Tales of Ryzin

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The Sword is Drawn

“When the sword of rebellion is drawn, the sheath should be thrown away.”

- English Proverb

“I’m joining the rebellion tomorrow. The next time we see each other, we’ll be enemies.”

I said it and I meant it, and I was right to say it. She deserved to know, and our different positions on the current state of the country had needed to be voiced for a long time. Still, I wished that I could take it back, because after this there will be no way that I could ever make it up to her. After tomorrow, there will be no going back to where our paths first diverged, and our shared past will remain in the past.

I had very nearly called our meeting off several times over the course of the week, but every time I saw the tall spires of the Church and the half-starved faces that surrounded me at night in the streets, my resolve was strengthened. It hurt to cut ties with her so abruptly after so long, and I was already filled with an empty ache where she used to be.

She stood before me, her face paling with anger as her eyes filled with hurt tears. Yet there was a resignation in her expression, even as her hands clenched the cream and crimson fabrics of her acolyte robes in her upset. She had seen this coming too, and had dreaded it as much as I had. It was a small comfort in the face of our shared pain and fury.

Had there been any other choice for me, a way to avoid cutting ties with my best friend, I would have never done it at all. But there was simply too much between us now, the difference in our lives finally too much for friendship to overcome like it always had before, and our thoughts too different to change anything.

Everything about the scene we were sitting in showed those differences. The rich fabrics of her robes, marking her as a priestess-in-training for the Church of the Sun, contrasted sharply to the worn and ragged clothing I wore, whose make and dusty color marked me as one of the Rats who lived on the streets. She was marked as one of the Church just as much as I was marked a rebel.

“Then let us pray that we do not encounter one another." Her lips were thin, but the tears in her eyes had been forcibly suppressed as the stoic mask of a junior priestess went up. "I will stand with the Church, and I would think to know you well enough to realize that you will not hold back either, should we meet.” She had cut her side of our bond, and from now on we would be strangers. It hurt about as much as expected.

“You’re right, I won’t hold back, even if you are stronger than you were before.” A pointed glance at the new golden sunburst adorning the collar of her robes made my point well enough. It was the mark of the goddess Leletha, worn only by those who achieved at least a mastery level of the magicks required to become a priestess. That she was wearing the symbol now could only mean that she was rising quickly through the ranks, and that she would be a strong adversary.

“If that is all, I must be going. It is a long walk back, and it is nearly time for the high noon ceremony, and my presence will be required as a Third Priestess.” Her eyes held none of the bright warmth that they used to as they looked at me, her voice perfectly matching the expression, and it was enough for me to mentally take a step back to look at us anew.

On one side of the table was a high-born lady within the Church that ruled our nation, emitting power and poise with ease, with lightly tanned skin that clearly hadn’t been exposed much to the sun that she worshipped so devoutly. On the other side was a street urchin, born already doomed to either a half-life of desperation or death, clothes the same color as the streets that he lived on, and skin long since browned by the desert sun. One of us had eyes made of fire and the other eyes made of ice, lives and destinies separated in opposing directions. One of us would be fighting tomorrow, the other would be rebelling.

Maybe I had come here to make her understand, or maybe I had come to be talked out of cutting ties with her. Maybe I had been expecting her to renounce her beloved Church, somewhere deep in my heart, and for her to become the classic tale of a rebel herself. But, in the end . . .

“Yeah. That’s all I came here to say.”
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