Here’s part 19 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy AND her brand new book, The Shadow’s Heir! Happy friday reading Voyagers!
Bran the Betrayer Pt. 19
Another month and a half later, when Bran had finally healed enough to walk properly and go back to some semblance of normal living, he was allowed to move into a private set of chambers in the Eyrie, with Kraeya and Laela. He spent a few nights there, getting used to taking care of himself again. By now his broken ribs and the cut from Bloodtalons’ beak had healed, and the stab-wound had begun to form into a deep pit of a scar. It still gave him pain, and he knew it always would. The arm on that side felt weak, too, and sometimes at night the wound itself would flare up. It would keep him awake at night, sweating and gritting his teeth to stop himself from crying out.
He wondered how long he would be allowed to live in the Eyrie for free, before someone forced him to find a job or leave. But so far they seemed content to look after him.
Finally, one day when he felt he had recovered as much as he ever would, a summons arrived for him to go and see the Eyrie Master.
‘Guess it’s about a job,’ said Bran. ‘Eh, Kraeya?’
She shifted uneasily. ‘Yes… we should go at once.’
‘Right.’ Bran picked up Laela. ‘All right, girl, you gotta wait here a bit. We’ll be back soon.’
But Laela clung to his arm and whimpered, and he found he couldn’t bring himself to put her into her crib.
‘All right, then,’ he said. ‘You come with us. I’m sure Ruel won’t mind.’ Since he was still considered a traitor by many people in the Eyrie, maybe the sight of Laela’s sweet face would soften the Eyrie Master’s attitude.
‘Oh yes, he wants you to bring her,’ said the servant who’d brought the summons.
Bran looked up in surprise. ‘He does?’
‘Yes. Come on now. Don’t keep him waiting.’
Bran shrugged, and left the room. His wound was hurting again and Laela was heavy, so he put her down and let her walk beside him. She toddled along, by now fairly steady on her feet, and held his hand.
Kraeya followed. ‘I do not like this,’ she said quietly.
‘It’s all right,’ said Bran. ‘I ain’t a prisoner no more. It’s over. We’re all right.’
Kraeya said nothing, but her tail twitched as she followed her human and the servant up through the Eyrie. The Eyrie Master’s quarters were at the very top. They took up the entire top level of the building, although most of that was taken up by the audience chamber that adjoined his private quarters.
Eyrie Master Ruel was there waiting, with his partner Arakae.
When Bran arrived, Kraeya went ahead and Arakae came down to meet her. The two griffins sniffed at each other, and Kraeya bowed her head politely.
Once the two of them had relaxed and stood aside, Bran could approach the Eyrie Master.
‘Yeh wanted to see me, milord?’ he said.
Lord Ruel eyed him with some interest. He was a thin man in his sixties, but his hair was still mostly brown. ‘So you’re the famous Branton Redguard?’ he said.
‘I am,’ said Bran. ‘An’ this is Kraeya, an’ this is my daughter Laela.’
‘Yes…’ Ruel looked at Laela, who was staring back at him with interest. ‘I have heard of her as well. That’s why I summoned you here today.’
Bran paused. ‘Uh… really? Why?’
Ruel pointed at Laela. ‘Remove that hood. Now.’
Bran took a step back. ‘No. I mean, why should I?’
‘Because I am your Eyrie Master and I order you to,’ Ruel said sharply.
Bran knew there was nothing he could do. If he argued he would only make the man suspicious, and it was obvious that he already knew something anyway. Reluctantly, he knelt and gently untied the strings under Laela’s chin. She looked back solemnly as he took the hood off to reveal her secret.
Ruel looked grimly at her. ‘So the report I heard was true. She is a half-breed.’
‘No she ain’t,’ said Bran. ‘She’s just got real dark hair, so I keep it covered up. Don’t want anyone makin’ that mistake, see?’ He’d prepared the lie a long time ago, in case this ever happened.
‘Her hair is black,’ said Ruel, unmoved. ‘Who was her mother?’
‘My wife,’ said Bran. ‘Lady Flell.’ That was true, at least.
‘I know of her,’ said Ruel. ‘It’s said she had pale brown hair, yes?’
‘She did,’ said Bran.
‘And your own hair is not that dark,’ said Ruel. ‘So where did your daughter inherit it?’
‘I dunno,’ Bran said lamely. ‘But she’s my daughter.’
‘She is a half-breed,’ said Ruel. ‘Is she not?’
‘She-,’ Bran began.
‘I trust you know that it is a crime to lie to your Eyrie Master?’ Ruel interrupted harshly. ‘Yes? Think of that, and then reply.’
Bran caved in. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘She’s a half-breed.’
‘And you are her father?’ said Ruel. ‘By blood?’
‘Yeah, I am,’ said Bran. That was one lie he wasn’t going to admit.
‘Then you fathered her on a Northerner,’ said Ruel. ‘Lady Flell was not her mother.’
Bran hesitated, and then stared stubbornly at the floor.
‘Very well, then,’ said Ruel. ‘I brought you here to discover whether the Master of Law’s report was true. Now I have, and I can inform you of the decision that she and I reached together.’
‘Which is?’ said Bran.
‘You’ve won your freedom and a pardon for all your crimes,’ said Ruel. ‘Therefore, you have won the right to stay here if you wish. I will give you a place in my Eyrie in return for an oath of loyalty.’
‘Thankyou, milord,’ said Bran.
‘However,’ said Ruel, ‘If you choose to stay here, you may not keep the child.’
Bran scowled. ‘No.’
‘I cannot have a half-breed living in my Eyrie,’ said Ruel. ‘And nor will it be good for you if word gets out that you fathered one. Find another home for the child, and you can stay.’
We’ll post up the final Part 20 next Friday 6th July!
K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy & her new book The Shadow’s Heir is in stores now!