The Black Rose
The window slid open and a dark form climbed over the ledge. Silently the figure knelt by Briar's bed and the faintest of sighs emerged from his lips. That was enough for Dragon. Soundlessly the warrior arose from his bed and grabbed the figure by the scruff of the neck. Just as quietly the scarred man dragged his victim into the hall and held him up against the wall. "Sebastian, what in the name of Seven Mad Gods do you think you are doing?"
"I'm visiting her." Sebastian muttered in strangled tones from his position of being held several inches over Dragon's head.
"Why don't you visit when she's awake?" Dragon hissed. "Or in public, now that would be even better."
"Because I can't be completely sure that she's safe yet." Sebastian hissed. "I took her out in public once this week, but I don't want to be too particular with my attentions until I'm sure she's safe from any enemy I have."
"Sebastian, you are your own worst enemy." Dragon pulled the younger man down and glared at him. "Don't you understand that if you make it clear that she's important enough to you to protect that no one will dare to touch her?" He let go of the prince with a gesture of annoyance. "Or is this all just an elaborate charade? Now go in there and wake her up and give her a kiss goodnight so that at least she understands that you still care about her."
"I can't." Sebastian said in a low voice.
"Why NOT?" Dragon bit the words off.
"Dragon, she's lying in bed with only a shift and a quilt covering her. She's sleepy and tousled and quite frankly, she looks so beautiful and sensual, I can't touch her for fear of losing control." Sebastian hissed back at him. "I love her, the last thing I want to do is hurt her, and I'm sorry that my absence gives her pain. But if I spoke with her now, I would kiss her, I'd want to touch her, and I could make her want me Dragon. And that isn't what she needs right now."
Dragon sighed. "All right, I can see your point." He pushed a hand through his hair. "And believe it or not I can sympathize."
"Because you're in love with my sister?" Sebastian asked astutely. "Is that why you lie awake at night and hear me entering?"
Dragon turned and glared at Sebastian. "What I feel for your sister is nothing that should concern you or your family."
"The fact that you feel anything for her gives me concern for you Dragon, not for her or my family." Sebastian said quietly. "I have a great deal of liking and respect for you."
"That's appreciated Sebastian." Dragon growled. "But since my emotions regarding your sister tend along the lines of murderous rage I think you can cease worrying."
"Murderous rage?" Sebastian repeated musingly. "Sounds like the typical reaction of someone Lorelei's gotten close to. Selena smile on you." He turned and melted into the shadows. If Dragon hadn't seen him go he would have thought the prince had disappeared.
Briar put her quill to the parchment with trembling hands. And she couldn't write. She'd seen Sebastian once in the past week and he'd spoken so little simply holding her hand and gazing at her. He'd told her that he was very proud of her, that it was an honor to know her. And he'd left her at the door to her room with no more than kiss across her knuckles. And he'd simply whispered that he was sorry.
Dragon's hand on her shoulder jerked her from her thoughts. "Briar, did you know he sneaks into this room each night to watch you sleeping?" The warrior asked. "Did you know that he doesn't trust himself to touch you too much because he's afraid he will lose control and try to seduce you?"
"Why doesn't he tell me these things?" Briar looked up at her brother.
Dragon sat down across from her and gently took the quill from her hands. "Briar, when a man is in love, all he wants to do is protect the woman he loves from all the harsh aspects of life. And one of those aspects from an innocent girls perception, is the desire a man has for a woman. It is a heavy burden to know how much you are desired when you aren't ready to be a recipient of that desire. Sebastian is, I believe, trying to keep that burden from you, but in doing so he doesn't trust himself to be alone with you."
"Why didn't he tell me?" Briar asked.
"He told you something of it once, didn't he?" Dragon asked. "And he shocked you?"
Briar nodded. "He said he was sorry, that he wouldn't ever do something that I didn't want."
Dragon smiled. "Briar, when a man is as experienced with women as Sebastian is rumored to be, he tends to learn ways that women like to be touched. He learns how to seduce them. And something tells me that Sebastian is fairly expert." Dragon gently stroked his knuckles over Briar's cheek. "He knows that if he wanted you, that he could seduce you Briar, but he doesn't want to do anything you are not ready for. He loves you. But he doesn't trust himself. And quite frankly now that I know his reasons I have nothing but respect for the man. He cares more for you than for his own needs."
Briar looked at Dragon shrewdly. "I think I understand." She said slowly. "That is why you stay away from his sister Lorelei too isn't it?" She asked. "I saw how you looked at her. You're in love with her Dragon, and you think you're not good for her, so you stay away."
"Gods!" Dragon swore. "Am I that bloody transparent?"
"Only to the people who care about you." Briar smiled. "I won't mention it again since it bothers you. I only wish I could help."
Dragon kissed her cheek. "Thank you heart sister. Now write your letter." He strode from the room.
"My dearest Sebastian,
I know that this past week has not been easy for either of us. I understand that you are most certainly still concerned about a potential enemy at court and that this is why you have stayed away from me.
I also am aware that I have not made this any easier on you. I haven't made my feelings clear, nor truly given you any encouragement.
I'm sorry, I can only site cowardice as my reason, though it is no excuse.
Please come to the Rose Theatre tomorrow night. I promise that once the performance is done, my feelings will be more than clear to you.
Thank you Sebastian, from the depths of my heart.
The proprietor of the Rose Theatre was thrilled. The house was packed, all of the ambassadors from various nations had chosen to attend, everyone who was anyone had chosen to attend. Best of all, the entire royal family was seated in their box. Not only that, but the queen's father, a member of the elven nobility, had condescended to join them bringing with him his wife and his son.
He had arranged for a small orchestra to play and lull the audience into a receptive mood until The Black Rose was ready to perform.
She had arrived and was preparing herself for the performance with all the professionalism of one who had been treading the boards for years. And his one fear, that his sole performer of the evening would develop a crippling case of stage fright, showed thus far, no signs of becoming reality.
It was time.
The proprietor was thrilled. Things couldn't be going better. The Black Rose was the quintessence of a bard. She gave quiet introductions to her music, which made the audience feel personally involved. She spoke to her audience as if they were personal friends. Her music was a delightful blend of the lively and the solemn. She was exquisite in looks, manner and talent.
Even the gown she had chosen to wear was perfect. Dramatic in its lines it alternately flowed and clung to her figure and the color. Well the color was that of a rose, a deep crimson rose. Around her neck hung the pendent she was never without and matching earrings hung from her ears. Her hair had been drawn back from her face and flowed down her back from the crown of her head.
The proprietor was quite convinced that purely for professional and monetary reasons he was in love.
And then it was almost over. Her last song was to be introduced.
"My friends," Briar's sweet pure voice soared out over the audience again. "This is to be the last song of the night." A roar of disappointment erupted from the crowd and Briar smiled sympathetically. "I know what you mean, it's such a magical night, I don't know if I want it to end either." A chorus of agreement sounded from the audience. "Unfortunately, my throat reminds me that I am mortal, and I am constrained by mortal limits. So the evening, like all good things, must end." A grumble of disappointment rose and then subsided.
Briar walked towards the end of the stage, opposite of the royal families box so she could look up at Sebastian and still appear to be looking out over the audience. "This song is not an original my friends. I only wish I could claim it as my own. But it means a great deal to me, named as I am so closely to its title, and it being twin to the name of this great theatre." She paused and ran her fingers over her harp testing its sweetness. "And unlike all of the other songs of the evening, I would like to dedicate this one. This is for someone who is very special to me. I hope he understands how important he is to me, and how vital he is to my life. This is for someone who finally made me believe that such a thing as love exists. Who finally made me see that it blooms in my own heart and no matter the season or circumstance it will never die." She took a deep breath. "Ladies and gentlemen, this last song, is for the man I love with all my heart. It is 'The Rose'."
Her eyes stared up at Sebastian's and her voice soared over the crowd as if she hoped it could touch him. "Some say love…"
The music ended, her voice throbbed on the last note and drifted away and she lifted her hand from the harp in a gesture of exquisite longing and love. And with a shimmer of moonlight and dust, The Black Rose disappeared from the stage.
Briar stood in the shadows and watched as the audience finally left the theatre. Sebastian and his family were still in their box and if they didn't leave soon she would become visible again while they were here. Even as she thought of that possibility, she saw that she was again casting a shadow.
As she looked up again she saw Sebastian, his mother, and the three elves looking straight at her. Sebastian smiled and his expression was so joyous that Briar felt her heart break a bit. The prince didn't have the patience to find the stairs and the hall that led backstage. He swung over the edge of the box and grabbed the thick curtain at the edge of the stage. Sliding down it, he hurried over the boards and rushed up to her.
His gaze was intent but his hands were gentle as he drew the hood of her cloak off of her head and his fingers stroked the delicate skin of her cheek. "I love you Rosaleen Dhu." He murmured.
"I love you Sebastian. My prince of shadows." She whispered in return. With delicious helplessness she watched his mouth lower to hers until her eyelashes fanned over her cheeks and his lips gently pressed to her own.
Sabine turned with a grin to her husband. "Somehow I think we can leave without Sebastian. He's going to be a while."
Amon looked at her and touched her cheek gently. "I remember how he feels." Tugging her hand he pulled her tenderly into his arms. "I remember quite well."
Briar awoke the next day to a knock on her door and sat up in surprise. Sebastian had left her at her door the night before with an impassioned kiss.
Their night had been spent looking over the falls and talking. Her prince had been somewhat dismayed to learn that simply because Briar admitted she loved him, did not mean she was ready to surrender her body to him, or as he had put it hotly, 'welcome me into your bed'.
In the end, he had understood her reasoning, but he had extracted a promise from her that he not be banned from touching her completely. He made quite clear that he had every intention of trying to seduce her into his bed, but he also had been very firm in that he wanted her willing. His words came back to her and she smiled.
"I know you feel you aren't ready Briar, and that you're afraid, and I actually do understand that. I simply want to be able to touch you, to help you become accustomed to the feeling of my touch. I want to seduce you my Briar Rose, but not against your will. Seduce is such a strong word. I want to persuade you into wishing to be in my bed." He had smiled down at her and brushed his mouth over hers and then his lips over her forehead. "I want you quite badly, but if I seduce you, awaken you, and you don't feel you are ready, if you don't want it as much, then you'll regret our loving afterward and I couldn't bear that."
"I'm sorry Sebastian. I just never thought beyond letting you into my heart." Briar had looked at him with tears in her eyes. "I didn't know how afraid I was until you asked me to come home with you for the night. I will try not to be so afraid."
"Oh Briar." Sebastian cursed himself. "It isn't your fault. Believe it or not, no matter how frustrated I sound right now." He chuckled. "And I admit I sound very frustrated because I am. I understand. Being with you has no meaning if it isn't something you want as much as I do." He wiped away her tears. "I am just so honored that you love me, much as I insisted all along that you did, I had begun to believe that you would never admit it."
"I do." She wrapped her arms around him and burrowed into his embrace. "I do love you Sebastian."
"Then that is enough." Sebastian hugged her fiercely. "And no one had ever try to hurt you again my Briar Rose, or I swear I will give new meaning to the term 'Blood Oath'." He swore grimly.
Briar had looked up at him and smiled so sweetly that Sebastian had groaned and kissed her as if he wanted to devour her. Then panting he had pulled away and said that he had better see her home.
Briar pulled the quilt up to her chin and watched as Dragon answered the door. Sebastian had said before he left that he would send her an invitation to the court this evening and that he would arrive to escort her there in plenty of time.
Dragon eyed the creamy thick envelope and gold seal with raised eyebrows. "Looks like you're moving up in the world." He said with a grin. "Its good to see."
Sebastian knocked on Briar's door and nervously tugged at his dress tunic. Dragon opened it and grinned at him. "She's just putting on her necklace." He told the prince. "Take good care of her, don't let the sharks take a bite out of my sister."
Sebastian nodded solemnly. "She'll be safe with me, I'm the head shark." Briar came to the door then and he didn't breath for a moment in shock.
She wore a green, but a misty shimmering jade green that precisely matched the combs in her hair, one of his gifts to her. As she drew closer to give him a soft kiss hello he could smell the perfume she wore, the spicy sweet scent of roses, too delicate to be overpowering. The jewelry he'd given her was at her ears and throat and he'd never seen her looking more beautiful.
"My lady." He breathed again finally and offered his arm. With a slow smile she took it and he escorted her out.
Briar looked at Sebastian nervously and he patted her hand. "Just remember my love; you are here because the royal family invited you, because the King and Queen wish to hear your music. My mother is privately considered a great judge of music and she believes your talent to be exceptional. No matter what sly remarks folks make, no matter what you hear, that is the truth. I would have invited you to give a private performance for them, and to introduce you if my parents hadn't taken things into their own hands, but I wouldn't have inflicted the court upon you until I was certain they would lend their support. My parents are good people but court is about politics and social rank. That is a frighteningly universal fact." He grimaced. "You're safe enough talking to my family and a few others, just don't take anything said here seriously unless they're saying it. Rumors begin and end in that hall and have no resemblance in birth and death."
"And there's an announcement that is a surprise for you." He said quickly as they approached the doors.
Briar looked at him and laughed. "Sweet Lady." She said. "I thought I was here to play music."
"You are love." He smiled. "But this is also a gesture on my parents behalf, to show that you have their favor, that you are important to them. It will help to protect you. If the royal family supports you, not many will try to challenge you. Especially when they see you have no interest in the political game."
"Well that's simple enough." Briar grinned at him. "I love you Sebastian." She said softly.
He took a deep breath and expelled it. His smile was dazzling. "I love you Rosaleen."
The doors were thrown open before them and the herald announced them. "His Highness Prince Sebastian Obarskyr. Prince Sebastian's personal bard, Lady Bard, The Black Rose."
Briar blinked and smiled at Sebastian and he grinned at her. As they walked down the path cleared of courtiers to the dais where the king and queen sat Briar heard someone whisper. "Personal bard, eh? Wasn't that the position Her Majesty occupied before His Majesty married her?" And someone else replied speculatively. "Perhaps Prince Sebastian is following in his fathers footsteps?"
Sebastian patted her hand where it rested on his arm and simply smiled at her.
Author's Note: So that's it folks. The story that kicked off my collection of Obarskyr stories. I hope you enjoy them. All the songs Briar sings are original compositions except where noted.