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Infinity Blade: Awakening (Page 8)

“Well, I know that someone seems to want that sword badly,” Isa replied. “They sent those golems to get it. It must be important.”

He raised the razor to his skin. “Nice lie. You came here for the sword specifically, didn’t you?”

Isa sat primly, giving no reply.

“Well?” he asked.

“Give it to me,” she said, “and I’ll spread a rumor that I killed you and took it. They’ll believe me. You’ll be free to go back to your simple life.”

“What makes you think I want a simple life?”

“You’re the son of a farmer or something, whiskers. It comes with the package.”

Siris washed off the razor, keeping a close eye on her in the mirror’s reflection. Would she take the crossbow to him again? So far she hadn’t, though he did catch her slipping a fine hand mirror into her pouch.

“You have your vengeance,” she continued. “The God King is dead by your hands.”

“So you believe me on that now?” he said dryly.

“Sure. Why not? You have a bit of a godslayer look to you.” She was eyeing his chest in the mirror, smiling appraisingly to herself. He resisted the urge to grab his shirt and throw it on. Being leered at was an… unfamiliar experience.

Nobody should look at me like that, he thought. I should teach her, show her, make her bow. I—

He cut off that line of thought, razor frozen at his cheek. Where had those impulses come from?

“Look,” Isa said, rising, strolling toward him. “So you’ve done it. You killed the God King. Congratulations. You do realize that now every Deathless in the world is going to come hunting you for that blade, don’t you?”

He said nothing.

“Don’t you want to be done with this?” she asked. “Go back to your family and friends, Siris. Go be their hero. I’ll take the sword and lay down a false trail. Nobody will think to connect you—and the ones you love back home—to the man who slew the God King and stole his riches.”

“I already tried going back,” he said softly.

She frowned at him.

Still, her offer was tempting. At the very least, he could go make a new life somewhere. Perhaps visit his mother occasionally, once he was certain that he wasn’t being hunted. Of course, to do so he would have to trust this woman—a woman who had tried to kill him.

It would also mean giving away this weapon, the only weapon that could fight the Deathless. That made him hesitate, which made him feel like a fool. He’d come to this castle seeking freedom, hadn’t he? This was a great chance for that.

I do want freedom, he told himself. But I’m not going to take it until I’m certain I’m not damning humankind by giving away our one path to salvation.

In the end, he needed to be able to face his mother with a clean conscience. So, as he shaved, he quietly revised his goals. He would find freedom, would find someplace anonymous to hide, but only after he had properly disposed of this weapon. Perhaps delivered it into the hands of someone he trusted to use it to fight.

Isa took a step toward the sword. Siris snatched it by reflex, dropping the razor to the basin with a clatter.

“Touchy,” she noted, then reached past him—and the sword—to pick up what appeared to be a soap dish made entirely of silver. The motion put her close to him. Close enough that he readied himself to slap her hand if she tried to knife him in the gut.

She stepped back and held the soap dish up to the light. Her scent lingered close to him. No perfume. She smelled of leather and of wax. Good smells.

She dropped the dish into her pouch.

“Looting?” he said. “You’re nothing but a common thief.”

Isa slung her crossbow over her shoulder—she wore it on a strap, like an over-arm pack. “Hardly.”

“Then what are you?” Siris asked, genuinely curious.

“A person who gets things done,” she replied, turning and walking toward the exit.

“For a price, I assume.”

“There’s always a price,” she said. “Thing is, if you’re lucky, someone else ends up paying it for you. I’m going to go wait down below until you decide to hire me.”

She turned to leave.

“Wait. What did you just say?”

She looked back at him. “Well, it doesn’t look like you’re going to let me take the blade—”

“I’ll die before you lay hands on it.”

“I don’t doubt that’s true,” she said, a twinkle to her eye. “Answer something for me. How did you find your way to this castle?”

“Everyone knows where it is. You just keep following the river until you reach the cliffs.”

“And I assume that before coming here, you hadn’t ever left your little town?”

“Why would I have needed to?”

She just smiled. “I know where everything is—everything—and I can get you wherever you want to go. Keep that in mind as you contemplate sitting here, in a castle everyone knows how to find, holding a weapon that everyone wants.”

She strode out the door.

What a strange woman, Siris thought, holding the Infinity Blade close. Her last words lingered with him. In a castle everyone knows how to find… a weapon everyone wants . . .

After a moment of consideration, he went looking for Strix.

“GREAT MASTER,” Strix said from beside the broken throne. “It is so wonderful to see you well. The golems’ attack did not harm you greatly, did it?”

Siris didn’t reply at first. He walked around the throne, feet crunching on bits of broken marble. He’d found the yellow-faced daeril poking and prodding at the God King’s broken seat, ostensibly trying to fix it.

Siris rounded the throne and stepped up to the daeril. Siris regarded Strix for a moment, then grabbed the gaunt daeril by the throat, hauling him up and slamming him back against the remnants of the side of the throne. He held the Infinity Blade in his other hand.

The daeril’s black eyes bugged out, and he tried to gasp for breath. “Great… master… Why … ?”

“Who is it you serve?”

The daeril’s eyes grew more panicked. “Master… I… of course I serve you . . .”

“You are a smart one, Strix,” Siris said. “You know that it’s dangerous to be found here. The other Deathless will slaughter you for what you know of the God King’s death. I can understand why Kuuth stayed; he doesn’t care about life. But you? You stayed for a reason.”

The daeril struggled, eyes widening.

Siris tightened his grip.

“Who do you serve?” Siris demanded.

Something crunched behind him.

Siris spun without thinking, the Infinity Blade lashing out. He’d intended to behead the person sneaking up on him. Instead, he sliced through his 15-foot-tall opponent’s stomach.

Kuuth, the blind troll, stumbled back, blood dribbling down his waist. His large, treelike staff clattered to the floor. He’d been about to smash Siris across the head.

“Hell take me!” Siris yelled. Traitors! Kill them both! Bring them pain. Make them fear.

He spun on Strix and drove the Infinity Blade into the stone of the throne, just beside the creature’s head. “What,” Siris bellowed, “is going on?”

“Do not blame Strix, warrior,” Kuuth said in his rumbling voice. The aged troll gasped in pain, then went down on his knees. “He did as I instructed him.”

“Kuuth,” Siris said, turning. The dying troll toppled onto his side. “Why . . .”

“We serve our master, warrior,” Kuuth said, voice growing softer. “It is… what we were created… to do . . .”

“Your master is dead!”

Kuuth fell still.

Siris spun on the quivering daeril beside the throne. Strix shrank down farther.

Kuuth had tried to get him to stay in the palace. That must have been what the entire conversation had been intended to do. Make him trust the troll, make him agree to remain behind. Where he could be found.

Siris leaned in. “What. Did. He. Mean?”

“The Infinity Blade doesn’t work yet,” Strix said, cowering. “The God King was preparing it with the souls of your bloodline! He thought killing you would be the last step. But he didn’t kill you. He—”

He fell to me, Siris thought.

Which meant… if the sword didn’t work yet . . .

The God King is still alive. He knows where I am.

Oh, hell.

Siris stumbled back, pulling the Infinity Blade from the stone and clutching it. Strix rubbed his neck, standing up and coughing. “He’ll come for you soon,” Strix said, hatred in his eyes. “I don’t know why he let you defeat him, or why he ordered Kuuth to answer your questions. But this is all part of his plan. Everything is always part of his plan.”

Siris longed to strike the daeril down, but he stopped himself. There had been a time he’d fought only when someone challenged him. Where had this bloodthirst come from?

The sword, he thought. It’s corrupting me. I can’t even use it, and it’s corrupting me.

He stumbled back farther, and Strix laughed. “Flee. He will find you, human. He will reclaim what is his, and you will come to learn—as your ancestors learned—the price of defiance!”

Clutching the Infinity Blade, Siris fled.

Chapter Four

TRUE TO HER WORD, Isa was lounging outside when Siris burst from the castle’s outer court gate. She tucked a book into the pocket of her long coat and slung her crossbow over her shoulder. “So, where are we going?”

“The God King is alive,” Siris said, panting. He’d gathered his armor and regrown his shield, though he hadn’t taken the time to don the armor. He had it tied in his cloak, slung over his shoulder, and wore the Infinity Blade at his side in the improvised sheath that didn’t fit it very well.

“Well, he is immortal,” Isa said. “People like that have a tendency toward, you know, not dying.”

This upended everything. He hadn’t won. He’d failed.

“I need to find a way to make the Infinity Blade function,” Siris explained. “It . . .” He stopped. Telling her that the God King had planned to make it work by killing Siris didn’t seem particularly wise. In fact, telling her anything didn’t seem particularly wise.

But he was alone, ignorant, and running low on options. Isa seemed to know it, for she was watching him with a sly smile.

Siris took a deep breath. “You said you know how to get everywhere. So . . .”

“‘Making the Infinity Blade work’ isn’t a place, whiskers.”

“I need to find someone to help me. Maybe someone to take the sword off my hands. Can you find the Worker of Secrets?”

Isa froze, and he felt a sliver of satisfaction—through the anxiety—at having finally said something that surprised her. “The Worker of Secrets is a myth,” she said. “Pure fabrication. Nobody fights back against the Deathless. Nobody.”

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