The night angel trilogy, p.85
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       The Night Angel Trilogy, p.85

           Brent Weeks
 

  He was barely even aware of the noise clattering through the Maw. Prisoners were screaming, begging for mercy. The screams spread and rose in pitch and desperation as the prisoners closer and closer to the Hole started joining the screaming. Beneath the high-pitched wails, Logan heard that clattering sound again, as of iron wheels grinding against rock.

  Around the Hole, hardened murderers were curled into the fetal position, holding their hands over their ears, pressing up against the wall. Only Tenser and Fin didn’t cower. Fin looked to be in raptures, his ropes lying limp on his lap, his face upturned. Tenser saw Logan staring.

  “Khali has come,” Tenser said.

  “What is it?” Logan asked. He could barely move. He wanted to throw himself in the Hole to end the horror and the despair.

  “She is god. The very stones here drip with a thousand years of pain and hatred and despair. The entire Maw is like a gem of evil and here is where Khali will make her home, in the blackest depths of unmined darkness.” Then he began chanting, over and over, “Khali vas, Khalivos ras en me, Khali mevirtu rapt, recu virtum defite.”

  Tatts was next to Tenser and he seized the man. “What are you saying! Stop it!” He grabbed Tenser by the throat and dragged him to the edge of the Hole.

  Instantly, black webs sprang up all over Tenser’s arms and Tatt’s eyes bulged. He choked. His mouth worked and his throat made little gasping sounds. He stumbled back from the Hole, releasing Tenser, and fell to his knees. Tatt’s face was red, veins bulging in his neck and forehead and he gasped for no apparent reason.

  Then he dropped to the ground, heaving great breaths.

  Tenser smiled. “You great tattooed ass, no one lays a hand on a prince of the empire.”

  “What?” Nine-Finger Nick asked for all of them.

  “I’m an Ursuul and my time with you is done. Khali has come, and I’m afraid she’s going to be needing all of you. That is our prayer: Khali vas, Khalivos ras en me, Khali mevirtu rapt, recu virtum defite. ‘Khali come. Khali live in me. Khali take this my offering, the strength of those who oppose you.’ A prayer that is answered today. Khali is now a Holer. You will live in her holy presence. It is a great honor, though I confess, not one highly sought.”

  Above, Logan heard the sound of what could only be wagon wheels reach the third level of the Maw.

  “Why are you here?” Nick asked.

  “That doesn’t concern you, though it is my doing that we’re all still here.” Tenser was smiling like this was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

  “What?” Nick asked.

  “You bastard,” Lilly said. “You made the key not fit the lock. You knocked it out of my hand. You summoned Gorkhy, you fuck!”

  “Yes, yes, yes!” Tenser laughed. He held a hand out and red light burst from it. The Holers shrank back, blinking eyes that hadn’t seen light in months. The red light floated up through the bars high above.

  Far down the hall, someone cried out, seeing the light.

  Behind Tenser, Fin picked up a loop of his rope.

  “Don’t even think it,” Tenser said. He grinned ghoulishly. “Besides, Khali’s presence won’t mean death for all of you. You, Fin, you may do very well in her service. The rest of you will do well to follow his example.”

  An old man shuffled into sight above the bars. The grate flipped open and Logan recognized Neph Dada. Before the Vürdmeister could see him, Logan scooted into his little niche.

  Tenser rose through the air gently as the Vürdmeister’s magic lifted him. He laughed all the way.

  The grate slammed shut and Logan poked his head out. A spotlight of red light blinded him, pinned him in place. “Oh,” Tenser Ursuul said, “And don’t think I’ve forgotten you, King. I can’t wait to tell my father that I found Logan Gyre hiding in the deepest depths of his own dungeon. He’ll love it.”

  48

  Garoth Ursuul was not pleased to see his aetheling. He hadn’t summoned Tenser and despite all the precautions Neph Dada had taken—bringing Tenser to Garoth’s private chambers and magically tearing out the tongues of any servant they passed so they couldn’t speak of what they’d seen—this castle still had too many eyes. It was all too likely that someone had seen Tenser come. Certainly the prisoners in the Maw would have seen him leave.

  In Garoth’s estimation, there was an even chance that Tenser had just destroyed his usefulness. Garoth didn’t like his aethelings to take liberties. No one made decisions for the Godking.

  Tenser saw the displeasure on Garoth’s face and hurried through the end of his story.

  “I, I thought Logan might make a perfect sacrifice for Khali, may her name be revered forever, as she takes her new home,” Tenser said, his voice quavering. “And I figured that by now Baron Kirof must have been captured….”

  “You did, did you?” Garoth asked.

  “He hasn’t?”

  “Baron Kirof plunged to death from a mountain pass, trying to escape,” Neph said. “His body was not recoverable.”

  Tenser’s mouth moved like a fish’s as he tried to absorb the news.

  “Your guilty verdict will have to stick,” Garoth said. “It doesn’t matter. These Cenarians have not appreciated my mercy anyway. They will be a lesson for future conquests. Your usefulness, boy, is at an end. The Cenarians are not pacified. You have failed your uurdthan.”

  “Your Holiness,” Tenser said, falling to his knees. “Please. I’ll do anything. Use me however you like. I’ll serve with my whole heart. I swear. I’ll do anything.”

  “Yes,” Garoth said. “You will.”

  On his own merits, Tenser was nothing special. He’d survived his training, barely. But he was not a son of Garoth’s soul. He never would be. He would never be his heir. But Tenser didn’t know that. More important, Moburu didn’t either.

  “Neph, where is the virgin queen?”

  “Your Holiness,” the wizened Vürdmeister said, “she awaits your pleasure in the north tower.”

  “Ah yes.” Not that Garoth had forgotten, but he wouldn’t have Neph know how much the girl intrigued him.

  “I could send for her immediately if it pleases you to sacrifice her,” Neph said.

  “The pair of them would be a nice offering for Khali as she takes her new ras, wouldn’t they?” Garoth asked. But he wouldn’t surrender Jenine, and he needed Tenser to distract Moburu. “My seed, I have… great hopes for you,” Garoth said. “The death of Baron Kirof wasn’t your fault, so it pleases me to give you a second chance. Go make yourself presentable so you look like my son, and then fetch this Logan Gyre. I won’t have him escape from under my nose a second time. I will give you your new uurdthan anon.”

  As soon as the door closed behind Tenser, Garoth turned to Vürdmeister Dada. “Take him to the Maw and have him build a ferali beside his brother’s. Help him and praise his work in front of Moburu. Do as much of it yourself as you must. Now send in Hu Gibbet.”

  “I’m not sure how this is going to work,” Sister Ariel said. The woods were fully dark now, except for the light of her magic. “If I saw correctly, this form of magic should be especially easy for you to absorb. Just take in as much as you can.”

  “Then what?” Kylar said.

  “Then you run.”

  “I run? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” You speak when you should listen, the Wolf’s voice echoed in his head. He gritted his teeth. “Sorry. Tell me more.”

  “You won’t get tired…. I think. You’ll still pay a price for whatever of your own magic you use, but you won’t pay nearly as much for what you take from me,” Sister Ariel said. “I’m ready, are you?”

  Kylar shrugged. The truth was, he felt more than ready. His eyes were tingling the same way they’d tingled when he’d first bonded the ka’kari. He rubbed them again.

  I’m getting more powerful. The thought was a revelation. He’d been learning to control his Talent better during his training on the rooftops, but this was different. This was differe
nt, and he’d felt it before.

  He’d felt it every time he’d died. Every time he died, his Talent expanded, and something was changing in his vision, too. The thought should have been exhilarating. Instead, he felt the cold fingertips of dread brush down his naked back.

  There must be a cost. There must be. Of course, it had already cost Kylar Elene. The thought made him ache anew. Maybe the costs were merely human ones.

  The Wolf had spoken of Durzo committing a blasphemy even worse than taking money to die. Had Durzo committed suicide? Yes. Kylar was sure of it. Had it been just for curiosity? A lust for power? Or had he felt trapped? Suicide was impossible.

  To a man as unhappy, as lonely, as isolated as Durzo had been, being bound to life would surely be odious. Oh, master, I’m so sorry. I didn’t understand. And just like that, the raw wound that was Durzo’s death tore open again. Time had done little to heal Kylar. Even knowing he had released Durzo from an existence he didn’t want was no consolation. Kylar had murdered a legend, murdered a man who had given him everything, and he had done it with hatred in his heart. Even if Durzo had intended it as a sacrifice, Kylar hadn’t killed him for mercy. He’d murdered him for raw vengeance. Kylar remembered the sweet bile of fury, of hatred for every trial Durzo had put him through, that bile had saturated him, kept him strong as he clung wounded to the ceiling of that tunnel in the stacks.

  Now Durzo was truly dead, released from the prison of his own flesh. But it felt lonely and raw and unjust. Durzo’s reward for seven centuries of isolation and service to some goal that he didn’t understand shouldn’t have been death. It should have been an unveiling of the worth of that goal. It should have been reunion and communion commensurate with seven hundred years of isolation. Kylar was just coming to understand his master now, and now that he wanted to make things right, there was no Durzo to make it right with. He’d been clipped out of the tapestry of Kylar’s life, leaving an ugly hole that nothing could fill.

  “I can only hold the full measure of my Talent for so long, young man,” Sister Ariel said, sweat beading on her forehead.

  “Oh, right,” Kylar said.

  A pool of concentrated light burned in Sister Ariel’s hands. Kylar put his hand in it, willing the power into himself.

  Nothing happened.

  He brought the ka’kari up to the skin of his palm. Still nothing happened.

  It was strangely embarrassing to look so inept. “Just let it happen,” Sister Ariel said.

  Just let it happen. That pissed him off. It was that falsely wise crap that teachers pulled. Your body knows what to do. You’re thinking too much. Right.

  “Will you look away for a sec?” he asked.

  “Absolutely not,” Sister Ariel said.

  He’d done this before while wearing the ka’kari as a second skin. He knew it could be done.

  “I can’t hold this for much longer,” Sister Ariel said.

  Kylar drew the ka’kari into a ball in his hand and palmed it, holding his hand palm down over the pool of magic in the sister’s hands. He thought it was quick enough she didn’t see it. Come on, please work!

  ~Since you ask so nicely…~

  Kylar blinked at that. Then the pooled magic winked out like a candle in a high wind. Kylar only had a moment to be unnerved before the thought was obliterated. Where the metallic sphere touched his palm, Kylar felt like he was holding lightning. He lost control of his body as it arced through him, freezing him in place, ignoring his desire to pull away—pullawaypullaway!—before he fried.

  Sister Ariel was pulling back, but the ka’kari stretched between them, sucking magic like a lamprey sucking blood.

  Kylar felt himself filling, gloriously filling with magic, with power, and light, and life. He could see the very veins in his hands, the veins in the few remaining leaves overhead. He could see life squirming and wriggling everywhere in the forest. He saw through the grasses to the fox’s burrow, through the bark of the fir tree to the woodpecker’s nest. He could feel the kiss of starlight on his skin. He could smell a hundred different men from the rebel camp, tell what they’d eaten, how much they’d worked, who was healthy and who sick. He could hear so much it was overwhelming, he could barely pull the strands apart. The wind made leaves clang against each other like cymbals, there was a roar that was the breathing of two—no, three large animals—himself, and Sister Ariel, and one other. The leaves themselves were breathing. He heard the heartbeat of an owl, the thunderous wallop of… a knee hitting the ground.

  “Stop! Stop!” Sister Ariel said. She was slumped on the ground, and still magic flowed from her.

  Kylar yanked the ka’kari back and took it into his body.

  Sister Ariel fell, but he didn’t even notice her. Light—magic—life—dazzled, bled, exploded from every pore on his body. It was too much. It hurt. Every beat of his heart scoured his veins with more power. His body was too small.

  “GOOOOO,” Sister Ariel said. It was ludicrously slow. He waited while her lips moved and the whisper thundered forth. “SAAVE…” Save? Save what? Why didn’t she just say it? Why was everything so slow, so interminably, so damnably slow? He could barely hold himself still. He was bleeding light. His head throbbed. Another chamber of his heart compressed while he waited and waited. “THE…”

  Save the king, his impatience supplied. He had to save the king. He had to save Logan.

  Before Sister Ariel spoke again, Kylar was running.

  Running? No, running was too pedestrian a term. He was moving twice the speed of the fastest man. Three times.

  It was sheer joy. It was sheer moment, for there was nothing but the moment. He dodged and twisted, he looked ahead as far as his glowing eyes could see.

  He was moving so fast that the air began to battle against him. His feet couldn’t gain the traction they needed to push him faster. He threatened to leave the earth.

  Then he saw a camp ahead, right in the middle of his path. He jumped and he did leave the earth. A hundred paces he flew. Two hundred. Straight at a tree.

  He threw the ka’kari forward and jerked as he slammed through the three-foot-wide trunk. Wood exploded in every direction, but he kept going. Behind him, he heard the tree cracking and beginning to fall, but he was already too far away to hear it land.

  So he ran. He extended the ka’kari before him so it cut the wind, extended it behind him so that it pressed his feet to the earth so he could run faster still.

  The night faded, and he ran. The sun rose, and still he ran, a glutton devouring miles.

  Sister Ariel crawled back to the tree where she’d bound Ulyssandra. It took a long time, but she had to. She wasn’t sure if she slept that she would ever wake up. Finally, she reached Uly. The little girl was awake, her eyes red, tear tracks covering her cheeks. So she knew Kylar had awakened, and that Sister Ariel had concealed her, betrayed her.

  There was nothing Sister Ariel could say. There was nothing either of them could do, anyway. Sister Ariel had loosed Vi and Kylar like twin hunting falcons. There was no calling them back now. If Uly were still here when Ariel woke, she’d take the girl to the Chantry. It would be a long trip, and it might give her some time to think about what she’d just experienced.

  By all the gods, the boy had sucked her dry and still had room for more. Her! One of the most powerful women in the Chantry! He was so young, so blithe and terrifying.

  It took all her willpower to unbind Uly. Touching magic now was like drinking liquor while hung over. But in a moment, it was done, and she collapsed.

  49

  Somehow, Logan had believed that there was something special about him. He’d had everything taken from him. His friends had been taken, his wife taken, his hopes taken, his freedom taken, his dignity taken, his naïveté taken. But his life had been spared.

  Now that would be taken, too. The Godking wouldn’t leave him down here. Logan had already died once and been resurrected. This time, Garoth Ursuul would want to see Logan die with his own eyes. There wou
ld doubtless be torture first, but Logan couldn’t care.

  If he’d been stronger, he would have tried one last desperate plan, but his fever had left him a shell. At the least, he could throw away his own life to kill Fin. He could have done it—before the fever. He’d just never been willing to make that sacrifice while he still had hope. He’d always wanted to preserve his own life, and so now he’d lost his life and gained nothing. Not even for his friends.

  Logan brooded in the darkness. Mercifully, whatever Khali was, it had moved further away, and the smothering feel that had so suffused the Maw was now just a dull pressure. Everything that had seemed so unbearable about the Hole—the stink, the heat, the howling—was again familiar, if not comfortable.

  “Bitch, come here,” Fin said.

  Lilly stood and patted Logan’s shoulder. She whispered to Gnasher, probably telling him to watch over Logan, and then she left.

  Of course she left. He didn’t even blame her, though it made him feel even more empty and desolate. Lilly had to be practical. The sentimentality of all the books Logan had once loved died when it came within smelling distance of the Hole. Lilly was a survivor. Logan was going to be dead within an hour or two. Life went on. Logan’s heart might blame her, but his mind couldn’t. In any other circumstance, he would have condemned himself for eating human flesh.

  Then Gnasher got up and walked away.

  Do I reek so much of death? It wasn’t fair to blame Gnasher and not blame Lilly, but Logan did. He suddenly hated the simple, misshapen man. How could he leave? After all he’d lost, Logan wanted to at least believe he had gained a friend or two.

  Gnasher probably didn’t even know Logan was going to die. He’d just gone to play with the end of Fin’s sinew rope—Fin was too busy banging Lilly to pay him any mind. Logan looked at Gnash and tried to see him with pity. The simpleton was surely here for less reason than Logan was. He hadn’t betrayed Logan, he just saw a chance to play with something new. Fin never let anyone touch his rope.

 
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