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pickups split and raced, shuddering over the rough ground, to the places where
the assassins were coming down, catching them on the last slope still about a
hundred feet up and coming across bare stone. When the flares went off,
Pandrashi counted six in the east-side band, Liz counted five in the west-side
band. On both sides of the valley the meien, exiles and others killed three
Sleykynin before their dazzled eyes cleared and they scrambled for cover. When
the flares died, the sensitives uncurled from their pain-battered knots and
went grimly along with the hunters as they tracked down the wounded and
finished them off, a dangerous and ugly task. A wounded Sleykyn fighting for
his life or fighting to take as many with him as he can is the deadliest beast
in this world or any other. Rudy went past some, low half-dead brush with a
bit of shadow that seemed too meager to hide a chini pup, and died from a
poison knife thrown with deadly accuracy, while Asche-helai came too close
behind him to escape from the velater whip that wrapped around her neck,
cutting it to the bone before Pandrashi put a single bullet through the
Sleykyn s spine. Two dead in two seconds. The other Sleykynin fell to the guns
without getting close enough to take anyone with them. On the west side, the
last Sleykyn there spent his strength and will to reach the sensitive Magy Fa,
killing her with his hands an instant before Liz blew his skull to bloody
shards. She stood over him staring down at him until Ram touched her arm.
 Five out of five, he said. He looked down at Magy Fa lying in a tangled
embrace with her slayer.  No more nightmares. That s something anyway.
Liz drew her fingers absently along the rifle s stock.  Looks to me like we
changed worlds without changing anything else.
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Ram shrugged.  In this place, Doubter, we make a difference; where we were, we
made none.
Liz made a small violent gesture, then strode off toward the pickup.
6
Gaunt and half-starved, Tuli prowled along the backside of the army, Ajjin and
Allazo beside her running boldly in their four-foot forms. They had it down to
a game now, a game they played with fierce pleasure, a game they always won
because the demon beasts seemed unable to learn its rules. Coperic and the
others of his band were scattered along the line of the army, preferring to
stay as far from demons and norits as they could manage, whether they were
ambushing stray soldiers or cutting out rambuts to butcher for their meals.
The food they d brought was gone, what game might roam here in ordinary times
had retreated to safer, more silent slopes. Tuli and Coperic and the rest of
the band lived off rambuts now, sharing them from time to time with the silent
deadly Kulaan who d come south to avenge their linas and who were going to
continue their killing as long as they could crawl. Or with the remnants of
the outcast bands, hungry ragged men and boys as feral as a pack of
addichinin. Rambut meat was stringy and tough with little fat to flavor it,
but it kept them going.
Most of the mijlockers were gone. After the first tenday half of them were
dead and the rest were beginning to starve; they d begun to melt away, leaving
the dead behind to be buried hastily in the muck by work parties from the
army. The futility of what they were doing and the lack of food sapped their
will, so they went back to the deserted tars and empty villages to find what
shelter and food they could and sit listlessly waiting for the war to end. Or
they d gone to the Havens to help fight off the Kapperim. As Hars and Teras
must have done. Though she d watched for them, she hadn t seen either of them
again. What little news she d picked up from the mijlockers sharing, fire and
half-raw meat with Coperic s band was not comforting. The Kapperim had
gathered and were attacking all the outcast Havens, trying to wipe them out.
Some nights she dreamed of her family and cried in her sleep because she
wasn t with them. She fretted about not being with them, wondering what
possible good she was doing here, helping Coperic flea and Bella flea and Biel
flea and Ryml, Lehat, Karal, Sosai, Charda, Pyvin and Wohpa fleas take tiny
bites from the flank of the monster that darkened the hillsides. But there was
always the Game to take her mind off brooding and under the brooding there was
the calm knowledge that she d be doing far less if she was where her father
could keep an eye on her.
She settled into the shade of some brush on a hillside above the section of
wall where the Sankoise were. Coperic had been concentrating on the Majilarni
and the Sankoise, pricking them into disaffection. During the first days of
the siege when norits were falling like dying moths, Coperic and all of them
had crept with near impunity among the skittish Sankoise, picking off one
after another as they ran for cover. They were mostly town-bred men or sailors
conscripted off Sankoise merchant ships. The wild coun-try around them
disturbed, even frightened, them. They were intensely superstitious; coming
from a mage-ridden land, they saw omens in every turn of a leaf and the
deaths, the throats cut, the men strangled, or left with skulls crushed, the
rambuts lost, the equipment destroyed, all this worked on them until they
began to settle into the mud like rotting logs. Kole was forced to call on his
shrinking force of norits, leaving a good number of them with the Sankoise to
weave alarum spells about the camps so the raids stopped and the men could
sleep in such peace as they could find on the cold and uncomfortable slopes.
Tuli sat on her hillside watching them with considerable satisfaction as they
wandered unhappily about, or knelt on blankets gambling or sought escape in
sleep. The day was coming when even their centuries of conditioned nor-fear
would no longer drive them to the wall. She lost her contentment when she
looked toward the great Gate. Nekaz Kole was getting the walking towers built
far faster than she liked. She scowled, got to her feet and went back to
hunting demon beasts. That was a danger she could do something about.
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7
A full day after the towers were completed, they sat on their rollers, three
tapering fingers of wood pointed at the sky; early the next morning Ogogehians
brought teams of massive draft hauhaus to them, six in each hitch. With
hauhaus digging their split hooves into the mud and shoving with mighty
shoulders against the harness, with norits riding beside each team, to turn
aside all missiles, the towers began to inch forward, rocking precariously
even at that creeping pace, getting stuck repeatedly in the slush left behind
by the attacking rain until one of the Four got impatient and pulled the water
from the soil in a flash of steam and a mighty hissing. Slowly, inexorably,
the tow-ers moved toward the wall.
8
Hern dropped the binoculars, letting them hang about his neck, and swung
around on his stool until he faced the others gathered in the small, square
chamber at the top of the west gate tower. He filled a glass with water from
the jug on the, table beside him, drank thirstily, set the lass down, frowned
at Yael-mri.  How many dead so far? 
Yael-mri looked at her hands.  One hundred seventeen meien, twelve healer
trainees, eight girls, fifty-six Stenda, two hundred thirteen mijlockers, six [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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