The Thief of the Rose - Cover

The Thief of the Rose

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

Chapter 15a

Aaron left the inn right at dawn, having exercised, practiced and broken his fast before most of the patrons had even stirred from their beds. He wanted to put some distance between him and the inn in case anyone knew that he was In the city. First order of business was to let Darius know about his assistant.

He made his way to the Guild Quarter and that rundown building with the nondescript door adorned with a dagger. Opening the door he approached the same old lady sitting at a desk knitting.

"He has been in for several hours," she said looking up from her knitting. "You know the door." and she went back to her knitting.

Aaron opened the door to her left and met Guildmaster Darius coming out.

"Well two visits in one day," Darius smiled, backing into his office. "You must have found something out. Please sit and tell me."

"Your assistant will not be showing up for work today," Aaron replied setting the leather bag containing a severed hand on the desk.

"I also have this," Aaron passed over the marker. "Wolfshound was part of the insurrection. He was tapped by Beadle to take over the Guild on your demise, either by my hand or his I figure. I will bet he was behind that marker. What can you tell me about it?"

"Well it does bear his mark," Darius replied turning the marker over and over. "There should be a record of it somewhere so that it would be legal, I will check his things. Do you want to wait?"

"Yes, I will wait," Aaron replied.

Darius took the leather sack and the marker and left through a secondary door from his office.

"Your Grace... , Your Grace it's time to get up," James, Lord Beadle's manservant announced pushing a covered tray into the Lord's bedchambers. "I have breakfast here for you."

"What, what, oh very well," Lord Colin answered groggily. "Thank you James. Any news of the morning?" Lord Colin was concerned over the fiasco at the Temple of the Hand last night.

"Nothing new, Your Grace," James replied. "We know he is in the city, after what happened last night, but where he is right now is anyone's guess. Is there anything else?"

"No James," Lord Beadle replied, lifting the lid over his food. "This looks excellent as always. I will be going to the palace today, have to keep up appearances and just in case he shows up I will need to be there to deflect any accusations."

"Very good, Your Grace," James nodded. "I will have your tub prepared right away. Good morning, Your Grace." James bowed and backed out of the room.

Lord Beadle finished his breakfast and reflected on events of the past few weeks.

His plan was falling apart. He had maneuvered and manipulated events toward a single outcome, all to be thwarted by one man. He sorely underestimated Master Aaron's abilities. His initial appraisal of his skill certainly lacked key information. Even now having seen the results of Aaron's interference he was still not totally sure the extent of his abilities. Lord Beadle prided himself on his ability to learn and adapt to overcome his foes. Master Aaron may be skilled in sword and stealth but Lord Beadle was a master manipulator and there were still cards to play.

Lord Beadle was fairly sure that all of the evidence against him was obtained by coercion and he intended to play that card and wiggle free from the noose. And he still had his trump card. The council had sanctioned his plot and they would deal with Master Aaron. Yes, Lord Beadle was sure he would still win his freedom and possibly still place his hands on the ultimate goal. Perhaps even discrediting Master Aaron enough to put the noose on him. Yes, that is the plan and with Master Aaron out of the picture, possibly for good, well then he would start over with better talent. Lord Beadle smiled to himself as he made his way to the bath and prepared himself for the day.

Master Drexil awoke early and began his morning exercises and practice reflecting on the events of the past few weeks.

When Master Aaron showed up at his hall in Realto, Drexil knew there was trouble. You do not receive a visit from a high ranking master in your own guild and worse, the Guild Council's Lord Inquisitor without reason. Drexil thought hard over his actions and realized that he had in fact been played. Truth be told he had been flattered that the King and Duchess needed his help. He should have investigated more, the mere fact that he was supposed to keep it quiet and not inform the home office should have been a red flag. Well that was all water under the bridge.

Pledging himself to Master Aaron was the best outcome from a bad situation. Now look where he was, in a few minutes he would be stepping on the path toward his life's ambition. Not that Guildmaster of the Realto hall was not a great achievement but compared to Guildmaster of the entire Guild, well there really was no comparison. He had no intention of letting his patron down. Master Aaron obviously had great faith in him and he intended to justify that faith. Yes, today was going to be a great day and he needed to be prepared.

Reginald stretched lazily when he heard the knock on his door and called out thanking whoever for his wake up call. Reg rolled back over and seriously thought about a few more hours of sleep, before deciding it was time to get up. Sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he contemplated his morning agenda.

First on the list was a nice long bath followed by breakfast. He noted that his traveling clothes were getting a little frayed around the edges, requiring a trip to a tailor. He figured the Innkeeper could point him in the right direction. Perhaps a new pair of boots as he eyed his current pair.

He wanted to stop by his Lady's temple and spend a few moments in prayer and silent contemplation. He was sure that this was the path his patron wanted him on. Why else would he have been drawn towards that meeting in Dria with Aaron?

He felt sure he was supposed to be on the up coming quest that Mara had initiated. That woman worried him, something was not right about her. There was definitely more going on than either he nor Aaron knew about. He hoped that what they were retrieving for her would not end up causing problems later on.

Well enough musings on the future, time to get on with the present. Reg got up, exercised, bathed, got dressed and headed out for breakfast. Most of the other patrons were all ready gone for the day. Time to get his day started and make preparations for their quest.

Darius returned a half an hour later holding a parchment in his hands, clearly upset.

"You were right," Darius spat out disgustedly. "That son of a whore put out a contract on you. I am going to have to clean house and find out how deep this rot goes. I promise you this Aaron, the guild will put a stop to the bounty and make it clear that any attempt on your life will be met with swift and decisive action by the masters of this guild."

"Do not worry about it, Darius," Aaron replied calmly. "I know where the guild and you stand. It is a shame that it was Elton and not Beadle. But I am sure he put Elton up to it. I am going to have to talk to the council about the Thieves' Guild and I will pass on your findings as well. I will make sure they understand that we both were caught unawares from both guilds."

"I appreciate that Aaron, maybe I will be able to keep my head," Darius replied. "Give the council my regards. Well I better get started on this mess. Good hunting Master Blackmoon."

"Same to you, Master Greystone," Aaron smiled that feral smile. "Same to you." Aaron turned and left the guildhall.

Aaron's next stop was to a small rundown taproom in the Central Quarter called the 'Deathmark'. Entering the taproom caused Aaron no small amount of trepidation, he always felt trapped and vulnerable in there. There were several hard men at the bar as well as more scattered throughout the tables. Making his way to the counter he nodded to the bartender.

"A glass of your finest when I am finished," he said sliding his token across the bar top.

The bartender nodded and picked up the token placing it in a depression under the counter causing a section of the back wall to slide open. Retrieving his token Aaron entered the opening as it slid back in place. Walking up to the door at the end of the small entryway Aaron knocked three times.

"Enter, Lord Blackmoon," Aaron heard as he turned the knob and entered the chamber room.

Behind every secret or semi-secret society is another society far more secretive in nature. The same was true for the Thieves and Assassins. Made up of a handful of very old, very wealthy and very deadly men, its job was to be the hand on the tiller of enterprise. King makers and deal brokers. If it was profitable then these men were involved. Nothing happened in the five realms that they did not know about and/or profit from. Kingdoms rose and fell, nations sprung up and faded away, yet the society remained. Simply referred to as "the council".

The council was made up of five ruling members, although only three needed to be seated to define policy. This morning only three members were in attendance when Aaron requested an audience: Lord Gnola a Gnome, Lord Remy a Human and Lord Qatar a Dwarf.

The hierarchy of masters within the Thieves' and Assassins' Guilds were setup in two tiers; upper and lower. Only the upper tier of masters (levels 4, 5, and 6) were even aware of the council, the exception being a master of the lower tier who was also a Guildmaster. Aaron's access was based on his second tier level as a Thief. More importantly, Aaron was the 'council's' troubleshooter and enforcement arm.

Aaron entered the audience chamber and genuflected, head bowed, right hand on the hilt of Red Rose.

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