Chapter 50: Sapharama

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They beguiled us with their philosophies and rhetoric. It was all show, reductions to absurdities that any man, any Vesperati, Calixa, or Tethyd, could point out. Even a well thought child could debunk it, but we adopted their creeds as marks of sophistication.

***

The Outer Town of Sapharama was where the slums of society were. They festered there, a muddy grey canker sore cut into the silvery stone of the city proper. Laidu couldn't tell where the cobblestone streets ended and the cobblestone buildings began. They just seemed to flow into each other.

From between the bland buildings, people stared at the six of them. Beggars avoided them thanks to a glare from Skaria. Mercenaries weren't known for charity, after all. The strumpets and prostitutes looked at them, not lustfully sizing them up as customers, but in gazes of horror. Laidu had seen that look before.

In the alleyways, lepers crouched, keeping the rats company. They were joined by some larger men, probably thugs.

"How did they make the houses?" Kyra asked. "I didn't think Alberion builders used road cobble. I thought they tended to have wood in their structure too. For roofs and stuff." The roofs of these houses were simple flat cobble.

"They do," Karik'ar said. "A war against Leyons to the south made for many refugees. The lord of the city proposed a challenge. Whoever dealt with the refugees from the lower Alberic cities best would be ordained a knight. A sorceress, a Vesperati named Yasni had turned excess cobble into an entire town. Even working sewers and walls."

"You sound like you're impressed by this Vesperati," Thaen said suspiciously. "You're Kai'Draen. Why would you be?"

Karik'ar didn't say a word. He simply pointed to the city around them.

"Watch where you point," Laidu warned. "We aren't in the best part of town. Don't attract any extra attention."

"Ha!" Karik'ar laughed. "Look at us! I am rather large compared to the humans here. You are as well, and you are reflective, to add." Laidu had to admit his scales did reflect light. "You are the only Changed of your kind I have seen. And consider the others. A pretty young lady dressed in practical Caeldari fashion." Kyra smiled at that. "A tall lady of dubious parentage wearing an armory. An entire armory!" 

"Dubious parentage? I'll have you know, both my mother and father were Medirene." Skaria did look the part. Indra's pure-blooded Caeldari skin was a few shades off of snow white, and her hair was raven black. Kyra had dark hair, not black like Indra, and slightly Tanner skin. Not full-blooded, but nowhere near the shade of Skaria's deep tan.

"Right. Anyway," Karik'ar continued, "there's a lovely-looking scholar among us."

"That's sweet," Indra said dryly.

"Of course, it is obvious that she's new to this all." Indra kept her face mostly passive. But her eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

"You're really going to take that from him?" Thaen asked.

Indra sighed. "May I indulge you in a little philosophic speech?" Not really waiting for an answer, she continued. "It is obvious I am new to this world. I haven't ventured out of Caeldar before. I had, of course, read up on the major cities. Sapharama, Dunsail, among others. But that is, of course, nowhere near the same as experiencing them." She paused, choosing her words carefully. "From an empirical perspective, these things are thus, and compounding it is the fact that I had never left the borders of my manor, and never went without an attendance of a servants, and even in the University, I was quite sheltered. These things are thus, and my emotions about it are also thus, but in the end, they are irrespective of reality."

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