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Infinity Blade: Awakening (Page 9)

“I did. You seem to have been intending to, in some way.”

Isa didn’t respond.

“The Worker made the Infinity Blade,” Siris said, though he had gotten that information from Kuuth. Could he trust anything that troll had told him?

The God King told him to answer my questions. Why?

“Yes, it’s said the blade is the Worker’s creation,” Isa replied, which shocked him. She did know about it. Or was she playing along?

Terrors, he thought. What am I doing? I can’t handle this. All I know how to do is kill people. It appeared he couldn’t even do that properly.

“The Worker of Secrets,” Isa said thoughtfully. “Ancient enemy of the Deathless, trapped in a prison where time does not pass—his punishment for making a forbidden weapon.”

“What do you know, Isa?” he said, pointing at her. “What do you really know about all of this?”

“Not as much as it seems,” she said lightly. “And certainly not where the Worker is imprisoned, if he even exists.”

“You said you can take me anywhere.”

“Anyplace not mythical, whiskers,” she said skeptically, folding her arms. “I think the Worker is probably a rumor spread among the Deathless to cover up the true origins of the Infinity Blade.”

“Well, we have to go somewhere,” Siris said, looking back at the castle. It seemed hollow and empty. A throne without a king. “Let’s get moving, for now. I’ll… I’ll think about what to do.”

Isa shrugged, then started down the path. He followed, hoping he didn’t look as uncertain as he felt.

I’M A CHILD, Siris thought. A child playing at games only the adults understand.

He trudged along the road, his armor heavy in his pack. Isa, it turned out, had a horse—a luxury that nobody in Drem’s Maw had been able to afford. She clomped along the road behind him, humming a tune softly to herself, wearing a narrow hat with a wide brim to keep off the sun.

He’d always wanted to ride a horse. What would it be like? He shook his head, trying to force his thoughts away from that path. The world was crumbling. What did horses matter?

And yet, a piece of him still struggled to discover itself. He wanted to live, to thrive. He wanted to know things, be things, experience things. He’d always denied himself the slightest bit of pleasure, worried that if he tasted the life of a real person, he’d develop a hunger for it.

He’d been right. He’d tasted it now. He was ruined.

And he was happy for it.

Perhaps Isa would help him achieve that; perhaps not. It seemed terribly convenient that she would arrive, decide not to kill him, and now offer to take him wherever he wanted to go. There had been no discussion of price. Probably because they both knew her leading him was merely an excuse for her to stay near the Infinity Blade, and perhaps get a chance to snatch it.

I should ditch her, he thought. Go on alone.

Go where?

Into hiding? He could make his way into the mountains, alone, live off the land… only, he had never learned how to do something like that. Beyond that, what good would it do to hide with the Infinity Blade? Potentially the only weapon humankind had for fighting back against the Deathless?

I need to find people who are fighting back. Give the sword to them.

The Worker of Secrets, if he existed, would be a place to start. If not him, then some other rebellious group. Surely something like that existed.

“You realize that this looks odd,” Isa noted.

He looked up at her, frowning.

“Me riding,” she explained, “and you walking like that. It looks unusual. I assume you want to be… what is the word in your language? Inconspicuous?”

Was she going to invite him to ride with her? The prospect of being that close to her made him wary, and he glanced at the knives on her belt. He also found himself intrigued by the prospect of being that close to her, however, and he tried to quash the emotion.

She tried to kill you, he reminded himself. And will probably try again.

Still, it would be nice to try riding a horse.

“Yes, this is not very inconspicuous,” she said, looking at him appraisingly, “not with a weapon like that. You could be my guard, but anyone we pass is going to wonder why a woman in simple leathers can afford a guard. I don’t look like a merchant—and there are no wares besides—but I’m certainly not going to pass as one of the Devoted or the Favored.”

“I don’t suppose you have a fancy dress tucked away in your saddlebags?” Siris asked.

She raised an eyebrow at him, looking highly amused.

“I guess not,” he said.

“Assuming you want to travel incognizant,” she said, “we need to do something about the sword.”

“Wait, incognizant?”

“Wrong word? In… I swear there was one.”

“Incognito?”

“Yes, that’s it. What a stupid language. Anyway, if you want to travel incognito, we need to do something about that sword.” She made a great show of thinking it over, then sighed loudly. “Guess you’ll just have to let me tie the sword to the saddle up here, where I can cover it with a blanket.”

“You really think I’m that stupid?”

She just chuckled, reaching into her saddlebags. “Merely trying to measure your stupidity, whiskers. You soldier types get knocked upside the head frequently. Who knows how forgetful you might become?” She pulled something out and tossed it to him. A cloak, nicer than the one he’d used to pack up his armor. “Tie that on, let it drape over your left side. Maybe it will hide the weapon well enough to turn aside questioning eyes.”

He lifted up the cloak, looking at it carefully, wary of some kind of trap.

“I sewed deathfang spiders into the collar,” she said dryly.

“Just being cautious,” Siris said, throwing on the cloak, letting it fall as she’d described. It did an acceptable job of hiding the sword. “Thanks.”

They walked a little farther along the dusty trail. It wasn’t really a road. In another part of the countryside, it would have become overgrown long ago. Here, where the weather was hot and the terrain was stony, there wasn’t enough life to overgrow anything.

Siris trudged along beside the horse, his armor feeling like bricks on his back, trails of sweat making their way leisurely down the sides of his cheeks.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Isa asked.

“Beautiful?”

“The rock formations,” she said, nodding to the side. The ground there fell away into a series of gullies, then rose sharply in a ripple that exposed lines of strata shaded red, yellow, brown, orange. “I’ve always loved this part of the island.”

“Island?” Siris said. “We live on an island?”

“A big one,” Isa said, sounding amused. “But yes, Lantimor certainly isn’t a continent. You could ride from one end to another in about a month.”

“Lantimor,” he said, working the word over in his mouth. Someone else’s name for where he lived. Names like that belonged to the Deathless. Everyone he knew just called it the land or the area.

“So naive,” Isa said, mostly under her breath. She probably didn’t realize he’d heard.

He kept his eyes forward, trying not to let her words dig at him. He didn’t care if he was naive. He didn’t. Really.

I’ll show her naive. I’ll show her what it’s like to know truths. Pain like the world crumbling, shame like it might consume you, guilt like a sky of lead . . .

He stilled himself, hand shaking on the hilt of the Infinity Blade. The sweat beads on the sides of his face grew larger.

“Did you really best him?” Isa asked. “In a duel?”

“The God King? Yes. For all the good it did. He isn’t dead.”

Isa pursed her lips.

“What?” Siris asked.

“Raidriar—you call him the God King—is said to be among the greatest duelists of the Deathless.”

“It was part luck,” Siris said. “Any duel is. A dodge at the last moment, an attack in the right opening. He was good; better than any I’d faced.”

She shook her head. “You don’t understand. Raidriar is thousands of years old, whiskers. Thousands upon thousands. You think he hasn’t faced skilled opponents before? He has. Hundreds of them—many of them Deathless who have lived, and trained, as long as he has. And you say that you beat him.”

“What? You think I found this sword sitting in the midden heap or something?”

“No. But a shot with the crossbow to the back could work. It wouldn’t kill him, but it might knock him out for a little while, let you steal the blade. Hell, hit a Deathless with enough destruction, and they’ll need to grow a new body. Cut off his head while he sleeps, then take his sword, get out before he comes back . . .”

“I fight with the Aegis Forms,” Siris snapped, hand growing tight on the sword hilt. “I follow the ancient ideal. If a man faces me with honor, I will return it.”

“Might as well have thrown that in the midden heap,” Isa muttered. “That’s where it belongs.”

Siris said nothing. You couldn’t explain the Aegis Forms to someone who didn’t understand, who didn’t want to understand. When he and the God King had fought, they’d shared something. They’d set out to kill one another, and on one level, they had hated one another. But there had been respect too. As warriors who followed the ancient ideal.

Of course… as he considered it, the God King had known that he wasn’t fighting for his life. Immortality would make it a whole lot easier to follow the Aegis Forms.

Before talking to the minions in the castle, he hadn’t even known that Deathless could restore themselves to life. He’d known the God King had lived a long time, but had figured a sword in the gut would end any man, no matter how old he was.

Naive. Yes, she was probably right.

“You didn’t seem surprised to find that he wasn’t truly dead,” Siris said. “You seem to know a lot about them.”

“I stumbled upon one of their rebirthing chambers once,” she said absently. “It was an… educational experience. So, where’d you get that healing ring?”

Siris snorted. “You acted so surprised at my beard. You knew all along, didn’t you?”

“I’m good at connecting facts,” she said. Which wasn’t really an answer to his question. “Where did you find it?”

“It belonged to the God King,” Siris said. “I found others, though. On the bodies of the guards I fought. I’ve got a few of them in my pouch.”

“Huh,” she said, thoughtful.

“What?”

“Did the guards ever use the rings against you?” she asked. “To heal themselves?”

“No,” he said. “Actually, they didn’t.” He considered for a moment. “Usually when I found one, it was hung by a strap around their neck, or kept in their pouch. That makes sense for the trolls, who couldn’t fit them on their fingers. But a few of the guards I fought were ordinary men, knights or Devoted who served the God King.”

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