The Prince of the Rose
Chapter 14

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

Aaron had everyone step up on the platform, with Kalliste leading Calliope, and prepared to transport them to Cumbra, when the Black Guard chose that moment to display themselves. It is worth noting that with each manifestation the Black Guard became a little more corporeal. By this point the guardsmen were indistinguishable from living beings and in fact were again alive. Now that everyone was finally in place, Aaron stepped over to the table top, set the controls for the throne room antechamber and then touched the ruby to start the platform.

A ball of energy appeared in the center of the platform and began to grow until it encompassed the party and, with a loud whoosh, vanished taking the group of travelers with it.

The palace at Cumbra, first-city of Tarra.

"Poppet? Poppet, it is time to get up," Princess Eleni's elderly ladies' maid, Moina, announced pulling back the curtains and letting the dawn light into the bed chambers.

Moina had been Eleni's wet nurse and then nanny and finally, as she grew older, ladies' maid. When everyone else fled from the temper tantrums, and spoiled outbursts of the Most Blessed Mother's eldest, Moina was there to sooth the child and pick up the pieces. In Moina's eyes Eleni was still the little girl that she loved like her own.

"I have your breakfast ready and your bath is waiting," Moina approached the bed and touched the exposed shoulder.

"Get out! Let me sleep!" a voice from under the covers admonished Moina. "Do not touch me."

"Now Poppet, be nice, today is your special day," Moina pulled her hand back. "Come now, your breakfast is getting cold."

"I do not want any breakfast. I want to be left alone, I want to sleep in."

"But Poppet, today is your coronation day. You want to look your best, right? You do not want a grumbling tummy in the middle of the ceremony, do you?"

"Now you listen to Ole' Moina, and I will have you ready in no time," Moina talked to Eleni softly trying to encourage her to get out of bed.

"Fine!" the princess flung back the covers from her bed. "Where is the gruel you have prepared for me today?"

Moina set the tray across the princess' lap and then set out her dressing gown and slippers for her bath. She stood by the door waiting until Eleni had finished her breakfast and then removed the tray, before helping her remove her nightdress and slip on her dressing gown and slippers. She then followed the princess into the bathing room where a large sunken tub had already been prepared. Red rose petals floated on the surface of the warm water that had been drawn in preparation of the princess's bath.

Moina removed the princess' dressing gown as she stepped into the tub and lowered herself in the water. She then added some rose oil from a small decanter and began to bath her charge. She cooed and spoke soft words of encouragement as she bathed the princess, trying to improve her mood.

Finally announcing that she was done the servant held a large bathing towel and wrapped Eleni in it as she stood and exited the bath. The princess sat down at her dressing table and Moina began brushing out her long golden tresses. After brushing her hair she plaited it in a single tight braid starting from the top of her head. Satisfied with her work Moina applied a hint of color to her eyes and blush to her cheeks.

"Come, Poppet, it is time to dress," Moina stood and moved over to the wardrobe where her coronation dressed was laid out. She helped Eleni step into a silver gown, trimmed in gold with small red roses decorating the front. Moina brushed the gown and straightened the tail and signaled the task was complete.

"Poppet, you are beautiful, simply beautiful," she said and smiled as she ran her hands down the princess's shoulders. "No Queen ever looked lovelier on her coronation day."

For the first time during the ordeal of dressing a smile appeared on Eleni's lips as she took in her reflection in the mirror. A knock at the door interrupted her self-appraisal.

"Come," she commanded and then went back to admiring herself.

The door opened and her sister Adelpha entered, flanked by two members of the Red Guard.

"Are you ready?" Adelpha asked, smiling.

"Yes," Eleni replied with a critical eye. Adelpha was dressed in a white gown, also trimmed in gold with small roses decorating the front.

"You make a stunning Princess," Eleni concluded and then looking into the mirror added. "Well, not as stunning as I was of course."

"Of course," Adelpha smirked and then curtseyed. "Your honor guard awaits, my soon to be Queen."

"Watch yourself, Sister," Eleni's eyes flashed dangerously in the mirror.

"Yes, Your Hind-Ass," Adelpha replied, smirk vanishing, anger replacing it.

"You forget your place, sister."

"Oh, I know my place," Adelpha replied, bringing her hands up and out, ready for combat. "There is just one small, insignificant thing in the way, however."

"Watch your tongue, Sister," Eleni brought her own hands up, little sparks of blue energy jumping from fingertip to fingertip. "You are dangerously close to treason."

The two sisters stalked each other in a circular pattern, each looking for an opening, or a weakness in the other's guard. Moina stepped in between them and tapped into the flow of Eldritch to protect her charge.

"Poppet, please, it is your coronation day," she pleaded, trying to stop the two from fighting, the blue of Eldritch crackling from her fingertips. "And Princess Adelpha, do not provoke something you will not win."

"Fine!" Adelpha dropped her hands and released her power. "You will not always have that old hag for protection. Mother is in your sitting room and requests an audience, Your Highness."

She then turned and stomped off toward the sitting room not bothering to wait for an answer. Moina shook her head and released her power.

"Do not let her bait you so," Moina stepped up and touched Eleni's shoulders. "It is beneath you and accomplishes nothing. Who is queen and who is not? Hurry, your mother awaits you."

"I am not going in there unless you accompany me," Eleni stated bringing her hands up to hold Moina's hands.

"Now, you know the Most Blessed Mother will not allow that," Moina explained for the umpteenth time. "She is your mother, while I am just a servant."

"Nevertheless, it is I that will be Queen," Eleni stated with finality. "It will be for me to decide what is allowed and what is not."

Eleni dragged Moina behind her as she left the dressing room and entered the sitting room, finding her mother seated, flanked by her personal guard, the famed Sisterhood of the Eternal Flame. Princess Adelpha sat in an adjacent chair flanked by her own bodyguards. Lady Rachel stood as Eleni entered.

"Mother," Eleni barely nodded in greeting and turned to stare daggers at Adelpha.

"Eleni, please sit down," Lady Rachel nodded to an empty chair and then turned back to Moina. "Yes?"

The servant shifted uncomfortably under the Most Blessed Mother's hostile stare and was saved further discomfort by Eleni.

"I asked her to be here," the princess stated, challenging her Mother's stare with one of her own. "She raised me; this is as much her day as mine."

"Eleni, that was hurtful," Lady Rachel said in reproach. "I have always only had your best interests at heart. Is this how you repay me?"

"Nevertheless, Moina stays," Eleni restated her demand. "She will also attend the ceremony as my guest."

"Eleni, she is a servant, it would be undignified," her mother tried to explain.

"She will be attending my coronation, Most Blessed Mother," Eleni stood challenging her mother. "Was there something specific you required?"

"I just wanted to go over any last moment changes to the ceremony," Lady Rachel replied. "I just want this day to be glorious, a day to remember."

Lady Rachel went through the entire ceremony from start to finish, including Eleni's as well as Adelpha's roles. They went over the litany of the ceremony, who said what and when. There were specific questions asked that had to be answered in a precise fashion. The order was discussed, along with the timing of Eleni's entrance to the courtyard. Finally feeling satisfied the ceremony would go off without a hitch Lady Rachel departed with Adelpha in tow.

"I do not own sufficient attire for the ceremony," Moina stated and shrugged.

"That does not matter," Eleni smiled. "We will create something. Close your eyes."

Eleni stood and walked around Moina with a critical eye and then began to weave her hands as she touched the flow of Eldritch. Moina began to glow with a bluish light until the intensity obscured the servant. When Eleni's movements stopped she stepped back and grabbed a hand mirror.

"Open your eyes and see your new dress," she said, handing her the mirror.

Moina's squeals of joy were a balm to Eleni's nervousness over the upcoming ceremony. She used the mirror to check out the dress from different angles.

The dress was forest green, trimmed in silver and lace. Moina looked ten years younger and went on and on about the gift. Eleni smiled at her ability to do something for her ladies' maid, who looked after every aspect of Eleni's personal life.

"Come, I am sure it is time to leave for the ceremony," Eleni smiled.

Moina smiled in return and followed her princess and charge out to the staging area, walking on a cloud of euphoria at the wondrous gift. She did not even notice the shield-maidens stepping into place at either side of the princess.

The crowds had gathered at first light trying to find the perfect spot to view the coronation ceremony. Venders hawked their wares as the morning sun began to warm the large courtyard and associated manicured grounds that had been transformed for the ceremony. Silver, gold, and sky blue bunting hung from everywhere. Long stem roses in all their natural colors; red, yellow, white, silver, as well as black were everywhere. Several minstrel quartets entertained the crowds with harp and lyre music.

The various delegations that had traveled from as far away as the elf kingdom were given special seating arrangements. Every priestess of sufficient rank or means was in attendance with a whole row of seating reserved for them. The Sisterhood of the Eternal Flame was also out in force, the blades of their glaives reflecting the light of the morning sun. Members of the Red Guard of the Rose were also in attendance, sprinkled throughout the crowd, providing security for the Queen-Elect and her retinue. Representatives of the First-Princess scurried about seeing to the visiting dignitaries needs.

The change in music marked the start of the ceremony as Lady Rachel stood on an altar at the front of the assembled crowd. The altar was ringed by members of the Sisterhood and two priestesses flanked the large brazier alight with the silver fire of the Eternal Flame. She that had no Name had blessed the ceremony with a clear, cool morning with nary a cloud in the sky.

The Most Blessed Mother smiled and acknowledged the nods from several of the visiting dignitaries and then raised her hands high to quiet the crowd. The quartet closest to the dais began to play a soft, gentle melody as everyone stood and turned toward the back of the courtyard where Princess Eleni and retinue stood.

Eleni saw her mother nod and then she started forward flanked by members of the Red Guard. Leading the procession were several young girls scattering red rose petals along the aisle leading to where the Most Blessed Mother stood. The princess had two acolytes carrying the train of her dress as she approached the altar and the spot where she was supposed to stop and turn. Slowly climbing the steps of the dais her heart beat faster as the fulfillment of her wildest dreams was about to occur. Stopping exactly where she was supposed to, Princess Eleni slowly turned, allowing the two acolytes sufficient time to step around, keeping the train of her dress straight. She looked down and smiled at Moina, who was in the front row with a smile a league wide.

"Assembled guests, members of the Holy Orders, friends, country women, and nobles from distant lands, I bid you welcome," the Most Blessed Mother began her introductions.

"A moment of silence for prayer or reflection as the spirits move you," she bowed her head, waited a moment and then turned to the large brazier lit with a silver flame. "Oh Blessed Goddess, She that has no Name, we are assembled today to crown a new Queen. Please bless this ceremony and all those that congregate here to see its fruition."

The Most Blessed Mother turned toward the assembly and draped the royal mantle over her daughter's shoulder. She then picked up the crown from a nearby table and held it over the princess' head.

"Standing before you, honored guests and country women, is Her Royal Highness, Princess Eleni Whiterune, first in line of succession to the Rose Throne. Daughter of Her Royal Higness, Princess Rachel Whiterune. Niece of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Cassandra Whietune, may she rest in peace. And finally, first cousin to Her Royal Majesty, Queen Ariel Whiterune, may she also rest in peace."

"You have heard her claim to the Rose Throne, her lineage, as it were," Lady Rachel's voice rose in volume and timbre. "I declare her claim just and true. If any here have reason to dispute her claim, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

There was a mild twitter amongst the assembled guests. The declaration was normal and never before had a claim been disputed. Several of the guests looked around for a moment wondering and then shook their heads in self-reproach; as if there really was anyone with a more just claim.

"I dispute the claim of my cousin as declared by my aunt," rang out a masculine voice from the rear of the assembly.

All heads pivoted to see who had interrupted the coronation.

A small antechamber off of the main throne room of the palace in Cumbra, moments before.

The air in the anteroom off of the main throne room began to hum as a small ball of energy appeared above the platform growing steadily until it encompassed the platform before vanishing and revealing a group of travelers.

Dana explained that the throne room was guarded at all times, to which Aaron gave his concurrence having seen members of the Red Guard in the throne room on his recent visit. Tanith bound the room with her innate powers so none could leave and they entered surprising the four members of the Red Guard. Dana quickly bound the guards, before they could start trouble. An unexpected side effect of binding the room was that it prevented anything that occurred in the throne room from being felt or observed outside of the room.

Dana took charge of the bound shield-maidens, making them fall in behind Calliope, as the Black Guard fanned out covering the room. Aaron meanwhile stepped to where the throne was and drew Black Rose.

"Black Rose, summon the Rose Throne," Aaron commanded as all looked on in anticipation.

"AS YOU COMMAND, MY LORD!" the sword proclaimed, runes burning a black inky fire

"IT IS DONE, MY LORD!" the sword announced as the fake throne began to shimmer and fade away.

"THE ROSE THRONE, MY LORD!" the sword proclaimed as the true throne faded into view in its place. "ASCEND THE THRONE, MY LORD!"

Aaron sheathed his sword and stepped up on the platform and turned and sat in the throne and felt the sigh of contentment and power fill the room from the semi-sentience of the throne.

"HAIL TO THE KING!" both sword's deep bass voices echoed within the throne room.

The Black Guard genuflected as one and echoed the exaltation of the swords. Aaron's women - for that was how they saw themselves - followed the guard. Calliope, as well as the members of the Red Guard, looked on in confusion.

"Kneel before your king!" Dana commanded the five women, who then dropped to their knees, head bowed.

"The throne is yours, My Lord," Black Rose declared. "No other may sit upon it while you are amongst the living."

"Arise!" Aaron commanded, standing and descending the steps to the main floor. "There is a coronation to interrupt."

"Tanith, there are more guards stationed on the other side of the door," Aaron explained. "Disable them, please."

Tanith nodded and stretched forth her hand and dropped her head in concentration. The clunk on the other side of the throne doors announced her success. Aaron opened the doors, looked down to confirm the noise, and scanned the hall for other threats. Satisfying himself that there were none, he motioned Kalliste to take the lead.

Kalliste drew Red Rose, whose runes glowed with a reddish hue and started down the hall toward the courtyard, with Aaron close behind, Black Rose's runefire adding an eerie glow. Dana and Tanith drew their swords and followed, pulling Calliope behind. They left the members of the Red Guard in the same condition as the two who guarded the throne room doors. The Black Guard split into two columns, flanking the procession.

Aaron made straight for the courtyard using the main corridor, deducing correctly that he would encounter little or no traffic, since everyone would be at the coronation. They made it to the doors leading to the courtyard without being discovered. Tanith quickly dealt with the guards at the doors and they entered the courtyard as the ceremony started.

Entering the courtyard proved easy as well since Princess Eleni had just ascended the steps of the altar and the Most Blessed Mother was performing the benediction, and all eyes were on the altar at the front. Aaron stepped in front of Kalliste, who stepped back and to his left, as his mates stepped forward flanking him. He took control of Calliope just as Lady Rachel proclaimed Eleni's claim.

"Standing before you, honored guests and country women, is Her Royal Highness, Princess Eleni Whiterune, first in line of succession to the Rose Throne." the Most Blessed Mother declared. "Daughter of Her Royal Highness, Princess Rachel Whiterune. Niece of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Cassandra Whiterune, may she rest in peace. And finally, first cousin to Her Royal Majesty, Queen Ariel Whiterune, may she also rest in peace."

"You have heard her claim to the Rose Throne, her lineage, as it were," Lady Rachel's voice rose in volume and timbre. "I declare her claim just and true. If any here have reason to dispute her claim, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

"I dispute the claim of my cousin as declared by my aunt," Aaron called out in challenge as Black Rose began to howl.

All heads pivoted to see who had interrupted the coronation. There at the back of the courtyard standing in the middle of the aisle was a group of individuals flanked by warriors dressed all in black. A Tarran male, by the looks of him, and three Tarran females and another female of undetermined race.

"Behold, the Prince of the Rose has returned!" Kalliste called out as Red Rose began to howl, matching its sibling. "All hail the King!"

"Who is that, that disputes Princess Eleni's claim?" Lady Rachel strained to see. "Dana?"

"Yes, Mother, Dana," Dana called out. "Let me introduce your nephew, Aaron. Your sister's son and the true heir to the Rose Throne, which has acknowledged his claim."

"Treachery!" Lady Rachel exclaimed. "Sisters, take them!"

Most of the guests moved away from the aisle and the impending battle as several members of the Sisterhood stepped off of the altar and moved to block the new comers. Several priestesses formed into a pyramid and began feeding power to the apex, in preparation of the battle.

"Protect the Queen-designate!" Princess Adelpha commanded the Red Guard. "Protect Princess Eleni!"

Members of the Red Guard of the Rose stepped in front of Princess Eleni forming a shield around her as Princess Adelpha slid over toward her as well.

"Come Sister, let us fight together," she called out, already drawing Eldritch.

"You claim treachery, Aunt Rachel?" Aaron asked, the contempt evident in his voice and reached back and pulled Calliope forward. "You, who had my sister murdered in her sleep? You, who brought assassins into our midst? I charge you with regicide, what say you, auntie?"

"Tell them, assassin. Tell the assembled guests, our people, what you have done and by whose order," Aaron commanded.

"It is true, I am Sister Calliope and I work for the Most Blessed Mother," Calliope's voice trembled as she tried to project it over the noise. "I am her private assassin, and on her orders I poisoned Queen Ariel so her daughter might ascend the throne."

"Lies! Lies! Lies!" Lady Rachel screamed. "Kill them!"

Before the Sisterhood had even covered half the distance to Aaron's group, Kalliste reached out with her left hand and scattered them with a blast of Eldritch enhanced by Red Rose.

"What is more fellow Tarrans, you worship a false religion and god," Aaron began drawing power, knowing he was about to kick a hornet's nest. "You have been duped by a long line of Most Blessed Mothers and forced to follow a corruption of the original covenant."

"Who are you and what is your claim?" rang out from somewhere within the crowd.

"Good question. I am Aaron Sinthar Whiterune, son of Queen Cassandra Whiterune and brother to both Princess Ashanna and Queen Ariel Whiterune," Aaron declared and raised Black Rose high. "I wield Black Rose!"

"No!" bellowed from the brazier containing the Eternal Flame.

All eyes swiveled to the front where the flame flared high and turned black as night. The flame's intensity and size grew till it dwarfed the altar on which the brazier sat. The guests closest to the front screamed in horror as two large scaled claws reached out from within the flame and grasped the edges and pulled them farther apart. A large black dragon's head followed the claws as more and more of the dragon's body was revealed. The guests in the front pushed back in fear as everyone near the altar tried to flee in terror.

The dragon was huge; nearly twice the size of a normal dragon, if one could ever call a dragon normal. Black lightning crackled from its talons as the gaping mouth dripped a liquid that sizzled when it touched the ground.

"Well, slavey, you have called me out," The dragon cackled. "Now feel my wrath."

A bolt of blackest energy lanced out from the dragon and streaked toward Aaron, who knocked it down, burning a hole in the ground next to him.

"What is your name, Wyrm?" Aaron called out in challenge. "I like to know the names of the insects I squash."

"You will not be around long enough to remember it," the Wyrm cackled louder and sent a maelstrom of lightning toward Aaron.

"Oh, no, you do not, kinswoman," Tanith stepped in front of Aaron and blocked the attack from the Wyrm. "I know you, Lilith."

"Aaron, I have this," Tanith looked back and smiled and then turned her attention to the Black Wyrm. "Now, kinswoman, you will deal with me."

Tanith moved forward and to Aaron's right, clearing a pathway before transforming to her true self. The guests on the right side of the aisle had already fled through the courtyard's side openings, thus giving Tanith room for combat. Not in almost two ages had a more fierce battle been waged between Wyrms. Black fire against Platinum fire, acid against acid, with their surroundings taking the bulk of the damage. Aaron turned from the battle and concentrated on his own family struggle.

Dana had erected a shield of Eldritch to deflect the twin attacks of her sisters. Lady Rachel meanwhile was battling Kalliste, who was holding her own augmented by the power of her Runesword. Currently Aaron had no opponent and decided to assist Kalliste. Before he did so he re-bound Calliope and commanded the dogs to stay and guard her.

"Kalliste, try to command the Red Guard while I handle my aunt," Aaron called out stepping in front of Lady Rachel's attack.

Kalliste nodded and turned toward the Red Guard, who were in fierce combat with their counterparts, the Black Guard. Members of the Sisterhood were aiding the Red Guard, but the Black Guard was pushing them back.

"Red Guard of the Rose, stand down," Kalliste commanded brandishing Red Rose. "Your loyalties lie with the Princess of the Rose, who wields Red Rose. I command you to stand down. Black Guard, your princess orders you to disengage."

The members of the Red Guard who were engaged with the Black Guard felt the compulsion to stay their swords and dipped their weapons in bewilderment. They looked around and then looked at Kalliste. As one they brought their swords up, banging them against their shields before turning and filling in the ranks between the Black Guard. The combined unit turned back the attack of the reorganized Sisterhood of the Eternal Flame. Their battle, though not as awe inspiring as that of the Wyrms, was intense and evenly matched, temple against palace.

Kalliste was leading the combined efforts of the Red and Black Guards as more members of the Sisterhood poured into the courtyard. The Guard was outnumbered and began giving up ground when the elf delegation led by Princess Aine joined the fray.

"It seems you need some aid," Princess Aine called out to Kalliste. "Is this a private party or can anyone attend?"

"By all means," Kalliste replied. "Have your warriors attack the left flank and I will move some of the Black Guard to attack the right."

The flanking maneuver began to squeeze the sisters in on themselves. Eventually the last of the Sisters fell and Kalliste ordered the Guards to secure the side entrances to the courtyard. She had the rest advance on the priestess triangle on the altar and turned to aid her soon to be queen.

Dana was in a struggle against her sisters. They were strong in talent, and although Dana was stronger and always had been, together Eleni and Adelpha were her equal and it was showing. Her shield, while holding, was taking a beating from the staccato attacks of the two Witches.

Drawing deep into the flow of Eldritch, Dana blasted them with a lightning attack from both hands. She used her body as a conduit, allowing Eldritch to pass through her instead of holding and then releasing it. Eldritch began to flow through her at an alarming rate, threatening to spill over uncontrollably and yet she continued her assault on her sisters, sisters who must die so that there would be no more disputes for the throne.

Dana's attack overwhelmed Adelpha's shield first, enveloping her in a blue lighting swarm that consumed her. Dana then concentrated her two streams of lightning into one, which quickly disintegrated Eleni's shield, and then Eleni herself. Dana withdrew from the flow and the lightning dissipated as she dropped to her knees, heaving great gulps of air. She was victorious but exhausted. Kalliste came to her aid and helped her to stand. They turned to watch the end of the confrontation between Aaron and the Most Blessed Mother.

A scream of "No!" caused Dana to turn, and with little time to spare she drew her sword and skewered a screaming Moina who had tried to attack her. The power Moina had been holding faded as her blood pooled around at Dana's feet. Shaking her head in sorrow at the death she was forced to cause, Dana then turned back to the battle unfolding in front of herself and Kalliste.

Aaron shifted his attention on Lady Rachel, who had produced a stone and tripod similar in design and function as Mara's and was focusing her attacks through it. He brought up an Eldritch shield and advanced on his aunt.

"Aunt Rachel, you have not welcomed me to the coronation ceremony," Aaron taunted her in a mocking tone.

"Because you will not be around long enough to enjoy it," Lady Rachel replied hitting him with a bolt of Eldritch which he turned aside.

"My, my. Where is your hospitality for family?" Aaron chuckled and drew more power, reinforcing his shield. "Where is the love for your sister's son?"

"You are not family. You are an aberration," Lady Rachel spat out. "A monstrosity that should have never been allowed to come to term. My sister should have terminated you as soon as she knew. Whoever aided your birth should be put to the sword. I shall rectify that as soon as I deal with you."

"Now, you are just being hurtful." Aaron's smile turned deadly and could have chilled blood. "I have been toying with you, but no more. Feel my wrath!"

Aaron was drawing so much power that it started leaking from him. He continued to draw from the flow as the maelstrom of wild energy began to whip the air around him. His hair began to fly around as his countenance began to glow with a silvery light. He started to rise off the ground which was the sign that he was ready and then he reached out and pulled her stone to him. Holding the stone he concentrated feeding it his power until the stone could contain no more and crumbled to dust in his hand.

"You will no longer need that," Aaron's voice echoed throughout the courtyard. "Or your staff."

The staff went flying out of her hands and, like the stone, Aaron turned it to dust. Aaron then reached out and stripped her of power and bound her within a web of Eldritch. He fed more power into his bounds holding her fast.

"I know you have been searching for the rose swords," Aaron announced, releasing his power and settling back to the ground.

"You wanted Red Rose but I am going to give you Black Rose instead," he remarked as he casually approached her.

"Black Rose, her soul is yours," he declared as he plunged the sword into Lady Rachel's chest. "Drink deep, my friend, drink deep."

Lady Rachel's scream was short lived as the sword consumed her soul. Her face sank in upon itself as the sword consumed her being. Aaron withdrew the sword and wiped it off on her robes before releasing the bonds that held her upright. The desiccated body fell to the floor.

Lady Rachel Whiterune, the Most Blessed Mother was no more!

Aaron turned to see how his mates fared when a blinding pain caused him to drop to one knee. For a moment he was lost in a whirlwind of emotions: Pain, Agony, Sadness, and finally Emptiness! He looked up to see Dana rushing to a fallen Tanith. Not his Tanith! No! The pain receded enough for him to hear the cackle of the Black Wyrm, Lilith.

"Not good enough, My Princess! Not Good Enough!" Lilith bellowed out her victory and turned toward where Aaron was battling her high priestess. "Come, where is the upstart WitchLord?"

The battle between Wyrms had started first and raged all during the various confrontations of the other groups. As Kalliste, the elves, and the Guard overwhelmed the Sisterhood the two Wyrms were locked in mortal combat. As Dana defeated her sisters the two Wyrms waged on, shifting from fire and acid to Eldritch and finally, physical blows.

Lilith was the elder, but Tanith was the stronger and fresher and she began to push the advantage. Lilith was barely turning aside the Eldritch attacks and the cost was becoming greater and greater. Soon, she realized the Platinum Wyrm would overwhelm her defenses and destroy her. Lilith stepped into the attack and raked Tanith's abdomen with her mighty talons. Tanith's scream of pain and rage reverberated off of the walls of the open courtyard. She backed up and slammed Lilith with a mighty blast of Eldritch knocking her shield completely down. Lilith was exposed and did the only thing she could think of doing. She sprang forward and wrapped her wings around Tanith, holding her fast, and then producing a black sword, she drove it through the Platinum Wyrm's chest. Lilith stepped back and lowered the tip of her massive sword as Tanith shifted to bipedal form and fell to the ground, mortally wounded.

"Not good enough, My Princess! Not Good Enough!" Lilith bellowed out her victory and turned toward where Aaron was battling her high priestess. "Come where is the upstart WitchLord?"

Aaron retreated to somewhere within himself as the pain threatened to overwhelm him. He watched as the beast within him broke free and took over. He watched with a certain amount of pride in his beast's abilities.

The beast screamed out a challenging howl and sprang up at the Black Wyrm, its most hated, mortal enemy. Somehow the sword in its hand grew as well, echoing the challenging howl as the beast swung it wildly at the Wyrm.

The Wyrm tried to block and deflect the blows but its enchanted sword was no match for a Runesword in full fury. The beast poured Eldritch into the Runesword until its brilliance completely blocked out the black fire of its runes. The Runesword burned with a brilliant golden flame!

The beast showed no mercy, knew no mercy, as it cleaved through the sword of its hated adversary and opened the Wyrm's abdomen, from side to side. Not content with that mortal wound the beast brought the Runesword back up severing the Wyrm's right arm and half the wing on the right side. As the Wyrm tried to retreat the beast carved off the opposite wing pursuing the retreating enemy. Again the beast brought the Runesword to bear and drew a slash across the Wyrm's chest paralleling the wound in the abdomen. The Wyrm's strength, as well as its defenses, was fading fast. The beast howled in glee, knowing it would not be long now.

The Wyrm and the beast danced the dance of Death and the Wyrm was the loser. The beast finally ended the slaughter by pumping so much power into the Wyrm that the rest of the Adepts in the area lost their ability to access the flow. The Wyrm glowed a deep, rich golden hue and fairly pulsed with the immense amount of Eldritch it was holding and still the beast added more. The Wyrm glowed so brightly that the onlookers had to turn away for fear of blindness. Finally the Wyrm could contain no more power and erupted in a brilliant flash of golden light leaving nothing but motes of gold light that floated to the ground, winking out. The Wyrm was dead!

The beast spun around looking for other adversaries as Aaron faintly heard someone calling his name. He recognized Dana's voice calling out to him but he was content to stay in the safe place and let the beast deal with everything.

Dana and Kalliste watched Aaron slay Lady Rachel, the Most Blessed Mother when Dana felt the mortal wounding of her sister-mate. She gasped in pain, but filled herself with Eldritch and ran to where Tanith fell. She dropped to her knees and cradled Tanith rocking her in the embrace.

"Watch over him, sister," Tanith smiled, reaching up to caress Dana's cheek. "He is going to need your strength."

Dana was about to respond when Tanith closed her eyes, dropping her hand and died in her arms. Dana's wail was overshadowed by the howl of rage from her bond mate and she turned her head to where Aaron was kneeling on the ground. She looked up at the cackling Wyrm who called out a challenge when her world turned upside down.

She sat there holding her dead sister mate as she watched her mate's metamorphic change to some horrific beast of a bygone age. Tanith had called them Guthard, one of the first-born and her mate was the spitting image of the statues in the Hall of Kings.

Wait! The change continued until her mate was no longer the spitting image, for this particular Guthard sported wings of leather that beat back and forth. Aaron had become something more than the first-born, maybe a cross between the two, between Wyrm and Guthard. Something that perhaps only Dao would recognize.

She watched him grow until he stood eye to eye with the Wyrm and she saw Black Rose grow as well. The amazing thing, well one of the amazing things, was that Black Rose burned with a golden light and not silvery as before. Something significant had changed within her mate, his Eldritch was different!

The combat between mortal enemies was almost sickeningly in its one sidedness. The Wyrm had no chance, not that Dana would shed any tears, as Aaron carved her up with Black Rose. The finality of the battle was impressive as she watched with detached satisfaction the death of her sister-mate's killer. She felt the draw of Eldritch, as the power she held was sucked from her, and broke off the connection to the flow for fear of being consumed as well. In a short moment it was over, Lilith, the Black Wyrm, She that had no Name, was dead.

But it was not over, Aaron spun around looking for more foes and sighted in on the Guard holding the side passages to the courtyard secure. She needed to do something fast before innocents were slain.

"Aaron! Aaron!" Dana called out trying to get his attention and when that failed tried through their bond. "Aaron! You have to snap out of it. Come back to me!"

"Kalliste, he is not responding," Dana turned to Kalliste who stood in a protective stance with Red Rose drawn and ready. "See if Red Rose can communicate with Black Rose."

"Red Rose, can you get through to Black Rose?" Kalliste asked her sword. "The King is in peril."

"Black Rose does not respond, My Lady," Red Rose replied. "Black Rose is full of the King's rage and will not listen to reason."

"Red Rose says that Black Rose is in a rage and unresponsive," Kalliste explained to Dana. "How do we get through to him before the guard is attacked?"

Dana was about to respond when she saw the monster that was her mate drop to its knees and slowly revert back to Aaron, who held Black Rose and wept.

Aaron ignored the pestering of Dana's voice and decided to retreat further into wherever he was. At least here there was peace and no pain.

"I thought you were going to try and control your emotions and not let the beast out?" The voice of his beloved Tanith pierced the silence of his sanctuary. "You are stronger than that."

"I thought you were never going to leave me?" he replied. "You were supposed to be here always, to help me."

"Well, I am here now," Tanith's voice responded. "Beloved, the beast could hurt someone. You do not want to have the blood of innocents on your soul."

"It would not be the first time," he sighed as the emotion that he held dammed up burst, threatening to consume him. "It does not matter any longer."

"Yes it does, I am still here, inside of you," Tanith's voice soothed the emotional upheaval. "I will always be here. I will always be with you. Why would you think that death could keep us apart? But right now Dana needs you. Do not forget her, it would be unfair and would dishonor her."

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