Chapter 80: Rewards

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The Eight destabilize whatever culture they infiltrate. Their mere presence radiates harmful effects -infertility in Ishta'ana's case, famine in Yazhara's case, and so on- but their presence is also an indicator of foul machinations that they engineer as they actively try to destabilize the culture.

-The Necromancer's Notes, Tablet 331a, Andura's Collection

***

It took Laidu three minutes to get attacked in Saefel Caeld. Three bloody minutes.

They had just finished signing in at Caeld Dock Customs, where the official had asked Laidu to sign on the dotted line of his parchment without batting an eye (apparently Laidu wasn't the strangest thing the tired-looking Vesperati clerk had seen), and Thaen was about to tell Karik'ar a joke when Laidu's would-be assailant announced his presence.

"Monster!" Laidu turned. At this rate, whenever someone shouted 'freak' or 'monster,' Laidu assumed they were talking about him. 'Brute' might have been Karik'ar, but 'monster' was an insult that fit him, and him alone. 

The source of the insult was a nobleman, young, maybe two or three years younger than Kyra. He wore a longcoat, more of a fashion statement than protection against warmth. He was impeccably dressed, with a ruffled cravat at his throat and sable fur lining on his coat."Unhand the lady!" It would have been impressive and intimidating if he wasn't shaking, a foot and a half shorter than Laidu, and built like a twig.

Laidu looked down. He was still holding Kyra's gloved hand, and he didn't want to let go anytime soon. "Who are you?"

"Get your hands of her," the young man growled.

Laidu rolled his eyes. "A name would be nice," he muttered.

You should kill him, Kasran said. Snap his neck and dump him in the harbor.  Real easy. Look! He doesn't have a big neck like that oaf over there. Laidu felt an urge to turn, to look at Karik'ar. The Kai'Draen had a big neck, but that wasn't just muscle, it was also the fact that he was eight and a half feet tall. It would take little strength, almost none at all.

"Laidu, relax. I know him," Kyra said. She must have sensed him tensing. Kasran's voice could do that. Kyra's voice, fortunately, had the opposite effect. "He's alright."

The young nobleman, looked, confused, before reaching into his coat. Laidu heard the rasp of a blade as it was drawn from a scabbard, and stared at an incredibly rusted rapier blade that the young man aimed at his face. Great, he was threatening Laidu with force. 

Laidu drew his sword and stepped forward, between the nobleman and Kyra. "Eredan," Kyra said, "stop!"

"Don't worry," he said, "I'll save you!" He didn't seem too confident about it, though. 

Laidu stepped forward, shamshir in a guarding position. Eredan stepped forward. "Kid, just put the blade down."

"You're not taking her!" With that, he lunged.

Laidu could have guessed Eredan had no skills with swordplay. Maybe it was the fact that his blade was more rust than metal (and a part of him worried that getting poked with that would give him all sorts of nasty infections. But the voices in his head assured him that dragon blood was too caustic for that to happen, but it would be a bad idea to test it). Maybe it was the fact that he was trembling like a sapling in a cyclone. Maybe it was the fact that he used his arm to power his thrust, instead of extending the blade and stepping into the blow, launching off of the foot to give himself force, like Kyra did. 

Or maybe it was the fact that he missed Laidu's broad chest by a good foot and a half to one side.

Laidu swatted the blade away, and the fight was over. The rapier spun out of his hand, skidded away from him, and rolled to a stop, leaving a few spots of rust on the wet docks. Eredan, however, fell over, onto his rear, and stared, wide-eyed, up at the monster. "I'm sorry," he said to Kyra.

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