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.But everyone standing around her was utterly silent, utterly motionless, and any movement on her part would certainly draw unwanted attention, so she forced herself to stand perfectly still—As still as the day I woke on a hunt and found a viper crawling over my leg, Peri thought grimly.I’m certainly in no less danger now—Then the golden woman spoke, and absolute mind-jolting shock froze Peri, silenced her as no amount of fear could have.“Welcome, poor fools, to the end of yesterday,” the golden woman said, and Peri heard in the cadence of her words, the shape of each syllable, what she should have seen immediately in the height of the woman’s cheekbones, the dark brown of her eyes, the tilt of those golden features.Sarkond’s prophet, Eregis’s Whore, was a Bregond.“You come to hear me give you promises for tomorrow,” the woman intoned.“But the time for promises is over.You have waited in hope and in the slow death of hope, and the time for waiting is done.You stand at this moment on the precipice, poor fools, of death and rebirth.The time is now.The final sign has come to pass.The Harbinger has come.”A shocked murmur ran through the crowd.The sound swelled briefly, then died again.“You have slept in the grave of your land,” the woman said.“You have eaten ashes.You have drunk bitter tears.You—have clothed yourselves in the shrouds of your dead.But you are waking, O Sarkond, waking with the hunger of a starving wolf ready to bare his teeth once more, ready to rend with his claws.Sharpen your claws, O Sarkond, for the time has come to hunt once more, to kill, to spill the blood of your enemy and bring new life to the land that bore you.Sarkond, I say you have slept too long.Wake! Wake your hunger, wake your land, wake your god!”The murmur began again, swelled.“Wake!” Eregis’s Whore rolled atop her sleeping lover, kissed him feverishly.Slowly, softly at first, then louder, the crowd took up the chant.“Wake.Wake.Wake.Wake.”She rose to straddle the statue.“Wake!”Her passion seemed to infect the crowd.They were swaying now, shouting, almost wailing.“Wake! Wake! Wake! Wake!”Eregis’s Whore threw back her head, flinging her arms wide.“WAKE!” she screamed.And suddenly she was no longer gold, but dripping red, coated in a crimson deluge that flowed down from the ceiling, showering woman and statue alike.Peri rocked back in utter shock, her gorge rising; her mind tried to insist that the scarlet stream was colored water, wine, paint, anything but—but there was no mistaking that hot coppery smell as it poured down in seemingly endless torrents.The woman seemed undismayed by the deluge; to the contrary, she smeared the pouring liquid over her face and hair and breasts, bathed in it, collected it in her cupped hands to more thoroughly anoint her sculpted lover.The crowd seemed inflamed by the gory spectacle, swaying and chanting more strongly.“WAKE! WAKE! WAKE!”And suddenly Peri could not bear a single moment more, not if it cost her her life, her very soul, and she pushed back through the crowd, roughly this time, caution forgotten, Atheris forgotten; her mind had room only for one thought—OUT.Then she was in the hall again, shoving heedlessly past worshipers striving with equal fervor to push themselves into the central chamber, and for a moment she thought she was trapped.Before sheer desperation could tempt her to pull out her sword and simply hack and slash her way through the throng, however, she managed to squeeze past, and she staggered down the hallway as quickly as she could.The farther she got from the central chamber, the thinner the crowd, and at last she could move at a weak and shuddery trot, one hand steadying her against the wall as she fought down waves of helpless nausea.She was, by her best guess, almost halfway back to the temple entrance when she remembered the priests and, more importantly, the guards at the door.There was no way she could slip past them without being observed, and no excuse she could give for her exit.No way out—The left fork!Hurriedly Peri forced herself onward, searching for the upward passage.Wherever that hall went, at least it wasn’t to that horrible central chamber.She’d find another exit and wait as long as she dared for Atheris [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]