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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Hambly Barbara
 

«03 The Armies of Daylight», Barbara Hambly

by

Barbara Hambly

 

PROLOGUE

When the wizard Ingold crossed the Void between worlds to save the infant Prince Tir from the destruction of Gae, Gil Patterson and Rudy Solis tried to help him. But one of the monstrous, evil Dark crossed behind him, and they were all forced to flee back to the world of magic from which the wizard came.

It was a world where magic worked and where the loathsome Dark were destroying humanity, after having lain almost forgotten in underground lairs for three thousand years. And it was a world where the only hope for mankind lay in the distant, ancient stone Keep of Dare, built to resist the previous ravages of the Dark.

The King had fallen in Gae. Now Chancellor Alwir was the Regent, as brother to young Queen Minalde. Vying for power was the Bishop Govannin, fanatic

leader of the Straight Faith. And both Alwir and the Bishop feared Ingold.

The road to the Keep was a hell of cold and danger, with both the Dark and the barbarian White Raiders taking toll on those who struggled through the freezing mud. But Gil found herself accepted as one of the Guards. Rudy won the love of Minalde and discovered that he had wizard powers. He became a student of Ingold.

Once the remnant of humanity was established precariously in the Keep, Ingold and Rudy set out for Quo, the city where the wizards ruled and protected all their ancient lore. There had been no word from that city, and no magic of Ingold's could reach through the veils of illusion guarding it. But when they reached Quo, after two thousand miles of marching through hardship and danger, they found the city in ruins-the Dark had been there. Of the wizards, only Lohiro remained to meet them. And Lohiro was possessed by the Dark. In a bitter struggle, Ingold managed to destroy Lohiro.

Ingold sent out a desperate mental summons for any wizards of any degree of ability. Then he and Rudy began the long struggle back to the Keep.

During their absence, Gil had used her training as a scholar to investigate the old records, looking for some clue as to how the ancient Dare of Renweth had defeated the Dark. Together with Minalde, who had a touch of the mysterious memory of past events that was supposedly inherited by only a few men, she found the ancient workshops of the wizard-engineers who had built the Keep. And she found artifacts of all lands, most without apparent use.

When Ingold and Rudy returned, they found a ragtag assembly of wizards, half-trained witches, and village healers waiting to become the Wizards' Corps under them. Ingold realized that the crystals Gil had found were the ancient source of artificial light. And Rudy seized upon a collection of parts which he assembled into a flame thrower, a possible weapon against the Dark.

Alwir used the discovery as an excuse to determine that the wizards must spy out the Nest of the Dark at Gae. Ingold, knowing the folly of the plan but unable to deter Alwir, began trying to create a cloaking-spell that might protect the wizards against the Dark.

PART ONE THE QUESTION AND THE ANSWER

 

CHAPTER ONE

The night was still. The wind that had beaten with such violence down the ice-locked mountains to the north had fallen at about sunset to an uneasy murmuring in the dark pines that filled the twisting Vale of Renweth. By midnight, even that had ceased. The black branches hung motionless from one end of the Vale to the other, slowly furring with frost in the deepening cold. A man's breath, barely visible in the soulless glimmer of the few remote and haughty stars, would hang like a diamond cloud about his face or freeze in white hoarfrost to his lips. In that piercing cold, not even the wolves were abroad; the silence ran from cliff to lightless cliff, an almost tangible property in that frozen and desolate world.

Yet beneath the dark trees, something had stirred.

Rudy Solis was sure of it. He glanced behind him for the fourth time in as many minutes, fear creeping along his spine and prickling at the nape of his neck like

tiny teeth. Yet he saw nothing there, only the thin sheen of starlight frosting the unmarked snow.

He looked back to the darkness of the trees. He stood some fifty feet from the forest's edge, his shadow a misty blur on the old broken snow around his feet, his breath a tiny smear of steam against the darkness. Even wrapped in the thickness of his buffalohide coat, he shivered, though not entirely with cold. He knew that it would be warmer in the protection of the forest and, look as he would, he could sense no movement there. It was undoubtedly perfectly safe, and sheltering there would be a damnsight more intelligent than standing in the open listening to the ice crystallize in his lungs.

But neither hope of Heaven nor fear of Hell would have induced him to seek the shelter of those shadowed woods.


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