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.Three red-tinged elves stood with him, their expressions concerned but resolute.One elf in particular caught Hoil’s eye.His determination was a palpable force evident in every nuance of his body.His face was hidden by a balaclava, and he was dressed entirely in black.The circle of loyal guards was surrounded by nearly three times their number of enemies, all of them vying for a position to attack the weaker defenses.Around the edges of this group prowled a half dozen red-tinged elves, each looking for his own chance to join the fray.Siran rushed into the room, his weapon held high.He bellowed no war cry and gave no warning, but lit into the enemy from behind with a silent rush of cold, deadly grace.One elf fell to the ground severed almost in half at the waist, and in the same swing Siran lopped another elf’s leg from his body.The weapon blurred as he spun, and two more elves fell to his furious assault.Then they became aware of his presence and turned to face him, but it seemed to make little difference.Siran slipped through their ranks with lethal grace, avoiding their attacks with ease while delivering shattering blows in turn.None stood before him for more than a few seconds, and with his help the tide of the battle was quickly turned.Hoil meanwhile joined the attack by moving against the invisible elves.The first two fell before they realized Hoil could see them, and a third died paying too much attention to Siran’s assault and not enough to the broad-shouldered human who slipped up behind him and nearly cut his head from his shoulders with one slice from his knife.Then the other three red-tinged elves attacked Hoil and he was forced to defend himself against ready enemies who were at least as skilled as he.One slipped and died with Hoil’s knife in his chest, but the other two were more careful and Hoil couldn’t beat past one’s defenses without the other attacking from the opposite direction.Out of the corner of his eye, Hoil saw a ray of shadowy light arc forth from the direction of the throne to strike one of the elves he was facing.The light struck the elf in the chest and he immediately collapsed, leaving Hoil free to deal with his remaining opponent.When that elf lay dying at his feet, Hoil turned and saw that the man who’d saved him was one of the three Do standing with the king.Not the fiercely resolute one, however.He still stood by his monarch with the look of a man who would die before leaving the king’s side.The Do who had saved Hoil returned his nod of thanks, but said nothing.“Your majesty,” Siran said, and Hoil realized all the enemies in the hall were now dead.“El’Siran, my most faithful defender,” the king said, his voice trembling only slightly in the wake of the carnage around him.“I should have known you would come to my rescue.”“We are not safe yet, your majesty,” Siran said, brushing aside the compliment.“You must flee to a more secure location.”“Now I can’t allow that,” a voice said.An elf wrapped in gold-trim, purple robes stepped from a side doorway and looked haughtily at them all.Hoil recognized him as the same man who’d stayed silent and in the background during his previous audience with the king.“Decein,” the king rasped.“You’re behind this?”“In a word, yes,” the elf admitted, exhibiting no trace of shame or chagrin.“Your majesty’s ability to rule has been waning for some time now, and I feel it is only my duty to see that the most effective leader sits on the throne of our nation.”“You?” the king laughed incredulously, then coughed spasmodically.“You wouldn’t know how to lead a class of school children from one tree to the next.The only reason the Diet’Si chose you to lead them is because you paid for their favor.You’re deluding yourself, Decein.”The violet-robed elf’s mouth twisted contemptuously.“For once, your majesty is thinking clearly.You are correct in saying I would not make the best leader.” He paused meaningfully.“But your grandson would.”“Rill?”“Of course.You don’t really think I handled this all myself, did you?” Decein said condescendingly, then laughed.“It seems your grandson is quite the ambitious little scamp.Of course, he’ll need proper guidance, which is where I come in.”The resolute elf beside the throne leaned close to the king and whispered in his ear.His brilliant green eyes were intense, but the elf’s lips were hidden by the black balaclava, so Hoil had no idea what he was telling the king.The king’s face had gone bloodlessly pale at Decein’s accusations, but his pallor recovered swiftly as the invisible elf spoke to him.“So you would guide my grandson, would you?” the king said scathingly.“I don’t for a minute believe your accusations, and if you think my grandson is weak enough to listen to anything you’d have to say to him, you’re an even bigger fool than I thought, Decein.”Decein just laughed at this, then abruptly his eyes went wide.He blinked a few times, then turned his head to stare behind him.Then he fell forward, a knife buried to the hilt in the back of his neck.Hoil saw a red-tinged elf step forth from the shadows, and suddenly the whole room lit on fire as red-tinged figures seemed to spring from the very walls to fill the room.A few were not surrounded by the crimson aura marked by Birch’s strange power, but Hoil stopped estimating their numbers when he reached fifty, and more arrived with every moment.“Protect the king!” Siran cried.Hoil rushed to join the others around the king, and within seconds they were surrounded by the growing horde of shadowy elves.Hoil tried to position himself wherever the press of red-tinged elves was most noticeable, because he and Siran were the only two who could unfailingly tell where the invisible elves were.Two of the three Do elves standing with the king joined them in the fight, taking after Hoil and concentrating on the other invisible Do elves attacking them.They wielded swords and shadowy magic with equal frequency, taking a bloody toll on their enemies.A flicker of shadowy light caught Hoil’s gaze, and he watched in terror as a ray of light arced toward him from an enemy Do on the outskirts of those attacking them.At the last second, the light warped and bent toward one of the loyal Do, who gathered it in one hand, only to release it again toward the elf who had first cast the light.The Shadowweaver received his own spell with lethal effect and crumpled lifelessly to the ground.Siran was a terrible sight to behold, mauling and slaughtering enemies with effortless dispatch.Once he disappeared into the press of attacking elves, and Hoil heard a sudden surge of screaming yells from the midst of their enemies [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]