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.“Mina.”Her eyes opened.She made no sound.The amber eyes gazed up at him, aware of him, cognizant of her surroundings.“Don’t be afraid,” he said and realized as he said it that this girl had never known fear.She did not know fear now.“I’ve come to free you.” He tried to speak calmly, but his voice and his hands trembled.“We can escape out the back of the tent into the woods.We have to get these manacles off.”He moved his hand away.“Call the guard.He has the key.Tell him you’re ill.I’ll wait in the shadows and—”Mina put her fingers on his lips, stopped his words.“No,” she said.“Thank you, but I will not leave.”“What was that?” one of the guards asked his fellow.“Did you hear something?”“It came from inside the tent.”Silvan lifted his knife.Mina laid a restraining hand on his arm.She began to sing.Sleep, love; forever sleep.Your soul the night will keep.Embrace the darkness deep.Sleep, love; forever sleep.The voices of the guards ceased.“There,” she said to Silvan.“The guards are asleep.We may talk without fear.”“Asleep.” Silvan lifted the tent flap.The guards remained standing at their posts, their heads bowed, their chins resting on their chests.Their eyes were closed.“Are you a sorceress?” he asked, coming back to her.“No, I am only a faithful follower,” Mina replied.“The gifts I have are from my God.”“May your God keep you safe.Hurry, Mina! Out this way.We will find a path not far from here.The path runs through.” Silvan halted.She was shaking her head.“Mina,” he said desperately, “we must escape! They’re going to execute you at noon this very day.With the rising of the sun.Glaucous has convinced them.He fears you, Mina.”“He has good reason to fear me,” she said sternly.“Why, Mina?” Silvan asked.“You were going to tell me something about him.What is it?”“Only that he is not what he appears and that by his magic, your people are dying.Tell me this, ” —she put her hand upon his cheek— “is it your desire to punish Glaucous? Reveal his intentions to your people and thereby reveal his murderous plan?”“Yes, of course, but what—”“Then do as I instruct you,” Mina said.“Do exactly as I say.My life is in your keeping.If you fail me—”“I will not fail you, Mina,” Silvan whispered.Seizing her hand, he pressed it to his lips.“I am yours to command.”“You will attend my execution.Hush! Say nothing.You promised.Make certain that you are armed.Position yourself at Glaucous’s side.Keep a large number of your bodyguards around you.Will you do that?”“Yes, but what then? Must I watch you die?”“You will know what to do and when to do it.Rest assured.The One God is with us.You must go now, Silvan.The general will send someone to your tent to check on you.He must not find you absent.”To leave her was to leave a part of himself.Silvan reached out his hand, ran his fingers over her head, felt the warmth of her skin, the softness of the downlike and the hardness of the bone beneath.She held perfectly still under his touch, did not warm to him, but did not move away from him either.“What did your hair look like, Mina?” he asked.“It was the color of flame, long and thick.The strands would curl around your finger and tug at your heart like a baby’s hand.”“Your hair must have been beautiful,” Silvan said.“Did you lose it in a fever?”“I cut it,” she told him.“I took a knife and I cut it off at the roots.”“Why?” He was aghast.“My God required it of me.I cared too much for my looks,” Mina replied.“I liked to be petted, admired, loved.My hair was my vanity, my pride.I sacrificed it to prove my faith.I have only one love, now.Only one loyalty.You must leave me now, Silvan.”Silvan stood up.Reluctantly, he moved to the back of the tent.“You are my one love, Mina,” he said softly.“It is not me that you love,” she said to him.“lt is the God in me.”Silvan did not remember leaving her tent, but he found himself standing outside in the darkness.CHAPTER THIRTYTO YOUR HEALTHNight settled over the battlefield of Silvanesti, shrouding the bodies of the dead that were being ceremoniously prepared for burial.The same night wrapped like a winding cloth around the elven capital of Qualinost.The night had a feel of doom about it, or so Gerard thought.He walked the streets of the elven capital with his hand on the hilt of his sword, his watchful gaze looking for the glint of steel in every shadowed corner, every dark doorway.He crossed the street to avoid passing in front of an alley.He scrutinized every second story window curtain to see if it fluttered, as it might if an archer stood behind it, ready with an assassin’s arrow.He was conscious, always, of eyes watching him, and once he felt so threatened that he whipped around, sword drawn, to defend against a knife in the back.He saw nothing, however, but he was certain someone had been there, someone who had perhaps been daunted by the Knight’s heavy battle armor and his shining sword.Gerard could not even breath a sigh of relief when he reached safely the Headquarters of the Knights of Neraka.Danger was no longer sneaking stealthily behind him.Danger was front and center.He entered the headquarters to find a single officer on duty, the draconian asleep the floor.“Here’s the answer for Beryl from Marshal Medan,” said Gerard, saluting.“About time!” The officer grunted.“You can’t believe how loudly that thing snores!”Gerard walked over to the draconian, who was twitching in his sleep and making strange, guttural sounds.“Groul,” Gerard said and reached out a hand to shake the slumbering draconian.A hiss, a snarl, a flapping of wings and scrabbling of feet.Clawed hands grappled for Gerard’s throat.“Hey!” Gerard yelled, fending off the draconian’s attack.“Calm down, will you?”Groul glared at him with squint lizard eyes.His tongue flicked.Lowering his hand from Gerard’s neck, the draconian drew back.“Sorry,” he muttered [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]