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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Goodkind Terry
 

«Wizard's First Rule», Terry Goodkind

CHAPTER 1

IT WAS AN ODD-LOOKING vine. Dusky variegated leaves hunkered against a stem that wound in a stranglehold around the smooth trunk of a balsam fir. Sap drooled down the wounded bark, and dry limbs slumped, making it look as if the tree were trying to voice a moan into the cool, damp morning air. Pods stuck out from the vine here and there along its length, almost seeming to look warily about for witnesses.

It was the smell that first had caught his attention, a smell like the decomposition of something that had been wholly unsavory even in life. Richard combed his fingers through his thick hair as his mind lifted out of the fog of despair, coming into focus upon seeing the vine. He scanned for others, but saw none. Everything else looked normal. The maples of the upper Ven Forest were already tinged with crimson, proudly showing off their new mantle in the light breeze. With nights getting colder, it wouldn't be long before their cousins down in the Hartland Woods joined them. The oaks, being the last to surrender to the season, still stoically wore their dark green coats.

Having spent most of his life in the woods, Richard knew all the plants-if not by name, by sight. From when Richard was very small, his friend Zedd had taken him along, hunting for special herbs. He had shown Richard which ones to look for, where they grew and why, and put names to everything they saw. Many times they just talked, the old man always treating him as an equal, asking as much as he answered Zedd had sparked Richard's hunger to learn, to know.

This vine, though, he had seen only once before, and not in the woods. He had found a sprig of it at his father's house, in the blue clay jar Richard had made when he was a boy. His father had been a trader and had traveled often, looking for the chance exotic or rare item. People of means had often sought him out, interested in what he might have turned up. It seemed to be the looking, more than the finding, that he had liked, as he had always been happy to part with his latest discovery so he could be off after the next.

From a young age, Richard had liked to spend time with Zedd while his father was away. Richard's brother, Michael, was a few years older, and having no interest in the woods, or in Zedd's rambling lectures, preferred to spend his time with people of means. About five years before, Richard had moved away to live on his own, but he often stopped by his father's home, unlike Michael, who was always busy and rarely had time to visit. Whenever his father went away, he would leave Richard a message in the blue jar telling him the latest news, some gossip, or of some sight he had seen.

On the day three weeks before when Michael had come to tell him their father had been murdered, Richard had gone to his father's house, despite his brother's insistence that there was no reason to go, nothing he could do. Richard had long since passed the age when he did as his brother said. Wanting to spare him, the people there didn't let him see the body. But still, he saw the big, sickening splashes and puddles of blood, brown and dry across the plank floor. When Richard came close, voices fell silent, except to offer sympathy, which only deepened the riving pain. Yet he had heard them talking, in hushed tones, of the stories and the wild rumors of things come out of the boundary.

Of magic.

Richard was shocked at the way his father's small home had been torn apart, as if a storm had been turned loose inside. Only a few things were left untouched. The blue message jar still sat on the shelf, and inside he found the sprig of vine. It was still in his pocket now. What his father meant him to know from it, he couldn't guess.

Grief and depression overwhelmed him, and even though he still had his brother, he felt abandoned. That he was grown into manhood offered him no sanctuary from the forlorn feeling of being orphaned and alone in the world, a feeling he had known before, when his mother died while he was still young. Even though his father had often been away, sometimes for weeks, Richard had always known he was somewhere, and would be back. Now he would never be back.

Michael wouldn't let him have anything to do with the search for the killer. He said he had the best trackers in the army looking and he wanted Richard to stay out of it, for his own good. So Richard simply didn't show the vine to Michael, and went off alone every day, searching for it. For three weeks he walked the trails of the Hartland Woods, every trail, even the ones few others knew of, but he never saw it.

Finally, against his better judgment, he gave in to the whispers in his mind, and went to the upper Ven Forest, close to the boundary. The whispers haunted him with the feeling that he somehow knew something of why his father had been murdered. They teased him, tantalized him with thoughts just out of reach, and laughed at him for not seeing it. Richard lectured himself that it was his grief playing tricks, not something real.

He had thought that when he found the vine it would give him some sort of answer. Now that he had, he didn't know what to think. The whispers had stopped teasing him, but now they brooded. He knew it was just his own mind thinking, and he told himself to stop trying to give the whispers a life of their own. Zedd had taught him better than that.

Richard looked up at the big fir tree in its agony of death. He thought again of his father's death. The vine had been there. Now the vine was killing this tree; it couldn't be anything good. Though he couldn't do anything for his father, he didn't have to let the vine preside over another death. Gripping it firmly, he pulled, and with powerful muscles ripped the sinewy tendrils away from the tree.

That's when the vine bit him.

One of the pods struck out and hit the back of his left hand, causing him to jump back in pain and surprise. Inspecting the small wound, he found something like a thorn embedded in the meat of the gash. The matter was decided. The vine was trouble. He reached for his knife to dig out the thorn, but the knife wasn't there. At first surprised, he realized why and reprimanded himself for allowing his depression to cause him to forget something as basic as taking his knife with him into the woods. Using his fingernails, he tried to pull out the thorn. To his rising concern, the thorn, as if alive, wriggled itself in deeper. He dragged his thumbnail across the wound, trying to snag the thorn out. The more he dug, the deeper it went. A hot wave of nausea swept through him as he tore at the wound, making it bigger, so he stopped. The thorn had disappeared into the oozing blood.


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