Part Sixteen in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)
Part Four: Blood and Lies (pt. 4)
Part Five: Blood and Lies (pt. 5)
Part Six: Blood and Lies (pt. 6)
Part Seven: Blood and Lies (pt. 7)
Part Eight: Blood and Lies (pt. 8)
Part Nine: Blood and Lies (pt. 9)
Part Ten: Blood and Lies (pt. 10)
Part Eleven: Blood and Lies (pt. 11)
Part Twelve: Blood and Lies (pt. 12)
Part Thirteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 13)
Part Fourteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 14)
Part Fifteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 15)
Pan is the first to his feet interposing himself between Zsófia and Rubin. In close proximity to her, he can clearly see the stress on the priestess’ body. He recognises the almost imperceptible trembling in her muscles. The ordinarily imperceptible pressure the weight of Jacob’s hand places on her shoulder causes her to buckle at the knees forcing the older man to catch her. Behind him as he watches her be lowered into an empty seat, Pan can feel Rubin’s murderous glare. Turning to face the scholar he can see a darkening blush spreading its way across Rubin’s light red skin. While in the corner of his eye he can see the only one to remain seated is Telfor, his hands interlaced in front of his face.
“Sit down, Rubin,” Telfor’s voice is quiet but brooks no dissent. The scholar remains still, showing no sign of having heard the order. There’s something in his eyes that Pan doesn’t like, something calculating concealed behind the make of fury.
“Rubin,” offering a low tone of insistence Pan reinforces the order, Rubin seems to snap back to reality and with a stiff necked nod returns to his seat. Choosing to remain standing at the head of the table between where those two are seated, Pan crosses his arms and adopts a casual stance trying to conceal his tense readiness.
The atmosphere has been oppressive since Zsófia’s outburst, a feeling like all sound is being drained out of the room. Even when they had been talking Rubin down the words had seemed like they had come from another place. He watches everyone cautiously, from the opposite sides of the table Jacob and Telfor are trying to find some middle ground to allow for Rubin to accept Zsófia. The weight of Oliver’s absence hung heavily over Pan’s mind, bringing him in was Verumalleus’ final mission, and they’d failed despite her death because of Rubin’s indoctrinated hatred of Zsófia.
“Before we continue this conversation,” Pan says, addressing the table while watching the university scholar, “What are we going to do about this idiot’s betrayal.”
Slamming his fist into the table, Rubin reels on Pan, heat rising from his crimson flesh. His rage palpable he points an accusatory finger in Zsófia’s direction and yells, “Truly? Are you so blinded to the forest for the trees?! Our job was to arrest a necromancer, well there it is!”
The tension balances on a razor’s edge. Everyone in the room can feel the atmospheric mana rising from Rubin and Zsófia, threatening to explode in sorcerous power, while between them Pan has gripped the grip of his blades tightly, ready to act with a thought.
“Rubin,” Telfor’s voice is steady, cutting through the thick air like a cold blade to bring the energy back to neutral, “There are innocents all around. If you start something here you’ll be going somewhere you can never come back from.”
Looking around at the faces of Jacob, Ariel and Luke, all of them, even the child, seem prepared to fight to protect Zsófia. His expression of fury seems to twist at this realisation, no less present or powerful, but beyond catharsis. Eventually, rather than being released, it is once more masked as he returns to the table.
“Zsófia, I want to thank you for your saving my friend and my life.” Telfor’s continues calmly, as if nothing had even happened, “I apologise for the harshness of our meeting, I would like to try and explain my companions actions against you.”
Zsófia’s expression is suspicious, though she has a naive quality about her as she listens politely to Telfor’s explanation, “Rubin is a scholar of the Weatherford University, he was raised by the university from a young age. His home land was destroyed due to the acts of black sorcerers and he is one of the few of his people left thanks to the being rescued by our Kingdom. He is still young like you, and he hasn’t yet experienced much of the world outside of the capital. I think you could learn a lot from one another while we remain here for Vahkragg and I to recover.”
Rubin’s expression doesn’t change at all at the decision. Telfor is a very experienced leader and a good read of people, he’s gambling that Rubin might if not accept Zsófia at least learn something from interacting positively with her.
Zsófia looks at Rubin in consideration. Driven not by hatred, but fear, the idea of being friendly seems welcome but still frightening. Telfor was right, she couldn’t be much older than Rubin if she even was, with an even more limited amount of experience of the world beyond her home.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you before,” her timid voice a stark change to before, the anger fueled strength of her previous outburst seemingly gone, “I had no idea of what you’d been through. I’m sorry for everything that happened to you, but please believe me that I’m nothing like those evil sorcerers. I never want to hurt anyone, if you’ll give me a chance I hope I can prove that to you.”
The dark red blush has almost entirely covered the visible skin on Rubin’s head. He turns his head half towards Zsófia when she speaks, but doesn’t quite meet her gaze. The attention of the room is on him, waiting to see his reaction to the extended olive branch. As his silence extends, Zsófia’s confidence begins to waver. Shrugging Pan’s hand away from his shoulder, Rubin pushes back his chair and rises to his feet. Without a word he makes for the front door, opening it and stepping out into the morning sun.
Pan looks to Telfor, silently asking if he should follow. Shaking his head, the grey soldier sighs quietly. To the revenant, Telfor seems momentarily old. The oldest of the three soldiers, Telfor had always seemed older to Pan but never old. He realises that Telfor always put his people first, the sting of shame at his own behaviour rising up as he realises that he must be blaming himself for Verumalleus’ death and Vahkragg’s condition.