The Way of Shadows

Page 120

But moments later, Azoth heard crying. He walked to the edge of the hole.
Rat was holding on by his fingertips, begging. It was impossible. Then Azoth saw that his rock had landed on one of the lattice-like support beams that held the shop up over the river. It was balanced precariously, but as long as Rat held tension on the rope, it wouldn't drag him into the depths.
Azoth walked to Rat's pile of clothing and found his dagger. Rat was pleading, tears coursing down his pimply cheeks, but Azoth heard only the roar of blood in his ears. He squatted by Rat, careful but fearless. Even now, Rat's arms were shaking from holding his weight; he was too fat to hold himself for long, too fat to let go with one hand and grab Azoth.
With a quick motion, Azoth grabbed his ear and sliced it off. Rat screamed and let go.
His body hit the rock, dislodged it. The last thing Azoth saw was his terrified face as he was pulled under the water, then even that was obscured by his hands churning, reaching for something, anything-finding nothing.
Azoth waited and waited, and then staggered away.
The pimples were gone. He'd grown a beard to cover the few pits they'd left. The build was right, though he'd lost weight since he left the Warrens, but that jaggedly cut ear, and his eyes-gods! how didn't I notice those dead eyes?-the eyes were the same.
"Rat," Kylar breathed. His plan burst into a thousand shards. His heart stopped. He felt like a child again, waiting in line for Rat to beat him, too cowardly to do anything but weep.
"I'm dead, right? Funny, that's what they told me about you." Roth shook his head, but his voice was low. This was just for him. "Neph burned off my other ear to punish me for what you did. You cost me three years, Azoth. Three years before I became a guild head again. I held my breath for-gods it seemed like forever. Forever working at the knot you tied on my ankle, bleeding my life out into that filthy water until Neph finally pulled me out.

He watched the whole thing, said he was debating letting me die. Neph had to kill one of my bigs-you remember Roth, don't you?-and put him in my place before your master came. I had to move to some shitty guild on the opposite side of the Warrens and start all over. You almost made me fail my father." He was shaking with rage. He exposed his melted ear again. "This was the least of my punishments. And then you conveniently 'died.' I never believed it, Azoth. I knew you were out there, just waiting for me. Believe me, if I had time, I would torture you for years, I would push you to the end of human endurance and beyond. I'd heal you just to make you hurt again." He closed his eyes and lowered his voice once more. "But I don't have that luxury. If I leave you alive, my father might come up with other plans for you. He might do something else with the ka'kari. I paid for that ka'kari, and I intend to bond it immediately." He smiled grimly. "Any last words?"
Kylar had lost his focus, gotten distracted. Fear and horror had made his mind wander from the puzzle, when nothing should have been as important. Durzo had taught him better. Fear was to be acknowledged, then ignored. Where had he been? Devourer? Magic? "Shit," he said, not realizing he spoke aloud.
Roth arched an eyebrow. "Hmm. Boring, but accurate enough." His grip turn on his sword, and his shoulder rolled back. The blade was coming up. The man was going to cut his head off. Everything in Kylar cried out for help.
A boom sounded somewhere below the range of human hearing, but Kylar felt it wallop his stomach like a thunder crack. His vision went blue-white with magic. He could see the magic streaming through the air as fast as an arrow, a wall of magic.
The castle itself rocked and everyone fell. Everywhere he looked, Kylar saw the same stunned looks.
Roth was sprawled on the stairs, his sword still in hand, mouth wide.
Kylar suddenly felt one of the magic bonds holding him snap. He looked toward the others and saw that the magic-it looked like a storm of blue-white rain falling sideways, flying invisibly through walls and people-was spattering against the bonds, collecting around them. The bonds were as black as the wytches' vir, and the blue magic hissed and spat wherever it touched the black.
Then the blue magic latched on to the wytches' magic and roared up the black tendrils like wildfire climbing a hill to the wytches holding them.
Shrieks burst from three of the wytches and the bonds holding Kylar disappeared as three living blue torches lit the room. But Kylar's eyes were drawn to himself. The ka'kari was covering him like a black skin, and everywhere the blue magic pelted him, the magic danced like a puddle in the rain, then disappeared-and the ka'kari swelled more powerful.
The Devourer ate magic, too.
Then the magical shockwave was gone.
There was the briefest silence, then Roth screamed at the wytches who hadn't been using the vir-the two wytches in the room still alive, "Get him!" Roth plucked his sword from the stairs and swung it at Kylar's face.

Incredibly, the wytches obeyed instantly. Bonds leapt into place around Kylar's arms and legs. Everywhere the bonds touched Kylar, in response to his will, the ka'kari swelled, twisted through them, shifted, sucked, and devoured them.
Kylar threw himself back against the bonds even before they were completely dissolved. He burst through them with all the strength of his Talent as Roth's sword slashed the air inches from his throat.
He tore through the shriveling bonds and flew back clumsily, his feet tearing free last, tripping him. He twisted in the air and threw a knife with his off hand.
A soldier grunted and hit the floor.
Kylar landed below the second flight of steps, flat on his back. The impact knocked the wind out of him, but even as he slid across the floor his sword was moving. Highlanders stood to the left and right of him and his sword flashed twice, cutting through boots and ankles on either side of him.
Three highlanders had fallen, but others were already attacking. Kylar flipped his feet over his head and stood, gasping but ready to fight.
Solon tried to climb down from the statue. King Logan Verdroekan had been one of the earliest kings of Cenaria, perhaps mythic, and Solon couldn't remember what he'd done, for all that it must have been heroic to have Regnus Gyre name his son after him. And he must have been special to get a statue of such size, holding his sword aloft in defiance. Solon had chosen it not for its metaphoric significance but simply because he wanted every meister in the garden to see him. Every meister that had used vir within five hundred paces in the few seconds he'd been able to hold Curoch was dead.
Curoch lay on the stones beneath him. Feir was snatching it up and wrapping it in a blanket. He was shouting at Solon, but Solon couldn't make out the words. He still felt as if he were on fire. Every vein in his body was tingling so fiercely it was hard to even feel Verdroeken's stone sword under his fingers. Solon had perched on the dead king's shoulders and held onto the stone sword for balance, holding Curoch aloft the same way when he'd released the magic. He shifted his grip, his legs shaking, and suddenly fell.
Feir didn't quite catch him, but he at least broke his fall.
"I can't walk," Solon said. His brain was burning, his vision flaring every color in the rainbow, his scalp felt afire. "It was amazing, Feir. Such a tiny piece of what it can do . . ."