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wanted to please the Dark God with a really classy sacrifice.
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Did the Cave Monster, Jeremy Redthorn wondered, have any real interest in
devouring helpless humans?
Yes, the Intruder's memory assured him. One point was surprising the hunger of
the thing below seemed to be more for beauty and rationality than for meat.
The monster, then, was some perverted god, surviving from the last cycle of
deity creation. It may have played that role, as well as many others. In past
cycles, if not placated by sacrifice, it had come out to ravage the
countryside.
Exactly which member of the partnership, Jeremy Redthorn or Apollo, made the
final decision to smash the cages in this Cave anteroom before going farther
down Jeremy was never afterward quite sure. It
file:///D|/Documents%20and%20Settings/harry/...The%20Face%20of%20Apollo%20(v1.
1%20htm).html (145 of 221) [2/4/2004 11:11:05 PM]
Fred Saberhagen - The Book of the Gods 1 - The Face of Apollo seemed to be one
of those things that they agreed on, though their motives were quite
different.
One of the attributes of Apollo, as cataloged at the Academy, was that he was
not readily impressed by sacrifices. Rather, what he looked for in his
worshipers was a seeking for purification, a willingness to atone for guilt.
Nor, one would think, would Apollo have any particular interest in the welfare
of a humble village girl named Katherine, any more than he would in any of the
other intended sacrifices. After Jeremy had looked internally for an answer,
he decided that the Far-Worker's reason for smashing the cages was that he,
Apollo, meant to claim the Cave as territory from Hades, his mortal enemy.
Eventually, perhaps, he would relocate the true Oracle where it belonged, up
on the peak of the Mountain, in open sunlight.
Jeremy's right arm, which he had bruised against the sentry's bony mass and
armor, still pained him not a disabling injury, but certainly a warning of
this body's vulnerability. The boy thought that, for once, he could almost
follow the Intruder's thoughts:
First, before I enter serious combat, I must attend to this body, this tool,
which is my best and only essential weapon; limbs so feeble and tender must
first be strengthened.
And Jeremy's hands and wrists came up before his face, in such a way that he
could not be sure if he himself had willed their rising up or not. A moment
later something, as if pumped by his heart and in his blood, came flowing
through his back and shoulders, spreading, trickling, down into both arms. He
could follow the interior flow by the feeling that it generated of a buzzing,
liquid warmth. He was intensely reminded of the never-to-be-forgotten
sensation of the mask fragment melting and flowing into his head through the
apertures of eye and ear.
The feeling of warmth and flow abated, leaving him slightly dizzy and with a
pounding heart. His arms looked no more formidable than before as he raised
them and gripped the cage and yet he knew that the power of the Dark Youth had
entered into them. He pulled with the right hand, pushed with the left, in
almost the same motion he would have used to draw a bow. Moderate effort
yielded spectacular results.
Under the pressure of those arms, green logs four inches thick went
splintering in white fragments, and the tough withes that had bound the cage
together exploded from it. Briefly there was the sound of timber breaking, a
forest falling in a gale. The noise put an end to any hope that his further
progress would remain unnoticed by those in the room with him.
There was shouting and confused activity among the humans milling around.
Noncombatants, women and a scattering of children, as well as a few aged men,
were screaming and shouting in panic, getting themselves out of the way as
rapidly as possible.
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There came a well-remembered flapping, whistling, sighing in the air around
him. Apollo was suddenly happy, an emotion so vital that Jeremy caught it [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]