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then straight at me. "I saw him with Renek one day after Menge took my
dowry. I know what Renek does, what you do."
I recognized the look in her eyes. I'd seen it before. "You knew," she said.
"You were here, with Renek, to kill me."
"No." I shook my head. Cold terror pierced through me. She couldn't
think "Ashana! No! I "
And then I saw a glimmer of her usual warmth. "I understand," she said.
She stepped close. "You stopped him." Her voice toiled off. She brought her
hands up to her head and ran her fingers back through her hair, pushing it off
her face, but loose curls dropped back down over her eyes.
This time, I reached out to brush her hair back. She flinched at my touch
and I quickly pulled back my hands.
* * * * *
I hate my hands. I've always hated my hands. But now I'm not sure if its the
hands themselves or what I've done with them. I keep staring at them. I've
even tried covering them up with that cloth I got from Sil. They appear to end
where the cloth begins, just as the gnome's hand did. I try to imagine what
new hands might look like if they might make a difference with Ashana. I
wonder if the gnome ever wished for new hands.
I think it's time to go talk to that wizard in Thay.
Mary H. Herbert
Teza inched forward another finger's width on the branch and strained her
eyes to see through the leaves. There he was, coming slowly, almost wearily,
along the forest path below. Teza let her breath out in a soft, appreciative
By the cloak of Mask, what a stallion! Broad shoulders, muscular legs,
powerful neck, large intelligent eyes, and a tail that swept the ground like a
black mantle. His hooves gleamed when he moved, and his coat was polished
ebony. He was by far the most magnificent horse Teza had ever seen, and
she had seen many. She had a passion for other people's horses and had
made it her life's profession to trade and sell them whenever she could get her
hands on one.
But this one! Such an animal would be worth his weight in gold pieces in
any horse market in Faerun. All she had to do was catch him, and he would
be hers.
At the moment that task was looking easier and easier. Teza had spotted
the horse just after sunrise in the northern edge of the Ashanwoods near
Rashemen's great city of Immilmar. He had been alone and nervous, with a
broken halter dangling from his ears. Teza had not been able to believe her
luck. The stallion was too tall to be one of the mountain ponies favored by the
Fangs of Rashemen and too slight to be a draft horse, which meant he had
probably escaped from some merchant caravan or a nobleman's stable.
She had followed him through the morning, waiting for her chance while he
wandered aimlessly along the rim of the woods. Then he had happened onto
a trail familiar to Teza and began to head toward an old oak well known by
local road agents for its low-hanging branches and dense foliage. Teza had
decided to make use of that opportune tree.
Silently she turned to look straight down between her bent knees. Her
muscles bunched; her fingers tightened around the coil of rope in her hand.
Already the stallion was only a few steps away from her perch, unaware of her
The morning breeze had died to a mere flutter, and the summer heat
brought glistening sweat to Teza's forehead. She ignored the heat and the
growing discomfort in her legs, instead straining to see the open patch of
ground below.
Her heart suddenly jolted. There he was! His head ... his neck... his broad
black back. Like a panther, Teza dropped onto the stallion's back. With a
skillful flip, she tossed a loop of rope over the horse's muzzle and pulled it
tight. She had him!
The horse stopped in his tracks; his head came up, and for one brief
moment, Teza thought he was going to accept her and stand quietly. The
hope died aborning when the stallion's ears whipped flat on his head. Instead
of a snort of surprise or a whinny of fear, his voice rang out in a stallion's
scream of triumph. Before Teza could move, he bolted forward into a dead
Teza's head snapped back. Frantically she wrapped her hands in his mane
and pulled herself low and forward over his neck. The pounding of his hooves
echoed the frightened pounding of her heart as she stared wide-eyed at the
woods flashing by her. The stallion was running berserk over an uneven
wooded track. Not even her big, rawboned weight hauling on the rope around
his nose was slowing him down.
She tried to sooth him with her voice, signal him with her legs, even grab
for his broken halter. The horse only ran faster, his teeth bared and his head
low like a striking snake.
Teza prided herself on being able to ride anything on four legs, but this
mad, frenzied gallop terrified her. There seemed to be no way to control or
calm this horse, and he was showing no signs of tiring. When he burst out of
the woods and sped even faster over the open ground, Teza groaned. She
wondered for once in her life if it would be wiser to abandon a prize than find
herself broken on the rocks or crushed under a fallen horse.
It was only when she tried to move her legs that she realized she had no
choice. Her thighs, her seat, and her knees were strangely stuck to the
stallion's heaving sides. Panic rose to choke her. She yanked wildly at one leg
and then the other, and all that happened was the stallion tossed his head
and snorted in contempt.
In that instant, Teza knew she was in desperate trouble. Instead of a
velvety brown, the stallion's eyes blazed with a cruel greenish fire and his cold
breath, carried on the wind, smelled of dank water and rotting vegetation.
"Gods above!" she railed to the sky. "An aughisky!"
The horse neighed again in agreement, his voice so close to wild laughter it
made her blood run cold.
Teza hunched over the aughisky's neck. Struggling was getting her
nowhere. She had to think of something else and fast. She could see they
were running east toward the Ashane, the long, deep Lake of Tears where the
aughisky lived in its silty depths.
Also known as a water horse, the aughisky was rare and wily, seldom seen
by humans, but its reputation was well known by anyone who lived within the
environs of Lake Ashane. The creatures were predators and fed on unwary or
greedy humans who tried to mount them. Held fast by the aughisky's power,
the helpless victims were carried underwater, drowned, and completely
devoured. Only the liver was left to wash up on the shores.
Teza shuddered at the memory of the tales. She beat the horse's head with
her fists. "Stop, you ugly, fish-eaten carp bait!" The aughisky snorted and [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]