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Infinity Blade: Redemption (Page 11)

He held up the scout reports and forced himself to study the facts they showed. A crumbling empire, a Deathless who didn’t seem to care about ruling.

He could play, he could eat, but he couldn’t let those activities only define him. He had work to do. So what was the Worker doing? What could Siris learn from his actions?

On one hand, Siris was pleased to see the Worker so obviously distracted. It gave Siris’s rebellion a chance. They might be able to gain enough momentum, raise support among the people. Perhaps by the time the Worker realized what had happened, there would be no stopping them. Deathless were immortal, yes, but they still fell in combat. They could be pulled down by a half-dozen soldiers, forced to reincarnate. They could be bound, held captive. They could be defeated, even if they couldn’t be killed.

They were not nearly as dominant as the people believed. Fear and tradition kept the people in check more than anything else.

So Siris was happy to see this chance. But it also worried him. If the Worker of Secrets wasn’t focused on administering and ruling his empire, then what was he doing? And just how much should Siris fear it?

Wait a moment . . . Siris hesitated on a page, which was a map stolen by one of the people who had fled the Deathless. Siris held it up, noting the list—written in old Deathless script—of what the facility contained. One item on the list struck him.

He then flipped through the stack of papers, searching out a list of the God King’s strongholds that Lux had described. Underneath each one was a scout report on its particular defenses. Lux had planned to attack one of these next, to steal weapons, rings, equipment—but she had hesitated, worried about retaliation.

The facility that Siris had noticed was isolated, infrequently supplied. It seemed to have been completely forgotten by the Worker. Could he really have left something so important unguarded?

This facility . . . Siris thought, instantly understanding the implications. This is what we need.

The Dark Self moved within him. Siris felt a chill. It wanted to go here. Wanted that facility, and badly.

A knock came on the door. Siris lowered the papers quickly, startled, ashamed—though he doubted anyone else in the valley could read the symbols on this particular map.

Isa stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame. She still wore her leathers, as if for fighting, her arms folded, hair in a simple tail. She always seemed ready to take off in a moment, prepared—even anxious—to be on her way. Settling down here, taking charge, must have been very difficult for her.

“Well?” she asked.

“It’s a mess,” Siris said with a grimace, waving his hand over the piles of notes.

“I meant the pie.”

“Oh.” He looked at the empty plate. “Well, it all kind of . . . vanished.” He scratched at the side of his head. “I might need another one to really make a determination.”

Isa snorted, strolling into the room, coming to look over his shoulder at the papers he’d been studying.

“What you told me about the army is true,” he said with a sigh. “Our soldiers are a determined group, but we have a long way to go before we can become a realistic threat to the Deathless.”

“Yeah,” she said, speaking softly.

“If we’re going to grow this rebellion,” Siris said, “you and I will be doing a lot of the work. I’ll need you to infiltrate, gather information, pry secrets from Deathless hands.”

“Good,” she said. “That’s a whole lot more appealing than acting as a nursemaid to this lot. They come to me asking about everything. Hell take me . . . if I have to listen to one more man whine about his bunkmate snoring, I’m seriously going to start stabbing something.”

She settled down at the table to his right, crossing her arms on top of the stack of maps.

“You really think we can do this?” he asked. “Lead a rebellion? Change the world?”

“No,” she said. “But I think you can.”

He settled back. “You’re not starting to believe your own stories, are you? Me slaying dragons, rescuing thousands of people, murdering Deathless while swinging on ropes from palace to palace . . .”

She smiled. “No. But I’ve seen you with them, Siris. You are a leader. A real leader.”

The Dark Self stirred, and Siris felt satisfaction from it. It knew. It knew he needed it.

No. He knew. He had to stop thinking of it as a different thing from himself. The Dark Self was him, not some alien thing. For all he wanted to play with children and eat pies, that wouldn’t save his people. Getting to this facility on the paper in front of him . . . that would give him a chance.

“I guess the greater truth is,” Isa said, “it’s not important if we win or not.”

He looked up at her.

“Something has to change, Siris,” she said. “The world, the people in it . . . Well, sitting around with my nose in a mug, not looking at anything happening around me—that’s not working for me anymore. So we’re going to fight instead. You’re going to lead, and I’m going to . . . well, do whatever the hell it is I do.”

Siris nodded, meeting her eyes. “You’ve changed.”

“It’s been over two years.” She looked back at him, defiant at first, but then relaxing. He found himself remembering the days—short though they had been—that he’d spent with her. Days he had sincerely enjoyed.

Her hands rested a few inches from his own. She moved one closer to his.

“I’ve changed too,” he warned. “Those years in the prison, they were . . . difficult.”

“I can believe it. I wasn’t expecting things to just pick up where they left off. Hell, you’re still Deathless, and . . . Well, what I did wasn’t about us. Not entirely, at least. It was as much about those people down below.”

“Thank you,” Siris said, resting his hand on hers. “Thank you for coming for me. You don’t know what being trapped in there was doing to me, Isa. I don’t care about your reasons. Just . . . thank you.”

She nodded.

“There’s a problem, though. I’m not good at leadership.”

“Sure you are. They—”

“I’m not, Isa. I grew up isolated, treated as a doomed Sacrifice, forced to practice swordsmanship instead of spending time with others my age. I know nothing about leadership.”

She frowned.

“Everything I know about being a leader,” he said, “comes from somewhere else. Other instincts. Not me—or at least, not the me I want to encourage. If I’m to lead here, I’m going to be relying upon the methods of our enemies.”

“We can’t fight a war with brave songs and good intentions, Siris. You’re our weapon. They forged you, yes, but we can use that.” She hesitated. “And I trust you.”

Hell take me . . . He met her eyes again. Then, making a decision, he slipped a paper off the stack—the map with the facility he’d been looking at earlier.

“Then we’re going to strike here,” he said. “How soon can the men be ready?”

“Immediately.”

CHAPTER TWELVE

LESS THAN a week later, Siris crept along the shelf of rock, following Isa and two members of her strike team. He tried not to look over the ledge’s side to his left, or at the sheer drop there.

He wasn’t certain what would happen if he died falling off that cliff. He couldn’t awaken at the rebirthing chamber near Saydhi’s lands, the place where Isa had taken him over two years ago. That had been destroyed by the Worker.

Perhaps his soul would find another rebirthing chamber. More likely, he’d end up lying broken on those rocks below until his Deathless body regenerated and he woke up. But a third possibility worried him more than the other two—the possibility that he’d be reborn as a child again, as he’d done so many times during his centuries as the Sacrifice. He had grown accustomed to—though not particularly comfortable with—this life as a Deathless. Losing his memory again, his identity, frightened him.

It frightened the Dark Self even more.

Isa held up a gloved hand ahead, and the team stopped. The two other men with them—Isa had introduced them as Dynn and Terr, expert scouts—were as silent as she was. Siris was amazed at how they could move without their steps making sounds on the rock.

Siris wasn’t as good as they, but fortunately he wasn’t some lumbering lout either. Apparently, Ausar had been reasonably accomplished at stealth. Perhaps thousands upon thousands of years of life left one reasonably accomplished at just about everything.

Isa moved on ahead alone, leaving Siris with Dynn and Terr, all three crouching on the ledge. A cool wind gusted over them, and Siris settled himself to wait, one gloved hand against the mountainside to his right, the other gripping the edge of the pathway to his left. He could feel the sharp rock of the ledge through his glove; the thing felt frail to be supporting all four of them.

Their week of travel had brought them high in the mountains, away from what passed for civilization in the God King’s lands. Siris’s breath puffed in front of him. He wore his helm strapped to his back, and was clothed in supple leathers with a tight chain shirt. The bulk of their raiding force—almost a hundred strong—waited below with Lux, closer to the front of the stronghold. Hopefully, traveling at night and eschewing cookfires had allowed them to approach unnoticed.

The sky was starting to dim; they would attack at dusk, as Lux had suggested. It would be light enough for his troops not to need torches, but late enough in the day that the guards might be drowsy from long hours on duty.

As they waited for Isa to return, Terr turned to Siris. Lanky and mostly bald, he had an oval face and an angular nose. He wore assault armor, tight chain and a breastplate, manufactured light and strong, Deathless style.

Terr looked Siris up and down. These two scouts had spent most of the trip scouting ahead. “You really don’t look like much, you know,” Terr said softly. “Without the helm. Just a regular guy.”

“Thank you,” Siris said.

Terr cocked an eyebrow. Not the answer he’d been expecting, apparently.

“Is it boring?” Terr asked.

“What? Waiting?”

“No. Life. Being thousands of years old. Doesn’t it get dull, after a while?”

“I don’t remember any of it,” Siris said.

“Nothing?”

Siris shook his head. “Not before this life.”

“A Deathless with no experience. What good are you, then?”

“Draw your sword and I’ll show you.”

“Hush, you two,” Dynn said, glancing back at them. He immediately blushed. “I mean, hush, Terr. And Lord Deathless, if you don’t mind.”

Siris smiled at the way Terr rolled his eyes; there seemed a familiarity between the two of them. Brothers, he decided, though they didn’t share much family resemblance.

Isa prowled back to them. “No guards on our direct path,” she said. “But be careful anyway. They have guards on the tops of the fortress, and the Deathless like to set daeril guards hiding in the least expected of places.”

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