Authors: Dave Duncan
scrambled giddily to his feet, trying to rub head and elbows at the same time.
Little Chicken roared in fury. King Holindarn’s brown robe seemed to rise
up of its own accord, so inconspicuous was the impish youth inside it. The
troops beyond the door came back to life with a loud howl.
the moment, the legionaries were having an argument, and the threatening arm
had been removed. Rap turned away in time to see Thinal, holding up his gown
with both hands, heading for the still-open casement. With his head still
pounding, Rap lurched over to block him.
are you going?”
high was the collar around Thinal’s ears that his nondescript, spotty
face seemed to stare out of it, pale in the dawn gloom, as if the robe were
want to see if I could climb down, Rap.”
had said that Thinal was a human fly. Rap and Little Chicken weren’t.
Sagorn! “ Rap shouted. “He got us into this mess. Maybe he can get
us out yet! “
young imp shook his head vigorously. “No. He’s too frail now. We
can’t risk him. “
grabbed the thief’s puny shoulders and shook him till his teeth rattled. “Call
staggered back and almost tripped over his robe. “Don’t do that!”
bully me! I frighten easy, Rap.”
Rap advanced on him again.
might call Darad! “ Thinal wailed, sounding almost in tears. “It’s
too easy! I might not be able to help myself!”
took a deep breath. “Sorry,” he grunted. Then, “Oh, demons! “
whirled around to the door. The imps had massed outside again; again the arm
came through the jagged hole. But the bolt was too far from the hole to reach
with just a hand, and the timbers were very thick. The big imp had stopped and
thrust his whole arm in, right to the shoulder. Before Rap could say a word,
Little Chicken went sprinting across the room, leaped, and struck that
so-tempting, protruding elbow with both feet. He bounced off and landed on his
feet like a cat, while the imp’s scream seemed to shake the whole tower.
There went any hope of merciful treatment.
legionaries helped their disabled comrade extract his shattered and mangled
limb, all roaring furiously. Another giant grabbed up the ax, and the door
shivered under his blows.
what are we going to do?” Rap’s head ached. He had betrayed Inos,
but it did not look as if he would have long to mourn his inadequacy. “We
could still share words,” he suggested.
was edging toward the window again. “Not enough. Two only makes an adept.
Maybe we could climb up on the roof and wait until they’ve gone?”
shut the casement!”
might break a pane or two first.” Thinal shuffled a little farther-the
be seen from below; it’s almost daylight.” Rap sighed, feeling
weariness settle over his fears like thick snow. “I think this is the
end! I shouldn’t have been so stubborn and argued so long. The magic told
me to become a mage, and I wouldn’t.”
had disobeyed his monarch’s first order; or at least talked back. If he
had done his duty promptly, he would have become a mage and served her by
driving away the imps, forcing the townsfolk to accept her-how much could a
mage do, anyway? Well, it didn’t matter anyway, not now.
forced a smile at the terror-stricken little thief. “Go on, then, if you
think you can save yourself. Little Chicken and I will surrender to the
soldiers, even if it means the last weighing.”
goblin had been listening. “No!” he shouted. The door shuddered,
and a whole spar fell out. “Yes!” Rap said. “Unless you’ve
got any ideas?”
gust of hot, muggy wind swirled into the chamber. Surf roared.
Bird! Here! “
three spun around. There was no one in sight to explain the voice, but the
casement now looked out on strange frondy trees silhouetted against a grayish
predawn sky. Rap smelled sea and damp vegetation. Another wave broke noisily,
somewhere nearby. Stunned and wary, all three hesitated.
said?” Little Chicken growled.
Thinal screamed. “Those trees, Rap! They’re palms!” The door
shuddered again, the top hinge almost torn loose from the frame.
was still no one visible to explain the dry old voice, but Rap knew it. “It’s
Bright Water! “ Would she save the faun as well as the goblin she had
grabbed Rap’s arm. “That Rasha-she was a djinn. From Zark. Where
there’s djinns, there’s palms!”
three moved at once. Little Chicken went fastest, clearing the sill in one huge
bound. Then he seemed to realize his error, for he yelled from outside, “Flat
coming!” Rap called, and toppled over after him, tumbling onto hot, dry
sand. Hampered by his robe, Thinal came last and tipped out almost on top of
door fell bodily to the floor. The legionaries poured into the chamber.
heard a faint, fading echo of a voice crying, “I’m coming.”
caught a faint wisp of warm, tropic air, and then an icy blast from the
Krasnegar night swirled snow at them.
window was open. There was some discarded bedding on the floor. Otherwise, the
chamber was empty.
cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
solemn temples, the great globe itself,
all which it inherit, shall dissolve
like this insubstantial pageant faded,
not a rack behind.
The Tempest Shakespeare, The Tempest