The Crimson Rose Saga is a series of stories based upon a short-story I wrote for a contest last year about a girl in a medieval styled world. It’s best to read them in order if you haven’t already. I’m currently at the third part, if you’ve missed any of the previous two installments, don’t worry you can read them over here:
It was just past midnight when she heard someone banging on the door outside. Malin wasn’t aware her uncle was expecting any visitors this late at night so she got out of bed to check what was going on. Moonlight shined through the windows, faintly lighting the room. She didn’t want Voclain to know she was awake so she snuck towards the hallway on her socks. Again someone banged on the front door as she heard her uncle muttering: “Yes, yes I’m coming.” It seemed as if it took her uncle years to open that door. In his clumsiness he dropped the keychain several times before he finally found the right key. “Just a minute!” The door finally opened with a squeaky sound after which she could hear a heavy voice: “Magister Voclain I presume?”
“That would be me yes. Who might you be? And what are you doing at my door in the middle of the night?”
“I was sent by the Arca Academy of Syniara. I believe you asked for us?” Syniara was the most prestigious and independent city-state in this part of the world and the capital of all things magic-related. What would he be looking for in this small village?
“My apologies, good sir! I was expecting they’d send young magister Darcassan.”
“Magister Darcassan was working on a case in Argios so they sent me.”
“I guess it doesn’t matter. A friend of Arca Academy is a friend of mine. Besides it was only yesterday that I sent out the message. You got here real quickly!” Malin wondered why Voclain hadn’t told her about whatever they were talking about.
“Well, I was in the neighbourhood…” He said.
“Yes, yes, of course… please do come in, Magister …. What did you say your name was again?”
“Sorry, I forgot to properly introduce myself, I’m magister Akeem.”
“Very well, magister Akeem, come in and make yourself at home.” Malin leaned forward to take a better look at the nightly visitor. A hooded man in a robe walked in. As he pulled down his hood a dark tattooed face appeared from underneath it with thick black dreadlocks in his hair.
“Do you want something to drink? You must be thirsty coming from so far.” Voclain asked, unawarely referring to his dark skin colour.
“It is very kind of you Magister, but there is little time. I suggest we get to business right away.”
Voclain still seemed a little confused as he obviously did not expect the stranger at this time. He said: “Of course, as you wish, why don’t you follow me to the library.” And off they went.
Malin had a weird feeling about this. Who was this man and why did he come here in the middle of the night? He didn’t look like any of the Syniaran magisters from the books who were always properly attired in blue Syniaran robes with golden embroidments. She had to remind herself that she was needlessly being paranoid again and that they probably only wore those garments for ceremonies. Ever since the attack a couple of weeks ago she’d had troubles sleeping, with various paranoia and panic attacks as result.
“I’d better get back to bed and tomorrow Voclain will tell me all about it” she told herself. And so she did. But she kept the door ajar so she could still hear their voices below. When she finally closed her eyes and the voices almost faded away, she got interrupted by a loud but dull thud. There were no more voices coming from below, just utter and complete silence. She slowly got out of bed to check what had happened, she had a feeling something went wrong. Suddenly she could hear footsteps again from below but it were not the usual soft-footed thuds on the wooden floor, but the harder sounds of leather boots on wood. The next thing she heard was the chaotic noise of various objects falling on the floor. As if someone was searching Voclain’s library. And it wasn’t her uncle since he always went through his library with the utmost care and respect for his books.
Without realizing what she was doing she was already outside her window holding to the strong vines of ivy against the wall. Between her teeth she held the crimson rose of which she had grown very fond of. Just moments later she heard someone coming up the stairs. She leaned closer to the wall and tried to hide in the ivy, which proved to be a daunting task because of the various thorns sticking into her side – Voclain had asked her to clip them but she deemed that unnecessary. A thorn had ripped part of her nightgown which gave her no longer any protection against the cold wind or any of the other thorns.
The cold and the stinging pain was quickly forgotten when she heard the creaking sound of her bedroom’s door. Someone slowly walked into her room and she knew it wasn’t her uncle, since he allways knocked on the door. After a few minutes of rumbling noises coming from inside she heard someone cursing. Soon after Akeem put his head through the window and looked down. Malin held her breath so he wouldn’t notice her to the right. She was sure he noticed the ripped pieces of her nightgown under her window though. He cursed again and hurried back inside. When she heard him go back down the stairs she climbed up further onto the Girani roof where she thought to find a way to the neighbours’ roof.
The Girani garden roof had never looked this foreign to Malin before. She barely recognized the thick old buksbaum shrub in the darkness. While otherwise the roofgarden gave her a feeling of safety, this time she didn’t feel safe at all. She felt as if the plants and trees were drearily looking down upon her from all the dark corners of the roof. Cautiously she snuck over to the other side of the roof to take a look at the neighbour’s house. Before she got even halfway, a hand forcefully covered her mouth and dragged her backwards into the looming shadows. The rose fell on the ground when she tried to break loose from her attacker’s grip. She kept struggling, biting and kicking, but he only tightened his grip. He hadn’t made any sound until he forced her to face him and made a hushing gesture. In contrary to what she first thought it was not Akeem that had grabbed her but a young man she’d never seen before.
The roof hatch right in front of them suddenly creaked open and Akeem crawled out of it, seemingly unaware of their presence. Two strangers on her uncle’s rooftop, and she wasn’t eager to trust any of them. For now, she had little choice, she nodded at the stranger to show she understood and ceased resisting him. In return he released his grasp.
Akeem drew his sword and peered through the darkness almost as if he knew she was hiding.
“Come out little girl, I know you’re out here. Don’t make me go out there and catch you.” She could see his white teeth gleaming in the faint moonlight. “Listen, there are two options. Either you come out and walk with me peacefully and no harm will come to you. Or you can continue your foolish game and keep hiding. If I have to come out and find you however, you will not like it.” Malin looked at the other stranger next to her and he shook his head. Akeem sniffed the air, almost like an animal nd continued his . “I can smell your perfume from miles away, little girl, there’s nowhere to run to.” He slowly walked straight into their direction and Malin could feel her heart beating in her throat. When it was clear that there was no way out of this, the stranger next to her stepped out of the shadows. She could only now see who or what he was. The emblem of Syniara was stitched to his sleeve at shoulder-height and he had a small rapier in his right hand, ready to face Akeem.
“The girl does not belong to you.” He said. Akeem smiled and mocked him: “And you are going to stop me? Have you told your mother you left the house?” He laughed.
“Very funny, old man. We’ll see how you’ll like the end of my rapier.”
“Easy, there’s no need to fight. Just hand me the girl and I’ll let you walk away unharmed. There’s no quarrel between us.” Akeem said.
“You know I can’t do that. I have sworn an oath.”
Akeem laughed again. “So did I, a long time ago. A worthless oath, I must warn you. All of them magisters are corrupt. They care only for their own wealth. Look at you. Putting yourself in danger for them every day again and again… And what do you get in return? Nothing.” He approached slowly but more cautiously. “Put down your weapon. You’re still young, don’t waste your life on this.”
“We’ll see how you handle three of us.” The young magister grinned, took something out of his pocket and threw it in Akeem’s direction. Before Malin realized what was happening she could now see three armed magisters around Akeem. He did not look impressed. They disappeared as quickly as they had appeared when Akeem spoke a few words in an unknown language. “Illusionist tricks don’t scare me.” He added. Malin had never heard anything that sounded so dark, ancient and powerful before. Her new companion seemed equally impressed when he saw his phantoms disappear just like that. He held up his rapier, ready to face him one-on-one.
“Do that again and It won’t be your phantoms that disappear first!” Akeem threatened him now, obviously more angry than before. The young magister didn’t give him any chance to recuperate because he charged Akeem right after, this time with some success. Akeem managed to parry the first few strokes but the fourth and last stroke drew some blood. There was a cut in Akeem’s hand, but not deep enough to cause any harm. He immediately struck back with a few vicious slashes, also parried by the younger magister who had to take a few steps back. Akeem seemed to grow stronger with every slash he made. He just kept on hacking and slashing until the younger magister finally fell on the floor, hopelessly overpowered. His rapier out of his grasp there was nothing left he could do to defend himself against Akeem that was now standing over him with a drawn sword. Akeem put the sword under his chin when he asked with a grin: “Any last wishes?”
A massive reverberant sound and a cry from Akeem followed as he dropped to the floor. Malin had found a shovel to hit him in the back of the head.
“Come on, we have to go!” she said as she pulled the younger magister up, picked up the crimson rose and descended down the hatch to the stairs.
When they got down, Voclain was stumbling in the entry hall with his staff in his hands. “Darcassan!” He yelled when he saw the young magister. “Thank the gods you’re here! Take Malin with you, bring her somewhere safe!”
Malin didn’t want to leave without her uncle. “Uncle, come with us! He’ll never find us!”
“I can handle this, Malin.” He gave her his pendant and one last hug. “Take care Malin. Do not give them the rose… I’ll hold him off! Be safe!” Then he pulled himself away. Darcassan had to hold her back while she was screaming for her uncle. The last thing she saw before they left the house was a ball of fire at the tip of her uncle’s staff. Outside there were two city guards lying dead on the floor next to Akeem’s black stallion. They ran towards the city stables where they both mounted their horses and fled the city as fast as they could.
Hours later they could see Voclain’s house burning in the distance. Malin looked at Darcassan and he just said : “We have to keep moving.”