Chapter 13: The Price of Immortality

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We used Necromancy, the power of life and death, and perverted it. When the Eight did that abominable act, they got their goal. They tossed off the shackles of mortal frailty. But they also cast off their humanity. They wanted a deathless existence, and were willing to pay any price for it.

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The man hadn't even thought to cover his tracks. He was that frightened. Laidu chuckled. That idiot was so terrified of him he didn't even think. But that could work to his advantage. He could hunt the bandit down, maybe apply some...interesting interrogation techniques.

He stopped, his shirt nearly snagging on a patch of brambles. Blasted thing! Laidu tugged at it, then stopped, silent. He heard voices. Not the voices in his head, but actual voices.

"You didn't say he was going to be here!" he heard the bandit say. "You didn't say we'd have to deal with the Fever Blood Ranger!" Laidu smiled. Apparently his reputation was a bit more widespread than he thought.

"I wasn't aware I needed to," the second voice said. Laidu instinctively cringed. The voice made him think of a thousand unpleasant thoughts. It made his skin crawl.

"What do you mean?" the bandit asked. "I think I am owed that right!"

There was a pause, before Laidu heard a snapping sound. He peeked up over the log, and stopped.

A muscular grey forearm, almost as large as Laidu's thigh, poked out of a massive cloak. It held the body of a dead bandit, his neck twisted far past what any normal man should be able to do. "You are owed nothing," the figure hissed, dropping the man. Laidu could see yellowed claws coming out of the fingertips, not unlike his own talons.

Laidu reached behind his back, slowly, quietly unsheathing his sword. There was the slightest rasp of steel on leather, the faintest sound. But, even the faintest sounds could betray him.

The hooded figure turned. "Well, what do we have here?" the same raspy voice asked. "An eavesdropper? One should not spy when others wish not to be espied on."

Laidu kept hidden. This wasn't ending well.

Maybe he's friendly? the voice asked.

Just shut up, Laidu thought back to him. Then, after a while, he thought back. What is your name?

Hmm. You know, I don't know. You can call me...Rhaem. It means euphoria, I think.

In what language? Laidu thought.

No clue.

Great. Laidu turned back. "What do you want with her?" he asked.

"Excuse me?" the figure asked.

"What. Do. You. Want. With. Kyra?" Laidu asked.

"Everything. Nothing. Does it matter?" the hooded figure asked. "She's not involved with you. I'll be taking her."

Laidu brandished the sword. "Over my dead body," he said.

"That would be easy to arrange," the thing said, almost amused. "You wish to partake in the warrior's dance? In battle? I will not prevent you from doing such." The taloned hand grabbed the clasp of the gargantuan robe, at the thing's shoulder, and undid it.

The thing wore nothing underneath. It was obviously masculine, but it had no manhood, just an empty space between its legs. Powerful muscles bulged in its arms and its legs. Taloned feet dug into the ground. Covered in rough grey skin with the texture of stone, it was a monstrous sight. Dozens of small slits covered his body. There was a large one across the chest, going vertical. Others dotted the biceps, abs, and legs. It looked like the thing had been cut a hundred times over.

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