- Rune Breaker: Chapter 13 – Tales of the Rune Breaker
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 14 – Another’s Darkness
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 15 – The Tenth
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 16 – Daire City
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 17 – The Flaw in the Myth
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 18 – The Trinigon Arena
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 19 – Citadel
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 20 – Audience
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 21 – Sparring Sessions
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 22 – Grace From Outside
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 23 – Old Soldier
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 24 – Bones of the Earth
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 25 – Matasume the Wind
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 26 – Devices
- Rune Breaker: Chapter 27 – Ashes of The Dawn
“The woman was called Arethlana, an elven highborn for whom the dubious privilege the dragons heaps upon her wasn’t enough. She commanded a bandit gang in secret, preying on her friends and family for profit. It was her lieutenant and lover who found the Rune Breaker, but loyalty made him bring her to strike the bargain.
“She killed half her gang as a test of the weapon’s power, then turned it on her highborn husband before sending a black knight forth to slaughter her fellows that she might accumulate their holdings. She died when the dragons found out that she had tipped their precious balance between the classes. The Rune Breaker aided her not against three members of the Gold Nation.”
Ru purposefully left out how Arethlana had frittered away so much of his power on humiliating her enemies, or his part in ‘failing’ to protect her when the dragons came. By then he had suffered quite enough of her faux royal attitude and strange appetites and the pain of the link’s punishment was far outweighed by his annoyance at her. He laughed through the agony as her little empire burned along with her. The Nation of Gold brooked no interference with their works.
“How…” Kaiel began. If Ru got that story form a book, he wanted to read it. But Ru kept speaking.
“The shepherd was also real. He was called by Eske Metredes and found the weapon in a cave while looking for a strayed kid. He was the first in this era, but the Rune Breaker comes from a time before your gods arrived on this world.” Except for the dogmatic to the point of insanity, it was understood that the primary gods of Ere, the so -called Vishnari Pantheon, had not always been part of the world. Their own dogma, by and large, admitted that goblins and ogres and many other mortal races dwelt on Ere before the Pantheon brought humans and hailene to what for them was a new homeland.
That assertion didn’t pique Kaiel’s interest; it was the implication of it. Precious few artifacts existed from the time before the arrival of the Pantheon—Saint’s Landing. If Ru knew something the College didn’t, that knowledge would be worth a great deal to anyone.
Ru either didn’t notice or didn’t care as he recounted how Metredes took over the little valley he called home and ruled in fear up until he was poisoned by his own son, and there was no reason for Kaiel to even consider that Ru had taught the jealous young man all he knew about poisoning. Like all his previous masters, Metredes had swiftly become worthy enough for death that the pain of the link’s punishment was worth it. The poison took the tiny king of a tiny valley swiftly, but painfully as every muscle seized and spasmed.
“But,” He concluded, “That story contains some accuracies I was surprised to hear. The Rune Breaker does indeed think for itself and change form.”
“None of this explains why we’re talking about those terrible, destructive legends when I wanted to know about the link you share with Taylin.” said Kaiel hotly. As intrigued as he was with the possibility of pre-Saint’s Landing knowledge, being denied the answers to that other mystery grated on him.
“Because I am a terrible, destructive man.” Ru said, swinging the repaired scythe up to rest over one shoulder. The motion drew Kaiel’s eye.
“The Rune Breaker… the scythe. That’s what you’ve been trying to do? Make one?”
Ru barked a harsh laugh. “Don’t be foolish, story spinner. You cannot create one such as the Rune Breaker. The scythe was called Grace, and it served me well for centuries until that bloated fool the preceded Miss Taylin caused me to lose it.”
Kaiel groaned, which turned into a beleaguered sigh. “Then what was the point?”
“Not as smart as even I gave you credit for.” the mage made a tsking sound. “I have told you everything and yet, you cannot make the connections. Of how Arethlana struck a bargain to be master of the Rune Breaker. Of how the weapon things and changes its form. And we have both agreed that it is terrible and destructive. Are you so dense that I must add that Arethlana, thinking herself very clever, is the one who bestowed upon the weapon the name ‘Rune Breaker’?”
A horrible possibility shot through Kaiel’s mind, but he fought it down. “I always assumed that the thing was named that since it’s creation.”
“No name could have survived from the destruction of the world to the coming of your gods.” Ru emphasized ‘your’.
The possibility condensed into a hollow weight at the pit of Kaiel’s stomach. He drew together the other clues by speaking them aloud. “Ru Brakar: worse than a demon; an ancient monster. You’ve said these about yourself. You’ve complained of Taylin refusing to ‘wield’ you, and she herself has mentioned a bargain that resulted in the link.” His expression went blank as more implications hit him. “That’s why a mere ‘weapon’ is so powerful. It isn’t at all. It’s a man; and ancient wizard bound by… something extraordinary… to serve whoever is willing to bargain with it.”
Mentioning the bargain stoked a sudden concern. “Is the other part true? About how the Rune Breaker corrupts whoever uses it?” He didn’t know exactly where Taylin was, a Ru did, but he cast a worried glance down at the caravan nonetheless.
“As if I would have to if I wanted to.” said Ru with a disapproving sneer. “People are inherently terrible. There have been one hundred and seven masters of the Rune Breaker and each one of them was a natural monster who had no reservations against turning on allies, friends, families; even those they profess to ‘love’ if it served their purposes.”
“But not Taylin.” Kaiel pointed out.
Ru growled deep in his throat. “It has to be an act.”
“To what end? And can’t you read her emotions in any event?”
Another growl. “A substantially well orchestrated act.” Which, if his claim was correct, was aided by powerful magic to fool the link’s telepathy. He didn’t have to admit that however.
“My training says otherwise.” said Kaiel. “My first impressions are usually right when they’re positive.”
“Then you must meet very few people.” Ru countered. “And even if Miss Taylin is genuine in her considerations, the matter remains that I am not her friend; I am her weapon. That was the bargain she struck; to wield me as she will.”
“’As she will’.” Kaiel quoted, finding his nerve returning. There was no clear proof that Ru was who and what he said he was, and even then, the legends were Incomplete and conflicting. Besides that, he’d been already had nearly a month to observe the man and found that though he was rude and violent, he wasn’t mindlessly so. If he were to turn on Kaiel or the clan, there would be a reason.
“It seems to me,” He said carefully making sure Ru could hear in his tone that he wasn’t afraid of the Rune Breaker, “that how she treats you is Taylin’s choice then. It doesn’t sound as if you have a great deal of choice in the matter.”
Ru stood, or rather straightened while floating, weapon still over his shoulder. “This has never happened before.” He confessed, more to the afternoon sun than Kaiel. “I understand orders and distrust. I cannot comprehend what is wrong with this girl, who is handed power on a leash and chooses so vehemently to not use it. She continually asks me what I want, what I think. Just now, when my spell failed, she contacted me to ask after my injuries; knowing I am effectively immortal. This is an entire new kind of madness I’ve never uncovered.”
Feigning a sudden failure if interest, the chronicler set about straightening out his books. “It stands to reason that, if you are what you say you are, you’ve spent the vast, vast majority of your life in the company of the power-mad and genocidal. Forgive me for not giving you much credence as an unbiased judge of the mortal psyche.” He ignored the glare and pointed to the west. “In two days time, we will be in the Principality of Torm Dondaire and at the gates of Daire City. I spent many days there in my childhood and I know the people.”
“You know the women, I’m certain.”
Kaiel ignored him outwardly while inwardly gritting his teeth. “They aren’t perfect paragons of truth and right, but the kind of kindness Taylin shows isn’t alien there. I will let them prove that it’s not a madness she possesses, but the opposite.”
Turning in air, Ru looked to the west. Hills limited visibility in that direction and to the north, looking as if a giant hand had wrinkled the landscape. When he focused, however, he could sense it faintly; permanent spell structures, more powerful, and far more numerous than the ones in the haflings’ stone house. There had been nothing like it to his knowledge when last he traveled Ere. It reminded him of a time long past.
He didn’t have time to dwelt on it in thought, as he sensed Taylin moving. Turning once again, he looked just in time to see her clear the tree cover, wings outstretched and shining like fire in the sun as she rose, hauling the empty metal tub with her.
Even without it, she would have been a bit wobbly. Having been out of practice for years, she’d only less than a month to relearn all that she’d forgotten. As he watched, she had to flap overly much to correct for a stray breeze.
The one hundred and eighth master of the Rune Breaker. Was it all and act? Did it matter if it was or wasn’t?
He grunted an approximation of a goodbye to Kaiel and teleported. Not to her, but to the wagon. She was usually insufferably cheerful immediately after a bath and he wanted to have some spell work on hand to work on so she wouldn’t direct it at him. The link already subjected him to enough of it.