Chapter 31: Savage Diplomacy

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The Eight destroyed our city. For all we know, they could have just destroyed all civilization. But the Soul of Elysion is still alive. The city may have been sacked and crushed, but the spirit lives on!

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Four Years Ago

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The second Invidia walked into the caravan, Adran knew something was wrong.

"What now?" he asked. "Was Denan being an idiot again?"

Invidia sat down at the small navigation table. "No. We just got word back from the warhold. They want another meeting."

"Oh dear," Adran said. "What reason did they give?" He continued to sharpen his knife, making little circles on the whetstone, occasionally adding oil. He was sharpening his knives again, until they were nice and sharp. All fifteen of them. It took quite a while.

"Not enough tribute, Denan insulted their women. Oh, and they were bored."

"Bored?" Adran stopped sharpening. "Holdchief Alkraek'ik seemed pretty rational. He wouldn't upset a treaty out of boredom." Kai'Draeni leaders weren't often known for their patience. Alkraek'ik was an exception. 

"Alkraek'ik is dead," Invidia said. "Intertribal fighting. The new chief comes from Red Spears. Named Uzraek'ai."

"Know anything about him?" Adran asked.

"He has an ego the size of a mountain and a carnal appetite to match. And he's new, so he's going to try to prove himself. He's been feuding with the Hold of Claws and Hold of Hawks, but he's been adopting their practices. Namely, killing off any mixed-caste child. Enforcing the pure-breeding regiments."

"Great," Adran said. Invidia's glowing eyes narrowed. "You think this is his way of proving himself?"

"Most definitely." Invidia rose. "I think he doubts the Ranger Corps."

"Everyone does. They all think we're like the King's Rangers. They don't know what the Foreign Regiment goes through." Invidia smiled. "I say we have a meeting with the new chief."

Adran sighed. "Invidia, you're enjoying this. Relishing in this. And to tell you the truth, its a bit frightening to see.

"Well that's because we've been in the shadow of his hold, and I can't get the stench of his pride out of my nostrils."

"Ah," Adran said. "Just curious, but what does pride smell like?"

Invidia paused. "Sour wine, almost like vinegar. Just...foul." She sighed, and there was a knock on the door. "What!?!"

The door opened slowly, and that dragon Changed popped his head in. "Um, am I interrupting anything important?" What was his name? For the life of him, Adran could not remember that boy's name.

"No," Invidia said. "What do you want?"

"Gial needs more of that ointment you gave him," he said. Laidu. That was his name! Finally! Adran didn't know why he couldn't remember it!

"Cupboard up there, labeled 'Male Firefang Centipede Extract,' one of the small jars."

"Can I take the label off? Laidu asked. "I doubt Gial wants to know what he's slathering his back with."

"Ignorance is bliss, in his case." Laidu nodded to Invidia's words. He was wearing a large vest, the only thing he could fit his head through without snagging his horns on the fabric. Adran could see hints of the scars on his back, his shoulders, and his waist, through a small tear in the vest cloth.

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