Chapter 44: The Tomb of Kings

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The ghoul was maybe fifteen yards away, nursing a bleeding stump, hissing. It had that same slitlike mouth, that same slavering tongue. Kyra backed away, retreating behind Skaria, her body language conveying disgust and revulsion. Franklyy, Skaria didn't blame her. The things were bloody ugly.

She had dealt with them in Saefel Aedhin.  Ghouls infested the large sewer system, and one day, Skaria and Karik'ar had agreed to clear out a nest of them. But she could still remember them. Skin like rough, aged wood. It barely seemed to cover the ghoul's ropy, twisted muscles.

A second egg flew forward, slamming into the ghoul's head. Skaria saw the painted sphere crack, shatter, spread dark dust over the thing. And then, in a flash of furious sound and light.

For a moment, Skaria couldn't see. The cavern had vanished in a mask of blotches of bright colors, afterflashes burned into her sight. There was no sound, save for the ringing of her ears.

Eventually, after what seemed like minutes, the ringing ceased, and the afterimages faded away. The ghoul, or what remained of it, lay sprawled across the floor. The head, and most of the body, was missing. 

There was a hiss, and another, and another. "They're cowards," Thaen said. "When they smell their own  blood, they flee," he said.

"I read about that," Karik'ar said. "A sort of defense mechanism. The smell of their own blood alerts them that they're not the top predator in the area. Makes them cut their losses." Indra muttered something under her breath.

"Smart," Kyra said. She lifted the vial. "What if we used the blood?"

Skaria arched an eyebrow. "Not a half-bad idea," she said, before sheathing her sword. Skaria yanked her pack off, and pulled out a few bandages. "Use these to soak up the blood," she said, tossing the wadded linen strips to Kyra.

The girl, completely ignoring any of the sensibilities doubtless ingrained into her since childhood, used the bandages, wiping up the ghoul blood. Skaria saw her grimace and gulp, probably at the stench of the gore. But she kept through it. Soon, four soaking strips of crimson linen hung from her hand. 

Skaria grabbed one, tying it around her left bicep. Kyra yanked hers through her belt. Thaen tucked his into his belt, knotting it, and then licking a claw. "Ugh," he said, spitting. "That's worse than your blood, Karik'ar."

The Kai'Draen rolled his eyes. "Just hold her," he said, shifting Indra's weight off of his chest. Thaen grabbed her and lowered her gently to the ground. Karik'ar went to tie the band onto his forearm, but a hushed voice made him stop.

"Mmm," Indra muttered. "...mmm...sorry...Mirsari..."

"Mirsari?" Skaria asked.

"Sounds like a Vesperati name," Thaen said. "A woman's name." He paused. "When she wakes up, we'll have to talk." 

Indra shifted slightly, and Karik'ar scooped her up. "Shall we keep going?" he asked. 

Kyra nodded. "You think this will help?" she asked, indicating the bloody linens.

"Yeah," Thaen said. "They reek." He looked ahead. "Kyra, you mind tossing the light over here?" he asked. Kyra nodded, and tossed the glowing vial towards Thaen. "Check that out," he said.

Skaria walked over to the Vesperati, Karik'ar hot on her heels. "What?" she asked.

"Oh, just this," Thaen said. 

Skaria frowned. "You do know I can't see, right?" The light ended, illuminating only darkness.

"Oh, right," Thaen said. He moved forward, slowly illuminating the roughly-chiseled out tunnel. "There's something up there," he remarked. 

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