Chapter 54: Vestments of Skin

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The Eight will fall. They had turned the world into a smoldering ruin. But the worst of trials gave way to the greatest of heroes. Their power has given birth to their death and finality.

***

Skaria stepped into the men's inn room, trying to keep silent. Indra guarded Kyra, who was still sleeping. Whatever the alchemist had put in her antidote, it had knocked her out.

Thaen was curled up against his pillow, almost embracing the thing. His body was covered in short grey and brown fur. He shifted, pulling the blanket over his lean, sinewy muscular shoulders, exposing his feet. They looked like normal, human feet, except for the lack of hair and longer toenails that resembled talons. He seemed peaceful, kind of cute.

Karik'ar lounged, sprawled across the bed, his muscular back exposed. Most of the scars had healed over. His chest rose and fell, facedown in the bed.

Laidu however, was different. His back was covered in scars, thin ridges crossing the length of his back. He wrapped his arms around his pillow, holding it like it was a person.

She leaned down next to him. "Laidu," she whispered. The dragon Changed opened his amber eyes, still glazed over with sleep. "Hey. Laidu. I'm going to be gone for a bit. You might want to help Indra keep watch." She looked at the edge of his shoulder. "Scars look like they were pretty painful."

Laidu rolled onto his back and sat up. "They were," he said. He stood. "What are you doing out there?" he asked, still groggy.

"Hunting Kazalibad." Skaria rose. "He can be killed. My magic did it as well as yours."

Laidu shrugged. "That's true." He yawned, an odd gesture for him. "I'm going to go check on her. What exactly are you doing?"

"Hunting Kazalibad." Skaria rose. "Not the first investigation job I did. Once, had to hunt down a criminal kingpin. Paranoid whoreson. Managed to drive him into the sewers and chase him through there."

"Must have reeked," Laidu said.

"You've no idea," Skaria said. She walked out the door. You know where that Hadin kid is? I think I need to talk to him."

"Check in the kitchen. There's probably a door or something leading to the owner's quarters." Laidu stretched his arms.

"Alright," Skaria said. She exited the room, and when she closed the door, the small thump seemed like a great crash when the only other sound was the sputtering of a torch. Her footsteps seemed to break the quiet, seemed to shout in the silence.

She walked down the hallway, down the stairs and into the kitchen. Skaria looked around.

The room was a long one, reinforced with stone brick and cobble. Small arches, a bit shorter than Skaria, dotted one wall, each one stained dark with soot. A few cauldrons lay in one corner, scrubbed and clean, and over the arches -chimneys and cooking fires, now that Skaria realized it- several burnished copper pans and pots hung.

It seemed...empty. Lifeless. No food was being prepared, no work was being done. Skaria walked across the room, by the table whitened by flour. Stopping at a pair of doors, she rapped her knuckles on it, lightly but firmly. No answer. She knocked harder. Still nothing. Snarling, Skaria grabed the doorknobs and yanked the doors open.

Skaria sighed, as she was greeted to the sight of potatoes, root vegetables, and dried herbs hanging from the exposed rafters. She had spent all her time knocking on a pantry door. She closed the doors. Interrogating potatoes would do nothing to help her find Kazalibad.

She turned instead to the door on the other side of the room, one that looked sturdier. After crossing the room a second time, she knocked on this door lightly.

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