[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.Turning down the next alley, a slightly wider paved street, Hirad could see Denser flitting ahead.He banked sharply right and dived low, storming back towards the rest of The Raven, landing in front of Hirad, who pulled up sharply.'This is easier than I thought.The grain store is just to the end of this alley and across a wide square.It's guarded and there's light in every window of every building now the alarm has spread but any Wesman running is running for the College.If we're quick, we can—'Above the ascending din of battle and the crump of spells hitting buildings and men, a howl pierced the night.It was long and full of anger and sorrow, tailing off into a keening wail and a bark that echoed out.For a split second, Julatsa was silent then battle was joined again.'Shield down,' said Ilkar.'What in all the hells was that?''Dear Gods,' said Erienne who had clearly lost her mana shape.'It was Thraun.''Will,' said The Unknown.'Poor Will.'Another howl split the air.'What will he do? Thraun, I mean?' asked Ilkar.'I don't know,' said Erienne.'But I think we'd better get back as quickly as we can.If he'll listen to anyone, he'll listen to us.''But we have to get these prisoners out first.Right,' said Hirad, looking to where Denser stood, his wings proud at his back.'Erienne, go with Denser if he'll hold you.Your spells are probably best directed from above us.Ilkar, FlameOrb then sword please; we can't waste another shield.We'll deal with Thraun and see to Will's Vigil later.' His mind, clouded briefly by the loss of another Raven warrior, cleared to deal with their immediate situation.'Raven with me.'A third howl echoed from the walls of the alleyway.Closer this time.The wolf was loose in the streets of Julatsa.Chapter 24Dystran cursed and threw the book down at his feet.He leant on the balustrade of the Tower balcony he had assumed from Styliann and prayed hell would visit swift retribution on the former Lord of the Mount.Knowing Styliann was probably still alive following his usurpa¬tion of power in the College, Dystran and his cohorts had known only too well the importance of the Protectors in maintaining that power.And yet, immediately below him, the entire Protector army stood silent, awesome and terrifying, on the carefully tended lawn.Waiting.At first, Dystran hadn't believed Styliann and had fallen back into an uneasy sleep.But a frantic knocking at his bedchamber door soon afterwards had led to him scurrying to the study and out on to the balcony where he saw the Protectors issuing from their barracks into the cool breezy night.With unhurried purpose, they had marched into the torchlit night, flickering orange glinting off their masks, their polished leather and the buckles of their boots and clothing.They had assembled over the course of an hour but Dystran hadn't watched.Tearing back into the study, he had grabbed the Articles of Stewardship from its place on the shelves by the desk and flicked feverishly through its pages.The Act of Giving was there, plain for him to read.But in his pride and overwhelming sense of achievement and importance at attaining his new position, he just hadn't bothered to look.The Lore script concerning the Act was the most modern in the College, written by Styliann and designed to make renunciation a long and complex process.By the time he had studied the text in enough detail, had gathered the Circle Seven and fulfilled the meditation process, eight days would have passed.And so the Articles lay at his feet, an open page fluttering in the gentle night air.'We've got to stop them,' he muttered.'What do you intend doing?' asked his senior confidante, an ageing, grey-haired mage named Ranyl.'We can WardLock the gates for a start.' Dystran waved a hand in their direction.'And they will merely batter the timbers to splinters,' said Ranyl.'No holding spell is strong enough to keep them all quiet and they will respond to aggression by attacking the source of the order to strike or cast.And that's you.' The old mage's voice was quiet but sure.'There are four hundred and seventeen Protectors down there, all with innate magical shielding.I know who I'd back in the fight.''So what can we do?' Dystran's voice held a note of desperation.'Let them go and rescind the Act of Giving.Or send an assassin to kill Styliann.Those are the only two ways to bring the Protectors into your control.'Dystran snorted.'An assassin? Styliann's soon going to have five hundred-odd Protectors around him.The whole Wesmen nation would have trouble getting to him.'Ranyl stooped and picked up the Articles of Stewardship and slapped them into Dystran's chest.'In that case, my Lord, might I humbly suggest that you get reading?'Below them, the Protector army moved on an unspoken com¬mand, coming to readiness absolutely as one.Dystran started, his heart thudding in his chest.Exuding power with every stride and swing of the arm, they trotted to the south gate, now under the gaze of the rudely awakened College.Dystran shook his head, his face taut with anxiety, seeing more than one questioning face turned up towards him and Ranyl.At the gate, the lead Protector pushed the gateman firmly aside, wound the bar away and pulled open the heavy iron-clad wooden gates with assistance from three others.Without further pause, the Protectors trotted away into the dark streets of Xetesk, and Dystran could very easily imagine Styliann's laughter.Lord Tessaya watched tight-lipped as Styliann and the dread force ran to the north while his warriors struggled to form under the harsh shouts of his Captains.He summoned his highest ranking General, a man named Adesellere.'I want four thousand men after them before dawn cracks the sky.Do not let them escape.I want word sent through to Riasu for five thousand of the reserve to be here in one day.He should also be advised to attend me immediately.Lastly, I want you to personally organise forward defence of Understone, the pass and the surrounds.Be mindful of the south.T will be pushing on to Korina in two days' time.See every commander has carrier birds.Do you understand all that?''Yes, my Lord,' said Adesellere, an old and trusted aide, battle-scarred, bald and fierce.'Do you want me to remain with the defence?'Tessaya nodded and put a hand on his shoulder.'You are one of the very few I can trust.Send Bedelao after the mage.I will get word to my scouts north and south.I get the uneasy feeling we'll have to revise our plans.Not all of my brother Lords have acquitted themselves as they might.''I won't fail you, Tessaya.''You never have before.' Tessaya dismissed Adesellere.He looked out over the muster area into which the General now ran, barking out orders to his Lieutenants who drove the warriors into some semblance of order.This was not as he had planned and he cursed under his breath, bringing to his mind where it had begun to go wrong.With the destruction of the Wytch Lords certainly but there was more.The attack on Julatsa had not been swift enough and to the south, disaster had apparently overtaken Taomi.The Eastern Balaians should have had no hope but the fact was that the Wesmen had failed to capture or kill a single targeted figure.Unless his reading of the situation was completely cock-eyed, General Darrick, Baron Blackthorne and The Raven were all still alive and fighting.And now, unless they could catch him, Styliann would return to Xetesk as a standard for the mages.Tessaya's hand was being forced and he didn't like it.What he needed was for Senedai to occupy the College Cities, for Adesellere to halt any advance from the south and for his march to Korina at the head of ten thousand Wesmen to be swift and without error.He could still take Korina.The bloated capital city wallowed in its sense of achievement and wealth and had little time for organised defence.Yes, there would be resistance but, with the Colleges and southern armies busy, he was certain he could prevail [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]