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.They could make gold, but they were no longer interested in having it.John Hackworth, somehow, was better than anyone else at making the transition between the society of Drummers and the Victorian tribe, and each time he crossed the boundary, he seemed to bring something with him, clinging to his garments like traces of scent.These faint echoes of forbidden data entrained in his wake caused tangled and unpredictable repercussions, on both sides of the boundary, that Hackworth himself might not even be aware of.Carl Hollywood had known little of Hackworth until several hours ago, when, alerted by a friend in Dramatis Personae, he had joined his story in progress on the black decks of the show boat.Now he seemed to know a great deal: that Hackworth was the progenitor of the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, and that he had a deep relationship with the Drummers that went far beyond anything as simple-minded as captivity.He had not just been eating lotuses and getting his rocks off during his years beneath the waves.Hackworth had brought something back with him this time, when he had emerged naked and streaming with cold seawater from the warren of Drummers in the ballast tanks of the ship.He had emerged with a set of numerical keys that were used to identify certain entities: the Primer, Nell, Miranda, and someone else who went by the name of Dr.X.Before he had fully reentered his conscious state, he had supplied those keys to the Clown, who had been there to haul his gasping and shivering body out of the water.The Clown was a mechanical device, but Dramatis Personae had been good enough to allow Carl Hollywood to control it- and to improvise much of Hackworth's personal script and storyline- for the duration of the show.Now Carl had the keys and, for the purposes of the Net, was indistinguishable from Miranda or Nell or Dr.X or even Hackworth himself.They were written out across the surface of a page, long columns of digits grouped in bunches of four.Carl Hollywood told this sheet to fold itself and then tucked it into his breast pocket.He could use them to untangle this whole business, but that would be another night's hack.Snuff and caffeine had done as much as they could.It was time to go back to the hotel, soak in a bath, get some sleep, and prepare for the final act.From the Primer,Princess Nell's ride to the Castle of King Coyote;description of the castle;an audience with a Wizard;her final triumph over King Coyote;an enchanted army.Princess Nell rode north into an explosive thunderstorm.The horses were driven nearly mad with terror by the cannonlike explosions of the thunder and the unearthly blue flashes of the lightning, but with a firm hand and a soothing voice in the ear, Nell urged them forward.The cairns of bones strewn along the roadside were evidence that this mountain pass was no place to dawdle, and the poor animals would be no less terrified huddling under a rock.For all she knew, the great King Coyote was capable of controlling even the weather itself and had prepared this reception to try Princess Nell's will.Finally she crested the pass, and none too soon, as the horses' hooves had begun to slip on a thick layer of ice, and ice had begun thickly to coat the reins and to weigh down the animals' manes and tails.Working her way down the switchbacks, she left the high fury of the storm behind and pushed into masses of rain as dense as any jungle.It was well that she had paused for a few days at the foot of the mountains to review all of Purple's magic books, for on this night ride through the mountains she used every spell Purple had taught her: spells for casting light, for choosing the right fork in the road, for calming animals and warming chilled bodies, for bolstering her own failing courage, for sensing the approach of any monsters foolish enough to venture out in such weather, and for defeating those desperate enough to attack.This night ride was, perhaps, a rash act, but Princess Nell proved equal to the challenge.King Coyote would not expect her to make such a crossing.Tomorrow when the storm on high had cleared, he would send his raven sentinels winging through the pass and down into the plain below to spy on her, as he had for the last several days, and they would return with dismaying news: The Princess had vanished! Even King Coyote's best trackers would not be able to follow her path from yesterday's campsite, so craftily had she covered her real tracks and laid false ones.Dawn found her in the heart of a great forest.King Coyote's castle was built on a high woodland plateau surrounded by mountains; she estimated she was several hours' ride away.Staying well clear of the high road taken by the messengers from the Cipherers' Market, she made camp under an overhanging rock along a river, sheltered from the chill wet wind and safe from the eyes of the raven sentinels, and lit a tiny fire where she made some tea and porridge.She napped until the middle of the afternoon, then rose, bathed in the bitter water of the stream, and untied the oilcloth packet she had brought with her.It contained one of the costumes worn by the messengers who galloped to and from the Cipherers' Market.It also contained a few books containing enciphered messages- authentic ones dispatched from various stalls in the market addressed to King Coyote's castle.As she made her way through the woods toward the high road, she heard massed hoofbeats rolling by and knew that the first contingent of messengers had just come over the pass after waiting for the storm to pass.She waited a few minutes and then followed them.Turning onto the high road out of the dense woods, she reined in her horse and sat for a moment, astonished by her first sight of the Castle of King Coyote.She had never seen its like in all of her travels through the Land Beyond.Its base was as wide as a mountain, and its waIls rose sheer and straight into the clouds.Galactic clouds of lights shone from its myriad windows.It was guarded by mighty stockades, each of them a great castle unto itself, but built not on stony foundations, but upon the very clouds themselves; for King Coyote, in his cleverness, had devised a way to make buildings that floated on the air.Princess Nell spurred her horse forward, for even in her numbness she sensed that someone might be watching the high road from a window high in one of the castle's glittering oriels.As she galloped toward the castle, she was torn between a sense of her own foolishness in daring to assault such a mighty fortress and admiration for King Coyote's work [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]