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The other threw up his hands in despair. "Spirit or flesh, she summons us. I
will go, if you are afraid."
"If she allows, I will have your blood for those words," the second man
growled. Then they both did exactly what Blade wanted them to do, stepping out
onto the open slope away from the boulders.
"No, l will have your blood," said Blade, only half to himself. He took two
steps to the left and shot his first arrow. It flew wide, but the two Rutari
had no ears or eyes for anything except the apparition of the
Wise One. Blade had plenty of time to shoot again. The second arrow hit the
first sentry in the thigh.
He let out a scream that echoed around the valley. Crystal shuddered visibly,
but the second man didn't notice. He looked wildly around and apparently
decided the scream was from the Wise One. Now that he was satisfied that she
had returned as an evil Spirit to curse him, no amount of respect for her
memory could keep him at his post. Without a backward glance at spear or
comrade, he took to his heels.
Blade nocked a third arrow with flying fingers. Not far beyond the running man
was more rough ground.
If he got into that he'd be so hard to hit that he would have a good chance of
getting away. His tale of what happened might not be accurate, but it would
damned sure bring more Rutari warriors up here in a hurry! Blade thought he
and Crystal could do better without this.
Blade could also have done without Crystal's idea of help. As he aimed for the
running man, she ran down the slope, her knife in her hand and Cheeky clinging
desperately to her hair. Screaming like a real
Spirit, she leaped on the staggering wounded man and slammed him to the rocky
ground. Blade didn't dare shoot for fear of hitting her, and by the time he
was able to let fly, the running man was no easy shot.
The arrow drew another scream. Blade dropped his bow, snatched up his spear,
then dashed forward.
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He hoped he hadn't hit Crystal and was determined to teach her a lesson if he
hadn't.
Crystal was covered with blood when Blade reached her, but she was grinning
with such savage delight that he knew it must be her victim's. He dashed on
past her until the second sentry appeared out of the mist. He was stumbling
along, the arrow in his back, one hand groping behind him for the source of
this mysterious pain. Hearing Blade coming up behind him, he turned just in
time to take Blade's spear in his chest.
When he was sure the second man was dead, Blade returned to Crystal. She was
wiping her knife off on the dead man's hair, and wiping herself off with a
bunch of dead grass. As Blade approached she jumped up and threw her arms
around him. It was a much more enthusiastic embrace than Blade enjoyed
receiving from a naked young woman when he couldn't do anything about it.
"That's two for my father's Spirit. Two, and they won't be the last!" she
crowed.
"It might have been only one, and us in danger," growled Blade. "You must
understand the way of weapons like my bow. Never, never, never get in their
path when I am using them. An arrow flying a long way cannot always tell a
friend from an enemy. You might have had an arrow here-" he patted her flat
stomach "-instead of the two sentries."
Instead of being apologetic, Crystal wriggled with pleasure under his touch.
Danger and vengeance for her father seemed to be working on her like a love
potion.
Blade sighed. "Crystal, if you try to draw me into making love to you now, I
shall turn you over my knee and spank you. There is much to be done before we
can safely do that. Have you forgotten why we came?"
She pressed her face into his chest. "Am I no longer desirable to you?"
He put his arms around her. "You are even more desirable than ever." This was
the simple truth. She'd lost weight on their trek north, without losing her
magnificent figure. "Left to myself, I would have you down on the ground--"
"Not on the ground, please, Blade. The stones would be hard. On our cloaks, at
least."
Blade laughed. "On our cloaks. But as I said, we are not our own masters.
There is the Idol close by, ready for us. Who knows? It might make me
impotent, if we tried to make love before we rescued it from the unlawful
hands of the Rutari!"
Eye of Crystal looked horror-struck, whether at the idea of the Idol's wrath
or Blade's impotence was hard to tell. Then she looked up toward the mouth of
the cave and nodded.
"Let us go and seek the Idol, then. Once we have it, perhaps its magic will
make you stronger."
"Woman, you've got a one-track mind," said Blade, patting her rump as she
started up the slope ahead of him.
Blade would have been happier if he'd known exactly what they were looking
for. Knowing where the
Idol was hadn't answered the question of exactly what it was.
No living man among the Uchendi had seen the Idol. The Rutari carried it off
something like eighty years ago. Cheeky had seen it, but only from a distance,
in poor light, and while he was desperately trying to hide the fact that he
was looking at it from the Wise One, Ellspa, and Moyla.
Somehow Blade pieced together enough information to keep his job from being
completely hopeless.
The Idol was made of metal harder than any the tribes knew and worked in ways
they could not understand. It was small enough that one person could carry
it-Cheeky had seen Ellspa do so.
That was all he knew. In a way it made the mystery of the Idol greater and
more tantalizing than ever.
Now at last Blade was at the mouth of the Idol's cave, with no one to stop him
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from going in. According to Cheeky's memories, the Idol lay about three
hundred feet inside the darkness.
Blade's feet were itching to carry him into the cave, but he controlled them.
While he covered her with the bow, Crystal retrieved their packs. She returned
wearing trousers and sandals again, with some of her light-headedness gone.
Taking vengeance for her father with her own hands must have been a tonic to
her, but Blade was glad it was wearing off. It was a long way home.
In the packs were four torches made of reeds dipped in animal fat, then bound
tightly around wooden sticks. Blade took out two torches and blew up the
sentries' abandoned fire until some embers were glowing again. It was smoking
like the devil, but with the mist swirling around so thickly Blade wasn't
worried, about anyone noticing the smoke. Thrust into the embers, the torches
began to smoke, then burn, then shed a flickering, sickly yellow light.
Just enough to keep us from falling down holes, thought Blade, and to Cheeky,
("All right, little friend.
Lead on.") Aloud, he told Crystal, "Stay behind me and keep a lookout toward
the mouth of the cave. "
There was no point in leaving her alone on guard at the entrance; she'd be in
more danger and Blade would be in no less. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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