- 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
Without even thinking, she put her hand on her sword’s pommel, a classic intimidation tactic when dealing with would be enemy prisoners. “I don’t want a slave.” She said firmly. “You’ve seen some of my memories, I can tell. Would you like to see more? Will that convince you?”
“I do not care, Ms. Taylin.” He made sure she felt his apathy. “But perhaps you would like to recollect your one hundred and seven predecessors; behold the greatness they attained through me; see their empires carved out and the centuries of their legacy. Would that convince you?”
Taylin sighed. “You simply don’t understand. I don’t want an empire, or riches, or greatness. I just want to live my life my own way: free. I want a home, friends, a life without war and slavery.”
Ru straightened his back. “And you think that will be allowed you? I have seen your memories, the ones that stirred in any event, and the ones that you dredged up at this very moment. You former masters are making war with the entire world and spitting in the faces of the gods to do it.:
He folded his arms, allowing the sleeves to regenerate. “If they have their way, there won’t be peace in this world in a human lifespan. Not until the conquer the whole of their enemy.” A new emotion, slithered into Taylin’s mind from the link; slick, elusive and suggestive. She couldn’t guess at what it was, she never felt it herself, that was certain.
“But…” His voice dropped an octave. “You now have in your hands a weapon. A means to exact revenge upon them; to end their ambitions of conquest in flame and darkness. Each and every one of them will lament at what they’ve done to you as the crows come to peck at the corpse of every great work they’ve created. Everything that is them shall be ground away to dust, wet in their blood and tears, and fired into a shape of your own design.”
It was clear in the link that he was quiet proud of the picture he’d presented and expected her to respond in kind. But Taylin recoiled in revulsion from it, actually taking several steps back from him.
“No!” She shouted, flinching from nightmares that existed only in her mind’s eye and Ru’s words. “That isn’t what I want! I don’t want revenge or to grind away at anyone. I only want what I said. Peace. A life! And… and if that’s impossible now, I’d rather sleep a thousand years until this world… this life is a crumbling nightmare history.”
Ru paused in his ruminations on how exactly to ruin Taylin’s former masters to gaze directly at her. The mounting blood-lust and cruelty in the link stopped and it stilled. Not blocked this time, but transformed into the dull buzz of consideration.
“Is that really what you wish, Ms. Taylin?” He asked. His voice had all the care of a hospitaler’s touch.
“Yes!” She said, anguished by the thought of what she’d been offered. “Anything if better than this. In fact, I wish you could do exactly that.”
He was no jinni, granting wishes weren’t his business, and she was not in the frame of mind to think through exactly what she was asking, but it was enough to count. It would be a massive drain, even on his considerable powers, but the return was in time. Time to plot and examine the link. To put his sorcery genius to work, and to act as he pleased provided it was within a mile of the cavern.
Just veiling his emotions in the link had taken him decades and even then, he could only do it in short bursts. But with a thousand years… The former slave’s reluctance toward the darker thoughts he’d come to expect of everyone who had ever taken up the link previously might not be so wasteful.
“As you wish, Ms. Taylin.” He brought up his hands in a very specific gesture; first and middle fingers together, thumbs forward. His robe grew a cloak, as black as burnt wood and tattered like the mainsail of a ghost galleon. An invisible wind whipped it forward, causing it to stretch beyond it’s apparent limits.
Taylin didn’t notice until she was already surrounded by billowing folds of shadowy cloth.
“Ru? What are you doing? Ru?!” The cloth was everywhere, it’s noise canceling out all other sound and it’s fluttering bulk obscuring everything. It contracted close, too close. Something primal within her screamed and spurred her to action.
Flailing, she caught handful of cloth after handful of cloth, tearing, ripping, casting aside. She lashed out with every ounce of her warrior’s ferocity and with every sheet of cloth she tore down, she stepped closer to it’s source.
It felt like eternity, but finally, she sensed a body near. And by now, she didn’t care about the feelings or dignity of its owner. She lunged forth once more, shunting aside the cloak and finding Ru’s face beyond it. Then she planted her fist in it.
Ru crumpled almost dutifully. But he didn’t seem to fall that far. Had he been sitting down? Now that she looked, she was sitting too, with her back propped against the wall. There were no signs of cloth, not one torn edge. But she did see where one of the hounds had fallen; its body was desiccated to a husk of brittle skin and hair, the dull, dirty white of bones and teeth exposed by drying and receding flesh.
It was then that her breath caught and she started choking. The air was close and stale, without a drop of humidity. Though her lungs filled, they burned at finding nothing to worth to extract in it.
Taylin had endured forty years of abuse and conditioning as well as more combat hours than she could remember. She had won her freedom with guile and a broken sword. She had faced the temptation of the greatest weapon in existence and resisted wielding it in anger. From her perspective, she had already cheated dead twice that day and came out more healthy than she had ever been.
And now she was being killed by ancient air.