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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Vas Takes His Lumps

“You cooperated with Cloak?!?!?!?” screamed Valende.

“Sister, please... the windows...”

“To the Abyss with your windows! Vastarin Windbourne, what the charnal were you thinking???”

“That it was my only effective shot at taking down Ariath without Khyrisse taking the fall for it?” he said meekly. “I was under Vendetta at the time, you may recall.”

“Funny,” Val said sharply, “I didn’t recall stupid, reckless behavior being a side effect of Vendetta. If it was so important you were willing to share your plans with the Chain Gang’s fucking arch-enemy is there some reason you weren’t willing to share them with me?”

“Because I knew you’d react like this, Valende!” She slapped him on the side of the head, and he winced. “I should have told you sooner, I know... I just didn’t see the need to upset you. My collaboration with Cloak resulted in Mordecai’s rescue, Ariath’s downfall, and an assuredly temporary but still much-needed weakening of Omeria’s regime.”

“And in a network of wild-magic vampires riding the New Trade carriage lines,” Val yelled. “Khyrisse is just going to adore that development!”

“It’s mass transit, Valende. Vampires could have been riding it any time they wanted to anyway.” She boxed his other ear, and he accepted it with the meek resignation of a schoolboy caught cheating. “Besides, does it really matter whether vampires are preying on peasants in Tobrinel or in Dascold? My end of the bargain hasn’t truly increased the vampire problem, after all; merely globalized it a bit.”

“Shut up with your rationalizations, featherhead.” The priestess resumed pacing, her arms folded fiercely. “What a lovely time you picked to spring this on me. We’re marching off to our spiritual doom, and I can’t fucking trust anybody.”

“If I didn’t tell you today,” Vas said resolutely, “you might have found out within the Hotel tomorrow. If what you say is true, that might endanger you, and I won’t let that happen. This way at least you’ll have tonight to come to grips with it, and if you can’t... well, then you’ll know enough to stay home.”

“And let you go wreak gods-know-what havoc without me?” she fairly snarled. “No, Vas, you can’t get rid of me that easily. I am very, very angry you would work with an evil vampire like Cloak, and I am deeply hurt that you value my judgment so little you would lie to me to avoid having to consider it. I feel angry, I feel disappointed, and I feel let down.” She glared at him. “But I am still your older sister, and you are still the only thing there is for me in this world. Where you go, I go. And not all the passive-aggressive bullshit on Ataniel is going to change that. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Valende.”

“Good.” She yanked him across the room by his shirt front, a grim look on her face. “Because I’ve had it with I’m-sorrys of which nothing ever comes. You have gone far too long without the least bit of punishment for your reckless behavior, Vas, and Mother, rest her soul, isn’t here to do it.”

Vas made a sad little noise. “Very well,” he said. “You are my sister, and the right is undeniably yours. Do bear in mind that we may be encountering combat tomorrow, Valende, and I should not like to be hobbling about when I ought to be defending our mistress. Perhaps my undeniably richly deserved beating could be postponed until our return?”

“Beating nothing.” She shoved him down into the chair facing the mirror, a dark and furious scowl on her face, and snatched the scissors up off the vanity in one angry swoop.

“Oh Valende,” said Vas, paling. “You wouldn’t--”

“Shut up and learn a lesson for once!” The priestess grabbed her brother by the bangs and started, with fierce motions, to cut.

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