More from The Rose

June 8th, 2007

This is more from the story The Rose. While these pieces are pretty complete the actual story never was finished. It was based partly on a GURPS campaign that never proceeded past the first few hours of gameplay- I’d thought it had lots of promise so I decided to write it as a novella, but Fantasy like this isn’t my best genre so once I reached a certain point I just gave it up. The last piece does have a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, so I supposed I might take it up again just for the heck of it. Anyhow, here it is:

What Occurred in Holedo

Marla had given up more of herself than she knew in order to become the kind of woman she felt Corwin deserved. In the end that had cost her life. Dralosahde had always felt that Marla was the stronger of the two of them, but her strength had come so much from Corwin’s love that when he was gone she simply withered away to nothing. Even then, she had held on nearly ninety years, hoping against hope that somehow he would return. When she finally did pass Dralosahde had felt it half a world away- the sense that what had once been a part of her was now gone forever.

“I miss her.”

“Mistress?” asked Cocia, startling Dralosahde out of her melancholy reverie.

“Nothing, apprentice. Nothing to concern you. Can we see the walls of the city yet?”

“Rahd spied the city when we topped a rise some time ago. We’ll arrive before noon.”

“It’s about time. If I never spend another day in a caravan it will be too soon for me.”

“We didn’t have to travel this way,” Cocia noted with a sniff. She had been distraught beyond words when her Mistress announced they would travel over land from Revenese to Holedo. A mage of her standing could have made the trip in an instant or at least booked passage on a good ship. But to travel by caravan with the heat, the dust, the smell! Undignified was the very best Cocia could say about it.

Why had she decided to spend months doing what could have been accomplished in weeks or less? Part of her simply wanted to put this off as long as possible, but there was more. She needed to get started, but she also knew that she could not be there too soon. Regardless of the deity one chose to worship there were always certain things that were ordained: until now it had not been time for her to be in Holedo.

“Soldiers are coming,” Rahd called from the bench up front.

“This should be interesting.”
“You were expecting them?” Cocia asked.

“I expected something, I just wasn’t sure what.”

She climbed out through the front of the covered wagon to stand beside her hired driver, Rahd. Up ahead the wagons of the caravan were pulling off to the side of the road to allow a column of mounted soldiers to pass. There were twelve of them, all in shining chain mail with the Holedo livery across their breastplates and the pennant of the Church flying from their lances. The lead rider also tended a spare mount and called to each wagon as he passed. When she heard his words Dralosahde felt chill.

“Marla, Lady Campbell! We are seeking Lady Campbell!”

“You’ll not be finding her, Captain. She has been dead more than four hundred years.”

He eyed her carefully and she had to admire his self control for she was not attired plainly.

Finally he spoke, “And you are?”

“Dralosahde,” she replied, wondering how much history this man knew.

“Lady Campbell and the Dralosahde were one and the same. You are the one we seek. I have been sent by the Bishop on behalf of the High Synod to collect you and convey you directly to the Basilica of The Deliverer.”

His words had the tone and tenor of an order.

“The Bishop is kind, but I have my own arrangements in Holedo. I will contact the Bishop when I have established myself.”

“I do apologize, Lady Campbell, but I have no discretion in this matter. If you will not come of your own accord I am required to force your compliance.”

Rahd was no fool. When he heard those words he quietly slipped from his perch and moved off a dozen yards or so. Meanwhile Cocia emerged from the rear of the wagon to stand at her Mistress’s side and lend support.

“You shall never again address me as ‘Lady Campbell,’ is that understood?” It was a simple and direct spell, the casting of which required no more than an act of will. The Captain blanched as if suddenly taken ill and he swayed visibly in his saddle.

“My apologies… Madam Dralosahde. None-the-less, I have my orders.”

“Your orders were to collect Lady Campbell. Since she is not here, you cannot complete your mission. Depart. Immediately.” Again, a simple, but powerful spell, this time with Cocia’s support. Without a word the Captain motioned to his men, then hesitated. Sweat broke over his brow and the strain was visible throughout his body as he turned to face Dralosahde again.

“Perhaps Madam Dralosahde would consent to being escorted to the city?”

Cocia gasped, but Dralosahde simply smiled. “Those must have been rather pointed orders, Captain.”

“Yes, Madam, they were.”

“Very well, you may escort us to the fore of the caravan and lead us to the city. Rahd! Back to your seat.”

The Captain turned with obvious relief and ordered his men to turn about as Rahd maneuvered the wagon out of line. Once everything was moving the Captain turned his mount and the spare over to two of his men and climbed aboard the wagon.

“I neglected to formally introduce myself. Captain Theris Grimm, Holedo Militia.”

“My name you know. The driver is Rahd Lambert, and my apprentice, Cocia Tembi.”

“M’Lady,” he intoned, nodding to Cocia who at least had the courtesy to acknowledge him.

“I was ready to take some sun and fresh air, Captain. Why don’t you join me here and we can speak. I am sure you can handle the wagon…”

“Surely.”

Theris Grimm was no fool. He knew that this woman was not intent on idle conversation; however, he had the most impenetrable of defenses: he knew nothing. He said so repeatedly.

“The Bishop is not in the habit of entrusting his inner thoughts to Captains in the militia. I was simply told to meet this caravan as it approached the city, gather in a certain woman of some importance and speed her on her way to the Bishop.”

“But surely there was some event that triggered such an action? I cannot believe Holedo sends her soldiers out to greet weary travelers on a daily basis.”

“There has been nothing of note, Madam. Quite honestly, the city has been as quiet as I can remember in twenty years of service. We’ve even had some explorations going in the mountains- Holedo hasn’t sent more than a token expedition into the Temberance range in more than four hundred years…”

“Really? That must be exciting. Tell me, when was the last expedition launched?”

“Hmm, that would have been two weeks ago this past Sabbath.”

Immediately Grimm could see the change in her expression, though she continued to make small talk quite effectively. She was charming and beautiful and had he not just recently felt the full weight of her power he would have dismissed her momentary discomfiture, but he had been a soldier far too long. If something had upset a creature of her obvious power and ability it could easily bode ill for mere mortals.

“Forgive my rudeness, Madam, but why are you distressed over the expeditions in to the mountains?”

She considered denying it, certain that with a little prodding she could make the Captain forget he noticed anything at all. Instead she simply gave a soft sigh and smiled.

“These are likely not simple random explorations, Captain Grimm. They are searching for something specific. Furthermore, I fear that some five days ago, they found it.”

Later

The Basilica Of The Deliverer was an imposing structure near the center of the city consisting of four towers over one hundred feet tall which were in turn surpassed by a steeple of nearly one hundred and twenty-five feet. The style was unique- traditional gargoyles, but with sweeping lines of grace and beauty and some of the finest stained glass work to be found in all the land. But out in front, in a circular courtyard surrounded by beds of brightly colored flowers there stood a pedestal of rough-hewn granite supporting a statue of bronze some thirty feet tall.

Dralosahde stopped and tried to prevent her emotion from showing. Both Cocia and Grimm seemed to sense that this was not a moment to disturb her and they waited as she stepped forward to gaze up at the bronze figure. The statue was of a man in armor, his helmet gone, and his hands resting atop the pommel of a Great Sword the point of which was thrust into the ground. His shoulders were squared, spine straight, and he stared out in to the heavens, his square jaw and determined gaze seeming to imply intense concentration.

There was a plaque, of course. She knelt and read:

“St. Corwin, Sir Campbell, Deliverer of Mankind from the Horde of Evil, Beloved Of God, Defender Of The Faith. No Creature Draws Breath But For The Grace Of God And The Sacrifice Of St. Corwin.”

 

“Oh, Corwin,” she sighed, “They blaspheme in your name. How you would have hated that.” When she stood and turned back to her companions she made no effort to conceal her pain. She would let them read whatever they chose in her tears.

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