Chapter 34: A Broken Heart

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Dux took the subtle remark and dealt it back equally, "My Lord Hallan, it is a surprise to see you. With the rebellion raging as it is, I half expected you to be in Gallia by now."

Lord Hallan's mouth puckered. "Some of us needed to ensure the Empress' safety. While you and your men were busy playing soldier in heathen lands, I was busy holding off a rebel invasion."

Dux smiled, though his eyes did not. "Indeed, from the safety and comfort of the war room no doubt. I'm sure your men did well defending the gates. It was good at least, that we arrived in time to provide some support, although I dare say we hardly had to lift a finger."

Appearing countered, Lord Hallan settled his gaze on Libro next. "And just who is this? A lap dog of yours? The war room is for high ranking officials only. I demand that he be removed at once."

"This is Libro, our Chronicler." Dux introduced, waving a hand in his direction. " You should know how important history is to the Vangen. Given our current situation I've decided that Wherever I go, he goes. Try to understand."

Lord Hallan opened his mouth to remark before Lady Kent stepped in. "Gentleman, is this really a good time to start bickering? What with the rebellion and all?" the lady in question glared at both of them behind a set of silvery green eyes. Like Lord Hallan, she appeared to not have slept well, but there was a fire in her still that Libro found respectful.

Dux made a quick bow. "Apologies, my lady. Too business then." Lord Hallan gave noise that appeared to settle the matter as well.

"All matters aside," Lady Kent continued. "It is good to see you Captain Dux, and your Vangen. Lord Hallan and I have been holding back the rebels for some time now. Almost a month to be precise. Your arrival back from Orienta was very timely."

"I'm amazed that the Black Ministry had the gall to start something like this." Dux said. "After what happened during Pyres Day, you would think turning traitor would be the least of anyone's concern."

"Indeed," Lord Hallan huffed, his arms crossed behind his back. "Truly a day of infamy, but that is what happens when you put your trust in Sorcerers."

"Doesn't your business rely on Sorcerers, Lord Hallan?" Dux pointed out. The man narrowed his eyes.

"Yes, while in chains and under constant watch." Lord Hallan gripped the table. "It is my belief that you keep the Talented in lock and key, not sitting in a lofty administration office. Something that I've made known to the Empress time and time again. But she has persistently told me that everything was under control. Time has proven this to be a falsehood."

"Are you doubting the Empress' judgment, Lord Hallan?" Dux said suddenly. Libro froze. Even Lord Hallan stiffened at that comment.

The Lord spoke his next words very deliberately."I do not doubt her majesty."

It looked like the Captain was enjoying making Lord Hallan squirm, Libro thought.
the corners of a smirk lilted on his lips, so faint that only Libro could see, hidden away by Dux's iron mask of authority.

"It is obvious then that an outside source caused this rebellion," Dux mused, turning his attention to Lady Kent. "Not poor judgement."

The Lady nodded in agreement. "An astute observation. I have reason to believe that an attack was made against the Empress before the uprising."


Lady Kent shook her head. "No, something more magickal in nature. Tell me, do you know what the Attuned are?"

Libro's ears pricked up at that. Her question bubbled up an old memory. During his time in the Orphanarium. A man in red robes had appeared one day, looking for children who bore that description. The Watch had lined everyone up one by one to be inspected. Libro remembered how cold the man's eyes were when he stared into his, as if he were sizing up a piece of meat for sale. Luckily, he had been spared, but a few had been selected and dragged off, screaming all the while.

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