A Red Rose (part 1)

Sequel to A White Rose.


A dark shadow bent over the sleeping form of a young girl in bed, stroking away an errant lock of hair from her delicate brow. The girl was beautiful, looking restful in her sleep, unaware of the visitor in her simple room. Her skin was fair, with only a slight hint of a tan, a mass of tangled walnut brown hair spread out around her head on the bed. High cheekbones, a small, straight nose and arched eyebrows gave her an almost divine look, all perfect in its innocence. Slightly slanted eyes and pointed ears bore sign of her elfin heritage. A soft smile curled her lips as she dreamed of something undoubtedly pleasant.

The dark shadow carefully pulled the blanket down, revealing a pair of slender shoulders, and then put a hand inside its large cloak. The girl in the bed sighed in her sleep, causing the dark shadow to still for a moment, waiting to see if she would wake, but the girl remained asleep. Slowly the shadow withdrew a thin dagger from its robe and moved it toward the girl’s slender throat. The tip of the dagger came to rest against her neck, moving along her throat, almost caressing, without piercing the delicate skin.

Dark eyelashes fluttered over the girl’s cheek, and slowly she started to wake. Light green eyes, so pale they seemed yellow, widened as she spotted the intruder. Her mouth opened to scream, but was cut short as the lethal tip of the dagger struck down to draw blood.

With a start Ereptus jerked awake. The small room he’d taken at a local inn seemed to close in on him for a moment, until he was entirely awake. Shaking, he sat up and looked around. The room looked just as it had when he had gone to sleep; simple with a sturdy bed and a little cupboard with a washbowl on top. It was only a dream, yet it had seemed so real.

He ran a hand through his dark hair, vaguely registering that he’d been sweating, and stood to pace the small space of the room. There wasn’t an ounce of magic in his entire being. He was a simple soul living a rogue’s life. Yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had just had a premonition. He had been away too long. It was time for him to go back and face his inner demons. If for no other reason than to see her and make sure that she was still alive and well.

Although the sun had not yet shown its golden face Ereptus got dressed, packed his few belongings and left the inn. He stole a horse on a small farm outside the city and started his journey towards the city of Messina where he had once left the girl. He could only hope that she was still there. After all, it had been three years since he had last seen her.

*****

The street in the city of Messina was bustling with citizens walking to and from little shops running their errands. A few Peacekeepers were standing at a street corner looking over the street making sure there was no trouble arising. The many guards of the city made it one of the safest in all the kingdoms, allowing a lonely girl to grow up without fearing for her life.
Ereptus was standing in the shadows of a narrow alley, keeping away from the busy street, not wanting to be seen. From where he was standing he had a good view of the small bar on the opposite side, where he knew the girl now lived.

It had been four years since he had first met her. He had been called back to the city of his past by an old friend to repay a favour. The favour had turned out to involve bringing a dirty brat to Messina, taking the girl away from the violent streets of the city. She was an elfin girl with some magical powers, and the old city was not a good place for her to grow up, being almost ruled by crime. As young as she was, she had already shown potential and sooner or later she would be killed if she stayed there, or worse.

At first he had been angry, not wanting the responsibility of an elfin girl, but during their trip to Messina, he had involuntarily started to like her, more than he wanted to admit to himself even to this day. The girl had been suspicious of him at first, as she seemed to be towards most people, but had soon grown fond of him, and he had a nagging feeling that she had had a small crush on him, in the way teenage girls did. She had started to see him as some kind of idol, wanting to share his life, stealing what was needed and living from day to day.

That was the reason he had left her. Or at least he told himself so. Once they had arrived in Messina, the capital of Erya, he had gotten them a room at an inn, and the next morning, while the girl was still asleep, he had left. Leaving her with only a small pouch of money and a rose.

Ereptus moved out of the way as a couple came walking through the alley, disturbing his thoughts. Casting a quick look at the entrance to the bar across the road to ensure himself that she had still not come out, he settled back into the shadows.

He had stayed in Messina for a year after leaving her, staying in the shadows, watching over her. She had never known; as far as she was aware, he had left her that morning to never return. Once he had been convinced that she was doing all right, by that time she had gotten a job as a bar maid during the late afternoons and evenings, he had left the city. Being that close to her without speaking to her had been difficult, and putting distance between them would take the temptation away.

It had now been three years since he’d left the city behind. She would be older now.

Ereptus frowned. Where had that come from? Before he could delve deeper into his own thoughts the door to the bar on the opposite side of the road opened and she emerged. Seeing her again was like a punch in the gut. She had been promisingly beautiful as the young girl he had met, a girl that was too old to be a child, and too young to be a woman. The young, elfin woman coming out from the bar was astonishing.

With a scowl he saw that he wasn’t the only one who noticed. Several of the men on the street slowed their pace to get a good glance at her. She seemed unaware of their attentions as she walked down the street. Slowly Ereptus emerged out of the alley, keeping his distance from her as to not be seen, while following her.

His eyes took her in as they were walking through the streets of the city. It was obvious that she was now a grown-up. Although her body was slender she had the distinct forms of a young woman. She was wearing a simple skirt of soft leather, and a leather bodice that stuck to her like a second skin. Her long, walnut brown hair was tied back in the neck cascading down her back all the way to her waist.

Ereptus quickly slipped into a dark alley as the young woman stopped in the middle of the street and turned around, a small frown creasing her brow. She scanned the street, but didn’t see him, although he was standing quite close. From where he was standing he could clearly see her face with her unusual eyes. Framed with thick, dark lashes they stood out in their light green colour, a shade so light that they seemed yellow most of the time.

As the girl turned back and continued down the street Ereptus slipped out of the alley again following her yet again.

*****

Rain wiped off the last of the wooden tables with a damp cloth and then straightened her aching back and looked around in the little bar where she worked in the afternoons and evenings. It was a small, but cosy, little bar in the centre of the city where the citizens gathered in the evenings for a chat and a couple of beers. Messina was a peaceful town, and she had not had much trouble since she first arrived four years ago.

The job was hard on her back and sometimes a customer who had had a little too much to drink might try and grab her, but on the whole, it was a good job. It paid enough to let her rent a little room above the bar and pay for her lessons in magic. It was definitely better than living on the streets as she had done as a child.

The bar was empty at the moment, Rain being the only one left after closing time to wipe off the tables and blow out the candles. She finished her tasks swiftly, hung her little apron on a rusty spike behind the counter and started up the stairs to where her little room was located.

Once there, she lit a small candle by her bed and started getting ready for bed. As she was about to take off her leather bodice she felt a prickling feeling in the back of her neck. She turned slowly to the small window overlooking the street, but as far as she could see it was empty. All day she had had the feeling that she was being watched, ever since she had gone for her magic lesson in the morning. Frowning slightly, she turned away from the window, but she couldn’t shake off the feeling of unease that had settled in the back of her mind.

Knowing that she would be unable to sleep if she didn’t check, she went downstairs and unlocked the door to the bar. She peeked outside, but couldn’t see anyone, so she opened the door wide and stepped outside on the empty street. The crisp night air caressed her skin as a light breeze swept through the city. She stood for a moment enjoying the silence of the city at night time, then smiled at her own foolishness, there were no people anywhere close, and turned to walk back inside.

As she reached for the doorknob someone caught hold of her from behind, a heavy hand clamped over her mouth preventing her from screaming. She tried to get loose, but whoever was holding her was big and strong, and she wasn’t even able to budge the hold he had on her. He turned her around, and she saw another man, a wide grin on his face displaying uneven, yellowish teeth. He was thin and unwashed with tangled hair and patched clothes.

“Well, hello there”, he said in an unpleasant voice. “We’ve been waiting for you. Very kind of you to walk straight into our arms like this.”

Rain made another attempt at getting away from the man who was holding her in an iron grip, but it only made him strengthen his hold, making it difficult for her to breathe, which in turn made it difficult to focus on any of the spells she knew. The other man chuckled at her futile attempt. “My friend is too strong for you, girl. You better just give up.”

“Do we have te bring ‘er te the boss right away?” the man who held her said gruffly next to her ear. “I think we deserve te have some fun with ‘er first.”

The other man stepped closer, touching Rain’s cheek with a dirty hand, grinning widely. “You’re right”, he said. “She’s quite something this one.”

As he was starting to touch Rain’s hair he caught sight of something and his eyes widened, but before he got the chance to say anything Rain felt something hard hit her captor in the back, causing him to drop her. While she was scrambling to her feet she heard some muffled noises and then a couple of thumps.

Brushing some dirt off her skirt she looked at the two men who had attacked her. They were now both lying unconscious on the ground. She stroked back an errant lock of hair, fastening it behind her ear and looked down the street. Where had her rescuer gone off to? Frowning, she kneeled by the two bodies, searching them for personal possessions that might tell her who they were. As one of them moaned loudly she almost tripped over her own feet in the haste of getting away from the man before he woke up.

“You little fool”, a soft voice said behind her, helping her up. “Are you deliberately trying to get caught again? I didn’t bring them down for you to wake them up again the first thing you do.”

Rain pulled her arm back as soon as she was standing and turned around to glare at her rescuer.

“Look!” she snapped. “I was just going to..” she trailed off, staring at the man standing in front of her.

He looked just like in her memories, if not better. He was dressed in black, as she remembered he always used to be, tall and slim with dark hair falling to his shoulders, curling slightly at the collar. He had a square jaw which was currently covered with a day’s stubble and dark, almost black, eyes that were watching her intently.

“Ereptus!” she gasped, overcome with the shock of seeing him again after such a long time. “What are you doing here?”

Ereptus shrugged, an amused smile playing on his lips. “Saving your hide, obviously.”

Rain grumbled. “I was doing fine on my own.”

“I saw that.” Ereptus replied dryly.

“I don’t need your comments.” Rain snapped at him, annoyed that he had come back only to save her again.

“Let’s continue the conversation inside,” Ereptus suggested as one of the men on the ground started making noises and seemed to be coming around. Without waiting for an answer, he ushered Rain inside the bar, closed and locked the door.

“What are you doing? You’re not coming in here!” Rain glared at him, hands on her hips.

“Would you rather I went out there and met those two brutes again?” Ereptus asked.

She was sorely tempted to say yes, but held her tongue. “Fine. Stay then,” she sighed.

Ereptus moved around in the bar and found a candle which he lit with the help of some embers in the fireplace. Then he put it on a table and sat down, watching her silently until she relented and joined him at the table.

They sat quietly for a moment, watching each other and the changes that had happened since they had last seen. Rain was well aware that she had changed the most, going from a teenager to a young woman. Not that Ereptus seemed to notice, she thought glumly. He hadn’t changed much himself the past few years. He was still a handsome rogue.

Ereptus was the first to start speaking. “You seem to be doing all right here”, he said.

Rain nodded. “I am. I’ve been able to take care of myself quite well without you.”

An amused smile touched Ereptus’ lips, but he didn’t say anything.

“I’m learning my magic, and making my own money.” Rain continued, annoyed that he wasn’t giving her any indication of his thoughts.

“No stealing.” Ereptus stated.

“No stealing,” Rain repeated, and added tonelessly. “You got your wish.”

Ereptus said nothing, just looked at her with his dark eyes, unnerving her.

She nervously stroked away a lock of hair from her brow. “So… Where have you been all this time?”

“Travelling around,” Ereptus answered vaguely.

Rain looked up, meeting his eyes. “What made you come back?”

“I was in the area.” He looked away, seemingly very interested in the interior of the bar.

“I’m surprised you dare to come this close to me,” Rain said, a note of bitterness creeping into her voice.

Ereptus jerked his head back to look at her. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“You seemed to be in quite a rush to get away from me last time,” Rain said, trying not to sound as hurt as she was. “You didn’t even bother to say good bye.”

To her satisfaction, Ereptus looked guilty. “It was easier not to.”

She stared at him. “Easier?” she asked, her voice raising an octave. “Well, I’m glad it was easier for you to break my heart while I was sleeping!”

“Did I then?” Ereptus asked quietly, his eyes searching hers.

“Did what?” Rain muttered angrily.

“Break your heart?”

She looked down at her hands, her answer coming softly, hardly more than a whisper. “Yes. You were my only friend.”

He leaned forward over the table and caressed her cheek with his knuckles. “I never wanted to hurt you, Rain,” he said silently, locking his eyes with hers. “I left because I thought it was the best thing for you.”

A silent tear trailed down Rain’s cheek as she looked at him, and Ereptus caught it on his finger, watching it for a moment, a wistful expression on his face.

“How could it be the best for me?” she asked. “I was young and alone in a new city. You abandoned me.”

Ereptus wiped the tear off his finger, breaking eye contact. “I was afraid that I would be a bad influence on you,” he admitted.

“How noble of you.” Rain said bitterly. “The least you could have done was to leave while I was awake.”

“I had my reasons,” Ereptus mumbled, so quietly that she almost didn’t hear it.

“Well.” She stood. “I don’t think I’m interested in hearing them anymore. You left me, and that’s fine with me. I can take care of myself now. And I’m going to bed. Good bye, Ereptus.”

Ereptus stood as well. “I’m not leaving.”

She looked at him, hands on her hips. “You’re not staying here with me!”

“I’m not going anywhere until we’ve figured out what’s going on and what those men wanted with you,” Ereptus replied calmly.

“The same they always do, most likely,” Rain said, exasperated.

“I don’t think so. They were talking about bringing you to someone. I think those two were more than just your regular street thugs,” Ereptus said, and then his eyes narrowed. “What do you mean the same they always do?”

Rain sighed. “Good night, Ereptus.”

She hurried up the stairs to her room, locking the door behind her, before Ereptus could reply. He could sleep downstairs on the floor, she thought stubbornly. She quickly got ready for bed and lay down to get some sleep. It was difficult, her mind still occupied with the fact that Ereptus was back. She wasn’t sure whether she was angry or happy about the fact. She would never forget the morning she had woken up to find that her only friend had abandoned her. A lot of hopes and dreams had been crushed the instant she had realised he would not be coming back.

A White Rose (part 3)

You can read Part 2 here.


They rode out of town early the next morning. The sun had only just started to show its face, and Rain was so tired that she couldn’t be bothered to keep her distance from Ereptus, but shamelessly used his back as a pillow, and almost fell asleep leaning against it. For once they rode in companionable silence, and Rain felt more at ease than she had during her whole life. She wasn’t sure when it had happened, but for some reason she trusted Ereptus.

“Tell me about your life,” she suddenly blurted out.

“What?” Ereptus seemed surprised.

“Tell me about your life,” she repeated. “Why did you become a thief?”

Ereptus seemed uncomfortable with the subject. “It wasn’t a choice really, it was the only way to survive.”

That surprised her. “Why?” she asked.

“Like you I once lived on the streets,” he told her. “Well, I still do in a way. Only now I steal enough to rent a room for the night most of the time.”

“And to buy fancy clothes,” Rain pointed out, tugging lightly on his fine tunic. “I never would have guessed from the way you dress that you don’t have a home.”

“That’s the point,” Ereptus confessed. “Dressed like I am, I can easily get into the nicer inns and talk to the wealthy people. That’s the way to make easy money. I don’t steal enough to save up, just to live a comfortable life.”

“That sounds nice,” Rain sighed.

“You’re not going to end up like me!” Ereptus snapped, which made her almost jump right off the horse. Peeves peeked out of her tunic, hissing and growling at Ereptus.

“Why not?” Rain asked, calming the little dragon by patting him tenderly. “It seems like an easy way of living.”

“You can make a life for yourself when you learn to control your magic,” Ereptus said. “Gaylen is making sure that you get the help that you need. I don’t want you to waste his effort by living on the streets and stealing what you need.”

“I don’t have any money,” Rain pointed out. “How else am I supposed to pay for food a place to live?”

“Get an honest job.”

“Who would hire a lonely girl?”

Ereptus thought of this for a moment. “Some would. Just don’t give up.”

Rain nodded, but inside she knew that she would have to steal to get food. Like she always had, except for the few years she’d lived with Gaylen. She had still stolen a little now and then to help Gaylen out, but it hadn’t been a matter of stealing or dying of hunger.

They spent the next couple of days getting to know each other better, and in Rain’s opinion, they were becoming good friends. Ereptus told her more about his life as a young boy on the streets, and she told him what she remembered of her first years when she’d been living with an abusive, unloving father. Rain quickly started to admire Ereptus, he was a charming rogue who stole only what he needed to live a decent life, and the way he stole it was almost like an art form.

One evening she watched, with fascination, as Ereptus started a companionable conversation with an innkeeper and in the meanwhile stealing the man’s pouch, to later pay their room with the same money. It was hard for Rain to keep a straight face when Ereptus even gave the innkeeper a tip.

*****

When they were only a couple of days away from the city of Messina, Rain finally gained the courage to tell Ereptus something that she’d been thinking about.

“Ereptus?” she said hesitantly.

“Yes?”

“I’ve been thinking, and I don’t care about finding a Sorcerer or learning more about my magic. I want to stay with you.”

Ereptus stopped the horse and turned around to face her. “Are you out of your mind?” he said brusquely. “You can’t stay with me. My life isn’t a life for a young girl like you.”

“I think it’s just fine,” Rain said stubbornly. “It beats being alone.” She pouted. “I thought you liked spending time with me just as much as I like to be with you.”

Ereptus ran a hand through his dark hair, mussing it up. “Granted, I do enjoy being with you.” He sounded rather reluctant to admit it, then shook his head. “But you still can’t stay with me. It would be a crime. You’re like a gentle, white rose that somehow could grow despite the darkness around. If you stayed with me, all that would be for nothing. My life isn’t the life for you. I want you to learn to control your magic, and make something of your life.”

“But…” Rain started to object, but Ereptus cut her off.

“No arguing.” He turned back and nudged the horse to continue. Rain kept silent, wiping away an errant tear.

Neither of them spoke for a long time, and she could feel the tension in Ereptus, he hadn’t been happy about her request. The sun was at its highest when they heard hoof beats behind them. Ereptus took a quick look, and started cursing under his breath.

“I was hoping they hadn’t seen me.”

“Who?” Rain asked, turning her head to see who was following them. It was three men on horses. They were all dressed in black, and they didn’t look like they were very nice people.

Ereptus set a higher pace, hoping to reach a small forest before the men caught up with them, but there was no such luck. The men passed them and stopped them from going further.

“So, we meet again, Ereptus,” one of the men grinned.

“Unfortunately,” Ereptus said grimly.

“Get off your horse!”

They did as they were told, and the three men did the same.

“I want my money back,” the man who’d first spoken said. “Where is it?”

“I told you, I didn’t take it,” Ereptus sighed. “I don’t know who did, but it sure wasn’t me.”

“Why should I believe you?” the man snarled.

“Because it’s the truth?” Ereptus remarked dryly. “I freely admit to being a thief, but this time it wasn’t me.”

“Hold him!” the man growled at the other two, who quickly took hold of Ereptus’ arms, while the man rolled up his sleeves. “Maybe I can beat it out of you,” he said.

Rain stared at the men, frantically trying to decide what to do. When the man raised his arm for the first punch, she closed her eyes, but still flinched at the sound of bone hitting bone and Ereptus’ grunt. Afraid that the men might beat Ereptus to death, and then start on her, she started to concentrate on one of the few things she knew how to do relatively well.

The fireball she conjured flew right at the men, missed Ereptus’ head with less than an inch, and hit a rock behind him. Rain stared with horror at the rock that was black of soot from the flame.

“Is that your magic?” Ereptus yelled. “It’s no wonder Gaylen wants you to learn to control it, he probably fears for his life!”

Rain flinched at the angry glare he gave her. But even if the fireball had completely missed its target, and almost hit Ereptus in the process, it had stunned the men enough so that they had let go of him. Quickly taking advantage of their surprise, he knocked one of them out. While he was fighting the second man who had held him, the leader grabbed hold of Rain and pressed a dagger to her side.

Ereptus didn’t see what was happening until the second man was down. His face paled when he caught sight of Rain in man’s grip. The dagger was pressed so hard against her ribs that it had already gone through her tunic and drawn blood. She was trying not to cry, but the pain made tears spring to her eyes.

“Let her go, Tylen,” Ereptus pleaded, while slowly inching closer. “It’s me you want.”

“I think I’ve changed my mind,” the man grinned and hardened his grip around Rain’s waist, making her gasp. “I think I will keep this pretty little thing as payment for the money you stole from me.”

Rain closed her eyes, trying to collect her thoughts. She could feel the dagger cutting further into her side as Ereptus took a step closer.

“Stay away!” Tylen hissed. “Or the girl dies!”

While he was concentrating on Ereptus, Rain concentrated hard, and let out a large burst of energy, knocking Tylen away from her. Out of strength she fell to the ground the same moment Ereptus jumped the other man. Too tired to turn her head, she could hear the two men fighting behind her. Then it was silent. Rain wanted to see who had won, fearing the worst, but her body wouldn’t obey her.

Then she was suddenly lifted, and she was looking at Ereptus’ face. He had some bruises, and he was likely to have a black eye in the morning, but he was alive. Relieved, she rested her head on his shoulder, too tired to speak. He lifted her on the horse, and mounted behind her, keeping her across his legs, which allowed her to cuddle up and rest against him like a small child.

“We need to get your wound cleaned and bound,” Ereptus muttered in her ear. Peeves finally dared to come out of Rain’s tunic where he’d been hiding, climbing up to sit on Ereptus’ shoulder.

They rode into the nearby forest, and Ereptus soon found a little stream where he stopped. He quickly cleaned the blood from her tunic and skin, then tore a strip from his own tunic and bound it around her to stop the bleeding.

“The wound isn’t too deep,” he remarked. “Did you lose a lot of blood? Is that why you’re so weak?”

Rain shook her head. “It’s because of my magic that I’m weak. It drains me when I use it.”

Ereptus nodded grimly. He lifted her once again, and let her sit in front of him on the horse, enabling her to lie against him. Rain closed her eyes and rested, she could feel Peeves moving in under her tunic again, nestling himself against her ribs. Soon they were both asleep. Rain didn’t wake up again until the sun was almost setting. Most of her energy was regained by then, but the wound in her side was still aching slightly. They were riding inside a small town.

“Where are we?” she asked Ereptus.

“In a small town, close to Messina. We should reach the city tomorrow.”

Rain nodded.

They took a room at a small inn. Rain was brushing her hair when Ereptus sat down and looked at her.

“Rain. Seeing you use that magic, I really think you should learn to control it.”

“I’m usually better,” she argued, feeling guilty about nearly burning him with a fireball. “I was very upset, so my aim was a bit off.”

Ereptus shook his head. “That’s not what I mean. Your magic is powerful, with the right help you can learn to channel it. It would be a waste for you to go with me. Imagine the things you could learn!”

“But I want to be with you!” Rain protested.

Ereptus sighed. “Look kid…”

“I’m not a child!” Rain snapped at him.

“You are to me!” he snapped back at her. “And I will continue to see you as a child, or…” he went silent and shook his head as if to clear it.

“Look, Rain..” he started again. “You can’t stay with me. Just look at what happened today. If you stay with me, you could get hurt again, or even killed.”

“I’m not that vulnerable. I can take care of myself.”

“You’re still only a ki…” Ereptus stopped himself before he said the word. “You’re still young. If you learn to use your magic, you might be able to protect yourself better. Right now, you’re too unreliable, and dare I say, even dangerous.”

Rain couldn’t argue with that. Had she known how to channel her powers better she might not have nearly beheaded Ereptus with a fireball.

“I would be too worried that someone would hurt you to get back at me,” Ereptus said to conclude his argument.

“Let’s not talk about it,” Rain mumbled and crawled down in bed next to Peeves who was already asleep on her pillow. Ereptus looked like he was going to say something more, then seemingly changed his mind and went to bed.

*****

They reached Messina early the next day. Ereptus showed Rain around, pointing her to where she might find the Sorcerers, where to find food and possibly a job. It was a beautiful city of white stone, seated on an island in the middle of a large lake. Larger than any city Rain had ever been to, and she felt a combination of awe and trepidation of being there. At least she had Ereptus with her. In the evening, they took a room at an inn and by the time they were inside Rain was yawning, exhausted after all the impressions from the big city.

“I think I might like it here.” She smiled at Ereptus.

“Good. I think you will do well here, and there’s a lot to learn from the Sorcerers.”

Rain nodded, hardly able to keep her eyes open. She was lying in bed, already thinking about all the wonderful things she would get to see tomorrow with Ereptus.

“Can we go to see the royal castle tomorrow?” she asked.

“Mmm…” Ereptus answered absentmindedly. He sat down on the bed next to her and stroked her cheek. She smiled sleepily up at him. It looked as if he wanted to say something, but he didn’t and she soon fell asleep.

*****

Rain awoke the next morning to find the room empty, except for her and Peeves. All of Ereptus’ belongings were gone. Next to her on the pillow lay a single, white rose and a leather pouch filled with money. Rain carefully picked up the rose, and she knew that Ereptus had left her. He thought she was as fragile as the rose, and that she couldn’t live a life like his.

Pressing the rose to her chest, she started crying. Except for Gaylen, Ereptus had been the first person she ever trusted, and a very good friend. The thought of being abandoned in a new city scared her. She flinched and looked down at her hands. She was bleeding from where a thorn from the rose had stung her.

Wiping her tears away she stood up, resolute now. She was going to learn to control her magic, and she was going to be all right. She was no fragile little girl, but knew how to take care of herself. A rose may be beautiful, but a rose has thorns.

A White Rose (part 2)

You can read Part 1 here.


Rain gazed at the man who was readying the horse. She didn’t trust him. Not that she particularly trusted anyone, but this man made her nervous. His eyes were dark, almost black, and she hadn’t been able to see any feelings displayed in them. He was a handsome man, she couldn’t deny that, tall and slim, without being skinny. A day’s growth darkened his square jaw, and dark hair fell to his shoulders, curling slightly at the collar of his tunic.

Dressed all in black he didn’t look like someone you could trust. He was cleaner than most men she’d encountered in the city, but who ever said cleanliness meant you were a good man? Her father had been clean, and he’d been as mean as they come. She shuddered slightly at the memory of her father. It was a time of her life she’d just as soon forget.

Ereptus had finished with the horse and mounted, motioning for her to join him. She walked over to the horse, and Ereptus took her arm and pulled her up behind him, as if she weighed no more than a toddler. They soon took off, and Rain had to grab hold of Ereptus’ tunic as to not fall off the horse. Peeves were complaining a little bit inside her tunic until he settled himself in a spot where he wasn’t squeezed between her and Ereptus.

She’d told herself that she wasn’t going to speak, but she soon grew bored. The previous day she’d still been seething with anger about being forced out of the city where she thought she’d made an acceptable life for herself. Although she liked Gaylen, she was angry about the highhanded way he’d decided that she should be taken away without consulting her first.

“Ereptus?” she said, her voice hesitant.

“Yes?”

“What is this place like?”

“This place,” Ereptus said. “Is called Messina.”

“Fine,” Rain grumbled. “What is Messina like?”

“It’s the capital of Erya, and the seat of the Council and High King. Probably the most peaceful city in our lands because of the Kingsguard and Peacekeepers. You’ll be safe there, it’s not like the city you’re used to.”

“I was safe where I was,” Rain huffed. “Despite what you think, I am fully capable of taking care of myself. I have done for years!”

“You’re a child”, he replied dismissively, making her grind her teeth in anger.

“I’m not a child!” she snapped. “And even if I was, you were once a child living on the streets, and you’re still alive.”

She could feel that he was growing exasperated. “It’s not the same,” he muttered. “You can’t compare a grubby boy running around on the streets to a beautiful girl. It may not be fair, but that’s the way the world is.”

Rain wasn’t sure whether to feel offended by his belief that she couldn’t defend herself, or thank him for the unintended compliment. “I’ve managed fine,” she finally said. “I’m really quick on my feet.”

“Sooner or later you would meet someone quicker,” Ereptus said.

She sighed. There was no use arguing with him, he wouldn’t ever believe that she could take care of herself. Gaylen had been exactly the same, always worrying when she was out on the streets.

The horse slowed down, and Rain leaned over to look at the road ahead, but Ereptus’ back was too wide for her to be able to see anything.

“Why are you slowing down?” she asked.

“There’s a carriage standing on the road,” Ereptus told her. “I think one of the wheels has been damaged.”

They got closer to the carriage. A man, who was most likely the driver was trying to get the damaged wheel off, but it was a futile effort without assistance. A beautiful lady was standing next to the carriage. Ereptus quickly offered to help the man, who was quick to agree. With some help, it was a quick job to replace the broken wheel with a spare one.

“I must be allowed to thank you,” the lady gushed when they were done, her gaze raking over Ereptus in a way that made Rain feel sick to her stomach. “Please, ride with me in my carriage to the next town, and allow your horse some rest.”

“We would be most pleased to do so,” Ereptus said with a bow and a wink that made the lady giggle girlishly.

While he was tying their horse to the back of the carriage, the lady gave Rain a disdainful look and stepped in. Rain realised that she must look terrible to a fine lady, dressed in her patched hoses and dirty tunic as she was. She’d never cared about her appearance, but compared to the lady, she looked like something a cat had dragged in.

“Come on, kid,” Ereptus said, holding up the carriage door for her. “Let’s join the lady.” The grin Ereptus gave her when he said that made her uncomfortable.

Inside the carriage, Rain ended up spending most of the time in a corner petting Peeves inside her tunic, fascinated with the game Ereptus and the lady played. Both seemed to have forgotten that Rain was there at all. It was as if they were dancing, but with words instead of feet. Used as she was to see Ereptus mainly surly or with no expression at all, Rain found it unsettling to see him smile and be as charming as any gentleman, if not more.

He had the lady blushing repeatedly, her gaze never leaving him for a second. Sometimes the things he told the lady almost made Rain want to laugh, they were so ridiculous. He gave her compliments on her eyes, her skin, her hair, and any other thing he could possibly think of.

Towards the end of the day they finally reached a small town and it was time for them to part from the lady and her carriage. Ereptus took a long farewell of the lady, whispering something in her ear, then bowing low and slowly kissing her hand. Then he took their horse and went with Rain down the street.

Once they were out of sight from the carriage he spat something out in his hand and looked at it. Curious, Rain peeked. It was a golden ring filled with pale, blue gemstones.

“This should give us some food and a roof over our heads for a few nights,” he said, sounding quite pleased with himself.

Rain couldn’t help it but burst out laughing. It seemed to surprise Ereptus, who was staring at her.

“What is so funny?” he asked, almost seeming offended.

“All that gooey talk with the lady was just to get to her ring?” Rain grinned.

Ereptus shrugged, but couldn’t hide his grin from her. “It’s an easy way to keep a lady’s concentration elsewhere.”

“You have guts,” Rain admitted. “I’ve stolen a few things myself, but I would never dare to steal something right off their finger!”

“It’s not so hard,” Ereptus said. “Although I suppose it would be harder for you to get away with kissing a lady’s hand.”

Rain chuckled. Ereptus looked at her, but she couldn’t determine what he was thinking. It almost seemed as if he wasn’t sure how to handle her when she wasn’t grumpy and disliking him.

They quickly found a less than honest man in a shabby store where Ereptus quickly sold off the ring for a nice, round sum. After that they went to an inn and got a room for the night. As the stores were still open Ereptus took Rain with him to a clothing store.

“I think you should have some decent clothes before we reach Messina,” he told her with a pointed look towards her clothes. To his obvious surprise, she didn’t protest. She’d realised it herself. If she was going to start a new life, she couldn’t walk around looking the way she did.

They were lucky and found a store that had clothes that were already sown. Ereptus bought her a simple skirt, a pair of sandals and a tunic with a belt to tie it at the waist. Rain went back to the inn after this, while Ereptus stayed in town to look at a few more things.

After riding for two full days she felt dirtier than ever and asked the innkeeper for a bath. She was told there was a small bath house behind the inn, so she quickly made use of it. When Ereptus returned to their room she was sitting on her bed, dressed in her new clothes, brushing her long, wet hair. Ereptus closed the door without taking his eyes off her. He came and sat down on the bed opposite hers, almost sitting down on Peeves, who had been slumbering there in his absence.

Frowning, he picked up the little dragon and put him next to Rain on her bed, then sat down again on his own. “How old are you, kid?” he asked, looking at her.

Rain shrugged. “I’m not entirely certain. I think sixteen or seventeen.”

Ereptus gave her a quick nod, removed his tunic and boots and went to bed. Rain finished brushing her hair, blew out the light and went to bed as well.


You can read Part 3 here.

A White Rose (part 1)


The sun’s last beams gave the old city a warm glow, but that didn’t make Ereptus feel any more comfortable. He’d left the city years ago, to never return, but now he’d felt obligated to come back. An old friend had asked him to, and since Ereptus owed him his life, he couldn’t ignore the summon when it had come.

Few people were still outside, so Ereptus could easily walk down the streets and alleys without being seen. He didn’t want to bump into any of the people he’d had time to upset while he lived there. Walking down a back alley he heard some muffled shouts and the sounds of a subdued fight. Against better judgment he turned towards the noise and saw two men who were attacking a young girl. The girl was skinny, but she fought well.

Normally Ereptus would just leave the scene. He’d made a habit of staying out of other people’s business, but something about the girl’s desperate, yet futile, resistance made him step closer. The girl caught sight of him then, in between kicking one of the men in the groin, and grabbing the other’s hair making him scream. Ereptus froze.

The girl must be young, not a day over fifteen, but probably younger still. What caught him most by surprise though were her eyes. They were a pale green, so pale that they seemed more yellow than green. He’d never seen such eyes before and they completely captivated him.

Then the moment of stillness was over; both men had recovered from their current states and were advancing on the girl again. Ereptus then did something he’d never done before. He stepped in to help the girl. With a few swift movements, he had the two men unconscious on the ground. One didn’t spend a whole life living on the streets without acquiring some useful tricks.

The girl was getting up, brushing some dust off her patched trousers. Ereptus gave her a quick look over. She seemed to be all right, so he’d stepped in before the men could do any real harm. She wasn’t as skinny as he’d first thought, even if she was very slender. Her clothes had certainly seen better days. She wore a pair of torn leather boots, a pair of patched trousers and a too large tunic that she’d tied closed at the waist with a dirty rope. Had it not been for her face and long hair, she’d have looked like a young boy. Her skin was fair without even a hint towards a tan, he could see the fairness of the skin even through the dirt that covered most of it.

Her hair was long and tangled in a dark walnut brown. Her face was still young, but already beautiful, too beautiful to be a regular street urchin. No girl of any age with those looks would have made it this long. She had arched eyebrows, a small, straight nose and soft lips. He could see her ears vaguely under her hair, their form telling him that she was an elf. Her eyes were still the most peculiar about her though, he’d never seen anyone with eyes that were almost yellow before.

The girl glared at him. Even though he was used to surveying people in a quick glance, she must have noticed that he was looking at her. Her peculiar eyes had made him look longer than usual.

“Who are you?” the girl finally asked.

“I’m Ereptus. I might ask you the same question.”

“It doesn’t matter who I am,” the girl said dismissively and started to turn away from him to leave. “Thank you for saving me, not that I couldn’t have handled it myself, but I must be on my way.”

She started walking down the alley, stepping over the bodies of the two men who were still lying unconscious on the ground, but Ereptus caught her by the arm and forced her to stop.

“Now, hold there, kid. You don’t just walk out on me.” He glared down at her. “I want a name first. I didn’t just go through the trouble of saving you just to get dismissed.”

The girl glared right back up at him. “I was doing fine!” she proclaimed. “I can very well take care of myself.”

Ereptus didn’t comment on that, but gave her a look that told her he didn’t agree. “Maybe I should just wake those two men up and let them try to rob you again?” he said.

The girl glanced down at the two men and shuddered slightly. “I’d prefer if you didn’t,” she admitted, and then looked back up at him. She seemed somewhat uncomfortable, and Ereptus realised that she was worried he’d want something for saving her. Which shouldn’t have surprised him. That had always been the way on the streets.

“Why did you save me?” then girl suddenly asked warily.

“Damned if I know,” Ereptus muttered to himself.

That moment he heard running steps in the alley behind him and he quickly pulled his dagger and turned around to face whoever was coming. But he didn’t let go of the girl’s arm.

“Rain? Are you all right?” a man was panting.

“I will be when this brute lets go of me,” the girl said with a glare at Ereptus, she seemed to have regained her courage. Ereptus let her go.

He looked at the man who’d just arrived. It was his old friend. A suspicion started to form in the back of Ereptus’ mind, but he sure hoped he was wrong.

“Gaylen?” Ereptus said and his friend started and looked at him, then he smiled when he recognised Ereptus.

“I’ll be damned! Ereptus, mate. I hardly recognised you! Last time I saw you, you were still a gangly brat.” Gaylen grinned as he said this, walked up to Ereptus and slapped him on the back. “It’s good to see you, old friend.”

Ereptus couldn’t say the same. He was still feeling uncomfortable being back in the city where he’d spent most of his life. It hadn’t been a very good life. Gaylen had grown a lot older during the last few years. He had a lot of grey in his dark hair, and his eyes looked tired.

“So… You’ve taken in a new brat?” Ereptus nodded towards the elf girl.

Gaylen looked somewhat uncomfortable. “Um… Yes. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that.” Ereptus sighed. “Let’s go to your house and talk there.”

The older man nodded, took the girl by her hand and started walking down the alley towards his home, which Ereptus knew to lie a block or two away. Ereptus fell in behind them, keeping a little distance. He could see that Gaylen was hissing at the girl, most likely scolding her for being out alone this close to nightfall. The city wasn’t safe for anyone after the dark settled. It was barely safe during the day.

Gaylen had once helped Ereptus. He’d taken him in when he’d been badly injured in a fight and nursed him back to health. Ereptus had stayed with him for a while, helping the old man by stealing him extra food and money. After a while Ereptus had left the city though, he’d gained too many enemies. It seemed that now Gaylen had a new charge in the dirty little girl that was walking next to him, flinching when he said something she didn’t like.

*****

Once they’d reached Gaylen’s house they gathered around a small wooden table. Gaylen put out some water and bread for them to eat.

Ereptus was still casting glances at the girl now and then. For some reason, he couldn’t stop. She had been told to clean up, which had been needed since her face had been all but covered in grime and dirt, and her face was now clean. She reminded him of a white rose standing alone in a withered garden. The city wasn’t for someone like her. She’d tied back her long hair and Ereptus finally saw her ears clearly, which confirmed his suspicion that she was an elf, or at least a half elf. Her eyes had the correct shape for it.

“I found her on the streets some years back,” Gaylen said when he noticed Ereptus’ interest in the girl. “She’d just been abandoned by her father. He’d traveled to our city with her, and then didn’t bother to take her back home.”

The girl seemed to find the subject uncomfortable. She grabbed a loaf of bread and a cup of water and disappeared.

“Why did you take her in?” Ereptus asked.

“Look at her,” the older man said. “She doesn’t belong on the streets. I don’t know where she’s from, but she’s not your regular street urchin.”

Ereptus nodded. He’d thought the same thing himself.

“She knows magic.” The last admission from Gaylen surprised him. Magic was a rare gift, or a curse, depending on who you asked.

“Mind you, she doesn’t know half as much as she once will,” Gaylen said. “She’s untrained, and we’re trying to keep it secret. To keep her safe.”

Ereptus looked at his old friend. “That favour you want from me,” he said slowly. “It’s regarding her, isn’t it?”

The older man nodded. “I want you to bring her to the city of Messina. There are Sorcerer’s there that can teach her to use her powers. Help her control them. It’s a peaceful city. She’d be safe there.”

“You want me to bring her with me?” Ereptus asked, his voice more incredulous than he’d have expected, since he’d suspected this was what Gaylen wanted.

“Yes. She can’t stay her.”

Ereptus started to protest, but Gaylen cut in before he got a word out. “Once you’re there you don’t need to ever see her again. Just make sure she’s taken to the city, let her know where to find the Sorcerers, then you can leave her. I ask you this favour, and then your debt to me is paid.”

With a sigh Ereptus nodded. He couldn’t refuse his friend’s request. He stood up.

“Have her pack and be ready in the morning. I want to leave at dawn.”

Gaylen nodded and Ereptus left the small house. He was going to stay at a nearby inn for the night.

*****

The next morning Ereptus met Gaylen and the girl outside the older man’s house. The girl was arguing, she didn’t want to be sent away. She was ranting and raving and all Ereptus could do was to stand by and watch. He was amazed that Gaylen could hold his temper with the girl. Ereptus would have put her over his knees and given her a good spanking a long time ago.

“Gaylen, I don’t want to go to this Messina place!” the girl whined. “I like it here. With you.”

“You’ll be better off in Messina,” Gaylen said. “This city is no good for a girl like you. You’ve already gotten into a lot of trouble. It’s a miracle you haven’t been killed or sold as a slave by now.”

“I can take care of myself!” the girl said confidently. “You know I can. How else would I have made it this long?”

“You’ve been lucky,” Gaylen said, and cut her off when she was about to say something else. “There is no discussion, Rain. You’re going to Messina, and you’re going to learn to control your magic.”

The girl glared at Ereptus, as if he was the reason she had to leave. She leaned closer to Gaylen to whisper something, but years of training had made Ereptus’ hearing pretty good, and he could still hear her. “I don’t trust him, Gaylen. He worries me.”

Gaylen chuckled and stroked the girl’s hair. “He’s all right. He’s no happier than you are about the arrangement.”

The girl snorted at that.

A short while later the girl took fare well of Gaylen, and Ereptus lifted her up on the horse he’d stolen at the inn that morning. He’d figured a horse would make the trip go faster, and the quicker he reached Messina, the sooner he could get rid of her.

Ereptus took a quick fare well of Gaylen, then sat up in front of the girl and set the horse in motion. They rode in silence for most of the day, Ereptus because he didn’t know what to talk about with a young girl, her because she was still fuming after having had to leave against her will. Also, which Ereptus noticed since she had barely touched him to hold on to the horse, she only held on to a piece of his tunic, she was still distrustful of him. She might trust Gaylen, but she wouldn’t trust Ereptus simply because Gaylen did. Clever girl.

Towards the end of the day she finally spoke. “How long will it take us to reach this place?”

“Maybe a week, maybe longer,” Ereptus said.

After that they were quiet again. When the sun started to set, they stopped right inside the edge of a small forest to set camp for the night.

“This should be one of the few nights we need to sleep outside,” Ereptus told her. “For the rest of the journey we should pass through enough towns and villages to find an inn to stay at.”

The girl nodded, but said nothing. They ate in silence, and Ereptus noticed that she kept putting small pieces of bread inside her tunic.

“What are you doing?” he finally asked her irritably.

The girl looked up at him. “I’m feeding Peeves.”

“Peeves?” Ereptus frowned.

The girl stuck her hand inside her tunic and pulled out a blue-grey little beast.

“A lizard?” Ereptus laughed silently. “You have a pet lizard?”

“It’s a dragon, thank you very much!” the girl snapped, her hand patting the little dragon softly. It was very small, only a little bigger than her hand, and it had wound its tail around one of her fingers.

Ereptus got closer to look at the little beast, and he could see that it was indeed a small dragon rather than a lizard. This trip was only getting more strange. Dragons were incredibly rare, generally considered to be extinct except for a few of the smaller breeds that rarely grew larger than cats in size.

“That’s a peculiar pet,” he said.

“I’m a peculiar girl,” Rain said and put the little dragon back inside her tunic. Then she turned her back at him, lay down and went to sleep.

Ereptus looked at her for a moment, then lay down to get some sleep himself. The more he found out about her, the stranger the situation seemed. Elves were rarely seen in the cities, yet her father had abandoned her in one. She had the gift of magic, which was nearly as rare as the pat dragon she kept in her clothes. Pondering what he’d gotten himself into, Ereptus finally fell asleep.


You can read Part 2 here.

Day of Fare Well


It was a dull and grey day with rain pelting the large windows of the spacious country house. Apart from the smattering of the rain the villa seemed eerily quiet and subdued with not a single light lit. Sara felt cold and slightly uncomfortable where she was standing in the hall with her back towards the living room. Without having looked she knew that her parents would be on opposite sides of the house; they had been for several days now. Rather than seeking each other’s comfort they had secluded themselves in their own misery.

Looking to the tall, blond man at her side Sara made a nod towards one side of the house.

“My mother will be there,” she said quietly. It felt odd to speak when the house was so quiet, as if she was disturbing a sacred realm of silence.

The man who had not left her side the past few days nodded.

“You know what you must do,” he said. “I will leave you now.”

Overwhelmed by a sudden fear of being left alone Sara turned her head sharply and screamed. “No! Don’t leave me! Did you hear me? I said no!”

She tried to grab hold of him but he had already catapulted out of reality, leaving her alone in the chilly hall. For the past few days he had not left her side and it felt as if a part of her had disappeared with him. Rubbing the cold skin on her arm she hesitantly started to walk towards the bedroom where she knew that her mother would be.

In the bedroom her mother was sitting on the bed propped up against the headboard. Her face was devoid of make-up and her hair hadn’t been washed for several days. A half empty box of tissues was lying on the bed next to her, and a photo frame was lying on the floor with its face down, having been dropped as her mother nodded off. Even unwashed and with the obvious streaks from tears on her face one could see that the woman on the bed was attractive. She looked restful in her slumber, but there was no mistaking the sadness in her features.

Sara knelt to pick up the photo frame on the floor. Taking a look at it she found that it was a picture of the family taken last summer when they had visited the Grand Canyon. Her parents looked very happy and very much in love, both holding an arm around Sara who was standing in the middle. Placing the photo frame gently in her mother’s lap Sara leaned forward and kissed her softly on the cheek.

“Everything will be all right,” she promised in a whisper.

Her mother shifted restlessly in her sleep, but as her hand found the photo frame she settled down again. Sara quietly left the room.

Making her way across the house she avoided the living room and went to her father’s study. As she had expected her father was sitting behind his desk with his elbows propped on the surface and his face buried in his hands. A glass and an almost empty bottle of brandy were the only things on the desk, everything else had been shoved off in a fit of temper and was lying scattered on the floor.
Her father had always been a handsome man, but it almost seemed as if his salt and pepper hair had turned more salt than pepper in the past few days. Sara moved silently to her father’s side and touched his shoulder gently, but he didn’t react. Leaning closer Sara whispered in his ear.

“Don’t worry. Everything is fine,” she breathed softly. “Take care of mom, she needs you. And you need her. Don’t forget that.”

As her father stirred slightly Sara moved away, but he didn’t make any sign of having heard her. Then he stood up and ran a hand through his ruffled hair, looking sadly out the door towards the other side of the house. Sara took a few steps further away as he moved around the desk and started walking. Following him silently across the house Sara watched as he stopped for a second to glance into the living room before he continued to the bedroom at the end of the hall. Sara stood quietly by the entrance to the living room and watched as her father tenderly roused her mother from her sleep.
The two adults looked at each other for a moment in silence and then embraced, holding on as if they would never again let go. Sara felt a little warmer, the house was finally coming back to life. Turning to the living room she went inside and continued to the room’s current main feature.

The open mahogany casket was placed in the middle of the room and was flanked by two large flower wreaths. Sara looked at her own pale form lying inside the casket and felt a small stab of pain at having to leave this world. Yet she was grateful that her many months of pain were finally over, and her parents had finally found their way back to each other.

“Are you ready?” The tall man who had stood guard by her bed as her life slipped away had returned to stand by her side before the casket.

Sara nodded and took the man’s offered hand. As he closed his fingers around hers she felt an odd tingling in her body as the world around her began to dissolve for another kind of reality.