Chapter 32: Panacea

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We thought that the Eight would help us. But they hurt. They did exactly what the Dragon King said what they would do. We were idiots. All of us. We trusted the monsters of our own making to be our salvation. They were not. They were our damnation.

***

Laidu didn't feel any pain.

He should have, he knew. When he tried to feel his side, his rib, all he met was empty space. Kazalibad, right. That monster. He threatened Kyra. Skaria. Thaen. Indra. Karik'ar.

"Hold still," he heard Karik'ar say. Laidu was strangely distant, as if half-asleep, lying in the grey boundary between dreams and the waking world. He felt the Kai'Draen's arms reach under him.

The pain was pure agony, but it was nothing compared to what he had felt before. Laidu had dislocated his shoulder once. But when he transformed, he had dislocated every joint. All his bones had splintered as they warped and expanded, his skin tore and stretched, his muscles ripped apart as they grew and expanded.

It was the price of power.

Karik'ar lifted him up, cradling Laidu against his chest, the Changed's blood staining Karik'ar's shirt. Darn. He should stop that. "Thaen! Get that chunk! I'll need to reattatch it." Reattatch? Probably the big chunk of flesh that Laidu was missing. Yeah, that might be problematic.

Laidu felt another person over him. He smelled perfume and an acrid stench. Indra. "Get him to drink this," she said to Karik'ar as they walked. Her voice was oddly distant as well as she handed the big red Kai'Draen something shiny. Stars? No, glass stars. Pretty glass stars with little drops in them. How pretty. Maybe Indra was a wizard too? Not just an alchemist.

"What is it? A coagulant?" Karik'ar asked.

"No, a haemosurger. Makes him generate more blood." Indra paused. "And how do you know about coagulants?"

"Skaria gets hurt a lot," Karik'ar explained. Stupid Skaria. She should try to be less clumsy. Laidu laughed, or tried. It hurt. A lot. He was delirious, quite possibly. "And the only reading material the apothecaries have are medical texts." Karik'ar kept walking. "Administer it to him."

Indra tapped Laidu on the side of the face. "Laidu, you there? Blink twice if you can hear me." Ooh! She wanted to play a game! Laidu could do that. Blink. There. That was one. Blink. Yep, he was delirious.

"I need you to drink this for me," Indra said. "Blink twice if you can do that." Laidu blinked. Then blinked again. "Good. Open your mouth and don't breathe in or out." Laidu gave her a view of his sharp teeth and perfectly normal tongue. Indra unstoppered her glass vial -not a star, but a vial- and poured it down Laidu's throat. "Your metabolism should make it start working soon." Laidu had to try to hear her. She was oddly distant.

It tasted bad. Just bad! Like fetid meat and chewed up leather and asparagus, all rolled up into a worm-infested pastry. He coughed, sending blows of excruciating pain to his side. "I know it tastes bad, Laidu," Indra said. "Just try to keep it down. See? It's working!"
Laidu tried to nod, but he felt like a puppet with its strings cut. That's funny. How did he know what a puppet with its strings cut felt like? Did it feel? That was silly! It was a block of lifeless wood!

"Here!" Skaria shouted. Laidu felt Karik'ar change directions smoothly. For such a big guy, he sure was nimble. Freakishly so. Maybe he used to dance? Did Kai'Draen dance? Did they even have music? Laidu wanted to ask Karik'ar, but he couldn't get a breath.

Suddenly, Laidu didn't see smoke and stars stretched above him. No, he saw freshly sawed planks, joined together. A ceiling. Of course it was! What else would it be? A floor?

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