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standing on my own"Get up, you lazy girl," Taelynn's father said, leaning on the library table. "I have a job for you."
Taelynn closed her book quite deliberately and looked up. "What do you require, father?"
"You to get up, daughter," he said, frowning at her, "and to run an errand for me."
Taelynn bit her lip to stop herself from saying what she wanted. Instead, she stood up and bowed to her father. "What do you require, father?"
"Run these down to Tari," he told her, holding out a purse of letters, "and tell her I'm starting you in fighting lessons starting at weeks-end."
Taelynn froze. "No, father." She couldn't; she wouldn't. Fighting went against everything she stood for.
"What did you say?" Father's voice was low and dangerous now, a volcano ready to erupt.
"I said no, Father." Taelynn stood up straight now. "I won't run this errand, and I won't take fighting lessons." She clenched her fists. "I refuse."
Her father's face reddened in anger. "You are my daughter, Taelynn Lindsay al-Kofort. You wil
the broken illusion"You know," Light said idly, walking a pen through his fingers, "I used to think that people were basically good."
The man standing in front of him looked at him curiously and fearfully.
"Even when I was working as a thief, I truly believed that life would eventually turn out aright, things would get better, and I would be happy." Light sat on top of his desk, trademark black cap resting at an angle almost hiding his eyes. "Then I grew up. Then Illanen fell apart." He looked at the man, bright green eyes solemn. "Then I became Light."
"What does this have to do with me?" The man asked bluntly.
"Just thinking," Light said, getting down from the desk. "I'm sort of wondering why I had my agents capture you. After all, you unintentionally did me a great favor." He walked up to the larger man, unafraid and utterly confident. "Was it hard?"
The men didn't reply.
"Killing them. Was it hard? Did the five-year-old cry when she saw you, blades still wet from murdering her p
the living yearsRia pulled off her mottled green ranger's helmet with a sigh, revealing long blond hair and definite Ailran features. "Rav," she said quietly, "unarm. We're safe enough here."
Her bodyguard pulled off his helmet with a sigh. "As much as I love you, Ria," he said, looking around before leaning against a tree, "you're too rash. You still have a lot to learn."
"Yes," Ria said flatly. "I know, Sir Rivers." She pulled her sword out and looked at the blade for a little while, watching the light reflect off of it and into the grove of trees. "I thought this would be the greatest thing to have when I was small. It was all court parties and etiquette and lessons, and I saw the Knights practicing down in the courtyard and dreamed." She launched an attack against a nearby tree. When her sword was stuck in the bark at heart level, she sighed. "Now that I have it, it's because of and part of my worst nightmare."
"All we have to do is make it through this as best we can, Princess," Rav said, touchin
free and weightless"What do we do now?" The newly elected and crowned Queen of Illanen stared at the dragon in front of her, wishing he could answer her. "I'm sure a lot of humans are asking that question. We really don't have a unifying force anymore."
"Lots of Ailrans are asking themselves the same thing," Tari said, pushing branches away from her face and stepping into the clearing. "Not many humans would dare visit the Protector, Queen Kylin." She pet the dragon's muzzle with a slight affection. "Though I'm sure if he could speak to anyone but me, you'd have the answer to your questions."
"Really now?" Kylin said, looking at the dragon thoughtfully. "I'm not so naive as to belive we've wiped out the Ailrans completely, but one does have to wonder how many there are left. And what they're motivated to do against us."
The dragon snorted. "Rav, the Protector of the Ailrans, has spoken," Tari said dryly. "He thinks that they'll be going into hiding like we did to them in the early years. They aren't used
each dream"All of them are stars," Searen said gently, showing his children the night sky. "There's one for every different dream mankind has had. Some are brighter because man has wanted that dream for so long, or so badly."
Chandra looked up at the sky, eyes wide. She looked at Nolan, both of them filled with wonder at the idea. "What's that one, then, Daddy?" she asked, pointing to the brightest star she could see.
"That star?" Searen asked, holding onto his staff so tightly his knuckles were white. "That star stands for freedom. Freedom to live. Freedom from fear. Just to be free."
"There's no wonder it's so bright," Nolan said, up on his tip-toes so he could reach past the railing of the balcony. He reached his hand up. "I can almost touch it, Daddy."
"It's so close to so many of us, but it will never be completely reachable," Searen said with a sigh. "There's always something holding us back. It's why we're human."
"I don't want to be human then," Chandra said, poutin
while my darling one sleepsTaelynn sat up in the bed, looking over at Dmitri. He was twisted again, face contorted and hands clenched. She sighed, and brushed some of his silver hair out of his face. And he wondered why he never felt rested. Her gaze fell to the scars covering his torso, and she winced. She knew what they were from: one of a privileged few that even knew Dmitri had been in Saira in the first place.
They went through this pattern every few nights, as much as they both hated it. He would start whimpering in a few minutes, and she would wake him up before the whimpers turned to screams. She would have started watching for him, waking him up earlier, or even going through his dreams with him, a watcher and waker, but he'd stubbornly refused. Said what he'd gone through was almost too much for him, he wasn't going to share it with his wife. But she'd walked in his dreams before, invisible, silent.
You share your joy, you share your pain. That was part of the vows they'd spoken,
strike them fast before night fades"Listen," Ash hissed, "We've only got one chance at this. Her crew is going to be drinking, carousing, and gambling all night. Those that are left on the ship as guards are either going to be very alert, or, on the other end, drunken or sullen. We have one chance to repay some of the deaths of our own, one chance to bring justice to this pirate bitch. Who's with me?"
The guardsmen cheered nervously.
"Chonner, you and Raden will come up this street," Ash said, pointing it out on the map of the wharf. "You will be a normal patrol, do you understand? Not especially alert, certainly not noticing her ship. After you pass by and take note of her strength, you will report back to me."
The two men nodded.
"Asher, you and your entire squad will be on this boat, here. You will not be in your uniforms. You will not be going there in a group. Inconspicuous.
"Mavros," Ash barked, "You and your squad have the hard job. You are all coming with me."
He could see Mavros's jaw clench as she swallowed. "
a ghost in daylightJulia was hopelessly, bewilderingly lost. She turned about in a circle, but all she could hear were the pounding of feet and wagons, the shouts of street vendors, and the clatter of everyday life. There was nothing to point her in the right direction. She tugged at the scarf covering her blind eyes in frustration, wishing for once she had the ability to see. She'd done well enough for herself after the first couple months, but somehow today, she'd gotten preoccupied. And that was something she couldn't afford to do.
She scuffed the toe of her thin boots against the cobbles. Even they didn't feel familiar. Not good.
"Excuse me," she heard a soft voice say, accompanied by a hand brushing her shoulder. "Are you lost?"
There was a faint sort of accent to the voice. This man, whoever he was, had lived somewhere else just long enough for it to sink in.
"If you could tell me where I'm at," she replied, shrugging off the man's hand gently. She didn't want to seem ungrateful; it was just
whom I pass down through the generationsChandra looked down, face contorting as she tired to hold her emotions back. "Father, Mother," she said, then swallowed and tried again. "Nessa, Searen, Nolan and I are sixteen years of age today. Today is the day we are supposed to choose which of your names we pass on to our children." She looked down at her hand. She held Nolan's hand in hers. "But, I we" She wrapped her arms around herself until she could quell the shudderings of her wasted frame. There were reasons that twins usually died together. At this point, he looked healthier than she did.
They waited for her to continue. There were many chairs in Nolan's room; at this point, all family meetings were held there, out of a frail hope, perhaps. "Go on, Alyse," Nessa said softly.
"You don't have to choose today," Searen added. "You have a full week until the presentation ceremony."
"No, Searen," Chandra said, again feeling odd for using her father's first name. It was only proper now that she w
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