Soon Kim never cries.
Even as a baby, he kept his silence. He was the quiet one, the watcher. He never laughed either, always watching, with a serious expression his face. Judging. Assessing. Evaluating.
He’s a hard man, terrifyingly so. One who has become so absorbed in his own personal quest he has forgotten the world around him, dismissing it as unimportant beside the passion that drives him.
He was very tall, broad of shoulder and sinewy of limb, thin as a blade, husky as dusk and hard as a poker, with slanting grey eyes. There was a tightness to his face and flesh that spoke of leather cured in the sun until it was tough as steel. Regal and sturdy, and all but unbreakable.
He was quiet and thin-lipped, seldom smiling and never laughing, the sort of man who scowls and gives sharply worded commands. And you followed them without a thought, because whatever he might be, he was a leader.
He dressed like a barbarian, a long, leather cloak with thick metal studs, and a fur lined cap with a spike at the top. He looked more like a barbarian then a paladin. And as devoted as he was to righteousness, most people found him more terrifying then comforting.
“Sa doon, lad, joost ye an’ me.” Apparently even other dwarves found Kragor’s dialect hard to understand. Soon was multilingual, but listening to Kragor he felt he should be trying to learn common again from scratch. The dwarf sat down beside the leader, stubby legs hanging beneath him, and stroked his luxurious beard, braided and decorated with thirty or so charms. None of them were magical, but Kraagor was nothing if not superstitious.
Soon didn’t look up from sharpening his sword. It was purely reflex, the sword was so enchanted you could go against it for a month with a grindstone and the edge would still be perfect, but Soon didn’t seem to have any intention of dropping the habit.
“Yince yon loo’ o’er here, don.” Kraagor amended, failing to take the hint. “Sae, ye tink yon nec’omancer kens wha’ we need?”
“No.” Soon said, following the gist of the barbarian’s words. “I think Haetra is just a lone psychopath who was stupid enough to get in the way of my vengeance.”
“Seyou laird, awa’ echt ta’ saggie, eh? Tha’ all ye go’ left?”
“I’d still do it.” Soon replied, his eyes not wavering one iota. “The world is at stake. Vengeance just makes it personal.”
“Ye’ dinnae sargit yon life.”
“What’s life without her? A memory. A happy memory. I can’t bring her back, and she’s not waiting for me. I can never see her again.” He growled. “Vengeance and duty are all I have left, all that there is left with any meaning. There is nothing else left for me. In this world or the next. I'm going to spend eternity alone."
“Sae mo’e on.”
“I don’t want to. I don’t want to… forget her. Ever.”
“Ye dinnae ken – “
“Isn’t there something you need to be doing?” Soon said, with acid politeness. “Away?”
Kraagor shrugged his wide shoulders, the massive bands of gold and platinum he wore as a liquid asset around the boulders of his biceps, representing the entirety of his wealth jangling together loudly. “Ye ken ta’ haden if’n ye nee’ ait.” He said, making his way off. The rhythmic scrape of Soon sharpening his sword had stopped sometime during the conversation, but his highly trained body hadn’t so much as twitched.
“Mijung.” He said softly, throwing himself back into the memories.
She’d been younger then him, and high above his station, the daughter of a daimyo, powerful in name if not in wealth or influence. And in the Azureite Empire, that could be far more important. As Hun Kim’s only legitimate child, Mijung had rarely been refused anything during her early years. Her father had afforded her many privileges usually reserved for nobleman’s sons. Sitting at her fathers knee, she had learned to administer accounts and issue orders with a commanding presence. Fascinated by every topic she could learn about, in particular magic and martial arts.
Unfortunately for Lord Hun, his early indulgence had resulted in a defiant daughter, at least according to the low standards of Azurite nobility. During her adolescence she had defied tradition and enrolled in an academy of magical education in an attempt to learn more about the world, and passed top of her class, much to her fathers displeasure. By the time a samurai amongst her fathers retainers, previously a sell-sword and warrior from the Northern steppes had come to her attention, she had blossomed into a beautiful, head-strong and independent young lady. Despite the unimportant difference in about a decade, and the incredible difference in social standing, Soon, had set his heart on earning Mijung’s heart.
As it turned out, winning her heart had been the easiest part of the following conflict. Soon’s rugged features, forthright manner, intrinsic goodness and determined courtship had appealed to her, so she had found many pretexts to enjoy his company. Eventually, she had fallen as deeply in love with the warrior as he had her.
However, as a man of high standing, Hun had no desire to wed his daughter to a man with no generations removing him from the blood of his barbarian ancestors (who didn’t even own land), and had forbidden his daughter from seeing Soon, the tried to arrange several marriages more appropriate to her station.
It hadn’t worked. Mijung had chased them away with her stubborn, disrespectful manners and clear disinterest. The animosity between the nobleman and his daughter eventually became more then the nobleman could bear, and consented provided that Soon could elevate himself the rank of general.
It was no great secret that Hun was stalling, hoping his daughter would outgrow what he persisted in seeing as infatuation with a low-born soldier despite all evidence to the contrary. Soon left Hun’s private army and sought commission with the imperial army.
Perhaps it never would have come to anything had not, a few months later, the Ruby isles attempted to scede from the Azurite Empire. It was just the chance Soon had needed. Everyone had expected to wait until Spring, then take an army to each of the ilses. Instead, Soon had begun at once, in the depths of winter, alone, in a fishing boat he’d bought with the entirety of his savings.
He rowed forty miles to Storm’s reach, where he delivered the ultimatum he would deliver every time he made a trip. Surrender, swear fealty to Lord Hong, sovereign of Azure City and the Empire, or perish as oath-breakers and traitors. The commanding officer had laughed in his face, and died along with twenty of his higher level soldiers, and Soon had returned with the rest in a longboat, delivered them to his commanding officer, with a note, slept the night in a dockside tavern and then repeated the process.
Storms battered him every time he left port, forcing him to fight for his life and pray to the twelve gods. He became an excellent sailor by necessity, but neither man nor god commanded the ocean, and it was a fight for his life every time. But Soon would not be defeated, he gritted his teeth, thought of Mijung and kept on going.
Several times, the soldiers he’d confronted were so amazed that he’d made the crossing they’d surrendered on the spot, and after a few months of this, he returned to find the soldiers he’d captured a fully trusted and integrated part of the Azurian army, oddly proud of how they’d been defeated. By the time Spring came almost all the islands had been taken by Soon’s efforts, and the Crimson duke had surrendered before the campaign had been launched. Soon had been publicly thanked, rewarded, and granted the rank, at which point he’d resigned his commission and returned to the city wearing the armor of an Azurite General. Hun, being a man of his word, was obligated to marry the two of them.
Soon had been overjoyed, but had expected relations between Hun to remain cold. To his surprise, the noble treated him with a grudging respect, for his tenacity alone if nothing more. Though he made it clear he would never be happy his only heir had married outside the aristocracy, he also expressed his admiration at the warrior’s determination in winning her.
Ten years of happiness. Ten.
Kraagor had gone, but if he’d stayed he would have seen Soon blinking. Must have got a piece of dirt in his eye.
Soon Kim never cried.