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Infinity Blade: Awakening (Page 15)

“Q.I.P.,” TEL said. “Quantum Identity Pattern. The individual quantum signature inherent in every sentient being, as related to his or her ancestors. It is similar to, but completely separate from, a person’s physical DNA.”

“Their what?”

“I believe,” TEL said, “that you lack the proper scientific understanding for this conversation to proceed with specific details. A simpler explanation is in order. Your Q.I.P. is what you might call your soul. Yours is individual to you, but is separate from your physical form.”

“And it’s related to my ancestors?”

“Indeed,” TEL said. “A person’s descendants will have a Q.I.P.—a soul—that manifests their parentage.”

“So this sword drains souls,” Siris said. “And it needs to drain enough of them from my… my bloodline, is it? From my bloodline before its powers manifest.”

“That is an extremely simplified way of explaining it,” TEL said, sounding displeased. “It speaks nothing of Q.I.P. alignment—indeed, it speaks nothing of science at all! But for an ignorant peasant, it will do.”

“The God King was hunting my family,” Siris said, mostly to himself. “He wanted my bloodline specifically. He baited us, created the idea of Sacrifices so that we’d come to him and die by his sword. But what is it about my family that is special?”

“I’m afraid I cannot answer that question, as it would conflict with my orders.”

“I didn’t mean it for you,” Siris said, though he was interested to hear that TEL had been ordered not to speak of Siris’s family specifically. It confirmed a growing suspicion he had that TEL had been sent by the God King to spy on Siris.

Every step I go, I’m surrounded by people who would betray me if given half a chance. That made him worry again about Isa. He checked the horizon; the sun was nearly down. Time to set up camp.

He chose the location as best he could. He found a place where some fallen leaves made the ground soft. He spread out Isa’s coat—which he’d fetched from the river—to catch a few last rays of sunlight and hopefully dry off.

TEL set her down in a nook beside some rocks. Siris dealt with the horse—the thing only managed to get one good bite in—and brought back the saddle blanket for Isa. He knelt beside her, touching her hand. It was clammy and frigid. “She’s so cold.”

“Indeed,” TEL said, settling down his rock body. He leaned back against some of the bamboo, and the grain of the wood spread across the stones of his shoulders. His body collapsed, the stones becoming chunks of wood, and the puppetlike wooden version of TEL broke from the center of one, cracking out of it like a chicken from an egg.

“Flesh bodies are notoriously poor at dealing with extremes in temperature,” TEL said, shaking his head as if at the shame of it. “She will need warmth for the night, or she will likely not survive.”

Siris looked at the unconscious Isa. Maybe if he held her . . .

“A fire would be preferable,” TEL added, “particularly with this dampness.” The golem sounded amused.

“Right. Of course.” Siris could make a fire, couldn’t he? He gathered some wood, but everything was sodden to its innards. He dug in the saddlebags—they were crafted in a way to keep the water out—and came up with some tinder and straw.

An hour of frustration later, he still didn’t have any fire. He could get something started, but the wood around him was just too wet, and the occasional drizzle didn’t help either, though he’d created shelter as best he could by draping a blanket on some bamboo stalks over the fire.

He knelt in frustration over the makeshift firepit, feeling completely useless. TEL sat to the side, silent and motionless, like a wooden statue. TEL didn’t seem to mind the rain—and had explained, regretfully, that he had no skill in fire building. It wasn’t “part of his designated parameters,” whatever that meant. Neither was fighting, which explained why a creature that could craft a body for itself out of stone had cowered before those daerils.

“I’ve been a fool,” Siris said.

“For what purpose?”

“It wasn’t intentional,” Siris said. “I thought, all those years practicing, that only one thing would matter in my life. Fighting the God King. That was everything. Now, here I am, as helpless as a three-year-old when practically anyone else from Drem’s Maw would have been able to start this fire.”

“That may be true,” TEL said. “However, I doubt seriously that anyone else from your town would have been able to perform the Patterns of True Swordsmanship.”

So he knows what it was I did, Siris thought. He kept that in the back of his mind—along with a healthy distrust of this creature—but didn’t have time to focus on either right now. Was Isa’s breathing more shallow?

He would find a way out of this. There had to be a way. He fished in his pocket, pulling out a handful of rings. He held one of them up, one of the very first he had found. It generated blasts of fire. Like most of the others, it had stopped working soon after he killed the God King.

“TEL, can you tell me why this ring stopped functioning?”

“I would guess,” TEL said, “that it was set for local power, and something disrupted the source of energy.”

“Can I set it to work out here?”

“It depends on the ring,” TEL said. “If you wanted to make it function, you would probably need a similar source of energy to what it creates. Then it could draw on that and transport it to you.”

Siris turned the ring over in his fingers, and—for the first time—noticed something on the inside. A piece was designed to come off, a tiny shard. About half the size of his smallest fingernail, it reminded him of the disc that was paired with the ring that summoned the sword.

Draw on a similar type of energy, he thought, and transport it to you. They were actually very similar, this ring and the transportation one.

“I need something hot,” Siris said.

“Might I note,” TEL said, “if we had something hot, would that not solve our problem in and of itself?”

Siris looked down at the metal disc, then grasped it in his hand. He took a deep breath, putting the ring on his other hand.

TEL stood up. “Oh, oh dear. No, no, no. That is a bad idea, BAD. You don’t have enough heat inside of you to start a fire. I’m sorry. Ninety-eight-point-six, across a hundred and eighty pounds of flesh. Oh, you’ll get a burst of flame, but you’ll be dead at the end of it. Please, do not, do not, do not—”

“Fine,” Siris said, holding up a hand to TEL. “I won’t. But I’ve got to find something warm to use.”

He looked right at the horse.

“Still not hot enough,” TEL noted.

That was almost a pity. But what… The steam vents, Siris thought. Isa said they were all around out here. Had he smelled some on the march here from the river?

Dared he leave Isa with this thing? “I command you not to harm her,” he said to TEL.

“I wouldn’t have anyway.”

“Stay here. Watch over her.”

“As you command.”

He almost ordered the thing away. But what good would that do? If it went to report, Siris would be discovered. If it remained here, he might find a way to control it.

Siris turned back the way they’d gone, and started jogging. It was a difficult run. They’d walked some four hours since the river. He’d noticed the scent somewhere about halfway through that time.

It grew dark. He ran on, pushing through patches of bamboo and across open meadows. Was he going the right way? What if . . .

There!

He found the vents tucked up against the side of a rockfall beside a hill. These ones were slim, and didn’t give off much heat—certainly less than he’d hoped. Still, the cracks seemed deep, and the scent of sulfur was strong.

He dropped the metal disc down the one that seemed the deepest, then turned and ran back the way he’d come. A half hour later, puffing—wheezing—he reached the camp, though he’d had to call out to TEL to find it. The sky was nearly pitch black.

Siris ducked under the damp blanket stretched between stands of bamboo. He knelt beside the firepit, pushing the ring farther onto his finger. He held out his hand, palm forward, trying to summon the heat.

He felt nothing at first. Then, with relief, he felt a faint warmth around his finger. The ring made a clicking sound, then buzzed.

A blast of flame erupted from his palm. Its coming was so sudden, he almost jerked back. The fire blazed forward and covered the entire firepit. Steam hissed, wood popped. Siris had to turn his face away.

With focus, he took the heat down from an inferno to a careful bake; better to dry the wood than turn everything in the camp to ash. The heat continued for a good count of a hundred before the ring buzzed, its energy expended.

Siris lowered his hand and looked at what he’d done. The wood was singed, and some of it smoldered, flames growing. He nurtured these, and in minutes he had a satisfying fire. He positioned Isa beside it with the blanket over her back, her head resting on some wadded-up clothing.

Finally, Siris sat back against the rocks, rain falling lightly on his head. There wasn’t room under the blanket for him, with the fire and Isa. He exhaled softly.

“Where did you did find a source of such heat?” TEL asked. The golem sat in the rain as well.

“Some cracks in the ground,” Siris said. “Isa said they were common in this area.”

“Ah . . .” TEL said. “Yes, yes. Very clever. Hopefully you didn’t melt the transmittance disc by tossing it into lava! But I suppose those can be replaced.”

Siris wrapped his cloak around himself, the one Isa had given him on that first day. “You’ll now tell me everything you know about… what was it you said? The Patterns of True Swordsmanship?”

“They are of ancient date,” TEL said. “The most accomplished art of a warrior, a unity between sword and body. Some Deathless claim it took them centuries of practice to master them. Mortals aren’t supposed to be able to grasp them in their short lifetimes.”

For some reason, Siris felt colder.

“They are intended,” TEL continued, “to be used in fighting multiple opponents of inferior skill. The Deathless developed them so that one of them could stand against many; indeed, they are next to useless in a formal two-combatant duel. One could argue that the formal duel rose out of so many Deathless being accomplished at the True Patterns.”

“So how do I know them?” Siris asked.

“I cannot answer that.”

Siris was quiet for a time, listening the rain beat softly against the leaves. “I’m a descendant of one of the Deathless, aren’t I?”

TEL gave no reply.

“I can use their machinery. That’s what Isa meant—she can’t use the rings because her soul, her Q.I.P., doesn’t connect her to the Deathless. Mine does. I can do things I shouldn’t be able to because of my lineage. That’s why the God King was hunting us, because of our heritage.”

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