The Balance of the Rose - Cover

The Balance of the Rose

Copyright© 2014 by R22CoolGuy


New Orleans, Louisiana 1885 (in an alternate reality)

The normal sights and sounds of Bourbon Street, in the heart of the French Quarter, were intensified during the Mardi Gras season. The frenzy and debauchery of Carnival had slowly built to a crescendo over the weekend before Fat Tuesday. The crowds were swollen to capacity in the bars and houses of ill repute and the patrons were reveling in their drunkenness. All manner of masks and costumes from the fantastic to the macabre were on display on the streets of the French Quarter.

One man, however, had not partaken of the festival atmosphere, or donned a costume or wore a mask. He was carefully picking his way through the crowded streets and around the passed out revelers. He was on a mission to stop a mid-level disturbance in the normal flow of time.

Reginald Ravensblade, Harpist of Time, was dressed in what would pass for normal attire in New Orleans of the late 19th Century, although that was not his intent. Even the sword at his belt was not uncommon amongst the aristocracy of the famous city. Not the rapier fancied by the upper-crust of New Orleans' society but a rather more functional longsword.

He was looking for a specific location; the business address of one Marie Laveau II, undisputed Voodoo High Priestess of New Orleans and the apparent source of the disturbance. Rumors abounded that she had in her possession a very powerful gris-gris or talisman. Reginald wanted to inspect the talisman and see what it was about.

It seemed that Miss Laveau had been tampering with the normal flow of time, a very big no-no in Timekeeper's book, 'Timekeeper' being the name of his sword, a magical sword whose particular focus was time, and therefore in Reg's as well. She had been using her talisman to see into the future and with the misbegotten knowledge changed said future by affecting the present. She was also using it to tap into the flow of Eldritch causing changes that were outside her normal abilities. Reg very much wanted to inspect that talisman!

Reg had finally reached his destination and stopped in front of 'Maison Blanche', the reported home of said Voodoo Priestess. He looked left and right and finally up at the two large negro men standing on the front porch in front of the double doors, The men portrayed an imposing presence, feet spread and arms crossed, on the lookout for trouble.

"Keep walking mister, there is nothing for you to see here," the Negro on the left called out in challenge.

Reg smiled but climbed the steps to the front porch. A quick flip of his wrist and both men slid down the wall unconscious. Reg looked at them, smiled again, and entered the establishment.

The pungent smell of incense and the Gods knew what else assaulted Reg's nostrils, requiring him to pull a hanky from a pocket and hold it over his nose as a filter. He was standing in the front room or parlor of this establishment, part tea room and part house of ill repute. Not that tea was ever actually served here. In the local vernacular, tea room meant something entirely different. This was a place to come to if you wanted your palm read, or an interpretation of the tarot cards, or tea leaves, or a potion or charm, or knowledge of the future.

Reg had barely enough time to orient himself before a side door opened and an old Negro man stepped out and toward him shaking some kind of chicken foot stick with feathers on it.

The man was dressed in a black suit, of the kind one would wear to a funeral, compete with black stovepipe hat. He wore a necklace of old, bleached white, bones of some animal. His face was painted in the design of a skeleton as were his exposed arms and hands. He was speaking a cross dialect of Creole French and Slave African and it took Reg a moment to translate it in his head. More importantly he could feel power building from that "Voodoo stick". Reg had little time to react so he did the only thing that came to mind.

"Et!" He commanded while drawing his sword.

The man froze, bound by three blue Eldritch rings. Reg heard a cough and wheeze to his right and pivoted toward the noise, adopting a defensive position.

"Ah, you be knowing dem words of power," said an old Negro woman as she entered the parlor from the front door. "You must be knowing de Shadowman and de Dragonlady den?"

She was dressed fashionably in a black dress with a gold trimmed shawl draped over her shoulders. Her hair was held up by a floral scarf that matched the shawl. The only thing out of the place was the necklace of animal bones with a gold medallion as the pendant. Reg could feel Eldritch emanating from the medallion, strong emanations. He had found his irregularity.

"Miss Marie Laveau, I presume?" Reg tapped into the faint flow of Eldritch and began drawing power.

"I be Marie Laveau," she said, giving him the evil eye and reaching up to finger the pendant. "What do de Shadowman want with me?"

"Tell me about the Shadowman and the Dragonlady," Reg pointed to a chair with the tip of his sword. "And please move your hand away from the enchanted medallion."

Marie smiled but complied with his order and sat down in one of several chairs in the sitting room. This man had power and he also intrigued her. She decided to humor him until she could gain the upper hand.

"Where do I start?" Marie looked at him with a twinkle in her eye and dropped the fake accent. "I did not know them of course, but my Maw-Maw knew them in France. There is a portrait of them on the wall over there."

Reg turned to where she was pointed and had to catch himself from falling to the floor in shock. The portrait showed a very beautiful young lady standing next to his truest friend, Aaron Whiterune! Almost as shocking as finding a portrait of Aaron was the fact that the second woman in the portrait was Tanith! The same Tanith that he himself had helped entomb.

"Where was this painted?" Reg whispered, turning back toward Marie.

"Lyon, France," Marie replied. "My mother told me stories about him, passed down from her mother. He had a sword very similar to the one you hold. He gave my Maw-Maw this token, said it held magical properties. That it would protect her and hers."

"Your grandmother's name?" Reg whispered, heart pounding in his chest.

"Marianne Carriere," she replied and shrugged.

"The year?" Reg asked, recovering from the shock of the discovery.

"1749, or 1750. I am not quite sure," Marie replied while slowly gathering her power in an attempt to snare him.

"Oh, I do not think so, Voodoo Queen," Reg quickly moved his hands and spoke the word for the rune of command, "Nathamdose".

Marie's hands dropped to her side as she looked at him with death in her eyes.

"You do not frighten me, Voodoo Queen," Reg chuckled as he approached her. "I have seen Death in many of its guises. Your look has no power over me."

"I have come for this," Reg reached over and grabbed the medallion and with a quick tug broke the chain holding it.

The pieces of bone clattered to the floor as he held up the medallion for her to see. "This trinket should not have come into your possession. I thank you for the information as well. I will be taking the portrait, however. Do not fret; when I leave my power will dissipate."

Reg inspected the solid gold medallion and recognized the rune of control from his sword's pommel on one side and an unfamiliar rune on the reverse. The rune looked like a set of scales in perfect balance. There was also a vine of roses circling the outside edge of both sides of the coin. He pocketed the gold token and levitated the portrait off of the wall and placed it in a leather bag that should not have been large enough to hold the painting.

"Lyon, France, circa 1749 you say?" Reg turned to her and bowed. "Hail and well met, Marie Laveau."

"Timekeeper, Lyon France, 1749, please," he directed his sword.

"My Lord?!" the sword replied.

"If he gave one medallion, he may have given more," Reg replied to the unasked question and protest. "It is for the good of the Mythos."

Marie watched as an opening appeared in the middle of her parlor. She shook her head as if she could not quite believe what she was seeing. A black starry night in the middle of her parlor? The man stepped through the doorway which closed as she felt the compulsion fade away. She looked over as Marcelo shook his hands trying to return the circulation.

"Close the house," Marie ordered her henchman, fingering her neck where the amulet once lay. "I am feeling rather indisposed."

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