The Thief of the Rose
Chapter 7

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

Aaron's sudden return to the practice arena caused as much of a disruption as his departure. The manor was on heightened alert, and men-at-arms were everywhere. After calming down a squad of guardsman that converged on his position, he was escorted to the council room.

"Aaron, you are back and you are okay," Micah rushed over and clasped his hand. "We were worried, what happened, where did you go, how did you get back?"

"I am fine," Aaron replied. Looking over to Caleb and the Duke, "I think I returned to the clearing where I was found as an infant, at least the location was similar to Mother's description. There are things there that happened, but I am not quite ready to relive or reveal the experience. I am not sure about everything that happened but I am back now and everything will be okay."

The Duke noted the solemness of his son and chose not to ask the questions on his mind, "perhaps when you have had time to examine the experience?" Turning to one of the guardsman, "Captain, stand down the men and reopen the gate. If anyone asks, we were having a drill."

"Yes, Your Grace," the captain saluted and left the room.

Caleb, eyeing the shortsword on Aaron's right side that was not there when he left, nodded to the Duke in agreement and turned to Aaron, "I see you have upgraded your parrying dagger. Perhaps you would like some refreshments and then a return to the practice arena?"

"But wait," Micah interrupted. "I do not understand, you all act as if nothing happened. Aaron disappeared from the arena earlier; I mean he disappeared, that is a pretty powerful spell. There is something going on here that I do not understand. Aaron, why did you return to this clearing, what happened there?"

"Micah!" The Duke barked. "Aaron answered your questions, it is impolite to pester him. Leave it be."

"Yes, Father," Micah answered, clearly not happy. "I will do as you ask." Turning to Aaron, "I am sorry if I was a pest, I was just worried."

"Do not fret, Micah," Aaron ruffled his hair. "All is well. Yes Master Caleb, something to drink would be great and then I will return to the practice arena. Father, I am sorry this caused a stir, clearly I had no control over the events, but I am fine now." Turning to Caleb, "Coming?"

"I have got an errand to run," Caleb replied. "Why do you not meet me in the practice arena in an hour?"

"That is fine," Aaron shrugged and bid everyone good afternoon and left for the kitchens.

"Your Grace," Caleb bowed to the Duke, nodded at Micah and left on his errand.

"Father," Micah turned to the Duke. "With your permission I would like to go to the practice arena, as well."

"Yes," Thandar replied. "The practice arena sounds like the place to be, let's both go."

"Lord Malak, you've lost ten warriors and there were only five Tarran warriors - explain yourself." Lord Devlin demanded.

"Lord Devlin, not just five warriors," Malak began, "a Princess of the Rose, and four shield-maidens. And we would have still been victorious, except a Tarran WitchLord showed up, who happens to also be a Prince of the Rose. He is untrained in the arts, but he was still able to cut down three of my best warriors. I was hard pressed to hold him off. If not for the intervention of Malachi, I may have lost my physical vessel."

"He was greatly skilled with a sword, My Lord," A Godling stepped forward, "and something else as well. I had a clean attack that would have cleaved his arm, but my sword was repulsed by a protection. A white magic protection. It greatly surprised me, and in that momentary pause, I was cut down."

"What do you mean, white magic protected him?" Lord Devlin roared. "Are you saying that a supposed Tarran WitchLord, as well as a Prince of the Rose is protected by one of us? Never mind that one has not existed in an eon."

"My Lord," Malak eyed his Lord warily, "Lady Rannath is his patron."

"What?" Lord Devlin bellowed even louder. "And you are just now telling me this!"

"My Lords," Devlin announced to the Ethereal, "I request a council."

"Lady Rannath," Lord Devlin proclaimed, "Your presence is required at once."

The other Gods slowly faded into view, each curious as to the reason for the Council summons.

"No need to bellow, Lord Devlin," Lady Rannath smiled with a short bow. "Ah, Lord Malak, how good to see you feeling better. Yes, My Lord, you summoned?"

"Lady Rannath, explain yourself," Lord Devlin replied. "Lord Malak has leveled some serious accusations against you. That you are protecting a Tarran royal male and possibly conspiring against this body. If that is true Lady, your existence could be at forfeit."

"My Lords," Lady Rannath smiled, turning to the assembly, "that is the furthest thing from the truth. I admit that I have had interaction with a warrior, who I now know is a Tarran male from the royal house. However at the time that our paths first crossed, I had no idea who or what he was."

"Yes, he bears a part of my power, although unintentionally," She continued. "He used a holy item of mine, and some power was transferred. I do not quite understand it myself, somehow the item reacted to him. It allowed him to use it when clearly it was diametrically opposed to him."

"Yes, he is a faithful disciple," She continued. "and has never given me reason to doubt his loyalty. And yes, he is a Tarran WitchLord and a Prince of the Rose, which I too just learned."

"He is also my Paladin, and my champion," Her voice hardened. "I will not idly stand by while my honor is called into question. If you feel I have intentionally violated a covenant, or conspired against this august body, then declare so, and I will call forth my champion to defend my honor. What shall it be Lords?"

"No need to be hostile, Lady Rannath," Lord Devlin replied, backing down. "We are merely trying to ascertain how we came to be in this situation, and what to do with him now."

"My Lords, why do anything with or to him?" Lady Rannath chuckled. "Right now he is of no danger to this body, with the exception of the God Thief. He cares not for the intrigue or the politics, he recently learned of his parentage, but even that information is sketchy at best. There are no historical records, we made sure of that. Leave him be, and I am sure he will reciprocate."

"How can you be so sure, Lady?" Lord Devlin asked. "If he were to realize his full power, or if he were to learn our part in the Tarran downfall, then this body would be in jeopardy."

"Lord Devlin, if we push him down that road," Lady Rannath replied, "he will surely reach his full potential. I say leave him alone, and do not give him a reason to search for answers. Besides, right now, are we sure we could even stop him? Lord Malak fought him and by his own words, barely escaped unscathed. Do we risk everything on so little knowledge? No, I say leave him be. Now, the God Thief is a different matter: my Paladin has called forth a challenge, will Malachi respond?"

"I will do no such thing," Malachai popped into the conversation. "I was acting as a representative of this body, in response to a request of aid from Lord Malak, and at the command of Lord Devlin. I have done nothing to respond to."

"My Paladin begs to differ," Lady Rannath smiled. "He will force a meeting, this I know."

Turning to the rest of the Gods present, "I will look unfavorably on any outside interference, I say this is between the God Thief and my Paladin, does anyone say different?" Looking around, "No? Good."

"Now, Lord Devlin," Lady Rannath smiled again, "if there is nothing further?"

"No, Lady Rannath," Lord Devlin replied. "Besides, if you are wrong and he finds out about your culpability, he will come for you first."

"Yes, Lord Devlin, he must assuredly will," She nodded. "Good day to you, and to all of you assembled." Lady Rannath vanished.

"Lord Malak, keep an eye on this Tarran," Lord Devlin looked to the council. "We will leave him be for now, as Lady Rannath suggests, but if he places one foot on a path to a direct confrontation, we should be prepared." Turning to the God Thief, "Do not worry Malachi, he is not a God, what can he do? Thank you all for attending me, good day."

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