Chapter 18: A Taste For Blood

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Our crime was found in letting injustice run free. We had our opposition, of course; the one who was named the Wrath of God was not be one to sit idly by as our way of life corrupted all. But even one as mighty as the Wrath was able to be shouted down and humiliated.

***

Rhea stared at Skaria, sitting at her table. "So...you like my food, then?" she asked cautiously.

Skaria, who was in the midst of stuffing food in her face, nodded. "Mmh, ihs mm." She swallowed, and breathed. "Yes, sorry, it's really good," she said.

Karik'ar sat next to her, the hulking brute seeming...embarrassed by his partner. "Skaria, would it kill you to have more manners?" he asked, before taking a polite bite out of a piece of bacon.

Skaria, however, devoured her food with the gusto of a rabid animal. "You know how it is when I ...do that thing," she said as she scarfed down some eggs. Laidu was impressed. He had seen hungry, starved wolves with more manners than this mercenary.

Laidu sat between Tom and Kyra, his plate loaded with bacon, almost frightened by Skaria's behavior. Manners weren't stressed at Ranger training, and he had seen pigs there, but the exhibition in front of him was downright scary.

Rhea sat next to Indra and her husband, a large man almost as tall as Laidu. Her husband -Jon, Laidu remembered hearing his name- smiled at Laidu, before telling Tom to stop playing with his food, to stop bothering their guest, and to bloody calm down already!

"So, um, Indra," Rhea asked. "What do you do for fun?"

"Alchemy," Indra said, not looking up from her book. "I'm a scholar at Caeldar's finest university." She flipped the page, her eyes moving left to right, left to right, left to right. "I'm trying to figure out how to concoct a fireproofing material for Laidu's clothing." She flipped the page. "Among other effects."

She scribbled something down. "Do you have an alchemist here? I'd like him to make some of this." She indicated a mess of symbols and lines.

"Well, actually, the alchemist was killed a month ago." Rhea sighed. "Sickness." Laidu's eyes went wide. They had an alchemist? Baton's mill wasn't that big the last time he got there. "Most of his equipment is still there."

Things change, the sad voice said. My home has probably been razed to the ground. Or turned into a mine. It was a nice mountain. And the sadness wasn't the normal dose of despair. Instead, it was regret.

Oh, please! Rhaem said, way too chipper. If something's gone, maybe something interesting was made in its place! It will be like discovering it all over again!

"Oh?" Indra asked. "I'd love to see it." She gave a smile. "It's been a while. I miss lab work." She took a bite of the apple she had on her plate. "When can we go?" she asked.

"Well, pretty soon" Jon said. "I mean, once we finish up eating, I can take you over to the blacksmith. He has the keys to the place." Jon sat up, and offered to take Laidu and Kyra's plate.

Laidu rose and took Jon's plate instead. "Let me," he said. "Thank you for your hospitality. It's a small way to repay you."

Jon smiled. "Thank you! Now, if only we could get Tom to think like that." Laidu chuckled and took the dishes back to the kitchen. "Oh, leave them be!" Jon said from the other room. The Changed shrugged and set them down on the great table.

The kitchen was paved with smooth river stones on the floor, and was a vast room, with three fireplaces, each holding different assortments of pots and pans. A few windows let in cold autumn morning light. Laidu leaned against the table, which, at the moment, was covered in assorted baskets of food.

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