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.The dragonfear spread over the people.Unable to scream or run, they could only cower before the fearful apparition, arms around each other, knowing death was inevitable.At Verminaard's command, Pyros settled on one of the fortress towers.Verminaard stared out from behind the homed dragonmask, silent, furious.Tanis, watching in helpless frustration, felt Sturm grip his arm."Look!" The knight pointed north, toward the gates.Tanis reluctantly Ipwered his gaze from the Dragon Highlord and saw two figures running toward the gates of the fortress."Eben!" he cried in disbelief."But who's that with him?""He won't escape!" Sturm shouted.Before Tanis could stop him, the knight ran after the two.As Tanis followed, he saw a flash of red out of the comer of his eye-Raistlin and his twin."I, too, have a score to settle with this man," the mage hissed.The three caught up with Sturm just as the knight gripped Eben by the collar and hurled him to the ground.'Traitor!" Sturm yelled loudly.'Though I die this day, I'll send you to the Abyss first" He drew his sword and jerked Eben's head back.Suddenly Eben's companion whirled around, came back, and caught hold of Sturm's swordarm.Sturm gasped.His hand loosened its grip on Eben as the knight stared, amazed at the sight before him.The man's shirt had been torn open in his wild flight from the mines.Impaled in the man's flesh, in the center of his chest, was a brilliant green jewel! Sunlight flashed on the gem that was as big around as a man's fist, causing it to gleam with a bright and terrible light-an unholy light."I have never seen nor heard of magic like this!" Raistlin whispered in awe as he and the others stopped, stunned, beside Sturm.Seeing their wide eyes focused on his body, Berem instinctively pulled his shirt over his chest.Then, loosening his hold on Sturm's arm, he turned and ran for the gates.Eben scrambled to his feet and stumbled after him.Sturm leaped forward, but Tanis stopped him."No," he said."It's too late.We have others to think of.""Tanis, look!" Caramon shouted, pointing above the huge gates.A section of the stone wall of the fortress above the massive front gates began to open, forming a huge, widening crack.Slowly at first, then with increasing speed, the massive granite boulders began to fall from the crack, smashing to the ground with such force that the flagstone cracked and great clouds of dust rose into the air.Above the roar could be dimly heard the sound of the massive chains releasing the mechanism.The boulders began to fall just as Eben and Berem arrived at the gates.Eben shrieked in terror, instinctively and pitifully raised his arm to shield his head.The man next to him glanced up and-it seemed-gave a small sigh.Then both were buried under tons of cascading rock as the ancient defense mechanism sealed shut the gates of Pax Tharkas."This is your final act of defiance!" Verminaard roared.His speech had been interrupted by the fall of the rocks, an act that only enraged him more."I offered you a chance to work to further the glory of my Queen.I cared for you and your families.But you are stubborn and foolish.You will pay with your lives!" The Dragon Highlord raised Nightbringer high in the air."I will destroy the men.I will destroy the women! I will destroy the children!"At a touch of the Dragon Highlord's hand, Pyros spread his huge wings and leaped high into the air.The dragon drew in a deep breath, preparing to swoop down upon the mass of people who wailed in terror in the wide-open courtyard and incinerate them with his fiery breath.But the dragon's deadly dive was stopped.Sweeping up into the sky from the pile of rubble made when she crashed out of the fortress, Matafleur flew straight at Pyros.The ancient dragon had sunk deeper into her madness.Once more she relived the nightmare of losing her children.She could see the knights upon the silver and golden dragons, the wicked dragonlances gleaming in the sunshine.In vain she pleaded with her children not to join the hopeless fight, in vain she sought to convince them the war was at an end.They were young and would not listen.They flew off, leaving her weeping in her lair.As she watched in her mind's eye the bloody, final battle, as she saw her children die upon the dragonlances, she heard Verminaard's voice."I will destroy the children!"And, as she had done so many centuries before, Matafleur flew out to defend them.Pyros, stunned by the unexpected attack, swerved just in time to avoid the broken, yet still lethal teeth of the old dragon aiming for his unprotected flanks.Matafleur hit him a glancing blow, tearing painfully into one of the heavy muscles that drove the giant wings.Rolling in the air, Pyros lashed out at the passing Matafleur with a wicked, taloned forefoot, tearing a gash in the female dragon's soft underbelly.In her madness, Matafleur did not even feel the pain, but the force of the larger and younger male dragon's blow knocked her backwards in the air.The rollover manuever had been an instinctive defensive action on the part of the male dragon.He had been able to gain both altitude and time to plan his attack.He had, however, forgotten his rider.Verminaard- riding without the dragonsaddle he used in battle-lost his grip on the dragon's neck and fell to the courtyard below.It was not a long drop and he landed uninjured, only bruised and momentarily shaken.Most of the people around him fled in terror when they saw him rise to his feet, but-glancing around swiftly-he noticed that there were four, near the northern end of the courtyard, who did not flee.He turned to face those four.The appearance of Matafleur and her sudden attack on Pyros jolted the captive people out of their state of panic.This, combined with the fall of Verminaard into their midst, like the fall of some horrifying god, accomplished what Elistan and the others had not.The people were shaken out of their fear, sense returned, and they began fleeing south, toward the safety of the mountains [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]