Here’s part 18 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. Happy Friday!
Bran the Betrayer Pt. 18
Bran was not dead, but he was in darkness. At first there was pain – horrible pain. But he drifted away from it and into the darkness, and the further he went from it, the less he felt the pain. He felt cold instead. So damned cold.
Vague memories spiralled around him, or fragments of them. Pieces of himself and his past. His father, Haig Redguard – young then, speaking sternly to him. Our family code is honour an’ loyalty. Never forget it, son. Kraeya, rearing over him to screech, frightening him on purpose to test his courage. Flell’s sweet smile. Laela reaching up to touch his arm and call him Dada. The cold touch of Arren’s lifeless hands as they escaped from Warwick together. Danthirk’s nod as he had left the Council Chamber. Bloodtalons, screaming at him in the ring.
He thought he saw Arren again, one last time, watching him with deep sadness. I’m so sorry, his voice whispered from out of the void where he lived.
Laela, Bran thought. Kraeya.
After a time he started to drift back. Back toward the light. Back toward the pain. Back where Laela was.
He woke briefly just once, then drifted back into darkness. But he woke again, and again, sliding back and forth out of the peace of oblivion, where there was no pain, no fear, no danger, and the dead beckoned for him to join them. Arren was there, because Arren was dead. And Flell, her too.
But Laela was alive, and so was he, just barely. And, bit by bit, he left the void behind and decided to live.
It was a long time before Bran woke up and could stay awake long enough to be properly alert. There were healers there to take care of him and give him some water. Kraeya was there, keeping watch over him. And Laela. She was there too, in a crib near his bed. She was safe.
Knowing that helped Bran stay calm and sleep through his weakness – proper sleep now, not unconsciousness. Eventually, after days of doing not much but rest and feel the dull pain in his chest, the Master of Healing spoke to him.
‘You’re a lucky man,’ she said.
‘Oh… really?’ Bran gasped. It was the first thing he’d said since leaving the void.
‘Yes. That dagger could have killed you in so many ways. It could have punctured a lung, or hit your heart. It could have given you an infection. But it didn’t. You’re going to live.’
Bran listened to her, and believed her. But he could feel a pain deep in his chest that told him more. ‘Gonna… be all right?’ he asked. Every word took a huge effort.
‘Yes, of course,’ she said smoothly. ‘You just rest. You’ll be well taken care of, until you’re ready to leave.’
But Bran knew he wasn’t going to be all right. He felt it in his bones. ‘Anyon?’ he mumbled.
‘Dead,’ said the Master of Healing. ‘Otherwise he would have been executed for attempted murder. But Kraeya killed him.’
‘Yes.’ Kraeya looked down on him. ‘I am only sorry that I did not kill him sooner. But you must rest now, Bran. I will keep you safe.’
Bran didn’t try and talk any more. He guessed that it would be a long time before he had the strength to do anything other than lie here. But at least he was alive. For now.
Bran’s recovery did take a long time; longer than even he had guessed. Weeks passed before he had the strength to sit up and feed himself, and it was another month after that before he could start trying to walk again. He could only be grateful that the Master of Healing instructed her underlings to take care of Laela, and that none of them tried to remove her hood. She looked healthy to him, and she was still growing. She had all of her teeth now, and had started to feed herself. Bran felt like a baby himself, taking his first weak, shuffling steps.
His only visitor during that time was Danthirk, who looked shocked by the sight of him.
‘Great Gryphus, you look awful,’ he said frankly.
Bran grinned. ‘Yeah, I know. It’s better’n bein’ dead, though.’ His friend had come in while he was doing a practise walk around the room with the help of a crutch.
‘I heard about the fight,’ said Dan. ‘The whole city’s talkin’ about it.’
‘I wasn’t much fun, but I won, so that’s the main thing, eh?’ Bran winced. ‘Thanks for the advice, mate. I know it don’t look much like it, but yeh saved my life.’
‘It’s all right,’ said Dan. ‘I owed it to yer.’
Bran slowly limped back to his bed, and sat down on it. ‘They’re still callin’ me Bran the Betrayer, though. Right?’
‘Yeah,’ Dan looked unhappy. ‘I asked Finna t’come see yer, but she wouldn’t. That woman’s hopeless.’
‘Well you tell her I don’t want t’see her,’ Bran said harshly. ‘She’s turned her back on me, so if that’s what she wants she can go right ahead an’ say I ain’t her brother no more.’ Speaking loudly made the pain flare up again, and he stopped and grimaced.
Dan took a step closer. ‘You all right, mate?’
Bran coughed and groaned. ‘No. They won’t tell me, but I can feel it. I’m gonna live, but I’ll never be the same again.’
‘C’mon, it’s too early t’be sayin’ that,’ said Dan. ‘Just you stay calm an’ get plenty of rest an’ you’ll come right in the end – you’ll see.’
‘Yeah,’ said Bran, not believing him. ‘It’ll be fine.’
But it wouldn’t be, and he already knew it.
We’ll post up Part 19 next Friday 29th June!
K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy & her new book The Shadow’s Heir will be out in July!