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Crusader

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год

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“And what did happen when you met Qeteb in the Maze?” he asked, so softly his voice could hardly be heard above the roar of the surf.

Caelum took a very long time to answer. “I made him laugh,” he finally said. “I made the entire world laugh.”

DragonStar lifted a hand and placed it on Caelum’s shoulder, and the two brothers sat there for a long time, only love, the scent of the flowers, and the bellow of the ocean between them.

DareWing had brought the Strike Force to the northern coast for a particular reason: here the Demons’ influence was likely to be least. Although the demonic hours would affect none of them, DareWing wanted to keep the Strike Force as safe as was possible for as long as possible. The Icebear Coast would also have the least concentration of crazed animals. What DareWing wanted more than anything else was to find a small pack of something that the Strike Force could whet their teeth on. And then a larger pack of something, and one day DareWing wanted to launch the Strike Force at the entire mass of lunacy that milled about the Maze.

First, they would start with the mountains themselves.

“See here?” Caelum said, thumbing through the Book, “this one is of fear, and this one of despair.”

DragonStar studied the Song of Despair, absently converting it to symbol in his mind. “This book is full of everything the Demons have ever projected,” he said, “and I must be the one to let these ‘emotions’ consume me so I may project them back at the Demons.”

“Is that so?” Caelum said, and his voice sounded more than mildly puzzled. Again DragonStar had the feeling that something of immense importance hovered at the very edges of his mind.

“Well, I suppose it must be you,” Caelum continued, “for you are the true StarSon and the wielder of Acharite magic, without which no-one can use this Book.”

DragonStar closed the Song Book and put it to one side. “Caelum, what happened when Qeteb caught up with you?”

Caelum frowned, then his brow cleared. “I cannot remember,” he said, and laughed with relief. “I remember only that the Dance of Death was such an abysmal failure the Demons ridiculed me. Then I remember fleeing through the Maze, and then something happened … I … I fell over, and despaired, thinking that this must have been how RiverStar felt when I killed her. I begged her forgiveness, and then suddenly I was in the Field of Flowers, and I knew no more of Qeteb.”

“Ah,” DragonStar said.

They sat in silence for another while longer, and then DragonStar stirred. “Where is DareWing? He should be here somewhere with the Strike Force.”

“Oh, he grew impatient,” Caelum said, “and thought to save Tencendor all by himself.”

“What!”

“He took the Strike Force,” Caelum said, “and went back into the wasteland. Contentedness is not yet their lot.”

“Gods!” DragonStar wondered what he should do: go rescue DareWing from a situation he might well be able to control on his own, or go see the one person who might truly tell him the secret of the book?

Finally DragonStar got to his feet and whistled Belaguez over, tucked the Enchanted Song Book under his arm and leapt on the stallion’s bare back. Best to make sure about DareWing first.

The Alaunt jumped up, milling about the horse’s legs.

“Come back,” Caelum said, wistfully, and DragonStar nodded, and drew the doorway of light with his sword.

DareWing wheeled above the ruins of Star Finger, the ghostly apparitions of his force dipping and swaying about him. He was lost in his memories of his early years spent in and about the mountain. Now it was broken and destroyed, and would never prove a safe haven for the Icarii race again.

Nothing in Tencendor would, come to that.

“Strike Leader.”

A soft voice above his right wing snapped DareWing out of his reverie. “What is it?”

There was a silence, and DareWing regretted his sharp tone. “I am sorry. What do you need to tell me, MirrorWing?”

MirrorWing — or the being that had once been MirrorWing — pointed to a canyon below.

“I think someone down there is trying to attract our attention.”

DareWing looked down, and could not stop his exclamation of surprise.

WolfStar thought they’d never see him. Curses! What was wrong with their star-damned eyes?

But then, what were they to start with? The creatures were Icarii-shaped, but their bodies were indistinct, almost transparent.

And their wings… WolfStar knew that Enchanters would have committed murder to understand the spells that made these wings glow with such incandescent colour.

WolfStar waved an arm slowly, trying to get them to hurry up. Stars, but every movement was agony! He’d only fallen some twenty or thirty paces — bouncing from rock wall to rock wall — down the chasm before he’d tumbled onto a rock ledge that sloped backwards under an overhang. By the time StarLaughter had sent her merriment — her mad, mad merriment
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