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 His honor knows of me? I am he.
 I was told you possessed a copy of this particular work.
 Does the honored sir know its title?
 It is simply called
The Book of Demons
.
The book vendor s eyes did not betray his surprise.  I have & heard of it. It
is a rare item indeed. Very old.
 Then you have a copy?
 Regrettably, no. A thousand pardons.
 A pity. The man turned to go.
 I & 
 Yes?
Durstin looked away.  I am curious as to who told the honored sir that I
possess a copy of a banned work & an allegation which I most emphatically
deny.
 I was unaware that the book was proscribed.
 It is indeed, and has been for centuries on the List of Forbidden Works. As I
said, I am curious  
 Khaalim sent me.
The book vendor nodded.  There is an inn near the stockyards called the Pale
Eye. Be there at sunset.
 I have little time.
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 We can t do business in broad daylight. Not this sort of business.
 I will pay you double what the book would ordinarily fetch. Do you have it
here in your stall?
Durstin cast his eyes from one end of the bazaar to the other.  I have been
hauled before the Suzerain s magistrate on one previous occasion. The charge
was selling vulgar and immoral literature. The scars still twinge when the
weather turns. For a work on the List  
 I will pay you handsomely. I need it now.
The book vendor was silent, still nervously looking about.
 Name your price.
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Durstin s gaze swung round. He shrugged.  Say, fifty gold pieces?
 I said I would pay you handsomely. I did not say I would deliver over the
fortune of a king.
 Forty, then.
 I will pay thirty. Copies of this book are rare, but they do exist, and can
be had elsewhere.
Durstin smiled crookedly.  His honor said something about having little time.
The stranger s lips curled slightly. Then he said,  I will pay thirty-five, or
I will make time.
 Done. Pick up a book, any book, and ask the price.
 Hm? Very well. How much for this?
Raising his voice the book vendor answered,  Two silver, three brass, good
sir.
 That is all I have in my purse. Take it.
Durstin caught the leather purse, hefted it, opened it and looked inside.
Fingering the contents, he smiled and nodded.  And so you have. A protective
sheath for the book, good sir? No charge.
 Please.
The book vendor retreated into the stall and slipped behind a flap of brightly
colored cloth. Shortly he returned bearing a cheap cloth scroll sheath.
 Here you are, good sir. Blessings of the gods be with you.
The stranger took the bundle and opened it, looked inside. He nodded and
slipped it inside his tunic.  Good day.
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The book vendor watched him go. The stranger left the bazaar area directly,
not stopping at any other stalls.
Durstin sighed. He then reseated himself, leaned his head against the post and
went back to sleep.
Eating a hurried lunch in an outdoor cafe, he felt the pressure of observing
eyes. He made no effort to look about and find who was watching him. He paid
the bill and left, returning to the stable where he had left his mount. He
knew he was being followed.
He passed through the city gate in the middle of the afternoon and headed out
into the desert, making straight for the mountains to the north. The sun was
fierce but bearable this time of year, dun-colored rocks baking in its glare.
He reached the foothills by mealtime but did not stop, heading upward, his
animal s sure-footed gait slackening only a little on the steadily inclining
terrain. He surveyed the parched land around him as it gave way to grassland,
then stunted evergreen, then alpine meadow. He was aware that two riders had
followed him and were now closing the gap.
They passed him an hour later, smiling and waving as they urged their mounts
up the twisting trail.
When they disappeared into the pass, he stopped. He traced patterns in the air
with his fingers and looked thoughtful, as if testing the wind. Presently he
gently kneed his mount in the ribs. The animal brayed, broke wind, and
continued up the trail.
In the narrow pass two riders blocked his way, while the two who had followed
him came out of a side canyon to close off his only avenue of retreat.
The leader was young and had a pointy, rodentlike face and a sneering smile.
 Greetings, honored sir! he called.  And what is a finely dressed man of
distinction such as yourself doing on this lonely trail?
 Be you Vorn s men? the stranger asked.
 Eh?
He looked at each man in turn.  No, I think not. Common highwaymen.
 A pox on you, the leader sneered.  We re not common. You ll not find our
like in a thousand leagues of road.
But enough of that  deliver your purse, or it will go badly for you.
 I left it in the city, along with its contents.
 Then give us what you bought.
 It is a mere book, of no use to you.
 You insult me!
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 How so?
 You imply I m unlettered! The others laughed.
 You are, the stranger answered,  and a scoundrel to boot. He traced a quick
pattern in the air.
Shrugging, the leader drew his shortsword.  Enough of this pleasant banter.
Throw all your valuables over here now, or   He suddenly developed a pained
expression, dropping his sword and clutching at his chest.
Alarmed, his companion reached out and grasped his arm to steady him. The
leader s eyes bulged; then blood exploded from his mouth. His mount reared,
throwing him off.
The other three regarded the still form of their leader, then looked fearfully
at the stranger, who had ceased his hand passes and finger waving.
 A sorcerer! one of them gasped.
The stranger raised a hand, one finger pointing.  Begone, he said.  That way.
Or your heart, too, shall burst like an overripe melon. He pointed in the
direction from which he had come.
They left very quickly, not bothering to take their leader s body or his
mount.
He breathed deeply, tasting the mountain air. Then he resumed his Journey.
The cave was high on the descending slope, its entrance hidden by gnarled
brush. He unsaddled his mount, set the beast free, and entered the cave mouth.
The way was narrow at first and he had to stoop, but soon there was ample head
room, though not much light. He walked in darkness awhile, finding his way
from memory, his fingers lightly brushing the smooth rock walls. At length he
saw light ahead, coming from a side passage. He turned the corner and beheld [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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