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feel Tabor's anxiety.
"Cechtar's very good," the boy breathed. Dave saw a big man on a chestnut
horse leave Levon's side-the leader was alone now, just below them. Cechtar
galloped confidently towards the racing swift that the others were steering
past the knoll. His knife was drawn already, and the man's carriage on his
horse was solid and reassuring.
Then the horse hit a tummock of grass and stumbled. Cechtar kept his seat, but
the damage was done-the knife, prematurely upraised, had flown from his hand
to fall harmlessly short of the nearest animal.
Hardly breathing, Dave turned to see what Levon would do. Beside him, Tabor
was moaning in an agony of distress. "Oh no, oh no," he repeated. "We are
shamed. It's a disgrace for all three Riders, and Levon especially for
misjudging. There's nothing he can do. I feel sick!"
"He has to kill now?"
"Yes, and he will. But it doesn't make any difference, there's nothing he
can-oh!"
Tabor stopped, for Levon, moving his horse forward very deliberately, had
shouted a command to
Tore and the others. Watching, Dave saw the hunters race to turn the eltor yet
again, so that after a wide arc had been described, the swift, a quarter of a
mile away now, were flying back north, five hundred strong on the east side of
the knoll.
"What's he doing?" Dave asked softly.
"I don't know, I don't understand. Unless . . ." Levon began to ride slowly
eastward, but after a few strides he turned his horse to stand motionless,
square in the path of the swift.
"What the hell?" Dave breathed.
"Oh, Levon, no!" Tabor screamed suddenly. The boy clutched Dave's arm, his
face white with terrified understanding. "He's trying Revor's Kill. He's going
to kill himself!"
Dave felt his own rush of fear hit, as he grasped what Levon was trying to do.
It was impossible, though; it was insanity. Was the hunt leader committing
suicide out of shame?
In frozen silence they watched from the knoll as the massed swift, slightly
wedge-shaped behind a huge lead animal, raced over the grass towards the still
figure of Tabor's yellow-haired brother. The other hunters, too, Dave was
dimly aware, had stopped riding. The only sound was the rapidly growing
thunder of the onrushing eltor.
Unable to take his eyes away from the hunt leader, Dave saw Levon, moving
without haste, dismount to stand in front of his horse. The eltor were very
close now, flying; the sound of the drumming hooves filled the air.
The horse was utterly still. That, too, Dave registered, then he saw Levon
unhurriedly draw his blade.
The lead eltor was fifty yards away.
Then twenty.
Levon raised his arm and, without pausing, the whole thing one seamless
motion, threw.
The blade hit the giant animal directly between the eyes; it broke stride,
staggered, then fell at
Levon's feet. Right at Levon's feet.
His fists clenched tightly with raw emotion, Dave saw the other animals
instantly scythe out away from the fallen leader and form two smaller swifts,
one angling east, one west, dividing in a cloud of dust precisely at the point
where the fallen eltor lay.
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Where Levon, his yellow hair blowing free, stood quietly stroking his horse's
muzzle, having stolen in that moment, with an act of incandescent gallantry,
great honor for his people from the teeth of shame. As a leader should.
Dave became aware that he was shouting wildly, that Tabor, tears in his eyes,
was hugging him fiercely and pounding his sore shoulders, and that he had an
arm around the boy and was hugging him back. It was not, it never had been the
sort of thing he did, but it was all right now, it was more than all right.
Ivor was astonished at the fury he felt. A rage such as this he could not
remember. Levon had almost died, he told himself, that was why. A foolhardy
piece of bravado, it had been. Ivor should have insisted on twenty-five
Riders. He, Ivor, was still Chieftain of the third tribe.
And that vehement thought gave him pause. Was it only fear for Levon that
sparked his anger?
After all, it was over now; Levon was fine, he was better than fine. The whole
tribe was afire with what he had done. Revor's Kill. Levon's reputation was
made; his deed would dominate the midwinter gathering of the nine tribes at
Celidon. His name would soon be ringing the length of the
Plain.
I feel old, Ivor realized. I'm jealous. I've got a son who can do Revor's
Kill. What did that make him? Was he just Levon's father now, the last part of
his name?
Which led to another thought: did all fathers feel this way when their sons
became men? Men of achievement, of names that eclipsed the father's? Was there
always the sting of envy to temper the burst of pride? Had Banor felt that way
when twenty-year-old Ivor had made his first speech at
Celidon and earned the praise of all the elders for the wisdom of his words?
Probably, he thought, remembering his father with love. Probably he had, and,
Ivor realized, it didn't matter. It really didn't. It was part of the way of
things, part of the procession all men made towards the knowing hour.
If he had a virtue, Ivor reflected, something of his nature he wanted his sons
to have, it was tolerance. He smiled wryly. It would be ironic if that
tolerance could not be extended to himself.
Which reminded him. His sons; and his daughter. He had to have a talk with
Liane. Feelingly decidedly better, Ivor went looking for his middle child.
Revor's Kill. Oh, by Ceinwen's bow, he was proud!
The Feast of the New Hunters started formally at sundown, the tribe gathering
in the huge central area of the camp, from where the smell of slowly roasting
game had been wafting all afternoon.
Truly, this would be a celebration: two new Riders and Levon's deed that
morning. A feat that had obliterated the failures before. No one, not even
Gereint, could remember the last time it had been done. "Not since Revor
himself!" one of the hunters had shouted, a little drunkenly.
All the hunters from the morning were a little drunk; they had started early,
Dave among them, on the clear, harsh liquor the Dalrei brewed. The mood of
mingled relief and euphoria on the ride home had been completely infectious [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]