Chapter 58: Blasphemous Blade

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They forged blades made in blasphemy, quenched in blood,
To slay beasts born from blasphemy, weaned on blood.

-Old inscription on a storehouse in Saefel Aedhin, owner who had reportedly gone mad.

***

Those who hadn't run and screamed after Laidu stabbed Kazalibad ran and screamed after Kazalibad burst from the skin of that woman. It was better that way. People wouldn't get in the way.

"You think I'm a myth?" Kazalibad demanded to the scholar, who had fallen and was trying to scurry back away, like some sort of crab. "You think I'm unreal?"

"N...no!" the scholar said.

"Good. Now, let's have a demonstration, shall we?" Kazalibad said. Indra had ran with the rest of the crowd, now she stood behind Laidu, yanking her headscarf over her eyes. Thaen and Laidu stood, transfixed. What was he to do?

"What do the legends say about me?" Kazalibad asked. "Please! It's been a few hundred years since I caught up on the gossip." He rolled all the eyes all over his body. "Come now, speak."

"They say you drank the blood of an entire nation!" the scholar finally sputtered out, in a quavering voice that was much more shrill.

"Do they now?" Kazalibad said. "Strange, that was Yazhara's claim to fame. But you're lucky. You get to see what precisely happened. You see, I've been a bit tired lately, and this should...ah, what's the word... invigorate me a bit." He smiled with that eel-like mouth on his head.

And then, stretching one hand, stubby claws stained yellowish-grey, he killed him. "Rejuvenate me. Surrender your vitality to me," he commanded.

The scholar convulsed when he finished, and Laidu backed away, drawing the shamshir at his side. A faintly glowing cloud of light burst from the scholar's lips, convulsing and warping in midair. Breathing out for the last time, the scholar looked like he was at peace, before his body dissolved into a fine ash.

The glowing gas -the scholar's vitality- sped through the air, encircling Kazalibad, before sinking into an open lamprey mouth. "Much better," the thing said. It didn't look too much better, thought. Wherever the vitality had touched Kazalibad's skin, the grey hide had erupted into angry, scarlet hot blisters and boils. It seemed caustic to him.

"Now that that demonstration is over," Kazalibad said, turning to Laidu, "shall we begin with the rest of it?"

Laidu was about to answer before he felt something shoved into his hand. A vial. Indra stepped back, away from Laidu. A haemosurger, most likely. "What do you want?"

"The girl," Kazalibad said. "Dead, preferrably, but I could take her alive."

That's good, Rhaem said. He said he could keep Kyra alive!

No, you dunce, Paradox snapped. He'll kill her himself. To Laidu, the voice paused. Drink the haemosurger. I have an idea, but if you don't replenish blood, you'll pass out.
Laidu paused, as if he was thinking. He shook his head. "Afraid I can't do that."

"Shame," Kazalibad said, "because, you see, that means we'd have to-" He stopped. "What did you just drink?"

"Something to calm nerves," Laidu said. Paradox smiled -if such a thing was possible for a disembodied voice of insanity- and began to sing.

He could hear the song of Fever Blood, a fast paced melody heard in his mind. Paradox's song was the same melody, but richer, fuller. If Fever Blood was a fast, frenzied violin, this song was a vast, furiously paced orchestra. If anything, it was the full realization of the melody of Fever Blood.

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