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Cheysuli warrior who had recourse to the magic
that lived in the womb of the earth.
He touched it. It set his fingertips atingle.
Kellin, he whispered. Man, not cat but lend me the shape, and I will do it
honor.
Senses flared- Images broke up his mind. No longer human images of a human
world, but the patterns of a cat.
Am I ?
Not yet, Sima said. There is more yet to be done.
More- He did not know more.
He fell. He was in the Womb again, empty of everything save a vague but
burning awareness that he was a man who desired, but briefly, to give his
human form to the earth so he might, for only a while, walk the world as a
cat.
Not so much to ask.
Vision exploded. His eyes were open, but he saw nothing save a disorientation
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so great it threat-
ened equilibrium. Kellin thrust out a staying hand intended to hold him
upright, but it broke through
324 Jennifer Robersoa the crust of the earth and sank deep into the river of
Homana's Power.
Earth magic. There for the taking.
Kellin took it.
There, Sima said. Not so difficult after all.
Smells engulfed, replacing reliance on sight. In cat-form, Kellin exulted.
Let us run, Sima suggested- Let us run as cats, so you know what it is to
honor the gods.
He did not think much of gods. But in this form, filled with the glory of
/fr-shape, Kellin could not protest.
If it was gods who were responsible, he would honor them.
Eighteen
Kellin ran through the sun-dappled forest with
Sima at his shoulder, lovely, magnificent Sima
no other warrior's lir was half so beautiful! and took joy in the pure, almost
sensual freedom the cat-shape gave him. He explored it as he ran, marking the
differences within his brain, yet the samenesses as well- His awareness of
self was un-
changed despite the body's alteration; he knew perfectly well he was a man in
a borrowed form that would, when he chose, be exchanged once again for the
proper body. There was no division in his soul other than that his awareness
permit-
ted; he did not wish himself one or the other. He simply was what he was: a
Cheysuli warrior with magic in his blood, who could, when he desired to,
become a mountain cat-
You see? Sima asked.
Kellin exulted. He believed he understood him-
self at last, and the needs that lived in his soul;
he could control himself in this shape as easily as he could in human form. He
need only remember, to keep alive the spark of self-knowledge that re-
called he was Kellin, and human, so as not to tip the balance from Ur-shape
into beast form.
Not so difficult. His muscled body stretched, fluid in graceful motion,
stronger by far than the human shape. She has taught me much in the past
weeks. I understand better. I understand what it is.
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326 Jennifer Robersoa
Sima interrupted. A stag. Just ahead. Fit for
Homana-Mujhar?
He saw it; it was. A fine, huge stag with a mag-
nificent rack of antlers.
Kellin slowed, then stilled even as Sima did.
The stag stood unmoving, poised in a patch of sun-
light. Flanks heaved from exertion; was he prey to someone's hunt?
Kellin did not care. The stag was theirs, now, and indeed fit for
Homana-Mujhar. He was large and would no doubt prove difficult to take down,
but there were two of them. Together they could manage it.
First leap to you, Kellin said.
Sima was pleased. She crouched even as he did, tail barely twitching at the
tip. She tensed in a
perfect stillness, tufted ears motionless.
Now She was instantly in motion: a black, sleek blur that sprang effortlessly
from the ground and hurled herself through the air.
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Sima screamed. For an instant Kellin pinned tufted ears, wondering why she
would startle the stag into flight and risk losing the prey, then saw the
feathered shaft of an arrow protruding from her flank as she twisted in midair
and fell.
She screamed again, and so did he. Her pain was his own, and the shock that
consumed her body. She was down, twisting to bite frenziedly at the shaft.
Kellin heard a human voice shouting in fear and horror. A man burst through
the bushes on foot.
His face was drained; when he saw both cats, his horror was redoubled- "My
lord! My lord, I did not mean it! It was the stag the arrow was loosed before
I saw her!"
The /ir-link was alive with Sima's pain. Kellin shuddered with it, and the
hair along his spine stood up straight. The shout of rage that issued
A TAPESTRY OF LIONS 327
from his throat was not that of a man, but of the beast instead.
The arrow in Sima's flesh dug deeply into his own. Pain, shock, and weakness
merged into fury, and the comprehension of hideous truth: his lir was dying;
so, then, was he.
Kellin screamed, and leapt.
The man thrust up a warding arm, but made no effort to draw the knife that [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]