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.A force of riders, fully armored knights, charged down onto the field on armored warhorses, led by a lean man in a worn and weathered gray cloak."Prince Geldion," Mickey remarked sourly."Now I've not a doubt.They'll start for Dilnamarra all too soon, perhaps this very day.We should be going, then," he said to Kelsey."To warn fat Baron Pwyll so that he might at least be ready to properly greet his guests."Kelsey nodded gravely.It was their responsibility to warnBaron Pwyll, for whatever good that might do.Pwyll could not muster one-tenth the force of Connacht, and this army was superbly trained and equipped.By all measures of military logic, the Connacht army could easily overrun Dilnamarra, probably in a matter of a few hours.Kelsey's allies had one thing going for them, though, a lie that had been fostered in rugged Dvergamal.After the defeat of the dragon, Gary Leger had returned to his own world, and so the companions had given credit for the kill to Baron Pwyll.It was a calculated and purposeful untruth, designed to heighten Pwyll's status as a leader among the resistance to Connacht.Apparently the lie had worked, for the people of Dilnamarra had flocked about their heroic Baron, promising fealty unto death.Connacht's army was larger, better trained, and better armed, but the King's soldiers would not fight with the heart and ferocity of Baron Pwyll's people, would not hold the sincere conviction that their cause was just.Still, Kelsey knew that Dilnamarra could not win out; the elf only hoped that they might wound Connacht's army enough so that the elves of Tir na n'Og could hold the line on their precious forest borders."And what of you?" Kelsey asked Geno, for the dwarf had made it clear that he would soon depart when this scouting mission was completed."I will go back with you as far as the east road, then I'm off to Braemar," Geno answered, referring to the fair-sized town to the north and east, under the shadows of mighty Dvergamal."Gerbil and some of his gnomish kin are waiting for me there.We'll tell the folk of Braemar, and go on to Drochit, then into the mountains, me to my kin at the Firth of Buldre and Gerbil to his in Gondabuggan.""And all the land will know of Ceridwen's coming," Kelsey put in."For what good it will do all the land," Mickey added dryly."Stupid Gary Leger," said Geno."Are ye really to blame him?" Mickey had to ask.Geno had always remained gruff (one couldn't really expect anything else from a dwarf), but over the course of their two adventures, it seemed to Mickey that the dwarf had taken a liking to Gary Leger.Geno thought over the question for a moment, then simply answered, "He let her out.""He did as he thought best," Kelsey put in sternly, rising to Gary's defense."The dragon was free on the wing, if you remember, and so Gary thought it best to shorten Ceridwen�s banishment�a banishment that Gary Leger alone had imposed upon her by defeating her," he pointedly added, staring hard Geno's way."I'll not begrudge him his decision."Geno nodded, and his anger seemed to melt away."And it was Gary Leger who killed the dragon," the dwarf admitted."As was best for the land."Kelsey nodded, and the issue seemed settled.But was it best for the land? the elf silently wondered.Kelsey certainly didn't blame Gary for the unfolding events, but were the results of Gary's choices truly the better?Kelsey looked back to the field and the swelling ranks of Ceridwen's mighty hand, an evil hand hidden behind the guise of Faerie's rightful King.Would it have been better to fight valiantly against the obvious awfulness of Robert the dragon, or to lose against the insidious encroachment of that wretched witch?Given the elf's bleak predictions for Faerie's immediate future, the question seemed moot.Gary's first steps off the end of Florence Street were tentative, steeped in very real fears.He had grown up here; looking back over his shoulder, he could see the bushes in front of his mother's house (just his mother's house, now) only a hundred or so yards and five small house lots away.The paved section of Florence Street was longer now.Another house had been tagged on the end of the road, encroaching into Gary's precious woods.He took a deep breath and looked away from this newest intruder, then stubbornly moved down the dirt fire road.Just past the end of the back yard of that new house, Gary turned left, along a second fire road, one that soon became a narrow and overgrown path.A fence blocked his way; unseen dogs began to bark.Somewhere in the trees up above, a squirrel hopped along its nervous way, and the lone creature seemed to Gary the last remnant of what had been, and what would never be again.He grabbed hard against the unyielding chain links of the fence, squeezing futilely until his fingers ached.He thought of climbing over, but those dogs seemed quite near.The prospect of getting caught on the wrong side of a six-foot fence with angry dogs nipping at his heels was not so appealing, so he gave the fence one last shake and moved back out to the main fire road, turned left and walked deeper into the woods.Hardly twenty steps farther and Gary stopped again, staring blankly to the open fields on his right, beyond the chain-link fence of the cemetery.Open fields!This fence had been here long before Gary, but the area inside it, these farthest reaches of the cemetery, had been thickly wooded with pine and maple, and full of brush as tall as a ten-year-old.Now it was just a field, a huge open field, fast filling with grave markers.It seemed a foreign place to Gary; it took him a long time to sort out the previous boundaries of the cleared regions.He finally spotted the field where he and his friends had played football and baseball, a flat rectangular space, once free of graves and lined by trees.Now it was lined by narrow roads and open fields, and rows of stone markers stood silent and solemn within its sacred boundaries.Of course, Gary had seen this change from the cemetery's other end, the higher ground up near the road, where the older family graves were located.Where his father was buried.He had seen how the cemetery had grown from that distant perspective, but he hadn't realized the impact.Not until now, standing in the woods out back [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]