Time halted and he saw them with sight beyond his eyes, each frozen, each terrified. He did not feel pity nor remorse. These were the men he was forged to destroy, the men who strove for a world without innocence or compassion.
Something overwhelmed him, a feeling beyond human naming. It was fury for the broken innocent and against Canno’s evils, joy for battle’s rush and the slaying hour, pride in purpose and skill and discipline, peace in finding his path, hope for a brighter future forged by long struggle. And despair, such despair for everyone he’d already failed, for Malija, for Prita, for a thousand others whose names he would never known His lips split in a wordless snarl, and he grinned. He felt Sonderhau and Reckoner for what they always had been: parts of himself. He felt their blades hiss out and sideways, felt them split air and steel and flesh and bone with equal ease. Sapphire-steel could not cleave armor so–but the blades Tervud carried had surpassed any mortal smith’s craft.
He felt the guards die in agony so sudden their own minds did not feel it, and loved it. He savored every slackening wrinkle and sweaty pore on the tumbling corpses, the glistening red flesh and split bone of their ruined skulls, the immaculate sundering of their helms.
–Now I understand!– he laughed within. –Humans cannot do justice–they fear it too much! Even the purest fear their own mistakes will bring them under the sword–but I have killed my fear!– His brothers sang fearsome accord, and they plunged through the tower. They found eleven more guards from Malija’s memories among the dozens who failed to stop them. Some were men, some women. They did not care. They killed these, and hacked apart the meager spears, the pale weak steel-scraps these people dared call “swords”, the shields and all the arms of the others. Some might be wicked after all; if so, They would execute them later. For now, they must be treated as innocent.
–WE ARE THE SWORD IN THEIR HAND, THEIR JUSTICE AND THEIR JUDGMENT!– they shouted, and Tervud heard the words echo slowly through the fortress. Slow enough the vermin could hear and understand their coming oblivion.
At last he tore down the gilded white-wood doors of Ashir’s bedroom. His lordship stood within, stark naked, and so did Felasa. Ashir was not unattractive, though his features were a bit harsh; his nose hooked too far, and the flesh below his cheeks looked as if someone hacked away all but the skin itself. Felasa was paler than he remembered–too much time pampered inside–Their bodies struck him now as ungainly, poorly shaped for all that both were relatively toned. Tervud forced his mind to slow, but held the glorious new emotion he’d found.
“What is the–the meaning of this,” Ashir trailed down, looking at Tervud’s swords. “So, your madness pushed you to make a contest of me, Adherent?”
“Do you deny the rape and spiritual murder of Malija Shefur?” Tervud asked, angling his blades points-down before him, Reckoner resting atop Sonderhau.
“Wha–your second charge is nonsense,” Ashir snorted. “As to the first, she’s peacestock, Tervud! She started developing delusions of grandeur!” He eyed the blood again. “What, have you been cutting my guards down at random to avenge her?”
“Not at random,” Tervud said. He eyed his sister. “You do not seem surprised to hear any of this.”
“It was necessary,” Felasa said. Her dark hair held traces of ringlets after the current Tresar fashion. From the shape of her, she’d born Ashir more than a few children. Neither seemed afraid. He caught her surface thoughts, and reached a decision he hadn’t realized he was debating. Felasa must die as well. If she’d expressed any regret, if she’d given him the slightest hint that she tried to stop or dissuade Ashir, done anything but blithely agree with Malija’s breaking, he might’ve spared her. She hadn’t done the raping herself; there might’ve been redemption.