Rune Breaker: Chapter 20 – Audience

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series Lighter Days, Darker Nights (Rune Breaker, #2)

Something about how she said it made Taylin stop short mentally. “You don’t really hate the miare, do you?”

“Kaiel believes I do.” Brin pretended to be interested in a booth set up with clay pots and flatware.

“Because he listens to Ru, and Ru believes that every living being is filled with darkness and nothing else. Especially me.”

“How can he possibly think that, especially of you or Kaiel?” Brin was vehement. “Honestly, Taylin, I don’t understand why you travel with him. He’s morbid and rude and I don’t understand what purpose he serves with you or the Winter Willow.”

There was nothing there Taylin could argue with. “I know, but it seems I have no choice. I…” She was forced to generate a lie quickly, “inherited his loyalties in a way. He’s honor bound to help me along in the world, and even though he doesn’t seem to want anything to do with me, my friends, or the clan, he won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

She sighed lightly. “Besides, he’s partly right: there are parts of me I don’t like; angry, vindictive parts that boil at even seeing another hailene, knowing what they’ve done. Even though I know it was centuries ago, and that even they weren’t all…”

Brin put her hand on her shoulder. “I know. Light knows I know what it’s like to have your own people…” The two women glanced at one another and formed an unspoken agreement. Nothing more had to be said on these subjects.

Silence settled in and they walked further. They paid no attention to the citizens who stared. Daire’s citizens were mostly humans and half-elves with the minotaur and hailene mostly being imports hired by Solgrum, or traveling with the merchants. In the larger cities, not even dragonsired and miare got a second look, but here, the odd elf and the hailene with unusual wings drew attention.

Eventually, Taylin grew uncomfortable with said silence. “So. Tell me about Reflair.”

Touching the reliquary around her neck, Brin smiled. “I think I’ve already explained the basics: she’s my spirit companion; the spirit with whom my ability has bonded with most closely. She was a general in one of the wars all the way back in the era of Draconic Control, but only because she was princess of her elfhame when the dragon armies killed the rest of her family. I met her where she died; in the Tresolmi jungle, in the ruins of her elfhame. She led me to the Barratta.”

“So the Barratta was her weapon?” Taylin asked.

“It still is.” said Brin. “Left to my own devises, I’m fairly good with a spear, but the Barratta is also a cudgel and a staff. Reflair knows how to blend all three in a fight: you saw that in the Arena.”

Taylin cocked her head to the side. “I did? I don’t think so, I only saw you.”

“You saw us. I was there, but Reflair was partially possessing me; using my body to fight with the Barratta, while I used her spiritual energy as a conduit to the Well of Souls for spellworking. It’s taken us years to reach that level of teamwork… and it shows. She’s not as skilled as she was in life, and I can only work minor spells.”

“It was very impressive from where I was standing.”

“Impressive is Lillith Windpiercer.” Brin waved a hand in the air as if to conjure her image. “She’s the high priestess of Dey in Spinar; the only one who doesn’t channel power from the Goddess. She’s ashing amazing; they say she and her companion, Noian, can maintain total synchronicity for six hours. Most can manage only a few minutes.”

“That does sound impressive, but I’ve never met her, Brin. But I’ve seen you and you shouldn’t discount yourself.”

Brin looked away at that last part. “Perhaps not. But it was how I was raised and it’s hard to break out of that.”

The two continued on their way, turning the conversation away from themselves and onto the city itself and the people in it.


Kaiel returned to his wagon late that night. Solgrum had no representatives from the Bardic College in his household, and had been eager to abuse his presence to elevate his station. The rate in silver he paid was an insult, the work, greeting petitioners to the usurper King’s court was tedious, but his cooperation was essential to getting the hunting accord signed for the nir lumos, even if it wasn’t spelled out in contract.

Solgrum kept hours for himself instead of his subjects, which led to court not even beginning until late afternoon and commencing until well after the sun went down. When there was a gala or ball, there was no court held at all that day.

It was worst for representatives of the outlying farming enclaves and towns; travel around the principality was reasonably safe during the day, but at night, the few spirit beasts in the region prowled. None of the smaller settlements could afford guards, and so their representatives were forced to pay for their own accommodations in the city.

Still pondering how far the principality had fallen under Solgrum’s rule, Kaiel slowly became aware of a scrapping sound. It was metal on metal in a precise rhythm, coming from… above him? He looked up at the roof of his wagon and found no one. Then he looked over at Taylin’s wagon and found what, in retrospect, he should have expected.

Silhouetted against the watch lights along the city wall was Ru. His head was bent over something, yellow eyes catching the light as they narrowed with intensity. Curiosity trumped Kaiel’s tiredness and he soon found himself climbing the side of the wagon.

It took a moment for him to survey the situation in the dim light and when he did, it explained nothing at all. “Ru, did you cut Taylin’s sword in half?”

An unnecessary question, as the answer was laid across the Rune Breaker’s lap. The razor-sword he’d created from the broken blade Taylin arrived with was split in half, not bisected, but filleted from edge to edge so that both flats of the weapon lay face down while Ru etched symbols into the interior sides with a steel pin that glowed with intense heat.

“Indeed I have.” Ru replied flatly.

“Did you ask her?”

“What need does she have of this when she has the Eastern Brand?”

“It’s still her property.” Kaiel stood fully on the wagon, towering over the seated mage.

“And yet, it is my creation. You were there when I reforged that broken relic into this fine razor.” Ru never looked up. The pin traced smoldering lines in the metal.

Kaiel groaned and ran his hands through his hair. “You’ll do your level best to justify anything. Fine. Then tell me ‘why’?”

“Theory.” Said Ru. “Have you ever been to The Ruby Draught?”

“I had hoped to spend time there since we were here, but Solgrum has stolen every scant second of my time.” Kaiel nodded. As academics’ taverns went, the Draught wasn’t anything special, but in that part of Novrom, it was the best place to go for intellectual camaraderie.

“Grand place, if not for the fool mechanists and alchemists trolling about the place theorizing on harnessing explosions for power, and storing lightning.”

“The stored lightning thing is old news. Merchants in Harpsfell have been using lightning jars to give would be thieves nasty shocks for years.” said Kaiel.”

Ru rolled his eyes. “Wasteful. Why not use a spell?”

“They’re cheap and you’re not beholden to mages to get one.” Kaiel pointed out. “Same reason firearms exist.”

“In any event,” Ru ignored this, though he still intended to get a hold of a pistol for study at some point. “I spoke to a tutor in spellworked item from Rivenport and he had an amazing story. It seems that one of his students created quite the novelty: a knife made magically keen such that one barely feels the cut. He then added to it a controlled healing spell. The result was a knife that you could slash a person repeatedly with without doing any harm.”

Kaiel sank down to get a closer look at Ru’s work. “Why do I have the cold suspicion that you’ve discovered a means of making it do harm?”

“Because despite appearances, you are not completely incapable of recognizing patterns.” Ru was so caught up in his work that he failed to notice that his insult was less biting than his usual. “You are, of course, correct. Harm is my purpose; why anyone would seek me out. Look here.”

He pointed to a series of symbols he’d already laid down. “As I don’t care if the target feels pain, I didn’t put as much work in the keening. I left the healing alone, but for one modification.”

Kaiel pointed to a cluster of symbols. “This gavae pattern here, it gathers vitae from the target.” It didn’t take long for him to deduce the purpose. “You’re using their own vitae to heal them.”

“The more potentially deadly be low, the more it draws.” Ru agreed. “Until they are too fatigued to go on.”

“I’m loathe to say this, but that’s ashing brilliant. Needlessly complicated, but brilliant. What possible use is this besides proving the point?”

Ru made a rude noise.

Kaiel rolled his eyes at this, then pointed to the piece Ru was currently working on. “These are all wrong for what you’re doing though. The gavae pattern drains only an infinitesimal amount, and it seems to target the holder of the weapon, not the target. And then there’s all of these dosim patterns multiplying out into nothing. Why are those even there?”

An evil smirk came to Ru’s face. “Because this is a wholly different enchantment. I’ve learned from studying the Eastern Brand: a good enchanted weapon present multiple threats and functions. I took your conception of the fell-light bow and adapted it for my own purposes.”

“Except you can’t.” said Kaiel, taking a seat on the wagon roof at last. “The bow taps discarnate energy, which you can only draw on in small amounts.”

“Infinitesimal amounts.” Corrected Ru. “But if it draws that continually and uses zome patterns to store it, the wielder can build up a reserve. And with it, unleash a truly impressive attack.” He summoned more fire to reheat his pin. “With this blade, my days of ‘sparing’ horses shall be over.”

Series Navigation<< Rune Breaker: Chapter 19 – CitadelRune Breaker: Chapter 21 – Sparring Sessions >>

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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