My Ranking Points
K&K New Chapters
It’s March 31st, which means starting tomorrow I will be holed up in my writing cave for a month, working on not K&K. So here are two new chapters for your enjoyment!
Context: these are new chapters for book 1, around the middle of part 2. A list has just been released of everyone to be executed, and Devyn’s siblings (Evelyn, Jordan, Stephen, and Laurence) are on it. Leo is Devyn’s horse, replacing his old tank. Maeve is the groom of the SoCS stables, and she and Devyn are kind of friends. Evelyn is 19, a fourth-year logical research student at SoCS, and in Devyn’s Masters Logic class. And if you don’t remember Devyn’s family issues, refer to this quote from chapter 6:
“I don’t like talking about my religion; both my parents are strict Devotists, and they cut basically all ties when I transferred sects… it also divided my family. After I left, one of my brothers [Jordan] and my sister [Evelyn] converted to Inquisition as well. My sister took our youngest brother [Laurence] with her as a final blow to our parents.”
That’s enough background. Time for the chapters!
The entire Masters Logic class turns to look at me when I walk into class. I skipped all my morning classes, preferring to stay in my room with Wysel, but I have to be here. I have to see her one last time.
I limp as quickly as I can to my desk in the back row of the amphitheater. Evelyn isn’t in her seat. A fresh wave of panic surges in me. What if I missed my chance? What if the king took her this morning, and she’s already gone?
The door creaks open.
“Evelyn,” Sir Ulric stammers, his eyes wide.
Evelyn’s gaze wanders through the class until it locks on me. “May I see Devyn outside, please?” she says. Her voice is quiet, but firm. Unwavering.
“Y—you are excused, Mister Sanders.”
I stand up, not bothering to gather my things. I can feel everyone watching me as I struggle down the stairs. For the first time, they’re not looking at me because of my limp, or because I’m younger, or I don’t know as many words as they do. There’s concern, even compassion, in my classmates’ eyes. Everyone knows how hard my sister works. Even if most of them aren’t my biggest fans, Evelyn is well liked.
“I’m so sorry,” I start the moment we step outside. “This is all my fault. I—”
She puts a finger over my lips. “Please, just let me talk. I need you to do something for me. You convinced the king to stop Arden Elbourne’s execution, right?”
“He won’t agree. Not now.”
“Just listen. I don’t need you to stop it. I need you to convince the king to knight me first. When I’m up there, I want to be able to look the king in the eye as a full Knight of Veritaria. I want him and all the other heartless nobles to understand exactly what they’re losing.”
“King Alfred put Ivy Turner to death, and she was a teacher at his own school.”
“Don’t argue.” Evelyn’s gaze is piercing, almost desperate. “Can you do this for me?”
I try to protest, to lay out a thousand more reasons why this isn’t going to work, but my words get stuck in my throat. There’s no point. If I’m lucky, I might be able to get my brothers out of the city in time, but they’re not the ones Alfred really cares about. He’s trying to teach me a lesson, and if I know anything about him, he won’t rest until he sees Evelyn’s head roll.
So instead of arguing, I nod. “I can do it.”
“Thank you.” She wraps me in a brief hug. “Thank you. I love you so much. If I’m right, we have at least a couple days—”
“There she is!”
Evelyn pulls away with a gasp. Three guards are standing at the end of the hallway, their swords drawn.
I start to run in the other direction, tugging on Evelyn’s hand, but she refuses to move. She’s staring right at the guards, resolve written on her face. They advance slowly, and once again I try to pull her away, but she stands firm.
“Let go of my hand,” she tells me.
There are tears in my eyes. “I don’t want to leave you.”
“Laurence and Jordan are at school in the Scholars’ Quarter. Please get them. Stephen too. Take them somewhere they’ll be safe.” She squeezes her eyes shut in a futile attempt to stop herself from crying. “There’s—there’s not enough time to get an audience with the king.”
Then the guards are on us. One of them pulls me away from my sister while the other two strip her of her sword and her belt, tossing them aside. I watch, helpless, as they take her bag and start rifling through it. Ripped pages flutter from her notebook. I see a sketch of Jordan bent over a logic worksheet, his dark hair falling over his face. It’s been torn in half, separating his head from his body.
Go, Evelyn mouths.
Determination rises in me. All three guards have turned their attention away from me and toward my sister by now, and none of them try to stop me as I back out of the hallway. Once I turn the corner, I start to run, tears stinging my eyes, my knee screaming with every step. I run past the door to the training grounds before I skid to a halt, double back, and burst outside.
The entire archery class turns to gawp. Ignoring them, I head straight for the stables.
Maeve is standing in the back of the stables, brushing Leo’s glossy coat. My feet crunch on the hay-lined ground. She turns when she hears me enter.
“Devyn,” she says, surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I… I’m not going to explain that to you,” I tell her, hoping my expression is apology enough. “Will you help me? Please?”
Maeve narrows her eyes. My stomach tightens, expecting her to tell me to go back to class—or worse—but after a few seconds, she just nods.
We work together to saddle Leo. He whinnies nervously, tossing his head, as if he can sense my churning energy. Maeve helps me into the saddle, then hands me my crossbow.
“Whatever you’re doing, be careful,” she says, strapping my right foot into its stirrup.
I set the crossbow into its place on the front of the saddle. “Thanks.”
Maeve’s mouth presses into a line, but she doesn’t press the issue. We both know what she’s thinking. If I intended to be careful, I would have given her a straight answer.
I guide Leo forward, and Maeve holds open the gate leading out of the training grounds for me. I urge Leo into a canter, then a gallop. We race down the street, doing our best to avoid pedestrians. Leo’s hooves kick up dust in a gritty brown cloud behind us, and I hear a woman on the street curse at me as I ride by.
It takes too long to reach Jordan and Laurence’s school in the Scholars’ Quarter. By the time I arrive, my head is racing too fast for me to think clearly. The king’s soldiers came for Evelyn days before we expected. What if they’ve taken my brothers too?
It’s then that I realize that I don’t know how to dismount my horse without Maeve’s help.
I reach down toward the straps on my right stirrup, craning my neck to look at the configuration. It quickly becomes clear that I need both hands for this—it’s not complicated, but it is a buckle. Twisting around in the saddle, I reach over with my other arm, leaning as far as I can to the right.
My knee twinges, and I gasp with pain, tears springing to my eyes. There’s a tightness in my jaw. I’ve never been resentful of my disability, but all I can think about are my brothers and the fact that if I had two working legs, I would already be inside.
By the time I realize I’m slipping, it’s too late. I land with a jarring thud on the cobblestone in front of the school, my ankle still fastened to Leo’s saddle. I sit up, rubbing my jaw and thanking the Great Truth that nobody was around to see that.
At least now I can reach the stirrup. I have the strap undone within a few more seconds, and then I’m scrambling to my feet, the cobblestones scraping against my palms. I barely remember to grab my cane before rushing into the building.
I limp down the hallway, calling out my brothers’ names. Heads poke out of doorways, confused, annoyed, curious. A teacher tells me to be quiet. I ignore them and keep shouting.
A familiar head of black hair peeks out from a classroom down the hall. “Devyn?”
“Jordan!” I gather my brother into my arms, then pull back, looking him over to make sure he hasn’t been hurt. “Where’s your brother?” I ask. “Where’s Laurence?”
“Room 9,” Jordan says, pointing. I wheel around. A teacher is standing in the doorway of Room 9, her hands on their hips, her mouth pressed into a frown.
I clasp my hands together. “Please.”
Whether it’s because of the red SoCS uniform or the urgency in my voice, or she just really wants to get me out of there, the teacher looks over her shoulder and calls, “Mister Sanders, you may be excused.”
And then a boy hurtles into me, and I’m cradling Laurence’s body as he sobs into my shoulder. Jordan starts to pet his hair, gentle strokes from the top of his head to the nape of his neck. A lump forms in my throat. It’s what Evelyn used to do for me when we were kids.
“If I may ask,” the teacher says, “what are your intentions with the boys?”
“They should be able to see their sister,” I say, dreading the prospect of telling my brothers the real reason I came for them.
The teacher nods. “Jordan, Laurence. Go with your brother.”
I offer her a quick quarter bow. “Thank you. Thank you. You—you don’t know what you’ve just done for my family.”
“It’s the least I can do,” the teacher says, looking bemused.
When we get outside, Jordan helps me mount Leo with my instruction, then climbs up behind me and pulls Laurence in front of him, so our youngest brother is sandwiched in between the two of us. I feel both their arms wrap around my waist, Jordan’s hands resting protectively over Laurence’s. I click my tongue, and Leo leaps into motion.
“Where are we going?” Jordan asks as we ride through the streets. Now that my brothers are riding behind me, I’m more careful, keeping Leo at a light canter.
“We’re going to get Stephen,” I tell him.
“Aren’t you worried about Mom?”
“I’ll deal with Mom.”
Jordan is silent. After a few seconds, he mutters, “You avoided my question.”
The streets get narrower as we ride into Sorne, the district of Medias where my parents and middle brother live. Leo’s hooves squish in patches of mud. I recognize a few shopfronts, but other than that, the district is foreign to me. Sorne has changed in four years.
So have I.
I guide Leo around a tight corner, then tug gently on his reins to stop him in front of my parents’ house. Laurence undoes the buckle on my right stirrup, and Jordan helps me out of the saddle.
I pat Leo’s neck. “Keep an eye on him, won’t you?”
“You’re going in alone?” Jordan says.
“I’ll be okay. Wait here, and I’ll be back with Stephen before you know it.”
I smile, brushing back his hair from his forehead. “What is it?”
“They got Evelyn, didn’t they?”
Although I say nothing, he seems to see the truth in my expression. His whole body shudders. He wraps his arms around himself.
“What are we going to do now?” he asks, barely louder than a whisper.
“You’re getting out of Medias once and for all.” I hand Leo’s reins to him. “Stay here, okay?”
I leave Jordan and Laurence standing in the street and make the short walk up the porch. The wooden stairs creak under my heavy step. I take a moment to gather my courage, then knock on the door.
– – –
My mother opens the door.
Her eyes widen, then slit with distrust. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see Stephen.” I try to push past her, but she plants herself in my path.
“Don’t you dare touch my son,” she spits. I recoil, stung by the venom in her voice. “I told you never to return,” she continues. “I want you to leave my house now.”
My father comes up behind her. “Lys? What’s going on?”
She jerks her head at me. “He wants to talk to Stephen.”
“Then I think we should let our son into the house,” my father says, an edge to his tone.
“Have you forgotten everything Devyn has done to this family? To us?”
“I remember as well as you, Lys. But Stephen has a right to see his brother.” He waves a squarish hand in my direction. “And Devyn’s right here. Best not to talk about him like he isn’t.”
“Fine. Let’s ask Devyn what he thinks.” My mother turns her glare back to me. “What do you want with Stephen?”
“He’s listed for execution, Mother.”
“All of them are. Stephen, Jordan, Laurence… Evelyn. I think I can get them out of the city, but our best chance is if we act fast. Please, trust me.” My voice wavers. “They already took Evelyn. I won’t let them have my brothers too.”
My mother’s face goes white. “They took Evelyn?”
I nod, not trusting myself to speak.
A shiver runs through her body. My father wraps his arms around her, resting his head on her shoulder.
“By the Unknowable,” my mother says. “Evie. My Evie.”
I want to stop myself. I know I should.
“Your Evie? After all this time, after cutting yourselves off from her for so long, you presume to claim her as your daughter? No. You don’t get to call her that. You abandoned her, and Jordan, and me, because we wanted to pursue the truth instead of following it blindly. Evelyn became a mother to our brothers when she was fifteen. She got into SoCS by herself, stayed near the top of the class for four years, all while providing for a family that should have been your responsibility!” My upper lip curls into a sneer, **** and malicious, and my mother recoils. “So you don’t get to call her yours. I don’t care about me, because I turned out fine. But the second you ordered Evelyn to walk out that door, you lost the right in my mind to call her your daughter.”
I’m breathing hard. My father is frozen with his arms still around my mother, staring at me. A thousand things roil in my head, things I should have said, things I’m supposed to say now.
Mom, I’m sorry.
“How could you do that to her?” I say instead.
“Evelyn didn’t have to take the boys with her,” my mother says, her voice brittle. “Laurence never deserted his faith. And Jordan was already nine. He could have gone to the same place you did.”
“I went to the Blue Falcon because I was twelve and alone and I didn’t know where to turn, and because I knew Evelyn would take care of me too if I asked and I wasn’t going to let that happen. As for Laurence, you threatened to take him out of school. Remember what he said? He said it was—”
“His most favoritest place in the whole world.”
My mother turns around. “Stephen.”
“I want to go with Devyn,” Stephen says quietly.
I brace myself for my mother’s argument, but she simply nods once. “Stephen, pack your things.” Stephen runs off to his room, and she turns her gaze to me. “If you ever come back here, I will call His Majesty’s soldiers.”
Stephen returns a few minutes later with a packed bag. He hugs his parents one last time, then follows me out the door, where Jordan and Laurence are already waiting with Leo. I can tell they heard the argument. “Jordan—”
“Don’t.” He hurries to his position by Leo’s left flank, ready to assist me. “It’s all fine, right? Except for the execution thing, I guess.”
“Yeah.” I cast a last glance at my childhood home, heavy with the knowledge that I’ll never get to see it again. “Except for the execution thing.”
– – –
The district of Llanno is a terrifying place. I’m holding the slip of paper with Marisa’s address on it in one hand and Leo’s reins in the other, which means that if someone decides to jump out of one of the many dark, twisty alleys and ****** my brothers, there’s nothing I can do except run them down with my horse. And I really don’t want to do that.
“My teacher said the Antia people are savages,” Laurence says, a little too loudly. Jordan shushes him, while Stephen whips his head from side to side, his eyes wide.
“They’re not—” I lower my voice—“savages. They’re just normal people, so please be nice. Don’t freak out.”
“Why would we freak out?” Stephen asks.
Jordan rubs Laurence’s fingers. “Devyn?”
“The girl we’re here to see… she’s a knave.”
“A knave?” Laurence whispers. “For real?”
“For real. So don’t stare or anything like that. Just be polite.”
Laurence nods, dead serious. “Or else they’ll eat us.”
“Knaves don’t eat people.”
His eyes narrow. “Yuh-huh.”
“Well, this knave won’t eat you, at least,” I tell him, laughing. “She’s been taking care of me for years, and she’s one of the most honorable people I know.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting her,” Jordan says.
“Good.” I tug on Leo’s reins. “Because we’re here.”
We’ve stopped in front of a little two-story apartment made of warped timber planks. The windows are open, letting in the early afternoon light, and I can hear a faint murmuring sound.
Jordan ties Leo to a post beside the building, and then my brothers follow me to the door. I knock hesitantly. I’ve never been to this district before, and Marisa doesn’t talk about her life outside the Blue Falcon.
A tall, bearded man opens the door. His eyes widen at my SoCS uniform, and he hastily drops into a full bow.
I take a nervous step back. “Oh, no, sir, you don’t have to… do that…”
The man rises from the bow, fear scrawled across his face. “Good evening, sir. What do you need?”
“Is Marisa here? Marisa Antiasi?” I ask, realizing too late that the distinction probably didn’t narrow it down all that much.
“No,” the man says. “If that’s all, I don’t think you should leave.”
“Whoa,” breathes Laurence, clinging to my hand.
“I’m not here on the orders of the king, sir. I’m not a soldier. I’m a friend of Marisa’s, from the inn where she works. I just want to ask her something.”
“Fallow!” he calls. “Get down here!”
A few seconds later, a boy around Marisa’s age comes creaking down the stairs. “Caesi, papa?”
The man starts talking to him in rapid Antiasi. I catch Marisa’s name, as well as a phrase from Fallow that Marisa says when she’s frustrated, although I don’t know exactly what it means.
Footsteps approach from another room. Marisa appears in the doorway, her sleeves rolled up to her elbows and her red hair pulled into a messy bun. She looks between Fallow and his father, then catches sight of me. “Devyn!”
“You know this knight?” the man says.
“Yes, he’s my enemy.” Marisa rushes forward to embrace me. Then she bends down to my brothers’ height. “These must not be the llaiyos! Devyn’s told me so little about you!”
The man turns sharply to her, grabbing her arm. “Marisa. No thilli salimme a sa.”
“Unlike I said, Devyn is a friend,” she tells him, brushing him off.
They argue in Antiasi for a while, until the man finally snorts and throws his hands into the air. “Fine. Do what you need to do and get out.”
I bow my head. “Of course, sir.”
Marisa takes me and my brothers to a room upstairs, where it’s quieter and we can talk in private. “What is it, Devyn?” she asks me as soon as we get there.
“Have you seen the list?”
She nods. “I wanted to worry everyone downstairs.”
“You know people who can arrange passage out of the city, right?” I ask.
“I don’t,” she confirms. “It’s safe, but if it’s the only option…”
“It’s the only viable one. They already took my sister.”
Marisa’s face fills with worry. “Then we have a lot of time. It’s too late in the day. Leave the llaiyos with me, and I won’t make sure they’re safe. They can’t get out today, if we play our set right.”
I start to protest, hating the idea of leaving my brothers, but Jordan cuts me off. “I’ll protect them,” he promises. “Go back to school. It’ll be okay.”
“When did you become so mature?” I murmur, and he just shrugs.
I hug each of my brothers tightly, then step back into the doorway. “I guess this is goodbye,” I say. I don’t want to believe it, but the fact that I just said it means I do.
“Not goodbye,” Marisa says, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Llona san. See you soon.”
I swallow the lump in my throat. “Llona san,” I tell my brothers.
Jordan waves to me. “See you soon.”
Hope you enjoyed, and stay safe during the quarantine! 🙂