- Rune Breaker: Chapter 1 – The Bargain is Struck
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 2 – The Clever Girl
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 3 – A Paradise in the Future
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 4 – Clan of the Winter Willow
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 5 – Spell-worked Water, Alchemical Food
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 6 – Waste Not Want Not
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 7 – Battlelines
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 8 – Filling the Gap
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 9 – The King of Flame and Steel
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 10 – Recovery
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 11 – Sisters, Brothers
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 12 – Her Most Beauteous Wings
Taylin sighed a tiny breath as her hopes of family and kinship evaporated.
The chronicler gave her a sympathetic look, but it didn’t stop him from continuing. “It isn’t any one single thing, but the accumulation of them. You appear on a beach via telegate, knowing nothing of the region or the world in general. You’ve suffered a punishment that hasn’t been used in human memory. Both of you speak with accents I’ve never encountered. And in the barn, I distinctly heard you say ‘yarate’, a word I only know from reading personal accounts from the early Age of Tragedies and earlier.
“Taylin, I’m sorry. I know that Grandmother said that she didn’t want your secrets, but I can’t just ignore the strangeness of your story. I’m afraid I need at least some answers.”
She couldn’t force herself to meet his gaze. In looking at anything but him, she noticed that she was dressed in the cloths she was wearing the day before, only now they were clean and mended to the point that they seemed new. “The truth will sound impossible. You’ll think me mad.”
“Part of a loreman’s duty is to make the impossible less so. If anyone is inclined to accept what you have to say, it’s me; I need to get used to it if I’m ever to become a loreman.”
Taylin still refused to look at him, paralyzed by nerves and fear. No matter what he said about divining truth, she was sure he’d call her a liar. And if he felt that way, the clan would agree and she would be cast out. Alone, except for Ru, who was eternally frustrated with her as it was.
Almost as if her thoughts prompted him, Ru made a rude noise in his throat. “Pointless.” He scoffed. “What does it matter if the chronicler knows or not? What can he do about it? Why would he want to or even care?” When the link didn’t try and stop him, he looked Kaiel squarely in the eye.
“Nearly four hundred years ago, Miss Taylin found me and struck the bargain that binds me to her. Her first conscious request of me was to sleep a thousand years, so that she might not be forced to live through the remainder of the War of Ascension. But shortly thereafter, the war was ended by this goddess you mentioned, Dey. Shielding against her wrath weakened me considerably, which is why Miss Taylin awoke in this time and in this place rather than six hundred years hence, accounting for every inconsistency you’ve observed.”
Taylin’s head snapped up, staring at him in horror.
But Kaiel only knitted his brow in interest. “You’re telling the truth.”
“If I wished to lie, I’m certain I could fool whatever freakish sense you possess, but indeed I am.” Ru shot back, pathologically incapable of omitting the barb.
For once, Kaiel let it slip, partly because the mage had at least referred to him as a chronicler instead of a charlatan. Instead, he focused on Taylin, offering her a smile as gentle as the on he gave earlier. “You’re probably right not to tell anyone that. A chronomantic spell, or even the mathematical principles behind creating and maintaining stasis for that long would be something many mages would do battle over.”
“It would if I used chronomancy.” Ru muttered.
Kaiel turned a raised an eyebrow at him.
“I’ll explain it if you first explain what in all blazes you were using on the battlefield.” the mage shot back.
Not eager in the least to sit through another of their verbal jousts, Taylin finally found her voice again and stepped in. “Was that good enough Kaiel? To settle your worries I mean. I didn’t mean to give the clan doubts about me, but I also… I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with me.”
Kaiel laid a hand on her shoulder. She flinched away from it and he withdrew, tactfully avoiding drawing attention to it. “I’ll let Grandmother know that my concerns are laid to rest. Does this mean you’re considering accepting the kinship badge?”
She nodded and very slowly, a playful smile appeared on her face. “If you are Bromun’s brother and I Raiteria’s sister, does this make us siblings as well?”
The chronicler chuckled lightly and rocked back on his heels. “I suppose it does.”
Ru made another rude sound and Taylin shot him a glare as his thoughts came across in the link. Without thinking, she said, “Ru! Please. He’s not like that.”
Kaiel gave Ru a surprisingly neutral look. “Continuing your crude innuendo, hedge wizard?”
The mage growled at the insult. “Only drawing conclusions from what I know of you, charlatan.”
“Contrary to the beliefs of the ignorant, the escapades of loremen, bards, minstrels and chroniclers read in dime novels is patiently false” Kaiel defended. “The profession and the power simply lend themselves well to… romantic ideas in the minds of writers.”
“Writers who, by and large, are other loremen, bards, minstrels and chroniclers.” Ru guessed. The thin volumes filled with adventurous and amorous tales had only appeared in Chordin some fifty years earlier and their widespread distribution had only picked up in the last decade, making it impossible for he or Taylin to know what Kaiel was talking about.
Guess or not, he was correct; the majority of dime novel authors were students at the College dashing them of and passing them on to the cottage industry of printers in Harpsfell to pay for their expensive wine and baths. Three of them had Kaiel’s own name on them, though they were just true accounts of his explorations of the world, had very little in the way of romance, massacres, or ancient conspiracies, and thus sold only enough to buy cheap ail and a spell worked pitcher that heated or cooled water.
He sputtered for a moment, then folded his arms. “Be that as it may, they’re largely fiction. We’re all just folk with the same variance in proclivities as the general population. I for one, and many like me, are not inclined to simply fling ourselves into bed with everyone we meet.”
Ru smirked at the perfect opening. “And yet, here we sit; in your wagon. And she is in your bed.”
Scarcely did he sense the horror and embarrassment from Taylin than the pain hit him. It started as a twinge of mild discomfort n the small of his back, but swiftly radiated like forks of lightning up his spine and from there, it cramped every muscle, strained every tendon.
There was no mitigating it, no getting used to it, ever. No matter how many times he felt it, he was simply unable to push past the blazing agony within him, nor use any known mental exorcise to redirect it. It was constructed that way; different each time, and always so intense that he could barely think when it occurred. With a strangled gasp he couldn’t repress, he pitched off the chest of drawers and landed on his hands and knees on the floor, forehead pressing against the cool boards.
“Ru!” Taylin was off the bed almost instantly. Even with her strength diminished, she had no trouble pulling him into a sitting position. “Are you alright?”
“What happened to him?” Kaiel asked, more curious than concerned. He moved over to observe.
“I don’t know, even the link feels scrambled.” She said. “I think that hurt him even more than being burned did.” As she spoke, she probed the link, wishing she knew a little more about how it worked so she could help him. There were no emotions coming from him, only the cold, hard feeling she got when she issued an order, only this one didn’t move; it sat cold and heavy in the back of her mind.
She touched it mentally, trying to make it move the way the others did. After several tries, it did, and suddenly she felt confusion and frustration. Ru.
Growling softly, he shrugged off the arm she’d put around him to keep him sitting upright. His eyes remained closed as he recollected his thoughts. “It seems that the link considers such remarks to be a type of harm to your person.” He said, making it clear that this sort of thing hadn’t happened before. “Bad enough that it warranted punishment.”
“It was the link?” Taylin asked in a frightened voice. Somehow, that made it her fault. “Ru, I’m so sorry.”
He scoffed. “Unless you are far older than you seem and an astoundingly impressive actress, you are not the architect of this dread machine, Miss Taylin.” with that, he rose back into a hovering position and make quick eye contact with Kaiel, daring him to ask about what just happened.
The chronicler swallowed his curiosity for the moment.
All three were silent, the tension and mystery in the wagon’s single room unbearable.
“I think that I’m strong enough to see Grandmother now.” Taylin said. She still felt guilty of what happened to Ru, but he made it clear that he would tolerate no more apologies, or even mention of it.
For a moment, she thought that maybe it was for her benefit; more false loyalty forced on him from the link. But in two short days, she’s come to understand a few things about the man and knew that it was more simple and selfish than that. He was embarrassed at having a weakness revealed. It was a small thing, but she decided not to add to it by bringing it up again.
“Are you sure?” Asked Kaiel. “She’ll understand if you took a few days to rest and recuperate.”
The very concept of taking a few days for recuperation was an alien one to Taylin. Slave soldiers who were too damaged to be back at work after a single use of a combat healing spell (or two for the kindest of captains) was at best left behind,, at worst through overboard while the ship was at cruising altitude. Rest was for officers and possibly the enlisted, never for ang’hailene.
“I’ve walked miles with worse.” She assured him in a quiet voice.
It was difficult to believe that this was the same young woman who, mere hours before, had driven a sword through a dying man and pinned his corpse to the earth before going on to pull a wagon that normally required two ponies to draw it.
Kaiel schooled his expression as Ru’s ‘religious’ poem about Death played in his head. “As long as you’re feeling up to it.” He finally said and led the way out the door.