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“Curse Of the Blood Rose”
On a dark and cloudy night, as rain dances up a walkway and taps an awning overhanging a porch, a man sits in a large rocking chair calming swaying forward and back petting a cat on his lap. Every so often, he reaches to a cocker spaniel/poodle resting on his feet, and gently strokes the dog’s ears. To most people, the rain would be a bother. Something to hide inside from, and pray that God will see fit to change. Not to the man. He loves the rain. To him it is the sound of the heavens washing the earth clean of the problems of the day. To him, he hears the droplets bring the dancing feet of angels, and the fairies his daughters used to love as kids. In his bed, as drifts to sleep, he feels the soft kiss of heaven. He smiles to himself. “That maybe odd,” he thinks, “rain makes me happy.” In his lap, the cat looks over his knee to the dog, wrinkles her whiskers, and smiles. The dog grins and returns the greeting. Playfully, she turns to the man and meows. “Oh, what a time it was, Tiggy.” He says to his cat. “What a time.” Tiggy smiles brighter and purrs. “Perhaps some day I’ll tell you the story.” Tiggy straightens up and sits on his knee, facing him. She turns her head side to side, inquisitively. On his leg, the man feels the tapping of paws. He looks down at the dog and back at Tiggy. “On second thought, maybe the time is now.” He smiles. “Would you guys like to hear a story?” The dog pants gleefully and Tiggy meows. “Okay, come here Sintu.” He pats the cushion of the chair next to him, and Sintu jumps up. “This story is a long and mysterious one. It spans continents, oceans and millions of miles. You’ll meet presidents, sultans, kings and queens…and it all begins with a flower. The most legendary flower of all time.” With his pets at his side, glued to every word, the man launches into the story. It is said that the flower was born in the wild fields of the Rocky Mountains, long before this great country was tamed by man or beast. Long before, some say, the Rockies were even mountains. As a sapling, the flower grew to great heights, surpassing the growth of average flowers of its kind. Its height gave it access to environmental nutrients inaccessible to lower grasses and other flowers.
While it is unclear how the flower ended up in the hat of a revolutionary amidst the spilling of tea in Boston harbor, it is believed that the flower had great power. Some believed that the flower had been lost in its departure from the mountains, for upon the conclusion of the spilling of the tea, it’s petals had abandoned their natural yellow. The soldier claimed it was the same flower, but few believed him as its petals had become red. Despite the misbelievers: the soldier carried the flower with him in every battle, and at the surrender of the great war, when his nation became independent, the flower was seen in his hat. Several years later, as the soldier lay on his final bed, the flower clutched in his hand, he spoke two words. “Protect it.” Lovingly, his wife took the flower, held it to her breast, and hours after her husband’s passing, fell victim to the birth of a curse. With in minutes the flower was removed from their home, locked in a case, and hidden away from the ages. Years have passed, the flower rumored to have passed over great rivers and oceans, and one night, not so long ago, it gained a name. On the deck of an ocean liner floating off the coast of England, two young sailors discussed the flower. “Why do concern yourself with such nonsense? You’re far too young.” Says one sailor to the other. “Because maybe,” says the second sailor, “when we arrive, I shall present the flower to Elizabeth and she’ll take me in her arms.” “Hopeless thoughts for a hopeless man.” Says the first sailor. “You’d have to find it first. Presuming it exists.” “Ahhh, yes, the great Blood Rose.” Says the second sailor whimsically. The flower is said to have passed through kingdoms and tribes, towns and villages, and in it’s wake it has left loss and trouble. For the one’s it truly belongs to, it brings fortune, prosperity, and luck. For those who come upon it through ill-gotten means, or who do not possess it of right and true spirit, destruction and darkness shall follow them all their lives. On the porch, the man glides in his chair, creaking the boards of the floor underneath him, with a smirk on his face. On his lap, Tiggy continues to smile, a permanent smile fixed to her face. To his left, Sintu sits upright, paws on the chair’s arm, a look of amazement in his eyes. “Oh,” says the man, “but our story does not end there. It can not. For the Rose’s greatest appearances will make Emperors, legends and Queens, goddesses. And one day, it will travel on the greatest ship man will ever know.” He pauses, takes a drink from a nearby water glass, and continues. “Allow me, young Tiggy and Sintu, to tell you the
story of the last Queen of Egypt, and the rose that introduced her to a snake.” It began one warm day, on the steps of the palace of Alexandria. While Cleopatra sat brooding, and scheming, planning the dispatching of her brother Ptolemy, a beautiful young Queen stood outside. In her mind spun the future of her people, of her right and just claim to the throne, and of the villainy of her sister and brother inside. She walked slowly down the stairs, to the bottom of a handrail, and leaned on it. To her left, out of her line of sight, approached a young Roman soldier, a single flawless rose in his hand. She jumped slightly at his arrival, and the soldier bowed, begging forgiveness. “Forgive me, your highness,” said the soldier, “I did not mean to scare you. I wish greater circumstances could bring me to your company, but as I have only a few minutes, I come seeking your counsel.” The young Queen looked the soldier in his eyes. “Please stand noble Roman.” She said. He stood slowly and lifted his eyes to hers. “You are aware I do not share my sister’s intentions of allegiance with your country.” “I do, your highness.” He said. “Then state your intentions for approaching me in such a manner, or a simple snap of my fingers will summon guards to my side. As I assume you can understand, a Roman soldier seen cavorting with the Queen of Egypt will not be looked upon favorably by your superiors.” “Yes, I understand, your highness.” He says. Slightly impatient, the Queen lifts a hand as if to snap. “Then out with it. Speak, young man!” She says. “If you’ll allow me, dear noble Queen Arsinoe, I come with a gift. While I do not readily recall its origins, I came upon it one day in the gardens of Rome. I’ve spent many nights with you prominently in my dreams, and I can not think of a better greeting.” Curiously, and coyly, Arsinoe smiles. “May I ask, noble soldier, how you came to set eyes upon me?” “It was a day many days ago, as my general was marching into your city. I was with him, standing nobly beside, as he addressed your sister. I saw you sitting by her side. If I may be so bold, your highness, you are quite beautiful.” He says. “How…. pleasant.” Arsinoe says. “It’s not often a woman hears such thoughts from a man. Especially a Roman.”
“Thank you, your highness.” “So what is it you bring me, that you wish to entreat me?” Arsinoe asks. From his belt, the soldier pulls the rose. “This rose, your highness. It is the only thing under the heavens that could equal your beauty. It is said that with it, the rose carries powers of fortune, luck, and love.” Arsinoe examines the rose in his hand. “Such a gift. Though if it does bring such powers, why not keep it for yourself?” “I wish none of these things.” He says. “I have all I could hope for. What more could a simple flower give me? All I need now is your heart. And if I should be so lucky to receive it, I will be forever in your service.” Arsinoe looks to the rose, then to the soldier. “Such nobility.” She says. “Here stands a man, so fully in love with me that his is willing to forsake everything he’s known, the army he’s pledged his life to, for a simple hope I’ll accept him.” The soldier nods. Arsinoe reaches to the rose and takes it. “Know that I gratefully accept your gift.” The soldier smiles. “But I can not accept your offer. Such an allegiance would not be in the interest of our two empires. And while there is more to what lies before us, I can not on one hand, profess to reject Rome and all she stands for, and on the other, lie in bed with one of her people. It is for this I am truly sorry.” The soldier slowly bows his head, overcome by sorrow. “Please, your highness, is there nothing more I can do or say to persuade you?” “Dear man: honest, decent, noble man,” Arsinoe says, “I wish from my heart, that there is more I can give you, but please understand: it is my place here. With my people, how ever distant they may seem, I belong at their side. I am sorry, Truly sorry. I will remember you.” Tail between his legs, hat in hand and heart on his sleeve, the soldier hung his head and slowly walked away. Back to Rome, back to his life. The last times the rose was seen in either Egypt or Rome occurred during the empires’ most famous events. On the steps of the Forum, stood the most famous Roman leader of all time. “Before us,” spoke Julius Caesar, “lay the greatest issues to face our republic.” In the faint shadows to his left and right, slunk two men he believed were friends. As the men stepped to Caesar’s side, one noticed a rose in their leader’s hand. “Fine evening tonight isn’t it Gaius Julius?” Asked Brutus. “Surprisingly calm.” Caesar said looking to his friend. “Odd that this weather might occur on the ides of March.” Commented Casius to
Caesar’s right. As Caesar turned his head to face Casius, Brutus slowly withdrew a dagger and placed it to Caesar’s back. He leaned in to Caesar’s ear. “Beware the ides of March.” He said, and plunged the knife into Caesar. Rome’s great icon fell to steps of the Forum, and with a last breath, he looked to his friend and whispered: “And you Brutus? You, my friend?” An arm rolled to his side as he lay, and out tumbled the rose. Brutus bent down, looked curiously at the rose, and picked it up. Days later, as Roman troops marched to Alexandria, the great general Marc Antony unfurled a long cylindrical leather pouch and read the note that tumbled out. “For you, my friend,” it read, “may this gift find you in good company, and may you give it to one who matters to you. Your friend, Brutus.” Marc Antony looked at the rose lying delicately in the center of the pouch. He smiled, shook his head “good god Brutus, what have you done?” he thought, and then knew immediately who he would give it to. Taking careful attention to guard the rose where ever his army paused for rest, Antony kept it close. So it was a surprise to see the flower he coveted in the hands of the woman he intended to give it to. “Forgive me, majesty,” Marc Antony said, entering the new queen’s tent. “But how did you come upon that rose?” “This rose?” Said Cleopatra with a coy smile. “Such a beautiful flower is it not?” “Gorgeous, I don’t doubt that one bit, but my curiosity is how you came to find it?” He said. Cleopatra grinned, a look of mischief and cunning in her eyes. “Dear Antony, am I to assume this rose is yours? I heard tales of how you guarded it. Kept it close to your heart every moment of every hour of the day. Some of my guards have told me you even slept with it.” Cleopatra raises an eyebrow, toying with Antony, egging him on. “I wanted to keep it close, majesty.” Antony responds. “I intended it as my gift to you.” “Oh! A gift.” She says, playfully. “Should I be flattered, or should I be perplexed. Hmmmm.” “Flattered. It is meant with the kindest intentions.” “Then perhaps, we shouldn’t so much focus on how it came to my presence, as the fact that it is my hand.” Cleopatra raises her eyebrows again, and dismisses her guards. Antony slowly moves to her side. “You did dispatch of my sister at the Temple of
Artemis?” “I did, my love. As you wished.” “Good.” Cleopatra says. “I wonder though. There was rumor of a rose in her possession, very similar to this one.” She gazes at him quizzically. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t know, as I was not there to carry out my order. This was given to me by a friend in Rome.” Antony says. Several weeks later, as Antony battled future Emperor Octavian, a message was brought by guard to Cleopatra who sat in her tent twirling her beloved’s rose in her fingers. The message, given by sorrow laden eyes and the bowed head of the guard, detailed the suspected death of Antony. Horror stricken and flooded with grief, Cleopatra waved the rose in the air and a snake slithered to her side. History would say the snake’s bite brought her to her end, truth and legend, know otherwise. On the porch the man looks down in his lap. Tiggy looks up, a look of joy and amazement in her eyes. At their side, Sintu pants with glee and smiles. The man clears is throat and speaks: “I know it is much to ask, and seeing animals on a journey as great as this may throw off everyone, but I would like you two to continue where I could not. There will be hardship and trouble, great joys and victories, and you must stay together through them all. If you find the rose, there will be rewards and life beyond your dreams. And here I will wait for you, as long as needed. Is this a journey you can take on?” He looks to each of his pets, who in turn, nod and smile. Tiggy jumps and licks his face, while Sintu laps at his cheeks. “Okay, okay,” the man laughs, “may god be with you, may luck and fortune find you, and may you bring the rose home.”
A man stands on the docks of Southampton, England, extensive blueprints rolled and tucked under his arm. He tips a bowler hat back on his head, looks up, and smiles at the gigantic ship in front of him. In the sunlight, the ship’s triple screw propellers glisten. At his feet sit a cat and a dog. The cat licks her paw and runs it over her head, cleaning the remnants of a shoddy sea journey from New York. The dog tilts his head left and right taking in the sun. Far to his left, iconic words emblazoned on the ship’s hull, shine into the day. He stares at the ship before them and barks softly to gain the cat’s attention. Tiggy looks up from under her paw and smiles. She looks to Sintu and grins. Twice she taps on the man’s foot with her wet paw and smirks.
The man looks down and smiles, “Well hello. Where are you headed?” He asks. Tiggy meows and jesters a paw towards the ship. “Really? On my ship?” Tiggy meows again. “Well…” the man thinks a minute, “I suppose it’s okay. But you’ll have to follow the guise of my companion.” From his side, hidden by the large messenger bag at his heel, steps a regal calico cat, a smile on her face. She trots up to Tiggy, extends her nose, and sniffs. Tiggy leans away, curiosity and mild confusion on her face. The calico leans in closer and inhales deeply. Tiggy shrugs her shoulders, and returns the sniff. A moment passes as the two cats consider each other, and then extend a paw to shake. As the calico meows rapidly, Sintu looks on. The calico returns to her master, and Sintu leans to Tiggy. “Chatty cat, that one.” Tiggy says. “Very well,” the man says, and looks to Tiggy, “my companion says you two are all clear. By the way, this is Lindy.” Sintu smiles a greeting. The four travelers set off towards the ship’s gangway. When they reach a velvet carpet they are stopped and greeted by man in a captain’s uniform. Sintu peaks around the man’s leg and recognizes the man. He motion’s to Tiggy, who leans to him. “I recognize him.” Sintu says. “I can’t place where, though.” Tiggy peers around the other leg, gasps, and leans back. “Really!” “Really what?” “That’s Edward Smith.” Tiggy says. “And…?” Sintu asks. “Which makes this man,” Tiggy continues, “Thomas Andrews.” Sintu nods in understanding. “And that man over by the gangway door, is J. Bruce Ismay. Which means this ship is the…” Tiggy and Sintu look down the length of the ship to the bow, where they see the ship’s name on the hull. “Oh, no!” They say in unison. “I can’t believe we didn’t think to ask.” Sintu says, as they sit on the Grand Staircase. “He gave us the device, set it for 1912, and off we went.” “How were we to know it would take us here?” Tiggy asks. “It’s interesting though.” “How do you figure?”
“How many people say they can only imagine what it was like to travel on this ship. They all dream it, we get to live it.” Tiggy says with a smile. “Yes, that would be fun. But we only have four days. Can we find the rose and avert disaster at the same time?” “We’re not meant to. We can’t interfere with the normal course of history. We’re here for the one thing we can effect, the rose.” Tiggy says. “Oy. Why couldn’t it have been Carnival or Royal Caribbean. Did it have to be the Titanic?” An hour later Sintu and Tiggy stroll the upper deck of the ship. Tiggy giggles. “What?” Sintu asks. “That name tickles me.” “What name?” “Poop deck.” Tiggy says chuckling. Sintu smiles and joins in, laughing. “Any idea where to start looking?” Sintu asks. “There’s a cotillion in the first class smoking lounge about an hour after we leave Cherbourg.” “A what?” Sintu. “Cotillion.” Tiggy notices Sintu’s air of confusion. “It’s a dance. Our owner’s daughters were taught in it when they lived in southern Texas. Basically it indoctrinates children in the art of dance and culture so they can flourish in 18th century Paris.” Sintu laughs. “So do we expect the rose to just, be there?” Sintu asks. “Maybe. Our owner said to find a woman named Violet Jessup. He said she was the only person to survive the sinking of this ship and of its sister ship the Britannic.” “And the Britannic hasn’t been built yet?” “Not yet. The blue prints and plans have been laid. After this ship sinks, there will be major engineering changes made to the designs.” Tiggy says. “I would hope so.” Sintu says. “Wasn’t Violet that lady who was a nurse when the
Britannic was hit by a mine?” “I believe so. I’m not sure where she is on this ship. How did you find that out?” Tiggy asks. “I saw it on a special on the History Channel.” Sintu responds. “So, what now?” “I suppose we can find Lindy, and see if she can get us into Mr. Andrews’ cabin.” “Why do we need to get into the cabin? Are the blueprints in there?” “Probably. I don’t think he’d be carrying them around.” Tiggy says. With a shrug of his shoulders, Sintu follows Tiggy down the boat deck to the entrance to the Grand Staircase. They step into the corridor and sidle up to a banister. Tiggy peers around a spoke and sees Lindy at the bottom of the staircase making her way up. “Good god!” Sintu comments. “This ship is dangerously low on life boats. Isn’t there supposed to be 30…something? I count 16.” “The British Board of Trade requires the 30…something, but the White Star Line
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