The Prince of the Rose
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

Princess Dana Whiterune, youngest daughter of Her Royal Highness, Princess Rachel Whiterune, and niece to Her Royal Majesty, Queen Cassandra Whiterune, was worried. When her mother, the Queen's sister, had come to her with a plan to bring fame and glory to their branch of the family, Dana jumped at the idea. Being fifth in succession to the Rose Throne left little chance that she would ever sit on the symbol of Tarra. Although, since the throne was missing, and had been since their banishment, who ever was queen would actually be sitting on a replica.

Queen Cassandra was not the only one to have delved deep into her people's records looking for the lost knowledge to operate the transport platforms. Lady Rachel had also unlocked their secrets, and used that knowledge to further her plans. Although neither knew the other had discovered the hidden secrets, both made use of the knowledge to send their respective progeny to Andor.

Dana's mission was to build a secret army and have it ready for one of two scenarios: either to throw down the Queen and usurp the throne, or as a force to secure the old empire in Andor. A secret brotherhood of assassins, a tradecraft forbidden on Tarra, was the most efficient way to accomplish either task.

Political intrigue, back-biting and backstabbing, both metaphorically and physically, were the stock in trade of daily court life in Cumbra, the royal city of Tarra. Dana was tasked to find and groom the best assassins and send them over to do her mother's bidding. The rest were used as advertised: a squad-based assassin ring, multiple layers, each independent and unknown to the others, ruled by a council, also unknown, headed by an unknown figure. It was perfect and had been so for the 10 years it had been in existence.

Now, unforeseen circumstances had threatened to pull it all down around Dana's ears, and she dare not contact her mother. The raid on the main training camp in Creton shook her to the core. It should not have been possible, she had used her power to protect that area, yet the results could not be denied. The burst of Eldritch she had felt just days before was another reason to worry. Her mother had told her that she would be the only one on Andor using Eldritch. Sure, the goblins and elves used a specialized form, but other than the Gods, whose attention her mother had told her to not attract, there should not have been another Adept in the land. But, sure enough, several days ago she received a shock, and what a shock! Someone had used an enormous amount of power, she could not conceive of the amount, but it had to be huge. And it was of an unknown type, well unknown to Dana. But, the real kicker, the thing that scared her, was that last night, well, she was sure that someone was in the upstairs meeting room. Her power detected no one, but honestly, she was not sure that she would be able to detect someone that powerful. The screamer was that she had felt that she was being watched in her own home. Again her spells revealed no one, but then again, who knew for sure? There must be another Witch, who had the ability to mask her power. Said Witch was most likely more powerful than Dana. So she had spent the entire day setting wards and traps.

That the Adept might be a male and a WitchLord never even entered her thought process. Once again Aaron was underestimated and once again that slight would come back to haunt the slighter.

The wards were more intrusion detector than preventer, and the traps were good, but she was not sure how they would stack up against a powerful opponent. She also placed intrusion detection warding alarms on the homes of the other members, thinking that they might be attacked first. The intrusion alarms were set to feed off of the emotions of the occupants. If they felt fear or dread, then she would know.

Dana had taken all the precautions that she knew how to, now it was a waiting game. Truth be told, it could just be paranoia because of the recent events, but she did not think so, which was why she was sitting in her front room, in the dark, waiting.

Aaron paused at the door; he could feel a low level Eldritch emanating from the door and walls of the home. He correctly deduced that the building was warded. Holding out his hand to stop Tanith, he placed his other hand palm out, just off the surface of the building and began to interweave his power with the warding. After successfully commingling the Eldritch, he rewrote the wards, making them his and trapping anyone within the house. He smiled at the thought that he could have removed the wards with no power discharge as well. Take that, Red Rose.

"Take what, My Lord?" Red Rose asked.

"Nothing," Aaron replied, silently chuckling to himself.

Tanith smiled, shaking her head at Aaron's abilities. The power he just exhibited was normally reserved for a powerful entity or perhaps even a Runesword, yet here was her mate, once again surprising her with his abilities.

Aaron reached down and grasped Tanith's hand and quietly told her not to let go and to not be afraid, an unusual thing to say to a Wyrm, and then pulled the hood of his cloak over his head, shifting to the Shadow Realm and then entered the house.

They shifted to the Shadow Realm and walked right through the door and into a short hallway. To the right, Aaron could see a shape hiding in the front room, so that was where he directed them, never letting go of Tanith's hand.

Looking at his mate and after asking if she was ready, he removed the hood and shifted back to the Material Plane.

When Aaron told her not to be afraid she had to bite back a scathing reply. And when he pulled up the hood of his cloak, she felt the shift sideways into another plane of existence. She now understood her mate's strange request.

She was not fearful, no, but she held a healthy respect for whatever plane they were on. She had no trouble seeing and she knew it was a sub-plane of the Material, but not which one. There were Wyrms, and dragons as well, that possessed the ability to plane shift. She, however, was not one of them. She saw the shape in the room as Aaron moved them in that direction, and nodded when Aaron said to be prepared. She watched him pull back his hood and they side-shifted again, back to the Material Plane.

Dana suddenly felt uneasy; she could not quite put her finger on what was wrong, but the hairs on the back of her neck stood straight up. She began pulling power in preparation; for what she did not know, but she would be ready.

Or so she thought.

Aaron removed the hood from his cloak, shifting from the Shadow Realm to the Material Plane, appearing in the room in front of his target and spoke the word for the rune of binding: Et, at the same time that his target spoke the word for the rune of binding at him. The two runes of power bounced off of each other rebounding into nothingness. Tanith was quick and bound the Witch before she was able to attack again.

While Dana struggled against her bonds, she took time to study her attackers. The female was not her real concern, her race was unknown. The male on the other hand was a Tarran, a shock for sure, and what was he doing here?

He was a handsome man in a somewhat rugged way, not at all like the pompous popinjays of the court. Perhaps she could convince the female to release him into her care. He looked to be of good breeding stock and should produce fine offspring, possibly even daughters after he was properly prepared. Strangely enough, he liked familiar. She was sure she had met him before but for the life of her she could not remember where. Well she would have to figure it out later, right now she had to deal with being bound.

"Release my bonds," Dana commanded, looking at Tanith and ignoring Aaron. "Do you not know who I am?"

"No, who are you?" Aaron asked.

"Have you not trained him to speak only when spoken to?" Dana asked Tanith. "Never mind, I can correct that if you were to sell him to me."

"Ah, no, I have not," Tanith smiled and then turned to Aaron. "I think you are beneath her, beloved."

"You need to deal with me, Witch," Aaron addressed her. "What are you doing in Andor?"

"Do you forget your place? Did my mother send you across?" Dana finally addressed him. "If she did, you had better watch your tongue, or I will have it removed."

"No, my mother sent me here," Aaron replied. "You might as well stop struggling, you will only hurt yourself."

"Release me, and then we will see who gets hurt," Dana replied angrily. "Although you are male and have no concept of such things, I demand the rites of honor. Release me and defend yourself."

Aaron turned to Tanith and shrugged. "Release her. It is not like she can go anywhere. Perhaps, we can turn her without killing her."

Tanith nodded and removed the bonds holding the Witch. Dana rubbed her wrists to restore the circulation after straining against the Eldritch bonds. She turned to face Aaron and drew her sword. A sword very similar in shape and form to the rapier at Tanith's hip.

"What are the rules for this honor challenge?" Aaron asked removing his cloak and setting it on a chair. "To the death or just first blood?"

"First blood," Dana replied. "I, Princess Dana Whiterune, fifth Princess of the Rose, challenge ... what is your name?"

Tanith heard the Witch's name and smiled looking at her mate, "Oh, this is going to be interesting."

"Well, since we are being formal and this is an honor challenge, I should use my full name and title," Aaron smiled and drew Black Rose, whose runes burned black as night. "I am Aaron Sinthar Whiterune, son of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Cassandra Whiterune, and Prince of the Rose."

Dana's mouth opened and closed several times as her brain processed the information. The real shock came when she recognized not only Black Rose, but also the ring on his left ring finger. Items that had been lost for years. Items that could not be in the possession of anyone other than who he claimed to be. Dana realized she was in serious trouble.

"Are you even allowed to challenge so high above your station, cousin?" Aaron asked, feeding power to his sword, whose runes began to pulse black as silver flames flickered up and down the blade.

"I-I d-do n-not understand," Dana stammered, shaking her head. "How is this possible? How are you possible? This is a trick; I do not acknowledge your title."

"Acknowledge it or not, it makes no difference to me," Aaron replied and then smiled a feral grin. "But, you will acknowledge this."

"Kneel and attend me!" Aaron commanded, turning his wrist and displaying the signet ring, gem glowing red.

Dana fought against it, but she slowly sank to one knee, head bowed and sword pointing behind her. "Yes, My Prince."

"Now, that was not so hard, was it?" Aaron asked. "We are going to get along fine now that you know your place."

"Aaron, there is a rune of command that could help to make her more compliant," Tanith smiled. "Do you think you could weave it within her? If you wove it with the desire for loyalty to you, she would become a willing asset. I assume you are still contemplating travel in the near future?"

"Tanith, that seems a little harsh," Aaron replied. "I am not sure I want to tamper with her will. But, to answer your question, yes I am still thinking that a little homecoming is in order. Andor is my home now, and I do not want any more outside interference. I or we will have to go there to ensure there is no interference, but, we will not leave until everything here is tied up nicely."

"Well, I have been thinking about that as well," Tanith replied with a smile. "If you convert her to our cause and then do away with the remainder of the leadership, there is nothing preventing us from eliminating the rest. I am talking about a full frontal assault."

"What do you have in mind?" Aaron asked, already liking the plan.

"You turn her, we kill the rest of the leadership, and then burn the camps and kill everyone," Tanith replied matter-of-factly. "After that we go to Tarra."

"I like it," Aaron nodded. "Tell me your thoughts on binding her.

Tanith explained that the Eldritch rune of command, spoken Nathamdose, allowed the user to control another. The victim would be receptive to any command from the entity using the rune. If Aaron could bind Dana with the rune of binding, attached to the word loyalty, itself enhanced with Eldritch, to the rune of command, then Dana would be completely and solely loyal to Aaron. Tanith explained that he would have to weave both runes, combined with the word loyalty enhanced with Eldritch. She thought Red Rose could provide assistance in the actual spell construction.

Aaron discussed it with Red Rose and the sword gave him directions on how to accomplish what he wanted to do. Aaron stood in front of the kneeling Dana.

"Arise," Aaron commanded, his ring glowing red.

Dana rose against her will and stood before her cousin. She had made several errors that now seemed to be her undoing. First, she assumed incorrectly that there was no one on Andor who could match her power. That obviously was untrue, his power was immense. Secondly, she had not adequately protected herself from a magical attack. Thirdly, due to her overconfidence, she had no back-up plan. So, here she stood, in front of the male heir to the Rose Throne, enthralled to a ring that should have been locked away in the deepest tomb below the palace in Tarra, without the ability to extract herself.

Aaron looked at her with a critical eye. She was beautiful; there were no two ways about it. She had light brown hair that framed a face that could launch a thousand ships. Her eyes were the blue of a limpid stream of water. She was Aaron's height and filled out the doeskin jerkin and pants quite nicely. There was strength behind her gaze, anger too, to be caught so easily and completely.

Aaron spoke the word, Loyalty, enhanced by Eldritch and wove the word in her essence, with the runes; Et and Nathamdose, bending her will to Aaron's. The spell filled her very being with the need, no, the desperate desire to serve Aaron. But something else, unpredicted happened: she felt a deep unconditional love for him and a deep soul bond with her mate! He was her prince, her life and her world, and yes, even her love. She would protect him like a mother bear protects her cubs. He was the very reason she had been born. She was his - mind, body, soul, and most unexpectedly - heart!

Aaron stepped back, a little overwhelmed by the fierceness of the emotions directed toward him. He wanted her loyalty, but not this! He felt strong emotions from her towards him and he also felt previously unknown feelings for her. Love? He turned to Tanith to get her reaction and recoiled from the look on her face.

"Beloved, she is linked with us," Tanith whispered, awe present in her features. "I did not realize that this would be the end result."

"I do not understand," Dana stammered. "I can feel you both; feel the love you share, the love we share. Are we bonded? I have heard of this, but have never known anyone that experienced it. It makes me feel complete."

"Ahh, Red Rose, what just happened?" Aaron placed his hand on Red Rose's hilt.

"You wield Red Rose as well?" Dana asked astonished. "I can feel what you are thinking. I can feel the bond you have with your swords."

"No secrets, My Lord?" Red Rose asked.

"No, apparently not," Aaron sighed. "What went wrong?"

"Wrong, My Lord?" Red Rose asked. "Wrong with what?"

"What went wrong with the spell?" Aaron asked exasperated. "This is not loyalty."

"I beg to differ, My Lord," Red Rose replied, as one speaking to a child. "Is not love the perfect loyalty? You wanted loyalty; there is no greater loyalty than that which exists between bond-mates. Ask the Wyrm, she would tell you this. The Witch will lay down her life for you, what more could you ask for?"

"Aaron, Red Rose is correct," Tanith was actually giggling. Giggling, really?

"Well, this is not right," Aaron huffed. "It should not be this way. I am going to have to remove the spell."

Aaron reached out to feel the weave of the spell and received a shock instead. The spell was gone, no runes, no spoken word, nothing. He could sense her power, could sense her, but there was no trace of the spell.

"She has accepted it, My Lord," Red Rose stated. "It is now part of her. You could no more remove it than you could the bond you have with the Wyrm. Trying to do so would unmake her."

Aaron hung his head as Dana sheathed her sword, moved over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "What is wrong, beloved? Have I upset you in some way?"

Tanith giggled harder. Giggled, really? Aaron just shook his head.

"Dana, do you have anything to drink?" Aaron asked, sheathing Black Rose and dropping into the chair his cloak was draped over.

"Yes, beloved. I have some excellent Gnomish," Dana replied, going over to the sideboard, picking up a tray and setting it on a table close to Aaron's chair.

Aaron poured drinks for everyone and handed them out before leaning back in his chair and examining the glass. He examined the glass as a rouse because he did not know where to start, because he did not know exactly how he had found himself in this predicament, or more importantly, how to get out of it.

Tanith took her glass and sat in a chair close by Aaron and reached out and placed her hand on his arm, in reassurance. Dana took her glass and then kneeled at Aaron's feet, sitting back on her heels.

"Dana, please tell us about yourself?" Aaron asked, shaking his head at the absurdity of the situation.

"Well, I am fifth in line of succession," she started. "Higher now I would guess. My mother, your aunt is high priestess to She that has no name, our Goddess, and is called the Most Blessed Mother. I have two older sisters and you have two sisters, as well."

"You may not know this, but both my sister Ashanna and my mother are dead," Aaron replied.

"Oh, I am sorry," Dana replied sadly. "I wondered how you had Red Rose and now I know. The Queen is dead too? I do not understand?"

"My sister came here to find me and died in the attempt," Aaron replied. "She told me that our mother had passed away. I am not sure when she died, but I got the impression from Ashanna that it was some time ago."

"My mother sent me here to build an army," Dana explained. "She was going to use it to overthrow the throne or possibly as a force to secure a kingdom here at Aithen. When I came over your mother was still Queen. I wonder why my mother has never recalled me."

"Maybe you are an embarrassment?" Tanith offered. "Maybe she has risen to power, or perhaps one of your sisters has, and she does not want it known that she had committed treason by violating the terms of the treaty when your people were first banished?"

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