"A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница

The left side door sprang open. A foot swung into view, followed by a leg. I glimpsed a figure: black leather armour, a short tuft of beard, pin-bright eyes full of fear and rage. He was clutching the rail around the carriage roof. As I watched, he let go with one hand, clasped the inner edge of the doorframe.

Estrada thrust with her stiletto. A lurch of the carriage amplified her strength; the thin blade hammered through flesh and an inch of wood. The scream from outside was appalling. One of the horses added its voice to the racket "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница. We flew into a turn, and straightened with a shudder.

Estrada fought to free her stiletto, without success. She levered it up and down, and every time the Northerner outside yelped pitifully. I could see tears starting in her eyes. He'd managed to lodge one foot inside the door. Now he gripped the frame with his free hand and swung his whole body into the entrance. He was broad enough to fill it. He swiped at Estrada, almost losing his grip as she ducked aside.

The Northerner leaned further in, anchoring himself with a shoulder wedged against the "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница doorframe. His eyes darted between his skewered hand and the sword at his belt, as he struggled to choose between attacking and trying to free himself.

Rather than wait until he decided, I chose to stamp hard on his nearest foot.

He snarled, and went for the sword. Estrada picked that moment to make another grab for her stiletto. This time she managed to wrench it loose, with an awful sound of tearing meat. She swung the thin blade in a raking cut. The man howled, leaned away, and realised he had nowhere to go. He threw out a hand "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница to steady himself. He picked the wrong one, and screamed once more.

I stamped again. He flailed for an instant, and was gone. I heard him pitch into the dirt with a crunch.

I fell back, fighting the urge to vomit. Estrada's chestnut skin was white as snow. She stared at the stiletto clutched in her fingers, its blade dripping red up to the hilt.

"Is he dead?" she asked.

"What?"

"Did we kill him?" The words were almost a sob.

"He would have killed us."

"But he didn't."

The carriage swerved again, though not so sharply. I "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница was certain it was back under the control of the driver, and that the sound we'd heard was him fending off his own assailant. Sure enough, I saw that we were only moving to allow the cart to fall in next to us. I watched it pulling alongside, with Saltlick hunched in the rear.

We were deep into the wilds now, a rocky, treeflecked region that would soon give way to the foothills of the southern mountains. This road was the less-used route between Altapasaeda and Maedendo, most southerly of the eastern bank towns. It "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница would widen beyond the bridge that capped the southern tip of the Casto Mara, but here it was narrow as any country road. With the cart beside us, we blocked it entirely.

It was absurdly risky. While it kept us safe from further attack, only the skill of the drivers stopped us from spinning into a ditch. The first turn ground the two vehicles together with a crunch of splintering wood. When they tore apart, the cart's near side was crumpled inward.

They couldn't possibly keep this up for long.

Soon, the whole near half of the cart was "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница riven with cracks that spread with each impact. Yet the frame held through the abuse. Estrada and I found positions where we could brace ourselves and hung on for dear life, teeth gritted, oblivious to each other. Concentrating solely on not being thrown from my seat, I grew barely conscious of my bruises, the incessant tramp of hooves, the hammering of rain. I only stirred when a wheel slipped off the road and the whole carriage threatened to tip, or when we skidded and it seemed we'd carry on until a tree or rock obliterated "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница us.

Two things roused me from that stupor. The first was noticing how flattened the shadows were on either side of us. That meant the sun was directly above. Hadn't Estrada said something about noon? Before I could finish the thought, we started forward, with a fresh burst of speed I wouldn't have thought possible.

I didn't see what good it could do. If our horses had that much life left in them, our pursuers' would have too. They'd close the gap in moments. I looked at Estrada, saw that she was staring out the "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница left side window. A flash of recognition lit her eyes. I did my best to follow her line of sight, and realised we were approaching rock formations that encroached on either side, and beyond was a stretch of canyon where the road dipped sharply below the level of the land. Shallow banks of shale and low scrub rose to left and right, topped with knots of dense foliage. It was a perfect ambush point.



Even as I thought it, we slowed, sharply enough to slam me against the carriage wall. Estrada tumbled into the gutter between the seats. Our "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница horses shrieked in protest.

We'd pulled up at an angle to the highway. Back the way we'd come, I could see the mass of Moaradrid's forces bearing towards us. They'd be on us in seconds.

"Is this it?"

"Help me, Damasco."

Estrada was struggling with the door on the opposite side. It was battered and buckled from its altercations with the cart. The clasp and hinges had crumpled into shapeless lumps that locked it firmly in place. I added my efforts to Estrada's. Though it rattled and shook, it came no closer to opening. A "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница glance behind showed me riders almost within spitting distance. They were already slowing, drawing their weapons.

I rolled onto my back, kicked with both legs together. My feet whistled past Estrada's head and struck the door with a crunch… and nothing else. I tried again, again. The sound of hooves skidding in the dirt and of horses whickering filled my ears.

I kicked with all my strength.

The latch sprang loose. The door flew open.

We tumbled out, Estrada first, and fell into the road. Glancing back, I realised the drivers had used their vehicles to blockade the road. Though "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница it wouldn't stop our pursuers, it would force them to dismount, or slow them at least. Why were the horses still in their harnesses, though? It seemed needlessly cruel with a battle pending. I looked around for the drivers.

"Oh no."

The words fell from my mouth. It was impossible.

Ahead, a couple of hundred men sat in the dust. I recognised a few of them from the encampment above Muena Palaiya. Their hands and feet were tied. Moaradrid's men stood guard in a circle around them.

Moaradrid himself waited close by. Beside him, glaring "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница at us from his one good eye, stood Castilio Mounteban.21

"Why are we still alive?"

As usual, it was up to me to say what everyone was thinking. Yet all it got me was glares, from Estrada on my left and Alvantes on my right.

I couldn't tell how long we'd been sitting there. Though it was probably only a few minutes, it seemed far longer. My ankles throbbed where the thick cord bit into them. My wrists itched maddeningly, and every movement seemed to make it worse. The cloud-laden sky was still leaking a cold drizzle and "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница my clothes were sodden. Overall, I was starting to wonder if a quick execution wouldn't have been more merciful than this protracted torment.

Not even Alvantes had tried to put up a fight, though his eyes had blazed with loathing as he handed over the giant-stone to Moaradrid. That done, he'd unstrapped his sword, and at his terse command his men had done the same, piling their blades in the road. There they'd remained, scabbards glinting dully in the grey light, left just out of reach as another small torture.

Moaradrid's troops had searched "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница us then, with far more energy than the guards outside the palace. To my surprise, the brute who patted me down had left my bag of coin alone. Probably he intended to loot it from my corpse later. Now that I'd never get to spend it, the weight against my chest was just another irritation.

Moaradrid's first act upon recovering the giantstone had been to order Saltlick to sit away from us and keep absolutely still. The soldiers had trussed him anyway, perhaps not sharing their master's faith in the pebble he prized so highly. Yet "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница Saltlick hadn't twitched so much as an eyebrow, either during the ordeal or since. Small wonder Moaradrid was obsessed with having the giants on his side. Size and strength was one thing, but no money could buy such blind obedience.

The rest of us had been placed with the other captives. If they'd looked pitiful from a distance, they seemed doubly so close up. Most were too juvenile or ancient, too starved or sickly to have done much damage to anyone besides themselves. Every last trace of resistance vanished when they realised it was Estrada "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница being shoved down in their midst. They'd had hope before, however slim. Now their defeat was beyond doubt.

If they'd needed further proof, however, the tight circle of Moaradrid's soldiers around us would have sufficed. Assuming he hadn't completely abandoned the siege of Altapasaeda, they could only be a proportion of his full force. Yet in the narrow confines of the valley, it felt as though Estrada's pitiful band of rebels sat huddled at the feet of an army the likes of which the Castoval had never seen. Their rough clothing and scraps "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница of armour might as well have been the silks and silver-filigreed plate of Panchetto's Palace Guard.

Moaradrid and Mounteban stood some distance to our right and a little way up the embankment. They'd been engaged in hushed conversation ever since our capture. Every so often, one of them would glance in our direction. Once, Mounteban waved towards us in some unreadable gesture. Soon after, Moaradrid cursed loudly and distinctly. It was obvious they were discussing us, but I'd no way to follow the debate, except that nothing in their expressions indicated it was good.

I'd been "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница expecting Moaradrid to come and speak to us eventually, to gloat over his victory or to introduce our forthcoming tortures. I was surprised when it was Mounteban who broke away and marched through the intervening crowd, clearing a path with his broad shoulders and barked orders. The soldiers showed him barely more respect than he did them. He stopped, hands on hips, within the perimeter of troops. His gaze swept over all of us, but settled on Estrada.

When he spoke, his tone was oddly subdued. "Understand… you're lucky to be alive. If you want to stay that "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница way you'll listen carefully to what I say."

Estrada's only response was to turn her face away.

"I know what you think. Mounteban, the criminal, has sold his friends for money and power. It isn't true. Yes, I went to Moaradrid, I admit it. I went to talk, as one man of influence to another. Because I'm a traitor to our cause? No. Because this plan was madness and would get us all killed. I tried to tell you, Marina, and you chose not to listen. Well, now you have to. This so-called war "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница has been a farce from the beginning. Moaradrid is not the man you think he is."

Alvantes's voice erupted from behind me. "He's a tyrant and a killer."

"Perhaps. But he's wants only one thing, and that's the crown. All he intended here was to bolster his army with the giants before he marched against Pasaeda and the king. It was we who imagined we were being attacked, we who forced a confrontation. Even then, he'd left without more bloodshed. If it weren't for a gutter thief who should have been hanged years "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница ago, that's exactly what he'd have done."

I'd been trying to keep my mouth shut, but that caught me by surprise. "Wait, this is suddenly my fault?"

Mounteban ignored me. "This can end now. You haven't been harmed; your possessions have been left alone. You can all go home. Marina, you can still be mayor. Alvantes, you can keep your position. Moaradrid hasn't the desire or the resources to hold the Castoval. He'll leave with the giants, and never bother us. All he asks is our cooperation."

Estrada turned back to "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница him. I could never have imagined such violence in those still brown eyes. Her words came in a single long hiss: "What has he promised you?"

For a moment, it looked as though Mounteban would deny the accusation. Then he said, "I'll be mayor of Altapasaeda."

Estrada gave a high laugh. "Of course you will."

Mounteban's expression wavered between shame and anger. He dropped to his knees in front of Estrada. His voice was so low that only the nearest of us could hear as he said, "Will you listen! He's spread his forces too thinly. Moaradrid can't "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница hold the Castoval and he knows it. If he doesn't go after the king now, the king will come for him. I think he was ready to have me killed before he lost his temper and murdered that oaf Panchetto, but since then he's been only too eager to listen.

"There's more… he hasn't said anything, but I'm sure he's run out of money. I doubt he's paid his armies since they came south, he's hardly feeding them, and any fool can see they're restless. He's obsessed with the "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница crown, and every day he's watched it slip further from his grasp. He wants nothing from the Castoval but to leave it far behind."

Mounteban was focused so intently on his speech that only at the end did his realise Estrada was ignoring him. Her eyes had caught on something in the distance beyond his shoulder. Before I could look to see what she was staring at, her gaze snapped back to Mounteban's face. She bent forward, bringing her mouth almost to his ear. I leaned in too, trying to catch her whisper.

"Castilio," she "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница said, "I hope they kill you first."

There was something so hypnotic in Estrada's hatred that I didn't think to wonder who "they" were. Neither, apparently, did Mounteban. He just stared with horror at the face too near his own. Only when the noise from behind us became overwhelmingly loud did he tear his eyes from hers. Then his mouth slid open, though no words came. He leaped to his feet and – with surprising speed for so large a man – bolted towards the eastern bank.

Estrada fell back, as though the effort of so much rage "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница had drained the last of her strength.

Moaradrid's troops were shouting on every side, all at once. Their feet were already churning the road into a quagmire, but no two men were moving in the same direction. The general drift seemed to be away from us, towards the mouth of the ravine. Someone cried out nearby and was abruptly cut off.

My whole body felt taut. I hardly dared to hope.

I recognised the hum of arrows beneath the other, louder sounds. The shots were coming from above; for once, we weren't the ones being fired at. Hooves thundered "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница, but the racket was approaching, not receding. The cries from around us were becoming an overwhelming wave of panic. The thought of being trampled frightened me more than the clamour of violence rising from every direction. I closed my eyes and threw my arms up over my face.

"Keep still!"

I opened my eyes to a blade a hand's breadth from my nose. Just before I started to scream, I realised it was Estrada's stiletto. Her searcher clearly hadn't been as rigorous as mine.

"Put your hands out. It's the Altapasaedan Guard, Damasco."

I thrust my "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница wrists out where she could reach them. "Ow! Be careful."

The stiletto wasn't designed for cutting. Estrada's slip had nearly cost me my thumb. Fortunately, the rope was cheap and rain-sodden. Another slash sent it flapping away in coils.

One of Moaradrid's Northerners chose that moment to stumble backwards into the pile of our weapons, scattering them in every direction. Most clattered beneath the feet of his companions, adding to the chaos, but one short sword skittered within reach. I darted to grab it before it was kicked away. A clumsy slash dealt with "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница the cord around my feet.

"Give me that."

Alvantes had his hands free, presumably thanks to Estrada. He tore the sword from my fingers, severed the binding around his ankles and leaped to his feet. He was just in time to block a blow swung for his neck – a Northerner had noticed our escape attempt. Regaining his balance, Alvantes edged to protect us. The soldier swung for his shoulder and he parried, with more confidence this time, then drove forward. It was a wild blow, easy to defend, but powerful enough to push the Northerner back. He "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница managed three rapid steps before he stumbled over the remains of the weapons pile. Alvantes's second blow killed him before he reached the ground.

Alvantes barely paused. He swung his cloak off and bundled swords into it, then darted back to distribute them. I found myself, seconds later, amidst a ring of armed men. The main fighting had drifted away from us, towards the mouth of the gorge. The Altapasaedans must have deliberately struck from that side to draw Moaradrid's troops away. Their initial panic behind them, those troops had formed up near the ruined coach, while the Altapasaedans "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница, seeing their initiative lost, had retreated part way up the western bank.

With even my limited grasp of warfare, I could tell the fight wasn't going their way. With both sides massed together, it was clear how outnumbered they were. There might have been two hundred Altapasaedans; Moaradrid's force boasted five times that number. The only thing that stopped them completely swamping the small band was lack of space. With the carriage, the rock formations at the gully mouth, and their own horses all behind them, the Northerners could hardly manoeuvre.

The Altapasaedans had left a handful "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница of archers on the western brow, who continued to pour down a steady stream of arrows. Yet now that Moaradrid's force had rallied, most of those shots deflected from shields and armour. Even the higher ground wasn't doing them much good. They were fending off sallies from both sides, and only Moaradrid's inability to bring his numbers to bear kept them from being overrun.

The stalemate couldn't last. As I watched, a company of Northerners peeled off from the main body, to retreat through the valley mouth. They'd be hunting for another route to "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница the high ground. Once they found it, they'd have no trouble cutting down those few archers, and the Altapasaedans would be surrounded. All Moaradrid had to do until then was keep them pinned.

As for our Castovalians, they looked only fractionally more intimidating now that they were armed and on their feet. In bare numbers, they more than doubled the Altapasaedans' strength. But numbers were misleading. Most of them had probably never handled anything sharper than a plough. Every third man lacked a weapon. They looked bewildered and scared.

Moaradrid's troops would eat them alive.

If Alvantes "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница saw how hopeless the situation was, he hid it well. Stood at the head of his ragtag brigade, he shouted, "Stay together. Push towards the centre. Stop for nothing!"

Then he turned and ran towards the fighting, before anyone realised this was all the speech they'd get. His entourage of Altapasaedan guardsmen fell in behind him. The Castovalian irregulars were slower on the uptake, and had to sprint to catch up.

I was shocked to see Estrada moving after them.

I caught her arm and cried, "Where are you going?" She jerked to free her arm, but I "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница hung on. "What are you going to do, stab them with your pocket knife? Don't be stupid."

"Let me go!"

"You're no good to anyone dead."

"They're going to get slaughtered." All the strength had gone out of her voice, but it was replaced by a cold determination that was almost worse.

I could see she'd rather die than watch the massacre she'd helped orchestrate. Struggling for an argument, any argument, I said, "What about Saltlick? You promised him."

Her eyes flitted to where Saltlick sat, immobile despite the havoc around him.

"Your boyfriend "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница can look after himself. Can Saltlick?"

"He's not my boyfriend." Estrada shrugged her arm free and marched towards Saltlick.

I couldn't help glancing toward the battle as I followed. Moaradrid must have forgotten his captives in the face of the Altapasaedan attack: the Castovalian thrust was wreaking chaos on his flank. I could make out Alvantes within the press of bodies, hacking his way towards the centre of Moaradrid's force just as he'd said he would. The Altapasaedans, exploiting their sudden advantage, had sallied against the Northerners who'd almost hemmed them in. Their archers "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница, too, were making the most of the distraction, finding easier targets now their enemies were defending on two fronts.

Perhaps they hoped the struggle had swung in their favour. I could see the bigger picture, and I knew better. The Northerners would reorganise at any second, and bring their greater strength to bear. Alvantes might be a thorn in their flank, but a thorn could be torn out and pulverised. He'd never struck me as the reckless type. Didn't he understand how hopeless this was?

Then I realised where he was heading.

I hurried to join Estrada "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница, and found her deep in one-sided conversation with Saltlick.

"I know he said you can't move, but what are you going to do, stay here forever? Sit until you starve to death? How is that going help your people or your family or anyone? You're being ridiculous! Moaradrid isn't your chief. He stole the stone from you. You don't owe him any loyalty."

"He won't listen," I told her. "That stupid stone, I wish I'd thrown it in the river when I had the chance."

I thought Saltlick's eyes "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница flickered at that.

"What can we do?"

"I don't know. Hope our side wins, I suppose."

I turned back to the drama behind us. I'd been right, surprise had offered only the briefest advantage. All momentum had gone from the Castovalian thrust, and now the Northerners were regaining ground and taking lives with equal ease. Alvantes's farmers were suffering the worst, but even the Altapasaedan guardsmen were taking horrible losses. Only Alvantes and his entourage continued to advance. The Castovalian irregulars were more a distraction than an actual help, but it was a distraction he was making the "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница most of.

Moaradrid, though he'd drawn his scimitar, was concentrated on retreating through the press of his own forces. His troops tripped over themselves to clear a path for him without risking their own lives. He'd already had to abandon the centre. Each step was taking him closer to the western bank, where the fiercest fighting was.

That was Alvantes's plan. It always had been. He couldn't win the battle, but perhaps he could end the war.

Moaradrid realised it in almost the same instant I did – understood that he was being herded "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница towards the Altapasaedans. His reaction was as rapid as it was astounding. He hurled himself with a ferocious cry at Alvantes, who barely had time to throw up his sword. The toll of their blades sung out above the clamour. Moaradrid followed with another strike, another, his blade weaving furiously, each blow ringing like a gong. Alvantes could hardly block, let alone fight back.

A circle was opening around them. Rather than risk getting in the way of their warlord, the Northerners backed frantically away. Alvantes's entourage took the opportunity to stab at anyone who looked as though they'd "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница try to interfere. The pitiful remainder of the Castovalians fell in to shore their line. On the far side, the surviving Altapasaedans seized on the respite to withdraw up the slope.

Suddenly, the entire skirmish had diminished to the two men battling in its midst. Their duel was drawing them further from the northern mouth of the valley, closer to us. Moaradrid was still forcing the attack. If his scything blows had slowed a fraction, they were more than enough to keep Alvantes off balance.

At least Alvantes was beginning to do more than block. Every few "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница steps he'd parry or sidestep, seeking an opening he couldn't find. Moaradrid's style lacked subtlety, but he was strong and fast. His scimitar acted like sword and shield, always moving, always outstretched to protect his head and body. Alvantes was the better swordsman, it showed in his every motion. Yet all his skill seemed useless in the face of that onslaught.

Then, for the first time, Alvantes struck back. He stepped deftly around a stab aimed midway up his chest, slid the scimitar aside, and lunged. His blade sliced against Moaradrid's thigh, drew a widening splash of "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница crimson. Moaradrid howled – more with rage than pain, it seemed, as he renewed his attack with even greater fury.

Alvantes was once again forced to lose ground. Yet something had changed. Now he retreated with easy leaps and sideward steps, and an unexpected grace. Now every other block turned into a parry, sapping force from Moaradrid's offensive. The warlord's face was warped with rage. A deep-throated cry accompanied each swing. It did no good. Alvantes anticipated his every motion, was always in the wrong place.

His blade darted again. The blow wasn't so "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница well placed this time; the edge glanced off the sash around Moaradrid's waist. Even from a distance I could see that Alvantes's sword had failed to find flesh.

He'd hit something, though – something that fell free, bounced, rolled to a standstill in the dirt.

It was the giant-stone.

Whether Alvantes had struck there deliberately, he seized the opportunity. He crouched, leaped, grasped the stone and rolled on, avoiding a swipe that passed not a finger's width above his head. He bounded to his feet and threw his sword around to ward off the inevitable next blow.

He "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница was almost quick enough.

Moaradrid swung his blade in a wide upward arc, leaving his whole left side exposed. Alvantes saw the opening, moved to exploit it – and screamed. The scimitar flicked back, now trailing a slash of crimson. Something sailed into the air, geysering red. It fell into the mud half way between the fight and us.

I don't know what made me run for it. Suddenly I was on my feet, and though a part of my brain was ordering me to stop, I pounded down the slope with all my strength. Moaradrid twisted "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница to look at me. His lips moved, but no words came that I could hear. Alvantes was staggering away, his face rigid and contorted. He was nursing his left arm in the crook of his right, the sword dangling loose in his fingers.

Moaradrid took a step towards me. He held his scimitar with the tip pointed at my head, and gave an indistinct cry. Then he began to lope towards me, hampered by the slash across his thigh. All his characteristic dignity was gone. He struggled on like a rabid dog, driven by hate and animal desire.

The "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница distance was too great. I reached the spot well ahead of him, and slid to my knees. There, spattered with filth and gore, lying like an overturned crab that would never right itself, was Alvantes's left hand. The giant-stone sat next to it, its surface drizzled with scarlet.

Scooping it up, feeling its coldness against my fingers, I made a silent vow.

This time, it was going back where it belonged.22

in the middle of what minutes ago had been a road and was now a lake of churned filth and freshly spilled blood, an odd thought struck "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница me. If heroism meant making bold and ultimately suicidal gestures, I'd just proved myself every bit Alvantes's match.

I assumed there must be something more to it that I'd missed. Then, as I turned and sprinted towards Estrada and Saltlick, I remembered the sight of Alvantes cradling the bloody stump of his wrist.

Maybe I had the right idea after all.

Estrada had been busy in my absence. She'd freed two of our horses from the stand of trees where Moaradrid's men had tethered them, and stood with the reins knotted around "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница one hand. If they were panicked from the sounds of violence, they were still a better option than an escape attempt on foot.

First things first, though. "Saltlick, get up!" I shouted, holding the giant-stone where he could see it. "You're free. You're going home."

Saltlick leaped to his feet, his face crumpling into the widest grin I'd ever seen. "Go home!" he roared.

Halfway there, I hazarded a glance behind me. Moaradrid was concentrated now on mustering riders from the mouth of the gorge. They in turn were struggling to force their way through the fighting "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница, which had resumed as a series of isolated skirmishes. Alvantes was trying to loop back to where the Altapasaedans were making their last stand. Though his face was frozen with pain and his hauberk drenched with blood, he was still taking time to swipe at any nearby foe with the sword gripped in his remaining hand.

The man was astonishing. He had no idea how to give up and die. But there were Northerners all around him, and I didn't see how he could possibly keep it up for much longer.

I hurried on. Estrada was leading the "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница horses towards me, dragging them as fast as she could without alarming them further. Saltlick trotted behind, still overjoyed, oblivious to the carnage.

I was badly winded by the time we reached each other. As I stopped to gasp for breath, Estrada thrust reins into my free hand.

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Документ "A fast-paced, witty and original fantasy, reminiscent of Scott Lynch and Fritz Leiber." 16 страница