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negligible an exercise. Why did you not employ the power of the amulet or rend
the ghoul limb from limb?"
"So simple and quick a death is unsuitable," stated Cugel with dignity. "I must
cogitate at length, and decide how he may best expiate his crimes."
"Indeed," said Derwe Coreme. "Indeed."
Cugel strode back into the great hali. "Back to the banquet! Let the wine flow!
Everyone must drink to the accession of the new Lord of Cil!"
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Derwe Coreme said in a silky voice, "If you please, Exalted, make some display of
the power of the amulet, to gratify our curiosity!"
"Certainly!" And Cugel touched carbuncle after carbuncle, producing rumbles
and groans of grievous woe, with occasionally a wail or scream.
"Can you do more?" inquired Derwe Coreme, smiling the soft smile of an impish
child.
"Indeed, should I so choose. But enough! Drink one and all!"
Derwe Coreme signaled the sergeant of the guard. "Take sword and strike off the
fool's arm; bring me the amulet."
"With pleasure, Great Lady." The sergeant advanced with bared blade.
Cugel shouted, "Stay! One more step and magic will turn each of your bones at
right angles!"
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The sergeant looked at Derwe Coreme, who laughed. "As I bade you, or fear my
revenge, which is as you know."
The sergeant winced, and marched forward again. But now an under-servitor
rushed to Cugel, and under his hood Cugel saw the seamed face of old Slaye, "I
will save you. Show me the amulet!"
Cugel allowed the eager fingers to grope among the carbuncles. Slaye pressed one
of these, and called something in a voice so exultant and shrill that the syllables
were lost. There was a great fluttering, and an enormous black shape stood at the
back of the hall. "Who torments me?" it moaned. "Who will give me surcease?"
"I!" cried Slaye. "Advance through the hall, kill all but myself!"
"No!" cried Cugel. "It is I who possess the amulet! I whom you must obey! Kill all
but me!"
Derwe Coreme clutched at Cugel's arm, striving to see the amulet. "It avajls
nothing unless you call him by name. We are all lost!"
"What is his name?" cried Cugel. "Counsel me!" "Hold back!" declared Slaye. "I
have considered " Cugel dealt him a blow and sprang behind the table. The
demon was approaching, pausing to pluck up the men-at-arms and dash
them against the walls. Derwe
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Coreme ran to Cugel. "Let me see the amulet; do you know nothing whatever? I
will order him!"
"By no means!" said Cugel. "Am I Cugel the Clever for nothing? Show me which
carbuncle, recite me the
name."
Derwe Coreme bent her head, read the rune, thrust out to press a carbuncle, but
Cugel knocked her arm aside. "What name? Or we all die!"
"Call on Vanille! Press here, call on Vanille!" Cugel pressed the carbuncle.
"Vanille! Halt this strife." The black demon heeded not at all. There was a second
great sound, and a second demon appeared. Derwe Coreme cried out in terroor.
"It was not Vanille; show me the amulet once more!"
But there was insufficient time; the black demon was upon them.
"Vanille!" bellowed Cugel. "Destroy this black monster!"
Vanille was low and broad, and of a swimming green color, with eyes like scarlet
lights. It flung itself upon the first demon, and the terrible bellow of the
encounter stunned the ears, and eyes could not follow the frenzy of the fight. The
walls shuddered as the great forces struck and rebounded. The table splintered
under great splayed feet; Derwe Coreme was flung into a corner. Cugel _ crawled
after, to find her crumpled and staring, half-conscious but bereft of will. Cugel
thrust the amulet before her eyes. "Read the runes! Call forth the names; each I
will try in turn! Quick, to save our lives!"
But Derwe Coreme merely made a soft motion with -her lips. Behind, the black
demon, mounted astride Vanille, was methodically clawing up handfuls of his
substance and casting it aside, while Vanille bellowed and screamed and turned
his ferocious head this way and that, snapping and snarling, striking with great
green arms. The black demon plunged its arms deep, seized some central node
and Vanille became a sparkling green slime of a myriad parts, each gleam and
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sparkle flitting and quivering and dissolving into the stone.
Slaye stood grinning above Cugel. "Do you wish your life? Hand here the amulet
and I spare you. Delay one instant and you are deadl"
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Cugel divested himself of the amulet, but could not bring himself to relinquish it.
He said with sudden cunning, "I can give the amulet to the demon."
Slaye glared down at him. "And then we all are dead. To me it does not matter.
Do so. I defy you. If you want life the amulet." -
Cugel looked down at Derwe Coreme. "What of her?"
"Together you shah" be banished. The amulet, for here is the demon."
The black demon towered above; Cugel hastily handed the amulet to Slaye, who
uttered a sharp cry and touched a carbuncle. The demon whimpered, involuted
and disappeared.
Slaye stood back, grinning hi triumph. "Now away with you and the girl. I keep
my word to you, no more. You have your miserable lives: depart."
"Grant me one desire!" pled Cugel. "Transport us to Almery, to the Valley of the
Xzan, where I may rid myself of a canker called Firx!"
"No," said Slaye. "I deny your heart's-desire. Go at once."
Cugel lifted Derwe Coreme to her feet. Still dazed, she stared at the wreckage of
the hall. Cugel turned to Slaye. "The ghoul waits in the promenade."
Slaye nodded. "This may well be true. Tomorrow I shall chastise him. Tonight I
call sub-world artisans to repair the hall and restore the glory of Cil. Hence! Do
you think I care how you fare with the ghoul?" His face became suffused and his
hand strayed toward the carbuncles of the amulet. "Hence, at once!"
Cugel took Derwe Coreme's arm and led her from the hall to the great front
portal. Slaye stood with feet apart, shoulders hunched, head bent forward, eyes
following Cugel's every move. Cugel eased back the bolts, opened the door and
stepped out upon the terrace.
There was silence along the promenade. Cugel led Derwe Coreme down the steps
and off to the side, into the rank growth of the old garden. Here he paused to
listen. From the palace came sounds of activity: rasping and scraping, hoarse
shouts and bellows, the flash of many-colored lights. Down the center of the
promenade came a tall white shape, stepping from the shadow of one
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pedestal to the next. It paused to listen to the sounds and watch the flaring lights
in wonder. While it was so absorbed Cugel led Derwe Coreme away, behind the
dark banks of foliage, and so off into the night
62
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The Mountains of Magnatz
SHORTLY AFTER SUNRISE Cugel and Derwe Coreme emerged from the hillside
byre where they had huddled the night. The air was chill and the sun, a wine-
colored bubble behind high mist, produced no warmth. Cugel clapped his arms
and jigged back and forth, while Derwe Coreme stood pinch-faced and limp
beside the old byre.
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Cugel presently became irritated by her posture, which implied a subtle
disparagement of himself. "Fetch wood," he told her curtly. "I will strike a fire; we
will breakfast in comfort."
Without a word the erstwhile princess of Cil went to gather furze. Cugel turned to
inspect the dim expanse to the east, voicing an automatic curse upon lucounu the
Laughing Magician, whose rancor had flung him into this northern wasteland.
Derwe Coreme returned with an armful of twigs; Cugel gave a nod of approval.
For a brief period after their expulsion from Cil she had carried herself with an
inappropriate hauteur, which Cugel had tolerated with a quiet smile for himself.
Their first couching had been both eventful and taxing; thereafter Derwe Coreme [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]