Oh gods above, what had he done? The memories were fuzzy and vague, although there was no reason for them to be. Hed walked for hours, he remembered that part, though it had felt as though he had hovered above his own tired, charred body. Charred? A fire, he guessed, that hed somehow been caught up in. The sand was surprisingly cool beneath his cheek as he lay there, mind and body numb with confusion and the clench of guilt. Guilt, he realised now, sat where hed always thought love would, just below the ribs; a solid pressure pushing to meet his spine and go all the way through him. As depressing as it sounded, that was all he felt right now aside from the sand, and sand hardly felt solid. What was worse was that he couldnt for the life of him remember why.
Is he dead? Ryker felt something press against his ribs, a toe he guessed, but didnt move. He couldnt be bothered, didnt see the point.
Dont be silly, hes alive. His breathings loud enough to hear from over here! The second voice was distance, cheerful. The prodding paused a moment, and Ryker could visualise the glare the foots owner was giving the other man. Aw, dont glare at me Skah. I know you aaaare~
Oh, be quiet. Bloody blind monkey. The second part was muttered darkly as Skah prodded harder. There was little satisfaction in this for anyone, as the only reaction given was a quiet groan. Wheres Tausiq? You outcasts are already stretching our supplies without bringing prisoners of war into it.
This wasnt Tausiqs doing. A third voice had entered the fray, as if he wasnt confused enough already. His head was pounding, as if a foreign object had buried itself there and was now settling around to make itself comfortable. This new voice, however, was different. It was deep and round and resounded comfortably in the back of his skull, water to a parched tongue. Youd do well to show some respect, Skah.
Skah snorted. And you would do well to remember just who kept you alive out here when no-one else would aid you. I am returning to the nest.
Nest? Rykers pale blue eyes fluttered slowly, spying a long, scaled tail slide away from him. A naga. Were he in his right mind hed be scuttling away from the half-man, half-snake as fast as he could; naga were dangerous, barbarians who wanted to infiltrate the city! His sister would tell him off for thinking so, but the fear had almost been bred into him. Instead, against all instinct, he simply rolled onto his side with a quiet groan. He was thirsty, he realised with apathy.
A trek from Triveni would make anyone thirsty. Not certain he was being spoken to, Ryker looked up at the third man through a haze of blonde hair. Impassive, yellow eyes stared back. Yes, you. Get up.
Ryker wouldnt have dreamt of refusing this man anything. He was tall, the blond realised when hed finally found his shaky feet, almost a head and a half taller than him. Back home, Ryker towered over Anila, so he realised this must be how she felt all the time. The man was dark too from months spend out in the desert, a shadow in the dimming light. Ryker couldnt tell whether the bare scalp was shaved or natural, it was that smooth. He looked too otherworldly to be allowed, like a figure out of some story Anila had read to him when they were little. One of those figures that were always evil or wise. Ryker wondered if this man was both.
Come Rykers head snapped up to focus on the man, ignoring the snickering of the blind boy behind him. Brushing blond locks from his face, Ryker followed like an obedient puppy. He was curious. Hed felt so little over the last few hours aside from guilt that the curiosity felt far too potent, too rich, in comparison, like he might be ill from overindulgence. He wanted to know
I am Kyran. You shall address me as such. The dark man said suddenly, and even this small fraction of knowledge seemed a balm to Rykers mind. This Kyran wouldnt stand for any shams of false respect, Ryker felt himself think. The thought seemed a foreign one.
The question he asked next seemed to come out of nowhere. Where is my sister?
Kyrans look was unreadable. You killed her.
The blond stopped dead in this tracks. Hed remember, surely hed remember something like that! The guilt, the soot on his clothes
it would all make sense though, were it true. I
Killed her. Kyran may as well have been talking about shaking sand from his boots. Im surprised the house went down as quickly as it did. No-one could have gotten out of there. We can only hope she suffocated quickly, being up the back as she was.
Rykers only reply was a low, heartbroken keen. There was no way, absolutely no way! He loved his sister; hed come home after their mothers death solely to keep her company. Strong, vibrant and confident, shed protected him and hed supported her, and visa versa. She couldnt just die. Yet
she must have; he could remember now, taking the torch and oil and scattering flames through the cliff-built house like seed for the birds. He remembered barring her door. Shed deserved it, hed thought, and now
The thought ended abruptly. He couldnt remember what hed been thinking. Sure, Anilas political career had thrust a few wedges between the siblings, yet still
to burn out the house
Hed stopped, frozen by the onslaught of memories, tears flowing freely from blue eyes. Father would never forgive him. Hell, he wouldnt forgive himself. He couldnt go back there, not ever.
No, you cant. Kyran agreed, once more knowing exactly what Ryker was thinking. A thin film of perspiration coated his skull. Theyd lock you up for treason...or was the penalty death now? Such a harsh law
Ryker remained stiff. The penalty for treason was death now, the council had changed it a few days earlier. Anila had been so angry. I deserve it.
Nonsense. Kyran had begun walking again and Ryker felt compelled to follow. You dont remember much of it, do you? It was simply a case of temporary insanity.
A hollow laugh. Oh yes, insanity. It couldnt have been anything else, nothing could have driven a sane Ryker to have harmed a hair on Anilas head. That defence never works in court.
Which is why you cannot go back.
Oh, I can. Ryker had stopped again, turning to face the city of Triveni which lay out of sight across the sand. Whatever they charge me with, I deserve. It sounded like bravery the death penalty was hardly pleasant back there but for Ryker it was really an act of cowardice. He couldnt live with this.
Thank you, but
A hand grabbed his arm. Sleep.
As Rykers eyes grew dim, his body relaxing to neutral, Kyran let out a quiet sigh of relief. Manipulating the boys memories, showing him only what needed to be shown, had been more tiring than hed thought it would be. Rykers mind was completely open to him, yet still
the boy should not have wanted to go back, not after all the meddling and prompts Kyran had put into place. Yet he had. Kyran was disappointed; he was getting rusty. If Ryker had run off now, the entire week, and several headaches, would have gone to waste.
Anila was not dead, unfortunately. Close to, but not. He couldnt let the boy know that though; Anila would be sure to make his sentence as lenient as possible were he to return and, even while feeling guilt beyond all measure, Ryker would return to her. That was the way the boy was.
Tausiqs tent was warm against the desert nights chill, and Kyan felt slightly uncomfortable with it. It made his head stuffy.
You almost got yourself killed for this? Tausiq, hulking man that he was, did not appear highly impressed. The boys powers are weak at best.
But hes a councillors brother. Kyran countered, growing slightly agitated. Hed done well! What better way to hold sway over her
After he almost killed her?
Kyran was silent. Tausiqs tone made him ache; it had seemed like such a good plan. His leader had stood and had moved over to the motionless blonde boy, tilting his head this way and that, as if he were some sort of animal he were considering for purchase, with a small smirk on his face.
Well, at least hes pretty
A thick stab of resentment passed through Kyran, and for the first time in his life he felt he could actually hate Tausiq. Tampering with him will surely interfere with my mental hold over the boy. He needs to feel unthreatened.
Such a pity. I thought you had better control than that. It was unclear which disappointed Tausiq more, Kyrans lack of control or that he could not touch Ryker without threatening the mental hold. He looks so like his sister, too
This was just getting creepy, even for Kyran. We shall report in the morning, sir.
See that you do. Tausiq already seemed preoccupied, so Kyran tugged Ryker from the tent with little difficulty. The boy would sleep in his tent, more for his own safety than anything else. Kyran could easily justify it if need be; close contact would make his mental domination of the boys mind easier for extended periods of time. He shouldnt have to justify it. Still
when Ryker had been compelled to lie down in the corner, asleep like a baby, Kyran could see difficulties with this situation. They were in a refugee camp for their kind, after all, and arrangements like this always lent themselves to talk. Even if the other man was a prisoner. Seth would probably find that highly amusing, cracking jokes that Kyran would use his telepathy to
Why was he even thinking about that? But as Ryker rolled over, his sisters name on his lips, Kyran knew this was going to lead to problems, gossip being the least of them.