Avarra's Children

Dorothy J. Heydt

A warm draft was coming down the main staircase, so they went that way. Donald lengthened his stride and came up behind Marguerida's elbow. When had she changed back into her red Keeper's robe? The light swirled around her face like a fine veil. It was warmer here, but not that warm. Donald checked that he still had his bag, and drew his plaid closer around his shoulders.

The torches in the hands of Grey and his men were smoking and going out, and presently they let them fall to the ground and crushed them underfoot. The walls were giving them enough light to see by, the deep red light of the hidden sun. In the shadows before their feet something moved, a figure like a little man with the face of a mouse; it ran ahead of them, tittering, for several yards before ducking aside and vanishing into the dimness.

One of Regis's men half-drew his sword and put it back again. Raquel looked at him with disdain, and took her bow from her back and an arrow from her quiver. She did not put the nock to the string, not yet, but her eyes kept glancing about for targets. Regis kept his sword in his sheath; his skin glowed faintly from the Hastur blood within. His feet left prints that shone for a while after he had gone past.

Grey's men carried their crossbows casually under their arms. Their mailshirts chimed faintly as they walked. Grey's steel breastplate shone like copper in the rich light, but the torn place over his heart showed blackened edges. The tears trickling from his eyes had worn long furrows in his cheeks, and the sword in his hand flickered like flame around the edges. Donald glanced again at Marguerida, still safe at his side; strands of her coppery hair drifted through the light like plant tendrils through water. His bag was still strapped over his shoulder, snug under his arm, and he could feel the comforting hard lumpy shape inside.

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