The Thief of the Rose
Chapter 9

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

Dria was a mining town, situated in the foothills of the Dragon's Back Mountains, off the side of The Old Kings' Highway which turned easterly and entered the Thangdaemon Forest. Since no sane person would ever enter the forest, all traffic stopped at Dria. Dirt streets and shanty homes gave way to a more permanent settlement some years ago.

Although the streets were cobblestone and the homes and buildings were better built now, the mining town atmosphere still permeated the town. Hard men worked the silver and gold mines and hard men filled the taverns and taprooms at night.

The weather was miserable by the time Aaron reached the town. Although only early evening, the sky was completely dark and a cold drizzly rain fell, soaking to the skin anyone unfortunate enough to be out in it as Aaron was. He planned to stop at the first tavern that also had an inn, and the "Cracked Kettle" filled that requirement.

Stopping at the front, he had just dismounted when a young lad appeared, seemingly out of nowhere and addressed him.

"Are you staying the night, good sir?" he asked. "If you are, then I will be happy to take your horse to the stable, rub him down and feed him. Just let me sister know."

"Yes, I am staying at least one night," Aaron replied, handing the boy a silver piece. "That is a little extra, but I want good care for my horse. His name is Thorn, and he loves apples."

Aaron removed his saddle bags as the boy pocketed the coin and led Thorn off by his reins. Aaron entered the tavern, stamping his feet, trying to shed some of the water off his cloak. He had just finished brushing off the droplets when a rather large drunk man bumped into him.

"Watch where you are going pipsqueak," the man grumbled, "and watch where you are throwing that water around."

"Watch yourself," Aaron growled, throwing back the hood of his cloak.

The man spun around fists clenched, but before he could comment further or start something, Red Rose flashed out drawing a line across the man's throat. The man staggered back putting his hand to his throat, feeling the razor like wound starting to seep blood and then looked at Aaron in shock and surprise.

Aaron did not give him time to ponder as he continued his pivot pulling Black Rose and placing the point at the man's adams apple, sweeping Red Rose back toward anyone coming up to help the man.

"You had better think quickly," Aaron growled. "You have insulted me, and I have marked you in return, so we are even in my book. If you press the issue, you will be meeting your patron this very evening."

Aaron looked to his left to ensure that no one was coming to the drunk's aid, and noticed blood on the tip of Red Rose.

"Damn, you have gotten blood on my sword," Aaron remarked, wiping his sword on the man's shirt. "Now back your arse out of this tavern, or die where you stand."

The man's eyes grew as big as saucers as he saw the silver tipped black cord tying back Aaron's hair, recognizing a SwordMaster's knot.

The man sobered fast, realizing he was as close to death as ever in his life, placed his hands palm out and slowly backed out of the tavern. Aaron watched him leave, and after making sure he would not return, sheathed his swords and made his way to the bar.

"I would like a room for the next two days, possibly longer," Aaron told the woman behind the counter, "and the boy outside put my horse up in the stable."

"Very good sir," the woman looked at Aaron. "I am sorry about what happened at the front door, that is not normal in my inn. Room and board are 30 copper a night, paid in advance."

"This should cover it," Aaron handled her two silver pieces. "I would like dinner and ale brought to a table."

"Have a seat and I will have it sent out right away," She smiled, slipping the coins in her apron. "And sir, just a warning, but Ole' Abe does not like being made a fool of. He would not come at you directly, if you get my meaning, but he will want satisfaction."

"Sara, just you mind your own business," a miner to her left remarked.

"Do not you tell me what to do in my own place," Sara yelled, pulling out a cudgel from behind the bar. "You are done here, get out and find your drink somewhere else."

Aaron slowly pivoted toward the miner and watched as he left the bar, turned back to Sara, "Thank you for the information." Aaron left the bar and went into the dinning room in search of a table.

"Well, Guardsman Aaron, what a pleasant surprise." Reg spoke, standing up from his table. "Here, sit with me. I see you have been promoted," pointing at the cord in Aaron's hair.

His eyes twinkled with mirth, "I thought you were more than a mere guardsman."

Reginald Ravensblade, harpist for the Lady Melody, Goddess of music, was a well groomed, handsome man. Shoulder length brown hair framed an oval face with dimpled cheeks when he smiled, which was often. Brown eyes that twinkled when he laughed and a lilting voice. He was of medium height, well fed but fit, clothes immaculately tailored, adept with both harp and longsword.

"Reginald, what a surprise," Aaron looked around and then sat down, "are you passing through or playing here?"

"Now Aaron, I thought we were friends," Reg sounded hurt. "I thought I told you to call me Reg." Perking up he continued, "no, not playing or passing through, I told you I go where My Lady tells me to."

His eyes twinkled again, "She said to tell you hi." He continued softly, "I am at your disposal if you should have need."

"Wait," Aaron replied, "so that was not a chance meeting in that inn a couple of weeks back?"

"Oh, that was chance all right," Reg remarked, "or fate, providence or whatever you wish to call it. No, I have been in the area for more than a week when My Lady directed me to come to this inn and wait for you. I had other business in Dria, but now I am here to help you. How may I be of service?"

"You cannot," Aaron shook his head. "I do not need any help here. It was nice to see you again, but my business here is solitary in nature."

"Well, nevertheless," Reg shrugged, "I will hang around for awhile, since that is what My Lady wants. If you need me then I will be available."

"Suit yourself," Aaron shrugged and ate his dinner.

After dinner Aaron excused himself and made his way to his room, which was at the end of the hall on the right. With only the one entry to the hall and no windows in the room, it provided good security but little in the way of escape if necessary, but Aaron had little choice. After entering the room he slid the bed over blocking the door, and cleaned up, laid out his bedroll to take a nap.

After several hours Aaron was refreshed and ready for his night time excursion. Ensuring that the hall was empty, he made his way past the dining room and bar and out the front door into the darkness. The rain had stopped and the cloud cover kept the moon at bay.

Aaron stopped at a mercantile and liberated a dozen red roses from the hot house in the rear, again contemplating a more permanent solution to acquiring his new token.

Aaron searched for, and found, an observation point across from the local Temple of the Hand, and waited. About an hour later a cleric came out, and headed down the street, Aaron shadowing at a discreet distance. The cleric came to a small home, opened the door and went inside.

Aaron observed lanterns being lit inside and after checking the street, crossed over and up to the side wall of the home. Circling around the perimeter he observed a back door as well as several windows. After waiting for the lanterns to extinguish, Aaron gently jimmied a window and slipped inside the home. Following the noise of snoring, he slipped through the partially opened door and entered the bedroom, finding the cleric asleep in the bed.

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