The Lady of the Rose

Tauria

Part One

Sun gleamed down on the clearing, where a young woman sat. Her hair was like golden sunlight streaming down her back, and her eyes were bottomless pools with no clear color. Flecks of gold, violet, and blue seemed to be the majority of color in her eyes, however.

She was neither pale nor tan. When the moon was out, she reflected its ghostly pallor. When the sun was out, she was as tan as one of the wild-people, who only went indoors during the cool of the night.

Her dress was much like her eyes, as it had no true color. It was sometimes a deep blue, like that of the clearest lake, and sometimes it was as red as the sunset. Other times, it was a bright green, like the healthiest grass, and other times it was a gorgeous pink, like a pretty butterfly. Many believed it depended on her mood, and the rest believed it was a reflection of surrounding. They would both be wrong.

She wore no shoes. Her feet were covered by tattoos of spirals with thorns on them from her toes to her ankle. She moved with a grace that was almost feral, yet at the same time, it was almost timid – unsure.

Her lips were red and full, and her eyelashes were long and thick. Her cheekbones were placed high, and her ears were slightly pointed. Her teeth were white, and her canines were sharp.

She had a strange aura about her, as well. This was to be expected, however, since she had been raised by dragons, and possessed dragon blood. She had been taught in their voice, and in Old Magic only they remembered. She had also learned different human tongues.

She was called Rose, on account of how beautiful she was… but also of how dangerous she was. Her thorns were sharp, and if necessary, they drew blood.

No humans were in the glade with her. No knights, no companions. All that was with her was her faithful dog, who sat beside her as she sang. Her voice was lovely. It had a magic to it as well. In fact, magic seemed to hang about her, in ways that no other human could dream of having about them.

Her singing touched the ears of a young man, who sat with his small group of armed men outside a large castle. He was the High General, and the Lord of the Dragon Hall. He had dark brown hair that fell unevenly passed his chin. His eyes were green-blue with flecks of gold within them.

The men were speaking about what was happening in their parts of the world to one another, and the seventeen year old male – whose name was Arren Dragonblood – was quite bored, as he had taken no part in the conversation so far.

"I will be back," he informed the men, turning in the direction that the gorgeous singing was coming from.

The men paid him no mind, continuing their conversations. Arren headed towards the gorgeous singing. He had to know what in the kingdom of Dream could be making such a pretty noise. It was not a Siren, he knew that much. Having Dragon blood made him impervious to Sirens voices.

It was not long before he reached the young woman's glade. He approached her cautiously, not wanting to disturb her. He made sure to make as much noise as he could. She paid him little mind.

"Afternoon, milady," Arren spoke as soon as she had finished her song.

"Afternoon, Lord." She responded in kind, suddenly wishing she had chosen a different spot in the forest that day.

"My name is Arren," he told her simply.

"I am called Rose," she said softly.

Arren nearly started. He had stumbled upon the Lady of the Rose? The woman who's beauty drove men to do crazy things? Now he understood the allure of her voice. Everyone knew that the Lady of the Rose had dragon blood streaming through her veins. But he also knew that any other woman was ruined for him now. He had been with a few before, but none were as intriguing or beautiful as the Rose that sat before him now.

"A beautiful name, for a beautiful lady," Arren responded.

She gave a small smile. She had heard his name somewhere before, but where? Her only comfort was that her dog did not seem to mind this man. That had never happened before. He wanted them as far away as possible from her. Except this one it would seem.

"Thank you," she said softly. Rose wondered how this man would court her. The others had tried gifts of flowers and delectable foods; heroic tasks; daring feats; playing hard to get; etc.

He shrugged. "What was that song you were singing a few moments ago?" he asked curiously.

She raised a thin eyebrow. No man had showed interest in her songs before.

"It is about a fallen tower that was once the center of many fairy tales and a place of beauty and magic. Eventually, humans quit reciting the fairy tales, and began to discount fairy tales, so the tower slowly fell into ruin. It watched as time passed, and humans drifted further and further away from the magic that had once been a source of all remedies and creatures. The tower fell more and more into disarray."

To her surprise, Arren picked it up here. "Eventually, the humans – and other mortals – realized what they had done, and felt guilty. But they could see no way to fix their own disaster. Until the elders who still remembered when they were children when fairy tales and legends were bedtime stories, and stories to tell at the fireside, and the children who still believed in magic began to tell the stories, bringing more and more humans into it. Slowly the tower was rebuilt."

"And now the story serves as a reminder that we must not forget or discount things of our childhood, or even our adulthood, that may seem silly or unreasonable." Rose finished. "How did you know that?"

"I cannot speak dragon tongue, for I was never taught, but I can read it, thanks to the dragon blood within me. That story is one of my favorites in the library. I have read it many times."

Now Rose knew where she had heard his name before. "You are Lord Arren, High General and last of the Dragonblood line?"

"I suppose I am," he nodded.

"How do you suppose your lineage?"

He chuckled. "Easy. You don't pay much attention to it."

She let out a slight chuckle. "You are not like most men."

"You are not like most women."

"Point taken," she smiled a bit.

"Until next time, my lady?" Arren said, standing.

"If we meet again," she responded.

It was not long before they saw each other again. It was at the castle, for a meeting of all the Lords and Ladies of the kingdom. It was, unfortunately, required.

Rose was currently surrounded by all of the single lords, each was trying to catch and hold her attention, despite her dog's snarling. Eventually Arren pushed through the crowd, and took her somewhere private.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes. I am merely annoyed."

"I can understand that." Arren let her hand go, not wanting to make her uncomfortable.

"Thank you for making them go away," she smiled at him.

"It was no problem, milady. If there is anything else I can do, please let me know. I do not want to make this stay unpleasant for you."

"If you don't mind, I'd like an escort. That should keep most of them away."

"It would be my honor." He smiled at her.

She smiled back. "Are you sure that you have nothing you wish to do without being made to escort me?"

"I used to be up here all the time with my father when the Void War was going on. I did what I wanted to then," he shrugged.

"Why did your father bring you with him during that war?" Rose may have been with the dragons in the mountains that separated the kingdoms of Nightmare and Dream at that time, but she had heard – and seen – the damage that war had done.

"I was to take up his position when he died, and he knew that he would have to teach me what I needed to know to take his place then rather than waiting till the war ended, since he could possibly die during that time period. He did eventually die as he was fighting in the Void War, however. It was after completing my education, so that I was prepared to take his place; and I did, winning the war in his place."

"I am sorry."

"Don't worry about it. My father was a good and brave man, and he died honorably." Arren spoke the words he had been comforted with since his father's death.

She offered him a rare and small smile. "What shall we do now, Lord?"

He looked outside, and saw how the pale moon had risen far into the sky. "Come. I want to show you something."

She followed him up a hill, who's path was covered in thick ivy and brambles. At the very top, you could look out at the whole city. "Wow…" she said softly. She had missed views like this. She loved the high places, as it was as close to flying as she would get anymore.

"I found this place when I was wandering as a child," Arren said softly.

"It's gorgeous. It's like the mountains I grew up in, but not as high."

"You speak of the mountains almost wistfully, milady. Why did you leave if you loved them so?"

"I fell in love… but my love was not returned."

"I am sorry."

"Do not be. It was my own folly. I was given plenty of warnings by my Dragon-Mother."

He gave the sixteen year old woman a small smile. "We should return to the castle now. Unsavory things live in these woods, I am afraid."

"What kind of unsavory things?" she asked as she followed him down the hill.

"Creators of Nightmares… also known as Demonic Dragons. They plague this land, and have done so since the Void War. The Nightmare King has placed them here to try and kill his brother and the knights so he may take over the kingdom. It works at bringing fear into many strong hearts, but they have not succeeded in their ultimate quest."

"Why are they called Creators of Nightmares?"

"Because they can create nightmares out of thin air. They can twist themselves into one's deepest, darkest fears. They can sneak within your mind and poison your thoughts with horrors beyond most's imagining."

"Are they hard to kill?"

"Yes, for you must jump on one's back and create and X with your sword, before plunging it deep within the beast. Sometimes you even have to place your foot in to hit the right spot. They stink worse than the Bog Creatures in the Eastern part of the Kingdom, below the mountains you grew up in."

"Have you ever killed one?"

"Yes. Just after the War was over, the Nightmare king turned on us, and used those things to attack. We lost many valuable men learning how to kill them."

"What do they look like in their natural form?"

"Their wings, heads, and tails are made up of bone, with no coverings. Their torsos are black fur, with sticky black ooze dripping off of them in disgusting strands. Their legs differ between them. Some of them are scaled, much like a dragon, and others are like that of a bird. Some are bone, and others are like their torso."

Rose wrinkled her nose. "What are their eyes like?"

"They glow. Some are red, some are gold. Some are blue, some are green. It depends on the Nightmare."

"And their teeth?"

"Sharper than the edge of the sharpest sword."

"What is it like to face one in battle?"

"It is more terrifying then most can imagine. You don't know whether the images you are seeing are real, and the smell clouds your nose and mouth so you can barely speak. You must rely on your other senses to survive. To jump on one's back nearly makes you faint because the stink is so bad, and the skin is tough and hard to cut. Once you do, black blood streams out of the wound and the beast lets out an earsplitting shriek. After it has died, you do not feel the satisfaction that it usually felt after ridding the world of one of the creatures from the land of Nightmare."

"Has anyone ever tried to seek one out for glory?"

"Yes. They don't usually come back, but when they do, they never want to face one again."

"How big are they?"

"The smallest one I have ever seen was half of the size of the Dragon Hall Keep."

She shuddered. "Why are they so dragon like?"

"Because despite the lore and legends that surround the ancient dragons, dragons have taken it upon themselves to protect the Kingdom of Dream from Nightmare, so the Creators of Nightmares were modeled after dragons to spite them and the King of Dream."

"Oh."

Rose thought about what she had just been told. She had heard of the Creators of Nightmares before, but she had counted them off as a rumor. To know that they were real… That was a truly terrifying thought.

"We are here, my lady," Arren said.

They stood outside her room.

"Thank you." She said softly.

"Don't worry 'bout it." He kissed her hand, and headed to the room only three doors down and across the hall from hers. She entered her room, falling fast asleep.

The next few months before the meeting had Rose and Arren spending much time together. She had begun to respect, and even like Arren Dragonblood. He was a good friend, and an excellent warrior. He had taught her much in the way of the blade, something no other man would have thought to do, her being a woman. She had taught him to speak like the dragons do, and in the ways of the magic. It was the least she could do.

She had come to enjoy spending time with the young man, and did not regret asking him to be her escort, as she feared she would. He had not only kept away the other men, but he had kept her from being lonely, or bored.

With all of this going on, it was no wonder that she was slightly disappointed when the day of the meeting finally arrived.

The first day of the meeting proved to be rather uneventful. The second day proved to be much the same, though there were slightly more interesting topics. On the third day, Rose was almost excited, for today was the day the protection of the kingdom would be addressed, which meant Arren would be speaking. He had not spoken of this during the days they had spent together, so she was curious to learn what the state of affairs was.

"Nightmares have increased in numbers, and they have been attacking more frequently. The places they have attacked have neither the skill nor the resources to defend themselves against this type of attack," one of the Lords said. "Something must be done!"

"But what can we do? The Nightmares are a formidable foe, and the only reason we have all survived this long is because we leave them alone!" another Lord said.

The Lords and Ladies continued to bicker, only Arren, Rose, and the King remaining silent.

"ENOUGH!" the king finally interrupted. "What say you, High General Arren?" the King asked.

Arren had been thinking throughout the argument, and had appeared to have finally come to a decision.

"I will take a troop of able men that I choose and hunt down the Nightmares. As I do this, someone must find a way to stop them permanently."

Rose felt her breath catch in her throat. Arren couldn't be serious. That was dangerous, if what little she knew about Nightmares was true (and she assumed it was, since it was Arren who had told her). Arren would more than likely lose his life trying to attempt this feat.

Everyone else seemed just as shocked. The king broke the silence by saying, "How do you suggest we find out how to stop them permanently?"

"We send a spy into the land of Nightmare."

Gasps echoed throughout the room.

"Any suggestions or volunteers?" the king hated to lose a valuable man to the Nightmares, but Arren was stubborn. He knew that well. He had watched the boy grow up, and had known his father almost as long.

"I'll be the spy," Rose said softly. 'You will not be the only one risking their life Arren. If you're going to do something dangerous and stupid.'

The king nodded. "Very well. Rose and Arren… converse on how you wish this to be done. You have one week, and then we will have the fourth meeting. Understand?"

"Yes, your highness," the two mentioned bowed.

"Meeting dismissed."

Arren found her, taking her hand. "You did not have to volunteer."

"First, no one else would. Second… I could not let you be the only one doing something crazy, stupid, and dangerous!"

He offered a small smile. "This is a bit off topic, but do you think we could get the dragons to help fight the Nightmares?"

"I do not know. It is worth a try. What time do the Dragons come to speak with the king?"

"In one hour."

"Then we can ask them then. Now… what were you thinking when you said that?!"

"That this kingdom is in trouble, and that is the only way I can help them. I know that most of the kingdoms are unable to hold their own against the Nightmares, and I know how to fight them. And I know a group of men and women who are skilled in it as well."

Rose looked at him with fire in her eyes. "If you come back in a coffin, when I join you in death, you will be sorry you chose to go on this mission, Arren Dragonblood. I have come to care about you, and that is hard for anyone to achieve. I don't care about people easy."

"Fair enough. I will say the same to you, then."

She gave him a small smile. "And if we both die, it can be forgiven."

He did something unexpected then. He kissed her forehead. "Well Lady of the Rose, we should probably get to planning about how we wish this to go."

"Very well, Lord of the Dragon Hall."

Together, they planned. It was a long and difficult process, but they endured it. Neither could take their minds of the fact that they may be losing the other in a few months. Neither could take their minds off of the daunting tasks they were about to try.

End Part One