I believe this is the last of the deleted chapters. There were quite a few chapters ADDED during editing -- most prominently the ones with Xavier and Tobimar travelling together -- but I don't *think* there are any other fully deleted chapters.
This chapter gave us a look at the training the two went through, and another look at the Justiciars, and set up the situation which actually begins Chapter 1 of the final book.
Lighter blade parried greatsword with a chiming impact that diverted the larger weapon but also drove back the smaller with near enough force to disarm. Rion cursed mildly as he backpedaled, his fingers clearly stinging. Kyri laughed and spun the greatsword around as fast as she could, taking advantage of her brother's momentary discomfiture. "Not slow enough for you, brother?"
"I will grant," he said, a touch breathlessly, eluding her next stroke as he recovered his weapon, "that you're faster with that monster blade than anyone has any right to be." He stood his ground now, diverting one attack, two, three with an economy of motion and effort that she found both admirable and frustrating. "But you'll need more than speed to beat me when my own blade's twice as fast!"
And he unleashed a storm of cuts, low, high, lunges with the point of his longsword, attacks seeming to come from all directions. "How well… have you… been studying?"
The question-and-answer sessions added a certain level of distraction to the training, training they'd been doing in one way or another almost every day for the past four years… four years after they'd lost nearly everything, even themselves. "Well… enough…" she managed to answer; now it was her turn to back up as all her efforts could not move the greatsword's five-foot plus blade nearly as fast as Rion's lighter, shorter weapon. Her armor now had to absorb punishment as she turned and twisted, interposing the armor at an angle that denied Rion an actual cut, watching for an opening – there!
Her swing reversed abruptly, she stepped forward and jabbed with the foot-long pommel as the blade blocked Rion's swing. But her brother was fast, even faster than she'd expected, and he halted, drew back so that the smashing blow barely touched him, and dropped to the ground, sweeping her feet out from under her. She thought she heard a faint grunt of approval from nearby, but there was no time to look in that direction; she was rolling aside, abandoning her sword for hand-to-hand combat. Rion might still have his blade, though, so she kept rolling, blocked instinctively, felt an impact –arm, not blade, he's gone to unarmed too – spun from her rolling position to a kick in that direction, blur of movement, both rolling apart to a stand, as she said, "Ask… away."
Rion grinned, a slight trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth where her kick must have grazed him, and began circling, keeping his hands raised in the position Lythos called Eonwyl Taking Flight. Kyri glided sideways, using Dragon Claw. She saw the Sho-ka-taida watching them both closely, and for a moment thought she could see a faint smile at the corner of Lythos' mouth.
This impossibility distracted her for the slightest moment, and Rion struck, speaking at the same time. "Why is our god –" she parried the mantis-like strike, and the next, "— spoken of only as 'It'?"
"You're giving her the easy one, Rion!" Urelle shouted from one side.
"Peace, child. We shall see how easy you find them when you're facing swords and fists at the same time." Victoria's tone was only slightly acid.
You have that right, Auntie V. "For justice," she began. The Dragon clawed twice, but the Eonwyl eluded her. "To wear a face, to be of one people or one sex or one of anything would exalt that over the others." She switched combat modes suddenly, leapt completely over Rion; she saw his eyes widen in surprise and his answering strike was just a tiny hair too late. She hit the ground, tumbling forward, still speaking, "And so only the Balanced Sword remains, justice and vengeance as evenhanded as time and death themselves!"
Her hand closed on the hilt of her sword and she rolled and spun, five feet of glittering death now extended towards her brother – and she saw with a shock of mingled pride and disappointment that he had somehow matched her speed and his own sword was back in his hand. They always said I had talent with a sword, but I still can't beat him.
Almost instantly she chided herself, stopping in guard stance. If I accept that I can't beat him, I never will. "My turn! Why is it called the 'Balanced Sword'?" Trick question, of course.
Rion laughed, as did some of the other spectators. From the corner of her eye she thought she could see at least three of the Justiciars. Then he answered, every word accompanied by an attack, driving her backward with almost effortless savagery. "Because that is simpler than The Balance and the Sword, or Balance on the Sword, and besides, it can be the Sword Balance or many other names!" His last attack arced slightly higher.
Got you! She rode the last impact on her blade, brought it around with two-handed leverage, a spinning cut carving upward –
-- but somehow Rion's blade was faster, behind hers, pushing, speeding it up, turning around, around, twisting --
-- and her greatsword was wrenched from her hand, arcing away in a steel-sparkling curve as her brother's sword finished its arc with its point on her throat.
He looked so apologetic that she suddenly burst out laughing and threw her arms round him. "That was wonderful, Rion!"
"Adequate… I might even say, well done, Rion Vantage." Lythos' thin golden eyebrow was raised in appreciation, and there really was a small smile playing about the corners of his mouth. "Your father and mother would have been proud." He turned to Kyri. "And you did not do poorly either, Kyri Vantage."
"Not poorly!" Thornfalcon's voice carried a note of rebuke. "She presses her brother hard, though he has four years of training more, and all the strength and speed of the Vantage legend. Truly your reputation as a hard master carries not the full impact of the reality."
Lythos bowed to the deceptively slender Justiciar. "It is well for the actuality to exceed the legend, do you not agree? Yet you do speak truly." He turned to Kyri. "Well done, Kyri." As she felt herself beginning to smile, he quickly added, "But do not become overly accustomed to such praise. You still have much to learn. As does your brother."
"I have no doubt of it, Sho-ka-taida," Rion said, sheathing his blade finally. "As I have yet to manage a touch on you."
"A master of arms indeed," Mist Owl agreed quietly. "Yet such mastery is only a part of what we seek. We see many of those other things in you as well, Rion Vantage. After this performance, we are now agreed. You know that Gareth Lamell, the Silver Eagle, went to the Sword some weeks agone. Now we must fill that place, and we would like you to be one of the three candidates, if you would accept."
Kyri felt a leap of joy which she quickly tried to suppress; after all, he's just being invited to try; they're not promising anything! But at the same time this was what Rion had been hoping and praying for – that Myrionar would accept his service and thus provide all of them with a direct voice and agency for their own justice and vengeance.
Rion's voice reflected this, with a slight unsteadiness that belied the tears he refused to let show… at least for now. "Accept? Sir… Blessed Justice, sir, there is no honor greater! When?"
"In one week's time, Rion Vantage."
"Best be prepared, lad!" Shrike gave Rion a massive backslap that nearly knocked him from his feet. "A contest of arms, a contest of faith, and a contest of wits, you know! And we're not picking dullards and weaklings, rest assured of that, so the other two will be no easy pickings!"
"Rion will beat them both!" Kyri felt her cheeks flame as she realized that not only had she said it, but so had Urelle, in exactly the same tone of voice.
Even Lythos could not quite restrain a smile, and the others burst into laughter. "Well, naturally, this is only as must be," Thornfalcon said, still chuckling, "with such lovely ladies cheering for him." He winked at Urelle and pressed Kyri's hand briefly – not quite long enough to be questionable, but definitely more than a perfunctory gesture. "Still, he should be at his best in the trials, for Myrionar will judge as well, and it has happened – though very rarely – that the trials were all passed and the Balanced Sword still saw fit to award the Raiment of the Justiciars to none that day."
It doesn't matter, Kyri thought. I know Rion will succeed. I believe in Myrionar, and It can see that we deserve both Justice and Vengeance. And we can all see that Rion has recovered; back then, he would have sought only vengeance. But staying here, training… sometimes angry, sometimes crying when he thought no one else could see… with Aunt Victoria watching and ready… somehow it's brought him back. He's the big brother we remember. He's healed, he's stronger even than Father was, and he's going to be the Silver Eagle.
She wasn't sure what her own path would be; the new Vantage estate might be built soon, but she didn't see herself just settling down there. Maybe, once my training's finished at the Temple… Maybe I will be an Adventurer. I think… I think Mother would have liked that, no matter how much she and daddy and even Auntie V would have tried to argue me out of it.
She did toy with the idea of being a Justiciar herself. But for that to happen another Justiciar would have to die – and all the ones left were pretty young. And while there was nothing exactly in the rules about it, none of the Justiciars since… well, a very long time ago had been women. Nothing forbade it, but she somehow was fairly sure that there would be some unspoken resistance to the idea. There were plenty of other groups that didn't have that problem.
And plenty of time to worry about that later. She grabbed Rion's arm. "Come on, brother. We have a big party to throw for you tonight, and you need to get cleaned up!"
"A party? Didn't you hear what Thornfalcon just said?"
"You can go train for the rest of the week, but tonight you're going to celebrate!"
Rion looked helplessly at Victoria, and saw her nodding sagely. "Indeed, Rion. And I'll help prepare the guest list."
His face fell as he realized he was well and truly trapped. Not only a party, but a social party, one where everyone who was anyone in Evanwyl would be found. Kyri looked forward to it. Not that she was a general party fancier – in Evanwyl it always seemed to her to be a sort of decadent routine focused on meaningless if pretty entertainments when her parents' deaths and Rivendream Pass showed how fragile the safety of such entertainments could be – but there were some people she liked seeing, and they'd be sure to be at the party.
Rion grinned suddenly and shrugged. "Since you're determined to do this, I'll at least take away your fun and enjoy myself tonight!"
Victoria Vantage drew herself up and gave Rion her most withering glare. "Enjoy yourself? We shall see about that, Rion Vantage!"