[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

I looked at the dead animals and shivered. "What happened to them?"
Ha raised an eyebrow and studied me. "Something about your spell went amiss, I expect."
He wiped his bloody hands on his pants, then cleaned the blade of his sword on the grass. "I hope
the spell only went awry in its effect on the deer."
We packed our few belongings in silence and followed Has lead toward the place where he
felt certain Kai should be.
We came across a lovely road after a while; it was paved all in wide, flat, carefully-shaped
stones and bordered on both sides by morningmary and summer jonquil and giant freesia and
lavender, and the scent that brushed against us as we walked was surely the scent of the
Summerland.
My ears were keenest. I picked out the sounds of ela-lute and danceharp before either of the
others.
"Music," I said, and began to run forward.
"Wait." Ha grabbed my sleeve and pulled me back. "We'll get off the road and go on that
way. Among my people, this isn't the time for music."
"It's music," I said, unable to see where anything could be wrong with those cheerful sounds.
"They were deer" he reminded me. "What's sweet on the outside isn't always so on the
inside."
And how could I argue with that? I had a hard time, though, imagining how the joyful music
I heard could presage anything but goodness.
We moved off the lovely paved road and into a grove to our right that looked like a park. Its
old chestnut trees spread outward and upward, their graceful boughs sweeping near the ground,
reaching just far enough to touch the next tree in each direction. No dead leaves lay on the
ground; instead, short green grass that looked like it had been cut to a regular height covered the
ground like an enormous Liedan carpet.
Ha said, "The dwarves had no places of this sort. No nut groves, no parks, no glades for
dancing and playing music we had alehalls and tunneled homes and mines and guilds and
shops within the mountains."
Giraud said, "The dwarves I met didn't seem like the sort who would do much playing."
"We played, all right. Wrestling and quarterstaff fights and knife throwing and rope-
walking common entertainments for men. Not dancing around in a circle to harp music."
We moved forward, always keeping the road to our left. The music became louder and
eventually we found its source. Two dwarvish women sat on elaborately carved stools, their
skirts swept up and their faces twisted in some bizarre parody of pleasure. One played the ela-
lute, the fingers of her left hand flying across the broad fretboard while her right hand plucked,
its movements a blur. The other attacked the harp with a frenzy that would have stood the three
of us in good stead when we fought of the deadly deer.
All around them, the dwarves danced, though watching, I could not think of what they did as
truly dancing. None laughed or chatted or called out to each other as dancers did in the faire
dances I'd attended. They spun and leapt and stamped in utter silence, sometimes crashing into
each other as if they hadn't seen each other, sometimes falling to the ground. At the periphery of
the rough circle in which they cavorted, two men ran into each other, and without missing the
a
a
T
T
n
n
s
s
F
F
f
f
o
o
D
D
r
r
P
P
m
m
Y
Y
e
e
Y
Y
r
r
B
B
2
2
.
.
B
B
A
A
Click here to buy
Click here to buy
w
w
m
m
w
w
o
o
w
w
c
c
.
.
.
.
A
A
Y
Y
B
B
Y
Y
B
B
r r
steps of their dances, drew shortswords and began to fight; their swords flashed and their feet
stamped, and for an instant I thought the fighting was in jest, or perhaps some sort of mock
ritual, until blood spurted from the off arm of the nearer man. He kept fighting, silently grinning,
still dancing, while the blood soaked through his shirt and poured down his arm. He got in a
vicious cut to the belly of the other. Gray coils of intestine spurted from the wound, but still both
fighters continued their dance the one with the gut wound held one hand over his belly and
swung his sword with the other.
"Are they mad?" Ha whispered. He crouched beside me behind a low hedge, watching the
same fight I watched. "A gut wound like that should have shocked the man to his knees. How
can he keep fighting that way... unless he's drugged... or insane... or..." He fell silent as the gut-
wounded fighter lunged forward and ran the other man clean through the left chest. The point of
the blade pierced the back of his shirt, and as the attacker pulled his blade free, the other man fell
dead to the ground.
The surviving fighter, guts still held into his abdomen by a single hand and blood pouring
through his fingers, began to stamp and leap with the other dancers again, though he didn't last
long. After only two turns around the circle, he staggered to the periphery near us and collapsed.
I could tell from looking at him that he was dead. He stared up at the sky, pale eyes unblinking,
with foam flecking his beard and sweat still beaded on his bleached-white forehead.
None of the other dancers looked at him. None seemed to notice that he'd fallen, any more
than they noticed the other bodies that lay around the edge of their dance circle.
Beside me, Ha clenched a fist and held it to his forehead while he closed his eyes. "Avert,"
he whispered. "Avert."
He caught me looking at him and flushed dark red. "It won't help," he said. "This has
nothing to do with spirits. But it won't hurt, either."
I nodded. I knew the sign for warding off evil. And I had to agree with him: watching those
poor dancers dropping dead as they danced, I could only think to press my fist to my forehead
and pray to Neithas. Something had gone wrong with the bard's songspell terribly, impossibly
wrong. And I had no idea what it might have been, or what I might do to fix it.
"Do you know any of them?" I asked.
"I know all of them." His mouth had set in a thin line. "Living and dead."
I swallowed. "Are any of them... family?"
"No." He didn't look at me. "My family is back in Rakkatar, for which I am grateful. Maybe
this spell hasn't gone all the way to Rakkatar." He blinked faster, and I saw him swallow before
he turned his face completely away from me. "One of them, however," he said, still looking
away, "was my dearest friend."
"Which ?"
He pressed a finger to my lips. "One who is beyond any help I might offer." I saw tears slide
down his broad cheeks. He tapped Giraud on the shoulder and said, "Carefully get that sword.
We might need it."
Giraud lay on his belly and slid forward, under the hedge, close to the body nearest us. He
reached out, always watching the remaining dancers, who paid him no attention, and slipped the
shortsword away from the dead dwarf.
He crawled back and started to hand the sword to Ha. "It's for you," the dwarf said.
"I could get another," he said. "They aren't paying attention to anyone at all, and the other
dead are close to the hedge.
a
a
T
T
n
n
s
s
F
F
f
f
o
o
D
D
r
r
P
P
m
m
Y
Y
e
e
Y
Y
r
r
B
B
2
2
.
.
B
B
A
A
Click here to buy
Click here to buy
w
w
m
m
w
w
o
o
w
w
c
c
.
.
.
.
A
A
Y
Y
B
B
Y
Y
B
B
r r
"Yes. One other, then, so that Isbetta also will be armed with something other than a knife.
Keep out of sight, though."
When Giraud retrieved a second sword, all of us crept back into the depths of the chestnut
grove. As soon as we were safely out of earshot for even though the dwarves didn't seem to
notice anything around them, we didn't wish to test this and discover we were wrong Giraud
said, "If we go back to the Pillar of the Sun and you sing again, Izza, can you undo all of this?"
"I'd had the same thought," Maydellan Ha said. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]