A degree of jiggling was required to pop the window out of its casement. Breaching the castle’s defences had been surprisingly empty and with the window now open nothing stood between the thief and his prize. Calmly he looked back over his shoulder to where the gardens fell away from the castle, ending in the open air that surrounded the grounds. Deviousness had scarcely been required he reflected as he climbed over the window sill. Everything, from hiring the para-bicycle to riding it in through a storm cloud and into the ancient yew where it was now hidden from view, had been remarkably easy.
For a thief of greater skill and and experience this would have sounded warning clarions to deafen his ambitions. Grellian Hewl, however, was not so sage. He shrugged off his success as testament to his future reputation and hopped down inside the castle. In silence, the alarms went off. Jasmine scent filled the rooms and halls and made Grellian feel slightly woozy as he sneaked about. Knowing that the object of his break-in was at the keep’s heart he stole stealthily down a portrait lined corridor, feet padding on luxurious carpet. “Left, right, left again” he muttered the directions he’d made a stab at memorising.
Meanwhile, in the grounds pistons huffed and jets of steam disturbed the leaves of the tree in which Hewl had deposited his para-bicycle. Normally the brass automata would have torn him apart as soon as he landed, but they’d been ordered to stand down so they now took pleasure in shredding the man’s transport into fine flakes of metal. On duty perpetually, the robots (their forms somewhere between man, wolf and washing machine) were uneasy with permitting the intruder to retain his life beyond the gardens. Pendulums ticked and swayed inside the guards as they awaited further instructions.
Quickly Grellian became lost in the endless corridors. Recalling what little of the layout he could had not proved helpful. Surprisingly, through sheer luck he blundered into the magnificent atrium which sat at the heart of the castle. There, before him, surrounded by greenery and sculpture from half the cities of the realm, stood the object of his hunt – the Bleeding Rose. Under the light that danced down from the glass ceiling he seized the lip of its pot and shook out the sack he had tucked in his belt.
Very few mortals survive an encounter with a Bleeding Rose, and Hewl was no exception. When he hefted the pot it reacted poorly to the disturbance. Xiphoid leaves twitched, their transparent facets sparkling, and plunged into the young man’s chest and shoulders. Yelling and screaming, Grellian was lifted into the air and stabbed until his blood drizzled over the plant and into the pot where its roots flushed crimson upwards through the Bleeding Rose. Zealous automata finally granted permission to do their work stomped into the greenhouse and detached the man husk from the freshly watered flower.