Rune Breaker: Chapter 21 – Sparring Sessions

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Lighter Days, Darker Nights (Rune Breaker, #2)

“You have my condolences.” Brin shifted so that she was facing more toward him, but still avoided looking directly at him.

“At Grandmother’s insistence, the entire clan is invited. I suspect she intends to pit the voraciousness of nir-lumos stomachs in proximity to free food with the prowess of Solgrum’s cooks.” He flashed a smile and turned to face her fully. “I’m still allowed a guest.”

Brin turned the rest of the way as well. She carefully schooled her face to hide that she got the message. That wasn’t how the dance was done. “That poor girl; forced to go to a doomed ball on the Murderyard.”

“It might not be so terrible.” Kaiel shrugged. “The quality of the company could improve it.”

He extended his hand to her, palm up, a Novromi gesture, but well understood by anyone that was mildly versed in foreign cultures. Almost any novel with a romance written in the past few years included it, even when none of the characters were Novromi. “Would you care to be that company?”

Brin completed the gesture, placing her palm atop his and drawing it back until their fingers hooked together. “I would be happy to, Mr. Arunsteadeles.”

His thumb dragged smoothly over her knuckles. “I suddenly have reason to see to it that there’s quality in the festivities.” he said lightly. He blinked as something cool touched his fingers, though when he looked, Brin wore no rings.

Ru’s presence, sitting not far away, suddenly loomed large in his mind. The dark mage had mentioned Brin being under the effect of a long term spell, but after the match with Issacor, he’d chalked it up to Ru misidentifying Reflair’s presence.

But what if it wasn’t? If that were true, it still wasn’t a sign of something negative. Jewelry designed to confer enchantments was common; from charms to make someone more attractive, to powerful magics that allowed the wearer to call up elemental servitors or become invisible. Rings that powerful were rare and expensive, but vanity charms could be found in any city.

What concerned him was that it was hidden. Most people flaunted their magic, even when that would mean admitting that they were, in fact, not as attractive, tall, or not-bald as their necklace would lead everyone to believe. A hidden spell almost certainly meant that it’s function was meant to be a secret.

And while everyone was entitled to their secrets, Kaiel was forced to admit that Ru had placed a drop of poison in his mind when it came to Brin. But not enough of one to prove fatal to his initial feeling. He would be wary, for he wasn’t a fool, but he wasn’t about to sacrifice something potentially meaningful on the altar or paranoia.

He allowed part of the war being waged in his mind show on his face, a technique taught in his diplomacy classes for using real emotion convince people of false ones. “Unfortunately, I can’t sit with you much longer. I have some business yet to attend to. I should be free by midday. And as I’m technically acting in an official capacity for Solgrum, perhaps you would like to join me in charging our personal preparations for the ball to his account?”

Slowly, they unlinked hands and Brin laughed heartily at the suggestion. “Loremen and contractors have something in common then. I once charged the purchase price of an ornithopter to a regent named Belucsas Bracy once. The pudding of a man demanded access to the Hessan Temple atop Mount Kapre-Chubra. If you’re unfamiliar, Kapre-Chubra’s foothills are the tomb-mounds of the Red Nation. I refuse to fight one dragon, much less all of them.”

“A good plan of action for staying alive.” Kaiel agreed. “What did Bracy have to say about that?”

Unseen by him, Reflair spoke to Brin and the contractor quirked her eyebrow in an enigmatic manner, pleased with the suggestion. “It was colorful to say the least. But I think I’ll save that until mid-day. Loremen put value on stories, yes? This will give you incentive to be prompt.”

Kaiel rose to his feet in one steady, but smooth motion. “As if I needed more. I look forward to it.”

“So do I.”

When Kaiel took his leave, he had to pass by where Ru was sitting. Before he could offer his commentary, Kaiel reached into an inner pocket and tossed the artifact disc inscribed with the ‘home’ character onto the open pages of the Rune Breaker’s book.

“If you keep your words to yourself, I’ll allow you to study it.” said the chronicler tersely.

“The Matul Garu people had a saying; back before my world ended.” Ru rumbled. “’It is rude to pay a man not to eat and breathe’. In my case, I believe that would include bedeviling you.”

“It’s only a rumor that loremen are always polite and even then, I’m not yet a loreman. Do we have an agreement or not?”

Ru looked down at the disc. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t a disc at all: more of a rounded rectangle with one and both more rounded and more narrow than the other. It had landed face down, revealing that the back was slightly convex while the front prominently concave. There was nothing written on the back, but there were symbols: circles, lines and hollow triangles, arranged in concentric circles to form a sight-bending pattern.

In his mystic sense, he could pick up on the layers upon layers of void structures. There were so many in so little space. Buried among them were patterns for gathering, storing and moving other elements: fire and water mostly, but on rather powerful on for air that was tied to water and fire, and a prominent earth based array as well.

What was most strange was that he recognized some of them. One was the most basic of spells: Akua Creae, the spell to manifest water, which made little sense when coupled with void arrays that most often featured into extra dimensional storage. And even those didn’t make sense: the largest ones he knew were room sized while the arrays he was examining now were several times more complex.

It was an enigma of spellcraft, and likely represented either a lifetime of precise work, or a level of cooperation among mages the likes of which Ru had never seen before. He couldn’t pass that up.

“We are agreed.” He finally said. “But only on this matter. I remain free to comment on such things as you unwitting indenture to this pocket despot who will find himself overthrown and in chains by the time this season comes again. I wonder how deeply this ball will associate you with him.”

Kaiel was already walking away, deciding it wasn’t worth preventing Ru from having the last word for once.


In spite of the link making it possible the track Ru’s location at all time, Taylin was surprised to find him in the wagon when she returned to it later that day. As exhausted as she was, she counted herself lucky that she even saw him sitting there on the floor at the epicenter of what looked to be an entire tree’s worth of paper. Stepping on him without noticing seemed a very real possibility.

“I would have thought you would be at you tavern by now, Miss Taylin.” She stepped carefully around the papers to reach her pitcher. For once, she didn’t set it to heat her water before she drank. Cooling down was a priority, but something in her refused to let her drink cold water.

“For once, there is something much more intriguing right here.” He gestured at the artifact. At the moment, he was busy diagramming out what looked to be the primary command array. It said something that it was taking in-depth study in order to just activate it.

Not seeing the point of propriety around Ru, Taylin drank directly from the pitcher before going to sit on the bed. Likewise, she’d given up on conversation with him when he was in such a mood; which was odd, as he was at his happiest at such a time.

She stretched, filling most of the wagon with her wings before laying down on her stomach. It wasn’t a nap exactly, but it was so comfortable that it refreshed her all the same. Silence sank in around them as she watched him consult the artifact and transcribe what he saw onto paper.

The link made it a surreal experience. She didn’t understand any of the patterns he was scribing, and whatever he was seeing in the bauble in his hand was invisible to her. Yet she felt his keen interest punctuated by fits and bursts of surprise and even awe. It fixed her attention as she lay there, idly wondering about the hidden world that was open to him but not to her.

“I have the same reaction to your swordplay and reading for reasons other than research.” Ru’s voice startled her out of her thoughts. It was less rough than usual, had been becoming so over the past few days as if he no longer saw the need for aural cues about his nature.

She propped herself up on her elbows. “I suppose it would be as difficult for me to explain them to you as it would be fore you to explain that to me.” A nod from her indicated that artifact.

“At the moment, I can easily explain it as a mystery that intrigues.” Ru waved a hand at the papers around him, all densely covered with whorls and intricate symbols in black ink. “I started not knowing what it did. Now I do, but it continues to elude me as to what it is for. That is the allure of spellcraft: Discovery. “

His gaze flicked up to meet hers, inspired by something he felt in the link. “What?” he asked, affecting the same reptilian growl he did upon first emerging from his prison.

“You’ve never talked about things you enjoyed, even when I asked.”

“I’ve made no secret that I am a practitioner in the art rather than a mere user of magic, Miss Taylin”

Taylin shrugged. “I suppose.”

His lip twitched, maybe it was a sneer, maybe not. “Even monsters have hobbies, Miss Taylin.”

Her wings drew close and her gaze became shifting and pensive. “Is… reading a hobby?”

“In some places, even practicing the sword is one. You have nothing to concern yourself about.”

Series Navigation<< Rune Breaker: Chapter 20 – AudienceRune Breaker: Chapter 22 – Grace From Outside >>

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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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