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Kdis bared his teeth at the clockwork mongrel that ran across his path. It was an inauspicious start to the day, and he spat to chase off the bad luck.
It was bad enough that Kdis had to play escort to Tehs today. Tehs was round-bellied, ruddy skin greased with an unguent that was rumored to be made from the rendered bodies of the dead. The rumor was false, but persisted. Tehs also had a taste for boys, and although Kdis was no longer a sprog, he had seen Tehs look more than once in his direction.
Tehs was waiting, of course, leering at Kdis as he crossed the Plaza of Justice. The House of the Carnifex was black stone, and the dais out front was rusty with the blood that had spilled across it over the years. The block was nightwood, as black as the stone, even where the axe had chipped away at it. Tehs was fondling the wood, beady eyes dark with things Kdis did not care to name.
"Hello, pretty." Tehs slurred his words, and Kdis tried not to sigh aloud. Tehs had chewed karrak again. Dangerous, given what Tehs knew, and what Kdis was.
"Lord Carnifex." Kdis kept his voice flat, refusing to be baited into reaction. He checked the timekeeper on his belt, the gears whirring quietly as the sun disc moved around the dial. "Is a conveyance desired?"
"You make it sound so interesting, pretty." Tehs tittered, and Kdis struggled not to bare his teeth. The last time, Tehs had insisted Kdis pull the cabriolet, instead of the clockwork dray. Tehs had not spared the crop, and the smell of Kdis' own blood had been maddening. Kdis had been hard pressed not to turn and take the crop from Tehs, and bury it in the creature's ass. Kdis was an assassin, after all.
"But no," Tehs continued. "We do not have far to go." Kdis watched Tehs stroke the brass horns he had gotten implanted in his forehead.
"Where does the Lord Carnifex need to go?" Kdis did his best not to breathe in, but despite his best efforts, his nose wrinkled as he caught a whiff of something rancid. Did the man not bathe?
"Lead us to the Square of Scholars," Tehs said, his voice just a shade too high to be truly imperious. The only royal thing about Tehs was the cancriform symbol of the Seaborn that he was permitted to wear, as the Crown's own executioner.
Kdis nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He could feel the beady eyes as Tehs walked behind him, surprisingly light-footed for such a robust beast. The skin between Kdis' shoulders itched from the weight of that look.
When they arrived at the Square, the Seaborn Crown had assembled in all their majesty. Tehs' step faltered, and Kdis heard the fat man's breath hitch at the sight.
The Father stood, the intricate mask he wore rendering him remote and unknowable.
"Carnifex, you have failed the Crown." The Father's voice was amplified, ringing off the buildings that surrounded the Square. Not Lord, not any longer. Tehs was finished, and Kdis would be free.
"Most Sublime, how have I done so?" Tehs was sweating in earnest now, and Kdis longed for a breeze to clear his nostrils.
"Do you know this sprog?" The Father stepped aside, and one of the Crown stepped forward, masked as was custom. Kdis felt himself shiver when he saw the slight limp.
"Most Sublime, when would I have been permitted to gaze upon glory?" Tehs' voice wavered, and Kdis knew the beast had recognized the youth.
The Father's voice was loud enough to make Kdis' ears ache. "This offspring of our own blood was sent forth, unmasked and unknown, to learn of the world. By what name did you call him?"
Tehs did not answer, and Kdis smelled the acrid tang of the man's urine as he pissed himself in fear.
"Blossom." The masked youth spoke clearly, and in the silence, his voice echoed. "So you called me, as you pulled off the petals of my clothes. Your tongue tasted the nectar of my rosebud, and you filled me with your pollen. Pretty words spoken to hide ugly deeds."
"Most Sublime, it is not so," Tehs protested. "Who can attest to this?"
Kdis stepped forward, baring his teeth in triumph as he lifted the patch that covered his clockwork eye. "I watched you, monster. I saw you rip the clothes from him, and I saw you bury your pathetic cock in his innocent ass. I heard his screams, as you took him. You laughed at him when you were done, and dared him to tell anyone what had transpired."
Kdis pressed the palm of his gauntlet, the blades springing free. It was not the Father he looked to, though. When the masked youth nodded, Kdis buried the blades in Tehs' heart, twisting them savagely. "I am not your pretty, and he is not your blossom."
The unmasked youth reached for Kdis' arm, looking at the blood that had spattered above the gauntlet. Kdis shivered as the hot tongue dragged across his skin. "You were magnificent. No one's killed for me before. Will you stay by my side now?"
"Always, Majesty." Kdis looked down at the eight-legged crest of the Seaborn, golden against his skin. It was all he wore.
"If you're going to be my acknowledged lover, you can at least use my name." The youth twisted to look at Kdis, laughter in his voice. "Say it for me. The world won't end."
"Won't it?" Kdis looked at this highborn youth who had wanted him, no matter the consequences. Had he ever had a choice? Tehs had been a convenient scapegoat for innocence abandoned, and freedom was ultimately an illusion. The assassin smiled at his Seaborn master, his heart's desire. "How can I refuse you, sweet Saipio?"
The youth pulled a willing Kdis closer. "That's better, my pretty. Much better."
(For anyone who cares, the prompt words were: cabriolet, cancriform, and carnifex.)