Seeing Harriet once more in her grey robe, I knew she had bad news.
As Elessa, Ronan, Demoss, and Parts Inspector called their greetings, I saw they hadn't noticed the sadness in her eyes.
Vixen Sonoma, Cathy Earnshaw and I waved while Toto, Cosumus, and Meili added their greetings.
Harriet nodded at us. "Hello, I am glad you all are here. I have some dreadful news.
"Oh No" Elessa gasped.
The whispering began, what could be the terrible news. Had the King been affected by the orc love poison? Was Britain under attack again.
Frowning I remembered how tired Harriet had looked last time, could her bad news be that she had become ill working on the cure.
Harriet waited until the room quieted.
I glanced over at Vixen Sonoma. Her look was one of waiting for the shoe to drop.
Harriet sighed, "And sadly we have lost Anne. She passed away quietly."
Elessa shook her head "Oh, Dear."
"NO!" Cathy Earnshaw growled.
"That is terrible news. When is her funeral?" I asked.
"Anyone wishing to donate flowers may do so. Leave them in my mailbox." Harriet told us.
Elessa looked at me "Certainly will."
I nodded, "I'll be sure to have the gardeners get started gathering flowers." Others also pledged to provide flowers. Anne would not be forgotten.
Harriet motioned for quiet. "The King has ordered around the clock guards at Rose's rose bushes."
"Keep an eye out for the rose. We are going to need petals for the antidote," Harriet informed us. "
Cathy Earnshaw nodded. "Understood."
"Ok." Elessa agreed.
"Has there been any sign of trouble there yet?" I asked.
"Tamais, we have not heard from our guard today. We certainly should investigate why." Harriet replied. "But also I want you all to visit the area and Rose during the week."
"We can do that. " I told her. She won't be alone.
"Right." Elessa agreed.
"It is disturbing. The effects of the potion at first just makes you feel wonderful...just like you are in love." Harriet explained. "But sadly that does not last long. Just long enough to make others want to try it."
"Oh dear," Elessa moaned. "How hard."
"Oh, my," Cathy Earnshaw echoed in agreement.
"And we will get our just revenge," Harriet vowed fiercely.
The room erupted in cheers. "Aye, we will!"
"I am planning a raid," Harriet explained. "We just need to find this prince...if he is even a prince. I have my doubts."
"When?" Vixen Sonoma asked eager to go.
"Is he a frog?" Trinidaddy joked.
"He is an orc," Harriet assured us scowling at him.
"Close enough," Trinidaddy muttered.
"And that my friends is enough for me!" Harriet declared. "Come now I will open one of my gates for you all."
Cathy Earnshaw stood "Aye." and followed Harriet.
Arriving outside of we gathered closed. "This way everyone. Please stick together"
We quickly arrived at the garden. While we saw the Royal guard, Rose was nowhere to be found. Harriet hurried over to the guard.
"Back up please," Harriet told the people who were gathered around the guard. "I need to question the guard. You were sent to guard Rose?"
The Guard seemed relieved to see us. "Yes, we need her expertise to obtain the first rose bloom."
"Hmm, where is Rose?" Harriet asked.
"By order of the Kind, I have stood guard." The Royal Guardswoman replied. "But I couldn't fight them."
"Them? them who?" Harriet questioned.
"The Jade Orcs!" the Guardswoman exclaimed, "There were just too many!"
"Oh my goodness," Harriet said dismayed. "How many were there?"
"A hundred?!!" Harriet cried "Oh dear so the whole clan came out. They must know we are waiting."
I heard Cathy Earnshaw grind her teeth in anger.
Vixen Sonoma was studying the area looking for tracks.
"I fought the ones I could. They only seemed interested in Rose though." The guard explained.
Harriet frowned. "Where is Rose?"
"A larger one was called Ugah and he seemed to be in charge." the guardswoman told us.
"Who is in charge? Ugah?" Harriet asked.
The guard nodded. "Yes, they followed him and I heard the name spoken."
"Spoken...in English?" Harriet questioned. "So an orc named Ugah took her?"
The Royal Guard nodded.
"And he took her?" Harriet said.
"Which direction did they go? Vixen Sonoma asked, "There tracks all over around here."
"I followed them a good pace to the north around the mountain pass. "The guard answered.
"Ok, I need to know the mountain pass," Harriet ordered. "Take us there."
The guard protested. "Yes...but I am under strict orders to protect the rose bushes. the guard protested. "I was told under no circumstances should I leave my post."
Yes, yes you are to protect the rose bushes at all costs." Harriet told her. "Protect the bushes, we will seek out these orcs."
I studied the guard. Something didn't add up. Why was she so insistent about staying with the rose bushes. She had just told us she had followed them.
"Stay your post it is not your fault," Harriet reassured the guard
"I must protect the roses so we may get the cure." The Royal Guardswoman insisted.
"We will have the cure.I will find rose and we will get the petals from the first bloom. Do not doubt that" Harriet told her. "How far did you follow?"
"There is a cave up here." Vixen Sonoma advised Harriet.
Harriet nodded. " Okay, let's look to the north..see what we can find. It is our main goal now."
Following Vixen Sonoma, Parts Inspector arrived before the rest of us. "A Cave!" he shouted.
Harriet looked around, "This cave entrance is new."
"Strange," Princess commented.
"That doesn't look like a natural cave." Lesser Deamon added.
"No, it doesn't. " I agreed.
"Maybe it's only 1 way?" Parts Inspector said.
"Maybe the orcish engineers made it. suggested Lesser Deamon.
"Ugah," Demoss grunted.
"Let the rabbit go first!" Vixen Sonoma laughing.
I glared at him. Well as much as I could in rabbit form.
"Let me try to go in." Harriet walked up to the gate.
We found ourselves in a narrow valley. It was an ambush! Jade Orc Followers rushed out from behind the rocks joined by regular orcs.
Moving out into the desert the followers were joined by Jade Orc Clan soldiers and executioners.
I decided to look around and find where they were coming from. Seeing one Jade soldier come out of the valley. I snuck in. The gate was gone. Parts Inspector had been correct. It was one way.
While I studied the rock face. Rose suddenly appeared then disappeared.
"H...Help? Rose's voice seemed to come from inside the mountain.
Ronan had joined me. "Where are you?"
"I...I am not sure where I am," she answered, her voice seemed closer. "Its working keep slaying them.
Encouraged Ronan and I returned to the battle. Though Jade Orc Captains were shouting orders, the battle was going our way.
Suddenly I found myself covered in flaming goo...Jade Orc Clan Alchemist had joined the battle.
Elessa joined me at the healer. "They were coming from around here," I explained. "I also saw Rose for just a second. Noticing Elessa starting at the cliff, I stopped. Turning around I saw Rose.
"I am here everyone!" Rose called to us. "But I am stuck behind these trees!"
"Careful!" Ronan called to us, "It might be a trap."
"Please help me down. I am stuck behind these trees!" she pleaded. "The Orc put me here. I cannot pass over the cactus "
"Right now the safest spot for you. " I called still I began searching orc bodies for an ax. Finding one I began chopping the trees.
Seeing that I wasn't having much luck, Rose called the others."
We need more help. Everyone chop the cactus."
"Ooo, " Skeptamystic began looking for a machete. Finding one joined me chopping down the cactus.
With everyone helping, cactus pads began flying and soon we had cleared a path for Rose.
I smiled at her. "But we still need to get you back."
Rose nodded, "Oh my please I need an escort to my garden. I need to return to the rose bushes."
"This way," I told her and we escorted her safely back to the garden.
"Oh, my flowers!" Rose clapped her hands in joy.
Happy to be home, she began to inspect her flowers. "Please return and visiting me while the flowers bloom."
"Will they bloom soon?" I asked. "We really need the cure."
"Yes, we have many sick people," Elessa added.
"I expect the first bloom within the week's end." Rose looked another bush. "Please return to me and I will save the bloom for you to return to the King. I want to help save the people."
"We will," I assured her looking around. "Will you be safe until then?
Rose shuddered. "Come back often, I fear that isn't the last we will see the orcs.
Parts Inspector nodded. "I don't believe we killed their leader.
"We will visit often to keep an eye out to make sure the orcs don't come back," I told her.
"Yes," Elessa agreed. We will keep an eye out.
"I am afraid they may try to destroy my rose bushes," Rose said. "I will send a request for more guards. Perhaps if they can be spared they can help."
"We will let Harriet and the King know," I replied. "I can send some of my city guards if needed."
"Indeed, Moonglow will assist," Elessa added.
"The bloom should come within a weeks time." Rose gave a tired sigh. "I just want to rest now. Walking over to her chair, she sat down and waved good-bye.
I hurried back to Yew to get a new outfit. No way could I present myself to the King in my dirty burned tunic. After washing up, I sat down for what I thought would be a minute.
Soon I was dreaming of a giant Jade orc chasing me down the halls of Castle Blackthorn. "Shouting the Throne is mine. Long live the Jade Orc King!"
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A Rose To Save The Kingdom
Breathlessly I woke from the nightmare. More than ever I needed to talk to Harriet and the King. Rose was the only hope for saving the kingdom....