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Eden Rose

Ruth Nestvold and the late Jay Lake, both multiple award-winning authors, wrote these tales together. Please check out other tales in their series at Tales of the Rose Knights.
When the Rose Knight Graham Thomas first fell in love with Eden Rose, he knew the two of them would not have an easy time of it. He was a Yellow Rose of the old guard in the service of the Sun, while she was a White Rose, a servant of the Moon, her colors white and the faintest pink blush. The Sun and the Moon had long been at war, but in the way of youth, Eden and Graham knew that their individual fates would be strong enough to overcome history.
The manner of their first meeting was certainly no cause for such hope. Graham Thomas, the Cornsilk Knight, had been injured in a skirmish at Morningfields. When the eerie post-battle silence had settled over the carnage, he had been able to drag himself to a hiding place in a nearby forest. Somehow he managed to tug his saddlebags with him, soaked with the blood of his destrier. Once safely out of sight, Graham bound the gash in his thigh tightly enough to stop the bleeding. This may have lessened the danger of his life seeping away onto the forest floor, but he was still lame and unhorsed in enemy territory.
Graham propped himself up against a tree and took pen and paper out of the saddlebags. With no way at the moment to help himself further, Graham began a letter to his family.
It was thus that Eden, the Pearl Blush Knight, found him. He was leaning against the wide trunk of an oak tree, and his shoulder-length blond hair was caked with blood and dirt. Even without a squire, he had divested himself of his surcoat and chain mail. One trouser leg was ripped almost to his groin, and a makeshift bandage tied around his thigh.
At the sound of the clopping hooves of her mount, he looked up from a sheaf of paper propped against his good knee.
And of all things, he smiled.
Who is to say what led Eden to ignore orders at the sight of him, to pretend she assumed he was an ally, and offer him succor? Who is to say why he did not take the way of an enemy knight and promise her all manner of riches if she would only have mercy and ransom him to his family?
Whatever their reasons, she did not kill him, and he did not bribe her. Instead, she took him up behind her on her horse and brought him to a healer she knew in Riverbend who cleaned and dressed his wound, applying a poultice of birch and willow bark to speed the healing and discourage infection.
When the Cornsilk Knight had been under the protection of Eden Rose for more than two weeks, a delegation from the Armies of the Sun arrived at Botolph's Town at the edge of the Moonwood, bearing a white flag along with a demand for the bodies of the dead from the recent battle of Morningfields.
At the top of their list was Graham Thomas, Prince of Hy Rugosa.
"Is this you?" Eden asked, pacing the small house they had taken together since he had left the care of the healer.
"Yes."
"You never sent your letter."
"No."
She stopped in front of him. "I will have to find a way to get that letter or another to them so they know you are well. The Armies of the Sun threaten to march on Botolph's Town else."
And so the Cornsilk Knight finished his letter and the Pearl Blush Knight took it to the quarters of the party from Hy Rugosa.
While their suit was being addressed by the Moon's ministers, the representatives of the Army of the Sun had taken lodgings in a villa on the outskirts of town, one often rented to visiting dignitaries. It was quite clear they did not trust the hospitality of the Moon's minions.
Nonetheless, as a lone Rose Knight with no armies at her back, Eden was admitted easily enough.
The Yellow Knight she handed the missive to cried out when he saw the handwriting. "From the Prince!"
He tore it open and scanned the lines quickly. When he came to the end, he glanced up at Eden Rose, suspicion distorting his fair features. "How do we know he was not forced to write this? How do we even know he is still alive?"
She lifted her square chin. "You have my word as a Rose Knight."
The Yellow Knight snorted. "What good is the word of a knight in the service of the Moon? Take us to him. We would be assured with our own eyes that this missive tells truth."
And so the Pearl Blush Knight led them away from the Moon's city to the village of Riverbend where she had sheltered Graham Thomas. When she dismounted at a modest cottage, the knights at her back looked at each other. The prince they knew, while merry enough, would never deign to live in such a humble dwelling.
But such she wanted them to believe.
"Your prince is in here," Eden Rose said, pushing open the door.
On his palette at the back of the main room, the Cornsilk Knight caught the words just as he was emerging from an invalid's dream of swords and battle and pain. "Beware, Eden!" he called out, starting up in his bed in a sweat.
His kinsmen and servants, misunderstanding his panicked words, slew the Pearl Blush Knight where she stood.
When Graham Thomas realized the horror that lay before him in the front room of his modest paradise, he ordered his loyal family members to leave.
"She saved my life, and you repay her with death," he said. "From this day forward, I am dead to my family--those who are responsible for this barbaric act and the death of my future and my hope."
"But, Graham, we thought you were warning us against her! It was an honest mistake."
The prince would not answer, only gesturing from the bloody body on the floor to the door.
His kinsmen finally understood, and left the convalescent Cornsilk Knight alone with the corpse of Eden Rose. He tended her as she had tended him, laying out her body, washing and closing her wounds, wrapping her in linen as many yards long as the years of her life, before finally burying her in the garden beneath a wooden post on which he had carved the devices of both the Sun and the Moon.
When Graham Thomas finally rode out from Riverbend, a whole man in body if not in soul, he took his leave astride Eden Rose's horse. His own armor and banners were folded away in the packs on a mule that followed, complaining in the manner of its kind. Her white shield he had strapped to his arm, and her surcoat cut for a device, brown stains of her heartsblood still upon it. The townsfolk whispered that he went to war against his own family, riding to find revenge on his old retainers, but the truth is never so simple.
There were no marble-halled slaughters. Only rumors, from places as far-flung as Chemeketa and the Roaring Desert and the Farmost West, but never of the prince himself. Some claimed he rode with a pretty woman, some claimed he had taken her name, a few said he had even taken her skin for his own. Truth or not, rumor followed the lover of Eden Rose far past his own lonely, tumbled grave.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

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