The night angel trilogy, p.143
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.143

           Brent Weeks
 

  Speaker Istariel sat back down at her desk and gathered her Talent to her, facing the door. He was almost here.

  The door exploded inward, the hinges and latch ripping through the wood, the door slapping to the ground. A young man with his face set fiercely stepped in. Istariel unleashed a massive fist of air.

  It turned aside in midair and smashed her collection of thousand-year-old Hyrillic vases. She lashed out again and punched a hole in the ceiling. Impervious, almost oblivious to her attempts to kill him, Kyle strode to her desk, put his hands on it, and leaned forward. She gathered her full strength; he blew in her face.

  Her Talent scattered as if that puff had been a hurricane. He said nothing. He looked into her eyes and deep within his eyes was something that made her want to gibber like a madwoman. It was like staring at the night sky after learning for the first time that the stars were not pinpricks in the raiment of heaven, but each its own sun, billions of leagues distant. To stare into this man’s eyes was to realize how small one was.

  Kyle sighed, not finding what he wanted.

  The Alitaeran ambassador, either finding his courage, or seeing no magic springing from the young man, stood. “I dare say, you young lout, I’m not going to let you disrespect any woman while I stand by! Stand and deliver, sir!”

  Istariel saw an alien magic stir deep in Kylar’s eyes, then Kylar said, “We’ll talk about respecting women when you stop fucking your wife’s best friend.”

  The ambassador’s hauteur shattered. Kyle turned on his heel and walked out.

  Istariel and the ambassador said nothing for a full minute. She cleared her throat. “Perhaps,” she said, “we can agree that nothing of this leaves the room.”

  He swallowed and nodded.

  77

  Vi was up here somewhere. Kylar’s encounter with the Speaker had left him shaken. He’d been sure that she’d stolen Retribution. One look in her eyes told him otherwise. Now, what had looked like an unexpected move that would bring him to the center of the deceiver’s web and deliver his sword back into his hand was looking like a colossal blunder. Nonetheless, Kylar bulled forward. He was committed now.

  The floors this high in the Chantry weren’t large. The Seraph’s head held the Speaker’s office, a waiting room, some storerooms, the stairs, and a classroom. In that classroom was Vi. Kylar opened the door to the last room before the classroom. He’d kicked down enough doors.

  This room was at the Seraph’s eyes. It was a broad, open room, but despite the light pouring in from the glass-clear eyes, it had a distinctly unused feeling, as if no one had set foot here in decades. In the center of the room stood a woman wreathed in light. Her arms were crossed over her chest, chin pointed at the floor, eyes closed. She wore a short gossamer robe that ended at her knees. Halfway down her shins, her skin changed from a shade too golden to be merely sun-kissed to the purest white alabaster. As Kylar stood, stunned by this unexpected beauty, he saw the alabaster recede to her ankles, to her toes.

  The woman took a gentle first breath. Her chin lifted. She opened her eyes. The irises were pure platinum.

  “You’re the Seraph,” Kylar said dumbly.

  “Indeed, and you are a man and you have awakened me, but you are not the One.”

  “Uh, sorry?” Kylar said. The Seraph stared at him and as he met those platinum eyes, all he could see was magic, oceanic and mercifully at rest. “Are you going to do something bad to me now?”

  The Seraph laughed. “Should I? You’ve frightened my little sisters badly.” She glanced at the door. “Except for the one who holds your bond. I’ll leave you to her tender mercies, Nameless.”

  “I like that dress better than the one your statue wears. You’ve got great legs.”

  Her eyes widened, but he saw that she wasn’t displeased. “Me too,” she said, “but when one is three hundred feet tall, it behooves one to err on the side of modesty.”

  “I can’t believe I said that.”

  She arched an eyebrow at him.

  “Um, Lady? Ma’am? Sorry, what should I call you?”

  “Impertinence suits you better, Nameless. Ask your question.”

  “I lost a sword. I thought the Speaker stole it, but I was wrong. Can you tell me if one of the other Sisters stole it?”

  She tilted her head, weighing him. “You assume friendship quickly. I can’t decide if that’s a function of youth or naïveté or goodness or your singular powers. Not everyone can weigh a soul in a glance, Nameless.”

  “Sorry for the presumption, my Lady.”

  “Give me your sword hand.”

  He extended his hand and she studied the palm. He saw magic swirling over it. He said, “It’s been three months since I—”

  The magic died suddenly. The Seraph’s eyes snapped up from his palm to his eyes, and in her platinum eyes, Kylar saw fear. “You fool,” she whispered. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

  Between the intensity of her tone and her fear, Kylar felt a snake of terror twisting in his guts. What could make the Seraph afraid? “I lost my sword Retribution. It was my birthright—”

  “Retribution? Was that Acaelus’ attempt at a joke?”

  Kylar said nothing. What had he revealed here? She’d told him he was naive to trust her. How much did she know now? “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said woodenly. “It’s a simple sword, inscribed with a word, either Justice or Mercy.”

  “And it depends on you to dispense whichever is deserved.”

  “Well, yeah.”

  “I don’t suppose that reminds you of anything.”

  “Uh…”

  “You see the state of souls. You mete out justice or mercy, giving people what they deserve. What does that make you?”

  Kylar remembered the Wolf’s words, laughing at his name, telling him Kylar Stern was a title. “A judge,” Kylar said quietly.

  “And a judge decides the application of what?” the Seraph asked, equally quiet.

  “The law?” Together, Jorsin Alkestes and Ezra created two artifacts: Curoch, the sword of power, and Iures, the scepter of law. “But it’s supposed to be a…” his voice trailed off. He’d seen Curoch shift into any shape it needed to be. He’d seen Retribution raise the words Mercy or Justice in different languages. Why not hide Iures as a sword? Where better to hide Iures than with Durzo, whose ka’kari concealed him? What better place to keep the ka’kari of concealment than concealing one of the greatest artifacts in history? Kylar should have known Durzo wouldn’t have retrieved Retribution simply to spare Kylar of the inconvenience of having his swords blunted. How many times had Durzo told him the blade was priceless?

  “Do you know where it is?” Kylar asked.

  Holding his hand, the Seraph closed her eyes and glowed golden. The light started in her forehead and expanded until it filled the room, then it whooshed. For an instant, Kylar swore the entire Seraph—the big one—was aglow. Then the woman opened her eyes.

  “It is in Trayethell.”

  “Trayethell?” Kylar remembered the name dimly. Acaelus Thorne had been the Prince of Trayethell. “It’s in Black Barrow.”

  The Seraph hadn’t released his hand. “Nameless, the Scepter… Iures gives a mage no additional power, but it gives a thousand times the control. A mage with Iures in hand could unravel anything given time.”

  So what was Neph doing? With Iures, he could take apart the shield around Ezra’s Wood and take Curoch. What would he do once he had both? What would he not do? Even Jorsin Alkestes hadn’t wielded both together.

  There was no choice. Kylar was the judge. If Neph was invulnerable to magic, Kylar was the only one who could stop him. Kylar might be the only one who knew the full extent of the danger. He had to stop him. God, how am I going to tell Elene?

  At the thought of Elene, Kylar felt Vi flinch through the bond. There was a deep guilt there, and fear.

  Kylar turned from the Seraph, anger stirring once again. He opened the door to the classroom and
strode in, slamming the door behind him. There were fifty senior students in the room, every one of them surrounded with a nimbus of magic. Vi stood in the center of them. She alone didn’t hold her Talent. “What have you done?” Kylar demanded.

  “She made me swear not to tell you,” Vi said.

  “What the fuck have you—”

  “What have I done?” Vi shouted. “What have you done? Breaking in here and treating my Sisters like this? How dare you!” Kylar opened his mouth, but Vi cut him off. “No! Sit down and shut up!”

  The words hit him like a whip through their earrings’ bond. The compulsion made Kylar’s mouth snap closed, and he sat instantly. There was no chair: he sat on the ground.

  Vi was as stunned as he was. He tried to open his mouth, but it wouldn’t budge. He couldn’t move. Vi had told him that the rings broke her compulsion to Garoth because its bond superseded Garoth’s magic, but Kylar hadn’t appreciated what that meant until now. The earrings’ bond was compulsive—one way. Vi could make him do anything she wanted, and she had known all along, Kylar saw from her expression. She simply hadn’t invoked her power before.

  The Sisters stared round-eyed at Vi. A moment before, they all had been terrified of this man who had violated the Chantry and broken the chains their most powerful Sister had laid on him. In the next, Vi had defended her Sisters, and he obeyed her command as if he had no choice. Whatever other repercussions Kylar’s foolishness was going to have, he had certainly increased Vi’s cachet with her Sisters.

  A riot of emotions flooded through the bond, but Vi mastered herself quickly. “She went to join Logan’s army,” she said. “She was afraid you wouldn’t fight otherwise.” Aware of the other women listening to her conversation with her “husband,” Vi said nothing more. She handed him a note. “You can stand now, and speak.”

  Kylar stood and took the note, but he had no words.

  The door on the far side of the classroom banged open, and dozens of Sisters began pouring in, with Sister Ariel at their head. Almost all of them, Kylar realized, were magae who’d trained with Vi.

  One of them threw something like a spear of coruscating red and silver light. It flew straight at Kylar’s chest—then dissolved in midair.

  Around the room, Sisters began kneeling, mouths dropping open once more. Kylar turned to see who had saved him. The Seraph walked into the room, glowing gold. “I’m sorry if my friend frightened you,” the Seraph said. “Forgive him. We needed to speak about a threat that faces us all. If he fails, all our fighting will be for naught.” The awed Sisters parted. With one last glance at Vi, Kylar left.

  78

  I won’t watch you kill yourself,” Durzo said. For the last three days, Kylar and Durzo had been traveling west. Durzo was traveling to Cenaria, to see Momma K at last, so he’d joined Kylar. The pass had been muddy and snowy, so they were setting up camp only a few hours from Torras Bend and a few hundred paces from Ezra’s Wood.

  Kylar spread his heavy saddle blanket on a fallen log next to the fire and sat. “I don’t plan to die,” he said.

  “Oh, so there is a plan? I thought you were making it up as you went. It’s getting dark. Our little stalker will be along within the hour.” They’d been followed, clumsily, since they left the Chantry. Today they’d ridden hard, trying to make it to Torras Bend, and their pursuer hadn’t been able to keep up.

  “I don’t think Khali exists,” Kylar said.

  “I didn’t realize you were in the habit of having religious epiphanies.”

  “I mean, it exists, but I don’t think she’s a goddess.”

  “Oh?” Durzo asked.

  “She—it—is a repository of magic. The Wolf said magic is strongest when it’s attached to emotions. Khali is filled by the Khalidorans’ worship. As they hurt people for her, they chant a prayer. But it’s not a prayer. It’s a spell. It empties their glore vyrden into the repository. And it’s from that repository that the meisters and Vürdmeisters and Godkings draw their power. Because the talents for drawing in magic from the world and using magic are different, that means they can often use far more magic than mages. It means they can use it at night. Don’t you see? The entire nation chants this spell twice a day. The repository is the key to Khalidor’s power.”

  “And this has something to do with why you’re committing suicide?”

  “Curoch is anathema to that power. I saw that when I killed a meister with it. Curoch makes the vir explode. It bursts it from within.”

  “A few months ago, you assassinated a man who called himself a god; now you’re going after a goddess in truth. Unless you can figure out a way to kill continents, after this you’re going to have to retire.”

  “You know it’s not like that,” Kylar said, flushing.

  “So you’re hoping to find Khali and put Curoch in her and what? Just see what happens?”

  Kylar scowled. “You make it sound stupid.”

  “Hmm.”

  “It’s a way to win, really win, once and for all. Come on, how many times have you fought Khalidorans?”

  “More than I like to remember,” Durzo admitted.

  “Look, I lost Iures. That’s a disaster. I know it. It’s also a disaster you helped cause when you never told me what the damn thing was. With Iures in Neph’s hands, we’re going to have a hard time killing him.”

  “We?”

  “But if we destroy the vir, Neph won’t even be able to use Iures. If he survives the vir’s destruction, even if he has Talent, it will take him a while to think to use it. He’ll be vulnerable. Master, he’s been spending the last three months figuring out how to break into Ezra’s Wood and take Curoch for himself. If one man holds both Curoch and Iures…”

  “It wouldn’t be good.”

  “It would be a cataclysm!” Kylar said.

  “You realize that if you put Curoch into the center of all the vir in the world, it might make a qualitative rather than a quantitative difference?”

  “Huh?”

  Durzo shot him an exasperated look. “Curoch blew the vir out of one wytch and nothing happened. If it blows up all the vir in the world, something might.”

  “If it blew up every wytch in the world, I wouldn’t complain,” Kylar said.

  “And if it blows you up with them?”

  “At that point, I won’t be able to.”

  “It might not obliterate you. It might just kill you and invoke your immortality. You know what that costs now. Are you willing to risk a friend’s life for this? Hell, it might be my life. I don’t know if I’m willing for you to risk it.”

  “We were given this power for a reason, master. I don’t want to lose anyone. I don’t want to die, but if my death can change a nation, if I can save thousands, how could I not risk it?”

  Durzo grinned ruefully. “You damn fool. You realize, even if all your assumptions are correct—even then, you still have to steal the world’s most coveted sword from the world’s safest place then be pursued by the ultimate hunter until you reach the heart of an enemy country in the middle of a war in which any side will happily kill you as a traitor, a spy, a wytch, or all three?”

  “I thought you’d like it,” Kylar said, eyes sparkling.

  Durzo laughed. “The Wolf is gonna have puppies.”

  “Well, I’m hoping not to see him any time soon. But I figured if I could convince you, then there wouldn’t be much he could do about it.”

  “Convince me of what?” Durzo asked.

  “To help,” Kylar said.

  “Oh no,” Durzo said. “Count me out.”

  “You can’t!”

  “I can. Kid, you took away my immortality. That gave me back my life. I—”

  “You owe me!” Kylar said.

  “Not like this, I don’t. I have one life left. One. Because of you, I can do with it whatever I want. I can love.”

  And Kylar couldn’t. “But we can change the world!”

  “Kid, do you know how many times I’ve changed the world? The
Tlaxini Maelstrom used to be a shipping lane. The Alitaeran Empire stretched from coast to coast. Godkings have threatened the southlands and nearly gained ka’kari half a dozen times. Ladesh used to—look. The fact is, I’ve done my piece. Adventures are for the young, and I’m young by no measure. There’s a woman I love in Cenaria, and neither of us is getting younger. I need to go.”

  “I need you,” Kylar said. “Alone, trying to steal the world’s most coveted sword from the world’s safest place and being pursued by the perfect hunter into a war—”

  “Yes, yes,” Durzo said. “I’ve showed you most of my tricks—”

  “Most of them?”

  “—and you’ve developed a few of your own. You’re not an apprentice anymore, Kylar—”

  “Fine, but I’m hardly—”

  “—you are a master. Your tutelage is finished.”

  “Don’t cut me loose,” Kylar said. His heart was in his throat.

  “I’m cutting you free,” Durzo said.

  “But you’re still better than me!”

  “And I always will be,” Durzo said. He grinned, and despite himself, Kylar couldn’t help thinking that it was nice to see this once hard and bitter man smile. “In your memories. I’m smart enough to stop fighting you before you start winning. I reached the top of my game, and I had a good run. From here, I’ll only get worse.”

  “But you still have so much to teach me.”

  “You think this isn’t going to teach you something?”

  “What if I fail?” It came out in a whisper.

  “What if you do? It won’t change how I feel about you.”

  “But I could doom the world! Don’t you care?”

  “If I spend my last hours in Gwin’s arms, frankly, not much. Growing old with the woman I love would be my first choice, but dying reconciled with her isn’t a bad second.”

  “So I’m alone.”

  “I told you that was the cost when you demanded to be my apprentice.”

  “I didn’t know I was agreeing to eternity!”

  “Cry me a river. You’re pathetic. What’s your plan for getting into the Wood?”

 
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