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Infinity Blade: Redemption (Page 14)

He realized, disturbed, that the Dark Self trusted the God King not to betray his word. Oh, he knew that Raidriar would eventually try to destroy him. But he would not violate his oath. Raidriar was an arrogant, imperious tyrant—but he also held honor in high regard. He might believe humans were beneath him, but he saw lying as even farther beneath him.

Raidriar turned, looking up the rock cliff toward Isa. “Your woman is not taking this well.”

“It might have worked better if you hadn’t interfered.”

“Oh, no need to be bitter. I suspect she’ll come around. They find us difficult to resist.”

“That’s so casually insulting I’m not going to bother responding,” Siris said, looking at Raidriar. “What is our first move?”

“We will need to create a strike team of Deathless from among those mortals you trust, then we must reclaim the Weapon.”

“You’re sure the Soulless one has it?”

“Reasonably sure,” Raidriar said, shrugging. “Either that, or it is a trap. I doubt we will know the truth unless we try.” He twisted his sword in his hand, swinging it to the side. “The Soulless will think, to an extent, that it is me. The Worker will have neutered its ability to rule, but it will try anyway. And it will be able to fight.”

“As well as you?” Siris asked.

“Likely. It hasn’t been that long.”

“That long? How does that matter?”

“You really don’t . . . Of course you don’t. You insist on basking in the ignorance with which this latest incarnation has plagued you. Bah. It is nothing but a copy of me, using the residual pattern from one of my rebirthing chambers. Its Q.I.P. will be fragmented, incomplete. Manufactured. The Soulless will have some of my memories and most of my skills and inclinations. But it will degrade over time. They live ten years at most.”

“Hell take me,” Siris said. “You mean, one of us could be one of these things, and not even know it . . .”

“Don’t be daft, Ausar,” the God King said. “You’d know. I’d know. It will know. It may be trying to pretend otherwise, but deep down, it will know what it is. You aren’t Soulless; neither am I. The difference is obvious to those who know what to look for. That is why my copy will have gone into isolation from other Deathless.” Raidriar raised his sword, looking at it thoughtfully. “You’ll need to kill it and recover the Infinity Blade. That thing is an abomination of the worst kind.”

“Why me? Why not you?”

Raidriar slipped the sword into the sheath at his side, then turned his helmed gaze toward Siris. “I have always believed,” he said, “that when one has a task that needs to be accomplished, one seeks out the best tool for the job. Distasteful though it is to admit, I do not know of anyone better suited to this task than you.”

“Killing you,” Siris said, nodding. “This why you really came for me, isn’t it? You weren’t certain you could kill the copy yourself, so you sought out an expert.”

Raidriar did not respond. He folded his arms instead. “You agree that we need the Weapon?”

“To fight the Worker? Most certainly. And you’re right—I am the one to recover it.”

Raidriar nodded.

“But not with a strike team,” Siris said. “I’ll go alone.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes. As you said, I am the right . . . tool for the job.”

Raidriar nodded.

“Aren’t you worried?” Siris asked. “What if I come back with the Blade and use it against you immediately?”

“It is a risk.”

“And?”

“Well, I am reasonably certain I can out-think you, old friend. But the Worker is a different story. If one of the two of you is to hold that weapon, I’d much prefer it be you. Besides, I suspect that once you have it, you’ll give it to me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“We shall see,” Raidriar said, nodding to the side. Isa had begun to pick her way down from her perch. “I will make certain the rebirthing chamber is attuned to your Q.I.P. If you die facing my Soulless, we can rebuild you.”

“If your Soulless really has the Weapon,” Siris said, walking toward Isa, “then the rebirthing chamber won’t matter.” With that, he left Raidriar behind.

It’s too bad, a part of Siris thought, that there isn’t a good reason for Raidriar to go fight the Soulless. Seeing him die, skewered on the Infinity Blade while fighting a version of himself . . . How satisfying would that be?

He stopped in front of Isa, but she passed him by, walking toward the camp of soldiers.

“I forgave you,” Siris said, turning after her.

Isa stopped in place.

“Just after we first met,” Siris said, “You betrayed me and tried to kill me. I forgave you. Do I not deserve the same consideration?”

“The problem isn’t forgiving you, Siris.” Isa turned back and stepped up to him. “The problem is that I’m afraid you don’t need to be forgiven.”

“I should have told you what I was planning.”

“Yeah. Sure. I agree, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that I might have spent two years raising up a rebellion, only to give right back in to the Deathless.”

“You don’t—”

“He’s right. You’re right. They’re not just immortal, they’re near-invincible. It makes perfect sense. How do we fight them? We make our own Deathless. Ideal. Wonderful. We set up another aristocracy to replace the one before, and everything just continues on. New names, same rules . . .”

“It won’t be that way.”

“Can you promise that, Siris? Really?”

“I . . .” The Dark Self still lurked inside. “No. I can’t.” How he wished he could, but the truth was that he couldn’t even trust himself. He’d made an alliance with a monster—an honest monster, perhaps, but still a monster of the worst kind. Raidriar, the God King himself.

Isa sighed, then leaned against him. He hesitantly put his arm around her, then closed his eyes, breathing in her scent.

“I’m not built for this,” Isa said, head against his chest. “I keep trying to find an excuse to run off, hide in a tavern somewhere, and wait until everything blows over. And you . . . I worry you are built for this—and that’s more dangerous than anything else.”

“I know. I feel the same way.”

“Then what do we do?”

“For now?” Siris said, holding her. “This. We do this. Tomorrow, I will go to recover the Infinity Blade.”

“And then?”

“And then . . . then we try to save this land without ruining it any further than we have to.”

DEVIATION

THE EIGHTH

URIEL FOUND Mr. Galath on his way out of the building.

Just in time.

The chairman had two men carrying umbrellas for him. Galath was the type of man who would never have to fiddle with car doors. Someone always opened them for him.

Uriel didn’t bother to use an umbrella. He was already as wet as he could get, he figured. He crossed the parking lot in the rain. One of Mr. Galath’s bodyguards moved to intercept him, but the chairman stopped the man with a hand on the arm.

“Uriel?” Galath asked. “Good graces, man. What are you doing out here in this weather?”

“You have an opening in your new project,” Uriel said. His voice rasped as he spoke.

“My new project,” Galath said, voice monotone. “I don’t—”

“Sir,” one of the guards said, grabbing Uriel. The hulking brute had a face like a boulder. “There is blood on his shirt, sir.”

“Uriel, what have you done?” Galath demanded.

“Adram was unsuitable for your project, sir,” Uriel said. “I removed him from it.”

The bodyguard’s grip on Uriel grew tighter. Rain no longer hit him; it thrummed against the guard’s umbrella.

“I did not think you had this in you, Uriel,” Galath said at last.

“Adram spoke of . . . immortality,” Uriel said.

“He must have been delusional.”

“Am I also, then?” Uriel asked. “Hidden bunkers around the world, funded quietly through shell corporations of shell corporations. Secret facilities to build weapons. A war you’re intentionally precipitating.”

The guard moved to tow Uriel away.

“No, Gortoel,” the chairman said. “This is what we have been seeking. Wits and initiative. Perhaps I did not give you proper credit, Uriel. I had not thought to have many statisticians among the elite of my new world. Perhaps you have proved me wrong.”

“I accept your offer,” Uriel spat, “and reject it too.”

Galath frowned, cocking his head.

“I don’t want this gift for myself,” Uriel said. He glanced back at the too-red car, which he’d raced here with a body in the seat beside him. “I want it for my son.”

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

SIRIS STOPPED at the edge of the cliff overlooking his destination.

That same castle complex. The Soulless was here, of all places. Empty bridges spanning chasms, beautiful arches in the sunlight. The twisting tree out front, dry, as if dead for an eternity. Siris could smell the dungeons, hear chains rattle on the lift, feel the ground tremble from the felled daerils.

Was it a message? This place, so familiar. Here, he had killed the God King for the first time.

I died here too, he thought, fitting on his helm. Dozens of times, perhaps hundreds. He didn’t remember those deaths, each the end of a life lived as the Sacrifice—a boy raised to be sent to this palace to fight the God King.

The ruined wall, where enormous golems had attacked the throne room, still lay broken. In fact, the entire palace was as he remembered it from years ago. It almost seemed . . . homey, if a deathtrap designed to kill him could be called such.

Behind him, Terr helped TEL break down the camp. Siris had agreed, under pressure from both Isa and Raidriar, to bring Terr and the small construct with him, to help get him out if something went very wrong. In turn, however, he’d insisted that Isa remain behind. If this was a trap, then he didn’t want her caught in it as well. That would leave only Raidriar to lead the rebellion.

Siris kind of wanted to avoid that.

“Here, sir,” Terr said, handing over a small buttonlike device.

Siris took it, frowning at the balding man.

Terr cleared his throat. “It’s a—”

“Recording device,” Siris realized, the Dark Self filling in the holes. “It will create an aura around me that sends information back to you. We have magics like this?”

“Recovered in the latest infiltration, sir,” Terr said. “We didn’t know what it was until that priest told us. We’ll be able to watch you on a little mirror and see if you need help.”

If I need help, Terr, Siris thought, slipping the device into the small leather fold just inside his gauntlet, I severely doubt that a mortal like you will be of any help. He pulled on his gauntlets, completing his armor.

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