- 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
You cannot see it from your vantage, Ms. Taylin. Ru supplied. Less than a mile beyond the river’s mouth, on an artificial hill on the floodplain.
Taylin gauged the distance to the river’s mouth. “Is that where you want to go?”
It isn’t my choice to make. Nonetheless, he disappeared from the hill and reappeared a few yards behind her.
“Yes, it is.” She insisted. “Ru, I can tell now that you don’t like the outdoors. If you want to go to the town, just say and we’ll go to the town… though it’s far enough that we’re probably not going to get there by nightfall.”
“We could travel more swiftly if I took the form of a horse, or other creature of conveyance.”
Taylin made a face. “No. I am not riding another person, no matter what they transform into. It’s a matter of dignity.”
“You cared not for my dignity when you manipulated me to escape the chamber.” He was quick to point out.
“That was only fair.” She reasoned. “You wanted me to treat you like a slave, so I treated you like a fool, because only a fool would want to be a slave.”
Ru growled, deep in his chest and turned away. “You do not understand, Ms. Taylin. None of my previous masters have balked at issuing orders before. Why is it so difficult for you to accept.”
“If I had the food to wager, I’d bet a full packet of ships’ crackers that none of them have ever experienced it from the other end.” Taylin folded her arms definitively. “No one is going to feel the way I was made to feel because of me; magic or no.”
Whatever Ru was thinking was lost in the more general buzz of his mixed annoyance and frustration. Suddenly, those were lost in a spike of alertness.
So quietly that she wouldn’t have heard it without her enhanced hearing, he whispered. “We are no longer alone, Ms. Taylin.”
Military training kicked in. An ambush had been spotted. The key was to prepare in such a way that it looked as if you were going about normal activities. Her boots wouldn’t be much use if the fight started on sand, so she ignored them.
Report. She shivered when the cold, slithering feeling in the back of her head told her that the link considered that an order.
“Three large animals, possibly large breeds of dog, one larger than that, almost certainly a horse. Three on foot, possibly human children. They emerged from a woodling cloak three hundred feet to the south and west.”
“Sorry.” Taylin said, unhappy with herself for the slip, however accidental. She stood with the pretense of stretching. “How did you know that?”
“The cloak. I wouldn’t have known even that much if they hadn’t disturbed it by leaving its range.” There was a beat as he got a full sense of how little that explained things to her. “I am very sensitive to magic as it takes effect or ceases to have one.”
Taylin let it go with a nod. “Alright, so it might just be children. It’s probably children.” The last thing she wanted as a fight. After all, to her, the battle with the hounds was only a short time ago.
Hopes of this not being the case dwindled as the horse gained the hill right where Ru had been standing earlier.
Its rider was a human dressed in the gray hide of some large lizard worked into a vest and matching greaves over thick, brown wool. Beneath the vest, he wore a collared shirt of the most vivid blue Taylin had ever seen. His eyes were hidden by a flat brimmed straw hat, which was adorned with metal plates along the crown.
He was carrying a length of hollow metal, gripping it by the center and a complicated handle of polished wood and brass. It looked as if he were carrying some shaman’s ceremonial maul the wrong way around.
Within the first few moments, it became clear that they weren’t who he was expecting. In the next, it was just as clear that he had decided they were as good as anyone.
“Don’t move, raise your hands!” He ordered, brandishing the strange object he was carrying.
“We don’t mean any harm.” Taylin tried to assure him. It was no easy task, being over seven feet, covered in blood and battle damage, and traveling with a broken sword, which, even broken, was longer than the newcomer’s leg. She held her hands up and out, as she’d seen surrendering troops do. “We’re travelers, nothing more.”
Ru made no such attempt at making peace. Instead, he stared with all his belligerence. “Is that a weapon?” He scoffed.
“Lower Chordin Armory repeating rifle.” The other man replied. “Considering it can drop a riding spider at thirty paces, I’d call it a weapon, yeah.”
“Hmm…” His interest was piqued and Taylin got the sense of a number of equally terrible thoughts through their connection.
“Ru.” She said firmly. “Just put your hands up so he knows we’re not here to hurt anyone.”
I exist to hurt people. He pointed out and she was thankful that he had the decency to only say that in her head. Reluctantly, he also spread his arms above his head.
“Alright,” The man steered his horse cautiously down the incline with his knees while not one losing his aim the so called rifle. “Now where are the others?”
Taylin blinked at him. It was hard not to feel nervous with Ru mentally constructing a legion of possible horrible fates awaited people on the nether end of the ‘rifle’. “Others?”
“The ones you brought through the tele-gate spell.” He replied, voice calm, calculated. “If you give up the others, you have my word that the village will be most forgiving for what you’ve done to them.”
“I’m telling the truth.” Taylin said, trying to meet the eyes hidden by his hat. “It’s just us. “We aren’t here to hurt anyone.”
A long moment went by, then the man with the rifle nodded and lowered it. “I believe you.”
Ru arched an eyebrow and replied to this new news with a flat, “What?”