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that feeling of being followed from a distance.
If he wanted to reach the Library, he had to start thinking like the dwarf.
Eschew mercy. Make the goal everything. Don't let anything else matter. Be
willing to sacrifice anyone and anything.... His stomach knotted. His thoughts
disgusted him.
Near midnight they came upon a manor. Gathrid found himself feeling an
inexplicable homesickness. Ah. Some of his souls belonged to men who had begun
their lives here. Their emotions were bubbling. He drew their memories to his
forebrain.
Using their knowledge, he traveled westward till he reached a manor famous for
the horses it bred. He stole two. He rode away wondering how soon their loss
would be noted, and if it would be connected with him.
After a time he turned northward again. He planned to make a grand swing, west
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and north, around Dedera. That should be less predictable than his former,
more direct route.
Fate, luck or the masking hand of Suchara herself, served him well. Even by
day no one challenged his party, though they passed manor after manor and
hundreds of people glanced at them incuriously.
He pushed hard all day. Loida became too tired to complain. Late in the
afternoon he started following roads tending eastward again. By dusk he and
Loida were directly north of Dedera. The peaks of the Chromogas looked like
bloody teeth in a horizon-spanning jaw as the setting sun illuminated their
snowy peaks. Gathrid kept pushing.
Then a Toal appeared on their backtrail.
Whence it came Gathrid had no idea. He glanced back and there it was, gleaming
black astride its black stallion, keeping a respectful distance. It had not
been there minutes earlier. He thought it was the one he had dueled near the
Bilgoraji border. It had the same feel, and the lance it bore blazed against
the gathering darkness.
Attack seemed far from its mind.
"Oh, it won't," Gacioch grumbled. "It's just here to keep an eye on the
Sword."
"I'll still end up fighting it." Gathrid shuddered. He did not want another of
those dread entities drifting along behind the corners of his vision. Would
they squabble over him like jackals over a carcass? "Loida can't go much
farther."
He expected a Rogala-like suggestion that the girl be ditched. Gacioch
disappointed him. "Then stop and let her rest. He isn't going to bother you.
In fact, he'll make sure nobody else does."
"What?"
Gacioch's great failing, as he himself confessed, was that he talked too much.
"He has orders to make sure the Sword doesn't get snatched by the wrong
people. He can't do anything but follow orders."
"How do you know?"
Gacioch sniggered. "You'll just have to take my word."
Gathrid took the chance. It was not as much a matter of trusting Gacioch as of
doing what had to be done. He abandoned the road for a woodlot. In minutes
Loida was snuggling against him for warmth. The tireless Toal took a sentry
post a hundred yards away. Gathrid tried hard to remain awake, but sleep
quickly took him. He had a dreamless night. His haunt may have been communing
with its fellow.
He was surprised to waken unharmed and still his own creature, with the Sword
still in his possession. Or vice versa.
The Toal stood statue-still, stone-patient. Its eyes remained fixed on the
road. Gacioch's hints about someone other than the Mindak wanting to lay hands
on the Sword began to make sense. Gathrid got a feel of the shape of it from
his haunt.
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All was not right in Ventimiglia. Nevenka Nieroda and the Dead Captains were
out of control. They were acting behind the Mindak's back, and not in his
interest. It looked like they wanted to keep Daubendiek away from Ahlert.
Why?
His Toal-haunt projected that infuriating mirth.
"Gacioch." He was unsure whether or not demons slept. Gacioch put on a good
show of waking grouchi-ness.
"What?"
"What's going on out west?"
"Folks are sleeping. It's night out there. They'd be sleeping here, if certain
people didn't..."
"In the war, I mean."
Gacioch had no shoulders to shrug, but gave a definite impression of having
done so. "Not much. Ahlert is bogged down. Involved in a war of attrition."
Gathrid recalled Rogala's assessment of the Mindak's generalship. "A master
warlock but an indifferent captain?" he suggested.
"In a nutshell."
It became more clear. "And the troops are getting restless?"
Gacioch would say no more. Gathrid suspected he had hit the mark. So. The
politics of disunity had reached the enemy camp. Ventimiglia was not a
monolith anymore.
Nieroda had to be the focus. Dissension is a contagious disease, he thought.
He would have to redouble his vigilance. Two factions would be after the
Sword. Neither would care what became of Gathrid of Kacalief.
Maybe he could use them....
The important goal remained the Library. In fact, reaching it now seemed
absolutely essential. Was that an intuition? Might it be a subliminal
instruction from Su-chara?
He wakened Loida. "Time to go, girl." [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]