Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.
So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do—and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.
Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And—perhaps most daunting of all—finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.
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From Chapter One: Fallen Trees
There she is.
There sits the woman herself. The woman descended from the Kaj, conqueror of the gods and the Continent, the woman who killed two Divinities herself nearly twenty years ago.
How small she is. How frail. Her hair is snow-white—prematurely so, surely—and she sits hunched in a small iron chair, watching the street below, a cup of tea steaming in her small hands. Khadse’s so struck by her smallness, her blandness, that he almost forgets his job.
That’s not right, he thinks, withdrawing. Not right for her to be outside, so exposed. Too dangerous.
His heart goes cold as he thinks. Komayd is still an operative at her heart, after all these years. And why would an operative watch the street? Why risk such exposure?
The answer is, of course, that Komayd is looking for something. A message, perhaps. And while Khadse could have no idea what that message would contain or when it might arrive, it could make Komayd move. And that would ruin everything.
Khadse whirls around, kneels, and opens his briefcase. Inside his briefcase is something very new, very dangerous, and very vile: an adapted version of an antipersonnel mine, one specifically engineered to direct all of its explosive force to one side. It’s also been augmented for this one job, since most antipersonnel mines might have difficulty penetrating a wall—but this one packs such a punch it should have no issues whatsoever.
Khadse takes the mine out and gently affixes it to the wall next to Ashara Komayd’s suite. He licks his lips as he goes through the activation procedure—three simple steps—and then sets the timer for four minutes. That should give him enough time to get to safety. But if anything goes wrong, he has another new toy as well: a radio override that can allow him to trigger the blast early, if he wants.
He dearly hopes he never needs to. Triggering it early might mean triggering it when he’s still too close. But one must be sure about such things.
He stands, glances out at Komayd one last time—he mutters, “So long, you damned bitch”—and slips out of the hotel room.
Down the hallway, past the bloodstains, then down the stairs. Down the stairs and through the lobby, where all the people are still going through their dull little motions, yawning as they page through the newspapers, snuffling through a hangover as they sip coffee or try to decide what they’ll do with their vacation day.
None of them notices Khadse. None of them notices as he trots across the lobby and out the door to the streets, where a light rain is falling.
This isn’t the first time Khadse’s worked such a job, so he really should be calm about such things. His heart shouldn’t be humming, shouldn’t be pattering. Yet it is.
Komayd. Finally. Finally, finally, finally.
He should walk away. Should walk south, or east. Yet he can’t resist. He walks north, north to the very street Komayd was watching. He wants to see her one last time, wants to enjoy his imminent victory.
The sun breaks free of the clouds as Khadse turns the corner. The street is mostly empty, as everyone’s gone to work at this hour. He keeps to the edges of the street, silently counting the seconds, keeping his distance from the Golden but allowing himself a slight glance to the side. . . .
His eyes rove among the balconies. Then he spies her, sitting on the fourth-floor balcony. A wisp of steam from her tea is visible even from here.
He ducks into a doorway to watch her, his blood dancing with anticipation.
Here it comes. Here it comes.
Then Komayd sits up. She frowns.
Khadse frowns as well. She sees something.
He steps out of the doorway a little, peering out to see what she’s looking at.
Then he spies her: a young Continental girl is standing on the sidewalk, staring right up at Komayd’s balcony and violently gesturing to her. The girl is pale with an upturned nose, her hair crinkled and bushy. He’s never seen her before—which is bad. His team did their homework. They should know everyone who comes into contact with Komayd.
The gesture, though—three fingers, then two. Khadse doesn’t know the meaning of the numbers, but it’s clear what the gesture is: it’s a warning.
The girl glances around the street as she gestures to Komayd. As she does, her gaze falls on Khadse.
The girl freezes. She and Khadse lock eyes.
Her eyes are of a very, very curious color. They’re not quite blue, not quite gray, not quite green, nor brown. . . . They’re of no color at all, it seems.
Khadse looks up at Komayd. Komayd, he sees, is looking right at him.
Komayd’s face twists up in disgust, and though it’s impossible—From this distance? And after so long?—he swears he can see that she recognizes him.
He sees Komayd’s mouth move, saying one word: “Khadse.”
“Shit,” says Khadse.
His right hand flies down to his pocket, where the radio trigger is hidden. He looks to the pale Continental girl, wondering if she’ll attack—but she’s gone. The sidewalk just down the road from him is totally empty. She’s nowhere to be found.
Khadse looks around, anxious, wondering if she’s about to assault him. He doesn’t see her anywhere.
Then he looks back up at Komayd—and sees the impossible has happened.
The pale Continental girl is now on the balcony with Komayd, helping her stand, trying to usher her away.
He stares at them, stupefied. How could the girl have moved so quickly? How could she have vanished from one place and suddenly reappeared across the street and four floors up? It’s impossible.
The girl kicks open the balcony doors and hauls Komayd through.
I’m blown, he thinks. They’re on the move.
Khadse’s hand is on the remote.
He’s much too close. He’s right across the street. But he’s blown.
Nothing more to do about it. One must be sure about such things.
Khadse hits the trigger.
The blast knocks him to the ground, showers him with debris, makes his ears ring and his eyes water. It’s like someone slapped him on either side of the head and kicked him in the stomach. He feels an ache on his right side and slowly realizes the detonation hurled him against the wall, only it happened too fast for him to understand.
The world swims around him. Khadse slowly sits up.
Everything is dim and distant. The world is full of muddled screams. The air hangs heavy with smoke and dust.
Blinking hard, Khadse looks at the Golden. The building’s top-right corner has been completely excised as if it were a tumor, a gaping, splintered, smoking hole right where Komayd’s balcony used to be. It looks as if the mine took out not only Komayd’s suite but also Room 408 and most of the rooms around it.
There’s no sign of Komayd, or the strange Continental girl. He suppresses the desire to step closer, to make sure the job is done. He just stares up at the damage, head cocked.
A Continental man—a baker of some kind, by his dress—stops him and frantically asks, “What happened? What happened?”
Khadse turns and walks away. He calmly walks south, through the streaming crowds, through the police and medical autos speeding down the streets, through the throngs of people gathering on the sidewalks, all looking north at the column of smoke streaming from the Golden.
He says not a word, does not a thing. All he does is walk. He barely even breathes.
He makes it to his safe house. He confirms the door hasn’t been tampered with, nor the windows, then unlocks the door and walks inside. He goes straight to the radio, turns it on, and stands there for the better part of three hours, listening.
He waits, and waits, until finally they begin reporting on the explosion. He keeps waiting until they finally announce it.
. . . just confirmed that Ashara Komayd, former prime minister of Saypur, was killed in the blast . . .
Khadse exhales slowly.
Then he slowly, slowly lowers himself to sit on the floor.
And then, to his own surprise, he begins laughing.
Reprinted from City of Miracles Copyright © 2017 by Robert Jackson Bennett. To be published by Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, on May 2.
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