Chapter 88: A Rival of the Blood

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By my theory, the Eight go against the natures of their races, but only partially. Selectively. Yazhara defied the Vesperati social tendencies. All know that Vesperati develop strong emotional bonds very rapidly, yet she has become an isolate. Kazalibad was worse. What conscience he had is now gone, inverted, it seems, to compel Kazalibad to do evil and greed. While man's nature is not that of a saint, he does still have a conscience, and this supports the theory that Kazalibad isn't human anymore.

-The Necromancer's Notes, Tablet 4452a, Philosophy Wing

***

Thaen followed Indra through the street. "Are you sure the doctor is this way?" he asked. Looking around, it was a bit of a rough part of town, not the kind of place a respectable surgeon would keep shop.

"Yes, I'm sure," Indra said. "Come on." She guided him past a few shady-looking individuals, before opening an unmarked door to a filthy, soot-stained shop. "He's up this way."

The second he entered the building, the din and chatter of the street was silenced. The cloud of curses, oaths, and threats that hung in the street were closed away by the creak of the door, and the quietness was almost as overwhelming as the shouting in the streets. "It doesn't seem like a doctor's office," Thaen whispered. That stillness, that lack of sound, made it profane to break the silence.

"Rest assured, it is," Indra said, breaking the spell of the silence. "It smells like a surgeon's salon up there. That kind of disinfecting alcohol has a very distinct."

"He's drinking alcohol?" Thaen asked. That didn't seem very professional. Indra wasn't taking him to a surgeon, but a medical butcher.

"No. He uses it to cleanse his instruments, so as not to mix the tainted humors of other patients," Indra explained. That was better, much better than someone drinking up and getting drunk, and then deciding to operate.

He looked around. The room he was in was a hallway, of dark wood, but with peeling, veneer exposing an ugly white lumber beneath. A few oil lanterns, with vase-shaped glass chimneys, provided a few pools of shifting and flickering illumination. Next to them was a staircase, leading up to a second level. "He's up above," Indra said.

Thaen followed her up the stairs, wincing as every creak seemed a tortured scream that was pried from the now-violated silence. It may have been what smelled like blood and entrails that caused him to get in such a sour and morbid mood. It may have been the atmosphere of the place.

Whatever it was, it honed his thoughts so they were extra cynical.

Indra stopped at the door. "He's right through here," she said. Thaen studied the door, checking the brass plate on the door. It seemed legitimate, and was professionally etched with the title "Surgeon" on it. "Surgeon Jameson." Alright then.

Indra opened the door, and Thaen nearly jumped when he heard a small bell ring. "I'll be out in a minute," a man called from somewhere farther in his apartment. Thaen couldn't see him, but the waiting room the man had furnished was nice. A couch hugged one wall, a chair next to it, and a table with an inkpot and quill stood on the other side of the room.

The man finally decided to grace them with his bloody presence. Thaen wasn't mentally swearing; the man's white apron and surgical gloves were stained red with blood. "Sorry about that," the surgeon said. "I just finished operating on my patient. The nurses are taking care of him." He peeled the gloves off and set them down on a china plate. The smock he took off and threw into some container presumably, placed out of sight behind the door he had just entered. "Ah, you're the Selaine girl. Here about the Vesperati."

"Yes," Indra said. But something was off. Thaen frowned, trying to figure it out. He could tell something was not right with this picture, but he couldn't put his finger on precisely what it was.

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