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." The kender looked sheepish."I thought I saw one of those walrus-looking men running out the door, so I thought I'd better find out what mischief he was up to.When I realized I'd lost sight of him, I looked up and found myself in a library-here in this frozen castle!" His face was flushed with barely contained excitement.Though I said nothing, I noticed that his pack had new bulges."That does it," Laurana said firmly."Our battle here will likely draw more attention.Let's get moving." She brushed a tangle of hair from her face."Will Derek be able to travel, or must we carry him?""I will carry myself!" Derek growled.To my surprise, he pushed past Elistan to pull himself to his feet."Never let it be said that Derek Crownguard slowed anyone down!""No one would ever accuse you of that," Laurana muttered, the double edge in her words lost to Derek."Let's go find this library of Tas's."Gingerly, Derek placed his weight on his foot.I waited for him to crumble like softened snow.But as he headed for the door, a slight limp was the only indication that he'd hurt his foot.Having seen the extent of his wound, I was stunned! Could sheer force of will allow Derek to walk on the bloody stump I had just examined?What startled me almost as much was that no one else was surprised.I was about to demand an explanation when Elistan caught my eye.That serene, half-smile lit his face as he winked at me knowingly.My mind balked at the only possibility.Could it be true?… Elistan…?"Come on, Raggart!" Tasslehoff's high-pitched voice prodded me.Shaking my head, I looked around the storeroom to find I was alone with dead minotaurs and thanoi.Everyone waited for me at the doorway at the far side of the room.I'd think about Elistan and Derek's foot later, I told myself as I hurried to join them.Sturm poked his head out the door and peered about for signs of life.With a jerk of his head, he signaled us to follow him into the area beyond.We stepped into what must have been the central courtyard of a once-beautiful castle.Five or more doors led off in a semi-circle to the right, and three more curved around to our left.The courtyard was otherwise empty, save for a massive fountain shaped of water-spurting dragons.The fountain immediately struck me as strange- Why hadn't it frozen?"Magical," Elistan said abruptly, as if reading my thoughts."The water has curative properties."But instead of thrilling me, for I had many aches and pains a few swallows might cure, Elistan's prediction made me apprehensive.Someone or something very magical and intelligent was at work in Icewall Castle."The library's over here!" Tasslehoff whispered loudly, slipping off to one of the rooms to our left."There was a trap on this door," he added proudly, his hand on the knob, "but I fixed it." He disappeared through the opening, only to thrust his head back out again."By the way," he chimed, pointing to a spot before the door, "don't step on this big, flat stone.""Kender!" muttered Derek, but I noticed he stepped across the stone before continuing into the room beyond.Sturm and Laurana followed, with Elistan and me behind.Several candles, nearly burned to their bases, lit the small room that was filled with racks and shelves of books, scrolls, and loose papers.Tasslehoff was everywhere at once, ducking under tables and peering between shelves."What makes you think the orb is in here, kender?" asked Derek."We shouldn't stay long.We can't afford to get caught in here.I can barely turn around, let alone fight.""Derek's right, Tas," said Laurana."Let's search quickly and get out of here," Derek cast a surprised glance at Laurana, caught off guard by her support."Raggart, keep an eye on the courtyard." Following her instructions, I moved back to stand in the doorway, an eye on both areas."I didn't say the orb was in here," Tasslehoff said de fensively, "I only said it MIGHT be.Whoever owns this library must certainly read a lot, though how he finds the time… Of course, what else has he to do in the middle of all this boring ice and snow-no offense, Raggart."I smiled to let him know none was taken.Frankly, I found the landscape a bit dull at times, too.But my smile slipped as I read the spines of several books- spellbooks, I noted with growing apprehension."I've not felt such all-consuming evil since… since Pax Tharkas." Elistan shuddered, though I didn't understand the reference."I think we're near the orb, but I do not believe it is in this room."Abruptly, Laurana stopped pulling books from shelves.Looking resolute, she said grimly, "Then we'll just have to search every room in this frozen castle until we find it.""I knew better than to trust a kender," Derek scoffed, striding toward the door."You're the one who insisted back in Tarsis that I come along," Tasslehoff pointed out, his little chin thrust forward."A demand I've come to regret more than once," Derek muttered."Then I don't suppose you want to know about the room hidden behind this wall?" the kender asked coyly.Derek's face turned dark.Laurana stepped up between them."What room, Tas?" she asked in that sweet voice of hers.Tasslehoff shot a triumphant glance at Derek before turning an excited grin on Laurana."I think there's one behind this bookcase," he said, striding up to the shortest wall in the room, directly opposite the doorway I stood in.Tas knocked twice on the middle sup port of the bookcase.The whole wall swung back, almost knocking the kender off his feet in the process."See?""I see," Derek said, pushing past the startled kender to peer into the room beyond."I see another empty, orbless room!"Derek took a few steps into the room, disappearing from my view."Whoa-what the-?" He gasped suddenly."Hey!" It was a shriek of frustration, not pain.Everyone pressed forward.Though I knew I should stay by the door no matter what, I could not resist looking too.There, in a bedchamber the same size as the library, stood Derek, his hands frozen to his sides.I could not understand it until I saw the slender form of an elf in chainmail and black robes, a black longsword gleaming in his hand.He wore a strange helmet with horns over his head.I did not know it then, but I was getting my first glimpse of a Dragon Highlord."He's a dark elf wizard and he's put some kind of hold on Derek!" Elistan cried [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]