Here’s part 11 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy for some weekend reading!
Bran the Betrayer Pt. 11
Bran returned to his cell and found Laela hiding under the bed. She looked frightened, and came out eagerly when she saw him. She clutched at his leg until he picked her up.
‘She’s a quiet one,’ a guard outside remarked. ‘Just as well. Why’s she in here with yer?’
‘She’s my daughter,’ Bran said stoically. ‘I’m the only family she’s got. No-one’s takin’ her off me.’
‘Well I hope you got someone else she can go to when yer dead, mate,’ said the guard, not without sympathy.
Bran silently shook his head, and sat down on with Laela in his lap. A short while later food arrived for them both. Bran fed Laela before he ate, as he generally did.
‘Gods, Laela, I dunno how I’m gonna get us out of this,’ he muttered to her. ‘But I gotta do somethin’.’ Yet again, he remembered what would happen if he didn’t manage to clear his name. If he died, she would die as well. Or, if she lived, she would have no-one to protect her. In the end the outcome would probably be the same.
Either way, it meant that it was more than his own life in danger here: Laela’s was as well. But without proof, how could he save them?
He thought it over while he ate his own meal, desperately seeking for something, anything, that could clear his name. But what? How could he prove those witnesses were lying? And why were they even lying in the first place? There must be someone behind it, he thought – someone who’d persuaded or bribed them into lying. Someone who wanted Bran dead. But he couldn’t tell who that person might be, or why they would hate him so much. He had no enemies that he knew of – the only person who had ever seemed to really dislike him was Erian, but he was long dead and he’d had no powerful allies, or none who were still alive.
Bran finished eating and put his plate aside, still deep in thought. Maybe he should just give up on trying to defend himself and find some opportunity to escape? But that didn’t look very likely to work, and he didn’t like it much either. He already knew all too well what happened to escaping prisoners.
He found himself thinking of the only other time he’d been locked up like this. He remembered the cell under Warwick, in the North. He’d left Malvern with Kraeya, and gone in search of his old friend. Once called Arren Cardockson, but now known as the Dark Lord Arenadd Taranisäii. Bran had hoped to warn him about what his enemies were doing, and maybe get through somehow to the man who had once been his oldest friend.
He had come too late. By the time Kraeya landed at Warwick it had already been overrun by Arenadd’s rebels. Bran had been captured by them, and locked up. Arren… Arenadd had questioned him personally, and had threatened to torture what he knew out of him. Seeing the cold-eyed, vicious thing his old friend had become, Bran had thought he was doomed.
But everything had not been what it seemed. That night, while Bran waited for death, Arenadd had come to him and secretly helped him to escape from the city.
You saved my life once, he’d said. Now I’m saving yours. For the memory of Arren Cardockson.
Arren no longer believed he was Arren. He had lost his memory of the man he’d been before Dan’s arrow sent him off the edge of Eagleholm. But some little piece of Bran’s old friend had still survived, and it had saved his life.
Now, though, he wouldn’t be so lucky. There was no-one here who could save him, as far as he knew.
‘Oi!’ a voice interrupted his thoughts.
Bran looked up gloomily. ‘Yeah, what?’
‘You got a visitor,’ said the guard.
Bran sat up and looked out through the bars. He had already guessed who the visitor must be.
Sure enough, it was Dan. He was alone, without his partner, but nowadays he dressed more finely than he had back at Eagleholm, and when he waved the guard away he went without complaint.
Bran stood up and went to the other side of the bars, smiling broadly. ‘Dan! It’s good to see yeh, mate.’
Dan reached through the bars and thumped him good-naturedly on the shoulder. ‘Hey, Bran. How’s life on the inside?’
Bran shrugged. ‘Could be worse. Us griffiners get better cells.’
‘Yeah, I can see that,’ said Dan. He lost his smile. ‘Bran, I’m so sorry about all this. If I could get you outta here, I would, but there ain’t much I can do, even if I’m a griffiner now. I ain’t so high up here, see. Only a junior griffiner, bein’ new an’ not that great at griffish, an’ with Kakree being just a youngster. There’s too many griffiners about nowadays, what with Eagleholm an’ all.’
‘It’s all right,’ said Bran. ‘It ain’t yer fault I’m in here.’
‘I know, but if there was just somethin’ I could do…’ Dan shook his head. ‘I’m sorry about Finna. I could hear what she said. She’s been sayin’ that sort of thing ever since yer dad died.’
‘How’d he die?’ Bran asked quietly.
‘It was a fever what got him,’ said Dan. ‘I was there with Finna; we looked after him. He died ravin’ with the sickness. We did what we could for him, but…’
Bran felt himself shiver internally. ‘He didn’t… he didn’t really…?’
‘No,’ said Dan. ‘He never died cursin’ yer name. I don’t reckon he believed yer did any of it. He was always proud…’
But Bran had already spotted his hesitation. ‘Don’t lie, Dan. Not about this.’
Dan bit his lip. ‘He… he did say you never shoulda been friends with… with Arren. He said it was beneath a Redguard to go about with the likes of him, an’ you never shoulda closed yer eyes to the stuff he got up to.’
Bran shook his head. ‘He wouldn’t talk to me after the fire. I thought it was ’cause he didn’t think it was right for a Redguard t’be a griffiner. But he didn’t really…?’
‘It was the fever,’ Dan insisted. ‘The fever made him say it, but Finna wanted t’think he meant it, so…’
Bran felt sick, and cold. ‘He did say it, then. He said I wasn’t a Redguard no more.’
‘Yeah,’ Dan said, with obvious reluctance. ‘He said you was a disgrace to his name an’ you weren’t his son no more. He said it right at the end before he died, he said you should’ve been there for yer family instead of chasin’ after that bloody blackrobe. But he was feverish,’ Dan added hastily. ‘He said all sorts of things he didn’t mean.’
Bran said nothing. He felt glad, at least, that Dan was there and that he cared enough to try and soften the blow.
‘What about Finna?’ he asked instead.
‘She ain’t been the same since yer father died,’ Dan said sadly. ‘She blames you for it; reckons he died of grief. But it ain’t true. Try an’ forgive her, Bran; she’s been through a lot. I’m just glad I got Kakree. Now I’m a griffiner I can do a bit more to take care of Finna. I’m hopin’ we can start a family here. Children might help her get better. Don’t forget, she lost a father too.’
‘I know,’ said Bran. ‘Look, Dan, what’m I gonna do? I gotta clear my name somehow, but I dunno what to do. What’s goin’ on? Why did all those people lie? You know they were lyin’ right?’
‘I do,’ Dan nodded. ‘I know you never would’ve done any of that stuff. An’ anyway, I know for certain they’re lyin’.’
‘How?’ asked Bran.
‘Someone paid ’em off,’ said Dan. ‘Or threatened ’em. I know because he tried it on with me too. But I said no. I already reckoned you was innocent, an’ then when he came an’ offered me money to lie for him I knew yer were.’
‘Who?’ Bran demanded. ‘Who’s behind this? Who wants me dead? Dammit, Dan, tell me!’
Dan leant closer and lowered his voice. ‘It was Anyon.’
We’ll post up Part 12 next Friday 11th May!
K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy:
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