Chapter 49: The Assassin

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The Kai'Draen were the ones hurt most by the Eight. Their Soul Splitters were forced to kill their own people, to become weapons. Their civilization, which bad once surpassed empires, was reduced to barbaric tribes in swamps, tundras, and deserts.

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Ten Years Ago

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The cafes and restaurants in Saefel Aedhin were numerous and thus, not too pricy. Most of them took advantage of the summer air, and many of their patrons dined outside.

Skaria was the exception. She sat down at her meal inside the cafe, and had even requested that the cafe owners set up a folding screen for her privacy. Now, she sat, waiting for her friend to arrive.

The folding screen to her left -decorated with swans and a phoenix painted on the panels- tilted and pitched dangerously as Karik'ar struggled to get through. "I was looking for your face," he said. "Couldn't find it. Thought I was lost."

"Not lost," Skaria said. Karik'ar sat down. It was hard to believe that he was still a young man. By his own admission, he was sixteen years old only. Skaria could see it in the scraggly stubble on Karik'ar's cheek. The massive amount of hard muscle, broad shoulders, and tall stature seemed to contradict that age, but Kai'Draen grew differently.

"So, how was your time at the bordello?" Karik'ar asked.

"They tried to steal one of the girls." Skaria took out a small book. They were the notes she had kept, about the corpse stealers. She opened it, and tossed a slip of paper at Karik'ar. "She has a talent for art." Karik'ar unfolded the paper. "I asked around, and most people think he looks like Baron Grestien. An Eastern merchant who got rich by developing one of the mines."

Karik'ar chuckled. "All I did was learn a few things about metalworking." He smiled. "Good job." He paused. "Tonight, Caedak wants to take me to the swamp tonight."

"The swamp?" Skaria asked.

"Yeah," Karik'ar said. He leaned in, not touching his food. "He wants to teach me Soul Splitting. Magic. And wants to do a traditional rite." He smiled.

"Oh." Skaria frowned. "Why are you telling me?"

"I need a family member to witness it." Karik'ar poked at his food, his massive hand dwarfing the fork.

"Me?" Skaria asked.

Karik'ar rolled his eyes. "Of course you! You have been there for me. You are my only family. My only partner. You are khokani. You are my sister."

"Um..." Skaria was dumbfounded
Was that really what he had felt? She had always heard him say these things about her, but she had assumed they were a joke at best, except for that one night when they met Caedak. But even then, she had attributed it to high-strung, heightened emotions. Apparently, that wasn't the case. "I'd be honored to."

Karik'ar smiled. "Alright." He began to eat his food, a slab of nearly charred meat. How he liked something that disgusting and tasteless, she didn't know.

"They could use your food for buildings, you know," Skaria said. "It's hard enough to be a brick." Karik'ar shrugged.

Skaria leaned out from behind the curtain to call for a waiter. Her throat was parched from the tasty fish fillet she had devoured. A glass of water -or a mulled fruit wine if she wanted to indulge- would hit the spot. And that was when she noticed a disturbance.

The cause of said disturbance was almost immediately apparent. It was a Kai'Draen, big, bulky, and massive. He had to be a good eight and a half feet tall, all rippling muscle. That was easy enough to be seen, as he was lacking a shirt. Fortunately, he had pants on, a pair of dark burlap trousers that were tucked into a pair of boots. A sword and a wickedly curved war axe hung by the side of his wide belt. Unlike Karik'ar's thin mohawk-like stripe that grew into a braid of hair, this man had the top of his hair pulled into a small ponytail, and the sides had been shaved.

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