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to her belt. He dipped two gnarled fingers in, lifted and palmed a coin,
closed the pouch with a gentle tug, and tucked the coin into a pocket inside
his sleeve with a practiced flip.
Elapsed time less than three seconds. It felt natural, as though he'd done it
thousands of times before.
I've never stolen anything. It's

"A nice try, Jason." Ahira shook his head. "But I was watching for it. Give it
"Watching for what
?" Doria's brow furrowed in exasperation. Now that was strange; she always
deferred to the little cripple.
Oh. He isn't little anymore. Or crippled. Just short. The snotty bastard must
be having the time of his life
"He just picked your purse." The dwarf chuckled. "Give it back. Now."
"I don't know what you're talking about and who are you to be giving orders,
anyway?" He braced himself on his stump and slid his feet under him. It was
the practiced routine of a thief when caught: First deny, then challenge, then
Ahira grabbed his sleeve and shook the coin out. Picking it up, he handed it
to Doria. "Don't worry; I'm not going to give him a hard time. This once." He
turned back to Jason. "But we're in enough trouble as it is; I don't want you
adding to it. Understood. Lightfingers?"
"My name is Jason." But the name felt strange in his mouth. "And I want to go
The dwarf helped him to his feet. Standing, Ahira's head barely came up to his
chest. Ahira picked up his battleaxe from the damp grass and tapped a
well-chewed thumbnail against the blade, "Two things. In answer to your
question, this says that I'm in charge here. Back home, the group chose me as
team leader.
That's the way it is; that's the way it's going to be.
"And second, we are going home." Ahira opened his mouth; shut it. He shook his
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head. "Just take it easy for a while, get your bearings. Doria, let's go see
to the wizard."
Karl Cullinane had often thought of holding Andy-Andy in his arms, but nowhere
in his imaginings had she been crying. "Everything will be fine." He patted
her clumsily on the back.
But these weren't his arms, this wasn't his body. Not quite. Karl was of
average height, and skinny.
Now, he towered over her as he held her, careful not to squeeze her tightly;
somehow, he knew that his grip could break a strong man's back.
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After a while, her weeping died down. He let her go, then took a loose sleeve
of her gray robe and wiped at her eyes. "Feeling better?"
"N-no. I'm scared
. What happened?" She rubbed at her temples. "I... feel so strange how do I
know that
I could turn invisible, or make you fall asleep, or charm it's like there's
something in my head, trying to get out
Her mouth started to move; he clapped a hand over it. "Don't. Just listen to
me, but don't say anything."
Her eyes grew wide; she brought up her hands, vaguely pulling at his arm. "
. Nod if you understand me. and I'll lake my hand away."
Her head moved; he let his hand drop. "Don't do that again," she said,
planting a palm against his chest, shoving.
He could have laughed, almost. But he took a step back. "Okay, but be careful
what you say. You've got three spells in your head, and they're trying to get
"How do you know?"
He shrugged.
I don't know. But I do
. "It's... like I've got two minds. One is Barak; the other is me." That a
wizard had to constantly rein in spells was something Barak would know. It had
to be: Karl hadn't known it; it wasn't part of the game. He stooped slowly,
and lifted his scabbarded sword from the grass. "Barak knows how to use this,
not me." The sword was long, almost three-fifths his height. Without drawing
it from its scabbard, he knew that it was single-edged like a Japanese katana,
but straight, not curved;
primarily a slashing weapon, it still could be used to thrust. "And why not to
strap it to anything; it'd take too long to draw it." He gripped the
cord-wound handle with his left hand almost at the pommel. To draw the sword,
he would slip the scabbard away, add his right hand in its place on the grip,
and strike. That was one of the rules: Get your sword into play, and worry
about picking up the scabbard later.
It was important to keep the blade clean and dry; an image of his hands
his hands cleaning the blade with a dead enemy's hair welled up, unbidden.
"But what happened
?" She gestured at her robes, at him, at the boxes on the hillside. "We're in
the place that Dr. Deighton described. Look."
He looked to the east. The early-morning sun sat over the far walls of the
city below. Karl raised his hand to his forehead to shield his eyes. The walls
were solid and wide; a few bowmen stood on the pathways girdling them. People,
and horses drawing two-wheeled carts, swarmed in and out of the gate.
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To the north, a vast expanse of dark water spread across the horizon, waves
rippling in toward a rocky shore. Off in the distance a broad-beamed schooner
glided slowly in toward the docks.
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But there was more than Deighton had described; he hadn't mentioned the
fishing village to the north, and Karl hadn't visualized it.
How did he know that it was a fishing village?
It was too complicated, too strange. He shook his head. "You're right. I don't
know how, but somehow we're here
." He stretched his arms, letting his shoulders strain against the seams of
his leather jerkin, and drew in a deep breath. It was clean air, fresh and
sweet with a tang of ozone; this world had never known the stink of the
internal combustion engine. "But doesn't it feel fine?"
"For you." She was nearing tears again. "But how do I get home?"
"I don't know. And I didn't mean it that way not that I wanted to stay here [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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