My Beloved Padathera,
I am amazed to hear your story. There is so much that I did not know. How can I say no to your request?
My childhood was very different from yours. I was the sixth son of a merchant family. My parents were prosperous, but it was clear that I would never inherit. I had, I am sad to say, no head for money, nor patience for it, but I could dance well, and do calligraphy. One of the familial viziers suggested that I might have a talent for swordsmanship. As it turned out, he was right.
I learned the style known as the Single Point. (I remember more of it now than they ever taught me was possible.) And because my parents’ money was not to be ill-spent, when my training was complete I became a bodyguard myself. My charge was as precious to me as yours is to our kingdom: it was my eldest brother. Therefore, my shame is as deep as you can imagine.
I failed to protect him. An assassin’s dart found him, and he died as the poison coursed through his veins. Though I killed the swine responsible, and our family lost no coin, I lost the man I had looked up to since my eyes could see. My heart was broken.
When the palace offered to hire me at half the usual rate, my parents assented. They knew they would receive no better offer for one in such disgrace as myself. That I was then assigned to the prince was a great surprise to me, though I suppose the men-at-arms could not assign a noble’s son like myself to the harem as you had been.
I have spent many a day with the prince, and my opinion of him rose and fell much as yours did. He is petulant, and unkind, and imagines that he should have been king. Nor is he quiet with these insistences. (I hope you will remember to burn this letter.) Still, he is my ward. My skill will be his safety, and my life and honor will protect his, as the oaths say. Now, more than ever, I have the skill to do what I once could not.
There my tale ends, coming to the present day. If it please you, tell me next – where would you travel, if our queen did release you?
Ruan wears a black gi with white and silver trim. It’s not what he trained in, but it’s the look that Prince Visho ordered for him. He has short-crimped black hair, cut short, and a short-trimmed beard. Ruan’s brown eyes have just a touch of orange from his southern heritage. His voice is deep and even.
Humble, watchful, and eloquent. Ruan was much changed by the death of his brother. In some ways he hasn’t quite recovered yet. He used to be more confident, perhaps even a little boastful. Now he tries to live up to what he should have been.
This is made difficult by his relationship with his charge. Ruan knows that Prince Visho is an awful man. He’s seen what the prince does, how he treats others. Ruan hopes that his example will change the prince’s mind. His fear (entirely justified) is that the prince is too haughty and full of himself to notice others, even those who are right next to him. Visho considers Ruan horribly naive; Ruan knows it.
Intimacies: I will not fail my charge again (defining), My family’s honor (major), I love Padathera (major), Carry yourself with dignity.
Ruan embodies all the best things that Prince Visho thinks about himself. He’s strong, graceful, suave, and composed. He’s disciplined. He’s not quick-thinking or cunning the way Visho is, but he’s intelligent. Most importantly, he gained his skills through of hard work.
Ruan knows a little about the merchant business because of his family, but most of his time has been spent on more physical pursuits. The swordsman who trained Ruan taught him Single Point Shining Into the Void. Now that he’s a Zenith-caste Solar, Ruan is blindingly fast, cutting deep with his blade. He parries so confidently and speedily that his foes lose their balance. Those who watch him fight will swear that he strikes twice for each strike of his opponents. He’s still uncovering the hidden depths of the style that are in his teacher’s mysterious instructions. He’s also wondering who his teacher really was.
However, Martial Arts is not Ruan’s supernal ability – it’s Resistance. He’s immune to poison and disease. His body can absorb prodigious amounts of punishment. When he has a chance to catch his breath, his wounds literally close in seconds. Bludgeons bounce off his skin; knives are blunted; arrows stick briefly then fall to the ground. He doesn’t yet realize that he could walk out of a firedust explosion with even his gi intact.
- Soweth, Ruan’s mother, a famous and respected merchant. Disciplined, chivalrous, intimidating.
- Exshelo, Ruan’s elder brother, who wishes Ruan would treat himself better. Relaxed, instinctual, businesslike.
- Yefthen, who takes over from Ruan to guard Visho as he sleeps. Experienced, irritable, courteous.
- Ceeasthis, a palace servant with a crush on Padathera. Jealous, sneaky, squeamish.
- How far is Ruan’s family from Shirakh?
- Who besides Padathera knows that Ruan has exalted? Has he told Visho yet?