The Prince of the Rose
Chapter 4

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

Upon arriving at her home Dana went to her bed chambers to finish packing while Aaron and Tanith returned to the sitting room. Aaron wanted to discuss tactics but Tanith had other things on her mind. The incident at the weapons arena was bothering her, that added to the strange events when Aaron was submerged in the pool of Eldritch caused her to finally speak up. Too many things did not make sense, but she was afraid that the display in the arena might just have explained everything. That fact truly frightened her.

"Aaron, before we go we need to talk about what happened today during practice," Tanith gently started.

"It was a control issue," Aaron shrugged. "Possibly related to the bonding with Dana, or perhaps the Eldritch that I used to affect the bonding. Either way, I am not too terribly concerned and you should not be either.

"No, it was more than that," Tanith sighed. "And I believe it relates to what happened in the pool of Eldritch after the assassination attempt."

"How so?" Aaron asked.

"Something happened in that pool, Aaron," Tanith replied, searching for the right words. "Some type of transformation is perhaps the best way to describe it. I saw things that I did not fully understand at the time. Later on, your strange manifestation of Eldritch was the first of many clues. You are Tarran and yet you manifest Eldritch as silver not blue. Today's events confirmed what I have known for sometime. You are not Tarran anymore, or rather, not completely Tarran. You are more, so much more. I have noticed little things that make me believe so."

"What things?" Aaron asked, clearly interested.

"We have talked about some of them already," Tanith reminded him. "Your manifestation of Eldritch, the amount of power you possess and have access to, the things you do as second nature, which should not be. You command the elements with but a word, no one does that. Aaron, you weave Eldritch like you should not be able to, and I am not talking about the bonding thing with Dana, or maybe I am, but more so. What you did there was way beyond what I had in mind when I suggested it. You use Eldritch like... , like a Runesword or something similar."

"Tanith, you are holding back," Aaron asked, the accusation clear in his tone. "What are you trying to sidestep?"

"I think you need to be careful when using Eldritch anytime your emotions are heightened," Tanith replied, still sidestepping the question but trying to give him an answer he would understand and accept. "You just need to keep a level head, that is all. Keep your inner beast at bay."

"That is it, keep my emotions under check?" Aaron asked confused. "My inner beast? Tanith, I have no idea what you are trying to tell me."

"Look, today worried me," Tanith confessed. "Just promise me you will be wary, if nothing else."

"I do, I am," Aaron reached out and grasped her hands. "Do not worry, with you at my side to remind me, nothing bad can happen."

"Do not forget Dana," Tanith motioned her head to where Dana was still packing. "She is part of us now and can help to remind you to be cautious."

"I will not forget, I promise," Aaron smiled and nodded. "Now, can we get on with the business of eliminating the Black Hand?"

"Absolutely," Tanith smiled back, keeping her worries to herself. "Dana, are you ready?"

Dana did not have much in the way of personal possessions so packing was accomplished in less than an hour. Aaron spent some time explaining Tanith to Dana, which then turned into a history lesson of Andor. Dana was a little angry at her people for losing so much of their history. She was amazed that Tanith was something other than what she appeared to be. Amazed more when Tanith sent her a mental picture of her true self.

After taking one last look at the place Dana had called home while living in Re-An she nodded to Aaron that she was ready. Aaron told them of their destination and then apportated them to the center of the camp that he had visited just a few short days ago.

Tanith immediately shifted to her true form and began laying down a destructive spray of acid over the temporary tent areas while Aaron and Dana blasted advancing Black Hands with Eldritch. Aaron was drawing large amounts of Eldritch and destroying everything in his path. Dana meanwhile was attacking with balls of Eldritch, hitting any advancing foes and driving them back. Her attack was more precise and surgical, unlike Aaron who was unleashing wholesale slaughter. Tanith shifted to wyrmfire and finished what the acid had begun. Soon there was nothing left to attack.

Aaron surveyed the camp and shook his head at the totality of the destruction. Not a single assassin moved, not a single building or structure stood unscathed. Fires burned throughout the box canyon that was once the main training camp of the Black Hand. The camp, for all intents and purposes, no longer existed.

Dana surveyed the destruction and then turned toward Aaron, "Unbelievable!" she exclaimed, shaking her head. "Unbelievable!"

"We fight well together," Aaron replied watching Tanith shrink down to her bipedal shape. "Very well together."

"Where next?" Tanith asked. "The sun is at midday, we have enough time for one more camp today."

"Well, whichever is the next largest camp," Aaron replied. "Dana, if you were to give Tanith the location of the next largest camp she could transport us there."

Dana nodded and described the location of the camp she thought should be next on their list. After ensuring everyone was ready Tanith shifted them several hundred leagues to the east. Arriving at the camp they repeated the attack and destroyed the camp in its entirety.

Aaron was surprised that a camp existed so close to Realto, well, close in relative geography. The camp was similar to the first, in that it was hidden in a box canyon in the foothills of the Dragon Back Mountains just north-west of Realto. The camp was smaller than the one near Creton, more a regional staging area than actual training camp, Dana told them. She assured them that it was strategically the most important Black Hand enclave on the mainland due to its proximity to both Realto and Aithen.

Aaron picked through the rubble of the headquarters and found nothing of value; actually nothing remained after the twin Wyrm attack of fire and acid. Aaron laughingly told Tanith she needed to leave something to investigate at the next camp.

They decided to return to Tanith's old lair and spend the night there. Rather than in the wilderness or return to a place where they might be recognized. Tantih transported them there and gave Dana the grand tour. Aaron relaxed for the rest of the evening and they spent a quiet night in the mountains.

Tanith awoke sometime after midnight in a cold sweat. Getting out of bed and trying not to wake anyone else she entered her sitting room and sat down. Something was off, not quite right. She felt weird and bloated and irritable, all at the same time. She felt... , no it could not be that, could it?

Standing up on shaky legs she made her way over to a side passage and down to the end where a large locked door stood. She moved her hands in an intricate pattern and the door opened. Entering the room she noted the heat radiating off of the sand and smiled. When she reached the center of the large cavern she shifted to her true self and began shifting the sand around. Finally satisfied with her efforts she curled up in the mound of sand and rested.

Several hours later she gently stood up revealing two large leathery eggs, one platinum and one polychromatic. The egg had differing hues depending on where she stood in relation to it. A hybrid to be sure and she wondered what it would be when fully grown.

Tanith very carefully moved sand over the eggs, knowing it would keep her clutch warm until they hatched. She moved away from the nest and shifted back to bipedal form and stared in awe at what she begat. She closed and sealed the cavern door and hurried back to bed hoping not to disturb anyone. She fully intended to tell Aaron, and Dana as well, but wanted to wait to find the right moment.

They were up at dawn and after their morning routine of stretching, exercising, and practice, they broke their fast and were ready for the next camp. Aaron asked Dana for the location and then had Tanith transport them to it.

The next camp was in the middle of the Great Desert north-east of Re-An. The camp was situated between dunes in a remote area but within striking distance of Re-An, Malkur, and Aithen. As with the previous camp, this one was a staging area and with it being in a secret location, less fortified than the one near Creton. Their attack followed the same strategy as before and like before they reduced the camp to rubble in mere moments. This time however, Tanith controlled her attack to limited the damage to the main building and that is where Aaron began to search.

After an exhaustive search of the headquarters turned up little of importance he queried Dana on their next course of action. Dana informed him that there was one more camp and several weapons/material caches left. The last camp was on the eastern edge of the Western Realm, north of the city of Loudin. Before they went there Aaron decided to destroy the secret caches and had Dana give Tanith the locations. Aaron asked Tanith to transport them to each one and when they arrived at each they destroyed the cache. Finally all that was left was the final camp in the far west and Aaron had Tanith transport them there.

Upon reaching the camp they stuck to the tactical plan that had served them well in each of the previous engagements. And, as in the previous engagements, the camp was systematically destroyed. Aaron searched the main building for anything of use.

Aaron had searched each of the previous camps' main buildings for any intelligence. He was not looking for anything specific, just anything that could help his plans. He was looking for any ties between the Black Hand and the guild houses or ruling houses, or for conspiracies that could further unsettle the political landscape of Andor. What he did not expect to find were vague references to a magical throne!

It seemed that the Black Hand, or at least this brigade was interested in the location of an ancient magical throne. The Brigade Commander had informants looking for clues throughout the five realms. Aaron shared his findings with Dana who knew nothing of it.

To say Dana was shocked would be an understatement. Mix in surprise, anger, and betrayal and it would be a more accurate description of the emotions she felt concerning the information Aaron gave her. To find that one of her commanders had a hidden agenda was unthinkable and yet the proof was staring her straight in the face.

She did not understand how the commander would even know about the throne. Based on the information found, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the Black Hand was looking for the Rose Throne. To what end, Dana did not know. More importantly, how did the Black Hand even know of its existence?

The three searched throughout the headquarters for any clues to the how and why. It was Tanith that came up with the how. She found a personal trinket of silver inlaid emeralds that bore the seal of the House of Whiterune. Dana recognized the item as belonging to her mother. What was her mother doing interacting with this particular brigade and not with her? What was she up to?

Now her varied emotions settled down to one: Anger! Betrayed by her mother, who she served most diligently all these years. To think that she had given up so much, not the least of which was freedom. That she had even violated Tarran law to come to Andor to do her mother's bidding on pain of death. And now to find that her mother was working behind her back with one of her trusted commanders was almost unthinkable. There would be a reckoning! Dana would make damn sure of that!

"Aaron, we need to find the Rose Throne," Dana stated matter-of-factly, getting her emotions in check. "We need to, before my mother does. I do not know what she is up to but the throne will be the key."

"Could she use the throne to summon the rose swords?" Tanith asked.

"Black Rose, could she?" Aaron placed his hand on his sword's pommel.

"She could not summon me, My Lord," Black Rose replied. "Possibly Red Rose, but we are not even sure of that."

"Why not you, but possibly Red Rose?" Aaron asked.

"Because Black Rose is traditionally the sword of the Prince," Red Rose explained. "While traditionally I am the sword of the Princess."

"Yes, but I have laid claim to both of you," Aaron countered. "Besides, Dana would have a greater claim to Red Rose than any other princess."

"We think so too, My Lord," Black Rose replied in agreement.

"And I feel no compulsion to leave you," Red Rose added. "And if her claim was greater then I should. The mother obtaining the throne should change nothing regarding us."

"Which is why I do not believe she is aware of you, beloved." Dana interjected. "She may be after Red Rose, but she would know that if Ashanna is dead then the sword would have returned to its stone. The throne could be used to return the Hall of Kings to the palace and she could be after even bigger fish."

"Dana, what do you know about the disappearance of the throne?" Aaron asked.

"Nothing," Dana replied shrugging her shoulders. "The throne was missing at the time of the banishment. No one knows when it went missing or who may have had a hand in it. In all fairness, though, not a lot of information exists about that time."

"Black Rose, did Sinthar sit on the Rose Throne?" Aaron asked.

"Yes, My Lord," Black Rose replied.

"Alright, Black Rose, did Sinthar hide the throne?" Aaron asked nonplused.

"I was not in the palace at the time of the throne's disappearance," Black Rose replied matter-of-factly.

"Black Rose... , never mind," Aaron started and stopped, clearly exasperated. "Red Rose, do you know if Sinthar hid the throne?"

"I was never the sword of your ancestor," Red Rose replied.

"We are not getting anywhere, Aaron," Tanith chuckled. "Clearly, they are not going to share any specific information they may or may not have."

"I can see that," Aaron replied frustrated at his swords. "I know who may know, but I am not sure if we can find it."

"Black Rose, tell me about the Hall of Kings," Aaron grasped the pommel of his sword with authority.

"My Lord! What do you wish to know?" Black Rose replied.

"Can I, the rightful heir to the Rose Throne, summon it?" Aaron asked.

"Yes, My Lord, you could if you sat on the Rose Throne," Black Rose replied.

"This is also going nowhere, Aaron," Dana interrupted. "What we need is good information on what happened then. Is there not someplace to go to get that information?"

"Dana, we are discussing a small snippet of time an age ago," Aaron explained. "What we need is someone that may have been there at that time. I know someone that might have been, but I am not sure she would help us."

"Well, you will not know if you do not try," Tanith smiled, knowing exactly who he was talking about. "Just ask her."

Aaron sighed and nodded, looking at Dana and then at Tanith. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind before thinking of his onetime patron and lover, The Goddess of Light, Lady Rannath. He felt the connection and the mental sigh from his ex-patron and he smiled in spite of himself. He opened his eyes as two entities began to materialize to his left.

Lady Rannath felt the connection and mental request from her Champion and sighed. Making the decision to respond she stood up.

"Lord Azrael, I am requested on the Material Plane," she announced to the ethereal. "Will you attend me?"

"I would be most happy to accompany you," Lord Azrael replied, fading into view.

She nodded and shifted them to the Material Plane, focusing on her Champion's location.

Aaron watched the two entities materialize to his left as his mates moved out in a flanking position. He smiled when he saw that Lord Azrael had accompanied Lady Rannath.

Lady Rannath looked around at the devastation and then back at Aaron. "What happened here?"

"Retribution," Aaron replied absently and then got to the heart of the matter. "Lady Rannath, I need some information, if you do not mind?"

The tone of formality in Aaron's voice caused Lady Rannath to visibly stiffen. She shook it off and looked intently at her Champion. "No, I do not mind. I will answer what I can."

"Do you know where the Rose Throne is?" Aaron asked, watching both of the Gods for their reaction.

"No, we never knew what happened to it," Lady Rannath replied shaking her head. "I am fairly certain that Sinthar hid it before his death though."

"But, you do not know where?" Aaron asked in replied. "Do you have a guess, or perhaps know anyone who might?"

"No, if Sinthar did, and like I said I believe he did, he did it in secrecy," Lady Rannath shook her head. "Deathbringer would know, but whether it would say is another matter."

"That does me no good without the location of the Hall," Aaron also shook his head. "Besides, I am not sure I want to pay the cost of knowing. Anyone else?"

"Lady Rannath, what about the Seeress?" Lord Azrael asked, joining the discussion.

"Who is the Seeress?" Aaron asked.

"The Handmaiden, Aaron," Tanth interjected as all turned toward her. "She has many manifestations, Seeress is but one of them."

"She is correct," Lady Rannath replied. "The Seeress lives in a cave on the other side of Andor. She would know, but whether she would reveal the location is quite a different matter."

"I will impress upon her my need," Aaron smiled that feral grin.

"Aaron, be careful, she is very powerful," Lady Rannath cautioned.

"You do not know my mate very well," Dana chuckled. "His power is overwhelming."

"Mate?" Lord Azrael tilted his head looking at Aaron.

"Well, it was one solution," Aaron replied with a grin, and then shot a look that could melt glass at a giggling Tanith. "Tanith!"

"What?!" Tanith giggled louder.

"She is right though," Tanith tried to stifle her giggles. "Aaron is the most powerful entity I have ever seen."

Lady Rannath's eyes opened wide as she re-appraised her Champion. "Nevertheless, be careful."

"I am always careful," Aaron replied shrugging.

"Lord Whiterune, are you not going to introduce us?" Lord Azrael asked, eyeing Dana.

"Yes, that would be the polite thing to do," Dana replied.

"Lady Rannath, Lord Azrael, May I introduce Princess Dana Whiterune," Aaron presented Dana. "One of my two bond mates and a Princess of the Rose."

"The Princess of the Rose," Dana added smiling.

"Beloved, may I present Lady Rannath, Goddess of Light and Lord Azrael, God of Shadows," Aaron finished the introductions, but added. "They are, or were, Thangdaemons but are Gods now."

"Aaron, bringing her across is a violation of the covenant your people agreed to as part of their banishment," Lady Rannath gently chided him.

"I did not bring her here, Lady Rannath," Aaron replied sternly. "I will need directions to the Seeress' cave."

Dana curtseyed to the two Gods who bowed in return. Azrael looked at Aaron intently as Rannath gave him directions to the cave and cautioned him about power usage on the mountain. She gave him some back history on the Seeress and how to act around her. Aaron thanked her for coming and for the information. Rannath bid them good day and she and Azrael faded from view. A few moments later Azrael re-materialized in front of Aaron and his mates.

"I thought I might see you again," Aaron greeted the God of Shadows. "The Black Hand is no more."

"Interesting way to deal with the head though," Azrael replied. "I know it was not your doing, but Lady Rannath is correct, her being here is a violation."

"To a covenant that I did not agree to, nor will honor in the future," Aaron replied grimly. "If you or they try to intervene, I will take it as a personal attack. I am not trying to threaten you or the other Gods, but you do not want me to take it as a personal attack."

"Aaron, I do not care what you do," Lord Azrael smiled. "I am just letting you know that the covenant was made in front of the 'Three'. I will look into the disappearance of the throne for you and see what I can find."

"I appreciate your assistance," Aaron replied. "I am not trying to be difficult, I am just tired of being told what I should or should not do. If the 'Three' have an issue with me let them come to me and we can discuss it. As a matter of fact, I will discuss it with the Seeress."

"Just be careful, is all I am saying," Azrael cautioned him. "I am becoming rather fond of you."

"Compassion from the God of Shadows?" Aaron smiled. "Your concern is touching."

"Hail and well met," Lord Azrael declared in parting and faded from view.

"Hail and well met," Aaron replied and then turned to his mates. "It is time to pay a visit on this Seeress. Tanith, please transport us there."

The Seeress had a small dwelling, whose entrance was located far away, though still on Andor, half a world away from the events unfolding in the five realms. The location was hidden in a mountain pass, by way of a barely navigable game trail. Power and magic were uncontrollable there, so they would have to walk through a perpetual swirling snow storm.

Tanith brought them to the base of a mountain pass covered in snow. The wind was ferocious, whipping snow about causing a veritable whiteout. The noise from the blizzard was so loud that they could not communicate verbally with each other. Aaron looked around trying to see the road through the pass but the intense show storm had completely obscured the road. They were lost in a whiteout and could not find their way to the road. Aaron had had quite enough!

He began pulling power from the mountain, reaching deep within the rock, tapping into the Eldritch and drawing it forth. His fingertips tingled with the energy he was holding, and still he drew more. He was holding so much energy that his hair defied the whipping of the wind and stood straight up as energy crackled around him. He still drew more, he was tapped into the very life force of the mountain and still he drew power. Now he felt he was ready.

"Silence!" he screamed into the face of the storm, releasing the power in a roaring storm of his own. "That is quite enough!"

The wind died and the snow stopped falling as Dana and Tanith looked around in awe. The stars twinkled in the clear night sky as peace and tranquility settled over the mountain. The road was laid before them through the pass and the small trail was clearly visible winding up the mountain to the mouth of a cave.

"Aaron, what did you do?" Tanith asked in shock.

"I silenced the storm," Aaron replied with a shrug.

"Aaron, you controlled the weather with a word," Tanith corrected him. "I know of no one that can do that. You continue to amaze me."

"Well, there is the path. Let us get off this mountainside." Aaron said pointing at the path leading up for the cave.

He led the little party up the mountainside toward the yawning mouth of the cave at the end of the game trail. Reaching the cave Aaron led them inside where he created a silver ball of light which bobbed along beside him.

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