The Thief of the Rose - Cover

The Thief of the Rose

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy


New York City, New York, USA, 1999.

The corners of 42nd street and Broadway in Manhattan were affectionately called One Times Square. At 11:58pm on December 31, 1999, Times Square was packed with revelers waiting to ring in the New Year. This year in particular, more people than ever before waited for the dropping of the ball. Waiting alongside the undulating mass of people was a single stranger, seemingly out of place, or more accurately, out of time.

He had shoulder length brown hair, slightly greying at the temples, his hair styled to frame an oval face with cheeks that dimpled when he smiled, laugh lines permanently etched into the corners of his mouth. One brown eye and one blue still twinkled when he laughed, although the crow's feet betrayed the youthful face. And a lilting voice, now more serious than in days of old. He was of medium height, well fed but fit, clothes immaculately tailored, longsword buckled to his left hip, parrying dagger on his right, and a harp bag slung over his shoulder.

That last sentence was the clue that the man was out of place. He was dressed more appropriately for 1499 rather than 1999, and certainly no one in this time period carried a longsword, or parrying dagger at their hip. He could have been an actor from one of the many Broadway plays, except there were no plays currently running of that genre. No, this man was no actor; he did not carry himself like an actor, more like a warrior. There was strength in his presence and determination as well.

He had been in this time for a week, waiting for this exact moment. A slight nudge in the right place and at the right moment, and time was back on its correct path.

"Timekeeper, has the error been corrected?" he asked, absently grasping the pommel of his sword.

"Yes, My Lord, the New Year will be like every other," was the response in his mind. "The error in their technology has been corrected as well."

"Good, then when the new year is rung in, we can leave," he sighed. "This place distresses me."

His stay in this time had been difficult. The noise, the crowds, the lights, all of it bombarded his senses until his head ached with it. But it was necessary, there was an error in the symmetry of time, and if left unchecked, would have been catastrophic.

While the New Year had actually already happened at the meridian, this location was important. The sentient Runesword, Timekeeper, had determined that New York City, and more specifically Times Square was the exact position on Earth, and 11:58pm was the exact moment when the alignment was perfect to nudge time back on course.

"10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1 ... Happy New Year, Happy Y2K!" The noise was deafening, the screams of the revelers, the party favors, and the emergency vehicle sirens. It was pandemonium out there and it was time to find another place. It was time for peace and quiet!

"Timekeeper, let us find a quieter time to relax," drawing the sword from its scabbard. "Somewhere in the British Isles during the middle ages, but after single-malt was first distilled. I find that I cannot live without it. Perhaps the Scottish Highlands, along the river Spey."

"What time, My Lord?" Timekeeper asked.

"Some time in the mid 1500's," he replied. "Make it near a good distillery, or monastery that produces excellent single-malt whisky."

"As you command, My Lord," the sword replied.

The sword's blade glowed with a bluish tint, as its runes glowed silver. Like a pocket door sliding open in a wall, an opening in the fabric of time appeared: a gateway to a different where and when. The man stepped through the doorway, and it slid closed behind him.

Scottish Highlands 1539.

He stepped out of the doorway onto a dirt road leading toward Auchindoun Castle. His destination was not the castle, but a small town near the castle. Arriving at the town of Mortlach, he looked for an inn or tavern.

The innkeeper was out front sweeping his porch when the man walked up to the inn. After identifying himself as a traveling Bard, he offered his services in lieu of payment for room and board. After negotiating a satisfactory contract the Bard sat on the front porch and lit his pipe. The innkeeper returned with a shot glass and earthenware jug, and poured an amber liquid into the glass. The man took the glass and sniffed the contents and downed the liquid in one sip.

The liquid burned a little going down, "not near as smooth as Gnomish," he thought dejectedly. "Hmm, I bet they do not know to age their whisky. Perhaps I can change that."

"Where is your whisky produced?" the Bard asked.

"There is a Monastery just in the foothills, overlooking the valley," the innkeeper explained. "There is a spring close to it discovered by a brother years ago."

"Hmm, I think I may need to visit this Monastery," the Bard thought to himself. "Maybe, I can teach them about aging their casks."

The dinner crowd was large after word went out that a bard was not only staying in the town, but also would be performing after dinner. The inn was humming with trade and conversation, anticipation of the evening's entertainment hanging heavy in the air. A hush fell over the crowd as the minstrel walked to the front of the common room and picked up his harp. The innkeeper took this as his cue to toss another log on the fire, and as the taproom brightened from the blaze, the Bard began to play...

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