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.Walk them through the Barrowland after dark.”“I tried.They told me to quit whining if I wanted a pension.”“You’ve done all you can, then.It’s on their heads.”“I took an oath, Bo.I was serious about it then, and I’m serious now.This job is all I have.You’ve got Jasmine and Stance.I might as well have been a monk.Now they’re discarding me for some young.”He began making strange noises.Sobs? Bomanz thought.From the Monitor? From this man with a heart of flint and all the mercy of a shark? He took Besand’s elbow.“Let’s go look at the comet.I haven’t seen it yet.”Besand got hold of himself.“You haven’t? That’s hard to believe.”“Why? I haven’t been up late.Stancil has done the night work.”“Never mind.Slipping into my antagonistic character again.We should’ve been lawyers, you and I.We’ve got the argumentative turn of mind.”“You could be right.Spent a lot of time lately wondering what I’m doing out here.”“What are you doing here, Bo?”“I was going to get rich.I was going to study the old books, open a few rich graves, go back to Oar and buy into my uncle’s drayage business.” Idly, Bomanz wondered how much of his faked past Besand accepted.He had lived it so long that he now remembered some fraudulent anecdotes as factual unless he thought hard.“What happened?”“Laziness.Plain oldfashioned laziness.I found out there’s a big difference between dreaming and getting in there and doing.It was easier to dig just enough to get by and spend the rest of the time loafing.” Bomanz made a sour face.He was striking near the truth.His researches were, in fact, partly an excuse for not competing.He simply did not have the drive of a Tokar.“You haven’t had too bad a life.One or two hard winters when Stancil was a pup.But we all went through those.A helping hand here or there and we all survived.There she is.” Besand indicated the sky over the Barrowland.Bomanz gasped.It was exactly what he had seen in his dreams.“Showy, isn’t it?”“Wait till it gets close.It’ll fill half the sky.”“Pretty, too.”“Stunning, I’d say.But also a harbinger.An ill omen.The old writers say it’ll keep returning till the Dominator is freed.”“I’ve lived with that stuff most of my life, Besand, and even I find it hard to believe there’s anything to it.Wait! I get that spooky feeling around the Barrowland, too.But I just can’t believe those creatures could rise again after four hundred years in the ground.”“Bo, maybe you are honest.If you are, take a hint.When I leave, you leave.Take the TelleKurre stuff and head for Oar.”“You’re starting to sound like Stance.”“I mean it.Some idiot unbeliever kid takes over here, all Hell is going to break loose.Literally.Get out while you can.”“You could be right.I’m thinking about going back.But what would I do? I don’t know Oar anymore.The way Stance tells it, I’d get lost.Hell, this is home now.I never really realized that.This dump is home.”“I know what you mean.”Bomanz looked at that great silver blade in the sky.Soon now.“What’s going on out there? Who is that?” came from Bomanz’s back door.“You clear off, hear? I’ll have the Guard after you.”“It’s me, Jasmine.”Besand laughed.“And the Monitor, mistress.The Guard is here already.”“Bo, what’re you doing?”“Talking.Looking at the stars.”“I’ll be getting along,” Besand said.“See you tomorrow.”From his tone Bomanz knew tomorrow would be a day of normal harassments.“Take care.” He settled on the dewy back step, let the cool night wash over him.Birds called in the Old Forest, their voices lonely.A cricket chirruped optimistically.Humid air barely stirred the remnants of his hair.Jasmine came out and sat beside him.“Couldn’t sleep,” he told her.“Me either.”“Must be going around.” He glanced at the comet, was startled by an instant of deja vu.“Remember the summer we came here? When we stayed up to see the comet? It was a night like this.”She took his hand, entwined her fingers with his.“You’re reading my mind.Our first month anniversary.Those were fool kids, those two.”“They still are, inside.”ElevenThe BarrowlandFor Corbie the unravelling came quickly now.When he kept his mind on business.But more and more he became distracted by that old silk map.Those strange old names.In TelleKurre they had a ring absent in modern tongues.Soulcatcher.Stormbringer.Moonbiter.The Hanged Man.They seemed so much more potent in the old tongue.But they were dead.The only great ones left were the Lady and the monster who started it all, out there under the earth.Often he went to a small window and stared toward the Barrowland.The devil in the earth.Calling, perhaps.Surrounded by lesser champions, few of them recalled in the legends and few the old wizard identified.Bomanz had been interested only in the Lady.So many fetishes.And a dragon.And fallen champions of the White Rose, their shades set to eternal guard duty.It seemed so much more dramatic than the struggle today.Corbie laughed.The past was always more interesting than the present.For those who lived through the first great struggle it must have seemed deadly slow, too.Only in the final battle were the legends and legacies created.A few days out of decades.He worked less now, now that he had a sound place to live and a little saved.He spent more time wandering, especially by night.Case came calling one morning, before Corbie was fully wakened.He allowed the youth inside.“Tea?”“All right.”“You’re nervous.What is it?”“Colonel Sweet wants you.”“Chess again? Or work?”“Neither.He’s worried about your wandering around at night.I told him I go with you and all you do is look at the stars and stuff.Guess he’s getting paranoid.”Corbie smiled a smile he did not feel.“Just doing his job.Guess my life looks odd.Getting past it.Lost in my own mind.Do I act senile sometimes? Here.Sugar?”“Please.” Sugar was a treat.The Guard could not provide it.“Any rush? I haven’t eaten.”“He didn’t put it that way.”“Good.” More time to prepare.Fool.He should have guessed his walks would attract attention.The Guard was paranoid by design.Corbie prepared oats and bacon, which he shared with Case.For all they were well paid, the Guard ate poorly.Because of ongoing foul weather the Oar road was all but impassable.The army quartermasters strove valiantly but often could not get through.“Well, let’s see the man,” Corbie said.And: “That’s the last bacon.The Colonel better think about farming here, just in case.”“They talked about it.” Corbie had befriended Case partly because he served at headquarters.Colonel Sweet would play chess and talk old times, but he never revealed any plans.“And?”“Not enough land.Not enough fodder.”“Pigs [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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