Chapter 103: Foul Machinations

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Do not doubt the craftiness of the Eight or their zealots. While one might want to avoid dramatic overestimation of their plans (one student of mine was thoroughly convinced that the entirety of Alberion was under sway of either Yazhara or Calcifrax), some careful prudence or paranoia would not go amiss.

-The Necromancer's Notes, Personal Files, Author Unknown


There were few things that Kazalibad wanted, which he thought quite ironic, seeing how the superstitious considered him the incarnation of avarice. 

He walked through Lord Cydari's manor, (well, it wasn't a manor, really, more of a modest palace), and walked past piles of wealth. There were priceless artifacts on display, no doubt thaumaturgically warded, but still shown off in arrogance, the way a male peacock rears his tail. Tapestries of sumptuous cloth adorned the stone walls, in between canvas paintings, portraits crafted by fine masters, or landscapes so realistic they appeared to be windows. Even the drapes were silk. 

But they were nothing compared to the treasure Kazalibad had Haema Rin working tirelessly to deliver to him. 

Lady Cydari stepped out of a door, and frowned when she saw him. Kazalibad wore a skin, and an ill-fitting dress (the previous owner of the skin was another servant woman Lord Cydari didn't want hollering about his 'indecent' behavior), but the skin was starting to get old. "You again," she muttered. While Lord Cydari was a lecher, he still had a sort of charm to him that made it easier to forget his proclivities. His wife had none of that. 

She was a creature of lust too, but not the same kind as her husband. He lusted after women, lusted after the pleasures of the flesh. She lusted after power, lusted after crowns and thrones and dozens of men and women kneeling before her. Kazalibad had turned his eye upon her, and saw the price of her soul, the price of unflinching loyalty. 

It was a rusted, tarnished crown, a crumbling circlet of a thing, jewels covered in dust. The crown of the first of the Caeldari kings, before the cold nation was conquered by Alberion in ages past, and long before Caeldar's rich lords seceded from the kingdom to the south. Most lords wanted riches, but Lady Cydari wanted dominion. 

"Yes, me again." Kazalibad let his true voice ring out, a deep rumble that utterly clashed with the woman's thin frame. Though it was beginning to stretch. "Have your servants draw me a bath." 

"Of course." She didn't call him Master like the rest of the acolytes did, but that was out of necessity. While hiding in someone's skin was a very effective disguise, it could be undone. 

"And call up Rin afterwards. Go find him if you don't immediately see him." Part of him enjoyed bossing her around. She scowled, a look that seemed as at home on her face as a rat in the sewer, and went off to issue the orders. "And tell him to bring me a change." She stopped, shuddered, and continued on.

Kazalibad took his time getting up to the bathchamber, but when he did, he found the water drawn and a veil of steam rising from the thing. Like most Caeldari furniture, it was oversized, fit for a bullish Kai'Draen tuskborn, and not a small human. It was perfect for him, however. Satisfied, he locked the doors. 

He undid the dress and looked at himself in the mirror. Occasionally, when wearing a skin, especially a fresher one, from the prime of life, he felt a stirring inside him. Those carnal urges, however, were a pale shadow to the desire he used to feel, back when he was mortal. Ishta'ana had seduced him a few times when he had bound himself in skin again, but once he shed it, and embraced immortality, embraced godhood, her lust had no power over him. 

The skin he wore, as he studied it, might have been a woman he would have wanted in his former, limited life. However, her fair form was rather tarnished by her sallow skin, limp and lusterless hair, and unseemly bulges around her stomach and legs where his compact form had stretched her. Either way, it would be nice to be rid of her. 

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