- Soul Battery: Chapter 7 – Inner Strength and Weakness
- Soul Battery: Chapter 1 – Boar Hunt
- Soul Battery: Chapter 2 – Findant Settlement
- Soul Battery: Chapter 3 – The Family She Found
- Soul Battery: Chapter 4 – The Stone House
- Soul Battery: Chapter 5 – The City of Temples
- Soul Battery – Chapter 8 – What It Means To Fly
- Soul Battery: Chapter 6 – Freedom Forgotten, Pasts Discovered
- Soul Battery: Chapter 9 – Welcome to the Bard City
- Soul Battery: Chapter 10 – Vul Azan
- Soul Battery: Chapter 11 – Death Stalks Harpsfell
- Soul Battery: Chapter 12 – Poisoned With A Spark
- Soul Battery: Chapter 13 – Tales That Need Telling
Ru let out another snort and stepped forward. Along the way, the bulky form of the female ospreshrike collapsed and flowed back into his default shape. He opened his mouth to speak, but Vul Azan glided to a landing just in front of him, his wings stretched out in such a way as to hide both Rune Breaker and druid from one another.
“The explanation,” Vul Azan’s voice was a reptilian rumble, “Is self-defense. That beast you have simpering like a dog attacked our cab—could have killed us all.” He tilted his head, regarding the crag-faced old man with displeasure. One hand strayed to one of the bucklers resting upon a hook attached to his belt.
“This will be the second time something or someone in this city tried to kill me, and I find it questionable how you just happened to arrive to pacify the beast.”
“Indeed.” Sharae sidled past Ru. Vul Azan’s coat was draped over her arm and she brushed at it fussily with her free hand, dislodging an almost steady stream of splinters and broken glass. “But I doubt he’s allied with our would-be assassin, Vul Azan. A servant of Sylph Reborn is above such things—unless you’ve offended her temple in some way I failed to notice.”
Ru glared at her. “Where were you when that thing was about to swallow Miss Pele?”
“As you said: being out in the open would be an ideal time to make an attempt on Vul Azan’s life with a rifle. I was maintaining a distortion field around the bridge to foil any such attempts.”
The elderly druid’s gaze flicked to Sharae, then back to Vul Azan. “You would do well to heed your woman’s advice, dragonsired. Such accusations are a serious matter; one I would not take lightly.”
Vul Azan snarled and turned to shoot a fierce glare at the now-docile ospreshrike. “My apologies, but none of that changes that we were nearly killed by that rogue animal and I have my doubts it was happenstance that it attacked us.”
A heavy thud and proximity in the link told Ru that Pele had landed nearby him. Her mind was thrumming like a plucked harp string and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her staring at her arm as several patchy scales receded into her flesh.
I’m fine. Came an uncharacteristically terse reply to a wordless question Ru only just then became aware he’d been forming in his head. Something softened in the link and she added. Thank you.
For what? He doled on the haughtiness and hunched his shoulders, knowing full well what she meant. It was nothing he wanted thanking for.
Pele took the hint and didn’t elaborate, instead opted to mediate between her alleged brother and the druid. “I’m sure he means no disrespect, he’s just had a trying day—as you can imagine.” She didn’t know the correct honorific to use with an elder druid, so she left it off, hoping it would come off as simple haste rather than ignorance or impropriety. The familiar ground of smoothing over the rude actions of another eased her mind somewhat and she let out a soft sigh as tension left her shoulders.
The druid nodded and looked toward the ospreshrike. “Indeed, this attack is uncharacteristic. Tree-line stalkers rarely attack unless they are hungry or fighting over territory—and the only other ospreshrikes on the mesa right now are nowhere near here. Something provoked him.”
“It wasn’t us.” Vul Azan snapped, folding his arms and flaring his wings in a manner Pele recognized largely as a hailene tic for trying to make themselves look more imposing.
“That’s true.” Pele said, stepping in again before he could say something more antagonistic. “We were talking in our hansom cab and it bulled us over without much warning.”
“Hmm.” The druid nodded slightly in Pele’s direction before walking over to where the ospreshrike crouched, its jaw still to the ground. He rested the thorny staff against his shoulder while raising free hand to the beast’s brow ridge and speaking a soft prayer to Sylph Reborn.
Vul Azan rumbled his displeasure. “Do we really have to stand here while that doddering holy man communes with that thing?”
There was something familiar there. Pele looked to Ru and raised an eyebrow. When the wizard grunted and pretended to be more interested in watching the druid, a small smile crossed her face. She managed to conceal it as she walked up to Vul Azan.
“You don’t want to antagonize him.” she advised.
“Why? Because he has the guard on his side?” Vul Azan eyed the guards who had split into small teams to assist everyone who had damaged goods or lost animals from the ruckus. One group was even righting the still-shaken cerato.
Pele shook her head. “No, because he can make your stay more miserable than it already is even counting the assassin.” When he gave her a dubious look, she clarified. “People think the Bardic College is the only power in Harpsfell—them or the Great Houses. But Harpsfell and most of Chordin is frozen wasteland with year-long permafrost. It’s only because of the druids that farms are even possible, forget about profitable.
“So everyone respects the druids. The Houses, the College… even the local criminals. There’s no one who will take your side against a druid and if a druid hates you, no one will serve you, no one will rent you a room—they’ll barely sell you a ticket off the plateau.”
After a moment’s consideration, Vul Azan stretched out his wings, then shifted back to his human form. Even before said wings were fully retracted into his back, Sharae was at his side, offering his coat. He nodded to the elf, then cocked his head in the druid’s direction. “That’s a lot of power for someone who doesn’t rule.”
“Even a tyrant is ruled by his stomach.” Pele quoted Kaiel’s reply when she made the same observation the year before. “So let him do his job. He’s one of the people tasked with keeping peace in the Menagerie—otherwise rampages like what just happened would go on all the time.”
They waited five or six more minutes, even Ru, who seemed to genuinely make an effort to study whatever spell the druid had channeled from his goddess. Finally, the old man petted the ospreshrike’s brow and turned slowly to look at the quartet assembled before him.
“You must understand that the ospreshrike is not a complex creature of complex moods. It is a component in the grand design of Our Lady Ever-Growing, Sylph-Who-Was-Reborn: It consumes those creatures too large or too well-defended to be preyed upon by smaller predators, it scours the woodlands of carrion, and it procreates to bring more of its ilk into being. It does not know or understand hatred or spite. It knows only that it was challenged, that a rival male marked the territory it was in and that it was defending itself when it attacked and was in turn attacked.”
“Marked?” asked Vul Azan. “How?”
“How is it ever done?” The old druid asked, his face not betraying how foolish he might think the question was. “Urine, mixed with the secretions of a special gland.”
Sharae gave him a quizzical look. “But clearly, none of us possesses a ‘special gland’ and the other three would have noticed the fourth ‘marking’ the hansom.”
The druid was impassive. “That is what the creature reacted to. It has not the capacity to lie.”
A soft thud drew everyone’s attention. Ru had become a dire wolf. Even for an animal the size of a pony, there was something unmistakably ‘doggy’ about how he hunched down and put his nose to the ground, snuffling about until he arrived at the bulk of the cab’s wreckage.
He circled it twice before shifting back and floating back into the air. “Sabotage.” He growled. Sending his fingers in a twisting dance in the air before him, he manipulated vox to coax a half-dozen chunks of formerly lacquered wood into the air before him. “This wood is from the rear of the hansom—the outside rear. And they are soaked in the urine of something not quite avian or reptilian.”
“Turn to ash!” Vul Azan cursed. “The assassin!”
Pele couldn’t suppress her shock at the revelation and rounded on Vul Azan. “What did you do?! Someone wanted you dead so badly, they sicced an ospreshrike on you? That’s… that’s killing a mouse by dropping a house on it!”
Pausing to allow the pieces of the cab to fall to the ground again, Ru scratched his beard thoughtfully. “Using an animal as an agent of murder has merit as a concept, I’ll grant them that. But psi spellworking would have been more elegant than splashing urine everywhere.”
“Be serious.” Sharae said, sending him a venomous glare.
“Madam, I assure you I am always serious when it comes to dealing death and destruction.”
“Ru.” Pele said to cut him off from more morbid theory-craft. She turned to Vul Azan. “Do you honestly think my friends would do something like this—something that could have easily gotten me killed as well—just to keep me from speaking with you? Can we drop the idea that Mr. Ridsekes or Kaiel are behind this now?”
Vul Azan squared his shoulders and surveyed the destruction around them. The ospreshrike could have easily knocked them off the bridge entirely. If it had, there was precious little chance they could have escaped before hitting the canyon floor. Even on the bridge, they might have been trampled to death if not killed outright by the enraged beast.
He watched as the druid, now satisfied that they hadn’t done anything to cause the attack, ordered the ospreshrike to its feet and led it toward the other side of the bridge.
“Perhaps I was wrong about their involvement. But that doesn’t make them any more trustworthy in my eyes.”
“Why?” Pele asked, holding in her exasperation. The fact that Vul Azan was being obstinate and gruff instead of putting on a better face made her wonder if he wasn’t either genuine about just wanting to meet his sister, or a far better con artist than she imagined. “I know those two aren’t anything to you, so what did bards or loremen do to you to make you suspect them of such terrible things?”
Vul Azan scowled and finally took his coat from Sharae with a wordless nod. He didn’t speak until it was settled on his shoulders, and then only as he sauntered over to the broken railing where the cerato and its cart went over the edge.
His green eyes glared hawkishly down into the shadows where the ruined city lay. “Did your bard friend ever tell you the history of this city?”
Pele’s scowl matched her supposed brother’s. She had an idea where this was going. “That the Old City was the last stronghold of free demihumans during Draconic Control? He did.”
“It was also the site of the first draconic death by a mortal hand. Rhuma Zho’indaran and his arrow of light pierced the heart of the Silver King, Hanetto when he came to personally subjugate the city.” Vul Azan said, not looking away from the ancient remains of the Old City. “The Silver Prince, Gavrio, changed tactics; sent spies to learn more about the city. And when he uncovered every strength, every weakness, every qualm, insecurity, and eccentricity, he struck with full force and almost crushed the last light of demihumanity.
“They taught me the history of that entire era back in the Dragon Cult. They claimed it was so that the shame would breed humility, but the truth is it just keeps alive the memory of a time when they ruled the world. The thing is, not long after I learned about Gavrio and his revolutionary answer to an opponent he couldn’t simply overpower, the first ‘chronicler’ came to the cult to live with and study us.”
At this, Vul Azan looked over his shoulder at Pele. The sun caught in his eye and made the iris seem to crackle with his simmering disdain. “If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, it sounded awfully familiar to me. You see, it occurred to me that the bards are very much like the dragons, like Gavrio. Apart from the similar arrogance toward mere mortals, they draw their power from the same place, gather information in the same way, and they even chose the one place the dragons could never defeat as their base of operations.”
In the back of her head, Pele heard the dragon roaring and wondered if that might be something to prove Vul Azan right. She didn’t heed it though because frankly, she agreed with the dragon on this one.
“Enough!” She said, holding up her hands if it to physically halt his words. “I have no idea what the point of this is, and I don’t know any dragons to say anything about them. But I know bards and chroniclers, and loremen. They try to learn things because you never know what bit of understanding might lead to some breakthrough in the world, like the mystic steam engine, or the printing press. They aren’t out to destroy anyone. You are never going to convince me otherwise, so you can stop trying.”
She straightened her spine and extended her wings their full span while at the same time crossing her arms and staring back at him defiantly. “That is, unless you want to find your assassin without our help.”
Something unhappy, but not hostile swam in his expression a moment before he gave a grunt and a nod. “As long as you promise not to try and convince me that they’re the paragons of enlightenment some claim they are.”
“All they are to me are the man who nearly gave his life for my family, and the man who taught him how to do it.” said Pele. “Now can we please focus on the assassin?”
Vul Azan turned to fully face her and ducked his head. “Right. It looks like we’ll have to walk from here, but we should still show you the scene of the crime.” He started off once more across the bridge. Sharae fell in beside him, her eyes scanning the slowly returning traffic for threat.
When Pele made to follow, Ru floated along behind her.
I’m surprised that you didn’t just leave him to his own devices after that.
She shook her head. This assassin is more dangerous than whatever Vul Azan is after—if he’s after anything. It’s a miracle of luck worthy of Pandemos that no one was killed just now. She paused uncomfortably before adding, And I need some answers from him before I think about telling him to leave me alone.
The link shivered with Ru’s surprise. Were you injured when the cab went over? That wasn’t like you.
I know. Sometimes I’m not like me. That’s the problem. Hopefully, Vul Azan has a solution.
An hour of walking later, and they were out of the Menagerie and on the streets of the mesa just north of it in a district called Bagland; presumably for its wealth of inns and hostels catering to short-term occupancies.
Pele had waited to pick the right time to ask her question of Vul Azan, hoping to catch him off his guard. That time didn’t seem to be coming along soon as neither he nor Sharae let themselves be distracted for even a moment. No street hawker, performer, or fine display of wares turned Vul Azan from the path he was blazing through the crowded street or Sharae’s silent observation of every passerby.
She had to get her answer and once she was looking into the assassination, it would be too late. So she sped up so as to walk abreast of Vul Azan, on the other side from where Sharae was. “I’ve never met another red dragonsired.” She began, matter-of-factly, “And I’ve never seen another one fight.”
“I’ve had a great deal of experience with that, Little Sister.”
Thinking better of arguing with or correcting that label, Pele pushed on. “I was just wondering though… when you fight, do you feel like your draconic instincts are taking over?”
Vul Azan turned to her and raised an eyebrow. “Draconic instincts? Any instinct I might attribute to a dragon wouldn’t be much help in battle. People who get that cocky without weighing several tons and being covered in a foot of scaled armor don’t live very long.”
“So you don’t feel any kind of unnatural anger that drives you to fight? Nothing like that?”
The eyebrow crept higher and he huffed out a rough laugh. “You don’t know any dragons at all, do you?”
“…Not as such, no.” Pele admitted.
“As much as I’d love to see the reaction of one being accused of it, they aren’t animals or savages. The Dragon Nations are just as much a civilization as the Thirteen Nations. Rage isn’t an inherent trait in them. Neither is the arrogance, I assume. That’s all cultural.”
Pele frowned thoughtfully, and suppressed a shiver. She didn’t know much of anything about dragons. She’d only assumed or at least hoped that was the explanation for the roaring in her head. “Oh.”
“Why do you ask?”
“We read too many dime novels.” Ru stepped in seamlessly before Pele could even react to the question. “There’s a series of works where the dragonsired protagonist is a berserker of sorts, channeling his inner dragon to fuel his combat prowess.”
Vul Azan laughed again and rolled his eyes. “No one knows an ounce of truth about the dragons or the dragonsired. I suppose if you weren’t raised by the cults, that includes you, Little Sister.”
The crowd on the street was starting to pick up as they left the Menagerie further behind. Sharae had drawn closer to him and was ignoring the conversation entirely.
Again, Pele let the ‘Little Sister’ go by in her quest for information. “I only know things I read. And of course some things in the dime novels get changed around for drama—even in the historical stories or personal accounts.”
“Does that include the story your friend wrote about you?”
“Parts.” Pele said evasively. “But really: there are things I should know, right?”
Vul Azan shrugged. “I’m not sure if my experiences will translate to a dragonsired who is half hailene.”
“Ang’hailene.” came Pele’s automatic reply.
“Hmm?” Vul Azan started to cast a questioning look her way, but then suddenly threw himself into action. One arm, already fast becoming covered in scales, struck out and caught Pele in the chest, shoving her hard back into Ru. The other had retrieved one of his bucklers, which he brought up into the space Pele previously occupied.
Pock. Pock. Pock.
In the midst of the ensuing chaos, Pele managed to see two of the three slim stiletto knives as they struck the buckler and lodged in the dark wood. On impact, each briefly crackled and flashed with a discharge of electricity. Her instincts—the combat instincts she’d grown to trust and survive by—instantly had her turning to trace the trajectory back to where they came from.
But there were more than a dozen people in that direction, on their way up or down the street, sitting at tables at a nearby outdoor cafe, or part of a group of kids playing some kind of ball game in the adjacent empty lot. No shadowy figures in black cloaks, no fleeing suspects. The street looked like every other major urban thoroughfare she’d ever encountered. The only difference was, some were giving them odd looks thanks to Vul Azan’s sudden motion.
“He’s here.” Vul Azan sounded less fearful and more anticipatory. “Sharae. Find him.”
The elf was already in motion, turning a slow circle while her fingers traced a complex pattern in the air. Said air rippled as if with a heat-shimmer, then boiled with silvery haze that coalesced into a circle of a dozen spectral eyeballs. With a final gesture from Sharae, the Wheel of Eyes scattered, the silvery sensors dispatched to survey the crowd.
As Sharae waited for her spell to turn something up, Pele shifted into a fighting stance; pulling her wings in close and bringing up her fists. “You saw where those knives came from?” She asked, though logically, he had to in order to have pushed her out of the way and blocked the attack like he had.
“Not enough to be of use.” Vul Azan had both bucklers on his arms now, having donned the other one in the space of time between Pele looking for the thrower and looking back. He glared at the people around them who were giving dirty looks to the four standing in the middle of the street, cluttering up the flow of traffic.
“I know who we’re looking for though: Young. Tall. Dark skinned; more like a Calleni tribesman than a Rizeni. He’s fresh-faced—he’s never seen a fair fight in his life from what I can tell.” Just as much disregard was dripping off his speech concerning the assassin’s tactics as it had in regard to the Bardic College.
Pele scanned the street again, armed with the new knowledge. Most of the people were pale, but lacked the bluish tint of native Chordinis. They must have been in or near a neighborhood of Nov, Genmidi, or perhaps Northern Calleni transplants. There were a few people with darker skin, but none of them who were both tall and young—one was in a guardsman uniform and eying them with suspicion.
The adrenaline was still pumping through her from the stiletto attack, but her hands clenched less into fists, and more into a grasp with nothing to hold onto.
She gave it hardly any thought until the earth to her right began to groan and grind. Looking down, she found the cobbles being pushed aside by a sword sprouting hilt-first from the earth beneath them like some sort of bizarre plant stem. It was a fair approximation of a common zweihander; a weapon Pele was well acquainted with.
I found the last conflict lacking with you not being properly armed.
Pele smiled at Ru’s comment and drew the stone sword the last few inches out of the ground. It was much heavier than any respectable zweihander, but she favored over-sized minotaur blades when her normal swords weren’t available anyway.
She’d armed herself none too soon, as a pair of stilettos bounded seemingly out of thin air toward her. The unfamiliar weight of the weapon almost made her block too late and the first dagger deflected off the edge of the sword and went spinning off into the passersby. Someone in that general direction yelped and there was a general commotion as a twitching body hit the cobbles.
Twitching. Not dead.
And the attack had been aimed at her, not Vul Azan.
A few half-formed suspicions were strengthened when Sharae let out a forced grasp and dropped to her knees, her body convulsing even as she fought her body’s reaction to the electrified dagger sticking out of her upper arm.
Ru, become something that can resist shocks. Pele winced to herself as it came out as more of a command than anything else. Ru was quick to comply, dropping to the ground and becoming a huge shaggy yak.
Just as she expected, the assassin still tried their luck and once again, the stilettos seemed to appear in mid-air before becoming hopelessly tangled in the yak’s cords of thick hair.
No, they didn’t seem to come from nowhere. They were appearing from invisibility. Pele swiftly relayed the information to Ru.
A subtle array. He commented while shifting to his human form. “It blends right into the vin and akua arrays these restaurants use. No wonder I missed it. But now…” He turned toward where he sensed a nearby veil of akua and raised his intertwined hands before him before pulling them apart so violently that Pele wondered how he hadn’t dislocated something in the process. “Akua ro… break.”
A spot in the air on the other side of the street shattered into thousands of twinkling ice crystals, each one formerly having acted to deflect and bend light around the assassin who stood revealed in mid-throw. Just as Vul Azan said; he was bronze-skinned and tall, but slight and very young-looking. Even without the veil, he would have been hard to pick out among the crowd, dressed in black trousers with a green brocade coat and a stylish cravat. The only thing marking him as an assassin was the brace of daggers strapped to his chest under the coat.
Not missing a beat, even when revealed, the assassin redirected his throw toward the guardsman. It might have bought him time, if only a slab of earth hadn’t erupted from the cobbles to intercept the throw halfway.
Pele almost thanked Ru before registering his surprise in the link. Shortly thereafter. Sharae spat “Bastard!” and the stone slab began to rapidly skim across the cobblestones toward the exposed assassin.
The man saw it coming however, and dashed toward the slab, leaping at the last moment to vault over it.
At the same time, Vul Azan drew back both bucklers and boomed, “Vouga. Ieyae. Into the bucklers. Seek.” And then he launched them toward the airborne assassin. The beautiful discs flew with unnatural grace, weaving past confused and gawking people on the street on their track toward their target.
With an incredible effort of athleticism and training, the assassin arched his back and threw himself into a twisting midair spin to evade the attack.
It didn’t help. He dodged both, but as he touched down, they came back around. One hit him in the back of one knee, causing it to buckle and partially turning him around. The other struck him edge-on in the side of his throat with a sickening crunch.
A gurgling croak came from the fallen man as he tried to draw breath through his partially crushed windpipe.
He hadn’t even hit the ground before Vul Azan caught his returning bucklers and stormed toward him, shoving people aside as he went. By the time he navigated the throng, the guardsman had beat him there and was applying a rudimentary healing spell to the assassin’s throat.
“Don’t bother saving him, it’s better than he’ll get if he survives.” snarled Vul Azan.
The guardsman didn’t bother looking up. “What he’s getting is a cell and a trial. It’ll be up to the Adjudicator to decide what he gets afterward.”
“He tried to kill me, my sister, and our companions.”
“Then you will be called before the Adjudicator to bear witness, sir.” The guard finished, allowing the injured man to take a few ragged breaths, before clapping a pair of rune-encrusted manacles on him. “You are bound by the law of Harpsfell and the greater realm of Chordin.” He informed the man. “You will go before the Adjudicator to weigh your guilt or innocence. You will be allowed to speak your piece. If you lack the skill, ability or will, you may name an Advocate…”
Vul Azan growled, but didn’t press his luck against the lawman. “Useless. We’ll be lucky if he doesn’t escape before the night’s out—if whoever hired him doesn’t have him killed first.”
By that time, the others had arrived. Sharae shook her head. “I wasn’t able to contain him fast enough.”
“I’m impressed you were able to cast at all with this in you.” Pele was examining the stiletto she’d pulled from the elf’s wound. It wasn’t magical according to Ru. Instead, it had a spring behind the blade and some mechanism attached to that leading to a hilt containing a sealed clay vial wrapped in copper wires. The blade itself was actually a pair of tines which, when the spring was compressed, crackled with electricity.
Sharae shrugged. “I’ve gotten out of practice since the sellsword days. That wouldn’t have slowed me at all ten years ago.”
“We’re going to be here the rest of the day explaining things to guardsmen.” Vul Azan complained, seemingly without having heard a shred of the conversation. “And we’ll likely never learn who sent the cur.”
Ru floated over with a stony look on his face. “Thanks in no part to you crushing his throat and likely his voice box. Best of luck finding a vitae master skilled enough to reconstruct something that delicate in any acceptable amount of time. That was a foolish mistake.”
“It stopped him didn’t it?” demanded Vul Azan.
Listening to the exchange, Pele frowned. “You still haven’t told me why you think someone would want you dead so badly. And it’s definitely you, Vul Azan. These,” She held up the electrical knife, “Are non-lethal, which are odd for an assassin to use to start with, but he specifically targeted the three of us with them. Why?”
“Why do you think I would know? I thought it was the bards keeping me from you.”
She shook her head. “That’s another thing: why would you think they would want to do that? Is there a reason why they would?”
“Of course not. But they’re bards. They want to control information. But that’s beside the point. I’ve dropped my suspicion of them and you still don’t trust me.”
Pele’s feathers bristled with irritation. “You haven’t given me a reason to.” She stopped and took a deep breath. There wasn’t anything more she’d be able to learn now, especially with the assassin’s voice likely destroyed; any information he could give would be in the form of writing back at the nearest guard house.
“I’m sorry, Vul Azan. You just haven’t. I have no idea if we’re really related, but the truth is, I already have a family that I love and who love me. I have sisters, a brother, a niece, a nephew, a Grandmother and Grandfather, many great cousins, and a… er… Ru.”
You wouldn’t have appreciated it if I called you a friend.
Pele coughed and continued. “The point is, I’m not so desperate that I’m going to go leaping into trust and kinship with everyone who might be a blood relation. Maybe we are brother and sister—and maybe we’ll grow to act like it, but that’s going to have to grow naturally. Frankly, right now, you hate one of my dearest friends because of his vocation and you hate the half of what we share in common… and I don’t know what to do with that.”
She absently weighed the stone sword in one hand and the electrical knife in the other. “If you’re going to stay around, we can talk, have lunch or coffee… things like that, but for now, once we talk to the guardsmen about what happened, I think I’m going back to House Gurrai to help the family I know and love prepare for Wintercoming.”
For a long moment, Vul Azan was quiet. Then, he looked to Sharae, who shrugged and said, “I told you as much.”
“So you did.” he agreed, before nodding to Pele. “I did expect you to be in search of your family. I thought the ties that bound you and your companions were something fanciful the bard added for drama.” He rumbled deep in his throat. “But you’re right: I wouldn’t trust you if you appeared from the aether and expected to be welcomed with open arms.”
He gestured to Sharae and they started to move away with him gently nudging his way through the crowd starting to gather to watch the arrest. “We’ll talk. When you feel like it.” He gave a military-style salute with two fingers over his shoulder. “I already told you where my inn is.”
Pele looked between him and the guard. “Wait! What about the man who tried to kill you? You are going to testify against him, aren’t you?”
Vul Azan grunted. “What’s the point? Like I said, we’re highly unlikely to get anything from him.”
And with that, he and Sharae melted into the surrounding throng, leaving Pele and Ru to wait to give their accounts.