Chapter 32

“Now you’ll know what it’s like to die,” Ruadhan hissed, and yanked the sword back out. Nirin convulsed, a burst of red on his lips.

Kiol dropped to his knees and pressed his hands over the wound, but the sword had gone clean through. His trousers were already soaked in blood and his hands over Nirin’s stomach weren’t stemming the flow. Nirin’s wide eyes stared up at him, choking on blood as he tried to inhale.

“Nirin,” Kiol whispered. There was no saving him. Kiol kept pressure on the wound anyway, as though it would do anything. “I’m sorry.” Hot tears stung his eyes and he tried to blink them away but they fell instead, splashing on to Nirin’s cheek. The boy’s lips twinged up in what might have been a smile, but Kiol only saw a grimace of pain. “I would have stayed,” Kiol continued. “I would have stayed by your side forever. I’m sorry, Nirin, I’m—” A cold hand gripped his wrist. He glanced up to see Nirin weakly trying to move his hand. Even he knew there was no point.

Movement caught Kiol’s eye and he looked up further to see Ruadhan with his back to them. Something more than anger, something wicked and vicious, snapped inside Kiol. He tenderly moved Nirin off his lap, then grabbed the dagger the boy had dropped and lunged. Ruadhan side-stepped out of the way, facing Kiol at the same time.

“You were going to stab me!” Kiol spat. “So do it now! Kill me!”

“I wasn’t,” Ruadhan said calmly, dodging another of Kiol’s attacks. “I knew he’d sacrifice himself for you.”

“Fuck you!” Kiol sliced and managed to glance the blade off Ruadhan’s arm before he moved. Kiol stumbled and righted himself.

“Anger has made you sloppy,” Ruadhan tsked, holding his sword behind his back. “It’s unlike you, Kiol.”

Kiol attacked in a flurry, stabbing and punching without giving Ruadhan any second to recover. But it meant he had no time to recover either and soon he staggered with each step. “Fuck you fuck you fuck you!”

His blade sunk into flesh and Ruadhan buckled with a snarl. Kiol had hit his shoulder. Before he could yank the dagger out Ruadhan stood and in one smooth movement twisted Kiol’s hand off the blade, gripped Kiol’s forearm, and brought it down over his knee. Kiol felt the crack before pain exploded up his arm.

Ruadhan pulled the dagger out of his shoulder and tossed it aside, still scowling. “I don’t want to fight you, Kiol.”

“Is it true?!” Kiol held his arm, panting with effort and pain. “You’re going to kill me. You have to kill me. Is it true?”

“If it was don’t you think I would have already?”

“If you had stabbed me would you have turned away?” Kiol barked. “Pathetic! To not even look as the person you murdered dies!” Ruadhan watched him without a word. “Would you?!”

The man’s eyebrows twinged, but his mouth still didn’t move. Kiol growled through his teeth and attacked again, ignoring the splitting pain in his arm. He could work just as well with his left anyway. Ruadhan avoided as many hits he could, hands behind his back, before Kiol landed a punch on his wounded shoulder. The man grit his teeth and struck out with the short sword. It sliced across Kiol’s chest and he stumbled back.

“I told you,” Ruadhan said. “I don’t want to fight you. The boy had to die.”

“You have to die!” Kiol screamed. He lunged again. Ruadhan blocked most of the hits with his arm. Finally Kiol landed a kick hard enough to break the arm that blocked it and Ruadhan slammed back against the wall, grit teeth bared. Before Kiol could take advantage of the opening Ruadhan fled towards the door.

Kiol gave chase. Nirin was still on the ground there, chest stuttering as he struggled to breathe. Blood painted his chin. Kiol reached down and scooped up the dagger as he passed it, and threw.

It landed in Ruadhan’s back. He stumbled and collapsed to the ground. Kiol threw himself on top of Ruadhan before he had a chance to get up, tearing the dagger from his back. He wrenched Ruadhan to face him and pinned his neck down. The glint of the dagger as Kiol raised it shined in Ruadhan’s pupils. “This is how you kill someone,” Kiol growled through clenched jaw. “I’ll watch the life leave your body.”

The man’s eyes flicked calmly to Kiol’s, and his mouth moved.

“I will never abandon you.”

Kiol froze. Ruadhan’s eyes weren’t cold. They were solemn, soft, sad. Kiol gasped for breath but no air would pass his throat. I will never abandon you. Ruadhan’s voice was firm and gentle and held Kiol’s shaking hand from bringing the dagger down. It echoed from a lifetime ago.

Chapter 31<< >>Chapter 33

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