Loading...

The Way of Shadows


Page 47




Master Blint picked up a box. "Sit."
Kylar sat at the high table, propping an elbow on the wood and holding his chin. Blint upended the box in front of him.
A white snake slid onto the table with a thump. Kylar barely had time to register what it was before it struck at his face. He saw its mouth open, huge, fangs glittering. He was moving back, but too slowly.
Then the snake disappeared and Kylar was falling backward off the stool. He landed flat on his back but bounced up to his feet in an instant.
Blint was holding the snake behind the head. He had grabbed it out of the air while it was striking. "Do you know what this is, Kylar?"
"It's a white asp." It was one of the most deadly snakes in the world. They were small, rarely growing longer than a man's forearm, but those they bit died within seconds.
"No, it's the price of failure. Kylar, you fight as well as any non-Talented man I've ever seen. But you're no wetboy. You've mastered the poisons; you know the techniques of killing. Your reaction speed is peerless; your instincts are good. You hide well, disguise well, fight well. But doing those things well is shit, it's nothing. An assassin does those things well. That's why assassins have targets. Wetboys have deaders. Why do we call them deaders? Because when we take a contract, the rest of their short lives is a formality. You have the Talent, Kylar, but you aren't using it. Won't use it. You've seen a little of what I have to teach you, but I can't teach it to you until you tap your Talent."
"I know. I know," Kylar said, refusing to meet his master's gaze.
"The truth is, Kylar, I didn't need an apprentice when you came along. Never did. But I heard a rumor that an ancient artifact was hidden in Cenaria: the silver ka'kari. They say Ezra the Mad himself made it. It's a small silver ball, but when you bond it, it makes you impervious to any blade and it extends your life indefinitely.

You can still be killed any way that doesn't involve metal, but immortality, Kylar! And then you came along. Do you know what you are? Did that maja Drissa Nile tell you?"
Durzo knew about Drissa Nile? "She said I was broken."
"The ka'kari were made for people 'broken' like you are. There's supposed to be an attraction between people who are vastly Talented but don't have a conduit and the ka'kari. You were supposed to call it, Kylar. You don't know how to bond it, so you'd call it, hand it over, and I'd be immortal."
"And I'd still be broken," Kylar said bitterly.
"Once I had it, we could have Drissa study it. She's a great healer. Even if it took her a few years, it would have been fine. But we're running out of time," Durzo said. "Do you know why I can't just let you be an assassin?" Even now he sneered.
Kylar had wondered a hundred times, of course, but he'd always figured it was because Blint's pride wouldn't let him have a failed apprentice.
"Our Talent allows us to swear a magically binding oath of service to the Shinga. It keeps the Shinga safe, and it keeps us above suspicion. It's a weak compulsion, but to break it a wetboy would have to submit himself to a mage or a meister, and all the mages in this city work for the Sa'kagé and only an idiot would submit to a meister. You've become a skilled assassin, Kylar, and it's making the Shinga nervous. He doesn't like being nervous."
"Why would I ever do anything against the Shinga? It would be signing my own death warrant."
"That's not the point. Shingas who aren't paranoid don't live long."
"How could you never tell me all this?" Kylar demanded. "All the times you've beaten me for not using my Talent-it's like beating a blind man because he can't read!"
"Your desperation to use your Talent is what calls the ka'kari.
I was helping you. And I'm going to help you some more." He gestured to the snake in his hand. "This is motivation. It's also the kindest poison I know." Master Blint held Kylar with his eyes. "Getting that ka'kari has always been your final test, boy. Get it. Or else."
The air took on a chill. There it was. Kylar's last warning.
Master Blint put away the snake, collected a few of his weapons, grabbed the bag he already had packed, and picked Retribution off its pegs on the wall. He checked the big black blade, then slid it back into its scabbard. "I'm going to be gone for a while," he said.
"I'm not coming with you?"
"You'd get in the way."
Get in the way? The casual way Blint said it hurt almost as much as the fact that it was true.
30
Idon't like it," Solon said.
Regnus Gyre stared into the winds that blew his silver hair almost straight back. The Twins were quiet today, so there was only the sound of the wind rushing over the wall. He listened to the wind as if it were trying to tell him something.
"After ten years, a summons," Solon said. "Why would the king do such a thing on the eve of your son's majority?"
"What's the best reason to gather all your enemies in one place?" Regnus asked, barely raising his voice enough to be heard over the wind.
It was still cold even in late spring. Screaming Winds was never warm. The north wind cut through wool, made a mock of the beards and long hair the men grew to hold some extra iota of heat in.
"To smash them," Solon said.
"Better to smash them before they can gather," Regnus said. "The king knows that I'll do everything in my power to be home for my son's ascendance. That means traveling fast. That means a small escort."
"Clever of him not to command a small escort," Solon said. "I'd have put such subtlety beyond him."
"He's had ten years to think about this, my friend, and the help of his weasel." His weasel was Fergund Sa'fasti, a magus who was not exactly Sho'cendi's finest moralist. Fergund also knew Solon by sight and would gladly tell the world Solon was a magus if he thought it would cause mischief. Fergund was why Solon had been staying with Regnus year-round as Logan took more responsibilities at court.
It was, he was beginning to think, a serious mistake.
"So you think they'll attack us on the way?" Solon asked.
Regnus nodded into the wind.
"I don't suppose I'll be able to convince you not to go?" Solon asked.
Regnus smiled, and Solon couldn't help but love the man. For all that it had crippled his house and destroyed any ambitions Regnus might have had for the throne, taking command of Screaming Winds had given Regnus life.
There was fire in Regnus Gyre, something fierce and proud like a warrior king of old. His command had clear authority, and the power of his presence made him father, king, and brother to his men. In the simple fight against evil, he excelled, even reveled. The highlanders of Khalidor, some of whom had never bowed the knee to any man, were warriors. They lived for war, thought it a disgrace to die in bed, believed the only immortality was immortality through deeds of arms sung by their minstrels.
They called Regnus the Rurstahk Slaagen, the Devil of the Walls, and in the last ten years, their young men had smashed themselves against those walls, tried to climb them, tried to sneak past them, tried to bribe their way through them, climbed over the Twins and tried to descend on Screaming Winds from behind. Every time, Regnus had crushed them. Frequently, he did it without losing a man.






Loading...