“You speak fine words for a man with a peacestock wife,” Tervud said to Ashir, pretending calm.
“Felasa?” Ashir cocked his head. “She’s not peacestock! She’s fierce-hearted, cunning, amply brave enough. You yourself are proof that sometimes warriors are born into the wrong families.”
“But Malija couldn’t have been warstock,” Tervud stated. “Presumably because she defied you, and that would’ve set a bad precedent.”
“Of course!” Ashir said. “Now, look, why don’t you discard your pretenses? If you’ve grown bored, I’m willing to forgive the slain guards. There’s plenty of land I’d like to have, and an Adherent to take it, well… I’d keep your blades busy. You’re not to blame for what you do. A sword must cut, mustn’t it?”
“Yes, it must,” Tervud said, and returned to his proper swiftness. He covered the bedroom in four lunging strides and swept his blades up above him. The ceiling impeded them none, and they severed Ashir’s well-muscled arms with ease. The strokes’ force reeled him back and rippled his flesh before Tervud’s eyes even while stone fragments from the tortured ceiling shredded his face and chest. Reckoner took Ashir’s balls off; Sonderhau punched through Felasa’s breastbone and opened her aorta. Effortless.
Tervud spared a moment to feel pity for the bright young thing who just wanted to be a princess. That girl had died somewhere along the way, to wed a man like Ashir and support his sins; he was just finishing the job. Her eyes accused him while she fell. Blood gouted from the ragged triangle puncture, burbled from her lips, and drenched her slackening body.
“No guilt,” he told her. “All wicked shriek their indignity from the scaffold. Dying in your own bedroom is better than you deserved, sister.” He turned to Ashir, writhing on the floor and gouting blood all over the plush carpets. “Under normal circumstances, we would take the time to dismantle you, remove your senses beyond touch, increase your suffering,” he said conversationally. “The more brutally we purge you vermin, the more fear we’ll put in your kin. There are a thousand bright young Malijas on Canno, and if I must surpass Binusi’s cruelty to shield them, so be it. It was not I who made it so.”
He leveled Sonderhau at the twitching lord. Ashir handled his helpless death well; he shook and grunted and perhaps wept a little, but his eyes glared hatred at Tervud. His bravery was not to his credit: it was that bravery which convinced him he could destroy peacestock without retribution. “All the world asked from you was a little compassion. Instead of using your courage to accept Malija’s rebellion, to confront her ideas, you destroyed her. You wrote this execution.” Tervud’s grin returned. “But I do enjoy it.”
“You–you just killed your own sister!” Ashir snarled, turning pale and hyperventilating. “What kind of justice is that?”
“The purest. You act as if her being my sister should change my judgment, for good or for ill. She could’ve been a sixty year-old man, and I’d have finished that man just the same way. This isn’t some archaic honor killing, you vapid slagheart.” Tervud drew himself up. “This is our purpose.”
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