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couldn't tell whether the toxic spell residues had overcome him or whether
he'd just broken under the burden of delaying the burst
Yolanda leaped off the warded path and dragged him back toward its very
tenuous safety.
One he was back on the path, he pulled himself into fetal position and lay
there shivering: sorcerous shock of some kind, sure enough. He was breathing,
and he nodded his head when Yolanda shouted at him, so he wasn't critical.
Since he wasn't, the rest of us kept looking eastward. Either we'd be saved,
in which case we could treat the hazmat mage later, or we wouldn't, in which
case nothing we did for him now would matter anyway.
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I preferred the first choice, but wouldn't have bet anything big on getting
it.
Suddenly, Tony Sudakis' finger stabbed out. "Isn't that ?" He didn't go on,
maybe for fear his words would induce it not to be.
"I don't think it is," I yelled hard to sound bitter when you're yelling, but
I managed. "More likely to be a big cargo carpet on the landing approach
toward Burbank airport."
We all watched for another couple of seconds. Tony shook his head "A carpet
heading into Burbank would be getting smaller. This is getting bigger."
"So it is," Michael said He forgot to yell, but I read his lips. When Michael
forgets to do something he should, you know he's under strain. We all were. I
didn't want to think he was right, just because that would have made getting
my hopes dashed all the crueler.
But after another few seconds, there could be no doubt The speck in the air we
were watching swelled out of speckdom far faster than any carpet could have,
and it didn't have a carpets shape, either. I saw great wings beat
majestically. The Garuda Bird!" I shouted with all my heart and with all my
soul and with all my might, as the Bible says.
The Bird came on unbelievably fast. Two or three more flaps and it was
hovering over the dump. Of course, it didn't need to work its wings the way a
merely material creature of flesh and feathers would have. The Other Side
suffused it; it was, after all, an avatar of Vishnu. As Matt Arnold had said
back at the Loki works, it couldn't have flown or existed at all as a material
creature; when it hovered above the dump, its wings spanned the entire width
of the containment area and more, and cast the ground into shadow almost as
deep as night.
It looked much like the poster in Arnold's office those incredible wings
supporting a huge-chested body that didn't look birdlike at all to my mind.
Nor was its head anything like that of a natural bird, but for the hooked beak
that took the place of nose and mouth. The rest, especially the eyes, looked
more nearly human, and the feathers on top of its head, instead of being
peacock-brilliant like those of the body and wings, were black and soft like
hair.
The wings beat again, right over our heads. The blast of wind from a flap like
that should have blown walls down, and blown dust motes like us into the next
barony, but it didn't After a moment I realized why: since it flew more by
magic than with its wings, their flapping was just a symbolic act not quite a
real one. And thank God for that. It wasn't something I'd worried about when I
called Matt Arnold.
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The Garuda Bird threw back its anthropomorphic head and let out a bellow that
sounded like a tuba about the size of a city block played by a mad giant who'd
quit halfway through his first tuba lesson. Let me put it like this: by
comparison, the squalling cacodemons were quiet and melodious.
One thing, or rather two sets of things, thoroughly ornithomorphic (ah,
Greek!) about the Garuda Bird were its talons. In fact, it was the most
talented bird I'd ever seen: those enormous gleaming claws could have
punctured the Midgard Serpent by the look of them. I would have paid a good
many crowns to watch that fight from a safe distance, say the surface of the
moon.
Now, as the Bird hovered over the Devonshire dump, its left foot closed on the
Nothing. The hazmat mages pelted back out of the way. I found I was holding my
breath. This was something else I hadn't had figured when I called Arnold was
the Garuda Bird's magic strong enough to penetrate the encystment the
Chumash Powers had thrown up around themselves? If not well, if not, I told
myself, we weren't any
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worse off than we would have been without the Bird.
When the Garuda Bird's talons struck the Nothing, sparks flew, but the talons
didn't go in. I was praying and cursing at the same time, both as hard as I
could The Garuda Bird bellowed again, this time in fury. I
staggered wondering if the top of my head would fall off and whether I'd ever
hear again.
The muscles in the Garuda Bird's monster drumsticks bunched. That's what I
saw, anyhow, though I
knew it was only a quasi-physical manifestation like the Bird's flapping
wings. What it meant was that, on the Other Side, the Garuda Bird was
gathering all its thaumaturgic force.
Its claws closed on the Nothing once more. More sparks flew. The Bird cried
out yet again, but its talons still would not penetrate. I thought we were
doomed. But then, ever so slowly, the needle tips of those immense claws began
sinking into the Chumash Powers' shell of withdrawal.
Tony's mouth was wide open. So were Michael's and Yolanda's and mine. We were
all shouting for all we were worth, but I couldn't hear any of us, not even
me.
The Garuda Bird's feet disappeared into Nothing. You couldn't see them. They
were just gone. I [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]