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decision. When Anksha appeared a little later, he told her, "Anksha, tell
Zulaika I need to speak with her. We're going to a shrine to Dynanna."
CHAPTER THREE. flight
The acrid smoke of burning buildings obscured the moon. The evening breezes
cast the drifting cinders far and wide, like angry fireflies. Roofs caught
fire and the flames spread. The night became a hell of shifting patterns in
black and orange, screaming people and the moans of the dying. Nans walked
through streets choked with panicked citizenry, keeping herself between
Deryna, who carried one child on her hip and held the other by the hand, and
the chaos swirling around them. She kept them easing along close to the
buildings.
Bodies littered the avenues, many of them women and children. They had to
step over and around the dead. Nans focused away from the sights,
concentrating on her goal of reaching the city gates. Her life-long
concealment of her true nature as yuwenghau, demi-god, would end this night;
the enemy would soon know that one of her kind strode among them. She glanced
and saw that Deryna had acquired another child, herding it along in front of
her. With her greater than human strength, Nans used the staff to knock horses
and riders from her path when they came plunging at her, crushing their skulls
as soon as they went down. Nans fought with a single-minded intensity, beating
her way through the violence whipping around her.
A mounted guardsmon charged her. She slammed the heavy metal head of the
staff into the horse's chest. Bone cracked as the beast went down; the sound
was lost in the noise of conflict. She stomped her foot through the horse's
skull and crushed the pinned rider's throat with her staff.
"Yuwenghau," people murmured and a few managed to cling to her wake.
At the gates, the guardsmyn and followers of Galee strove to prevent anyone
from getting out. The people were meat and the meat would not escape. Nans
reached the gates as six soldiers tried to draw it closed.
"No, damn you," Nans snarled, spinning the staff. The first soldier died with
his throat crushed by the blunt metal cap on the staff's end. She knocked two
more down and stomped them hard in the stomach, rupturing their internal
organs as she closed on the last three. She parried the fourth's sword, jabbed
him in the groin, and brought the metal head up under his chin with enough
force to snap his neck. The last two fled. She let her staff drop. Her hands
closed on the cold metal frame of the portcullis, her muscles flexed and then
she tore the screaming, twisting metal off its hinges. Nans strode forward
with the portcullis and battered the heavy oak and steel outer gate with it
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until the wood splintered and the steel shrieked. More soldiers came running
with the two who had fled in the lead. She sailed the ruined portcullis into
them, and then seized what remained of the gate with a wrenching twist that
left it hanging half off its hinges. "You prick-whores will not be closing it
now," she cursed.
She scooped her staff up and walked through. The yuwenghau continued walking,
only half-noting that she had acquired a tail of people until she reached the
sheltering trees beyond sight of the walls. Then Nans paused to discover that
she had picked up twenty odd women and children, and three men. "Let's get
well clear of here before they send something after us."
No one argued with that. They walked until the children were too tired to go
further; one of the men was stumbling by then and leaning on his companion.
Nans allowed them to rest beneath the trees in as much concealment as could be
managed and took stock. There were no unbroken families among them. A few of
the women had simply picked up children they found on the street as they
followed in the aftermath of Nans's carnage. The children seemed to range in
age from a year to twelve years old. Two of the men, Kell and Ifor, were
guardsmyn. The third, Orim, was a shopkeeper. Orim had had his family with him
when they made the attempt to escape and he had got separated from them. He
sat with his face in his hands, sobbing.
Deryna went to Ifor first, getting his clothing open. He had a long tear in
his side. Nans squatted beside him and Kell turned to her with a war-strained
look of gratitude. "Holy One, thank you."
"None of that." Nans realized abruptly that she was shaking with rage and
caught a deep, fortifying breath before continuing. "Few of us really enjoy
being addressed that way. And I'm only half-blood. I'm just Nans. I'd rather
every single one of you," she scanned their faces, "forgot what I did back
there. I don't want those bottom-wetters to know what I am& "so they can't get
my measure "before I cram it down their suck-ass throats."
They all nodded agreement to that.
"We need to make a travois for Ifor," Nans said.
"I'll get it started," Kell answered and headed into the trees to hack down
some straight branches.
"Get the children organized and assigned to the adults in little groups. Keep
them moving in the middle, ready to dive into the bushes at the first sign of
trouble."
The rest of the adults moved off to implement her orders and Nans found
herself alone with Deryna.
Unlike the majority of wilderkin, Nans was classified as a predator and
lacked the peace aura that prevented those with it from hunting. It also meant
that she did not wake up knee deep in furry creatures every morning, although
she could summon them as messengers when she needed to send them to others of
her kind in emergencies. She did not yet have enough information to justify
that. She still did not know what this creature was; only that it existed.
Nans realized she was clutching her wounded shoulder when Deryna gently pried
her hand away. Pain coursed through her. She had been blocking it out
instinctively, and awareness came in a rush and a wince at the healer's touch.
"Let me have a look." Deryna took her aside, "tsking" at the way Nans had
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torn it open again. She changed the bandaging.
"You think those things will come after us?" Deryna asked.
"There are always myn looking for easy prey when trouble breaks out. They
want as little word getting out as possible about what is going down in
Minnoras. They'll try to sweep up everyone that ran. They'll also try to play
gobble-gobble with the outlying villages. The sa'necari haven't taken and held
lands other than Zol and Waejontor. Both realms have fallen. Zol was literally
blown off the map by a yuwenghau. Zol's surviving sa'necari, those not caught
in the city, scattered. Until now they were not much of a threat. But if
they've been gathered into Minnoras?"
"Ria Torrundarsdottir. She called the Hammer of Heaven," Deryna said,
pointing out what some of the legendary yuwenghau were capable of.
Nans nodded. "Sharani grandchild of my half-brother Teakamon, Shepherd of the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]