Coffee Break Read – Vexana

Meet Car Torbalen and his grand-daughter Vexana from Mistrust and Treason, the new Fortune's Fools book, which is available to pre-order at a special low price now.

The music started up again and there was a tap at the door. Distracted, he turned smiling, knowing who it would be.
“I grabbed a drink. Thought you’d like one too.”
This was the reason he had taken that retirement two years ago. Vexana. Nearly sixteen years old now, Legacy raised and the perfect age to become willing cannon-fodder for them. He was trying hard to convince her that there were other, better, ways to serve the cause, ways that could achieve just as much — more — and not cost you your life. So far he wasn’t sure he had succeeded, but it was a work in progress.
Torbalen hoped she would, one day, be able to learn the kind of skills needed to do his job here, or maybe she would move on to something different, better and safer. It would be folly to assume he could ever persuade her to step away from The Legacy. Much as he wanted her to do exactly that, he couldn’t deny her the same right as he had to serve the cause for which her parents had died. But he could, and would, do his best to ensure the way she served that cause was one that would never place her in the same kind of extreme hazard her parents had so willingly undertaken.
He accepted the drink she offered and sipped at it as Vexana dropped into the only other chair available.
“So you think these two are any good?” She gestured vaguely in the direction the music was coming from.
“Not bad. They have that raw edge you kids seem to like.”
The girl rolled her eyes.
“You kids? Sheesh!”
Torbalen hid his smile.
“Sorry. You young adults. Let me try it again. This duo has the kind of unconstrained spontaneity that young adults seem to find inspiring. Is that better?”
The girl’s eyes narrowed slightly. He felt she was judging his very soul and finding it wanting. It was a court with no facility for appeal, but it was also a judge who could be merciful and accept age as a mitigating factor. She looked away and glanced at a screen, firing off a couple of quick, texted, messages before deigning to give him her attention again.
“She was back there today.”
Torbalen tried to make that comment fit into the landscape of the world he shared with his granddaughter. He failed.
“Who was back where?”
The slight impatient sigh told him he had made some mistake by not knowing.
“At the dojo? That new girl I told you about? She’s good. You should come see her. She was talking politics with some of the others too.”
He felt a lurch of concern at those last few words. He owned the building the dojo occupied, it was one of the main places he had people keeping an eye out for potential recruits. One of the first things many of those angry and hate-filled kids wanted to do when they got here from whatever war zone hell-hole they had fled, was to learn how to defend themselves. They believed if they did they would never feel so vulnerable again. So, it made good sense to have his people there ready to listen to their woes and alert him to any who might be more useful.
In terms of recruitment, it was right on the front-line and the people he had doing it there were all well trained and experienced.
His grand-daughter didn’t know any of that. She was simply passionate about martial arts as a sport. Vexana trained there and she also helped out a couple of hours each day after school assisting in teaching the children’s classes. Torbalen had complete trust that his people would watch over her there with as much care as he did himself. Although of course, Vexana had no idea of his real role here on Skapandir. She knew he owned the dojo and maybe even believed she was the only one bringing him word of what happened there. But she was also not naive and would have worked out by now that there was some kind of Legacy connection with the place.
“Vexy, you know you mustn’t get into that kind of conversation with anyone.”
She glared at him.
“I just said she was talking with some of the others.”
“Good. Because it is really not — ”
“Not what?” Vexana snapped. “Not appropriate? Not my business? My parents died because of it so I think that makes it my business.”
She was brittle and defensive. He said the wrong thing, as he always did.
“My son and daughter-in-law died because of it, Vexy, and I would rather my granddaughter did not and I have the suspicion that they would’ve felt the same.”
“They died. You didn’t.”
He sighed heavily. It was an old argument and he had never yet won.
“I have given my life to The Leg— ”
“Really? How is that? You were just running a shipping business.” The girl almost spat with contempt. “How did that help anyone?”
“I was doing other things too.”
“Like what? Making a donation now and then? How very noble and heroic.”
“It wasn’t like that. We’ve been over this before. You know I can’t tell you exactly what I was — ”
Vexana made a sound that was a half-growl, half-groan of frustration and threw herself out of the chair, back towards the door. In a moment she would slam it hard and he would hear her feet thump down the small staircase.
He hated that.
Each time it happened he was left with the chill of fear that this might be the time it had gone too far and she might do something rash.
“Tell me then,” he said quickly, breaking the usual script of their ongoing melodrama. “Tell me about this new girl.”

E.M. Swift-Hook

Mistrust and Treason is the first book in Iconoclast, a gripping new Fortune's Fools trilogy.

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