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"Here. Take this and put it on," he said. "Whatever happens from here on out,
you're going to need some protection. If we should come under attack from the
Faerie Host - which is likely, before this is all over - the virtues vested in the stone
should keep them at bay - at least for a little while."
"But, aren't you going to need this yourself?" Peregrine asked, gloved hand
closing automatically on the ring.
"No, I have other weapons."
Partially unzipping the front of his slicker, Adam reached his right hand deep
inside. It came out clasping a small, black-sheathed dagger.
Or, no, not just a dagger, Peregrine amended. It was a skean dubh - the Highland
blade customarily worn with a kilt, stuck in the top of the hose.
But even in the erratic light, Peregrine could see that this was no ordinary skean
dubh. The sheath alone was a work of art, half the overall length of about seven
inches and mounted with exquisite silver interlace at throat and tip. He could not
see the details of the carving on the hilt, because of Adam's hand, but the pommel
was set with a clear blue stone nearly the size of a pigeon's egg. When Adam
unsheathed the weapon, slipping the sheath back into his pocket, the polished
blade shone like quicksilver under the lowering sky, a pale blue light flickering
about its edges like reflected moonlight - or like the reflection of powerful intent.
At the same time, McLeod had pulled the Browning automatic from his
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waistband, thumbing the safety off with a faint but audible click as he raised it,
ready, beside his head. However, it was not the sight of the gun that made
Peregrine blink; he had done that already, back in the car. It was the sudden flash
of blue fire off the back of McLeod's gun-hand. A closer look revealed that
McLeod was now wearing a sapphire ring almost identical to Adam's.
Both men had in their eyes the intent, preoccupied look of hunters on the trail of
dangerous prey. Gazing at his companions in owlish silence, Peregrine suddenly
became keenly aware that he was seeing them in a wholly new light. During the
past few weeks and even hours, he realized that he had come to accept, almost
casually, that Adam and McLeod had powers and abilities he could not begin to
understand. Now that they were preparing to close in on their quarry, Peregrine
realized he hadn't a clue what they might do.
He had no idea, for that matter, what he was going to do himself. It was not a
comfortable reflection. Glancing down involuntarily at Adam's ring in his hand,
he hastily pulled off his gloves and slipped the ring hastily onto the third finger of
his right hand, as he had seen Adam wear it. The fit was loose, but its presence
somehow made him feel less vulnerable. As he returned his attention to the
distant cave, he squared his shoulders and closed his fist tightly, so the ring
would not slide off, hoping he would not prove to be more of a hindrance than a
help.
Even as this thought crossed his mind, a sudden, highpitched screeching broke
out below. The angry dance of emerald lights quickened to a feverish tarantella,
and a sullen glow flared deep inside the tunnel, spreading unevenly toward the
mouth of the cave. A moment later, a cluster of black-clad figures became barely
visible at the cavern's horseshoe-shaped entrance.
The man in front was tall and slight, moving with arrogant grace, both arms
raised above his head. The three men following behind him looked bulky by
comparison. Two of them were staggering under the weight of a smallish metal-
bound chest that seemed inordinately heavy for its size. The man who brought up
the rear was carrying a large oblong picture frame elevated like a shield between
himself and the motes of light that whirled menacingly above him.
"The Fairy Flag?" Adam murmured to McLeod.
"Aye, and the chap at the front must be controlling it. Look! He's got a sword. You
can't see it except when he turns just right."
Peregrine craned his neck for a better look, so much that Adam had to tug at his
sleeve.
"I think it's the Hepburn Sword!" he whispered eagerly. "If only I could get a
closer look - but I'm nearly certain it is!"
"No doubt it is," Adam replied. "But if you don't keep down, you're liable to get a
much closer look at it than you'd care to."
As the party emerged fully from the mouth of the cave, under the milling cloud of
the Faerie Host, more details became apparent. All of the men were wearing
hooded black macs, but the leader also was masked across the eyes like an
executioner, with a silver chain of office about his neck that Peregrine was willing
to bet held a medallion he had tried several times to draw. He was holding the
sword horizontal above his head, one beringed hand gripping the basket hilt, the
other clasping the naked blade a few inches from the point.
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A baleful greenish light played about the damascened blade, but the source was
not the sword itself, but the frail fabric of the Fairy Flag, held aloft in its frame by
the party's rear guard. The sword seemed to draw light out of the Flag like a
spindle gathering floss, subtle as spider-silk, weaving a ghostly canopy above the
procession. Green fairy-motes swooped down on the four from all sides, only to [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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