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him; he d shrunken with the loss of his power. The Crook of the Trustee was
now a row of cinders.
Gil lay near, fighting shrilly for air. Evergray focused on him stuporously.
 I truly had no allies, had I? Nor kin, nor friend, nor any who wished to be.
The crosscurrent radiance in his eyes died. Gil, also under Dirge s sentence,
hung his head down in defeat.
Chapter Thirty-Five
For better than never is late . . .
Chaucer,  The Canon s Yeoman s Tale
There was an explosion on the plain; Cloud Ruler disappeared in a red
fireball. Yardiff Bey had removed his spells from the elemental within it; now
that Evergray s no longer held it, it burst free. Hovering for a moment, a
searing, raging globe, it took its bearings while those below crouched from
its heat, then blazed into the sky, away from its long imprisonment.
From above, from all around, a choir of frustration and venom filled the air.
The Masters lamented for themselves, and the Spell ruined by Evergray s death.
Their hatred rolled across the plain, trembling the tatters of cloth that
clung to the fallen.
Gabrielle sprawled in the dust by Hightower s side. The old man couldn t
staunch the blood that flowed from him, though his clamped hands shook with
the effort. She tried her enchantments, though she knew nothing would reverse
Dirge s malice.
Van Duyn arrived, with Reacher and Katya. With them came some of the
Yalloroon, staring wide-eyed at the aftermath of battle. Two of the little
people had died, along with the crew of the war-dray in which they d ridden,
when their vehicle was overturned and overrun by the Dead.
Swan knelt by Gil s side as he tried to hold his breath and re-expand his lung
by pressure, hand covering his wound. But the function of Dirge s magic made
it impossible to seal the injury. He gave up and looked at the High Constable.
 You were right in Final Graces, he labored, breath short.  About risk.
Springbuck appeared over Swan s shoulder. His eyes flicked to the wound, then
met his friend s candidly, holding no hope. Gil tried to smile, but failed.  I
know. I should have listened to you. Forget it. Bey s still back there in the
Andre had left Hightower, for whom the wizard could do nothing. Now he led
Balagon away from where the warrior-priest had closed Angorman s eyes forever.
The Divine Vicar had taken up Red Pilgrim; Andre took it from him gently,
handing it away to Van Duyn, who stood nearest him. Hearing Gil, Andre nodded.
 That is no less than true. There is still Bey. Gabrielle?
She still held Hightower s hand, but said,  The Masters await. There is yet
time to act.
 Are you not spent? Springbuck asked anxiously.
 Not so, she replied.  I took in a measure of the force escaping Evergray.
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The rest is fled at random. The Five s resources are diminished, but they will
draw more to them, or be given of Amon s. We have only this moment.
Hightower sighed weakly and squeezed her hand in approval.
Their losses had been heavy. Because some must care for the injured and
because the number of horses was reduced, Springbuck had fewer than seven
thousand functioning mounted troops. He began rapid orders for assembly. Then
he halted as an emaciated mare bore toward him through the drifting smoke and
stench. She came to a stumbling stop and her rider dropped to his feet.
 Ferrian! Dunstan flew at him.  Kinsman! They gripped forearms.
 We are peculiarly met, observed Ferrian, eyes sweeping the scene.
Many Wild Riders came to their former Champion, saluting, pressing his hand in
theirs, but he broke away, and came to Springbuck. When he d heard what had
happened, Ferrian motioned to Gil and Hightower.  Though Angorman and many
others on the field are beyond help, these two here are not, for in Ladentree
I learned many things. Yonder, east of Salam some small way, is the hill
where the Lifetree blossomed. Down within it lie those particular waters which
fed the Tree, and would remedy Dirge s magic.
Andre was unconvinced.  Those are for the Lifetree. I doubt any other
influence could summon them forth.
 Carnage wrought by ordinary steel cannot be undone, Ferrian answered,  but
these of an eldritch nature, these might be. It would be ill of us not to
Gil knew a flash of hope so poignant it stripped him of his stolid
resignation, slim as the chance was, and Swan s face came alive.
Springbuck knew he must be the one to say it.  The Masters will not defer that
long, Ferrian. An hour s delay will be the death of us all. That same hour
would kill Gil and Hightower. He searched Gabrielle s face for vindication,
desperate that she understand two lives were balanced here against many, as
well as the fate of the Crescent Lands.
Ferrian shook his head.  The gods have us on schedules all their own. But
there is a third choice, Ku-Mor-Mai. Let those who must press on to Salam,
and let but a few of us detour, bearing these two comrades to the hill.
Dunstan seconded it, saying he would go. Springbuck s expression showed how
welcome that proposal was.  Well thought on. But how to transport?
The latecomer pointed to where the overturned war-dray of Matloo had been
righted. Its tongue-hitch had been twisted and broken, but the team had been
recovered, and hasty repairs made by septmen.  There is the method.
Springbuck ordered the dray brought over. Gabrielle took Swan aside. Low, she [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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