Rune Breaker: Chapter 17 – The Flaw in the Myth

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series Lighter Days, Darker Nights (Rune Breaker, #2)

It was eventually decided that it would be a waste for Layaka to have a spell-worked weapon if she didn’t know how to use it. Brin bought her a well balanced arming sword, which Kaiel promised to personally enchant if she advanced in her studies with it.

Then, much to Kaiel’s delight, Rai invited the pair to join them in their explorations of Daire City.

Eventually, Kaiel and Ru became distracted in a bookseller’s shop, and Layaka and Rai were across the street bickering at a steamed bun vendor over his prices. This gave Taylin an opportunity to approach Brin on her own.

The other woman was casually browsing the dime novels, spear leaned lazily over her shoulder.

“That’s quite a weapon there.” Taylin said awkwardly. Talking to new people was still strange to her and starting the conversation, even stranger.

Brin ducked her head. “It’s an heirloom from all the way back near the beginning of the Age of Tragedies. It’s name is Barratta, meaning–”

“Thousand strikes” Taylin said automatically.

“Right.” Brin smiled. “I suppose I should have expected a hailene to know hailene-de…”

“Ang’hailene.” Taylin corrected.

“You call yourself that willingly? I’ve known a few and using that word with them is like telling a miare to turn to ash.”

Taylin gave her a blank look.

Brin returned it. “What?”

“I’m… not certain what you mean by ‘miare’, or that phrase. I’ve heard it before.”

More confusion laced Brin’s features. “Where are you from that you’ve never heard of the Ashing? It happened before my time, but it’s not exactly lost to history.”

Kaiel appeared from around a corner so quickly that Ru couldn’t have done better through teleportation. His arms were laden with books and he had a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose. “You’ll have to excuse Taylin.” He said quickly. “Her upbringing sheltered her from much of the goings on in the world. She’s only been seeing what modern life is like for about a month.”

Taylin suppressed a smile. It was amazing how much the chronicler could lie while telling the truth.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Brin said.

“Nonsense.” Kaiel answered for Taylin, stepping up beside her. “I suppose it’s good to explain these things now before she unknowingly says or does something that ends up offending.” He inclined his head to Taylin. “The miare are one of the sylvan races, that is, created by the Goddess Sylph.”

Though she knew that the lecture was more to display his knowledge to Brin, Taylin listened appreciatively. The more she knew about her new world, she reasoned, the higher the quality of her new life.

“The sylvan races were largely isolationist, especially during the Age of Tragedies. Unfortunately, the Age came to them in the form of a holy war waged in the name of Denaii from the nation that would become Calderia.”

“In Denaii’s name?” Taylin asked, “But–”

“I know.” Kaiel say, looking sympathetic. “Denaii is a god of order and righteousness, but the Calderian’s interpretation of his teachings is xenophobic and destructive. They hated the sylvan races most of all, and some thirty-odd years ago, they unleashed… something against them and their home. No one knows for certain what they did, but there was once a nation bounded by Callen, Chordin and the Strait of Nivia—now it’s gone. There’s nothing there but haunted ash and monsters.”

Brin fidgeted uncomfortably at the retelling, or possibly the vision of the place left behind. Taylin gaped. Not even the hailene had a weapon like that, and they had in their possession ship based magical weapons that could destroy flights of dragons.

“This is what we now call the Ashed Land, and the event is called the Ashing of the Green, from which society has created many oaths and curses and rightly so.” Kaiel said in a somber tone. “The horror forced the Thirteen Nations Accord, ending the Age of Tragedies…for most. Sylph saved many of her people, took them up to dwell on her palace on the green moon, but the miare remained, trying to integrate into society without a homeland.”

Brin’s face turned sour. “By bowing and scraping to any other race they come across.”

Kaiel frowned at this. “Now that’s hardly fair. The miare maintain the level of etiquette from their old culture and it’s helped them become very successful in Novrom and Mindeforme.”

“The lasconti abandoned in it and they’re beloved in story and song.” Brin shot back.

Taylin looked at Kaiel for explanation.

The chronicler frowned at Brin as if she’d slapped him, but explained anyway. “Another surviving sylvan race; they were part of a larger species called hengeyokai; shapeshifters with both animal and humanoid forms. The lasconti are spiders and in the Age of Tragedies, they broke their isolation and some made names for themselves which have in turn romanticized the entire race.”

“The miare could have done that too.” Brin said, her voice tight. “Even one finding some dignity would elevate them greatly.”

“Enough.” Kaiel said, his voice low and forceful. “During my studies at the College, I knew miare, I was tutored in the art of diplomacy by a miare, and I learned a great deal about the miare in my xenology classes. They are as capable and deserving of dignity as any other race.” His eyes were cold, even as he turned them to Taylin. “If you have any more questions, I’ll be glad to answer them later.”

He started to move away, but Brin grabbed his arm. “Kaiel, wait. Please. I didn’t mean it that way. I know miare too and… and it’s just frustrating seeing how they’re treated. People take that politeness for subservience and they’re still too polite to correct them. It isn’t a way to live.”

While the ice left his eyes, it was clear that he was still disappointed. “I still need to pay for these.” He said, absently indicating the books. “I believe Ru wanted me to show him to a reagent shop. We’ll catch up to you at that restaurant Rai’s so excited over.”

Brin relinquished her grip on him and watched as he lost himself among the shelves. She gave Taylin a pensive look. “I really didn’t mean anything by it. I just… I know how they feel and wish they’d stop their part in it.”

Taylin shifted uncomfortably. She’d wanted to put a hand on the other woman’s shoulder, offer her some comfort, but she couldn’t bring herself to initiate even that kind of touch. She opted for a shy nod. “I understand, and I know little about the miare situation, but for ang’hailene, I remember seeing how they’re treated and wishing they would fight back. I don’t think it’s as easy for them as it looks from the outside.”

“Did you?”

Flickers of a flashing blade, spraying blood. Taylin blinked them back into the depths of her mind. “I did. But I had to do it alone.”

“It seems like that’s always the way.” Brin sighed, then schooled her expression. “Taylin, that sword of yours looks almost as formidable as the Barratta. Tell me about it…”

***

“’Ru wants to find a reagent shop’.” The dark mage scoffed. “As if I can’t find one on my own. We’ve passed two just walking in. I never imagined a world with an overabundance of spellcrafters.”

“I needed and excuse to get away.” Kaiel shot him a withering look as he shouldered the satchel he was keeping his books in. Ru had two books under his arm and one floating in front of him, the pages occasionally being turned by an unseen hand. “She was telling the truth about not meaning it in a bad way, but not about her true meaning. I don’t know what that means.”

“It means that you should consider yourself lucky.” Ru angled toward a spice-monger’s shop. “It only took you three hours of acting like an ass before finding the evil inside her. Tell me, Arunsteadeles, was she one of the ‘good people’ you expected to show me here?”

“You know, I have less illusions than you think, old man.” Kaiel shot back. They entered the spice-monger’s and Ru immediately went to inspect the offerings in dried roots. “I know that when I write or sing of ‘her’, that the ‘her’ I speak of is a mythological figure of perfection. Mortals are not perfect. We couldn’t stand perfection if we met it. But that we are flawed doesn’t mean that we’re so shot through with flaws that we aren’t worthy.”

Ru selected a fat, crimson tap root with white tendrils growing from it and moved on. “And your lady love has the ‘redeemable’ flaw of racial hatred. That must rend your gut, mustn’t it? I’ve known idealists like you, men who dreamed of…. equity… and they always fall hardest when it becomes a lie.”

Drawing his cloak around him, Kaiel allowed himself to growl out his words. “You’re a fool. You have no idea what world you’re in. It isn’t a lie. The Ashing of the Green and the increase in spirit beasts has shown the world that arbitrary divisions and isolation will lead us down the path of destruction. That line of thought is slowly dying out in the greater world.”

“And lives and breathes in the head of Brin of Rolling Meadows Enclave.”

Kaiel hesitated at that. “I… don’t know what’s in her head. All my training lets me do is identify the whole truth, not half truths, or something the speaker doesn’t fully understand to be true. When you tell me that all people contain a core of evil, I would see it as truth in your eyes.”

“Because it is.”

“Because you believe it. But if Taylin told me that they were good, it would also be seen as truth, understand?”

Ru was picking over vials of powders now. “That your power is utterly useless?”

“Useful based on the situation. It isn’t an ability for casual conversations. It doesn’t help that I can sense discarnate energy about her; she’s a practitioner of some sort, and I’m not sure if that would let her fool me.”

“More than just discarnate.” Ru chose a trio of powders for purchase as well. “She reeks of elemental energy as well. It’s a long term spell, it’s been in place on her weeks, perhaps months.”

“At any point in time were you planning to tell me this?” Kaiel’s teeth ground.

“What would it matter when ‘true love’ at first sight was concerned?” Ru span a vial between his fingers as he leered at Kaiel.

“You’re a worm, Ru Brakar. The kind of worm you find in the excrement of other worms. And the presence of a long term spell means nothing. She’s a contractor with the Historical Guild, maybe her client put a long term fatigue reduction charm on her, or she’s paid for something that increases her combat prowess.”

Ru shrugged and took the items up toward the shopkeep. “It isn’t my position to prove or disprove anything. Nor is it necessary. If this isn’t some deception, then it will be another. Mortals cannot be trusted, especially when they play at each others’ emotions. One would think that you would know this better than others, O wielder of the discarnate energy.”

Kaiel took a long, cleansing breath and threw back his cloak, raising his head. “You’re only doing this to get a rise out of me, reduce me to paranoia. It won’t work. As a man of education, I need more proof and investigation before I jump to any conclusions.”

Stepping back out into the light shining down upon the street, Ru raised a brow at him. “You are more a man of optimism and heart strings. No other explanation for why you would hurl yourself so readily at a woman upon only seeing her.”

“So you’ve abandoned accusing me of carousing?”

Ru snarled at having robbed himself of that particular barb. “It doesn’t matter. The point I make is that proof and investigation will flee your thoughts the moment you next look upon her.”

“You truly have a low opinion of me don’t you, old man? No they will not.”

“They will.”

“They will not.”

Ru gestured some distance down the street to where Taylin and Brin had rejoined Layaka and Rai in looking over the offerings of a carver’s booth set out in front of a carpenter’s workshop. There was an older man with a wide brimmed hat speaking with them. He appeared to be offering wine. “They will.” He said with finality before teleporting.

Left alone on the street, Kaiel had no other distraction than the one Ru had directed his eyes toward. She was beautiful in a way that simply connected with things in his brain that went beyond the idea of ‘his type’. If forced to describe his type that very morning, it would have included something poetic about brown hair, hazel eyes, and the word ‘petite’. He wouldn’t have mentioned race, but he fell well outside the rather true to life stereotype of students and scholars of the College having a taste for lovers of other races. Nothing against elves, or hailene, or miare, but he was happy with humans and half elves.

But Brin…

She appeared more elf than human, which wasn’t the norm for half elves. There were daoine, the rare breed of elf who served Sylph most closely and mostly dwelt on Azelia, but Brin didn’t match those descriptions either. She was uniquely Brin and that intrigued him. Everything about her captivated him, even the fact that he couldn’t read what she was thinking and the possibly dangerous secret Ru insisted she was hiding.

He wanted to know more, but not for the reasons the dark mage suggested. A heavy sigh left him as he started to walk, recalling Ru’s insinuation. “Yes. They have.”

***

Minutes earlier, Taylin and Brin left the booksellers; Brin with a few dime novels concerned mostly with heroes in the now-fabled era of Draconic Control, and a survivalist handbook for Layaka to study, and Taylin with a few slim volumes on the short history of the nations created by the Thirteen Nations Accord. She’d also picked up a heavier tome that promised to be an honest accounting of the War of Ascension from the hailene point of view. She couldn’t help herself, she was curious as to what reasons drove the hailene to do what they had done to her.

“You seem very interested in history.” Brin was arranging her purchases in a leather pack she carried on a single strap across her chest.

Taylin ducked her head. “As Kaiel said, I didn’t have a chance to learn much with my upbringing. You must be interested in it too though, right? Working for the Historical Society and all?”

“I work for the Society because of the job, not their goals.” Brin admitted. She raised a hand to ward off the unhappy look forming on Taylin’s face. “Don’t mark me for uneducated, but I’m more interested in discovery than learning the past. Playing guard, scout, and errand girl for the Historical Society’s let me see places I imagine even most loreman have never seen. I’ve been on the other side of the Tower Wall of Denaiiassus, Calderia; nipped into strongholds in the Kimean Isles… I’ve even been to New Illium and inside the southern halls of the Mountaincleaver dwarven clan, and the Society has paid me for the privilege.”

She blushed to see the way Taylin was looking at her. “What?”

“It’s just that I haven’t even heard of most of those places, and the ones I have heard of, Kaiel has told me aren’t welcome to outsiders.”

“Only to outsiders not bearing the seal of the Historical Society.” Brin grinned conspiratorially. “If you’re as good with the sword as I suspect, I could introduce you at the offices in Kinos once we reach them.”

“Why follow their rules when the caravans see the world without them?” Rai had found them and was smirking defiantly at them both. “We might not pay well, or cross the sea to Illium, Taylin, but we also won’t make you write down every glass of wine you drink with dinner, or ask you to trudge out into the Ashed Lands to harvest chalk.”

An amused smile payed on Brin’s lips and she patted the pack she was carrying. “The nice thing about that is that they let you keep some of what you take.”

Rai’s smirk vanished, replaced by naked avarice. “You… have some here?”

“Two pounds.”

“I didn’t take you for a woman that wealthy, Brin.” said Rai, eyes locked on the pack. “One ounce on a whetstone and I’ll make it so you come with us for free to Kinos.”

“Not a wealthy as you think. I use it myself, sometimes on the daily, depending on where I am. But you have yourself a deal.” Rai’s grin was more wolfish than any of the actual wolves the clan kept.

Series Navigation<< Rune Breaker: Chapter 16 – Daire CityRune Breaker: Chapter 18 – The Trinigon Arena >>

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