After that, the subject of Ru and by extension, Taylin, became closed. Kaiel went into his wagon to scrounge the evening’s repast while Taylin tried to make herself comfortable by the fire.
It was spring now, whereas it had been the height of summer when she entered the fated cave, and early enough in the season that when the sun was finally gone, a chill crept over the world. Taylin moved as close to the fire as she could without igniting her clothes. Burning herself wasn’t a concern; she had yet to meet a fire hot enough to do that.
After a time, Kaiel returned with a cast iron camp oven filled with water an iron pry bar, and a tin box of trail rations. His rifle was left behind inside. He sat down facing her with enough space to set the arm load of items between them.
“The good news,” He proclaimed as greeting, “Is that I thought to buy fresh rations when we were at the Dragonpier; dried fruits, some road-friendly vegetables, travel crackers, cured venison, and of course, potatoes.” He pointed to each item in turn. “The bad news is, I’m also got plenty of Allbuk’s.”
At … Continue reading
The sun had just started to set when they finally reached the village. Kaiel’s description had been, if anything, too generous.
Built on the banks of the river, the place was little more than a U shaped cluster of reed-roofed cottages, built from bricks of fired mud. The closed end of the ‘U’ faced away from the river and was made up of larger, better built structures; likely a communal barn and storehouse. In the very center of the wide arc of huts, was a large communal garden, only recently sown at that time of year.
There was no wall, or fence, as evidently the region was of little interest to even marauding monsters normally. But what the villagers lacked, the Clan of the Winter Willow had provided, after a fashion.
Wagons; more than two dozen, hard topped caravan wagons encircled the tiny town like wooden sentinels. As they drew closer, Taylin could see wolves dozing beneath a few, occasionally in full harness and attended by a sharp eyes halfling with a crossbow.
The nearest stood, alongside his wolf companion, to challenge them as they approached. Bromun calmed his wariness with a few words in their tongue. As they passed, … Continue reading
For once, Taylin was in complete agreement with Ru. A beat behind him, she echoed his ‘What?’.
The stranger smirked; not a cruel sneer, but a playful ‘I know something you don’t know’ smirk, and dismounted, careful never to let them out of his sight. His soft boots did well on the sand and though he would have been a few inches shorter than Ru, if he ever stopped hovering, he didn’t seem to be looking up at either of them.
The rifle dangled down by his hip on a leather strap and one hand dipped down to hold it steady. The other reached up to tip the hat out of his eyes.
He was younger than Taylin first thought. Possibly, she was fooled by the rasp n his voice from travel dust, but now that she saw his face, he couldn’t have been that long out of his teens. Laughing blue eyes told of a soul that found joy and wonder easily. But he hollows and bags around them, couple with the wilted, uneven cut of his hair suggested he hadn’t done so recently.
Still, when he offered them a neighborly smile, it definitely touched those eyes. “The short … Continue reading
“She loves flying.” said a voice to whom Taylin had never been able to put a face to. She was dreaming. Dreaming a dream she’d had many times before. It was always the same; a garden, blue skies, glass between the two, as clear as air.
The earthy smell of the place was so real, so familiar, as was the voice. It never spoke to her, but to someone else she couldn’t see.
“And smart too. She can already read and write, and she’s coming right along with sums.”
Fine brickwork made up the walkways between rows of carefully arranged growing plants. Some of those bore fruit; oranges and gathering melons that were so sticky sweet. She picked one and tore into it, not minding the green juice that ran down her chin.
“She isn’t just special in the way I intended. She’s become my very clever girl.”
Then the voice was lost in a roar. The wind over an aerial troop ship at cruising speed. Chains bound her arms and there was stone pressing against her chest and stomach.
“Do your duty, Captain.” said a new voice. A cruel voice, one that hated her as much as the other … Continue reading
Ru’s words tore into Taylin’s stomach in ways that the hounds would never have accomplished. She stumbled back from him until her back found the wall. “No!” The statement echoed off the domed roof, reporting again and again. “That isn’t right. I don’t want this.”
From where he’d come to kneel, Ru lifted his head. His face was without emotion, his eyes, not quite the right shape for a human and a barely luminous amber besides, observed her. In the link, she could feel his measured curiosity overtaking all else.
“You made the bargain, Ms. Taylin.” He informed her.
Taylin’s back slid along the wall until she found herself in a crouch. Years of conditioning and berating made it difficult to sit fully. She quickly noticed just how much of a hold the masters still had on her and forced herself to sit. To Ru, she said, “I didn’t know what you were talking about. I didn’t know the Rune Breaker was a person.”
Ru laughed and the coldness in the sound came through in the link as well. With little apparent effort, he stood up smoothly from kneeling. “I’m not, Ms. Taylin. The man died so long ago that … Continue reading
Loose stones skittered under her feet, the sound amplified by the closeness of the cave. Though it was pitch black, she had no trouble seeing. Her kind wouldn’t; they had been bred to march through day and night if necessary with no need of fires or torches.
That wasn’t all they had been created for and part of that breeding suddenly informed her that this was no cave she had found herself in. It was a mine. Or at least some sort of hand-made tunnel. An adolescence spent hewing iron ore from the earth was the preferred method of strengthening her kind for military training.
In the darkness behind her, there were other noises. Claws on stone, growling, and snarling breaths of canine effort. The guard hounds of the masters were no more mere dogs than she was a mere human. They did not bark, or yap, or whine and they were cunning and viscous in a way most thought only demi-humans were capable of.
A frontrunner of the pack took the bend in the tunnel at speed by running up the wall, then leapt toward her. She was only warned by the sound, whirling and meeting paws half the … Continue reading