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.His ice-blue eyes reminded Cathan of the way Beldyn’s had looked at Dista’s funeral, with just a glint of madness in them.He shuddered.“What is it?”Cathan jumped at the sound of Beldyn’s voice.“We found it,” he whispered over his shoulder.They entered quietly, Beldyn staring at the god’s image while Cathan looked about the cavern, searching for the guardian the scroll had spoken about.It had to be close by, lurking in the shadows, perhaps clinging to the wall, or even hanging from the ceiling.Wherever he shone his torch-barely useful now, in the golden glare-there was nothing to see.Hands sweating in his gloves, he led the way into the fane.The glow’s source lay ahead, but they couldn’t make it out from the entrance.A row of six stalagmites, chiseled into statues of forgotten high priests, stood with their backs to them, blocking their view of the chamber’s far side.Beldyn paused a few steps in, genuflecting to the glaring god above- those fearsome eyes which seemed to follow them-then signed the triangle and started forward again.Cathan stole ahead of him, sword ready, certain the mysterious protector was hiding behind the stalagmites.It wasn’t.On the other side of the statues stood several rows of pews, carved out of the same milky stone that made up most of the rest of the cave.Brass braziers, dark and pitted with age, loomed to either side, as did several silver censers, now tarnished black.Beyond, the floor rose toward the far wall, stopping at a ledge that served as a natural dais.The clerics had carved steps out of it, and upon it stood a triangular altar of white marble, veined with silvery blue.Sitting atop the altar was the Miceram.It was just as Beldyn had described it, reading from the scroll the night before.Hewn of bright gold and lined with red velvet, it bore ten points about its rim, each tipped with a sparkling, round ruby.An eleventh, the size of a hen’s egg, glinted at the peak of its cap.The shimmering light spilled from it, washing across the fane.Like a star fallen from the sky, was Cathan’s first thought.“Palado Calib,” Beldyn breathed.Tears glittered in his eyes.“It’s even more beautiful than I imagined.”Cathan stared at the crown, afraid it would disappear if he moved abruptly, like a dream upon waking.After a moment, though, he blinked, shaking himself.Here was the Miceram, waiting as foretold, but what of the guardian?Eyes narrowed, he grabbed hold of the nearest statue and leaned out, peering first past the altar, then to the left and right.Nothing-nothing to stop them from walking up and just taking the crown from the altar.He glanced again at the god’s glowering, watchful face and frowned.Was this what Pradian’s writings had meant? Was the scroll’s warning of watchers merely intended to mean Paladine himself?He’d nearly convinced himself of just that when a soft noise behind him raised the hairs on his neck.Stiffening, he glanced at Beldyn.The young monk had turned to look back toward the fane’s entrance, and his face was the color of ashes, his blue eyes wide.Teeth clamped together, Cathan turned as well… and stared into the sightless eyes of the dead.The corpses had risen, sliding out of their burial places to follow them down here.They had come in horrible silence, their only sound the scratch of bony feet against the stone floor.Flesh hung from their brown bones in gristly ropes.Dried entrails dangled from holes where their bellies had been.Tongues like strips of leather moved within their jaws, but to no effect.They had no breath to fuel their voices.There were already a score of them in the cavern, and many more were shambling behind, filling the passage where he and Beldyn had just been.It looked as if every corpse in the catacombs had awoken to confront them.To guard the Miceram.“Oh, Abyss,” he breathed.The dead clerics shuffled forward, staggering like mummers’ string puppets.Trying to swallow and realizing he lacked the spit, Cathan grabbed for Beldyn-who still stood rooted, paralyzed with horror-and shoved him back against the stalagmites.His sword came up as he moved to stand protectively before the monk-waiting for the gruesome revenants to attack.Attack they did.He swung his sword as they drew near, striking the first at the base of its jawbone and shearing off its head.The skull flew, smashing to pieces on the floor.For a moment its body remained standing, long enough to make him wonder, but then the thing collapsed, clattering to the floor in a heap, and did not rise again.He allowed himself a victorious grin, which vanished as two more lurched forward, bony fingers clutching, to take the fallen mummy’s place.He lashed out again, cleaving through one corpse’s collarbone and smashing it to the ground.The second reached out and seized his cloak, yanking him closer.Yelping, he brought his sword back up, slamming its hilt into the corpse’s face.The creature’s head snapped back, and he spun his blade around, cleaving through its wrist.The severed hand continued to cling to him even as he dropped the walking corpse with a swing that cut it in two beneath the ribs.He laid low five more, piling the floor at his feet with bones, before they overwhelmed him.First, a corpse’s bony claws got past his defenses, ripping through his leather cuirass.Blood beaded beneath his armor then began to seep.His skin burned as if Kautilyan fire had spilled on it, and he ground his teeth against the pain as he swept the dead priest’s legs out from beneath, then drove the point of his blade into another mummy’s skull.The strange wound already slowed him, however, and soon he had a second, a raking gash across his shoulder that numbed his entire sword arm.Still he fought on, keeping himself between the corpses and Beldyn.The monk still hadn’t moved.He simply stared at the dead priests in abject terror.Nothing stood between him and the Miceram, yet he didn’t try to grab it or make a run for it.“Move, damn it!” Cathan finally shouted, flailing against the growing forest of reaching, leathery arms [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]