Chapter 43: Breakfasts and Bones

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The signs of our death were near. The Eight were a sign of decadence. They were a symptom, nothing more, nothing less. A symptom of a hubris so great that empires did not have such scope of vanity, a pride and arrogance unmatched in all of history.

***

Kyra knew something was off when Thaen and Karik'ar walked back, not killing each other in the process.

They were also ushered in by a smell. A wonderful one Kyra had often missed, one she craved, even at home. Food. Good, delicious food. The kind of food that made the dry rations she had seem like dust.

Bacon.

When Thaen and Karik'ar appeared, they both had strips of the succulent meat in their mouths. Karik'ar had several more pieces in one hand, and that was enough. "Hey!" Kyra said. "You got any more of that?"

Karik'ar chuckled. "Of course," he said, setting a picnic basket down in front of her. "Courtesy of Laidu."

Indra sat up, eyes still half shut. "What's that smell?"

"Goodness in a basket," Kyra said. She yanked off the lid, exposing the divine vapors to the rest of them. Skaria immediately moved over towards the basket. Indra yanked handfuls of the food out, Skaria doing the same.

It took a few minutes, but after Thaen and Karik'ar got a hold, the bacon was gone, and the empty basket was set aside, empty of purpose and delicious breakfast food. "That was tasty," Thaen muttered, leaning against Kyra. Kyra didn't mind; the Vesperati was a nice guy. And for some reason, she felt safe around him. Maybe it was his short stature. Yeah. That could be it.

Karik'ar sat down, leaning against a tree. "Now, we wait for Laidu to signal for us," he said, leaning against a tree. "Kyra, when you feel like moving, show the bat around."

"Right." Earlier, Indra had showed her around the moss-choked ruin, pointing out symbols, recounting myths she had read. For once, Indra had seemed...alive. She had seemed like she was enjoying life, like it was a vibrant passion of hers to recount and revive the ancient stories that had only lived in crude figures carved into ancient rock.

"Oh?" Thaen asked. "What are you showing me?"

"Just what Indra and I have seen of the ruins," Kyra said. Thaen shrugged. "They're very old."

"I never would have guessed," Thaen said dryly, but not unkindly. Kyra chuckled. They were very old? That was painfully obvious.

Old. Style of Middle-Aged Alberic thane crypts, built in proper style, with a burial chamber surrounded by the minor burial chambers, the resting places of the king's thanes. Made of strongest granite, the king's burial chamber would often be booby-trapped, and the-

Kyra closed her eyes, and willed the memory away. Shut up, shut up, shut up, she mentally shouted at the memories, the foreign thoughts that weren't hers.

And, remarkably, they did.

"You want to go?" Thaen asked. Kyra shrugged, and, with a struggle, she rose. Thaen gave her a warm smile. "So, um, I see the entrance," he said, pointing to the massive slabs of vine -strangled granite. Pieces of rotting wood, studded with iron that was more rust than metal, still half-covered the entrance to the tomb.

Doors, bound with sacred woods, blessed by the temple priests, the bands treated with blessed water. Symbols were often carved in a mixture of rowan ash, hemlock, and nightshade, as to invoke the blessings of the three Goddesses of Death. Seithrada, Goddess of wisdom, represented by the Rowan Tree, the patron goddess of witchcraft and-

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