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an invisible finger.
 That s new, Rhys whispered.
 Let us go through, before it decides to vanish, Frost said.
He was right. He was most certainly right. But strangely, none of us wanted to
pass through the door until the invisible finger had finished drawing its
vines. Only when the wood had stopped moving did
Doyle touch the golden handle, and turn it. He led the way into a hallway that
was almost as black as his own skin. If he stood still, he d blend into the
background.
Rhys touched the wall.  We haven t had a black corridor like this in the
sithen for years.
 It s made of the same rock as the queen s chamber, I whispered. I d had so
many bad experiences in the queen s shiny black-walled room that seeing the
sithen turn black like that room frightened me.
Mistral was the last one through the door. When he stepped through, the door
vanished, leaving a smooth black wall, untouched and unyielding.
 The hallway where Mistral and Merry had sex is turning to white marble,
Frost said.  What caused this corridor to change to black?
 I do not know, Doyle said. He was looking up and down the black hallway.  It
has changed too much. I do not know where we are in the sithen.
 Look at this, Frost said. He was staring up at the wall across from us.
Doyle moved to stand beside him, staring at what, to me, looked like blank
wall. Doyle made a harsh, hissing sound.  Meredith, call the door back.
 Why?
 Just do it. His voice was quiet, but it vibrated with urgency, as if he were
forcing himself to whisper when what he wanted to do was scream.
I didn t argue with that tone in his voice. I called out,  I would like a door
back into the dead gardens.
The door appeared again, all gold and pale wood, and carved vines. Doyle
motioned Mistral to take the
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lead. Mistral reached for the golden handle, a naked sword in his other hand.
What was happening? Why were they frightened? What had I missed?
Mistral went through with Abe behind him, me in the middle, and Rhys and Doyle
following. Frost came last. But before I passed thorugh the doorway, Abe
stopped, and Mistral s voice came urgent from inside the dead gardens,  Back,
go back!
Doyle said,  We cannot stay here in the black hallway. Rhys was pressed
against my back, Abe pressed against my front. We were frozen between the two
captains of the guards, each trying to get us moving in the opposite
direction.
 We cannot have two captains, Mistral, Frost said.  Without a single leader
we are indecisive and endangered.
 What is wrong? I asked.
There was a sound from down the hallway a heavy, slithering sound that froze
my heart in my chest. I
was afraid I recognized it. No, I had to be wrong. Then a second sound came: a
high chittering sound one that could be mistaken for birds, but wasn t.
 Oh, Goddess, I whispered.
 Forward, Mistral, now, or we are lost, Doyle said.
 It is not our garden beyond the door, Mistral said.
The high-pitched bird-like sounds were coming closer, outpacing the heavy
slithering weight. The sluagh, the nightmares of theUnseelie Court and a
kingdom in their own right, moved fast but the nightflyers always moved faster
than the rest of the sluagh. We were inside the sluagh s hollow hill; somehow
we had crossed to their sithen. If they found us here& we might survive, or
not.
 Do sluagh wait on the other side of the door? Doyle asked Mistral urgently.
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 No, Mistral called back.
 Then go, now! Doyle ordered.
Abe stumbled forward as if Mistral had moved suddenly out of the way. We came
through the door in a rush with Doyle pushing from behind. He was like some
kind of elemental force at our backs. It put us in a heap on the ground. I
couldn t see anything but white flesh, and I felt the muscled weight of them
all around me.
 Where are we? Frost asked.
Rhys moved, drawing me to my feet with him. Doyle, Mistral, and Frost were all
on alert, weapons out, searching for something to fight. The door had
vanished, leaving us on the shore of a dark lake.
Lakemay have been too strong a word. The depression was dry except for a slimy
skim of water at the very bottom. Bones littered the floor of the dying lake,
and the shore where we stood. The bones shone dully in the dim light that fell
from the stone ceiling, as if the moon had been rubbed into the rock. All
around the shore, the stone walls of the cavern rose steeply up into the
gloom, surrounded only by a
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narrow ledge before a steep drop-off into the lake bed.
 Call the door again, Meredith, Doyle said, his dark face still searching the
dead land.
 Yes, and be more specific about our destination this time, Mistral said.
Abe was still on the ground. I heard a sharp intake of breath, and glanced
over at him. His hand was black and shiny in the dim light.  What are these
bones that they could cut sidhe flesh?
Doyle answered him.  They are the bones of the most magical of the sluagh.
Things so fantastical that when the sluagh began to fade in power, there was
not enough magic to sustain their lives.
I clung to Rhys and whispered,  We re in the sluagh s dead gardens.
 Yes. Call the door, now. Doyle glanced at me, then back to the dim
landscape.
Rhys had one arm around me, the other hand full of his gun.  Do it, Merry.
 I need a door to the Unseelie sithen. On the far side of the dead lake, the
door appeared.
 Well, that s inconvenient, Rhys whispered wryly, but he tucked me closer
against his body.
 There is room to walk the edge, if we are careful, Mistral said.  We can
make our way between the cavern walls and the lake bed, if we pick our way
carefully around the bones.
 Be very careful, Abe said. He was on his feet now, but his left hand and arm
were coated with blood.
He still held the horn cup in his right hand, though nothing else he d left
all his weapons behind in the bedroom. Mistral had dressed and rearmed. Frost
was as armed as he had begun the night. Doyle had only what he had been able
to grab no clothes limited how much you could carry.
 Frost, bind Abeloec s wound, said Doyle.  Then we will start for the door.
 It is not that bad, Darkness, Abe said.
 This is a place of power for the sluagh, not for us, Doyle said.  I would
not take the chance that you bleed to death for want of a bandage.
Frost didn t argue, but went to the other man with a strip of cloth torn from
his own shirt. He began to bind Abe s hand.
 Why does everything hurt more sober? Abe asked.
 Things feel better sober, too, Rhys said.
I looked up at him.  You say that like you know that for certain. I ve never
seen you drunk.
 I spent most of the fifteen hundreds as drunk as my constitution would let me
get. You ve seen Abe working hard at it we don t stay drunk long but I
tried.Goddess knows, I tried.
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 Why then?Why that century?
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 Why not? he asked, making a joke of it, but that was what Rhys did when he
was hiding something. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]