"Wow!" Aaron shifted in his seat, and looked at Caleb, "I am sure the Guild is up in arms. Do they have a suspect or any clues?"

"No suspects," Caleb answered. "All had their throats slit from ear to ear, and most died in their beds. The interesting thing is; they found a single rose at the scene of each murder."

Caleb looked at Aaron intently, "What do you make of that?"

"I don't know," Aaron replied, seeming to ponder Caleb's question.

"I could tell him the truth," Aaron thought and then shook his head. "That they like roses? I will keep my eyes open while I am traveling to Dria, and if I find someone selling red roses, I will be sure to stop and question them."

"I never said the roses were red," Caleb replied. "How did you know that?"

"Hmm," Aaron replied, lost in thought, "damn I almost said too much."

Shaking his head again, "I do not know, maybe I just pictured the scene and the color red just fit. Anyway, I would love to stay and chat, but I must be off. Say goodbye to everyone again, for me. I should be back in a couple of days."

"Aaron wait," Caleb put out his hand. "What are you not telling me?"

"Caleb, I have known you all my life," Aaron began. "You taught me the way of the sword, taught me control, and measured response to aggression. I used to believe in that, I really did. The problem I have come to realized was that the aggressor usually does not. They only understand one thing, strength, determination, and commitment."

"Aaron, it is never that simple," Caleb interrupted.

"It is absolutely that simple!" Aaron replied, raising his voice and striking the tabletop with his palm... "The problem with Good is, they seem to forget that Evil is exactly that, evil. Sometimes you have to become what you fight, or do not care how you fight, as long as you fight to win."

"If we devalue our ideals and virtues," Caleb replied, "then we are no better than what we fight."

"I value your opinion above most people," Aaron continued, "but in this, I disagree. You, my mother, and my Lady I value above all else, but there are things I have done, and things I will do, that you will never understand, or apparently will never condone. That is okay, I understand you, all I ask for is a little understanding back."

"My response to the death of my mo... , of Lady Tara was completely understandable, from my point of view," Aaron sighed, clearly in pain.

"They took something... , someone very precious from me and I retaliated in kind, in my perception of an equivalent response. She saved me Caleb, rescued me as an infant, how could I do any less? It was not a measured response, it was not an eye for an eye, it was a body for an eye, a village for an eye. If you hurt me or someone I care for, I am not only going to hurt you, I am going to hurt your family, your friends. I intend to make sure that you understand, or anyone else that thinks about it, that there are consequences, severe consequences, in choosing to come at me, or mine."

"Yesterday, the very same thing happened again," Aaron clenched his fists in anger. "I found out I had a sister, and now she is gone. I learned that her very existence, protected my life. Again, she saved me, never even knew me, but saved me nonetheless. And someone has taken her away from me. How should I respond to that? Should it be a measured response? NO, not going to happen! I intend to eradicate this individual and anyone associated with him. And I do not want to hear any condemnation, they have sided with Evil, they do not deserve pity, they do not deserve protection. They deserve, or rather, I require Death."

"If there is a question you wish to ask," Aaron sighed, getting his emotions under control, "I will answer it. Just be sure you want to know the answer."

"No, no questions, my friend," Caleb answered. "Just be careful, you may run into someone just as good or maybe even better, watch your back."

"Never going to happen, but I will remember." Aaron clapped him on the shoulder and went to the stables, where Thorn was already saddled. He secured his saddle bags in place and walked the horse to the Manor gates. He mounted his horse, saluted the guards and made his way through town and on to the highway, where he steered his horse toward Dria, some six hours away.

The highway meandered northerly between fields of varying crops on the left and scrub brush on the right. Soon the fields faded from view and the area became mostly thick brush and scattered scrub trees. The forest began to thicken and solidify on the right side of the road. Aaron's nonchalant attitude changed as the surrounding forest began to close in on the road. As he rounded a bend two men jumped out from either side of the road brandishing shortswords

"Good day to you, fine sir," the man to Aaron's right called out. "A fine day for travel. Are you aware that there is a toll on this road?"

"No, I was not," Aaron replied with a chuckle. "I thought the Old Kings' Highway was toll free. When did this change?" Aaron looked around trying to get a sense of the number of "toll takers".

"It changed this very day," The man smirked. "Why do you not just throw down your money pouch, and we will not delay your travel any longer?"

"I am afraid I cannot do that," Aaron explained. "Why do you not put those pig stickers back in their sheaths and I will just forget this unfortunate incident happened?" Aaron spread his hands out and leaned back tightening his body in preparation.

"If you do not hand over the coin," the thief replied, "I will put my pig sticker in you. Now what is it going to be?"

Aaron sprung back and to his left, tucking his knees in, and performed a summersault, landing feet spread apart, swords in his hands, just behind and to the left of Thorn. Giving a quick whistle, he advanced on the nearest robber.

Thorn backed up and to his right, clearing Aaron's fight path. The robber swung his sword in an overhead attack, which Aaron blocked with Red Rose. Metal met metal as Red Rose peeled off a hunk of steel along the length of the sword, as it travelled toward the hilt. Aaron swung Black Rose up diagonally in an under cut, catching the thief on the lower left side, and continued traveling upward across the chest, severing the spine. The thief fell to his right and Aaron's momentum carried him to his left, putting him in position to block the thrust of the second thief with Black Rose.

Aaron thrust Red Rose through the studded leather jerkin, plunging the sword through his attacker's heart and out the other side. Pulling Red Rose clear, he continued his slow spin looking for more adversaries.

Two other robbers advanced out of the brush, swords raised in attack. Aaron set his feet, and as the two approached swung Red Rose up, severing the sword arm of the robber on the left. Switching his attention to the next attacker he flicked Black Rose up catching the attacker on the neck below the right ear and decapitated him. Turning back to the screaming thief with the severed hand, Aaron cut his head off, putting him out of his misery.

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