[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

wagon continued to rise till its dripping, mucky wheels were a good ten feet
off the ground.
The men on the ropes who'd been closest to the wagon started to rise into the
air, too, till they let go and fell back into the mud. Some of them squawked.
Some cursed. Some did both at once. Rollant didn't blame those last. Albertus
the so-called Great had produced a sorcery more successful than it might have
been. And, as with a lot of sorceries, this one, proving more successful than
it might have been, was at best useless and at worst a help to the enemy.
"Well, Colonel, what in the hells are you going to do now?" demanded the
captain who'd summoned Albertus.
So much for respecting a superior officer, Rollant thought.
But wizards were officers by courtesy, to let them order common soldiers
Page 210
ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.html
around. Real fighting men, as he'd seen before, disdained them.
Albertus gave the wagon a distinctly wall-eyed stare. The stare he sent the
contemptuous captain was something else again. Rollant was glad it wasn't
aimed his way; a poisonous snake might have aimed that sort of look at its
prey the instant before it struck. "I shall endeavor to repair matters," the
mage said in a voice as coldblooded as a serpent.
If he put the captain in fear, that worthy hid it very well. "You can endeavor
all you gods-damned well please," he snarled. "You wouldn't have to if you'd
done it right the first time."
"And if you splendid soldiers had done everything right the first time, this
cursed war would have been over year before last," Colonel Albertus retorted.
The captain sputtered and fumed, but he kept quiet, because the wizard had
spoken self-evident truth.
Albertus' smile didn't show fangs, but it might as well have.
Turning back to the wagon, Albertus began another spell. This one sounded less
imperious, more cautious, than the one he'd used before. Its results seemed
less dramatic, too. Rollant approved of that; high drama and trouble were
intimately associated in his mind. When Colonel Albertus called out a word of
power and pointed at the uncannily floating wagon, it seemed more a request
than a command.
And the request got results, too, where the earlier command had only caused a
new and more spectacular problem. Little by little, the wagon drifted down
till its wheels rested on the air a few inches above the mud from which it had
been rescued.
Albertus gave the captain of footsoldiers an icy bow. "Now your men should be
able to push and pull the wagon to drier ground," he said.
"Go ahead and try it, boys," the captain called. Cautiously, some of the
soldiers took hold of the ropes and began to pull. Even more cautiously,
others got behind the wagon and pushed. They all let out a cheer when it moved
forward far more readily than it had while stuck in the mud.
"Thank you very much, sir," the captain told Colonel Albertus. But he couldn't
resist getting in another dig: "Now do you suppose you can get the rest of 'em
out of the muck without sending 'em halfway up to Mt. Panamgam?"
The mage aimed a harried look his way. "I shall bend every effort to that
purpose."
His efforts could have used a bit more bending. His first spell with the
second wagon failed to get it out of the mud. The captain let out a loud,
scornful snort. Colonel Albertus kept on incanting. When at last the wagon did
emerge, it rose only two or three feet into the air. The men could push and
pull it forward without much trouble.
Albertus' spells went better still on the third and fourth wagons. He'd
learned what needed doing by then, and he did it. Those wagons came out on the
first try and rose only a foot or so above the surface of the mud. Not even
the captain could complain. All he said was, "Appreciate it, Colonel."
"Yes, well, I'm sure you're welcome," Albertus the Great said. He scrambled
aboard his ass as if he'd never mounted it before and rode off down the road.
By the time Colonel Nahath's regiment made camp, Rollant felt about ready to
drop.
His men had a hells of a time starting fires, even though the rain had eased
off by then.
Wet fuel and wet tinder made things difficult. At last, the squad got a couple
of smoky
blazes going. "Wish we had a mage along now," Rollant grumbled. "He'd have set
us up in a hurry."
"Either that or he'd have burned down half the gods-damned province trying,"
Smitty said. Rollant nodded. Mages could bungle things, sure enough, and often
did.
He sat down on the wet ground. His tunic and pantaloons were already soaked; a
Page 211
ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.html
little more water made no difference. To his surprise, the trooper named Gleb
sat down next to him. Gleb's face still showed the marks of their fight. He
supposed his own did, too. Did Gleb want another try? If he did, Rollant was
ready to give him one.
But all Gleb said was, "Ask you something, Corporal?"
"You can ask," Rollant said roughly. "I don't promise to answer."
Gleb nodded. "All right. That's fair enough." He still hesitated. Rollant
gestured impatiently, as if to say, Come on
. Words spurted from Gleb in a rush: "How was it you were able to lick me when
we tangled?"
To Rollant, the answer to that was plain as the sun in the sky. "How? I didn't
dare lose, that's how."
By Gleb's frown, that made less sense to him than it did to Rollant. Of
course, he'd never been a blond. He proved that by continuing, "But how could
you beat me? I mean, you're, uh, not a proper Detinan, and I am."
As patiently as he could, Rollant said, "You've seen me fight the traitors,
haven't you?"
Gleb nodded again. "Well, yes."
"I did that all right, didn't I?" Rollant asked. Gleb nodded once more. In
some exasperation, Rollant said, "Those bastards are Detinans, aren't they? If
I can fight them, why the hells can't I fight you?"
"I don't know." Gleb's broad shoulders went up and down in a shrug. "They're
the enemy. You're supposed to fight them."
Rollant tapped the stripes on his sleeve. "You know I almost had to get myself
killed before they'd put these on me, don't you?" This time, Gleb's nod came
much more slowly.
Rollant persisted: "And you know why, too, don't you? On account of I'm a
blond, that's why. You know all about that."
The trooper muttered something. Rollant couldn't make out what it was.
Just as well, he thought. Then Gleb said, "It wasn't like I thought it would
be."
"I'm trying to tell you why, gods damn it," Rollant snapped. "I had to work so
hard to get these stripes, I don't want to lose them. If you licked me, I
likely would've lost them. And so you would have had to kill me to make me
quit. Is that plain enough for you?"
"Oh," Gleb said. Maybe he got it. Maybe he didn't. Rollant didn't much care
one way or the other. As long as the Detinan took his orders and gave him no
trouble, what Gleb thought didn't matter to him.
He wondered how much Gleb actually did think. Not much, unless he missed his
guess. That didn't matter, either, not unless his stupidity endangered the men
around him or it led him to something like picking a fight with a corporal who
also happened to be a blond.
But I don't happen to be a blond, Rollant thought. am
I
a blond. I happen to be a corporal. That's how Detinans see it, anyway
.
How Detinans saw it, though, didn't matter so much to him, not any more.
Regardless of how even Detinans in King Avram's army with him looked at the
world and at him, certain facts no one could deny. Here he sat, wet and
miserable, in the middle of an invading army in the middle of Peachtree
Province. He wore a gray tunic and pantaloons like everybody else's. He got
paid like everybody else, too. And that he'd come here with weapons to hand,
ready to kill any Detinans who didn't agree with his comrades and him, went a
long way toward proving how much had changed since he was first grudgingly
allowed to fight.
After the war, everybody's likely to try to forget blonds did some of the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

Powered by WordPress dla [Nie kocha się ojca ani matki ani żony ani dzieca, lecz kocha się przyjemne uczucia, które w nas wzbudzają]. Design by Free WordPress Themes.