The Lady of the Rose
"For starters, your mother was once my wife."
"W-what?" she squeaked. That wasn't possible… It couldn't be! Her mother could never have been this horrid king's wife. It just wasn't possible.
"You heard me. Your mother and I were once happily married – or at least, it was happy on my end. After all, for the longest time, she had danced just out of my reach. She was from a strange race. I still do not know the name of her kind. They live on the borderlands, with the dragons. They have dealings with the dragons at times, but I doubt you would ever have met one. They dwell in both Nightmare and Dream, citizens of neither. They do not take sides in our wars, and they do not let themselves be truly seen by those of us that live in the two kingdoms – or at least they didn't.'
"Until your mother. She walked through the capital streets of each kingdom like she had been there all of her life – and perhaps she had, considering their uncanny ability to conceal themselves -, glancing at jewelry and at items of clothing. The men were afraid to approach her at first, but when it became clear she was not a Siren, out to lead them to their dooms, they flocked to her, though she spurned them all. She traveled all around Nightmare and Dream both, never courting the men, but leaving a trail of admirers in her wake.'
"Eventually, both my brother and I made our moves on her. She laughed at us and refused us both, at first. She did not want anything to do with love or marriage. She was a free spirit, and she would not allow the boundaries of those two things to stop that. She wanted to explore. She wanted to learn. She wanted to be free in the way that she always had been. She knew how our marriage system worked, and she knew how love worked. It would tie her down. It would make her lose the freedom she so dearly loved.'
"Eventually, however, she gave in to our demands to finally take one of us as at least a lover. We were – are – immortals too. We knew of the freedoms she experienced, and we knew that we could spend lifetimes chasing after her, continuously fighting until she finally gave to our demands. But she refused to choose between the two of us, so she chose us both."
Rose was shocked at how intently she was listening to his story. 'Should I really believe this? He is the Nightmare King. His throne was made out of deceptions, lies, and…' she paused in her thoughts, swallowing hard as she realized one more thing, '…horrible truths.'
"My brother and I were not pleased. We contested for her love, and I suppose she eventually realized during our fighting that I was the superior choice, for she eventually came to me. We wedded not long after that, and she kept the blessed freedom she was afraid of losing. I could not tie her down. I was well aware of that." 'And now time for the lies,' the king thought viciously. "Within about two years, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. But then your mother was killed, and the child stolen. To this day, I do not know who the assassin was – or is – and I hope to find him or her and bring them to justice, and soon. But now after all these years, you have been returned home… Where you belong."
Rose felt her eyes widen. "W-what? I cannot be your daughter…"
"How else do you think I know your real name? You are the very essence of your mother, Rose." The king's words were spoken gently, but Rose could not find it within her heart to believe him. "You were named Aryaima Rose Dragontooth. Your mother insisted that you take her last name. I reluctantly agreed, despite the fact that it had the word 'dragon' in it."
Rose swallowed the bile rising up in her mouth. This was absolutely impossible. There is absolutely no way that she could ever be his daughter.
But at the same time it almost made sense, in a way. She had never fit in with the Kingdom of Dream, and every time the dragons would have dealings with the others who lived in the mountains, she was always ushered somewhere else. Then again, so were the other young hatchlings.
Rose's head hurt. She was so confused. She had always felt a sense of belonging in the forests of Dream, but at the same time, she had also felt belonging here, in the Nightmare Kingdom. Knowing that her mother's race belonged to neither Dream nor Nightmare, it made sense she would feel like she belonged in both, but at the same time, why did she see more people that looked like her here, in the kingdom of Nightmare? She had never seen anyone who looked similar to her in Dream. Never – even after all the rumors about the Lady of the Rose – did anyone who knew what she was...knew who she was, seek her out. She had always been alone in the world after she had left the Dragons, and before she had met Arren.
So how could she not believe this when the truth seem so simply uttered from the Nightmare King's lips? She knew this had to have some plot that involved trying to turn her thoughts against what she had known all her life – that should be obvious… she had expected it from the start! – but at the same time, he could be telling the truth, as much as she hated to think that. Or even at least part of the truth. But part of the truth wasn't enough. She needed to know it all.
'Why do I show the sudden interest in my past? I have never cared before, so why should I care now?!' Rose growled within her thoughts. She hated the fact that all because the King had opened his mouth, she suddenly doubted herself and her past. It was dumb! Why was she doing that? 'Perhaps I have always cared… and I hid it from even myself…' something within the back of her mind whispered, and as much as she tried not to, she couldn't help but feel that this was – is – the regrettable truth.
"I know that this must be hard to accept for you, Rose," the Nightmare king interrupted her thoughts. "I assure you that it is nothing but the truth. No matter where you go, no matter where you look, you will be recognized as the princess of the kingdom of Nightmare. You will see eventually." The king stood, gracefully making his exit.
Rose stared at her plate, feeling even more helpless then she had before.
Arren stared face to face at the large Nightmare, breathing in the foul air that surrounded the beast. The black ooze was pooling at his feet from the creatures long bone-covered neck. Its eyes were glowing gold, with flecks of red shining through.
They had divided into partners, two going up against the Nightmares at a time. One provided a distraction, and the other did the killing. It had worked so far, with excellent results – they had not lost anyone yet, that is, which was a very good thing, in the army's opinion.
The partners swapped turns with who was the distraction and who was the killer. It was the perfect team working experience. Well, it would be, if it weren't for the gigantic Nightmares standing before them.
The Nightmare soon crashed to the ground with a rather large, THUD, and his partner – a woman by the name of Rissa – landed beside him, crouched slightly. "Three in a row ain't too bad, now, is it?" she asked him, a gleam of humor in her green eyes.
"No, no it isn't," he agreed, giving a small smile to the woman as he helped her up.
Rissa was a childhood friend who had been much like a sister during the Void War. She had taken up her mother's mantle as the Maiden of War. She had married one of Arren's younger brothers, making her almost a true sister.
Brushing a strand of coppery hair from her tan forehead, she started forward. "How many more do you think there are?" she asked him.
"I'm not sure, Rissa. There is no clear number, you know. I wish it wasn't so, but unfortunately, it is." Arren answered, following behind her.
"Do you think Rose has found anything yet?" she asked softly.
"I don't know."
She nodded, brushing thick vines out of her way.
They had been at this for at least two weeks now. Rose had been gone for a month with no clear guide to her whereabouts. Arren had grown more worried, but he did not have much time to dwell on her situation. This was partially a good thing, he supposed, but he was tired from the long weeks of fighting with little rest.
He lifted the flask of wine from his hip. He took a quick swig. It burned his throat as it went down, but it restored some of the energy he had been lacking.
"I think it's about time we brought in the dragons," Arren told the Maiden of War.
"I agree," she said quietly. "It will make me feel much, much safer here in the battlefield – er, battle-forest?"
Chuckling, Arren replaced the flask to its proper place. "I'm not sure what you'd call it."
She grinned. "When are you going to call them in?"
"Once we make camp tonight," Arren replied.
That night, once the small army had made camp, Arren walked a little ways off – though not too far – and used the special scale he had been given to summon the leader of the group of dragons that had come with them.
Once the great white=scaled dragon landed before him, Arren bowed in greeting.
"We believe it is finally time for the dragons to come into the battle against the Nightmares," Arren said respectfully. The last thing he wanted to do was tick a dragon off. That would not bode well for him or his army.
"Youngling, as much as I appreciate the respect, we have no time for formalities during this war. As for joining your company, the dragons and I have eagerly been awaiting to do so. We have been wanting to get rid of these Nightmares for years… But we were afraid that if we tried, your people would believe we were a threat to them."
"Understandable," Arren nodded. "Then you will join us tomorrow?"
"Yes. Get some sleep, hatchling. We will be in the skies before tomorrow."
"Don't you need sleep?"
Blinking onyx eyes at the young lord, the dragon replied, "Dragons do not require the sleep that humans do. We can go years without sleep and be fine… depending on the age, of course."
"Right," Arren nodded. He really wished he had asked Rose more questions about the dragons. He had asked her a few, but apparently he had not asked the right questions. Or maybe he had, and they just weren't coming into play yet.
"Alright, alright. Goodnight."
Arren headed back to his tent, and informed the army of what the dragon had said. The army smiled. They were thankful they could finally get a good night's sleep.
Arren climbed into his sleeping roll, and stared up at the ceiling. As always when they got time to sleep, he spent it thinking about Rose. 'Why did I let her go to the Nightmare Kingdom? I should not have allowed it… But how could I have refused? I barely knew her at the time, and had I protested, she would have somehow managed to convince me otherwise. By the time I knew her well enough, it was too late…'
Arren's thoughts were conflicted, as always when it came to Rose and the Nightmare Kingdom. He hated that Rose was somewhere he could not follow, at least not at this time. He hated that he had no idea what was going on. He hated that he did not know if she was okay.
When Arren did finally drift off, it was into a fitful sleep, filled with horrid dreams about a King, and his elusive plot to turn a girl against everything she had ever known.
Liara stared off into the distance where she knew the Nightmare Castle lay. She was Rose's Dragon Mother. She had an incapability to bear eggs, and so she had taken in any young whose parents had been lost, or who were thought to be incapable of survival.
She had always worried for Rose. Rose was not a dragon. She was not a human. The poor girl had been kept from her past all of her life – not by Liara's decision, that was for sure! Now she was being thrown into the place where part of her past lay, with a king who mixed lies and truth for his own benefit.
The blue dragon was just as worried – if not more worried – then Arren was about the young woman's fate. However, unlike Arren, the great dragon knew exactly where Rose was, though she was not aware of what was going on.
"Liara, staring off towards the castle will give you no consolation about your surrogate daughter," the dragons longtime friend, Zathor, said quietly.
"I know. I am not trying to gain consolation. I am trying to sort my thoughts."
Zathor, a green dragon with gold-orange eyes, nodded. "Do not grieve too much, my dear friend. She will be alright. Rose has proven herself just as stubborn and resilient as her mother, if not more so. We taught her well in our magic, and her own people's. She will be fine."
"It is not that I am worry about. The Nightmare King is skilled in manipulation, and we have kept her past from her too long. He will know that. She looks just like her mother. He will use her ignorance as a ploy for his own uses. I can only hope she will be able to resist him…"
Zathor frowned the way only a dragon could. "I suppose you are correct. I was always against keeping the truth from her, but not only did the Leader insist, but her mother and father as well. We must respect their wishes, but it may be that we have to tell her before they wanted."
Liara nodded. "Should I try and contact her?"
"No. This requires a face-to-face meeting… And not a Dreamland meeting either. A true, face-to-face meeting."
"You are right… like always."
Zathor smiled. "Glad you see that."
She laughed a dragon laugh. Zathor always helped to ease her thoughts. At the same time, however, she still couldn't help but worry. She had a mother's instinct, and so, she worried constantly for all of her hatchlings. Particularly for those she knew had difficulties that the others did not.
The Nightmare King smiled to himself as he exited the dining room. He had mixed the lies and the truth so efficiently, almost he himself could not tell which were the lies and which was truth. If this did not work to turn the blonde brat over to his side, then only a few more well placed comments and some more 'confessions' and the Lady of the Rose would most definitely choose his side. It was almost set in stone, if it wasn't already. He was a master of manipulation, and she would not be the first to fall under his spell and nor would she be the last.
Everything would work out perfectly. It usually did in circumstances like this. When he wanted something, he got it, no questions asked. It was just the way that it was. It had been like that since Dream and Nightmare had been one kingdom, when he and his brothers were children under their parents rule. It would continue to be like that, until he died.
He was not some spoiled king who had never tasted defeat. He was powerful. He had been at this game for over a hundred years. It was not surprising that people fell under his spell so easily. He had perfected it over this time, to prevent mistakes from happening; to prevent his goals from being left unfinished in dark corners of his mind.
His practice had paid off. Now, he could enter their minds, and poison their thoughts with his own. He could hypnotize them into doing anything he said. Most of all, though, was that he knew the words to say to make you doubt yourself, and those whom you had surrounded yourself with for almost your entire life. He did not rely on his powers, but his silver tongue.
He was cunning. He was vicious. He had a plan. And soon, he would have the Lady of the Rose in the palm of his hand.
End Part Four
Tauria: Well... that was an interesting chapter ^.^ Thank you everyone for the wonderful reviews you've given me so far. I'm glad you're enjoying this story! CX