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engagement alive is another matter. But no one can take away the personal conquest of
good over evil that we waged in our own hearts before the war began. And in the bigger
scheme of things, if our side is defeated here on this battlefield, others will stand and
fight tomorrow. As long as Wulder reigns, and He reigns forever, there will always be
those who choose right over wrong.”
“Still, speaking of the smaller scheme of things, I wish you could just say, ‘Yes, we will
win.’”
Lyll laughed low and quiet as she leaned to press her head against Kale’s. “I would like
that too.”
57
TEST OF FIRE
Kale didn’t ask where the dragon saddles came from. She knew Cam and her mother
were capable of fabricating what was needed out of what was there. While the two master
wizards got ready, Kale spent the time apologizing to Celisse.
“I should have known you would not abandon me. I know now the desertion had to
appear genuine so that no suspicion of a deception would get back to Risto, but I should
have listened to the doubt in my heart and believed in you instead of what I saw.”
Soon Wizard Cam, Lady Allerion, and Kale set off on dragons, heading for the very
center of Risto’s camp.
Where are we going? Kale asked Wizard Cam.
“To Risto’s doorstep.”
Why?
“To stop him. Once he’s out of the picture, his army will disintegrate. In the long run, we
will save many lives.”
She took a deep, calming breath and surveyed the land beneath them. The grawligs,
ropmas, and schoergs had indeed deserted. Tracks in the snow all headed toward the
Morchain Range. To the south, the two forces battled fiercely. Kale thought she saw
Paladin’s distinctive black dragon on the front line of warriors in the air. Their army was
successfully pushing back the bisonbecks.
With Cam in the lead, the dragons began their descent. They landed in a crowded area,
knocking down tents and laundry lines, regiment banners, and a weather sock as they
tried to squeeze into the pathways of the enemy encampment.
Cam and Lyll slid from their mounts and charged toward the largest, most elaborate tent.
Kale jumped to the ground, pulled her sword, and followed. She burst through the
doorway and skidded to a stop right behind her mother.
Risto stood on a raised platform where a table littered with maps dominated the room.
The wizard’s dark hair brushed the shoulders of his well-tailored coat. His lean and
muscular body tensed as he spied the visitors, but no alarm registered in his clear blue
eyes. His lips curved in a smile that sent chills down Kale’s spine. She had noted once
before that Risto’s face uncannily resembled Paladin’s. But the evil wizard’s sly
expression annihilated the similarities.
Seated across from Wizard Risto was the woman Kale had referred to as Mother Number
One.
Mother Number Two spoke. “I believe you’ve met Risto before, Kale. But let me
formally introduce his companion. This is Burner Stox.”
Burner rose with a cunning smile on her lips and coldness in her eyes. “I’m so pleased to
see you here.”
Kale sidled closer to the Lyll Allerion she claimed as her real mother. Burner Stox made
her skin crawl.
Risto laughed. “With all your artfulness, Lyll, Cam”—he nodded at each wizard—“you
still managed to play right into my hands. You see, all this”—he waved his hand over the
battle plans and gestured toward the surrounding countryside—“was contrived for the
sole purpose of bringing the Dragon Keeper to us. How nice to also have two annoying
wizards delivered at the same time. I must admit that I’m disappointed Fenworth and the
meech dragons aren’t here as well. But it’s only a matter of time before they, too, fall into
my hands.”
He gave Burner Stox a wink and a sardonic grin. “Shall we, my dear?”
She nodded, and both turned evil glares upon their company.
A fire burst around Cam and Lyll. Cam merely raised his arms, and a torrent of water
cascaded over the flames. He moved to stand directly in front of Risto while Lyll
approached Burner in an agile, catlike prowl.
Burner sneered. “We wanted you, Lyll Allerion, and Risto’s brilliant plan worked. Once
rid of Paladin’s elite inner circle, we can easily control Amara.”
“Where is Crim Cropper in all this, Burner?” asked Lyll. “Surely your husband should be
here for this triumph.”
Burner’s twisted smile deepened. “He’s playing scientist in a southern region. He doesn’t
care for ‘field work.’ He’ll be grateful enough when I bring him more specimens for his
experiments.”
Kale’s head swiveled back and forth as she watched the male wizards fight. Bolts of
lightning, balls of fire, whirlwinds, hornets’ nests, and anything else the combatants
captured from nature hurled across the small space between them. The female wizards
tossed words back and forth and edged closer to each other. That in itself unnerved Kale.
Instinct told her that Burner Stox must not lay a finger on her mother. She edged around
the side of the tent. When she managed to get to a flank position, she screeched out a
warning.
“There’s two Ristos and two Burner Stoxes. You’re looking at a reflection. The real
Risto—” She didn’t get to finish.
Simultaneously, Risto and Burner Stox grabbed their opponents. Cam and Lyll stiffened.
The color drained from their flesh and clothing. When the evil wizards withdrew their
hands, only statues remained.
Kale screamed.
Risto turned to her. “Dealing with you should be a lot simpler. But first I want my troops
to see I have you in my power. It should do wonders for their morale.”
Kale raised her small sword, only to have it jump from her hand at Risto’s command.
He grabbed her by the arm. “Burner, keep that dragon of hers from following us.”
He dragged Kale out of the tent. Celisse let out a cry, and her huge head swung toward
them. A light flashed, and Celisse wailed. Again the dragon stretched out her neck to
intercept Risto’s departure. The light flashed, and Celisse fell. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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