The Prince of the Rose
Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy
Author's note: the word slavey is a synonym for a drudge: one who does menial work, specifically a household or kitchen worker.
Aaron, Tanith, and Dana spent an uneventful night camping off the side of the road. He took the last watch and woke his mates at dawn, where they shared a quick breakfast and after extinguishing the fire continued on their journey. The tendril of blue mist split in two and followed along on either side of the road, hugging the ground flitting from tree to tree, or bush to bush.
Dana was concerned about stopping in any village and expressed those concerns to Aaron. He promised, again, to refrain from making a spectacle of himself. He assured both of them that he would allow Dana to take the lead in any conversation or discussion. Dana tried to hammer home how little males were held in regard and how even his carrying weapons would be frowned upon. He balked at the notion that he would walk around unarmed, or that he should try and hide his swords. Dana gave in on that point but at least convinced him to allow her and Tanith to ride in front of him in an effort to show him in a subservient role.
They rode for a couple of hours before seeing cultivated fields, signaling a village, or perhaps a town, or some type of civilization. They could see workers tending the fields and livestock, all male, by the way. They thought about getting off the road and giving the village a wide berth but decided to just keep on the road and not rouse any suspicions.
It was not long before the town came into view off to the leftside of the road. An inn and trade post were the closest buildings to the road. Since it was early afternoon they decided to pass on through and eat a light lunch in the saddle and perhaps stop at a village or inn prior to night fall. Fate, it seemed, had other ideas.
They were passing by the village when they were hailed by a member of the Sisterhood, dressed in black robes and red sash, trimmed in silver, carrying the traditional glaive. She had been walking out of the smaller of the two buildings and stopped when she saw the travelers.
"Ho, travelers," she called out. "What news of the road?"
"Quiet," Dana replied, raising her hand in greeting.
"Where are you headed?" the sister asked, inspecting Aaron intently.
"We are traveling to the edge of the Eastern Marsh, where I have some family," Dana replied. "Why are you interested in where we go?"
"No particular reason," the sister shrugged. "I see you let your servant carry arms."
"I am very fond of him," Dana chuckled. "I wanted him able to protect himself."
"Hmm, yes well, you best be careful, it is your responsibly if he hurts someone," the sister cautioned them and then pointed at Aaron's swords. "Those are most interesting swords."
Aaron backed up a little when he felt Eldritch directed his way. The priestess was trying to probe him, or perhaps the swords! Aaron put up a block and then looked around to make sure they were not being observed by anyone else. He watched her squint her eyes as she peered at him intently and then her eyes opened wide in surprise. With only moments to decide, Aaron reached out with his right hand and crushed her windpipe, while reaching out with his left and stopped her heart. The sister immediately collapsed to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut.
Dana gasped and looked around to see if the act had been spotted while Tanith quickly transported the body to the room in the abandoned castle.
"Aaron, what happened?" Dana asked him sotto voce.
"She was suspicious and tried to read me," Aaron explained quietly. "I think she must have sensed the swords. I am not completely certain but I did not have a lot of time to act."
"What did you do?" Tanith asked. "I barely felt anything and I was right next to you."
"I reached out and crushed her windpipe and then stopped her heart," Aaron replied, watching a hunched over shape that had stepped out from between the two buildings and was paying them entirely too much attention. "Do not look now, but I think we have been found out."
Tanith gently urged her horse forward toward the shape, stopping in front of it.
"May I help you?" Tanith asked, touching him with Eldritch.
"N-n-n-n," the shape muttered.
"Excuse me?" Tanith pressed.
"I did not see anything," the shape replied barely above a whisper.
"Who are you?" Tanith asked in her gentleness voice.
"No one, mistress," the shape replied. "I am just a slavey, nothing to worry yourself about."
"Coram? Coram, are you bothering the good mistress?" they heard from inside the door of the building they were standing in front of.
A portly woman came through the door. "I thought I told you to go and get some eggs?" she asked dusting the flour from the apron she was wearing. "I hope he is not bothering you?"
"No, not at all," Tanith smiled disarmingly. "We were just asking him about the town."
"Well, he has errands to run, do you not, Coram?" the woman turned and kicked at him. "Get gone, and do not forget those eggs!"
Coram bowed and took off slinking back around the corner and was gone. Tanith bid the woman good day and turned her horse back toward her companions. They continued on their journey, followed by the tendrils, putting distance between themselves and the town.
Several hours later they came across another small town with an inn and decided to stay the night. Tanith and Aaron led the horse to the stable while Dana went inside to secure their lodgings. After boarding the horses with the stable hand, another slavey, they entered the inn and saw that Dana had procured a table in the back. Taking their seats, Aaron was put on his guard when he noticed many of the inn's patrons, women mostly, were watching him. What men that were in the room, were similar to the stable hand and Coram from the town before. They were dressed in rags, Aaron could not think of a better description, and they seemed beaten down; no spark of life. He stuck out like a sore thumb.
"Dana, this is not going to work," Aaron looked at his mates. "I am not dressed nor do I act like the typical males that we have seen."
"I agree," Tanith nodded. "I do not know what to do about it, though."
"I do," Aaron replied firmly, crossing his arms. "I am who I am and I will not be anything else. We will deal with what comes."
Aaron warily watched the inn's server approach their table and give him a look that was part disgust and part hostile. Dana ordered for all of them and the server left.
"This was a bad idea," Tanith acknowledged. "We should not have come into town."
"By the Gods, I will not hide from anyone," Aaron declared firmly. "Let them come, let them try. They will not know what hit them."
"Aaron, do not go looking for trouble," Dana cautioned, placing her hand over his.
"I never do, beloved, I never do," Aaron shook his head and then smiled his trademark feral grin. "I do not run from it either."
While Aaron was talking, Tanith watched four members of the Sisterhood enter the inn and survey the common room. One nodded in the trio's direction and they quartet started toward them. They sat at a table close to Aaron's right and eyed the table with great interest. The server took the quartet's order and left them. Presently one of the sisters leaned over.
"I am going to have to ask you to move to another table," the sister commanded. "His smell is going to cause me to lose my appetite."
Tanith reached over and placed her hand on Aaron's while Dana addressed the sisters.
"We have done nothing to cause you animosity," Dana chided them. "You have insulted us without cause. That is not honorable and should be beneath the Sisterhood."
The sister closest to Dana reached out to thwack her with the butt of the shaft of her glaive but never completed the movement, because Red Rose flashed out and cleaved the shaft in half. A silence came over the common room as the occupants saw the trail of red from the sword's glowing runes. The sister looked up at Aaron in shock as he stood, pivoted, and drew Black Rose as well. The swords, feeding on Aaron's anger, began to howl in glee.
"Who wishes to meet their Goddess first?" Aaron asked with a grim look on his face. "For by the Gods I intend to arrange the opportunity."
The sisters stood and prepared for attack, spreading out and bringing their glaives up to the ready position. They were arranged in a semi-circle facing Aaron, two to his front and one each to his sides.
The telling of the battle took longer than the actual altercation. Aaron attacked first, piercing the heart of the sister to his left with Red Rose while sweeping up with Black Rose and cleaving the glaives of the two in front. He finished with a down sweep of Black Rose, slicing the sister to his right from her right shoulder to her left hip. He then pivoted to his left, decapitating the sister to his right front with Black Rose. The last sister stepped back and began to pull Eldritch when he reached out, channeling Eldritch through Red Rose, lifting her in the air and crushing her windpipe. He dropped her to the ground and scanned the crowd for any other attackers. After cleaning his swords on the garments of the fallen, he sheathed them and sat down. Tanith and Dana who were also standing, swords drawn to protect his flanks, followed suit.
"Bring me my supper!" he called out and crossed his arms.
"Well, his restraint lasted all of eight hours," Tanith chuckled. "That may very well be a new record."
"Aaron, what have you done?" Dana asked shaking her head. "We are not going to be able to stay here now."
"I will have my supper first," Aaron replied firmly. "We can settle with the innkeeper after we have eaten."
There was still a hush over the inn's patrons as the ferocity of the attack was still fresh in their minds. It was unheard of to see a Sister of the Temple fall, let alone four! Four men came into the common room with tarps and began the gruesome task of wrapping the bodies up for removal. Several of the dinner guests left as the sight and coppery sweet aroma of bloodshed had affected their appetites. Even after the bodies were removed and the blood wiped up the common room atmosphere was still keyed up. Aaron's fist banging the table caused many a guest to flinch in fear.
"I said, bring me my supper!" he demanded, his voice rising several decibels.
The inn's server hurried over with a tray laden with the ordered food and hurriedly set it out and scurried away. Aaron began to eat all the while scanning the room for threats. Dana and Tanith ate sparingly also watching for threats. Tanith looked up, feeling a tingle and a brief flash of light.
"Aaron... ," Tanith began before being interrupted.
"I felt it too," Aaron replied to the warning and then smiled as he began drawing power. "Someone just warded the room. We will just see about that."
Aaron reached out and felt the flow of Eldritch surround the room and gently fed his own power into the warding. He could see with his mind's eye the blue Eldritch of a Tarran Adept shift to the silver Eldritch of his own. He sat back and smiled as he saw six sisters enter the common room followed by another female wearing the traditional garb of the temple, simple white robe with a black sash; a priestess.
The remaining inn's guests all stood and quickly moved away from the impending altercation as the sisters spread out and readied themselves.
"You have much to account for, slavey," the priestess addressed Aaron. "The death of four sisters has signed your death warrant."
"What makes you think that you can collect?" Aaron smiled, still sitting in his chair. "One priestess and six sisters is not nearly enough. I will wait while you fetch more."
"You will not leave here alive," the priestess promised.
"You should perhaps check your wards," Aaron smiled, finally standing and drawing his swords. "You will find that it is not us who will not leave here alive."
Dana and Tanith stood as well and moved away from the table, drawing their swords.
"I, being the benevolent individual that I am, will allow the innocent to leave," Aaron smiled and pointed toward the door leading to the kitchen. "All those who wish to leave may do so."
Aaron watched the last of the guests flee the common room and then re-warded the door. While he was watching the door his mates were drawing Eldritch in preparation of the upcoming battle.
Aaron turned back to the priestess, "So, you were saying?"
The priestess attacked with Eldritch which Aaron turned aside, keeping one eye on his mates who had initiated combat with two of the sisters. The priestess struck again with a ball of blue energy which Aaron stopped in front of him. He concentrated and changed it to silver and sent it back at the priestess who barely turned it aside. Aaron could see that she was straining to match him power for power so he began to really draw power and to Hades with those that could sense it!
Aaron pointed both swords at the two sisters closest to the priestess. "Black Rose, Red Rose; Straight and True."
The swords streaked from his hands and pinned the two warriors to the wall behind them. Tanith and Dana both cut down the two that they were locked in combat with and moved to engage the two remaining sisters.
"What ... who are you?" the priestess asked looking back incredulously at the two dead sisters pinned to the wall.
"I believe the term is WitchLord," Aaron smiled. "But I rather like, Prince of the Rose better."
At the pronouncement of that long ago title, thirteen tendrils of blue mist began to form behind Aaron. Thirteen members of the Black Guard of the Rose materialized to fulfill oaths and protect their prince.