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."Feigh's right," declared Castille."You should give us the young one, too-nits make lice, after all.""Nonsense.There is much to be learned from the youngster-he is, after all, a rare survivor of a nearly vanished people.And, as to this one, you must-in the name of Paladine-give me leave to absolve him before his execution.""More of your superstitious nonsense!" spat the magic- user with a good deal of venom."Burn both the wretches at once!""Captain-General, you must realize that this is a political decision." The cleric ignored the gray-robed wizard, speaking directly to the expedition commander."Your prisoner is a noted villain, to be sure.If the black arrows are any proof, he is responsible for hundreds of deaths- well deserving of execution.But your liege, the King- priest, is ever a man-a being-who perceives the pure goodness that is the ultimate gift of the gods.He would take it poorly, I think, if this condemned elf is not given the chance to hear of this ultimate beneficence-before he burns."As the wizard turned away in disgust, Captain-General Castille stared bluntly at the web-shrouded prisoner.Iydahoe met his gaze with a flat stare of his own.He had no care to hear Wellerane's words, to be absolved by the House Elf cleric, but anything that delayed his execution could only increase his chances of escape.Fear still thrummed through his muscles-a certain knowledge that the tribe would come to disaster, that the last Kagonesti on Ansalon would cease to exist if he failed them now.It was the same fear he had known on the hunt, fourteen winters before, when the taking of a deer had meant the survival or starvation of the tribe.His solution, now, could only be the same thing as it had been then.Iydahoe would not allow himself to fail.Finally the captain-general turned back to the priest.He nodded, with an effort."You can have him for one hour- not a second longer.My men will drive the stake and collect the brush.He'll burn as soon as he comes out."The priest nodded, but as he turned to enter the wagon Castille made one more addition."I want Feigh to go in there and keep an eye on him-and I'm sending two swordsmen as well.At the first sign of trouble, they'll hamstring him.He'll sizzle just as well crippled as he will whole."Chapter 27Wellerane and VanisiaThe wizard spat a word, and the strands of gooey rocb fell from Iydahoe's arms and legs.Two burly legionnaires took his weapons, then seized his arms, hauling him bodily onto the driver's deck of the wagon.One of them pulled back the canvas flap while the other roughly shoved the wild elf into the shadowy interior, slamming him into a sitting position on a wooden bench.The wagon interior was lit by two flickering lanterns, though the shadows were thicker than they had been in the glare of the wizard's light spell.Still, Iydahoe remembered that the wagon had seemed utterly lightless outside-it was obviously well screened against observation.Kagonesti eyes adjusting quickly, Iydahoe looked at the wagon's interior, which proved surprisingly spacious.The two legionnaires, swords drawn, laid the elf's axe, quiver, and bow down somewhere out of sight.Now they stood beside Iydahoe's chair, each with a firm hand on the wild elf's shoulder.The wizard Feigh stood somewhere behind them.Before him, Wellerane, the cleric, pursed his lips into a faintly disapproving frown-whether because of Iydahoe or the legionnaires, the elf didn't know.Beyond the priest, in the rear of the wagon, Bakall squatted on the floor.The young elfwoman who had gathered the flowers beside the trail was partially concealed by a gauzy curtain, but she sat quietly beside the young wild elf.Iydahoe tried to catch his tribemate's eye, to compel Bakall to look for an avenue of escape, but the younger elf seemed disinterested-he barely took note of Iydahoe's arrival.Instead, his eyes remained fixed on Wellerane, as if the Kagonesti couldn't wait to hear what the priest would say next.The warrior turned his angry eyes toward the House Elf, but he was unable to forget that Wellerane's intervention had given him another precious hour of life.He only wished that he could put that time to better use.Although the House Elf's face was unlined, the cleric's eyes were wizened, giving a suggestion of many centuries of age.He wore a plain blue tunic, adorned only by a platinum chain, which held a collection of tiny disks.These circlets, also of platinum, jingled slightly when the cleric spoke or gestured.The sound they made was soothing, mellow."I am a priest of the goddess Mishakal.In her name I ask you to tell me of your life, to purge yourself of transgressions.""Who is Mishakal?" Iydahoe was not about to tell this House Elf anything."Is she the concubine of the King- priest?"The Kagonesti intended to shock Wellerane, but the cleric's only reaction was a curious raising of his slender eyebrows."Mishakal is not a person of any kind.She is a goddess, wondrously kind, marvelously wise.It is she in whose honor we travel to Istar.""How can an elven goddess know honor in the heartland of evil humankind?" Iydahoe challenged.The cleric sighed."1 cannot say that Istar is a place worthy of her goodness, but Mishakal is not merely a goddess of Silvanesti.Her words are for humans and dwarves, kender-and even our cousins, the Kagonesti."Behind Iydahoe, the wizard Feigh snorted contemptuously.The wild elf felt the tightening grips of the two legionnaires holding his arms, sensing that Wellerane's words distressed these humans."Why do you ride with legionnaire butchers?""The Kingpriest likes to hear us sing." For the first time, the elfwoman spoke, and Iydahoe had no difficulty believing that her voice could produce very beautiful music."Every year, a chorus from Silvanesti travels to Istar, to raise our voices in the Evening Prayer.We will sing in the temple itself, at the very heart of the great city."Only then did his eyes travel to the golden-haired elf- maiden.She leaned forward, peering around the gauzy screen to look at him with frank curiosity.Her eyes were greener than any Kagonesti's, but flecks of darker color suggested a depth of understanding beyond that of the typical House Elf.In the firm set of her chin, the frank and appraising expression in her eyes, Iydahoe sensed that she was a female of great determination and courage.She showed no fear of him, but neither did she seem upset by his arrival.He recalled that her name was Vanisia-it seemed a wonderful and appropriate thing to call her- and that she had earlier gathered flowers by the trail.Abruptly the wagon sagged under a sudden weight.Vanisia gasped, and Iydahoe twisted in shock, surprised to see that another House Elf now occupied the wagon with them-an elf who had not entered through any way the warrior could see [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]