“Perhaps you are right,” Malija said. “Still, they might’ve killed me.”
“Who?” Tervud asked, moving to press her hand. She flinched away. Imbecile. She’s had too much warstock touch for ten lifetimes.
“You would kill them if I told you,” she said. “Or die trying, rather. Even Adherents are mortal, Tervud. You seem less brutal than I expected; it would be a shame for you to die so soon. I think in time I might forgive you.”
“Forgive me?” he asked. “I expected you to blast me off this platform!”
“Ours is not the Shrouded Age,” Malija sniffed. “A woman is no longer shamed if the man she was to marry runs off.” Whereas that man finds he has one more sin to atone for.
“Malija, tell me who, at least! I promise you, no rank bandits would best–”
“By drought and swarms, who are you?!” demanded a quaking baritone from the house. Tervud turned around and confronted his older brother. Omud had gone to fat; the heavy silks he wore wouldn’t help. Tervud could scarcely imagine moving in such things. On the other hand, his brother had grown an enviable beard.
“Tervud?” he asked.
“Brother,” Tervud greeted him. Omud embraced him, trying for what he probably thought was a crushing hug. Tervud returned it without eagerness. He was no child; Omud seemed far too enthusiastic to see him for someone who’d screamed that he hoped Tervud’s precious warstock stuffed his own severed balls down his throat. Combined with his brother’s sudden wealth, it seemed clear enough Omud meant to exploit him somehow. Well, he’d play along. There was something wrong with Sifeir’s Run, and he meant to find what it was.
“Where are the others?” he asked. “Mother, father, our sisters–where?”
“Now, there’s no need to–” Omud began.
“Brother,” Tervud said, “One dire question unanswered was quite enough. Disorder is the font of sin.” Sonderhau pulsed scalding against his left hip, and Tervud’s hand clamped its grip. Omud flinched, stepping back. Tervud opened his mouth to explain the sword’s antics. ‘I’m sorry, brother, my sword got very hot just now.‘ Yes, that’ll go over beautifully. “Are they dead?” Tervud asked. “Were our parents killed in the raid where–”
“Please, do not mention it,” Malija interrupted.
Tervud looked at her dead-on, and considered. “As you will,” he said at last.
“Of course not!” Omud said, regaining his composure and mopping sweat from his brow. “They’re quite safe, yes, yes, safe as can be! With his Lordship, that is. Lord Ashir! And a better Lord there never was!” Malija turned away, folding her arms. So that’s the way, is it? Ashir is a dead man, and so are any who abetted him. The new part of him thrummed, and from the blades at his hips he felt warmth and… agreement? The thrumming threatened to overtake him, and he shook his head, pushing it away. Not here. Later. He pressed a hand to his brow.
“You must be tired from your journey,” Omud was saying, eyeing him warily. “Please, take one of the guest bedrooms on the third floor. It’s the least I can do. You’ll want to be well-rested to meet Lord Ashir tomorrow!”
“Will he be interested in meeting me?” Tervud asked.
“Of course!” Omud laughed, clapping him on the shoulder. “Are you not the Sword-Adherent Tervud, the Reaper of Solaka?” Solaka; a wretched battle against the Scourge of the Shards. For his actions there, people called Tervud a hero. But he hadn’t fought against Binusi to stop her; she’d just seemed like the stronger power at the time, and thus the better challenge.
“Then,” Tervud said, forcing himself to smile, feeling it crinkle his eyes, flooding himself with false happiness, “it would be my exceptional pleasure to meet with Lord Ashir.”
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