Chapter Two: Tomb With a View

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Tomb With a View

"You keep some interesting company," Oskar ventured after Triss was gone and we were back on the way to my personal crypt.

"Thought you said you weren't going to comment on it," I grumbled, pulling my coat tighter across my thin frame. A cough rattled my lungs again, ugly and wet, but thankfully with no blood.

Oskar looked concerned. "I wasn't, but then I realized you're friendly with someone who literally wants to eat you."

I shrugged. "There's not a lot of good conversationalists in Corpse Town. Ever try to chat with a golem? They don't have much of interest to say." I ducked under a stone archway and passed through an area of freshly dug graves, mindful of the disturbed earth. I'd found out early on that if I had too close of a contact with freshly dead corpses things could get a little hairy.

Up ahead was a large mausoleum, the few windows etched in the stone boarded up, the old marble having lost it's sheen and shimmer long ago. Maybe fifty or so years ago it had housed actual bodies but by the time I'd come upon it all that resided inside were spiders and dust. Taking the stone steps up to the door two at a time, I jiggled the doorknob until it became unstuck, pulling it open to reveal the large room inside.

Oskar raised his eyebrows, unimpressed eyes roaming over my living area. In the middle was a large, stone casket build into the ground. The smaller corpse caskets that lined the walls and resided in the thick marble had some of their doors open, ingredients for spells, and Night Market and other possessions haphazardly placed within. His gaze roamed over the boarded up windows that kept the cold air out for the most part, the table that was missing one of its legs, precariously balancing on its three remaining, and the threadbare chairs I'd scavenged from a junk pile a few months ago.

"This is where you live?" he asked, incredulous. "No wonder you're coughing up your lungs."

"What?" I asked, "It's cozy."

"Cozy," Oskar repeated. "See, this is why I should be around more often. Because if I don't, you go around living in mausoleums."

I huffed and sat on one of the chairs. "Well, it's not like I can live many other places."

"You could live with me," he said.

"You and I both know why that's impossible," I sighed. Life would be a lot simpler if we could just stay together. Thinking about how complicated things were now made me so angry — a physical sort of anger that made my entire body hot and my vision blur. If only we were normal. If only we weren't on the run. If only the people we were supposed to trust with our very lives weren't trying to kill us. It felt like we would never be safe again. Not that I felt super safe in the Academy in the first place; but I'd been relatively sure of my importance — enough to think that they wouldn't kill me. How wrong that was.

"Besides," I continued, "Don't you sleep in the back of the apothecary? It would take, what, one night, maybe two, for my aura to kill or rot literally every herb in there?"

"Well, usually when you're around me your magic doesn't seep out as much," Oskar said, "But I do see your point. Still," he motioned to the room around him. "This is where you decided to live?"

"It's a cozy little tomb with a view," I said.

He rolled his eyes. "At least tell me you've put wards up."

Of course I put wards up. I was a little offended that he had to even ask that question. No, maybe I wasn't in the best of situations, but I wasn't reckless by any means. "Wards upon wards. Not even a mouse could get in here if I didn't want it too." Something rattled inside my lungs and I coughed into my elbow, trying to catch my breath. The coughs were loud, wet, and I was sure that I'd splattered something on my sleeve. Hopefully just phlegm and not blood. All of a sudden I was feeling incredibly tired. I'd had to rise early in order to find the particular sets of teeth for Triss, then spent the evening at the Night Market, and the spat we had with the hellhounds must've drained me more than I thought it had.

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