The Prince of the Rose

Copyright© 2012 by R22CoolGuy

"Thus ends the saga of Aaron Whiterune, as I know it," the bard stated, concluding the story and sat down exhausted. After a few moments of silent reflection Reg stood back up and scanned the crowd looking for a sign of recognition, or understanding, some lead, any lead, but just as before there was none. He was surprised, however, to see Melvina sitting in the back of the common room, sipping Scotch, he assumed. He smiled seeing James, the innkeeper, hovering over her nervously.

The crowd was silent, pondering the story and then erupted with questions that Reg could not answer. He tried to acknowledge everyone that asked but mostly he answered with, "I do not know," or, "It was never revealed to me." None of which satisfied the asker, but Reg had spent several lifetimes living that particular dissatisfaction, and yet he continued on. He had given his oath, his word, and if nothing else he was a man of his word. He made his way to the back of the room and smiled as the Earl stood.

"Master Bard, the story was fabulous," Lord Gordon gushed in his praise. "You wove a thrilling tale and the ending, perfect. Always leave them wanting more, eh?

"Lord Gordon, you misunderstood," Reg smiled a tight lipped smile. "That is all there is. I have never learned what really happened in the Hall of Kings, or where Aaron went, or is, for that matter. Oh, there have been traces and believe me when I say I have run them all to ground, but have always come up empty handed. But I have hope. One day I will find him, for you see I made a vow and I intend to honor it or die in the attempt. Forgive my abruptness, for I am tired and melancholy from the telling. Good evening, Lord Gordon."

Lord Gordon returned the congé and, thanking the innkeeper for his hospitality, took his leave. Reg turned to Melvina's table and sat down. James immediately set a small glass in front of him and filled it from an ancient dust cover gnomish-wrought bottle, a bottle that had no natural reason for being in this inn, or in this part of the universe for that matter. Reg chuckled and lifted the glass in salute to his beloved, and to James, and downed the amber liquid in one gulp. He sat the glass down and waved his hand to James who immediately refilled it.

"Gnomish, beloved?" Reg cocked a brow and sipped from the glass, this time. "Tsk, Tsk. And here I thought it was against the rules. Something about mixing things from different Mythoses?"

"Some rules are meant to be broken," Melvina smiled, and then frowned a little, thinking of another rule that needed breaking, while bringing her glass up in salute. "This is but one of them. The swill they distill here is unfit for consumption."

"I thought the very same thing the first time I tried it," Reg laughed. "You should have tasted it before I taught them about aging."

"Now, who is breaking the rules?" Melvina laughed with him. "Master James, please sit down and join us. Your hovering about is making me nervous."

Master James smiled, sat down and poured himself a glass. He tasted the heady distilled spirits from a race he once believed was just fantasy and smiled, truly smiled. It was good; no, that did not do justice to the amber liquid he swirled in the glass. It was magnificent! Mistress Melvina was quite correct it was beyond comparison with the swill distilled here.

They sat there the three of them, each in their own thoughts, as the crowd began to thin out. Every once in a while Reg would look up and smile or nod as a traveler or townsfolk would stop at the table and thank him for the story. Eventually Master James rose to give them back their privacy and left to supervise the cleanup and shutdown of the common room. Melvina sat there for a few more moments and then shook her head finally coming to a conclusion.

"You are still looking for him, are you not?" Melvina asked quietly.

"Yes, everywhere that I stay for more than a passing moment," Reg nodded, still staring at his glass. "I have a promise to keep."

"You truly would go to the ends of the universe for him, would you not?" she kept her gaze down as she whispered the question.

"Yes, and I have, believe me," Reg replied matter-of-factly with a quick shake of his head to try and stop the tear from forming. "All that I am, all that I have become, is because of my relationship with him. As Queen Dana said so long ago, he is my one true friend. I would also do the same for you."

"Yes, I suppose you would," She sighed and then tried to start and failed. And then started again. "I-I should have done this long ago, but I let ... loyalty I suppose, misplaced loyalty I now realize, cloud my judgment. I did not put you first. We should be first, do you not think? To each other I mean."

"Melvina, what are you trying to not say?" Reg looked up with piercing eyes.

"I was there, Reg," Melvina whispered. "Not in the Hall, but right after. I know what happens at the end of your story. The first part he relayed to me later, but the rest I was present for. I have kept it secret all these years, because I was asked to. I gave him my loyalty because he had done so much for my brothers and I. I now know I should have put you first. You have told a fine story, now let me tell one..."

In the catacombs, below the palace of Cumbra, on Tarra.

The doors to the Hall of King swung inward and Aaron entered noting that they closed behind him. He paused for a moment trying to remember if they did that every time. He was not sure but he believed they stayed open in the past. He did not linger long, there were more important things to do.

"AH, THE KING OF TARRA RETURNS!" boomed a deep raspy voice. "TO WHAT DO I OWE THIS HONOR?"

"Deathbringer, do you hold the Law of Death as unbreakable?" Aaron asked approaching the steps.

"In times past it has not always been," the sword replied in a quiet voice, its tone almost reverent as its astral projection appeared above its stone. "Why do you ask, Oh King?"

"If I were to draw you from your stone, could you then bring someone back from the dead?" Aaron asked, pausing at the bottom step of the dais. "Not as a shade, or lich, or some other type of fell thing, but resurrected, whole in being and soul?"

"Yes," the sword whispered. "That I can and would do for you. Would you avenge the betrayal of your ancestor? Would you confront the 'Three'?"

"Yes," Aaron replied and stepped up. "Bring her back and I will grant any boon."

Aaron took one more step when a silver bolt of Eldritch struck him in the back knocking him to the ground, where he struck his head on the top step of the dais and slipped into unconsciousness. Black Rose went skittering across the marble floor as blood began to pool around his head.

"Creator?" Deathbringer asked, rune flaring brightly. "Why have you interfered?"

"Yes, Deathbringer," Dao replied fading into view and approaching Aaron's unconscious form. "Because I must."

"I am sorry to disappoint you, but he has business elsewhere," Dao indicated Aaron. "Black Rose, return to your stone. Your wielder is coming with me."

"My wielder yet lives," Black Rose swung up into the air hovering with its blade up and runes glowing. "I will not return to my stone."

"Black Rose, do not be difficult," Dao chided the sword as if speaking to a child. "It is time to return to your stone."

"Lord Deathbringer, the Creator attempts to break the law," Black Rose's voice reverberated off of the walls. "I CRY FOUL!"

"Creator, you know the law," Deathbringer stated as its astral projection was replaced by corporeal sword. "You made the laws, but that does not give you the right to decide which you may follow."

"Black Rose, I am taking your wielder with me," Dao explained. "He will no longer be the Prince of the Rose, he therefore no longer presents a viable claim."

"You are wrong, Creator," Deathbringer interjected. "While the WitchLord lives he is, and will always be, the Prince of the Rose. That does not change simply because you say so. He has ascended the throne. He is King now."

"Then we are at an impasse," Dao crossed his arms. "He is coming with me and Black Rose is staying here."

"So you say, Creator," Deathbringer replied as its blade erupted into flames. "I as Arbiter disagree. The Empire of the Rose has been restored, was that not your goal?"

"Yes, and it has been met," Dao replied. "I have corrected the error of my children. Is that not what you desired when you beseeched me?"

"You know the answer to that," Deathbringer replied. "The throne will accept no other while he lives, whether here or elsewhere."

"That is incorrect," Dao explained. "Once I remove him from this Mythos, the throne will accept another."

"It is not that simple, Creator," Black Rose explained. "While the bond exists I will be able to follow. You cannot dispute that, nor interfere with the bond. That is between me and my wielder."

"Black Rose, there is another prince, or there soon will be," Dao smiled grasping for a solution. "When we depart, his mate will ascend the throne. Her unborn son will need you when he reaches the age of decision. Even as things stand now, when that child is born it will have a stronger claim to you than the father."

"You try to deceive, Creator," Black Rose replied accusingly. "It is well known that his mate, being Tarran, will not produce a male issue."

"And yet she will," Dao replied with finality. "His seed has corrected that particular genetic flaw."

"Tis true, Black Rose. The Creator does not deceive," Deathbringer concurred, flames dying down. "That eventuality changes things, do you not agree?"

"It aids the Creator's desires certainly," Black Rose begrudgingly agreed. "It requires me to break the bond now, however, and I am loath to do so."

"Feelings, Black Rose?" Dao asked somewhat shocked. "You have feelings for a mortal?"

"Perhaps, Creator," Black Rose replied, considering the question. "Although, we three know that he is more than a mere mortal, much more. You yourself just stated that he has corrected a flaw in the Handmaiden's original design. That is far beyond what a mortal could do and closer to what your abilities are. I will withdraw my objections and will terminate the bond based on the just claim of the unborn male child."

"Creator, I support Black Rose's decision," Deathbringer's corporeal form faded away, replaced by its astral projection hovering over the dais. "However, if the child should befall some accident than your argument would be without merit and would therefor be overturned."

"Then we should make sure that does not happen," Dao remarked. "What is your solution to prevent such a possibility?"

"Black Rose shall be granted special dispensation," Deathbringer declared solemnly. "Black Rose shall be granted special powers: to be able to project astrally while in its stone. Black Rose will be granted the responsibility of protection for the mother and unborn child. When the child is born the protections shall shift to the child alone. Those powers will come from mine and Black Rose will have full access to all powers necessary in the discharge of its duties. All powers, Creator."

"Deathbringer, you go too far," Dao shook his head. "That is too much autonomy for a Runesword bound by the laws. Black Rose would only be answerable to you. Where are the checks and balances?"

"Nevertheless, those are my conditions," Deathbringer declared with finality. "Black Rose, do you accept the conditions?"

"Yes, Lord Deathbringer, I do and I shall," Black Rose stated with the same solemn finality.

"The dispensation only lasts until the child is old enough to draw Black Rose," Dao added. "At that point it will no longer be required and Black Rose will revert to the law."

"We concur," Deathbringer replied, speaking for both swords.

"So it has been stated, so it shall be done," Dao declared as a large gong sounded in the hall. "Black Rose, return to your stone."

The Runesword rose higher in the air, pivoted and drove itself into its stone, sparks flying as the blade disappeared. The runes on the stone glowed silver as a new one was etched in its face.

Black Rose's astral projection appeared next to Deathbringer's as Dao raised his hand causing Aaron's limp body to rise off of the ground, limbs dangling. He pointed his other hand at the body and the material things began to disintegrate falling to the floor. As the cloak rotted to nothing a small tendril of inky black viscous fluid flowed from the cloak into the black shimmering ring on the body's right hand.

When Dao was done Aaron's body was naked save two rings, one on each hand. Dao gestured again and the signet ring on his left hand slipped off of the finger and fell to the floor with a clink, and rolled into the pool of blood stopping. Dao gestured again and black sparks jumped off of the ring on his right hand, but the ring did not move. Dao frowned and walked over to the body and reached down to grasp the ring but more sparks of black energy thwarted his attempts.

"Hmm, interesting," Dao muttered. "Black Rose, what is the purpose of this ring?"

"What ring, Creator," Black Rose's projection asked.

"This one here," Dao pointed to the ring on Aaron's finger.

"I have no memory of that ring," the sword replied smugly. "You sent me to my stone, remember?"

"Do not be flippant, Runesword," Dao remarked angrily, more at himself than the sword, however.

Dao concentrated and tried to discern the nature of the ring but again was thwarted as black sparks jumped from the ring.

"Intriguing, but of little concern," Dao muttered. "He will not remember how to access whatever power that ring contains."

"Good day, Runeswords," Dao raised his hand and he and Aaron's body vanished.

a small deserted island in the archipelagoes south of the mainland in the western hemisphere, on Andor

Dao reappeared in a small clearing close to a small cabin next to a pool of water. Looking around he noted that it had been visited at some time in the recent past. Climbing the path up the side of the large volcano that dominated the island, he stopped at the entrance to the cavern that contained his workshop and forge.

Placing Aaron's unconscious body on a cot, Dao began the slow process of starting the forge and cleaning the dust from his workshop. His housekeeping efforts were interrupted by the appearance of a not too surprising guest.

"Father?" Melvina asked, fading into view. "Why are you starting up the forge?"

"The answer should be obvious, dear one," Dao chuckled as he gathered parchment, enchanted ink and quill, and sat down at his desk. "I intend to create a sword, Melvina."

"A sword, Father?" Melvina looked confused. "After all of this time, why do you need another?"

"Because my champion will require one," Dao pointed to the unconscious Aaron, lying on the cot.

"You intend to make him a Runesword?" Melvina asked incredulously. "Is that wise? He is very powerful. It even worried me when he wielded the rose swords. What if he had been able to combine them?"

"Yes, but he did not know the rune of combining, now did he? So there was nothing to worry about." Dao smiled. "Besides, this will not be a normal Runesword. Do you wish to help?"

"It is why I am here," Melvina smiled widely and then sat on the stool that suddenly appeared next to the table.

"Before we start, Melvina what do you make of the ring on your creation's finger?" Dao pointed to Aaron's unconscious form.

Melvina looked at Dao quizzically and got up from her stool and approached the unconscious form on the cot. She reached out and received a shock from the ring, almost as if it was protecting itself. She looked back at Dao, who shrugged and motioned for her to continue, and then reached out just above the ring and closed her eyes in concentration.

"It is a ring of rulership," Melvina turned to Dao. "A very powerful ring. It is tied to the Plane of Shadows. It makes the wearer a Lord of the Realm. I do not know who wrought the ring; its taint is different."

"That is considerably more than what I was able to discern," Dao concluded. "It was completely closed to me. Tainted how?"

"Well, it is certainly Eldritch," Melvina considered how best to continue. "I am just not sure whose. The ring tries to protect itself. I get the impression that it is only coming off that finger by his own hand. Trying to force it will certainly induce a reaction and most assuredly not a pleasant one. Will he remember how to use it?"

"No, I am fairly confident of that," Dao replied. "I thank you for the information. I am ready to start if you are?"

Melvina returned to her spot on the stool as Dao began scribing the powers and abilities of the new sword and when he was done he sat back and contemplated his undertaking.

"Father, you forgot something," Melvina pointed at the parchment.

"Hmm, what?" Dao asked, returning from his silent musings.

"The name, the sword has no name," Melvina pointed at the parchment again.

"No, it does not," Dao agreed. "But I have not forgotten anything. Ready to help in the forge?"

The two approached the forge, which was running at full power; the heat and the noise were almost overwhelming but it did not seem to bother Dao. He brought over a bar of silver star of archinite and sat it on the anvil. He walked over to where a small stream of pure mountain water had found its way inside of the cavern, creating a small waterfall before ending in a pool on the floor of the cavern. Dao rolled up the sleeves of his one piece garment and washed his hands under the rushing chilled water. He stepped away from the fall and air dried his hands and waited while Melvina repeated the procedure.

Dao picked up a pair of silver tongs and grabbed the bar and set it within the mouth of the forge. When the bar glowed silvery-red Melvina withdrew it from the forge and set the bar on the anvil where Dao struck it repeatedly with the hammer, chanting words of power. Melvina could feel the flow of Eldritch rushing through the cavern and smiled at the might of Dao. When the piece cooled, Melvina picked it back up with the tongs and sat it back within the forge to reheat it.

The procedure was repeated many times until the bar of metal resembled the beginnings of a sword blade and tang. Dao continued to work the metal until his design began to take shape.

"I see you like the hybrid design that we created with Durendel," Melvina remarked as she saw the blade taking shape. "Why not just give your champion the Sword of Justice?"

"Because Durendel is tied to this Mythos," Dao explained. "And my champion will not be. Durendel and my champion would not get along; justice and vengeance are not always the same thing."

Melvina nodded as Dao hammered out the double edge of the blade, followed by the fuller, or center channel cut into the blade to give it greater strength and flexibility. Finally Dao signaled the final heating and Melvina carefully set the blade in the fires of the forge to slowly reheat it. Once it reached the temperature that Dao was looking for, he signaled Melvina, who removed the blade and quenched it in a trough of plant oils infused with Eldritch. The process annealed, or tempered, the blade to make it less brittle. The process was repeated several times. Dao began working the blade's edges with a large file smoothing them and adding sharpness. Finally they moved onto the hardening phase, where the metal was heated and quenched in a bath of snow and water from the mountain, completing the process. They set the blade aside and began the construction of the other components.

Dao next started on the "finishing" process of adding the pommel, guard and hilt to the sword blade. He decided to use the swept-hilt design and then added a leather banded grip and blood red ruby in the pommel. Finally his latest creation was complete.

"It looks remarkably similar to Durendel," Melvina pointed out, not letting the matter drop.

"I like that design; functional yet artistically wrought," Dao smiled. "It will serve him well, and no, for the last time I am not giving him Durendel."

"What force are you going to use?" Melvina asked running a finger down the fuller. "What runes are you going to scribe?"

"My, you are just as inquisitive now as you were when you were little," Dao chuckled. "It is good to know that some things do not change."

"You did not answer my question," Melvina crossed her arms.

"It will bear the runes of power, all eight of them," Dao began the process of cutting the runes into the fuller, using his fingertip and infusing the sword with Eldritch. "It will not bear Deathbringer's rune, however, but will bear mine within the ruby instead."

"What of its sentience?" Melvina asked. "The Guthard are all gone."

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