Chapter 64: Screamchasm

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Hurriedly, he described to me the vision he had seen, the fever madness still shining in his eyes. He had seen the world hollowed out, a hundred hundred chasms, chambers like the interior of man, like the bowels of the earth. And the cthonic chambers screamed, and their howls tore through rock, razor-sharp winds.

-Hrazmi'kar of Blue Spears, Visions of a Kai'Draeni Genius

***

Skaria walked up the mountain, wrapping her heavy cloak around her body. It was an old thing, something she found in a trunk in an attic of a condemned building, but it was free, and it kept her warm. What more could she ask for?

"So wait," Thaen said, "if we get separated because of that mystery mark on the map, where are we going to meet?" He walked right next to Laidu, keeping pace despite his much shorter legs.

"Aedsol Calhand," Laidu said, letting the foreign word roll off his tongue. "It's an old shrine cut up into one of the mountaintops. See how the peak up there is too straight?" Skaria frowned, squinting above. The clear day let them see for miles, over rolling forests of deep green and yellow fields ripe for harvest. And yes, she could see what he meant. "I went this way because it's quickest, but also because I wanted to show you this thing."

"Oh?" Kyra asked. 

"Yeah. It's pretty interesting," Laidu said. "If you're in Alberion, it's something you should see."

"You make it sound like I'm on a tourist visit," Kyra said. "I was kidnapped. My former captors weren't particularly keen on sightseeing."

"Where are your captors?" Thaen asked.

"Dead, rotting in the Redleaf Forest," Laidu said. "Hopefully." 

"Oh," Thaen said.

"They were slavers," Laidu said. "If that's how you make coin, on the misery of others, on ridding them of freedom, you've ceased becoming man, and have become something bestial. I'll shed no tears over your grave."

"You sure they were slavers?" Skaria asked.

"They were Ajandi war raiders. I could tell by their accent. Distinctive inflection of the vowels. Only a few areas have that kind of accent. One of them is where they train war raiders."

"And besides their name, what do they do?" Skaria asked. "My job doesn't usually require this much intel on my enemies, mostly just figuring out where they're not covered in armor and sticking a blade in there. Preferably several times."

"They're convinced that their gods made them superior to other men, and they need to show this. So they kidnap girls and force them into being concubines for their sultans and lords." Laidu's voice got a dangerous edge to it. He was getting angry, and a scary kind of angry at that. Not the frothing-at-the-mouth, raging, uncontrollable anger, but the kind controlled. She could see it in his eyes, that anger being honed like a blade.

"And that was what Kazalibad wanted for me?" Kyra asked. She yanked Laidu's cloak closer around her. He had given it to her, doubling her cloak. Thaen's pelt, Indra's warmth, Karik'ar's mass, and Skaria's armor gave them insulation. Kyra didn't have that.

"Presumably." Kyra was silent for a long while. They all were.

"So," Thaen said, "after this, how far to Caeld?"

"It should take less than a day to get to the port. Then we wait for a day or three for the ship to arrive from Caeld. Then perhaps another three days. All in all, maybe a week before you're home."

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