Vradin, Chapter Twenty-Nine

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Aiden leaned back on his seat, watching a pair of small fey insects at their courting dance. He wasn’t really paying attention to the light balls, but it afforded him an aloof look while he listened to the report of trespass within the monthaime.

Despite his fearsome reputation, Aiden had no great care for the trappings of dominion. The reality was far more of concern to him, but out of respect for the expectations of his people, his keasairs more than the clansmen, he endured certain trappings, such as Receiving Hall and the constant building project that was Vradin Hall. Receiving Hall was a rectangular room capable of holding the entire contingent of clan representatives and keasair garts. His arbitration seat was a backless chair, meant more for lounging in feline abandon than for sitting at attention. It was situated on a dais. He had refused to allow the dais to be more than three steps above the rest of the room.

“We apprehended two Night Kind carrying off one thin breed, unconscious, Montang. The thin breed is with Healer, and Guy is promised to bring the Healer’s report if not the thin breed. The Night Kind are outside the hall, awaiting your decision.” Keasair neegart Omric’s reports were sparsely worded, to the point, much as Aiden preferred.

He waived his hand in the gesture of appreciation and commanded, “Bring them before me.”

The keasair neegart turned on his heel and left Aiden’s receiving room, returning shortly with two pale Night Kind, bound by two more keasair guards. Rage kindled bright in the thinner of the two Night Kind, his face marked with metals shoved through his skin. The Night Kind were bizarre, but that was a new strangeness.

Aiden took a silent moment to look over the children of the House of Night. That they were blood drinkers went without saying; all of the Night Kind required the essential substance in its rawest form to survive. While the vradin races had fallen furthest under the sway of Sushaymin and Paoleo and their hateful Rage, the Night Kind had endured a share of that vile enslavement, evidenced by the light barely contained within the thinner one. Both Night Kind, however, were thin for their race, as if they lived in a constant state of starvation. Such a state was not permitted by Ignats, Moon Walker of the House of Night. Not only did starvation make it far easier to slip into Enragement, it made the scent of blood that much more tempting, awakening hunger where it was not appropriate, such as amongst one’s kiss and kindred.

And they were dressed most peculiarly. For one, they wore loose dull black leggings that flapped about their scrawny legs. Their feet were encased in something that resembled a cross between a slipper and a shit sitter boot, in the most unnatural shades of blue and white. Their cloaks were fitted around their arms and ended just below the waist on one, more like a battle vest with arm coverings, and near the knees of the other, the Raged one.

Aiden breathed in deeply, and the stench of tar and coal emanated from the two Night Kind, nearly covering the scent of rain and mulch.

“Remove your foot coverings,” Aiden ordered the two. The one with the shorter cloak muttered something indistinguishable under his breath as he bent to do as commanded. The other watched his accomplice with a slight furrow of confusion marring his brow, but did nothing. The short cloaked one repeated indecipherable words, but louder, making it clear that he was translating Aiden’s orders for the other.

Most peculiar.

The Raged one complied, using the toes of one foot to push off the foot covering of the other, refusing to take a subordinate position. Aiden could scent the outrage stirring within his keasairs. He made a slight negating movement of his hand, and his warriors turned from angered to anticipatory.

“Hand your foot coverings to my neegart,” Aiden ordered. The short cloaked one stooped and gathered both pairs. He rose and held them out, looking unsure who to hand the boot-slippers to. Aiden nodded at Omric, who took them, looking a question to his liege. “Tell me, Omric, what soil have our … visitors trod upon?”

Omric studied the boot slippers, his nose wrinkling more and more pronouncedly as he made a thorough study of the objects within his grasp. Aiden allowed him the time his keasair neegart decided to take, and finally Omric replied, “The trails of our woods are light upon these coverings. The material of the sole is not of any material I have before seen, though there are fragments of leather and waxed thread on the upper portions. The entire piece has been saturated with something I have no experience with, so I am not sure how accurate I may be in surmising that they have spent the majority of their wear of these in a land of rock and fine, nearly dust like dirt. I catch the faintest scent of the primordial woods: rotted wood, moss, and fern, deep, wet mulch.”

Aiden rose, the kindling touch of his own Rage rising. Outcasts. Peace seekers. Trespassing on his lands. He stalked down from his dais, and gripped the short cloak Night Kind by his throat. “By what claim do you pretend to hold the right to return from your banishment?”

The short cloak swallowed hard, taking several tries to say, “We found a Luna.”

Aiden very nearly ripped out the lying shit-stain’s throat. “All that was Luna died with the birth of the Rage,” Aiden stated, his voice low and thick with the promise of death.

“She’s very young, doesn’t know what she is,” the short cloak insisted, fear rounding his eyes.

The Raged Night Kind growled, actually growled at Aiden. Without bothering to look, Aiden shoved his hand up from the Night Kind’s stomach into the cavity formed by his rib cage, and gripped the blood sucker’s heart, tearing it out in one fluid movement. Not even sparing a glare at the insolent fool, he snarled, “If you plan to wear your heart on your sleeve, guard it better.” Then Aiden dropped the spasming organ to the stone floor. The Raged Night Kind fell upon his knees, only to collapse on to his side, dying before he could shove the necessary muscle back into his chest. Young then, too young to be so Rage sick and still live.

Tamlyn, the keasair closest to the dead youth, wore a look of grim sorrow on her face. Omric’s long exhale told Aiden his keasair neegart had also seen and would offer comfort to the wolf, reminded of her youngest son’s Enragement.

The short cloaked Night Kind in hand pissed himself in terror.

“You had best not be lying to me,” Aiden warned, his Rage glowing from his eyes like the grishi dancing along the walls.

He felt the throat under his hand work several times, the Night Kind’s gaze fixated upon Aiden’s bloody fist. “Slay me in sun, by fire and by frost do I lie: the girl is Luna, Keeper of Peace, Rage Slaker, and the means by which the House of Stars intends to buy back our right to walk among our brethren.”

Aiden filled his senses with the Night Kind, not bothering to mask his Rage, but, as utterly terrified as the Night Kind was, the short cloaked Night Kind did not flinch, did not falter, and did not break in his belief of what he said. Satisfied, Aiden released the short cloak’s throat and resumed his seat upon the dais.

“Tell me all,” he commanded.