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Behind the narrow district of red and gold awnings and roofs that sparkle even
without the direct lighting of a sun runs the Greenbelt, and through the
middle of the Greenbelt the coastal highway marches.
The trade district and the residences of most natives and norms are inland of
the Greenbelt, and the most affluent of those who call Aurore home have their
houses on the higher grounds west and north of the town.
The poorest live closest to the trade district, where the light breezes seldom
Martel lifts his right wing, turns more toward the west in order to cross the
CastCenter directly. From above the CastCenter, the five-unit complex where
Rathe lives is northwest. He had located it after she left the last time,
although he'd never been invited inside.
How can you be someone's lover and never see where she lives?
The question is just another he cannot answer. His perceptions fan outward, to
sense the thermals, to soak up the feeling of being airborne, and sense a
turbulence. Darkness that is not darkness looms before him, building as he
flies toward the five-sided communal dwelling.
Martel simultaneously leaves his perceptions extended and builds his shields,
walls of darkness, his own darkness, behind them.
While he can sense dories, sparrows, grimmets, and other birds flying well
below him, the air at his altitude is clear. Reserved for the gods?
Martel starts to shake his head, but stops as he realizes he has lifted his
left wing and lost ten meters nearly instantly. BEAR OFF, SMALL BIRD!
Martel blinks at the power of the command, surveys the sky, and extends his
perceptions further.
Directly ahead, and several hundred meters higher, circles an enormous eagle,
a golden eagle, whose feathers glitter with the light of a sun.
Martel draws upon his own depths, and the raven he is enlarges, with wingtips
that would cover a small flitter. He climbs, wings beating, upon a thermal he
has created, until he is level with the golden bird.
So intent is he upon his efforts that he does not see the departure of the
golden eagle. But when he reaches the point where the eagle had circled, the
heavens are vacant, the skies absent any trace of the giant bird. Probing the
air around him, Martel finds nothing. He circles, slowly losing altitude,
extending his mental search until his probes touch the buildings below. . . .
such an enormous black bird. . .
. . . the black vulture of the gods. . .  Did you see that?  The big black one
drove off the sun eagle.
. . . has to be an omen. . . god of darkness. . . Among the jumble of thoughts
he can find no trace of the warm and friendly thoughts he seeks, no sign of
the woman he has known.
His shape retreats to the classical raven as he drops to the buildings below,
where he alights in a fir next to the complex where Rathe lived.
Her rooms are empty. That he can tell from a quick probe. Martel the raven
launches himself from the branch toward the windowsill. He skids on the sill's
smooth stone, flaps wildly for a moment to catch himself, and falls against
the plastipane.
 You see that clumsy bird, Armal? What do you expect? Martel questions
mentally, blocking the thought from any transmission. Perfection from an
instant raven?
He peers through the clear pane. Bare is the main room. Nothing remains, not
even the floor covering. The ceramic floor tiles shimmer with the cleanliness
of recent scrubbing.
He casts his thoughts into the rooms, but the sterility blocks any attempt at
linking anything in the four rooms to Rathe Firien. Martel casts farther. The
man called Armal is the landowner and the landlord.
Martel touches his mind, feels the strangeness, and enters his thoughts. Part
of Armal's memories are gone. Martel can feel the void. There are no memories
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of the tenant in number four. None whatsoever.
The raven who is a .man withdraws his probe and tries the woman who lives with
Armal. A blowsy, wire-haired brunette originally from Tinhorn, she has no
memories of Rathe either.
Neither do the tenants in the other units, nor is there even a trace of such a
memory in the scattered mental impressions of the guardhound.
Martel turns his bird frame on the narrow ledge, forgetting he now possesses a
tail. The long feathers brush the pane, and the thrust overbalances him into
the thin air of the courtyard.  Skwawk! Flame!
He instinctively spreads his wings and beats his way out of the confined [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]