Chapter 8: Karik'ar's Secret

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It was no army that laid waste to our city. No, we have damned ourselves with the workings of our own hands. Cursed are we above all others! Cursed we will be. Our names are black in the annals of history; they will remain a blot amidst the chronicles.

***

Skaria stared at Laidu blearily, still half-asleep. The last night watch would do that to someone. "Are you sure?" she asked, staring at the crude drawing in the mud. "I didn't see any hunting traps or the like."

Laidu nodded. "This is Day Spectre territory. Three Pines is in the middle of it, but Baton's Mill is right at the edge. One of the guard towns." He thought for a moment, looking down. "Really, it's more of a farm."

"A farm." Skaria sighed. "Well, I don't really care. It's two days away. We can restock supplies." She smiled. "Sleep in actual beds."

"Real beds?" Indra asked. "That sounds actually bearable."

"Stop whining," Skaria said. "I'm half-asleep and you're giving me a headache."

"Why?" Indra asked. "I didn't expect to live by a savage out here."

Skaria sighed. "Please just shut up. I'm sick and tired of hearing you complain about everything. It's not my fault you don't know a whit about life outside of the university."

Indra sniffed. "Look. I only came for the girl. I didn't come to live out here like some sort of uncivilized cur."

Laidu sighed. "Please just shut up. I got a good night's sleep and you're giving me a headache."

Indra shot him a withering glare. "I'm here for more important things than bounties, you know," she said with contempt.

"Bounties?" Laidu asked, but Skaria decided to cut in.

"You know what? I am sick and tired of this," Skaria said. "All you did on the way here was complain. All you did since we found the girl is complain. And all you're going to do until we get to Caeld is complain." Skaria leveled a glare at her. "So shut up. What's so special about the girl anyway?"

"She's a savant. A thaumaturgic savant," Indra said. "She's sensitive to the aether, and she might be able to divine new symbols for us."

"Symbols?" a voice asked across the camp. Kyra walked across the damp earth, her hair still wet, probably from her bath in the river. "What are you talking about?"

"You, dear," Indra said, smiling. "You're a very special girl."

Kyra frowned. "So?" she said. "What the heck does that have to do with symbols?"

"You're a savant, I believe," Indra said.

"I'm a what?"

"Have you ever used thaumaturgic devices? Or been around them when they were used?" Indra asked. Kyra nodded. "What happeed? Did you convulse? Did you see images? Did you lose control of your tongue? Anything could be a sign."

Kyra paused. "Don't tell anyone. But I say things, sometimes, after using it. I can do stuff, but I can't stop it."

Indra nodded. "What kind of things did you say?" she asked.

"Pesh to the twenty-third," Kyra said.

"And kyren to the ninth variation," Laidu also said, remembering the time in the forest. He could still smell the blood in the air. Kyra looked at him, alarmed, and he looked in her eyes. There was an agreement made there, one to never talk about the bloody thaumaturgy plate buried away in the forest.

"Hmm..." Indra said. "That's interesting." She pulled open a book, pulled out a scholar's pencil, and began to scribble down notes. "I'd love to see what would happen if I ran a condensed aether current through you," she said, eyes aglow, imagining the possibility.

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