Chapter 70: Amidst The Ruins

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Among recent years, the Changed, as they were called, have been studied. They are, to my assumptions, anomalies; byproducts of a thaumaturgic process that had gone wrong, a process which had breached containment and released an inferior, ineffective metamorphosis upon what appeared to be the whole world.

-Torshan Malavaya, The Changed: An Anomaly


Kyra shouldn't have nearly missed Laidu's arrival, but she nearly did. Then again, she was nursing a headache when he arrived.

It was like a migraine, warping her vision, except migraines didn't make her see visions. Kyra had experienced migraines before, mostly due to a tense neck, but she hadn't had the strange effects, the symbols, before. Fortunately, this headache wasn't nearly as severe as her previous migraines.

She didn't think it was natural. She had a few reasons to believe this, but the main reason was what kept her and Karik'ar and Skaria and Thaen and Indra warm. The tiny little thaumaturgy plate.

Any time she looked at it, the world blurred. The thing glowed red, emitting heat that staved off the chill of the mountain, but it made her head pound with thoughts that weren't hers, with ideas and memories that weren't hers. But those limits were quickly conquered and suppressed by something worse, something that grew and festered in her heart.

Worry gnawed at her. All she knew about Laidu was that he had been hurt. That was what Karik'ar told her. That was what sent her into a panic, and that panic had slowed, matured into a deep seated anxiety, the kind that upset the stomach and made her thoughts turn in an endless cycle revolving around Laidu.

What would she do without him? Would she be able to continue on? He was an amazing person, a man who seemed at times the ultimate ideal of virtues, yet at other times, a man who needed someone there for him, someone there to comfort him. He was strong, brave, selfless, but other times, he was afraid, nervous, and depressed. 

He didn't look like it, but he was arguably the most human person Kyra knew. 

All the other men she knew, the men her father had more than once suggested to her, either had none of the virtues that Laidu possessed, or lacked the sincerity of him. They were either boorish, crude, and selfish, or they were fake, counterfeit, and hollow. The way they talked about Kyra's friends made her skin crawl. Those were the crude, virtueless ones. The fake ones made her want to hit them, want to scream at how their words fell hollow, made her want to lash out and tell them to stop insulting her with feigned interest.

She was enamored by his virtue, addicted to his authenticity. He was something new to her, something real, something beautiful. Kyra never would have described Laidu as beautiful when she had first met him, but now she saw him differently.

His scales weren't hard and uncomfortable to the touch, but they shone like gold, glistened like gems. His snout, really a broad nose, was cute, and it made his square jaw stand out more. Kyra wanted to trail her fingers across his jaw. And his eyes, oh his eyes. They were deep amber, and in their depths lurked Laidu's spirit, and Kyra wanted to stare into his eyes until she saw it. She wanted to see Laidu again.

And all she knew was that he was hurt. Wherever he was, he had been in pain. Karik'ar had said it stopped, but nothing more. He said he felt nothing. Either that meant Laidu was fine, or he wasn't feeling anything.

Mountains were dangerous, weren't they? There were mudslides, rainstorms, and boulders. What if they had hurt Laidu? She could see it now, his mangled form bent underneath a boulder, his white horns the only thing visible as he struggled to breathe as mud just kept pouring over him, as the rain smothered him and upset his footing, as he fell off the edge of the cliff, his hands grasping for air as his face twisted into a scream.

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