Interesting buit for sure. It's still suffering from the lack of tension from previous posts, but there is some conflict brewing here. I like that! However, I think these fragments would be better suited for character development, rather than focusing entirely plot. Both groups have met, there is evident tension between Dragana and Raeb but they must somehow agree to form an alliance and discuss a plan. Make them doubt one another -or at least add more hesitation to Dragana's reactions. Aeo is clearly some sort of buffer, so I'd have him act impartially at first then evaluate -use his pragmatism there. It doesn't matter if this section ends up being larger than you originally planned, but since it's one of the most important parts in the story, I'd say it's worth polishing that aspect.
I do not like that blade, Aeo told Dragana. There’s something terribly evil about it.
She gripped the Bok’Tarong a little tighter, holding it protectively close. “What is that?”
Raeb’s eyes were glued to the blades. “I’ve nicknamed it Sunray. It reveals magic and the spirit world. It can absorb magic, and unravel enchantments.” He paused for a moment, and behind the admiration in his eyes Aeo caught a deep hatred for the weapon. “With it, I hope to separate the connections of the Hntaña.”
They were silent for a while, all eyes on the dark Sunray. Finally Raeb looked up and caught Dragana’s eye. “The Bok’Tarong is needed to destroy the Hntaña, but without a distraction, something that’ll hurt the Hntaña enough to keep them occupied, you’ll never get close enough to strike. Sunray and I can cause that distraction for you.” (Hmm I want to know more about this system! The Hntaña live in a sort of ‘spirit world’ so why would absorbing magic hurt them? And also, what makes the two so different that only the Bok’Tarong can destroy them but Sunray only hurt them?)
“And if we kill the hive, the individual Hntaña will die as well?”
“What will happen to the -taken?”
“They’ll be freed.” (Freed in a loose sense of the word, since you’ve mentioned some are kept alive because of their connection to the Hntaña… might be a good idea to clarify)
Dragana stared into Raeb’s eyes, perhaps sensing his brief hesitation before responding. “Are you sure of this?”
Raeb and Saydee shared a look. “No,” Raeb admitted. “But everything I have learned suggests that it will.”
The warrior-woman rubbed her hands against the hilt of the Bok’Tarong. What do you think?she asked Aeo.
The Hntaña obviously aren’t controlling them.
What about their plan? Do you think it would work?
Aeo rolled the details over in his mind. I don’t see anything that I know won’t work. It seems plausible, though it’d be far from easy.
We’re talking about destroying the Hntaña here, Dragana reminded him. Of course it won’t be easy.
Aeo smiled in his mind. I think we should help them.
She paused, glancing discreetly at Raeb and Saydee. They both did their best to look casual and uninterested, though Aeo knew they were anxiously waiting for Dragana’s decision.
I don’t trust them, she said. They’re both keeping a lot of secrets.
We’re all keeping secrets from each other. That’s just the way these kind of things work. Besides, he added, I didn’t say we should trust them. I said we should help them. They want what we want. It makes sense to work together.
Dragana nodded. “I can’t walk away from an opportunity to destroy the Hntaña. But I also can’t easily put my trust in two -taken, one of them being the Taronese traitor.” (I’m very much loving the small conflict between Dragana and Aeo here; after all, I still think Aeo agreed too easily.)
She’d kept most of the venom from her tone, but Raeb still flinched when she named him that way.
“You’ll have my help, and that of the Bok’Tarong, as long as I’m sure this isn’t some kind of trick. If you betray our alliance, you will feel the sting of the spirit-blades. I can promise you that.”
Aeo watched their reactions carefully. Raeb and Saydee were both intimidated by her fierce threat, and the knowledge that she wouldn’t hesitate to act on it, but neither showed signs of nervousness or doubt. He had been very good at spotting cheats and traitors in his life, and he didn’t see any hints of that in them. They hadn’t been trying to trap Dragana. They were completely serious about this plan and their alliance.
He conveyed this to Dragana, and she acknowledged by relaxing slightly. Her hand didn’t leave the Bok’Tarong, but she leaned back and relaxed slightly. “Good food.”
The new allies settled into the camp, but talk was limited to necessary questions and uncomfortable, forced chatting. When Dragana finally lay down to sleep, she kept Aeo close by. Watch over me, she said. Make sure they don’t try anything.
Aeo smiled. Dragana might not fully trust him, but she certainly trusted him more than the -taken across the fire. It was a start.
He did his best to soothe her sleep, calming and comforting the lonely young girl who surfaced in her dreams. He touched the tender wounds in her heart and marveled at the beauty of the warrior-woman’s soul.
I’ll keep you safe, Dragana. I’ll always keep you safe.