Thursday, November 20, 2014

Page 886

He does not know what to think. The Rainlords have been wounded many times in the past, but the massacre of House Elroy is undoubtedly the greatest scar of his lifetime. The losses in his own family a mere seven years prior pale in comparison and only serve to deepen his sympathy for what the young Zeff and Joana are going through.

And he played a part in it.

The guilt twists his stomach into knots. The shame rips his heart in half. And he can do nothing to mend them. If he confesses his involvement, the other Rainlords will learn of Ibai’s existence. His family will fall to ruin. Parson Miles assures him of that. Only silence will protect his blood.

Years pass.

He observes with disgust and haunting dread as Parson is promoted to the rank of captain general. He is only glad that it means Parson will be leaving Sair.

A small measure of relief arrives when Cousin Melchor returns to Marshrock. After all this time, the man has finally achieved vengeance for their House.

He is fearful that Melchor will leave again--or worse, consider him a traitor for what he has done. But this is not a secret he can keep from the man. If he tried to, Melchor would never forgive him when he inevitably found out. So he explains everything.

And Cousin Melchor consoles him.

Of all the possible reactions, that was the last one he expected. It is enough to make him weep. He could not possibly be any more grateful for his cousin’s return than he is in this moment...

Ismael blinked slowly as his mind came back to the present. The memories still weighed on him, on his soul. They wanted him to quit, to surrender and just let whatever happens happen. It was so temping.

I’m tired, too, you know.’

The reaper’s heavy tone pulled Ismael out of his daze.

Don’t act like you’re the only one,’ said Rholtam. ‘I’ve been right there with you the whole time. Your sorrow is my sorrow, Ismael. Your guilt is my guilt. And your worry--certainly, your worry is mine, too.

Ismael only nodded.

But our feelings don’t matter now,’ said Rholtam. ‘It’s time to stop being indecisive. If you intend to surrender, you can’t put it off any longer.

“Do you think surrendering would make a difference? Once they know the complete truth, do you think they would be merciful?”

It’s... possible, but...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Page 885

For a time, he does not believe what he is hearing. It is true that, even as his superior, Parson could not have gotten away with simply labeling the matter “classified” as long as it involved Rainlord territory, but even still, this is more than absurd. That such an old friend would threaten his family while they are so vulnerable is a betrayal beyond anything he has ever experienced.

But all the same, he does what Parson asks in the end. An international road is left unguarded for a single evening. It only connects Sair and Intar. He cannot imagine what need Parson would have of it. Vanguardian troops can already move between the two countries with relatively little difficulty. Perhaps Parson intended to move such a large volume of people that taking them through the proper channels might have spooked the other Rainlords. But if that was truly the case, then why would Parson not simply tell him so?

Then the news arrives.

House Elroy has been slaughtered. Only a pair of teenagers have survived.

And he realizes. This is no coincidence.

He contacts Parson immediately.

“I advise you not to say anything,” Parson tells him. “Else you may find yourself shouldering the blame for their deaths.”

“Parson... What did you do, exactly?”

“Again, I’ll thank you for your discretion, as long as you’ll thank me for mine.”

He can pull no more information out of the general. He learns from the other Rainlords that Abolish was the culprit, but they are all disturbed and bewildered by how such an apparently large and dangerous sect of Abolish could infiltrate Sair undetected.

And he finds himself faced with a choice. Remain silent or risk telling them what he knows.

It tears his heart out, but he and Rholtam decide to say nothing. They believe that, with how little they know of Parson’s plot, even telling the other Rainlords a “version” of the truth would likely blow up in their faces. They must not attract attention.

Thankfully, the other Rainlords discover a lead on the Abolishers, anyway. His House helps hunt them down while Ibai is kept under guard at Marshrock. The hunt ends abruptly and with little satisfaction when they find that the Abolishers have already been obliterated. Their severed heads have all been put on gruesome display. He later asks in private, but unsurprisingly, Parson does not claim responsibility.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Page 884

Ibai is a difficult child, to say the very least, but they are managing him. Really, the boy just needs entertainment and supervision--but those two needs are constant. It becomes clear that Ibai is unfit to be the House’s heir. They attempt to have a second child, but it is thus far proving fruitless.

He appoints Cousin Horatio as the new heir as a precaution. It is unfortunate, of course, and he does not tell Horatio of his decision, but he can at least rest easy in the knowledge that Horatio is a man of admirable, if curious, intelligence and fortitude. It should really be Cousin Melchor, he feels; but he has no idea where that man is, and even if he did, Melchor had already refused the role of leadership before and doubtless would again should the time ever come.

They reach out to Parson Miles once more. They aim to apologize for being so brusque with him before and hope that he has learned more about aberrations in the intervening years. Parson sends word, saying that he was planning to visit them soon, anyway.

When he arrives, however, he does not seem very interested in helping them with Ibai. Instead, he requires a favor of his own. “As Lord of Marshrock, you oversee the Northwestern Border Guard, do you not?”

“I do. Why?”

“On the fifteenth of next month, could I trouble you to give your guardsmen the night off?”

“What ever for?”

“I have some friends who need to get into the country.”

“What sort of friends would need to sneak past the Border Guard?”

“The sort you would be better off not asking questions about,” says Parson.

He narrows his eyes. “Excuse me?”

“Ismael, I come to you with this because it is a matter that requires discretion, which I know to be one of your strong points.”

“I understand that, but even so, I am afraid I must know more about these people if I am to help you smuggle them into my homeland. And the way you speak of them does them no service in my imagination.”

Parson’s youthful smile wanes. “Well then, this is awkward, because I can’t tell you anything else about them.”

“Then I cannot help you.”

“But you can. And you will. Or would you like the rest of your kin to know about your son?”

And there it is. The fa├žade drops at last, though they do not yet know the extent of it.