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Infinity Blade: Awakening (Page 19)

“Of course you did,” Siris said. “No lies. You know what I am. You sought out my lineage.”

“Oh, I know what you are,” the God King said, a smile to his voice. “Though I’m more and more certain that you do not. I do wish I knew who sent that transgolem to spy on you.”

A large portion of the ground cracked near the building, and a rectangular chamber rose from beneath. A group of knights in black strode out, surrounding the building. One carried a cloth-wrapped bundle over to the God King, who reached into it and took out the Infinity Blade.

“Thank you for returning this to me,” he said to Siris. “I’ve been worried about its safety.”

“Give me a sword,” Siris said. “Duel me!”

“I think not. You… surprised me, last time. I don’t think I’ll put myself into that position again.” The God King stepped down from the building, walking up to Siris, who couldn’t back up any farther without hitting the knights.

“What of honor?” Siris demanded.

“There are some I give honor,” the God King said, voice growing cold. “But not you, Ausar. Never you.”

“What? I fought you with honor. I killed you with honor.”

“And I do believe that was the only time in your awful life you ever showed honor to another.” The God King spoke softly, raising the blade so that the tip touched Siris’s neck.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The God King chuckled. “You really don’t, do you? Ironic. What did you do to yourself, Ausar?” He pulled the blade back to strike.

Siris spotted something moving on the other side of the court. Behind the knights, a dark figure crawled along the top of a low landscaping wall. None of the guards saw her; they were focused on him. She shouldn’t have been there.

Isa. She carried her crossbow.

She lied! Siris thought. It wasn’t that hard to fix after all! He laughed, both in horror and incredulity.

The God King hesitated, sword raised.

Isa lowered her crossbow at the God King’s back.

It won’t work, Siris thought. It won’t kill him. It probably won’t even stop him. It—

She turned the bow fractionally, so it pointed past the God King, and pulled the trigger. The bolt flew, streaking across the garden between the knights.

It hit Siris directly in the forehead.

Chapter Eight

AUSAR’S BODY JERKED with a sudden snap, then toppled back to the ground.

The God King froze. That had not been part of his plan. “What is this!” he roared, turning and pointing. A dark figure was already dashing down the pathway out of the gardens. An assassin? Had that bolt been meant for him?

He gestured, and three of his knights charged after the assassin. The God King growled. Saydhi had left her estates far too open by living in gardens like this. It was nearly impossible to create a good, defensible border.

“We leave,” he said, suddenly feeling exposed. Too much had gone wrong lately. He strode toward the lift that would take him down into the undercomplex of Saydhi’s estates.

“What of this, great master?” one of his knights said, kicking at Ausar’s fallen body.

“It is just a husk, now,” the God King said. “You may take the armor as a prize—and recover my ring for me. Burn the body.”

He walked into the lift as his knights obeyed his orders and secured the area. In the near distance, he heard hoofbeats. The assassin had a horse.

The God King was disquieted. An assassination attempt on him was meaningless, though people still tried. He’d deliberately kept the people of this island from knowing the true nature of the Deathless. So long as they thought they could kill him, they’d focus their rebellion on assassins and warriors sent to challenge him.

No, an assassination attempt wasn’t what disquieted him. What worried him, as the lift began to lower, was the chance that the bolt hadn’t been meant for him. That it had been meant for the target it had struck.

If that were the case, someone had known to kill Ausar before the God King could strike with the Infinity Blade. And that meant someone understood far more than they should.

SIRIS AWOKE with a deep gasp. It was the uncontrolled gasp of one who had been without breath for too long. The gasp of the dead returning to life.

He sat up with a jerk, something liquid and gel-like sliding from his nak*d torso. He was sitting a metal tub in a dark room, which was lit only by a few flickering red lights.

He breathed in and out, viscous goo dripping from his chin. He raised a trembling hand to feel his cheek. “Damnation,” he whispered. “I’m one of them.”

“I sat there for hours, that first night,” a voice whispered.

He turned to the side. Isa sat in the corner, on the floor, her knees up and her dark coat spread on the metallic floor around her.

“I watched you,” she said, staring straight ahead. Not at him. Not at anything, really. “I watched your chest go up and down. I sat there, counting to myself. Terrified.  You were one of them. I knew it. I’d seen you use one of their rings. I’d heard you claim to have killed the God King with his own sword. You fought like one of them, like a… a creature from another time. Too perfect to be completely human. A warrior cannot learn such skill in one lifetime. You fought like a god.”

He blinked, then wiped goo from his face. Hell take me… it can’t be true . . .

“And yet,” Isa whispered, “you’d been kind to me. I knew I should strike you down, take the sword. You were lying to me, I thought. Pretending honesty, pretending kindness, spouting all of that nonsense about a Sacrifice. You were making sport of me. Why else would one of the Deathless act as if he were a mortal?”

“I didn’t know,” Siris whispered. “I . . .”

“I was frozen,” she said, growing quieter. “Watching you lie there. What was I to do? Should I act upon the lies I knew you held close, or on the honesty I saw in your eyes? It was not an easy choice. In the depth of the night, my fears won.” She looked up and met his eyes across the small chamber. “I didn’t think it a betrayal, since you had obviously lied to me. Obviously . . .”

Siris coughed, trying to get some of the gunk out of his mouth. “I’ve lied to myself too, apparently.” He closed his eyes, raising his hands to his head, groaning.

This can not be possible.

“Do you really not remember anything?” she asked. “You’ve probably lived thousands of years.”

“All I know is my own life,” he said. “Growing up in Drem’s Maw, being told I was the Sacrifice. Seeking the God King.” He took a deep breath, in and out. “I’m just a person. Hell take me, a regular person.”

“You don’t fight like one.”

He tried to banish the thoughts that came next. Memories from his childhood. Veterans who had left the God King’s service and come to train the Sacrifice. They had whispered that Siris was too good. That he learned too quickly. By childhood, he’d been able to fight as well as any of them. By his teenage years, he’d have been named a duelmaster in any major city.

By his twentieth year, he had been good enough to defeat the God King.

… too perfect to be completely human anymore… you fought like a god . . .

“I’ve seen something in your eyes, occasionally,” she said. “A depth to them, a… change to you. Sudden flashes of arrogance.”

“The Infinity Blade,” he protested, opening his eyes. “It was corrupting me.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Why would a weapon built to free mankind, to defeat the Deathless, corrupt the one using it?”

“I . . .”

She mocks me. Kill her.

An awareness blossomed in him. Those thoughts weren’t external. They were a part of him. A real part of him.

“That’s who I was . . .” he whispered. “That’s what I used to be. One of them. Oh… Verity . . .” He could almost remember it. He banished those memories by reflex. No. He didn’t want them. He hated them.

He hated who he had been. Hated him.

“Who are you?” Isa asked.

“I wish I knew.” It was a lie. He didn’t want to know anything of that man, the one who thought the Dark Thoughts. The man who hated all things, who kept himself isolated, who acted like he ruled everyone.

The God King had named him Ausar.

Siris shook his head and started to climb out of the tank, then realized he was completely nak*d. “My clothing?”

She nodded toward a pedestal beside the tank, and didn’t even have the decency to blush. Damn Avrians. “That’s all I could find. Your own clothing was burned; I had to haul what was left of you here. You were badly burned. I peeled off what clothing was left; I didn’t know if the rebirth would work with the clothing on.”

Siris wished he had a towel. The chamber was all metal, with a few of these tubs full of goo in them. “It would have. I saw the God King’s rebirthing chamber. He had… copies of himself, fully armored, waiting for him.”

“I don’t know if you saw what you think you did.”

“It looked a lot like this,” he said. He hesitated, then climbed out on the side opposite her, keeping the large, waist-high tub between the two of them for some modesty’s sake. He began pushing the goo from his body as best he could.

“I think there’s a hose beside the tub,” she said.

She was right. The water was cold.

“I assume we’re in the chamber you visited that once?” he asked. “On the mountainside?”

“Yes.”

“You broke your promise, you know. You killed me.”

“You’d have preferred the alternative?” she snapped. “He was going to kill you. Kill you with the blade.”

Siris froze, water gushing out over his arm. She’d killed him to save him. He should have realized it before, but all of this was coming at him so quickly.

“I knew I couldn’t fight through to you,” she said. “And I didn’t know if a crossbow bolt would stop him. I didn’t know if you were… what I thought… Well, I didn’t know what to think any longer. I gambled. I do that. Father always said it was a bad habit.”

He continued washing, disturbed.

“You should be grateful,” she said. “I won’t even mention the chase I had to go through to get away from his minions. When I finally got back, they’d burned your corpse. Gathering you was not a pleasant experience—for me, or for Nams, who carried you here.

“This place seemed the best choice. I knew… well, I assumed that some of the facts I’d heard were true. If you’d been left alone, your soul would have sought out a new body. However, if your corpse is placed in one of these things, the soul will seek it instead. The tub repaired your corpse and started it breathing again, and your soul returned. It took a couple of weeks.”

“Weeks?” he said. “You’ve been waiting here with me for weeks?”

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