Chapter 36: The Isle of Torment

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Well, they bit, and they bit hard. Currently, their "bite" is still burning, the ruins of a once great city still in flames. I cannot help but stare at the untold death and destruction that the Eight have caused. The blood of nations is on their hands. And ours.

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Four Years Ago

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Raddas lay on the ship deck, the hot tropical sun warming his back. He was sore, sore from helping the sailors move cargo around and around. It was something that Erinyan wanted them to do. She called it "conditioning," or something like that. Whatever it was, it made Raddas sore.

He had yanked off his roughly spun vest and had bunched it up, using it as a pillow. It wasn't the best thing in the world, but it was better than the hard lumber of the deck. He lay there for a while.

Raddas heard footsteps, and didn't even bother to look. From the sound, he knew exactly who it was. Laidu. The Changed boy slumped down onto a crate and leaned against the deck railing. Raddas looked up at him. His chest scales, which showed through the vest collar (which Laidu had torn to fit his horns through without snagging all the time), shone in the bright sunlight. "Mmph," Raddas said. Laidu grunted in agreement.

"Oh look. If it isn't my two favorite people," Gial said, walking over. He was still healing up, and mostly done, but the Rangers didn't want him straining himself too much. Which meant that, while Raddas and Laidu worked and ran themselves into the ground, Gial stood and watched. "What are you doing?" Raddas answered him with an obscene gesture. "Well, fine then." He sat down next to Laidu, elbows leaning on his knees.

"What do you want, Gial?" Raddas asked.

"Well, we're almost at Monata," Gial said. "You ready for the training?"

Raddas let out a short grunt.

"I heard that it's really brutal," Gial said. Raddas sighed. His Alberic was getting better. Much better. "Though I did hear we get breaks to go to the main island. Leisure leave, the others called it."

"Is that all you did?" Raddas asked. "All you did was talk to the other Rangers?"

"Yeah. What else was I supposed to do?" Gial asked.

"Stretches? Light exercises?" Laidu ventured. "Maybe anything but sit there and do nothing?" Gial gave him a glare, but Laidu ignored that. The dragon Changed shifted slightly. "Unless you've been practicing your Alberic with the other Rangers."

"And learning about the island. One thing," Gial said, looking at the two of them, "that you should all know about the womenfolk on Monata. If you see one with odd-colored hair, like, blood red, or sky blue or magenta, colors that aren't normal... well, they ain't human."

Raddas sat up. "You talking about the Reeflanders? They can kind of have blue hair." Well, grey and blue

"No, no, Reeflanders are normal. I'm talking blue like the sky or the sea kind of blue," Gial said. "They ain't human. They're Calixa. I mean, if that's how your tastes swing, that's fine with me," he said, "and unless you can't stand Albics and Reeflanders and Circlewomen, there are plenty of other ladies to pick from. It's not like Ajand, where if you're darker-skinned or lighter-skinned than the natives, you get picked on more." Raddas knew that well enough. 

He still had the whipping scars; long, torturously crooked bumps that disturbed the near-black skin on his back. He was a Circleman, one of the few human races to carve a space out of the hostile landscape that was the Circle. Deserts, dry and barren, caged in by mountains, were placed next to vast jungles and frozen tundras.

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