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."Out of the forest on the northern plains, where the fire had taken the last of the woodland, there we lost Aschraf, who was not yet himself in the lists of battle.Bold as a wolf, the bearer of promises, he fell to the fire, and the fire found him worthy.Robert the Seneschal, Robert the Harper, the last of our number to fall in the battle, left in the midst of fire and ogres, loyal to Nidus in the rear guard of armies.While the gates of the, castle, the gates of the ear, were closed to his cries, Robert the Seneschal drew the last sword in the burning of memories."All of the men kept the silence.Gundling held forth thecup, for any taker, any man who could complete the story.Aglaca looked wonderingly at the assembled soldiers: None of them remembered the dark wings over the moon, the welling, paralyzing fear that had passed across the high prairie and then vanished, leaving them scattered and dazed and forlorn.None, that is, except Aglaca himself.And Verminaard, of course, who now sat on a stool by the fire, his gaze fixed on the guttering flames and his hands folded softly, almost prayerfully under his chin.He would not take the cup to end the story; traditionally, that was the duty of the lord of the castle.When Daeghrefn moved toward the cup, there was a sharp intake of breath from one of the men-Mozer, perhaps, or Tangaard.Slowly the Lord of Nidus extended his hand, grasped the jeweled goblet, drank the dregs of the wine…And spoke, his words halting and listless.They all knew he spoke from hearsay, from the words that had passed through the castle the night before, this morning, and into the waning hours of the afternoon.But it was his task to complete the story, to end the Minding with all the dead reckoned and the heroes acclaimed."Let not the night pass," Daeghrefn said resentfully, sarcastically, with the eyes of the men fixed upon him, "without the remembrance of Verminaard of Nidus, black mace-wielder, slayer of ogres, scourge of the flame, defender of battlements, right arm of the castle." He coughed and set the cup on the table.Verminaard rose from his seat by the fire.Coldly and balefully, the mace swinging menacingly in his gloved hand, he stared after Daeghrefn, who averted his eyes."Had I heard such a speech years ago," he began flatly, "and had you meant it… had I heard its beginning, its ending.one word of it, even last week, it might have moved me."He stalked from the fire to the great hall's entrance, past the astounded sentries and out the door of the keep.Daeghrefn stood by the table, staring into the wine-stained bowl of the cup.The men began to eat, in silence at first, but then amid muffled and uncertain conversation.He looked up once, met Tangaard's resentful stare, and lowered his gaze again.Until the ogres and the fires, Daeghrefn had not remembered fear.It had come from the shadows like a thief, rising from the smoke to steal his nerve and his warrior's heart, and the castle walls were narrow and dark, the corners menacing and comfortless.He had gazed in the basin this morning as he washed his face, and for a moment-a dark, horrific moment-he thought he saw something standing over him, waiting….A thing with pale eyes and pale hair, blocking out the sunlight.And again he was afraid.Of the fires and the ogres, of the men in his garrison.Of Verminaard.And of something else he could not remember.Verminaard burst into the moonlight of the bailey, a bitter oath on his lips.He fought his way through the ipomoea, the perennial morning glory whose vines plagued the castle and garrison in a spreading, entangling joke.Wrestling himself free of the tenacious plant, the young man looked up to curse the moons and the constellations.He let the words die in his throat when he saw Cerestes ' on the battlements, gazing south over the plains.In that moment and from that vantage, there in the tangling light of Solinari and Lunitari, the twining moons, silver and red, it seemed to Verminaard that the mage'sskin was almost insubstantial.It shimmered and glowed with a strange translucence, shifting in a luminous cloud until Cerestes seemed a cloud himself, then a shadow, then a dwindling black light on the crenels, like the light Verminaard had seen in the cave where he found the mace.Then suddenly Cerestes emerged, and thin ebony lightning danced over his sleeves, on his hands, on his fingers…And the shadow he cast on the tower walls was reptilian, enormous, disproportionate even for moon-crazed battlements.Verminaard gasped, recalling the shadow on the moon.And then Cerestes looked like himself once more, the black robe shimmering faintly, almost shabby now in the clouded moonlight.Only strange light, Verminaard thought.Or weariness from my battle yesterday.Or a simple magic on a cloud-struck night-a spell for sleep, perhaps, or to augur the fitful stars.The young man climbed the ladder to stand by his tutor."Out at the edge of sight," Cerestes said, forgoing greeting as though he had known Verminaard was there all along, "there's still a fire.See? If you look long enough toward the South Moraine …"Verminaard stared across the darkening plain.He could see no fire from where he stood, but then Cerestes' eyesight had always been better than his.Expressionlessly the mage turned to his pupil."The real courage came when you trusted Night-bringer," he explained quietly.Verminaard frowned."Nightbringer?"Cerestes nodded."The'mace.'Nightbringer' is the name it went by in Godshome.Powerful it is, but how would you know? How would you believe in it without courage?"The lad smiled wider."I know what you mean, Cerestes," he said."When Father left the Order.stopped believing in it… they say he changed.I don't remember the time, but Abelaard said that a sort of daring left him when Daeghrefn left the old gods, and that in its place was something.small.Something not at all, perhaps."But 'Nightbringer,' you say? The name of the mace is 'Nightbringer' ? "Cerestes nodded."We had heard of it for years, knew it would be found by a chosen one, by a special one …"Verminaard's ears felt hot.He looked to the sky, where the last vestiges of smoke had faded and dispersed, and the clouds parted over the red moon Lunitari.There was something Aglaca had told him long ago, something about the Voice, about why he refused to believe it.Verminaard could not remember."And that's me, I suppose?" he asked."The chosen one?""They spoke of you in Godshome," Cerestes replied, and something had deepened in his voice, choiring and resonating, until Verminaard realized there were two voices speaking: the old familiar voice he had heard in the classroom, at table, and on the battlements until this night, this moment, and another voice below that-a Voice even more familiar, more intimate, low and musical and feminine-and together the voices praised him, reassured him."You are the mace-wielder, the chosen one.Unto you will fall this castle, this country, and the mountains from the foothills of Estwilde to the peaks of the Doom Range and the breathless heights of Berkanth."Cerestes shimmered as he spoke, and his skin seemed to ripple and change.And then he was strangely diminished in the cloud and spell light [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]