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Authors: Kel Kade

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BOOK: Reign of Madness (Revised Edition)
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Tieran shook his head. “You must have a better eye than I,
Rezkin, for I do not see it.” He sighed lightly and added, “For your sake,
though, I will try.”

Rezkin smiled broadly, and somehow it did not feel forced.
The duke’s son would give Frisha a chance. If Tieran could be convinced to
accept her as one of the peerage, then others would follow his example.

Chapter 3

The journey was going to be a long one for Malcius. As the
future leader of his House, he was responsible for upholding the family name.
Developing a friendship with Rezkin, as his father had ordered, came naturally,
and he was grateful for it. He reviled the times he had to get close to someone
he hated just for the sake of some power play. Malcius actually liked Rezkin,
though.

Rezkin exuded an aura of power and confidence wrapped in a
shell of courtly grace and propriety. He was congenial and diplomatic and one
of the most approachable men Malcius had ever met, even though he also, oddly,
had a dominance that was almost palatable. Malcius could not help but admire
and respect the man. He felt the desire to prove himself to the lord in a way
he had never expected. Somehow, he felt that if he had Rezkin’s approval, then
he would be the kind of man his father expected him to be, or perhaps better.
And,
that
was an odd concept. He had never considered that he could
somehow be
better
than his father.

Shiela’s constant attempts at pandering were grating, though.
For the most part, Rezkin shrugged them off with grace. Malcius and Palis had
also been developing their friendships with Tieran, and he had enough empathy
for their plight that he at least tried to look the other way when Shiela
behaved shamelessly. At least her shame was contained while they were
sequestered on the ship. It was only a matter of time before they returned to
high society, and then Malcius would have to endure the full brunt of the
rumors. His father would be furious when he heard.

The count was conveniently oblivious to his daughter’s usual
coquettish behavior. He saw his dear, sweet daughter as an angel without vice,
and everyone was simply too afraid to disillusion the powerful man. The Jebai
heir was almost certain Rezkin would say nothing, at least for now, while he
pursued Frisha. Tieran, however, had the clout to be heard, even by the count.
If Tieran made the accusations, Malcius’s father could not afford to dismiss
the claims.

On the fourth day, Malcius, Palis, Tieran, Brandt and
Reaylin were on the quarterdeck practicing for the tournament when there was a
sudden shout followed by a loud ripping and whizzing sound that abruptly
stopped with a
thunk
. The young men and woman were looking all around
for the source of the noise when another unexpectedly loud snap sounded. This
one was accompanied by multiple shouts of, “Clear the way!” and “Look out
below!”

The companions looked up to see a massive beam dropping
toward them, tearing through the rigging. They ducked and scrambled to get out
of the way, but the beam was dropping too fast. A loud drumming sounded and
then a shadow sailed over their heads. Rezkin launched himself off the poop
deck, past the mizzenmast and into the air. He grasped a dangling line, his
momentum propelling him forward. Colliding with the falling beam, he
effectively shoved it out of the way using his body weight and cracked a few
ribs in the process. Rezkin released the rope, and he and the beam both tumbled
the last dozen and a half feet to the deck. Rezkin’s landing was more graceful
than it should have been for a man who just used his body to divert a falling
timber of several hundred pounds, not to mention the collision with the ship
after falling such a distance.

Reaylin cried out and ran up to the young man who had
probably just saved her life for the second time. “Oh, Rez! Your hands!” she
shouted.

Rezkin held out his hands that were bloodied and skinned
from the rope. They burned furiously, but he ignored the pain, in addition to
that caused by his cracked ribs. Reaylin was shaking with the shock of almost
being crushed by the falling beam. Her emotions were in turmoil, and she felt
something bubbling up from within her core. She swayed, suddenly afraid she was
going to be sick. As soon as she grabbed Rezkin’s wrist, the feeling seemed to
flow out of her, and she sighed with relief.

Rezkin’s brows rose, and he looked at Reaylin in surprise.
“Reaylin, you are a
healer
!” he remarked in wonder.

“What?” Reaylin’s eyes grew wide as she looked at the knitting
flesh on Rezkin’s hands. The young woman could not see it, but the aching in
his ribs had stopped, as well, when the bones sealed back together. “No, I’m
not!” she blurted.

Rezkin nodded and said, “Yes, you are. You just healed me
without even meaning to do so. Is this the first time this happened?”

Reaylin shook her head emphatically, “No, I’m not! You’re
mistaken. It’s all a mistake!”

The equally shaken lords walked over and examined Rezkin’s
hands from a distance. The blood from the prior injuries was still present, but
the flesh was unblemished. They all looked at Reaylin in shock. Malcius waved
at Rezkin and said, “There lies your proof, Mistress Reaylin. You are a natural
healer
.”

“No! I. Am. Not!” Reaylin shouted. “I am a warrior! I won’t
listen to this!” she screamed with tears in her eyes. She stomped her foot and
ran away to her quarters.

The lords all looked at each other flabbergasted. “Why would
she not want to be a healer?” asked Tieran. “She will no longer be considered a
commoner. She will join the Mage class and receive due respect, not to mention
she is guaranteed wealth.”

Even Rezkin was surprised and confused by Reaylin’s
reaction. It truly made no sense. He knew that becoming a warrior was important
to Reaylin, but he would not have guessed she would spurn such a rare talent as
innate healing ability. The fact that she had healed him without intending to
meant that her talent was probably fairly strong. The mage powers often first
awoke in a
talented
person when that person was under distress.
Afterward, the powers were unpredictable and difficult to call upon. Without
proper training, Reaylin would probably be hard pressed to intentionally
perform the same healing again.

Since no mages were aboard, and having apprenticed with the
healers at the fortress, Rezkin decided he was probably the best person to
speak to Reaylin about her newfound ability. The young warrior made his way
down to Reaylin’s quarters and knocked softly on the door. He knocked several
more times before the young woman finally answered.

“What?” she shouted. “Oh, it’s you,” Reaylin sniffed through
blurry tears upon opening the door.

“May I enter?” Rezkin asked.

Reaylin shifted uncomfortably and looked back into her empty
berth. She had dreamed of getting Rezkin alone in her room on many occasions,
but in none of her dreams had it been under these circumstances. She ducked her
head and stepped to the side, hesitating a moment before closing the door. It
would not be considered proper to be alone in the room with him with the door
closed, but at the moment, she did not really care. She did not want others
listening in on their conversation. Not that she would have cared, anyway.

No chairs were available in the small room, so Rezkin sat on
one of the beds. Based on its location in the middle, Rezkin assumed it was
Frisha’s. Shiela may not like Frisha, but she would insist that her
sort-of-noble cousin separate her from the commoner. Reaylin sat on her own bed
facing Rezkin. Their knees nearly touched with the close proximity.

Rezkin cocked his head and asked, “What is wrong, Reaylin?
Why are you upset?”

The young woman stared at her hands in her lap and sniffed.
“I-I don’t want to be a healer.”

Rezkin waited for the young woman to continue. When she did
not, he prompted, “Why not?”

Glancing up, Reaylin was caught in Rezkin’s crystal gaze,
and she could not look away. “I am a warrior,” she said stubbornly. “I am
strong and capable, and I will prove myself to any who say otherwise.”

The young man considered the woman’s words. “You think that
being a warrior precludes you from being a healer? Or possibly the other way
around?”

Reaylin lifted her chin. “Healers are weak. They do not
fight. I’ve heard they even take oaths against doing harm or some such
nonsense.”

Rezkin nodded his head now that he understood. “Do you think
I am strong, Reaylin? Do you doubt that I am a warrior?”

The young woman’s eyes widened as she answered, “No! I mean,
yes. I mean…
yes
, I think you are strong; and,
no
, I do not doubt
you are a warrior.”

He nodded and asked, “Would your opinion of me change if I
told you that I am also a Master Healer of the Mundane?”

Reaylin’s jaw dropped. “Are you?” she asked, her voice
barely above a whisper.

“I am,” Rezkin declared. “I only tell you this so that I may
serve as an example for you. You do not have to give up being a warrior just
because you are also a healer. Having healing
Skills
is highly
advantageous for a warrior. The fact that you are a natural healer will make people
want to protect you. You know how rare they are. That does not mean that you
cannot learn to protect yourself. After all, you cannot heal yourself if you
are injured.”

In truth, Rezkin had already determined that Reaylin’s
warrior skills would be limited to poor to mediocre. It was not because she was
a woman or that she was small. Her mind was what held her back. She was
temperamental, impulsive, and reactive, and she lacked the patience and focus
needed to master the
Skills
. It was to her great fortune that she
discovered a truly valuable hidden talent.

“But, people would expect me to heal them.
Sick
people and injured ones and…
children
, and they would expect me to fix
them when I should be out battling the enemy,” she protested.

Rezkin raised his brows and asked, “What enemy, Reaylin? We
are not at war.”

A shadow passed behind the woman’s eyes. “There is always an
enemy,” she replied cryptically.

“Why do you want to be a warrior, Reaylin? Is it to protect
people or to kill them?” Rezkin asked seriously.

“What do you mean?” Reaylin asked uncomfortably.

“A warrior serves two purposes – to kill or to
protect. Sometimes you must kill in order to protect, but not every warrior
cares to protect at all. Some are simply in it for the killing,” Rezkin explained.

“Well, I want to protect, of course,” Reaylin said casually,
though without conviction.

“Are you sure that is true, Reaylin?” Rezkin asked.

The young woman shrugged. “I hadn’t really thought about it.
I just know I want to be a warrior.”

“But
why
do you want to be a warrior, Reaylin?”
Rezkin pressed.

She lifted her chin again. “I need to prove myself.”

“To
whom
?” Rezkin asked. “It is not to the army. They
do not care one way or the other. It is not to
you
. You do not even know
what kind of warrior you wish to be. So, to whom are you trying to prove
yourself?”

Reaylin clamped her mouth shut. Rezkin shook his head and
said, “You need to be focused, Reaylin. You must determine your objective. Know
your purpose. Recognize your talents and capitalize on them. If you live your
life for the sole purpose of seeking the approval of others, you will live no
life at all. You will indubitably fail, for if that person cannot appreciate
you for who you are, then he or she will never truly appreciate you at all. You
will
always
be trying to prove yourself, and it will never be enough. Do
not dismiss your healing abilities so quickly, Reaylin,” Rezkin continued. “It
is a talent many of us could only wish to have.”

“Would
you
?” she asked disbelievingly.

“Of course,” Rezkin replied truthfully.

Reaylin’s stubbornness showed through once again, though, as
she said, “Well, if I could somehow give it to you, I would.”

Rezkin maintained his smile as he winked playfully, “I will
hold you to that.”

Reaylin blushed and returned his smile. A sudden impulse
grabbled hold of her, and Reaylin leaned forward and kissed Rezkin full on the
lips. The kiss only lasted a moment before she pulled back in surprise at her
own actions. Rezkin had actually been caught off guard. He had been watching
the young woman for weapons and any threatening moves and had not really
considered the possibility that she might kiss him. When she leaned forward, in
the split second that he realized what was happening, he thought she would kiss
him on the cheek as he had seen other people do when thanking someone. Rezkin
had learned from watching the plays in Kaibain that kissing someone on the
mouth was not appropriate if he or she was in an established relationship with
another, as Rezkin was with Frisha.

Reaylin turned bright red in embarrassment and then realized
this was her chance. She smiled suggestively and batted her eyes as she asked,
“Do you have anything else that needs my talents and attention, Rezkin?”

What is it with these women?
Rezkin thought to himself.
Nothing his masters had taught him indicated that women were typically so
forward or
willing
. He was beginning to wonder if he was doing something
wrong. Was he unintentionally propositioning them somehow? Did something in his
speech or manner imply that he was looking to make a marriage contract or
produce an heir? He was suddenly
very
glad he had Frisha to fill that
role, and he did not need to worry about figuring out any of these other women.
Frisha was…
solid
…and virtually harmless…and mentally stable. If he were
not sure they were already dead, he would thank whoever was in charge of
assigning his
friends
. They had done him a great service in selecting
Frisha to be his
Girl Friend
. He shuddered at the thought of Shiela or
even Reaylin in the role.

Rezkin abruptly stood and bowed courteously toward the young
woman. “I had best be going. I hope you will consider what I have said.”

BOOK: Reign of Madness (Revised Edition)
7.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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