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“Verus! Verus, stop!”
Verus leaned forward against his brother’s weight as he walked, his expression set in stony, angry, lines. “What they’re doing is wrong, Dax. You know it as well as I do.”
“Yes, but what can you do, Verus?” Dax struggled uselessly against Verus’s strength. “We have no authority or claim.”
Verus grinned savagely. “Don’t we?” Dax paled and nearly lost his grip.
“You’re not serious.”
Verus didn’t respond. Dax redoubled his efforts.
“Verus. Verus look at me.” There was still no response. He pulled harder. “God’s pollen sacks, look at me!”
Verus stopped, but didn’t turn. Dax stepped in front of him, breathing heavily.
“Verus, you can’t do this. I absolutely forbid it.”
Verus crossed his arms and said nothing.
“Verus,” Dax pleaded. “Must I beg?” The hard lines in his brother’s face deepened.
“Injustice happens outside our very gates and you would beg me to do nothing?” His upper lip curled in a derisive snarl as he shoved a finger into his brother’s chest. “You are the Heir Apparent. I should be watching you drown these filthy money-grubbing judges in the bloody mud of their own machinations.”
Dax shook his head. “You’ve been reading your books again, Verus. You’re talking in ideals. We don’t deserve to rule a world that is, if all we see is how it fails to be a world that ought to be.”
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“But we will never change the world that is if we forget what ought to be.” Verus glared down at his older brother. Verus shook his head sadly.
“I wish it were that simple, brother.”
“It is exactly that simple,” spat Verus. “Brother.” He swept his weaker brother aside with one hand and strode quickly down the courtyard. “Open the gates!”
Four guards clad in the black and red armor of the Honor Guard sprang immediately to attention, then lifted the bar out of it’s slot.
“No!” cried Dax. He sprinted after his brother. His fine clothes were in disarray and his light, feathery, hair clung to his pale forehead in wet streaks. “Don’t!”
But it was too late. Verus slipped out between the heavy doors.
Outside, a crowd was gathered at the bottom of the palace stairs. Standing on the very bottom step wearing the poofy red and blue hat of the Judge’s Fold, was none other than Judge Fraul himself. He held one end of a rope that trailed down and wrapped securely around the neck of a young woman kneeling in front of him, facing the crowd. Her long, dark brown hair was sloppily cut, hanging loosely about her in a public display of shame. Her dress hung off her shoulder in ragged tatters.
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“Render’s Law!” Verus bellowed. “I invoke Render’s Law!”
Judge Fraul whirled in surprise.
On the other side of the gate Dax watched numbly as the Honor Guard slowly stripped his brother of his circlet, rings, shoes, all but his last layer of clothes, and tied a rope around his neck.
“Verus,” he whispered sadly. “Verus, what have you done?”
Woes of Dusken Tides – Render’s Law by Emmanuel Ignouso
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