Thanks to everyone who voted in April’s poll! As promised, here’s a little something (although fair warning, it may or may not make it into the final draft!) from Vega: Raenden the Blessed!
“Ah, Vega Raenden,” grumbled General Hevan as he brushed away a cluster of retainers that had been spreading maps out before him. “Have a seat.” He pulled out a stool and set it at Raenden’s feet. Beside the general stood a man that Raenden really had no desire ever to see again.
Well… the summons from the general wasn’t about Father.
“Hello, Vega Raenden,” came the slippery voice of the noble standing beside the general. Lord Randolf looked quite prim and proper, dressed in a fine velvet tunic of crimson and holding his hands behind his back innocently.
Raenden sat as he’d been told. It was… a slightly uncomfortable and very unnerving position, considering that even when he was standing, Randolf had towered over him. Now that Raenden was sitting on the low stool, he felt like an infant staring up at a mountain.
General Hevan ran a scarred hand over his sharply-trimmed black beard. “I’m not certain introductions are needed, but this is Lord Randolf of Irinshar.”
Randolf bowed his head. The smirk on his face was sickening.
The general sighed. “Look, Vega Raenden, I’m sure you know I’m not one for pleasantries or subtlety, so I’m going to be blunt–Lord Randolf has filed a complaint against you. And, after looking into the matter further, we’ve discovered there’s some truth to his claims.”
“First-hand witness testimony, General,” Randolf corrected, still with that disgusting smirk on his face.
Raenden knew exactly what he was thinking to bring out that nauseating grin. He struggled to remain sitting down, keep his composure. “Sir, I understand how it looks, but you have to believe me when I say, I was only trying to do what was right.”
“Oh!” Lord Randolf crowed in melodramatic insult, “Assaulting my retinue, you mean?” He turned to the general. “When last I checked, our enemy was the Vadigons, not each other.”
The general glared at Randolf, but it was clear he wasn’t very happy with Raenden, either. “This is what discipline and ranks are for, Vega Raenden. To prevent things like this. You’ve insulted not only the good lord here, but also my entire division.”
“But sir, they were assaulting that woman!” Raenden protested.
“They were retrieving my bride-to-be,” Randolf snorted.
Raenden had half a mind to retrieve his sanity by running his knuckles into that pasty face.
“So, Vega Raenden,” the general continued, clearly tired of the exchange already, “Do you deny you attacked the lord’s men?”
“I only did so to protect the lady–”
“Do you deny it?”
Raenden glanced from one man to the other. The general was insulted and angry. Randolf was glowing with pleasure.
“Yes, sir! I do deny it!” Raenden insisted. “It was not an ‘attack’ in the sense that the lord would have you believe. I was only–”
“Didn’t I tell you, General?” Randolf interrupted. “Didn’t I tell you he’d–”
“ENOUGH!” General Hevan threw his arm across the table, spilling maps onto the ground.
The tent fell dead silent.
“Enough…” The general slid his hand across his face. He looked exhausted. He finally collapsed into a chair of his own. “I can no longer turn a blind eye to this… this inbred rebellion.”
Raenden winced. “Inbred rebellion.” Even though he’d heard iterations of it his whole life… the words still stung.
“It was dangerous enough when Stergon was actively serving… releasing captives left and right, fraternizing with the enemy…” the general continued. “And now this.” He leaned forward in his seat. Even sitting, he was still tall compared to Raenden. His voice struck a new, bass low. “Insurrection. Against your direct officers, myself, and now your rulers. I will not tolerate it.
“I will not have you–you–Stergon-spawn making a mockery of my operations or endanger my troops any longer.”
The general rose from his chair. “You are relieved of your duties.”
Raenden sat for a moment, stunned, trying to make sense of this travesty.
“Now get out of my camp.” The general gestured to someone behind Raenden, presumably the guards.
He felt himself being seized from behind and roughly lifted off the stool. Then he was dragged outside before he could even get his feet beneath him.
They threw him to the ground.
“Get out of here, traitor. Go find your Vadigon friends. And hope we never see your face again.”
Raenden made his way out of the camp to the boos and hollers and thrown stones of men he had just fought beside two days ago.
And all because I tried to save her! He thought as a rock struck his shoulder. He clutched the wound as it began to bleed.
Now he was alone, and she was still trapped, doomed to live with a monster.
Jacinth… I’m so sorry… I failed. I failed us all.