Chapter 39: The Hunters

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At first their goals seemed noble. They would peel off the veils, strip the skin from Nature, and peer at the mechanisms within. They would discover reasons and causes, unlike the silly conjecture of the priests' moralities. That was our thought. They'd find the causes of heartbeat, the causes of thought. Of death. Of mortality.

***

Ten Years Ago

***

Skaria huddled against Karik'ar, wrapped up in his cloak. The rain dumped deluge after freezing deluge on them, and the roof overhang didn't cover them entirely.

The Kai'Draen shivered violently against her, and Skaria could feel goosebumps on his exposed skin. He was fifteen, and as such, had the pigheaded stubbornness of youth. He had talked about Kai'Draeni pride. Now how was that paying off?

Skaria hugged the Kai'Draen closer, trying to find any trace of warmth. Nothing. Both of them were almost frozen over. Karik'ar leaned against Skaria, and that nearly knocked her over. His reddish-brown lips were blue. Even the famous Kai'Draeni resilience didn't stop them from getting cold.

"Is this the place?" he whispered.

Skaria shivered. "I th-think so," she got out through chattering teeth. Karik'ar pulled her closer in; the boy needed the warmth just as much as she did. "B-bloody freezing. You'd th-think that a p-place c-called the City of Fire w-would be a bit warmer."

Karik'ar shifted. "Do you feel that?"

Skaria shook her head, throwing raindrops on Karik'ar's bare chest and scars. "No, what?"

"Smoke. Warm smoke." They were right outside an armory. Actually, right on top of one. Saefel Aedhin, the City of Fire, the City of Forges, was built on a giant volcano. Into it as well, and oftentimes the roofs of houses became the streets of the next tier. It was common to seen small pipes belching out smoke and fumes on the street level.

This source of heat, however, was coming from a vent a few meters to their left. Skaria and Karik'ar shuffled over to it, Skaria still wrapped in Karik'ar's arm and his cloak.

The smoke was choking and foul, and it burned Skaria's eyes, but the heat it brought was worth it. "Ah," Skaria said. "R...real warmth."

There was a muted crash as someone moved in the building next to them. Skaria didn't look until the door swung open. "...bloody idiots and their blightin' pranks!" someone snapped. Skaria looked up, eyes wide with shock.

It was a Kai'Draen, but unlike Karik'ar, he was fully grown. Instead of Karik'ar's reddish skin, this man had a light, almost pastel blue hue to his body. Bright red hair, the color of copper, stood out on the top of his head, and he glared down at the two of them. Oh, and he was massive. Eight and a half feet tall, built like a bull. "What are you doing here?" he snarled.

"Cold..." Karik'ar murmured.

The Kai'Draen rolled his icy blue eyes. "Idiots. You could have just knocked." He gestured to the door. "Do you want to get out of the rain? why were you out here anyway?"

"You...you didn't answer," Skaria said. "We pounded on the front door over and over again."

"Well, the master doesn't answer the shop door when it's closed." The Kai'Draen focused on her. "Get in. I'll see if my wife can't find something dry for you to wear. You and that idiot Kai'Draen boy."

Skaria and Karik'ar didn't hesitate for a second. The two of them entered the room, and Karik'ar tossed off the soaked-through cloak. "How long were you out there?" the Kai'Draen asked, closing the door. The roar of the rainfall was muted, almost relaxing.

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