Chapter 73: Another Face

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Of all the Eight, Kazalibad was neither the craftiest, nor the most powerful. Most durable, perhaps (although only one has been rumored to have been slain). But he succeeds at exciting the greed in others, in offering bargains and rewards too tempting to resist. While Yazhara and Ishta'ana, for example, do the deeds themselves, Kazalibad bribes others to commit his atrocities, and then drinks in their life. Yet there is a flaw, as he is too trusting in mortals to get their job done, and frequently prescribes tasks far beyond his new accomplices' abilities.

-al'Nessavera Tazarash, The Necromancer's Archives, Vol. 77

***

He knew.

It was the worst possible thing in the world, in her mind. It was what she had dreaded, what she had feared so much. She had had nightmares about seeing him learn her secret, see him learn about her riches, and that flash of greed appeared in his eye like everyone else. Well, not nightmares, per se, but she definitely feared that sight.

Now he knew.

And nothing changed. If anything, Laidu seemed a bit more gloomy. Not terribly so, but Kyra noticed it. Then again, she could just be paranoid. As she walked towards the docks, dwarfed by Laidu and Karik'ar, she felt... safe. Secure. She had two giants next to her, ready to protect her.

She could see the ship already. It was not the largest ship she had seen, though it was certainly large. Over fifty meters long, the masts of the ship towered above her, even though she was still approaching the docks.

Thaen and Indra stopped ahead, pausing in front of a small, hut-like building, built out of what looked like ship rubble, held together with nails and prayers. "What's wrong?" Kyra asked.

"Nothing, nothing," Laidu said. "They just need to buy some tickets for us." He frowned. "Hold still for a moment." What was he doing? She didn't move as his claws moved closer to her face. What in the world was he doing?

He quickly, gently, yanked a thin strand of straw from her hair. And then another. And another. "Sorry, they were bothering me."

"Wow, that's kind of embarrassing," Kyra said. She had been walking through the entire town with straw in her hair. Embarrassing, yes, but not nearly as embarrassing as it would have been a few months ago. Back then, she might have had a fit of apoplexy. But now, it was a minor affair, something she could chuckle over.

"Please. You're walking next to the guy with scales," Laidu said. "If anyone's going to be drawing eyes, it's me. I doubt anyone noticed the straw in your hair."

"Well, that's because you're nice and shiny," Kyra said. That was true. Laidu did shine, as if he polished them. It put a funny picture in Kyra's head, that of Laidu standing in front of a mirror, polishing himself. But it really wasn't that different from men shaving, or her powdering her face.

That reminded her of something. "Hey, Laidu," she said. "Before we get on the ship, I need to buy something."

"Oh?" Laidu said. 

"Something kind of embarrassing." She looked at Karik'ar apologetically. "You mind if we leave for a moment?"

He shrugged. "Sure, go ahead." He never got bothered by anything either.

Kyra tugged on Laidu's arm and led him away. "I think I saw some of it in a general store back in town," she said.

"Oh?" Laidu said. "What is it?"

"Um...you're going to laugh," Kyra said. 

"I promise not to," Laidu said as they turned a corner. 

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