Here’s the final part 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
‘What home?’ Bran demanded. ‘She’s got no other family.’
‘That’s none of my concern,’ said Ruel. ‘It’s your business. Find a family that will take her, leave her at Guard’s Post for the Northerners to find – you can smother her with a pillow for all I care. But you cannot keep her and live here.’
‘Fine,’ Bran spat. ‘Then I’m leavin’.’
‘You cannot live in any Eyrie with that child,’ said Ruel. ‘If you keep her, I will legally exile you. Wylam will not want you, and Eagleholm is destroyed.’
‘Then I’ll go back to Canran,’ said Bran.
‘Canran is gone,’ said Ruel. ‘Lord Holm’s last followers decided not to accept our peace offer, and they suffered the consequences. Their Eyrie has been destroyed. Branton Redguard, I warn you one last time-,’ he pointed straight at Laela. ‘Rid the Eyrie of that child, or leave and never return.’
Bran picked her up. ‘She’s my daughter. I can’t…’
‘Bran!’ Kraeya spoke up. ‘Bran, see reason. I have stood by you for as long as I can, but now it has come to this. You and I cannot survive without an Eyrie; there is no other place for us.’
Bran stared at her. ‘You too, Kraeya?’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I am a partnered griffin. I must live in an Eyrie. Find another home for the child and we may keep our rightful place here.’
Bran couldn’t believe what was happening. He looked at Ruel, who stared back, stone faced. He looked at Kraeya, but she too was unmoved.
‘Get rid of the child,’ Ruel repeated. ‘This is your only chance.’
‘She cannot stay with us any longer,’ said Kraeya.
Laela was too young to understand any of it. She hung onto her foster father’s tunic. ‘Dada?’ she said.
A lump formed in Bran’s throat. ‘I can’t,’ he said softly. ‘I can’t just throw her away.’
‘You must,’ said Kraeya.
But Bran stood up straighter and said it again. ‘I can’t,’ he said. ‘I won’t.’
‘You will be banished,’ Ruel reminded him. ‘You can never return.’
‘An’ I don’t want to!’ Bran snapped back.
‘I will leave you,’ said Kraeya.
Bran backed away from them both. ‘Then leave!’ he stormed. ‘I’ve had enough of all this anyhow. I’ve seen what Eyries are like, an’ I’ve seen what griffiners are like. You call me a traitor, but I’ve seen how much you lot care about loyalty an’ honour. You don’t know the meanin’ of it.’ He spat at Ruel. ‘You can keep yer money an’ yer fancy titles. It’s all worthless. I’ll take Laela an’ go into exile rather’n have anything more t’do with the likes of you.’
‘Go, then,’ Ruel said coldly. ‘You could do so much, but if you’re willing to throw it all away for the sake of some half-breed brat, do so.’
Bran said nothing more. He turned and limped out of the audience chamber.
Kraeya followed him. ‘Bran, please! Come back!’
Bran ignored her. He kept going back down through the Eyrie toward his own rooms, clutching Laela to his chest. She gurgled and reached back toward Kraeya, who kept following her human until he reached their temporary home. She cornered him inside it.
‘Bran, you must not do this,’ she said.
Bran put Laela down, and grabbed a bag. He started to stuff his few belongings into it. ‘Yeah I do,’ he snapped. ‘You heard the man. I gotta dump my own daughter out in the street before he’ll let me stay in this bloody city? This city where everyone thinks I’m a traitor? Burn that. Burn him. Burn the lot of ’em. An’ burn you,’ he added, turning on the griffin. ‘I thought you were on my side, but you ain’t. Yer just like the rest of them.’
‘Bran, I cannot live outside of an Eyrie,’ said Kraeya. ‘I need food, I need a place to nest. I am a partnered griffin, an I am entitled to an Eyrie home.’
‘Well you ain’t gonna get it,’ said Bran. ‘Not with me. Go find another human.’
‘I cannot,’ said Kraeya. ‘You are my human.’
Bran finished packing. ‘Not any more.’ He put his old guard sword into his belt, and picked up Laela. ‘Goodbye.’
Kraeya followed him as he left the room. ‘Bran!’
Bran finally stopped. ‘What?’ he snapped.
Kraeya hesitated. ‘Bran, I… where will you go?’
Bran didn’t know. He hadn’t even thought about it. ‘Anywhere that ain’t here,’ he said. ‘Somewhere quiet, somewhere out of the way. Somewhere I can raise Laela without nobody botherin’ us. Somewhere where no-one knows the name of Bran the Betrayer.’
‘Then I will follow,’ said Kraeya. ‘I will not leave you, but I cannot live with you. If I do, we will be recognised. Other griffins may kill us.’
‘Then what are yeh gonna do?’ asked Bran.
‘I will keep watch over you,’ said Kraeya. ‘I will live wild, but I will return sometimes to see that you are well. And when the human pup is old enough to leave you herself, I will come back to you. Once she is gone, you will be a griffiner again. Perhaps by then our story will be forgotten.’
‘Yeah,’ Bran muttered. ‘Maybe.’
‘Then come with me,’ said Kraeya. ‘We will fly away from this cursed city.’
It was better than trying to walk it. Bran was still weak, and he couldn’t bear the thought of having to go through those streets with everyone knowing who he was, watched by people who would shout that name that had become a curse to him.
He let Kraeya carry him away instead, him and Laela.
Deep down, though, as they flew together, Bran knew it would be the last time they ever did. Kraeya had said she would come back to him one day, but only because she wanted to hold onto the idea that one day she would be a partnered griffin again. But even when Laela was old enough to care for herself, Bran would stay with her. She would need his protection for as long as he could give it to her. If need be, he would stay with her until he died.
He didn’t want to go back to Withypool anyway, or any other Eyrie. Let the griffiners do their scheming and backstabbing; he wanted no more part of it. He wanted nothing more to do with anyone. Not his sister, who had turned on him, not those people who had jeered and hated him. Not Eyrie Masters like Ruel, who cared for nothing but their power and privileges.
Let them call me what they want, he thought. I don’t care no more.
With that last, bitter thought, Bran clutched his daughter to his chest and left Withypool, and his old name, far behind. He would not be Branton Redguard any more; that name would be a secret from whoever he came to live near after this. Not Lord Redguard, not Captain Redguard either. He would be just plain Bran.
But in his heart he knew that he had already been given a new name, one that would stay with him for the rest of his life, and be remembered by all those who heard his story.
Bran the Betrayer.
© K.J.Taylor, 2011
If you’ve loved reading Bran the Betrayer, check out KJ’s latest book set in her world of dark griffins and their riders in The Shadow’s Heir!