For a moment I felt reassured, until I remembered that the Forged ones I had encountered before had been transparent to that sense. I moved down the hill to where several boulders jutted out from its side, and sat in their shelter. It was not that the wind was cold, for the day promised spring soon. It was to have something firmly against my back, and to feel that I was not such an outstanding target as I had been on top of the hill.
I tried to think coolly what to do next. Galen had suggested to us that we should stay quietly where we were deposited, meditating and remaining open in our senses. At sometime in the next two days, he would try to contact me. Nothing takes the heart out of a man more than the expectation of failure. I had no belief that he would really try to contact me, let alone that I would receive any clear impressions if he did. Nor did I have faith that the drop-off he had chosen for me was a safe location.
Without much more thought than that, I rose, again surveyed the area for anyone watching me, then struck out toward the sea-smell. If I were where I supposed myself to be, from the shore I should be able to see Antler Island, and, on a clear day, possibly Scrim Isle.
Even one of those would be enough to tell me how far from Forge I was. Only a fool would imagine that the Forged ones still represented any danger. Surely winter had put an end to them, or left them too starved and weakened to be a menace to anyone. I gave no credence to the tales of them banding together as cut-throats and thieves. I merely wanted to see where I was. If Galen truly wanted to contact me, location should be no barrier. He had assured us innumerable times that it was the person he reached for, not the place. He could find me as well on the beach as he could on the hilltop.
By late afternoon, I stood on top of rocky cliffs, looking out to sea. Antler Island, and a haze that would be Scrim beyond it. I was north of Forge. The coast-road home would go right through the ruins of that town. It was not a comforting thought. By evening, I was back on my hilltop, scrunched down between two of the boulders. I had decided it was as good a place to wait as any. Despite my doubts, I would stay where I had been left until the contact time was up.
I ate bread and salt-fish, and drank sparingly of my water. My change of clothes included an extra cloak. I wrapped myself in this and sternly rejected all thoughts of making a fire. However small, it would have been a beacon to anyone on the dirt road that passed the hill. The child in me kept imagining dark, ragged figures creeping soundlessly up the hillside around me, Forged folk who would beat and kill me for the cloak I wore and the food in my bag.
I had cut myself a stick as I made my way back to my hillside, and I gripped it in both hands, but it seemed a poor weapon. Sometimes I dozed despite my fears, but my dreams were always of Galen gloating over my failure as Forged ones closed in on me, and I always woke with a start, to peer wildly about to see if my nightmares were true. I watched the sunrise through the trees, and then dozed fitfully through morning. Afternoon brought me a weary sort of peace. I amused myself by questing out toward the wildlife on the hillside.
Mice and songbirds were little more than bright sparks of hunger in my mind, and rabbits little more, but a fox was full of lust to find a mate and further off a buck battered the velvet off his antlers as purposefully as any smith at his anvil. Evening was very long.
It was surprising just how hard it was for me to accept, as night fell, that I had felt nothing, not the slightest pressure of the Skill. I felt sure Galen had cheated me, but I would never be able to prove it, not even to myself. I would always have to wonder if his contempt for me had been justified. In full darkness, I settled my back against a rock, my stick across my knees, and resolved to sleep.
My dreams were muddled and sour. Regal stood over me, and I was a child sleeping in straw again. He laughed and held a knife. Verity shrugged, and smiled apologetically at me. Chade turned aside from me, disappointed. Molly smiled at Jade, past me, forgetting I was there. Burrich held me by the shirt-front and shook me, telling me to behave like a man, not a beast. But I lay down on straw and an old shirt, chewing at a bone. The meat was very good, and I could think of nothing else. I was very comfortable until someone opened a stable door and left it ajar.
A nasty little wind came creeping across the stable floor to chill me, and I looked up with a growl. I smelled Burrich and ale. I put my head down as he began to climb his stairs. Suddenly there was a shout and men falling down the stairs. They struggled as they fell. I leaped to my feet, growling and barking. They landed half on top of me.
A boot kicked at me, and I seized the leg above it in my teeth and clamped my jaws. I caught more boot and trouser than flesh, but he hissed in anger and pain, and struck at me. I set my teeth harder and held on, snarling around my mouthful.
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Other dogs had awakened and were barking, the horses were stamping in their stalls. I called for help. Burrich lay in the straw and I smelled his blood. He did not move. I heard old Vixen flinging herself against the door upstairs, trying vainly to get to her master. Again and then again the knife plunged into me. I cried out to my Boy a last time, and then I could no longer hold on. I was flung off the kicking leg, to strike the side of a stall.
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I was drowning, blood in my mouth and nostrils. Running feet.
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Pain in the dark. I hitched closer to Burrich. I pushed my nose under his hand. Voices and light coming, coming, coming …. I awoke on a dark hillside, gripping my stick so tightly my hands were numb. Not for a moment did I think it a dream. I struggled to make sense of what Smithy had seen. Someone with a knife. And Burrich had fallen, and Smithy had smelled blood …. I stood and gathered my things. Weak, but there. I quested carefully, and then stopped when I felt how much it cost him to acknowledge me.
Be still. I was cold and my knees shook beneath me, but sweat was slick on my back. Not once did I question what I must do. I strode down the hill to the dirt road. I would follow it, I would find the coast-road, I would get myself home. And if Eda favoured me, I would be in time to help Smithy. And Burrich. I strode, refusing to let myself run. A steady march would carry me further faster than a mad sprint through the dark. The night was clear, the trail straight. I considered, once, that I was putting an end to any chance of proving I could Skill.
All I had put into it — time, effort, pain — all wasted. But there was no way I could have sat down and waited another full day for Galen to try and reach me. I would not. When it was all put in the balances, the Skill was far outweighed by Smithy. Why Burrich, I wondered. Who could hate him enough to ambush him? And right outside his own quarters.
As clearly as if I were reporting to Chade, I began to assemble my facts. Someone who knew him well enough to know where he lived; that ruled out some chance offence committed in a Buckkeep town tavern. Someone who had brought a knife; that ruled out someone who just wanted to give him a beating. The knife had been sharp, and the wielder had known how to use it. I winced again from the memory. Those were the facts. Cautiously, I began to build assumptions upon them. My steps slowed suddenly. Slipping past dogs in their own territory bespoke someone well practised at stealth.
I only wanted it to be Galen. I refused to leap to the conclusion. Physically, Galen was no match for Burrich and he knew it. Not even with a knife, in the dark, with Burrich half-drunk and surprised. Not himself.
Would he send another? Think some more. Burrich was not a patient man. Over and over I re-stacked my facts, trying to reach a solid conclusion. Eventually I came to a stream, and drank sparingly. Then I walked again. The woods grew thicker, and the moon was mostly obscured by the trees lining the road. I pushed on, until my trail flowed into the coast-road like a stream feeding a river. I followed it south, and the wider highway gleamed like silver in the moonlight. I walked and pondered the night away. As the first creeping tendrils of dawn began to put colour back into the landscape, I felt incredibly weary, but no less driven.
I clutched at the thin thread of warmth that told me Smithy was still alive, and wondered about Burrich. Smithy had smelled his blood, so the knife had scored at least once. And the fall down the staircase? I tried to set the worry aside. I had never considered that Burrich could be injured in such a way, let alone what I would feel about it. I could come up with no name for the feeling. Just hollow, I thought to myself. And weary. I ate a bit as I walked and refilled my waterskin from a stream. Midmorning clouded up and rained on me for a bit, only to clear as abruptly by early afternoon.
I strode on. I had expected to find some sort of traffic on the coast-road, but saw nothing. By late afternoon, the road had veered close to the cliffs. I could look across a small cove and down onto what had been Forge. The peacefulness of it was chilling. No smoke rose from the cottages, no boats rode in the harbour. I knew my route would take me right through it. I lifted my head to the scuff of feet against stone. I came about, staff at the ready, and swept around me in a defensive circle that cracked the jaw of the one that was behind me.
The others fell back. Three others. All Forged, empty as stone. The one I had struck was rolling and yelling on the ground. No one paid him any mind except me.
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I dealt him another quick jolt to his back. He yelled louder and thrashed about. Even in that situation, my action surprised me. I knew it was wise to make sure a disabled enemy stayed disabled, but I knew I could never have kicked at a howling dog as I did at that man.
It was like slamming a door, violence without a victim, as I cracked him again, to be sure he would not snatch at me as I leaped over him to a clear space in the road. I danced my staff around me, keeping the others at bay. They looked ragged and hungry, but I still felt they could outrun me if I fled. I was already tired, and they were like starving wolves. One reached too close and I struck him a glancing blow to the wrist.
He dropped a rusty fish-knife and clutched his hand to his heart, shrieking over it. Again, the other two paid no attention to the injured one. I danced back. Object Descriptions. Daily Lessons. Fun Activities. Essay Topics. Short Essay Questions. Short Essay Questions Key. Multiple Choice. Multiple Choice Key. Short Answer Questions. Short Answer Questions Key. Oral Reading Evaluation Sheet. Reading Assignment Sheet. Writing Evaluation Form. One Week Quiz A. Two Week Quiz A. Four Week Quiz A. Four Week Quiz B. Eight Week Quiz A. Eight Week Quiz B.
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