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 He knows what he wants. Like his father. Ayrlyn grinned momentarily.
 You know what you want, too, woman.
 Of course.
Nylan had to wipe off the bottle after Weryl slurped his fill, but then he
was getting resigned to the fact that children equaled constant cleanup.
The biscuit and cheese took the edge off the gnawing in his stomach, but
not much more.
 You must& explore this forest? asked Sylenia.
 Some way or another, Nylan admitted.
 While you& I could find some food. There are bean plants and some yams, I
think. We have a pot. But this& stove& 
Ayrlyn glanced at Nylan.  You re the engineer.
 I can show you how to use the stove. It s easier, much easier than a fire.
Believe me. It s a lot harder to burn food. You can if you work at it, but& 
The redhead stepped toward the rear door.  I ll take care of the horses.
Ayrlyn had groomed and saddled the two mares by the time Nylan had
explained everything he could about the stove, checked the chimney and the
flue, and thoroughly reassured Sylenia. Belatedly, he remembered to hand her
his striker.
After he mounted the mare, he glanced toward the rear door of the house,
where Sylenia stood with Weryl.
 Best you be careful. The nursemaid s eyes dropped.
 We will. The silver-haired angel turned the mare, following Ayrlyn, and
they rode slowly southward, across a neatly banked and empty irrigation ditch,
and into the bean field.
Nylan glanced down at the bean plants, and the leaves that seemed to be
wilting despite the night s rain, then started to extend his perceptions.
 Don t! hissed Ayrlyn from her chestnut.
Even as she spoke, Nylan could sense that same coiling of dark order force
and white chaos, as if poised to strike, and he pulled back into himself.
Whufff& Nylan s mare sidestepped.
 Even she can feel it.
Almost as if an echo, the chestnut shuffled her feet as well.
 I get the image, Nylan answered.
 They were pretty well organized. Ayrlyn s eyes traversed the fields and
the well-maintained ditching.
 Probably still are, away from the forest. He had to wonder what they
could find in an enchanted forest that would help them defeat or at least stop
a land that could provide high-class ceramics, stoves, and large-scale
irrigation works, not to mention firewagons, fireballs, and who knew what
else.
Silently, Nylan rode through the green shoots that reached nearly to the
mare s withers, trying to guide her through the more open areas. The flatness
of the ground was deceiving, so deceiving that when he looked back toward the
house, he realized that they had covered several kays, and still had not
reached the taller growth, although the ground they crossed held black
cinders, cinders and ashes.
 Someone tried to burn this back, with that chaos flame, I think, said
Ayrlyn.
Once Ayrlyn had called it to his attention, he also could feel the faint
residue of chaos laid across the balance that the shoots embodied.
 Didn t do them a lot of good.
 I wonder. There s more here that we don t know.
Despite his curiosity, Nylan did not try to extend his perceptions, but
left them open to pick up images, hoping that would give him enough warning.
 Careful& 
 I m just listening. Even without straining he could sense the order/chaos
pulse of the forest, so strong that he felt like some sort of insect creeping
around a giant.
 It makes you feel that way, Ayrlyn noted.
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 You re doing it again.
 So? You could tell I feel that way, if you wanted. We ve been through this
before.
He did not answer, instead trying to sense not only the forest, but Ayrlyn.
Ayrlyn-flame, banked, who felt what? Awe, fear, and yet who knew that the
forest held the key.
Nylan wished he had her faith.
The shoots got thicker and thicker, but not any closer together, and grew
in a pattern of sorts that seemed more defined the closer they rode up toward
the older growth that towered into the gray sky.
Abruptly, the mare sidestepped again, turning away from the dark line of
the older trees. Nylan reined up.
 Mine won t either, announced Ayrlyn.
 Hmmmm&  Nylan dismounted, and handed the mare s reins up to Ayrlyn.  I
don t see anything. There s not that much undergrowth here. He took several
steps toward the older trees of the forest, then paused, looking back at
Ayrlyn and the mounts. The redhead shrugged.
He walked another ten cubits and paused, looking down at a knee-high growth
of creepers that extended both east and west as far as he could make out.
Between the leaves he could see scattered traces of white-some form of stone.
 There was a wall here, he called back softly.
 I can feel it.
Slowly, Nylan stepped over the low barrier, scanning the area around,
listening with ears and senses. While the sense of looming dark order and
pulsing white chaps was fractionally stronger, nothing changed. In a way, that
bothered him as much as if something had changed.
Abruptly, he turned and walked back to Ayrlyn.  Let s head back and think
about this.
She nodded.
They both understood. Merely looking and physically searching wasn t going
to yield what they sought.
CXVII
TWO OFFICERS IN white uniforms, with green sashes, stood in the small room
that contained little more than a flat wooden table, five wooden chairs, and
several easels with maps upon them.
 Angels& riding in the direction of the Accursed Forest. Majer Piataphi
handed the scroll back to the marshal.  Ser& I cannot tell that to His
Mightiness. I cannot tell him that three of them, just three, destroyed a
local patrol and vanished.
 You are a lancer officer, under my command, Majer.
Queras stated flatly.
 As such, ser, I must offer my best judgment. This is not a good idea. I am
not in charge of the border patrols or the local patrols.
 You are under my command, Majer. Queras s voice turned chill.  All Mirror
Lancer officers are. You will follow my commands.
 You can only execute me for failing to carry out an order-and then you
will have to reveal what that order was. Piataphi smiled bitterly.  The way
His Mightiness feels about me& I would be turned into flame before him. After
he flamed me, or if he did not flame me, ser, how would he feel about your
trying to divert responsibility? Remember what he did to the officers of the
Eighth? Piataphi s words were level, and he did not blink as he regarded the
senior officer.
 Brave you may be, Majer, said Queras as he finally shook his head,  but
wise you are not. You defy me, and you lost an entire command, and allowed the
barbarians to drive you from our lands. Our lands. That shows little wisdom.
 Yes, ser. That is why I must be honest. I have little left but that. I
know the white mage stands by Lord Lephi, and he would know if I deceived.
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Queras s eyes raked over Piataphi.
 Follow the Emperor s commands, added the majer.  Do not tell him nor
return until we are ready to march.
 And the angels, O wisest of unwise lancers? How, pray tell, would your [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]