By T.K. Wilson
Word Count: 15261
Rating: PG for depictions of PTSD panic attacks and violence
Summary: When Lady Goewyn of House Meridian meets the long missing treeman of roses, Lord Rhodon of the Western March, her eyes are opened to a new world of danger, magic, and healing.
Chapter 4: The Roses Red and White.
“Well,” began Ablach. “Rhodon and I had been friends of Solana’s from her youth, when she was still Solana of the Sun People; but she loved him best, she adored flowers. In return for her kindness, Rhodon would call her his Sun Sprite and named the Solana Rose in her honor. It was Solana’s father, Lord Freyr, who gave Rhodon his famous rapier and a magic shield as a gift for looking after Solana. Upon Solana’s marriage to Orpheus of the Moon People, they formed the new House Meridian, and we both pledged to be the protectors the new House; as the Dark Man had declared war on it the instant it was formed.”
Noticing Goewyn’s puzzled expression, Ablach changed the course of his story.
“You know all this of course, but now, I’ll tell you about Akasma. Akasma was driven here when the Dark Man attacked Shangri-La, and forced her from her home. She was originally from the Marrakesh area, but was living as the gardener at the city of Momotaro, under Lord Shingen.”
“The father of Lady Shingen Aoyagi?” asked Goewyn.
“The same. When the Dark Man took Momotaro, Lord Shingen released Akasma and told her to flee. After the defeat of the Dark Man at Momotaro by the Battle Sisters of Shangri-La, he turned his sights against Meridian. Akasma was still running for her life at this time, and what’s more was sick from the cold, damp weather the Dark Man had caused. One night, she was overtaken near the Western March. Long story short, she ended up at Rhodon’s doorstep.”
Goewyn nodded, imagining that long ago time, when Avalon was shadow haunted and dangerous to man and elf.
“Rhodon nursed her back to health over that winter, staying at Keep Meridian all winter long. By the spring, there was nothing to be done, they were in love. My kinsman is…” Ablach struggled for the right word. “Mercurial, his temperament is very driven by his emotions. When he loves, he loves with all his heart.”
“We all embody some aspect of what our plants have come to mean to man and elves,” explained Maia “So like my husband represents renewal and joy, and I represent protection and hope, Rhodon’s attributes include loyalty and passion. Akasma embodied peace and innocence.”
“Very true, Maia. Akasma and Rhodon each made up for what the other lacked. Where Akasma was timid, Rhodon was brave, where Rhodon let anger control him, Akasma was peaceful. They were happy, and they were very much in love. Everyone was delighted by this.”
“Akasma used to tease and scold him for being so attentive to her. It was really quite funny.” interjected Maia.
“Akasma and Solana and Orpheus, and of course yours truly were Rhodon’s whole world. If anyone threatened his beloved or his friends, there would be a price to pay for the fool who tried.” Ablach paused, knowing what part of the story was next.
“Unfortunately, that fool was the Dark Man himself.” said Goewyn.
“The Dark Man had wanted to take Solana away with him to Caer Melkor for a long time, as little piece of sunshine he could control, but we dryads stood in his way. He wasn’t going to take another innocent elvish wife from her husband, not if we had anything to say on the matter. He hated Rhodon, Maia and I, but once Akasma, a reminder of his defeat at Shangri-La married Rhodon, he hated the two of them even more than either separately, or even Maia and I. The power of their love, ridiculous as it sounds, was like poison to him.”
“Love and Light are things he couldn’t understand or control, of course he hated what he couldn’t have.”
Ablach and Maia nodded.
“One strike from their rose vines was death to shadow magic. The scent of roses alone repelled the Dark Man and his ilk, not as well as my apples or Maia’s hawthorns, but well enough to keep him well away. But we got careless. We all got careless.”
Ablach swallowed hard, this memory hurt him still.
“The Dark Man couldn’t attack me, so I was trying to help at House Meridian. The Western March was all on fire, the direction the Dark Man was coming, not as well defended. Reinforcements where coming from the Capitol from the East. I was watching on the wall top waiting for Rhodon and Akasma to come where it was safe, the Keep couldn’t be breached by fire. I saw them running across the plain, it was longer at that point, the Dark Man on their heels.”
“Akasma slipped and fell and just as Rhodon was about to pick her up, she raised her arms and pushed Rhodon away with her vines. Rhodon was fighting and protesting, but she was too strong. She pushed him right to the gates and Orpheus and I pulled him inside. She was so brave! All her power was leveled at the Dark Man and served to push him away long enough for the last of the men at arms to get inside. While I was down in the courtyard, the Dark Man killed Akasma. I’m thankful I never saw it, only the fire advancing over where she had been, but Rhodon’s scream when he saw…” Ablach covered his eyes with one hand for a moment, as if to block out the horror of that memory. “I’ll never get it from my mind. He was almost mad with grief.”
Maia dried her eyes on a handkerchief, then passed it to Ablach.
“I had to sedate him. Orpheus and Solana were both quite overcome, as well. We can only thank heaven that Aelwen was too little to remember.” said Maia.
“Rhodon wouldn’t speak for some time,” continued Ablach. “He refused to eat, couldn’t sleep, all he did was weep. After the ashes cooled, he went out to find something, anything, of his wife’s. He found her necklace pendant, and even that was melted. He had it fixed so he could wear it in her memory.”
“Solana had been keeping their court clothes at the Keep, so Akasma’s dress and veil were buried in her place in the area where Rhodon had chosen for his new garden. Solana kept her crown as a treasure of the House in her memory. But the funeral was very quick. There was no time to grieve.” explained Maia, shaking her head.
“Only a few hours later, Orpheus met with Finvarra the Second and the Mages and went to battle the Dark Man at his castle. Rhodon accompanied the war band, against my suggestion, and attacked the castle roaring “Akasma! Remember her name, Fear Dubh! Remember what you took from this world!” During that battle, the Dark Man tried to kill Finvarra, but Rhodon shielded the king and took his chance to get to the Dark Man.”
Maia passed Goewyn the handkerchief, Goewyn wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
“The shadows were no match for all of us together. Rhodon, with Finvarra right behind, pushed his way to the castle Caer Melkor itself and started tearing to bits with his vines. He was unable to bring the castle down, but it was an insult to the Dark Man. The Dark Man attacked him, and Rhodon fought back. With all his power, the Dark Man could not bring Rhodon to his knees, even using fire wouldn’t bring him down.”
“He had his magic shield!” exclaimed Goewyn, knowing the story.
“Yes! There was nothing the Dark Man could do against him but take a beating. To his dying day, the Dark Man carried the scars from his battle with Rhodon, cleverly disguised, of course, nothing could be seen to mar his perfection. Between Rhodon’s swordsmanship and thorns, the Dark Man was a fright by the time Rhodon brought him down, his clothes in shreds, his once perfect face disfigured by cuts. The Dark Man snarled “How? How could you defeat me?” “This is Love’s power, Dark Man,” Rhodon told him, so Finvarra told me “And you will never prevail against it.””
“After that the Mages placed a seal over the place that you now know as the Iron Forest to try to keep the Wizards contained, and as for Rhodon, he went to live in his garden, unable to face a world without his beloved and someday his friends. He trained Aelwen, of course, but after that, he hid away. He never moved from the West though, he was faithful to his promise.”
The three sat silent for a time, Goewyn contemplating the tragic, but triumphant story she had just been told.
“What Rhodon needs is healing.” said Goewyn.
“Yes, and if he allowed you into his life, you are the one to bring it to him.” agreed Maia.
“I only hope I can help him.”
Goewyn began walking back to the castle her head bowed soberly, thinking about what she could do to bring Rhodon back to the living world. Ablach and Maia watched her leave from the edge of their orchard.
“She reminds me of Soli. Is that strange?” asked Maia.
“No. Perhaps that’s what Rhodon sees, too.”