The Mystic Rose

Alaric gets a little bit more than he bargained for…

**

Alaric moved through the streets, his gaze scanning the wares of the various vendors. Some people had hand-crafted clothing, whether it was in preparation for the coming winter or simply festive clothing. There were too many styles and colors of scarves for him to count. Everyone seemed to want to make hats and mittens to match them. Alaric ignored these. He had enough hats and mittens and scarves to last him until the end of time.

He searched the vendors stalls for a special toy for a very special child. Trudy, Gregory’s little daughter, was reaching the age where the winter festival would be a time she would remember. He wanted to find a toy for her – one that she would treasure and always remember from whom she had gotten it.

Alaric slowed as he reached the people selling toys. There were vendors with toys crafted of carved wood. They were lovingly painted by hand. However, Alaric knew that Gregory had found blocks for the girl. No, she wouldn’t need another wooden toy.

Other vendors had animals crafted of yarn and stuffing. However, Alaric knew for certain that she would be getting several toys of the same type from Gregory’s brothers and sisters. Jakob had gone so far as to knit the girl a doll by hand.

Sighing, Alaric moved on to the next vendor. His eyes widened when he saw the dolls that were set out on display. Their gowns were lovely, with bright colored satin and soft, intricate lace and ribbons.

He stepped closer and lifted one of the dolls into his hands. She had soft, light brown curls and blue-gray eyes. Her expression was slightly pouty. However, she was beautiful in spite of that expression. Her gown was crafted from red and white satin, with ribbons and lace. She had a straw bonnet with silk flowers and ribbons and lace to match the gown.

“Are you interested in my Madeleine, sir?” a soft voice said. The vendor was a strange little man. He was stooped, leaning on an old, crooked cane. His wispy white hair seemd to be flying all over the place, in spite of his hat.

Alaric looked up at the vendor and smiled. “Very much so,” he said, nodding. “I know just the girl to give her to.”

“Ah, a gift for the winter festival,” the vendor said, smiling. “For your daughter, sir?”

“The daughter of a friend,” Alaric said, shaking his head. He handed over a few coins. “That will be enough, I should think?”

“More than enough, my lord,” the vendor said. He started to reach for the money box, but Alaric waved him away. Nodding his thanks, the vendor said, “You are too kind, my lord.”

“Good day,” Alaric said, tucking the doll under one arm. He turned and headed back towards his town house. He could hardly wait to see the look on Trudy’s face when she unwrapped the doll.

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