- 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
She didn’t seem intent on stopping him, so he continued. “But we would want to discuss the matter directly with your liege. Have you the authority to make this so?”
Percival snapped the same salute to Kaiel as he had Grandmother. “He will make you wait at least a day before seeing you. But I will convey the message.” He hen exchanged formal goodbyes with Grandmother and left, bounding into the air and hauling himself aloft with powerful beats of his wings.
Kaiel waited until he was out of hearing range before speaking.
“It seems that the peaceful reign of the House of Rayneir is over in Torm Dondaire.” His words were tinged with his uneasiness with that turn of events. “Typical story in the Eastern Principalities though; always someone working behind the scenes to bring down the current Prince and take his place. Solgrum’s been trying to politic Prince Rayneir II out of power for years and failing incredibly. At it. He probably just wore her down.”
“Her?” Ru asked, both eyes still fixed on the retreating back of Percival Cloudherd. “Wouldn’t that be ‘princess’? And if the previous ruler was a Prince, how can this new man be King?”
Kaiel secured his rifle to him pommel once more. “Only the scion of the House of Nov is truly King of Novrom. But Nov gives the principalities a great deal of autonomy as long as the taxes come in and the roads stay passable. Anyone with enough land under their control can be a Prince of Novrom; whether they bought it, inherited it, or were elected to lead there, but each Prince chooses how he or she wishes to be addressed.”
Rayneir’s father was a simple man who wanted what was best for his people. He simply went by ‘Prince’. Rayneir II followed in his footsteps. Solgrum is a pompous pile of wet ash wrapped in a man’s skin and seems bent on everyone knowing it, so he calls himself a King.” He noticed that Taylin too was still watching Percival, what little of him was still visible. “You can let go of your sword now, Taylin.”
She blinked at him a moment before realizing what he was talking about. With a twist of her wrist, the Eastern Brand was pushed back into the scabbard, triggering more clockwork that reset the springs and slid the bolts home once more.
“He wouldn’t have been much of a bother to you anyway.” Kaiel explained.
“How can you be so sure?”
“His accent, manner of speaking… they’re eastern hailene, yes. But the way he didn’t take time out to inform you that you’re ang’hailene, and how he called Grandmother ma’am say that he’s grown up in a city and not a tribe. The tribes are really the only overtly antagonistic or xenophobic populations of hailene anymore. He would never ask you to court, but he wouldn’t pick a fight with you over how you were born.”
Taylin cringed at the idea of courtship, but overall, the news made her finally relax. Grandmother interrupted any further questions she might have had.
“Do you believe the clan should have dealings in Daire with this man, Solgrum in charge, Keese Kaiel?”
“I can’t advise against it on any grounds other than the fact that his soul is a midden.” Kaiel sighed. “His personality is that of one of the less charming varieties of slug, but he’s not tyrant as far as I know. The issue with the forest is likely to conceal his own illegal logging operations outside of the House of Nov’s permissions, not some slight against the nir-lumos.
“Besides, Solgrum loves nothing more than money, but he has a certain lack of savvy. The clan can make trade with him to a significant advantage. And really, the people of Daire City don’t deserve to be bypassed by the caravan because a utter back-birth now rules them.”
Grandmother nodded. “Then get these wagons moving again. If we cut a bit north, the scouts tell me we’ll reach the road. I leave that to you, Keese Kaiel. It would make me very happy to be outside the walls of Daire City by nightfall.”
With that, they were dismissed. Kaiel struck off to ride down the line with their new direction while Ru wheeled Gaddigan around to follow Taylin back to her wagon at a more leisurely pace. It wasn’t long before he broke the silence that formed between them.
“You hate the hailene intensely.” He observed.
She tucked her wings closer and folded her arms. “I do.” The link was surprisingly bereft of emotion.
“Then why didn’t you use me to annihilate them instead of merely wishing to escape them in the stream of time?”
She stared at the ground and made sure to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. “Because there are good ones. Ones who don’t deserve to die.”
“Everyone deserves to die, Miss Taylin.” Ru replied coldly. “Some are exceptionally well versed in concealing why they deserve it, but every sapient mind holds darkness that is better left extinguished. I most of all, and yet because of it, I am bound to a power that ensures that nothing can end me.” A malevolent smile spread across his face. “That is the fairness of the world.”
Taylin still didn’t look at him. “That’s not true. Most people don’t deserve to die. Most people aren’t so evil that killing them is the only answer. I haven’t met a single bad person among the clan. And Kaiel is very nice to me.” She avoided the subject of Ru and he noticed without highlighting it.
“And among the hailene, what have you found? Percival? Who serves whoever pays him no matter how he clearly hates them? Who is so hateful and hypocritical that he rejects others of his race because of the color of their wings, even as he uses that ridiculous dye on his own?”
She stopped and finally looked at him, disbelief in the link. “You think that’s justification to murder someone?”
“He probably has larger crimes to his name.” He said evasively. But the act of blocking his emotion in the link was enough to make her disbelief go away. Instead, she nodded once and started walking again.
“Maybe. But there are better people than him among the hailene. Not to mention the children. Even in my time, I’m sure there were good ones. Evil is not in the blood.”
“And how exactly do you know this?”
She frowned. “Because mo… their blood is my blood. And I am not evil like the masters were. That’s why I never would have let you kill them all.”
“Heh. And yet, Miss Taylin, the patterns worn into your palm from gripping the Eastern Brand tell a different story.”
Uncrossing her arms, she examined her palm. There was indeed a crease pressed into it from the sword’s grip. “I… Yes, Ru. I wanted to kill him. It was like a reflex from all of my years planning my escape. I’ll have to work on that. The important thing is that I didn’t kill him. I just… wanted to. Because of everything that’s happened to me at the hands of the hailene.”
Ru was silence. Her anger was white-hot and roiled like a living thing in the link. But there was also something tempering it. Something he didn’t understand.
Taylin took a few cleansing breaths, then gave him a sidelong look. “I think it’s the only logical reaction from a slave; hating the one that keeps them. Even though I seemed like the only one that did. Siding with them, learning to enjoy what’s happened to you… it doesn’t make sense.”
Her eyes were on him. Boring into the side of his face. But Ru Brakar refused to meet them.
“Do you hate me, Ru?”
A lie, by what measure, she couldn’t tell, but she knew it was a lie before he said it. “Of course not, Miss Taylin.”
“I’m not lying, you know? About wanting to give you as much freedom as I possibly can. Or about wanting to be your friend.” She said and the honesty and earnestness were unmistakable in the link. “But for your sake, I hope you do. I hope you hate me and every other person that’s made you do things against your will with this link.”
Then she shocked him by completely blocking her end of the link. “I’m going to got check on Motsey and Rale before we get moving again.”
His eyes widened in clear surprise as she started to walk away. Where had she learned that? The girl was a constant complication, and if she fully understood the implications of what she’d just said, had little regard for her own health. But if she was being genuine about it…
No. Of course not. He’d seen her darkness as she stood there fully prepared to strike down that other hailene. Proof that even the creature of goodness and light Arunsteadeles imagined was not flawless. Everyone eventually succumbed to their baser nature. Everyone. It didn’t matter that some fought it. The fight was an impossible one to win.
He tried to clear his mind of so much useless philosophy. He spent too much time speaking with Arunsteadeles and it was showing. But the question remained; there might be darkness in everyone, and it might be impossible to defeat it completely; but what of those who simply endured, who never succumbed? Was that even possible?