Wolf's-own Deleted Scenes

© Carole Cummings

 

Author's Note: I know that when a world and its characters interest me, I want to know everything about them--what they had for breakfast, whether or not they need a haircut, what they were doing while the exposition followed other characters, etc. I always want the extended version director's cut, and I always buy the new release when an author puts out an uncut version of an old favorite book (though that doesn't happen as often as I'd like). However, I do recognize the lack of practicality in forcing that on those who are just not interested, and so I sometimes end up cutting things that perhaps offer a tiny bit of insight to a reader who might have wanted it. Most of the time, it's a paragraph or two of extraneous exposition or dialogue, but sometimes it's entire segments. Thus, these outtakes.

I do ask you to note, however, that these were all cut long before an editor got hold of the manuscripts, so... well, the only editing benefit they enjoyed was my own, which I won't pretend compares. They are what they are. They won't give you any real 'Ah-ha!' moments, but they might give you an 'Oh' or two.

 ~~~~

*This is from book one, somewhere in chapter eight, referred to during the confrontation between Jacin and Asai, when Jacin confesses he'd gone to haunt his family. When I cut this out, I rewrote that bit, so this never actually happened, but I like to think it did and Jacin just flat-out lied to Asai about it.

“We shall not meet again,” his mother whispered, leaning out from her bedroom window, staring up at the moons, eyes dreamy and glinting silver; Jacin didn’t know if she knew he was there, or if she thought perhaps she was talking to her spirits.  Didn’t think it made much of a difference.  “We are all our own redemption, though even the gods use all the tools in their grasp.”

She paused, wiped a tear from her cheek, though she smiled, soft and kind like he remembered her.  He had to wipe his own cheeks, as he stood there and watched her.  And then she dipped her head, looked right at him through his shadows, held out her hand, and he knew she was seeing him.  He went to her without even thinking, silently guided her hand to his cheek. 

“Ah, my own,” she told him, “don’t cry, love.” 

Jacin kissed her palm, whispered, “Mother,” choked and thin.

“There is love for you, my lost, beautiful little Ghost.”  She’d never called him that before, and yet somehow, when she said it, the way she said it, it didn’t sting.  “You draw it to you all unwitting, and then you let it hurt you so.”  She shook her head, her eyes gone somber, intense.  “Your other Self still keens in his heart.  Him, you mustn’t fail.  Promise me.”

Jacin swallowed, nodded without thinking.  “I promise.”

His mother sighed a little, smiled again.  “Your test will come, my own.  I so wish I could tell you what it will be and how to win it.”  She patted his cheek.  “Your spirits shout down mine even now, and I was never gifted at foresight.  And now, my mind… wanders.”

Because she’d tried to save him and couldn’t.  He could have dropped to his knees and howled.

“I’m sorry,” was all he could manage, hoarse and hollow.

Her hand slid from his cheek, pinched his ear until he jolted back.  “None of that,” she told him sternly, jerked her chin up at the sky.  “You mustn’t let them see you moan so.  Show Wolf if you must, but none other. You are his, he took you apurpose, though they all vie for you.”  She paused, leaned down with a mischievous smile quirking at her mouth, turning her moonlit features young and achingly beautiful.  “I know you, little lost soul, Wolf’s Incendiary who will light the lamps of the sky and set the world afire. So many lives hunkering inside you, but I’ve known you from the first time you woke within my womb, and then I knew you when you woke in me again. They thought I wouldn’t know, but I recognized my own.  Twice-born, you were, snapped your neck the first time because I couldn’t bear to let them have you, but you…”  She shook her head, changed the grip she had on his ear to a gentle pat.  “You were determined.  You would be born, and Wolf would have you.”

Again, he set his hand over hers, only just resisting the urge to cling. “Mother, please, I—”

“None of that,” she said again, though it was soft this time, no rebuke. “We’re all made for sacrifice. It’s only that…” Her smile crimped and fresh tears coursed down her cheeks. “Some sacrifices are so very hard to make.” Abruptly her hand jerked away and she straightened, her face hardening as she brusquely dashed the tears away. “Go now. You must be what you are, Wolf’s-own. You cannot be that here.”

~~~~

*Book two, chapter eight. This is the tail end of the conversation between Jacin and Joori that starts the chapter.

He didn’t know what to say. It had been like talking to Shig for a minute there, and it threw him. He couldn’t make sense of any of it. So, he only sat, stared at the couch across from him, let his head whirl out into nothing at all while Joori kept braiding, until a soft call from the hallway brought him back.

“Helloooooo?” drifted up from the direction of the stair, a male voice pitched deliberately soft, a little bit singsong, then the pad of bare feet on the floor of the hall. Jacin recognized the young man, though he couldn’t think from where for a long moment. Soft dark hair framing an angular face set in friendly lines, gentle brown eyes lightly kohl-lined, and kind, but swollen and a little red—he’d been weeping, just like everyone else here.

“Madi?” Joori put in behind Jacin, and it all clicked. The boy from the Girou, the one Jacin had planned to torture and maybe kill, before he’d been set upon by Malick and dragged from one shitty life and into another. “What are you doing here?” Joori wanted to know.

Madi was staring between them, blinking, his pretty face scrunched up into a frown as he leaned against the wall of the small foyer that led into Malick’s sitting room. Jacin saw the moment when his eyes landed on the braid in Joori’s hand, saw the moment when the meaning of it registered.

Madi’s eyebrows shot up, and his mouth opened a little slackly. “Oh,” was all he said, pushed out on a heavy sigh, and he slumped harder into the wall. Said, “Oh,” again, with feeling this time, then shook his head. “I… see.” His eyes went to Joori. “So, it wasn’t you,” he murmured, thoughtful, then turned his glance to Jacin. “It’s you. No wonder.”

“Do I know you?” was all Jacin could think to say. He’d been led to believe that Shig had altered the boy’s memory, that he wouldn’t recognize him. Jacin tried to figure if he cared and decided he didn’t—he had no intention of hiding anymore.

The boy sent a sharp look at Joori that held some kind of reprimand Jacin couldn’t fathom, but he shook his head. “I’ve met your… twin,” he said, his mouth turning down into a slight frown, then he shook his head again. “Now I see. A crying shame, really—you two could be the stars of this place, but I guess Malick wouldn’t approve anyway.” He sighed. “An Untouchable. Bloody hell. Are you what all the chaos is about?”

“Madi,” Joori put in, his voice low, an almost-threat that Jacin recognized—the tone he used when Caidi was being obnoxious but he didn’t have the heart to shout at her—and it almost wrenched new tears to Jacin’s eyes. “You’re not supposed to be up here,” Joori said. “And we’re not good people to know right now.”

“I came to see if you were all right,” Madi said, shifting his eyes away from their scrutiny of Jacin and softening a little when he sent his gaze to Joori. “There are all kinds of rumors floating about downstairs, but when I heard someone say the little girl who—” He cut himself off, looked between them, his soft gaze gone sympathetic. “I heard Malick had been hiding the little girl up here, so I thought of you. I couldn’t find you downstairs, and I didn’t want to make the rumors worse, but I wanted to…” He trailed off, shrugged, uncomfortable now. “I dunno. I wanted to help.”

Jacin chanced a quick glance up at Joori, noted the renewed pain on his face, and so quickly looked away again.

“I don’t think…” Joori’s voice had gone thick, and he paused, cleared his throat, collected himself. “Thank you, Madi, but there’s nothing anyone can do. It was kind of you to come, but you shouldn’t be here, and I don’t think—”

“Yes,” Jacin cut in. He reached back and set his hand to Joori’s arm, squeezed it. “Yes, Madi, there is something you can do.”

And do you trust me, Jacin-rei? Do you believe? and it might have been Beishin’s voice, or it might have been Malick’s, and he thought, Yes then No, and I don’t know, and it didn’t matter, because he couldn’t trust himself. So, he slid the ring off his finger then back on again, just to see if he had the nerve to try.

He turned to peer at Joori over his shoulder, searched his face, but whatever Joori was feeling or suspecting, he kept it hidden behind a blank mask of vague expectation. Be the Ghost, Joori had said, only moments ago, permission, and Jacin didn’t quite understand what the permission was for, and he didn’t quite believe Joori meant it, but he was trying to mean it, and that in itself was somehow wrenching and freeing, all at the same time. He squeezed Joori’s arm again, tried to give him a smile, but didn’t quite make it, then he turned back to Madi, dipped his head.

"What sorts of contacts have you in the city?"

~~~~

*This one is from book two, chapter nine, just after Joori and Shig have their little... talk.

Samin had never been comfortable with the idea of magic.  He’d been even less comfortable watching it used.  He had approved of it where Malick and Shig were concerned, because, he admitted to himself, they used it in ways he would like to think he’d use it himself, if he had it.  They took wrongs and made them right, and even then, the magic was a last resort.  Well, perhaps not for Shig—Samin supposed perhaps Shig couldn’t not use hers—but Malick relied more on his deadly skill with his hands; until just recently, Samin had only ever seen Malick use his magic when he couldn’t manage with just his physical skill to get someone else out of a tight spot.  Mostly Samin himself, now that he thought about it.

He hadn’t been aware that he’d been living all this time, quite literally, in the heart of a coven.  Invisible beneath Malick’s veil, all of them, and shrouded from the probes of the hunters.  It almost made Samin laugh—the Girou had a very favorable reputation and received quite a lot of custom from a good portion of the Doujou.  And he really should have twigged about Van and Bone—twins, after all—but he hadn’t been paying attention, had only really noticed Bone recently because Shig had a crush on him, and they’d been here longer than Samin himself had been.  He should have seen.  He should have bothered to look.

Bloody Ragi, for pity’s sake.

Mouth tight, Samin watched the motley assembly gather about Malick on the street in front of the Girou, all their attention focused on him as he explained what he intended to do, invited them along but didn’t ask, didn’t demand, made it clear the choice was theirs and there would be no fallout if they chose to keep to the home Umeia had made for them and Malick had protected for them.  Samin knew how it would go.  Every one of these people knew it could easily have been them, captured and bled, or one of the others they’d come to love and know as a looser sort of family than the one Samin had watched rent from him only a few hours ago.  And who knew what they’d already seen that had driven them here in the first place?

Some might stay back—fear for which Samin couldn’t blame them, self-preservation for which he could, though he acknowledged that was likely less than fair—but the bulk of them would follow Malick now, even though they’d had no idea what he was until today, and despite the fact that they knew now.  Mortals had no fondness for either Temshiel or maijin, and plenty of fear and distrust, but Malick had shared drinks with most of these people, shared a bed with at least half of them if not more.  Samin had always watched the way Malick attracted people to him, acquired loyalty without even trying and mostly without knowing it, and Samin had feared for Malick because of it, feared for those he drew to him; now, he thought perhaps he’d been profoundly wrong.  About a lot of things.

“So, how did you lose Morin?” Shig murmured to him as they both watched Malick nab a bottle of uzin from someone Samin didn’t recognize and take a healthy swig before turning back to shove a map at the person nearest him.  Shig was still wearing that soft, flat smile she’d been sporting since this afternoon, though the redness and swelling of her eyes didn’t make them any less sharp.  Joori was standing beside Malick on the cobbles, listening intently, watching everything, his expressionless face reminiscent of his brother in a way that made Samin weirdly uneasy.

Samin’s mouth turned up at one corner, sardonic.  “You already know the answer, girly,” he rumbled.  “And you know I lose nothing I mean to keep.”

Shig snorted and leaned into Samin’s shoulder.  With a long sigh, she wrapped herself around Samin’s arm and went quiet again.  Samin didn’t mind.  It seemed, after all, that he was the only one out of all of them who hadn’t lost an actual sibling today.  Shig wasn’t especially touchy-feely, but she’d never had a problem with hanging all over Yori when the mood struck her.  The two of them could go at each other like screeching monkeys sometimes, but five minutes after a row that could threaten to turn Samin’s hair white, Shig would have Yori curled up on her bed, her head in Yori’s lap—just snuggling quietly, or maybe kipping like two puppies in a basket.

Samin’s eyes grew hot, stung, so he blinked quickly to clear them.

“I won’t tell Fen,” Shig murmured.

Samin thought at first she was talking about his lapse in manhood, and wondered what the hell Fen might have to do with it, but then he remembered what they’d just been talking about.  It made Samin smile—a real smile.  He might need that promise later, because if Fen found out Samin hadn’t lost Morin—found out he’d in fact armed the boy before he’d watched him follow after his brother, watched him slip into the back of the curtained carriage just as Fen snapped the horse’s reins—Yakuli might not be the only one in Fen’s sights today.  Samin wouldn’t be sorry for it, though, not even if Fen did find out.  He understood Fen’s blind, almost pathological need to protect what he had left, but this was Morin’s right, Joori’s right, just as much as it was Fen’s.  Try telling Fen that, though, he thought with a muted snort.  He liked his head where it was too much to try.

A crowd had gathered, which didn’t really surprise Samin.  The working day was nearly at an end, traffic had picked up, and too many things had happened today to attract attention.  A few of the Doujou were loitering about—Samin recognized one of them: a steady client of Mika’s—but with Malick’s veil obscuring even a hint of magic, there was nothing overtly suspicious but for the gathering itself, and that was to be expected while they were all in mourning.

This… war meeting, whatever it was, had started in the Girou itself, only moving outside when Madi had arrived with the hired cart to take Umeia, Yori and Caidi to the Shrine.  Malick had seemed oddly pleased when Madi had told him that there was rampant talk about the Giroulein District about an Untouchable who’d driven through in a horse-drawn carriage, who spoke sanely and had the sense to halt the carriage and wend carefully through the barrier of gawkers who gathered to see.  Some were apparently even professing to have carried on actual conversation with the Untouchable, which made Malick bark a smugly-satisfied laugh.  Joori had only tightened his mouth and kept silent, but Malick had sent Ragi to warn Judges Canti and Hirosui to get themselves away from the city before any real trouble started.

“That’s it, then,” Malick said, more loudly than before so as to reach the ear of everyone present.  “I’m off.  Stay or follow, as you will.  Either way, you’re veiled until you leave Ada, but don’t take chances—it’s not a guarantee.”

There were more here than what Malick had started with, some Samin knew damned well didn’t work at the Girou, and he really didn’t bother to wonder where they’d come from.  All of them, apparently, more than willing to move to Malick’s command, so it couldn’t actually matter, except to the good.  They dispersed—some to get where they were going by means of whatever magic they possessed, and some to get there any way they could, but Samin had no doubt that at least three-quarters of those who were here now would be at their designated meeting place just a mile before Asai’s lands turned into Yakuli’s.  Either way, they’d all be there by nightfall, though Samin knew that Malick would be getting him, Shig and Joori in place before anyone else arrived.

This was it, then.  Whatever happened today, a reckoning was coming.  He just wished he could be sure it would be for Yakuli.  It didn’t matter in the end.  Whatever way it went, if Samin went down, he would go down bloody, and with a damned impressive swath of mayhem left behind him.

No one fucked with his family.

Samin nodded to no one but himself, dropped a kiss to the top of Shig’s motley head. 

“That’s us, lovie,” he said, smiled a little when Shig straightened, adjusted Yori’s bow on her back and gripped the hilt of the short sword Samin had shoved into her belt earlier.  “You ready?”

Shig smiled back, leaned up and in, and laid a soft, warm kiss to Samin’s cheek.  “See you on the other side,” she murmured to him then simply pulled back, patted his cheek then turned and walked steadily over to Malick.

Samin only watched her for a moment, trying not to wonder exactly what she might have meant by that.

~~~~

*And this one directly follows the previous one. This one was very hard to cut, because I felt like it gave a lot of insight into what Jacin's life was like--what it used to be for Untouchables and what it is now. But in the end, it didn't move the plot or add any definitive character development, so out it went.

He would’ve waited for Malick.  He probably would have kept waiting for Malick until the next promise fell through, and the one after that.  Except there had been Xari.  And there had been not-Vonshi.  And Jacin couldn’t wait anymore.

It had been easier than Jacin had been thinking it might be.  He’d ridden in the carriage before—hidden in the back when Asai’s business took him to the city and he didn’t fancy leaving his Untouchable to his own devices—but Vonshi had always driven, made the ‘excursions’ more bearable.

No, it had been Husao; Vonshi had never existed. 

Husao had driven the carriage.  Husao had soothed him and taught him, helped him and spoken to him like he was an actual person, and none of it had been real.

Nothing’s ever been real, Jacin-rei.  They tell you what you want to hear, because it makes you theirs. You hand yourself over to them for a kind word or an affectionate touch of the hand.  You make it so easy for them—why shouldn’t they use it when you give it to them with such simplicity?

Jacin clenched his teeth, gloved hands tightening on the reins.

Dani.  He could see the blue eyes, sparking with equal parts mischief and disappointment, and it wasn’t fair for Dani to be haunting him—Jacin hadn’t killed him.

No?  Are you sure?

...Yes. 

Yes. He was sure.  Knives had been foreplay with Dani, they’d hadn’t turned lethal until… 

Urgent kisses and eager hands, and the first blissful taste of another’s touch, wrapped inside a split-second of heady silence, and he’d forgotten to pretend it was Beishin, and Beishin says it’s for the best and the look in Beishin’s eyes hadn’t had anything to do with love, but jealousy and possession, possession of a thing, my little Ghost, and the anger had been real, but the disgust had been, too, Cover yourself—

Shut up!

He could swear he could feel every stitch in his leg, and they were all on fire.  Malick had been preoccupied, maybe even angry, hadn’t pushed that spice-heavy tea on him, or one of those elixirs, and Jacin had no idea why that made him feel the pain that much sharper.  His head thumped and his stomach churned, and he only now noticed it had begun to rain harder again, and he was soaked through.

“He is, I tell you, look at the braid.”

Jacin blinked, peered up and around himself, startled to realize the carriage had halted, and a crowd had gathered about it. 

He hurt, ached, pain singing through him with high-pitched, jagged edges.  It had always helped him focus before, brought his mind back to his body, but now it was turning him muddled, ramping through the silence with its own voice, joining the others’ with singsong glee.

Pay attention to what you’re doing, boy.  Perfection demands concentration.

I’m not perfect.  I’ve never been perfect.  I’ll never be perfect. 

He looked about anyway, paid attention.

Stopped in front of a sedate tearoom—peeling rose-colored paint trimmed in white, stenciled paper screens covering the windows, and the eaves curled in the Jin style of architecture—its patrons drawn by the novelty of a horse then captured by the rarity of the Untouchable who sat the box of the obviously rich carriage.

The carriage had been pointing the wrong way when he’d taken it, the streets too narrow to steer it in a turnabout, and he hadn’t known how to make the horse back up.  So, he’d simply urged it forward, navigated a little deeper into the District so he could circle about to the Gates.  Many had stared, but none had approached, not until he’d apparently lost himself inside his head and allowed the horse to stop in the middle of the street and attract a gawking horde.

He supposed he should be grateful he hadn’t trampled anyone.  He hoped he hadn’t trampled anyone.

“What’s he doing?” someone asked, and another answered, “Something crazy, no doubt.  Back away, Pag, before he…”

“…all them knives.  Are they supposed to…”

“…believe he’s actually driving…”

“…looks calm to me…”

“…where he’s…”

“…wonder where…”

“…where he could be…”

He’d had no intention of hiding, but then again, he’d had no intention of sitting in the middle of the Giroulein District on display, inviting speculation, inviting the stares that weren’t quite stares, more like quick glances that skimmed over him, trying not to actually see him, trying not to catch the eye of the Ghost.  None of them blocked his path; none of them interfered—only watched and shared conjecture amongst themselves.

You’ve heard the voice of your god, Jacin.  Caidi.  He could’ve wept.  Shouldn’t you be Wolf’s Voice, too?

He couldn’t trust Beishin’s voice.  He certainly couldn’t trust his own.  He couldn’t even really trust Dani’s, though what Dani had said had rung like truth, but Dani had left him behind, too, used him in his way, because Jacin had made it easy.  But Caidi…

Right, then.  Perhaps not quite what he’d had in mind, but… it might do.

Jacin cleared his throat, winced a little at the roughness, like there was a lump of gravel blocking it, and he stood slowly in the box, peered down at the crowd.  Looking at them, letting them see he was looking at them, and watching them back away a little, anxious beneath the eye of the Untouchable.

“Lord Yakuli…”  His voice was much too hoarse to carry, but they shushed instantly when he spoke, eyeing each other in surprise, looking at him like he was an imposter, because surely an Untouchable couldn’t actually speak coherently, couldn’t drive a carriage, couldn’t stand calmly amongst them and address them reasonably.  He allowed his hand to reach up, pull the braid to swing heavily over his shoulder, the tail bumping lightly against the top of his boot.  “I go to Lord Yakuli’s.”

He waited.  It didn’t take long.

“…Yakuli…”

“…know why he would…”

“…does Lord Yakuli have to do with…”

“What business does an Untouchable have with Lord Yakuli?” one braver soul asked, ostensibly to the man standing next to him, but he’d raised his voice so that Jacin could hear him over the rest of the rabble.  Because one did not address an Untouchable directly, one did not acknowledge a Ghost, because the wrong word, the wrong look might interfere with Fate.

He is no one’s brother, Joori, and his father hadn’t actually said it out loud, but the He is nothing was implicit, and Jacin wasn’t really surprised his father would choose to haunt him tacitly through the not-gazes of strangers.

All-in-all, Jacin still preferred the invisibility of the shadows to this.

We’re all Wolf’s, Jacin, and he peered down into the crowd, found golden curls not stained with blood, and hazel eyes not blank in death, and a smile that made his heart hurt much worse than his leg and his arm and his head and his gut.

“Lord Yakuli defies Wolf,” he said, slowly and clearly, because it wouldn’t do to stumble over words now.  “Lord Yakuli mocks your laws.”  He leaned down, trying to catch gazes, but they were too intent on not letting him, so he focused in on Caidi.  “Lord Yakuli uses stolen magic, bled from the full-Bloods poached like animals from the dungeons of your Courts, sold to your counselors and lords and prefects and judges.  A Counselor in your own Courts commands the Disappeared, abetted by Lord Asai, a maijin of Raven.”

The silence was by no means complete, but it was heavy, weighted with disbelieving whispers he supposed he should have expected, but they pissed him off anyway.  They’d been waiting for him to start babbling nonsense, and he’d just fulfilled their expectations.

Because you’re an abomination.  Because you’re nothing.

Two women nearest the carriage flinched a little and hastily flicked their gazes away.  He must be glaring.

Perhaps, Father.  Then again, you couldn’t save her, either.  So, what does that make you?

Jacin settled himself back on the bench, flicked the reins a little until the horse began to nose slowly forward, parting the crowd.

“I go to Lord Yakuli’s,” he said again.  “I mean to cut his throat.  So, perhaps you’d best alert your Doujou.”

No one moved except to back away a little to avoid being run over.  They only stared as the carriage drove slowly past the teahouse, some faces blank with confusion or surprise, some twisted with fear or anger, but no one tried to stop him, and still, no one looked directly at him.  Their silence was complete this time, the light patter of rain a soft counterpoint to the rough clop-clop of the horse’s hoofs on the cobbles as it wended its way through the narrow aisle they’d made, until:

“Untouchable, perhaps,” said a bold voice, “but still Jin.”  Jacin turned his eyes towards the voice, but the man wouldn’t look at him, his gaze roving the rest of the crowd, looking for support or agreement.  “A Jin threatens an Adan!” he furthered, more strident than he’d begun.

Jacin stopped the carriage again.  Turned directly to the man, though still, he kept his eyes on those around him.  “And you would interfere?” he asked, the rasp of his voice making it more threatening than he’d intended.

The man paused for a moment, swallowed heavily, but turned to the man who had been standing next to him and was now backing discreetly away.  “What right has a Jin to—?”

“I’ve heard the voice of my god—have you?  What right has an Adan to imprison another?”  Jacin’s teeth were clenched now, his anger rising.  In truth, he had very little patience for the Jin anymore—too many of them were just as weak and waiting to be led as his father—and saving a people who were so easily enslaved had lost its luster, since he’d begun to see Asai for what he was.

But then again, how long had Jacin been his beishin’s willing prisoner?  How much force had it really taken for him to become Malick’s willing pawn?  How was he any different than the people from whom he’d come?

“What right,” he went on, “have the Adan to hunt their brothers, imprison them, sell them to each other like chattel, drain their Blood until they’re sere husks?  I’ve seen it.  They don’t allow them pyres, you know, they bury them, bind them to the earth to haunt us all—your seeds feed the souls of those you’ve allowed to be sacrificed to the greed of your masters.”

A soft gasp rippled through them at that.  Very little frightened a person more than the threat of becoming what they both pitied and feared. 

“You’re just as enslaved as the Jin,” Jacin said, his throat sore and raw now, his voice little more than a rusty whisper.  “I don’t expect you to take my word for it—go and see for yourselves.”  He leaned down, squinted against the rain, but he couldn’t find Caidi amongst them anymore; it made him feel strangely lonely. 

It hadn’t always been like this.  His kind had been revered once—their gazes met and returned, their advice sought, their presence hoped for and hosted willingly.  Strange, that both the Jin and the Adan had kept the ‘Untouchable’ part of their traditions, and yet had abandoned their pitiful Catalysts so quickly to their too-predictable fates.  Surely cutting them loose and watching them starve and rave themselves to death in the streets had to be some sort of transgression in itself?

What had he wanted here?  What had he expected?  A riot of Adan defending Jin?  A march on Yakuli by the city’s citizens?  An Untouchable inciting a crowd that not-quite-stared at him with revulsion and fear and doubt and hostility?  They expected him to be insane—everything he said would be heard through that filter; they would believe nothing because it was what they wanted and that was just how people were, Adan just as much as Jin.

“I mean to have a look,” rumbled low from the edge of the crowd.  A tall, rangy man with a cragged face and beak-like nose, his lank brown hair plastered to a brow twisted permanently into the shape of a frown.  The kitchen whites of the Girou hung on his whip-cord frame, and Jacin recognized him as the man who’d been hovering about Von— hovering about Husao and that woman as Malick had stalked the alley with the snap and snarl of ozone all around him.  “Every Adan shares blood with the Jin,” the man went on, stepped forward and looked right at Jacin, met his eyes and let everyone see him meet his eyes.  “How many of us have paid the midwife to give a squalling newborn a quick end?”  He paused, peered about, catching gazes and keeping them.  “How many of us have paid her not to?”  He smiled a little when they looked away; it wasn’t a nice smile.  “The Untouchable says he’s heard Wolf’s voice.  The Untouchable says our Courts are corrupt and our Judges trade in magic for which they’d hang us.”  He smiled again, crueler this time.  “Your complicity allows your government to grow their magic.  How long d’you think before they use it against you?  Or d’you fear the Untouchable more than you fear magic?”

Jacin almost smiled.  He’d been appealing to their senses of justice, but what did they really have to avenge?  Those they feared were locked away, the eyes of the hunters trained on the camps, not on them and the smattering of small magicks in their own midst.  Perhaps these people didn’t like what happened to the Jin, but they could certainly live with it, if it meant the persecution never turned on them.  It had been too long since any of them considered any Jin their kin, even if they all had at least some Jin blood in them.

This man played on their fear.  This man reminded them why they’d risen against the Jin in the first place, and it didn’t matter what their motives were, so long as what was being done in the shadows of their Courts was dragged into the light.

The man was still talking, but Jacin had stopped listening.  He snapped the reins again lightly, and urged the horse on.  He didn’t look back.  They would follow and see for themselves or they wouldn’t; either way was fine—he had a job to do and he didn’t necessarily fancy having to do it around them.  Or through them.  But they knew now.  And they were afraid.

It was a start.

~~~~

*There will be a few more for books three and four. I'll post them when those books are out. Er, okay, I'll somehow find the time to look at them to see if they're suitable for posting, at least.

 

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