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.”“I’m not leaving without Kamoj,” Vyrl said.Dazza spoke quietly.“If she doesn’t want to go with you, do you really intend to force it?”Vyrl regarded Kamoj.“We can protect you from him.Just say the word.You have options you don’t understand.” His voice caught.“I can offer you the stars.All he offers is a lifetime of fear and pain.Come with me.”“Answer him, Kamoj.” Jax moved his quirt against her leg.“I am the dutiful and willing wife of Ironbridge,” she said.Was that enough? Would they leave her alone now? Did the people she loved have to die before they would listen?“We can protect you,” Vyrl said.“All you have to do is ask.”And after you desert Argali? she thought.He wanted her to go with him, but he planned to leave Balumil.No matter how much they might wish otherwise, it didn’t change that implacable truth.She hid her thoughts, imagining them submerged in a lake.“I will stay with my husband.Governor Ironbridge.”“No.” Vyrl was gripping Graypoint’s reins so hard, his knuckles had turned white.“No.”“She gave you your answer,” Jax said.“What else did you expect? That being forced to spend a few days with a stranger, a man whose only interest was in assaulting her, would supersede a lifetime of dedicated companionship?”“She never wanted to marry you,” Vyrl said.“Are you stupid?” Jax asked.“She told you what you wanted to hear.It is you that she fears, Lionstar.”Vyrl watched Kamoj.“Is that true?”Jax stroked her hair as if to comfort her.“It’s all right.Answer him.Then we can go home.”“Yes,” she lied.“It’s true.”Vyrl stared at her.Then his expression closed on itself.Quietly he said, “Good-bye, Kamoj.”Good-bye.The word echoed in her mind.Good-bye.Vyrl motioned and his party reformed around him.When he pulled on Graypoint’s reins, the stag danced toward Kamoj.It shook its head, once, twice, three times.She recognized the pattern.Many a greenglass went through that dance with his young, herding them where he thought it best they go.Vyrl rubbed Graypoint’s shoulders and pulled the reins again.The stag kept trying to dance toward Kamoj.The third time Vyrl pulled, Graypoint relented and turned with the rest of the company, heading into the woods.Good-bye.He was going.Forever.When Graypoint receded into the mist, pain broke into Kamoj’s deadened thoughts, as jagged as shards of crystal.Vyrl’s pain.Her own.Behind her, Jax’s muscles relaxed.He leaned his forehead against the back of her head and whispered, “It’s over, pretty rose.We can go home now.Finally.” His relief felt almost tangible.He straightened up and pulled on Mistrider’s reins, bringing the stag around.Kamoj swallowed.Home.It was done.She and Vyrl had bounced off each other and hurtled away.Unshed tears burned in her eyes.She had lost Vyrl and their dreams.They would never share their lives or watch their children grow.If she bore his child, it would call Jax father—If Jax let the child live.And that was when Kamoj finally snapped.She had no idea if it was desperation or her first true act of free will; she only knew that she broke inside.Leaning to the side, she strained to see around Jax.Her body protested every move: bile rose in her throat, pinpricks danced on her skin, pain thrummed in her head.Then she shouted, “Vyrl! Don’t go!”13The BurrowCapture AmplitudeJax swore and yanked Kamoj back in front of him.A roaring filled her head.Spurred by Jax’s quirt, Mistrider ran through the trees like fog blown by the wind.Jax called to Lector, and the stagman pulled alongside, their mounts running side by side.“Take her to the burrow,” Jax said.He passed Kamoj over to Lector’s stag without even slowing down, a difficult move while both animals were in flight, but one they managed with practiced ease.Numb with shock, Kamoj slid onto the stag in front of Lector and clung to its neck.Jax wheeled Mistrider around and took off, vanishing into the mist and the darkening night.Lector rode hard through the trees.When Kamoj trembled with the cold, he pulled his cloak around her.What had possessed her to call out for Vyrl? Jax had sixty stagmen, plus forty more in camp.Ironbridge would slaughter Lionstar.But Vyrl’s people had their Ascendant weapons.They might slaughter Ironbridge.Either way, people would die.She couldn’t bear being the cause.Her cry for help had come from a place so deep, she didn’t know how she could have stopped its escape.Now she and the people she loved had to deal with the consequences.When the fading light turned the mist a darkling pearl color, Lector slowed his stag, letting it find its own way.Finally he stopped.As he jumped down, his cloak swirled away and icy air clapped around Kamoj.He eased her off the greenglass, sliding her to stand on the ground.“We cannee ride any longer.It be too dark.”She tried to nod, but the day’s drizzle had turned to snow, and she was shaking too hard.Watching her, Lector removed his cloak and wrapped it around her.Then he tapped his stag with a signal to wait.The greenglass bared its teeth, its breath curling out its nostrils, heavy with a spiced musk odor as it condensed in the fog.Kamoj wished she could blend into the mist and vanish as easily as those white plumes.Lector led her forward into the darkness.The scents of the wet forest permeated the air, eddying and flowing around them.Even after Kamoj contracted the membranes in her nose, she was swimming in a sea of smells.She pulled the cloak tighter.“We need shelter.”Lector leaned down.“Eh?”“Shelter.” Her teeth clattered from the cold.“We need shelter.”“Aye.” He guided her around an upended tree with moss hanging from its roots.They approached the looming shadow of a hillside, until its darkness folded around them.When Kamoj stretched out her arms, her hands brushed dirt walls laced with roots.“You best wait here,” Lector said.She stopped, listening to the tread of his boots.A spark jumped in the air about ten paces away.Then a sphere of light appeared, with Lector at its center, holding a lamp.They were in a burrow with earthen walls held together by networked roots.The wavering light threw shadows on the walls, revealing bags of food in one corner and a blanket.“It inna so bad, heh?” he asked.“Lector, let me go,” she said.“I cannee do that, Gov’nor Argali.”“What if I just left?”“I would have to stop you, ma’am.I’m sorry.I be liege to Ironbridge.I cannee fail him.”Kamoj hadn’t really expected otherwise.She doubted she could have survived in the forest anyway, on this freezing night, dressed as she was, having eaten only one meal in over two days.Lector set the lamp on a ledge formed by a tree root.Then he took the blanket from the corner and spread it on the ground.“For you, Gov’nor.”“Thank you.” She sank onto the blanket, grateful for the solidity of the ground.“Are you cold?”He settled himself on a large boulder near the entrance.“Eh?”“Cold.” She offered him the cloak.“Aren’t you cold?”“Please keep it, ma’am.Cold never much bothered me.”Like Jax.Unlike Jax, however, Lector seemed to notice when it bothered others.Grateful for a bulwark against the icy air, she wrapped herself in the cloak again.But nothing could lessen the chill of knowing she had endangered Vyrl’s life.She felt trapped.Lector stretched out his legs and leaned against the wall.“I can tell you what makes ice on my spine.The magics in these woods.You be better off without Lionstar.That demon prince would trap your soul.”She shifted the cloak.“I don’t think it’s magic, Lector.It just looks that way.And Lionstar is no demon.”“Eh?” He leaned forward.“Who is the demon?”Her voice caught.“Me.I caused these problems.”“Why do you say that? You hanna done nothing.” He spoke kindly [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]