“Are you all ready?” Kaerio asked, a kind of prompt that wasn’t exactly his own words.
Casrane glanced at both of the twins, then nodded.
“I think it might help to get in touch with a few of my other friends,” he explained after a moment. “But we’re going to need to make sure we’re ready first. It’s not necessarily dangerous, but it’s certainly something, and I definitely don’t want to be the one who’s responsible for ruining this.”
“Are you going to say anything about your friends?” Llewel prompted.
Kaerio gave a nervous look around, stepped a bit closer to them, then said in a lower tone, “I would, but not everyone here is going to take well to what I’ll say. I promise I’ve got a plan, you’ve just got to stick with me until then, alright?”
That didn’t seem to really be enough, but they still all followed Kaerio out of the inn.
The streets were no more or less busy, nor loud, as they had been when they first arrived. Kaerio acted no different, even if this time, he was unable to avoid the attention.
“Oh, Kaerio, perfect timing! Are you busy? I could really use your help!”
Without stopping, he replied, “Sorry, I’ve got a couple other things I need to take care of today. Maybe I can do it later?”
They seemed disappointed, though they walked away after a moment… and was soon replaced by someone else.
“Kaerio! I swear I’ve been all over the place looking for you, but I never could find you. You know how all those different speakers have been coming around lately? I don’t know which one of them to believe! I know you’re reliable, so I figured I’d ask what you have to say.”
He paled, for a moment, to have that kind of responsibility put on him. Then he shook his head. “I’m really not the kind of person that should be making that decision for you—no one should be making that decision for you. Listen to them a little more, figure out for yourself where you stand.”
“But you don’t believe them, right? I never see you in their crowds. It seems like you avoid them!”
“What I think shouldn’t make a difference to you.”
Before they could ask any more questions, make any more requests, Kaerio started walking quickly enough to lose them in the crowd. He might’ve lost the three of them, too, if Casrane had been any worse at keeping up with him.
“Vureta mentioned that the people in Kehnore liked you, but they seem to really trust you,” Myr eventually commented.
Kaerio took the opportunity to lead them to a better place, one without nearly as many people, and then actually talk about it. “I do a lot for the people around here.”
“You can’t be much older than we are,” Llewel pointed out. “I don’t get how you could’ve worked up that much of a name for yourself.”
Kaerio considered it for a moment. “I don’t think that was so much because they knew I’d make the right decision as it was that they didn’t want to make it themself. You know those two people speaking earlier? Most of Kehnore either knows that they’re on one side or the other—they’ve had that figured out from the moment it started happening years ago. But there’s still a lot that don’t know what they want to believe, or where to start to figure it out. They think that they’ll make the wrong choice if they choose, so they try to get someone else to choose for them.” He shrugged. “I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to choose a side, not really. I can’t stand behind either of them, between what they say and what they do to justify their means. It’s only going to make things worse if we don’t focus on the situation at hand.”
“Do you know anything about what started it all?” Llewel asked, though it didn’t sound like he particularly wanted an answer.
“I guess, if that’s what you’re going to ask, then a brief history lesson is an order,” Kaerio began. “I doubt it’s something you don’t already know, but I’ll tell you again anyway. Before Emmyth came along, there was no ‘Masylm’ as we know it. There were seven independent nations, practically always in conflict with one another because of one, simple thing: runes.
“Runes have the potential to be a kind of strength that no person was supposed to possess. They didn’t want any of the other sides to have this power, so they decided they had to get to it first. The means justified the ends… and the means were rarely anything that didn’t involve getting someone hurt. I think that’s about when the Rune Reactivation Project—though I suppose they must’ve gone by a different name back then—started lurking, willing to give their help to any nation willing to have them. For them, it wasn’t about which side would win or lose. They thought, and still think, that it was fun to plant the seeds of conflict, to see how it bloomed.”
He looked around before starting to walk again, gesturing to the others to follow him. “Emmyth’s sacrifice brought all the nations together. They were able to see the strengths in one another, now that they saw something other than their enemies. But that doesn’t mean the true cause of that discord had disappeared. What’s now known as the Rune Reactivation Project lurked in what seemed to be every corner… and, unfortunately, a lot of them made their home here in Kehnore.
“About sixteen years ago, when this started to become an actual problem, the difference between them was made perfectly clear. They started to sow their seeds again and we’re starting to see the fruits of their effort. They want chaos, they want what the world once was, but I don’t know why. It’s always been too much of a risk to try to understand it.”
“We’re a part of this, aren’t we?” Myr asked in a mumble. “Is there nothing we could do..?”
Llewel shook his head. “I doubt it, at least for these people. If things are like this, they’re not going to get along just because we tell them to. Our best hope is to do everything we can to solve this problem as soon as possible. That way, no one else will need to be caught up in this—if we’re quick enough, this chaos isn’t going to get far beyond Kehnore’s borders.”
“I wish I could say you’re wrong about something,” Kaerio sighed, “but you’ve pretty much said it. If there was some way to help the people, to calm them down and let them talk it through for at least a few minutes, it would’ve been done by now.”
“How many people know that the three of us are here?” Casrane found herself glancing at the others walking through the streets. None of them seemed to pay the four any mind, but she knew that part was only a matter of time.
“Just me,” he answered. “I didn’t even know until Vureta sent me that message. I think it’s going to be a little while longer before anyone else finds out. No matter if they start to realize something, though, it’s probably for the best you don’t mention who you are. There are a lot of people who will hurt you. As much as you might want to help, risking yourself by throwing your names and importance around isn’t going to do anything.”
Myr frowned, but nodded her understanding.
“We’ll be able to do something, eventually,” Llewel assured her, though it really wasn’t much more of a mumble. “Maybe when we’re finished this can all feel like a distant dream to them.”
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