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meanings ceaselessly shifted and yet somehow began to stabilize. Emil had
looked
away from the cards, and gazed out at the vista that lay before them. He said
at
last, When those falling stars pierce the heart, it feels like this.
It feels like an owls claw, Zanja said.
He turned to her with a warm, wry smile, his squint lines all furrowed
against
the sun. Well, what do you now see in the cards?
I see that the Sainnites have a seer.
If thats true, then he must be a madman. To nurture a seer takes great care
and deliberation, and the Sainnites seem incapable of both.
He may be a madman, Zanja said, but what hes done to us so far, and to
Rees
before us, seems more like genius.
Yethowever difficult and exhausting the processwe continue to evade his
insight. That may be the best we can hope to do against such an enemy. Emil
stretched out his stiff leg, preparatory to standing up. She stood and
offered
him a hand, which he clasped in his so gently that she found herself again
bewildered. The Ashawalai were never so demonstrative, except perhaps with
their closet kin. To hell with protocol, Emil said. Between the two of us,
we
can see through the tricks of an inexperienced seer but not if I have to
chase
you across half the region every time I want to talk to you. These volunteers
from Rees dont know it yet, but one of them he grunted as she helped him
up,
is going to be our new bread runner. Maybe more than one of them, since I
suspect you wont be easy to replace.
Chapter Eleven
The three units rotated positions again: Dayes unit occupied high ground
within
spyglass sight of Wilton; Perrys unit retreated into the highlands for a few
days of rest, and Williss unit camped in between, in the thick woods west of
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the rich farmlands that surrounded Wilton. Since being promoted to runner,
Zanja
had traveled several times between Emil and Daye. It was never too difficult
to
find Dayes unit: it did not take a seer to know that they would be on one or
another hilltop near the edge of the flood plain that surrounded Wilton. But
to
find Williss unit would be tricky, even though, as far as Zanja knew, they
had
not decamped recently. She had been walking through the woods since sunrise,
merely hopeful that she was following the right path.
Sweating in the warm morning, Zanja slipped through a thicket and emerged
onto
clear ground again. She paused to listen, and heard only faint bird song. Then
a
shot rang out, and a pistol ball smacked into a tree not a hands breadth
from
her shoulder. A second ball whizzed past, singing in a high, thin whine, but
by
then she had dived into the thicket again. She paused to load a pistol and
then
crawled further into the thick woods, then lay down in the dirt and waited
with
her heartbeat thrumming in her ears.
The woods lay dead silent. The birds began to sing again. Her heartbeat
slowed;
her instincts told her that whoever had shot at her was gone. Still, she did
not
continue her journey until midday filled the forest with dull sunlight. It
was
afternoon when a watchful picket outside the encampment noticed her cautious
passage through the woods, and challenged her. Why are you lurking? he
asked,
when he recognized her. Do you want to get yourself killed?
Willis kept his camps in exacting order, with all the gear packed away, so it
could be easily snatched up should it become necessary to flee or fight.
Lately,
through, the Sainnites no longer chased the Paladins into the woods, and
seemed
satisfied to simply disrupt their sleep, night after night. It was a policy
of
persecution that did not subject their own soldiers to much danger, while
continuing to wear out the Paladins. Willis had sent Emil an impatient
message
that next time the Sainnites approached his camp, he intended to attack
rather
than retreat. Emil had dispatched Zanja to find out his plans in more detail.
Willis sat talking with a sharpshooter who was said to be his lover, several
other opinionated and incautious people, and a couple of his brothers, who
tended to repeat whatever he said as though they had thought of it
themselves.
Whatever Zanjas assessment of their characters, these were seasoned and
courageous fighters, and she supposed she might learn something about the
value
of aggression from them.
Willis spotted her and said with extraordinary joviality, Well, well!
Unfortunately, you have missed the midday meal.
I was delayed by being shot at in the woods.
Thats strange. Perhaps a lone Sainnite is out there today. Either that, or
it
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was that spy weve been watching out for.
Zanja said, Well, I never saw who it was, but it makes no sense that someone [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]