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."Remove the sling," she said.He did so with great difficulty.The injury had swollen considerably.It reminded her of her own affliction, but in this case the problem was within.She pulled a few tatters of cloth aside to see how far the swelling had spread.It was severe, no doubt aggravated by the battle.As she surveyed the swelling, she noticed something odd on the left side of his chest.It was distorted, smudged with blood and charred, but there was no question.There, against the cream-colored chest, was the all too familiar curve and point."What.what is this?" she asked."What? Ouch! I can't see," he said."Here, on your chest.There is a mark," she said."Oh, that.That has been there since I was a child.I suppose it's a birthmark," he said."Look.Here! On my hand.I have the same mark! Remember the burn from the sword?" she said, holding out her hand.He took her hand and looked over it."What in the world?" he said, sitting forward and taking real interest."It was all over the sword," she said."I showed you.Don't you remember?""I remember how much it weighed, how well it was balanced, but I couldn't care less about how it looked.That is the least important thing to me," he said."What does it mean?" she asked."How should I know?" he said, perplexed."I got the mark from the dead soldier's sword, so that explains that, but what are you and a fallen swordsman doing sharing a mark?" she wondered."I haven't a clue," he said, bewildered."Well, maybe he was a relative.Maybe he had the same mark, or knew you in some way," she offered."I honestly cannot think of a single other person who has even seen my mark since I left the orphanage," he said."Then perhaps it was one of them," she said."Perhaps, but I cannot see how anything I did might have left an impression on one of the other orphans.Certainly not an impression big enough to have one of my blemishes adorn a sword that must have cost a fortune to make," he said."Unless it isn't a blemish.The caretakers branded me with a pair of marks, this could just be a third that I didn't remember.If that is so, then the others could have had it as well.""Do you suppose that one of your fellow orphans might have been proud enough of his orphanage to advertise it on his equipment?" Myranda asked."I have heard of stranger things.Well, with your godmother and our matching marks, this has been a very revealing night," Leo said."Indeed, the hand of fate has--" she began, but the smoke of the torch was burning at her already tortured lungs.She launched into a long, painful fit of coughing."That doesn't sound good at all.I thought you looked a bit off," he said, concerned."It is nothing," she managed."It happens every year.""Well, do you know how to cure it?" he asked."Of course," she said."Then what are you waiting for?" he wondered."Well, I haven't the strength to care for my cough and your shoulder.I will tend to myself tomorrow," she explained."Nonsense.I won't hear of it! You say whatever words you need to make yourself well and worry about me another day," he demanded."But the pain must be terrible," Myranda said."Please.I have had a dozen more serious injuries a dozen times each, and all I've had to heal them was time.A night more won't kill me," he said.She began to object again, but he cut her off."You saved my life.I wanted to give mine for yours just a few hours ago, but you denied me.The least you can do is stay healthy long enough for me to repay my debt."Myranda sighed, stifling another cough.Reluctantly she spoke the variant of the spell of healing sleep that would do its work upon the caster.As the spell of healing took effect, Myranda's surroundings retreated and a soothing darkness poured over her and into her mind.A moment later a light flickered before her.She briefly thought that she had reawakened, but soon the truth became clear.The cold, thatched ground was not that of the cave, and the white, wavering light was not that of the torch.She had slipped into a dream.The light seemed to come from no source at all, merely a ball of brilliance floating before her.It formed a circle on the ground and a tight sphere of visibility.She strained her eyes desperately into the darkness.Slowly, a figure formed, somehow a still-darker silhouette against the pitch of her surroundings."So I have found you," came a voice from the form.It seemed to be her own voice.Hearing it whispered from the unseen lips of another was profoundly disorienting."Who are you?" Myranda asked."We need you," came the answer."Need me for what? I don't understand," she said."Do not resist me.I come to guide you, and in turn you may guide me," the voice said."How?" Myranda asked as the cold wind began to gust more forcefully."You are strong, and the path you follow is closed to me.You are nearly out of my reach.You must choose.Take my hand and the way will be made clear," the voice whispered.The figure's hand seemed to reach out.Myranda reached for it, but something inside of her resisted [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]