Chapter 11: To Earn Respect

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We had the Arts. With Alchemy, we cured the sick and brewed miracles. With Necromancy, we built an army to defend the innocent. With Thaumaturgy, we made marvels with the power of the universe at our disposal. But that was not enough for us.

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Four Years Ago

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The caravan train had left Ajand two days ago, and now was circling under the Bastion, a strange, wall-like range of mountains that, for all cartographers could figure out, ran in a perfect circle. Under the shadow of these colossal structures, Invidia frowned.

The three men they had picked up in that salt pit were strange. Raddas sat on the horse, obviously uncomfortable on the mount. Gial sat in the back, on a caravan, restless, but unable to move. His back wasn't bleeding him out, but he was still healing. He was still unfit to ride.

Maybe it was that. Or maybe it was the one inside the caravan, the one who passed out from loss of blood, who had been beaten, who was still resting. The Changed. He was healing, but he was still weak. Periodically, Invidia would check on him, but he did the same thing. He slept.

"Raddas!" Invidia barked. The man nearly jumped out of his skin. "Take my reins," she said, riding her horse up to his. She handed him the reins and hopped off of the saddle, a manuever she had practiced for a while. It involved swinging her foot over the neck of a still-moving horse, and, keeping that momentum, slipping her other foot out of the stirrup. And then landing without tripping. Learning that manuever had given her many twisted ankles.

Invidia landed on the soft dirt, looking up. She calmly walked towards the caravan wagon, grabbed a post, and swung herself onto the wooden structure. Gial looked up, startled. "Is there a problem, ma'am?" he asked.

"Just checking on our sleeping guest." Invidia moved through the small door. "Any change?" she asked. Gial shook his head. "Alright." She stepped in the caravan.

The cramped room shook as the wheels hit bumps, causing a bunch of hanging pots and pans to rattle together. A chest of old maps slid slightly as the terrain dipped down, tilting the entire caravan. And, on top of a few chests, on a stretcher, wrapped in blankets, lay the Changed.

He lay there, swaddled in a few blankets, his horned head supported by two blankets folded together to form makeshift pillows. He didn't move at all, save for the rising and falling of his chest. If it wasn't for that, he could be a corpse. A scaly, inhuman corpse.

Invidia sat down ona chest, studying the figure. And then she stopped. No. That couldn't be. He was supposed to be asleep. His eyelids fluttered, and he opened his eyes for the first time in days.

They were amber, deep and surprisingly thoughtful. One could tell a lot about a person by looking at their eyes. His spoke of a wisdom hidden behind youth, a deepness hidden. "Ow," he murmured. "Where am I?" he asked.

"Away from the salt pit," Invidia said. She stood up and took a step, crossing the tiny distance of the caravan, reaching out to steady herself.

"I could see that. I mean, I have a blanket," he said. He looked down. "And actual clothing. That's nice." He spoke Ajandi, as per usual. All of them did.

Invidia paused. "Can you understand me?" she asked, switching to Alberion. The dragon-man nodded.

"It's my birth tongue, they said." Laidu shrugged. "I learned Ten-Zuani, but I always knew Alberion."

Invidia nodded. "What's your name?" she asked.

"Laidu." He paused. "It's Ten-Zuani."

"It literally means Hot-Red," Invidia said.

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