[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.The mage squeezed his eyes shut more tightly, and with every clenched and tingling muscle in his body, he willed the spell to work.He'd done everything he knew how to make it happen.Guerrand felt the mental presence of Zagarus at his side, telling him that all the scrolls had been dispatched.Guerrand pronounced the words he had been rehearsing."lne jutera, Irtc swobokla, jehth Ine laeranma."A tremendous clap of thunder rattled doors and shook the ground beneath their feet like an earthquake for many moments.Guerrand's eyes flew open in alarm as he stumbled about, crashing into Bram, who was already on his knees."What's happening?" cried Bram, struggling to keep Kirah on her straw mattress.But Guerrand could only shake his head mutely.What had he done with his rearranging of ancient symbols? A bolt of lightning cracked the dusky sky and zagged a path above the buildings of the village, straight to Guerrand.The bolt struck the mage full in the chest in the very instant he realized it would.To his greater surprise, there came only a slight tingling pain.Guerrand reached up a hand to the wound, but the earth dropped away beneath him, throwing him off balance.Yet he did not tumble down but flew forward, as if all the wind in the world were at the small of his back, arching him like a bow until he thought he might snap.The skin of his face drew back from the incredible speed of his passage, exposing the outline of every tooth and bone in his head.His ears rang, and his head felt stuffed with wool.Strangest of all, Guerrand seemed to be going somewhere in a great hurry.He was hurtling through a vast expanse of blackness broken only by tiny pinpoints of distant light.One of those points loomed larger than the rest, until its impossibly bright, blinding light was all that was ahead, choking out the blackness, burning Guerrand's eyes.And then the breakneck ride stopped.Instantly.Guerrand was thrown to his knees, and his head snapped forward painfully.He kept his eyes shut as he crawled to his feet, one hand rubbing his neck.He was afraid to open his eyes, but curiosity won out, and he spared a glance around him.The mage was in a room defined so only by the four crystal-clear glass walls that separated him from the vastness of blue-black space.Even the floor beneath his feet was transparent, cold glass, the view broken only by winking stars.The feeling was disorienting, as if a surface as thin as a soap bubble were all that kept him from tumbling through the heavens.Slow-paced footsteps abruptly hammered against the glass.Guerrand's head jerked up, eyes wide.A youngish man stepped into view from the blackness of space.His jet-black hair and long black robe seemed to form from the darkness beyond the glass.Pinpoints of starlight twinkled in his eyes, set slant-wise and sly and entirely ringed with shadows.He radiated a sense of majesty, cool and unreachable.Guerrand would have dropped to his knees in supplication if he weren't already kneeling.The aristocratic man stepped to the middle of the room, a curious smile playing about his mouth.He bent at the waist, and a chair grew beneath him, rising out of the floor like stretched, heated glass.He casually crossed his legs and raised an arm, and a table grew similarly beneath it.He appraised Guerrand with a serene visage, his eyes alighting with brief interest upon Guerrand's red robe.If not for his venerable aura, the man looked at a distance like any intelligent listener sitting at a table in an inn, with fried root vegetables and a cup of lily wine on the table before him."Why are you scribbling on my moon?" he asked coolly."Your moon?" Guerrand gasped.With a small jerk of his head, he looked all around the glass walls and noticed the dark, circular shadow that loomed taller than a cliff face.He could almost make out smaller shadows of familiar magical runes scratched upon the darker shape.Guerrand's head snapped back to the man at the table.The red-robed mage grew paler than a mushroom, when, with simple, terrible understanding, he realized he was looking at the god of dark magic himself, Nuitari."Did you think I wouldn't notice?""I-I didn't think-""Always dangerous for a mage," broke in Nuitari, his lips pursed in displeasure."I had good reason," Guerrand began again feebly.The god smothered a yawn."You earthbound mages always do.""I'm not some ordinary mage playing at spellcasting," Guerrand managed."I am one of the wizards who was chosen to man Bastion, the stronghold that defends against entrance into your Lost Citadel."The mage dispatched Bastion with a flick of his long, tapered nails."Do you truly believe I need your help to protect anything?""N-No," stuttered Guerrand."I just thought-""That a position I did not bestow should grant you favor?""No!" exclaimed Guerrand."I just thought it would not displease you if I prevented another mage from continuing to use the power of your moon without your leave."Nuitari's dark-ringed eyes narrowed."Explain."Guerrand quickly complied, taking heart from the fact that Nuitari, drumming his nails on the glass table, seemed to seriously consider his story about Lyim."I knew of it, of course.But why should I care about this other mage's purpose," he posed at last, "as long as it increases the presence of my dark magic in your world?""But this mage was not even of the Black Robes!" exclaimed Guerrand.The god frowned, reconsidering again."It is somewhat distressing to have power drained without devotion paid to the proper god." He shrugged."Still, the end result is the same." His slyly slanted eyes narrowed still further."At least he was not scribbling on my moon.""The inscriptions are only temporary," revealed Guerrand in his most conciliatory tone."You think that mitigates the fact that they are there at all, and without my permission?"Desperate, Guerrand dropped to one knee and bowed his head."Then I humbly ask your leave now."'Too little, too late, don't you think?"Guerrand looked into the god's sparkling star eyes and said gravely, "I know only that it grows late for my sister and the others whose very lives depend on me hiding the rays of your moon for this one night.""We are between times here," Nuitari said dismissively."It will not pass for those you left behind until- if-you return." Again he drummed his dark nails, considering some point.After staring at Guerrand's red robe briefly, he seemed to come to a conclusion."Perhaps it's not too late for both of us to benefit from this unfortunate episode," he said in a soft, gray voice."Never let it be said that I let anger cloud my vision from opportunity."Guerrand shook his head slowly, fearfully."I don't understand."Nuitari gave a patronizing roll of his shadowed eyes."What I'm saying is, cast your little spell to change my moon to two dimensions-temporarily, that is," he said."I will even advise you, free of obligation, that you would be better served to rearrange the final two symbols.Doing so will lengthen the duration of the dimensional change, to last until the rising of the sun.""That's it?" Guerrand asked, incredulous."You're going to let me return to Thonvil and finish the spell?"The god looked amused."Nothing is ever that easy, mage of the Red Robes."Guerrand jumped as if electrically shocked when Nuitari reached out with black, manicured nails and gently fingered the cloth of his red robe."I ask only one thing: Remember this favor I have granted you."Every muscle in Guerrand's body froze [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]