Robert Salvatore: The Ghost King

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Robert Salvatore The Ghost King
  • Название:
    The Ghost King
  • Автор:
  • Жанр:
    Фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2009
  • Язык:
    Английский
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The Ghost King: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Don't miss the gripping conclusion to Salvatore's best-selling Transitions trilogy! When the Spellplague ravages Faerûn, Drizzt and his companions are caught in the chaos. Seeking out the help of the priest Cadderly-the hero of the recently reissued series The Cleric Quintet-Drizzt finds himself facing his most powerful and elusive foe, the twisted Crenshinibon, the demonic crystal shard he believed had been destroyed years ago.

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He watched as the shadows under the moon’s pale glow began to shrink, disappear, then stretch toward the east as the moon passed overhead and started its western descent. Weariness crept in upon him, and he resisted it for a long while.

The drow silently berated himself for his foolishness. He couldn’t stay present and alert forever.

He leaned against a dead tree, a twisted silhouette whose shadow looked like the skeleton of a man who reached, pleading, to the gods. Jarlaxle didn’t climb it—the old tree likely wouldn’t have held his weight—but instead remained standing, leaning against the rough trunk.

He let his mind fall away from his surroundings, let it fall inward. Memories blended with sensations in the gentle swirl of Reverie. He felt his own heartbeat, the blood rushing through his veins. He felt the rhythms of the world, like a gentle breathing beneath his feet, and he embraced the sensation of a connection to the earth, as if he had grown roots into the deep rock. At the same time, he experienced a sensation of weightlessness, as if he were floating, as the wonderful relaxation of Reverie swept through his mind and body.

Only there was Jarlaxle free. Reverie was his refuge. I will find you, drow.

Hephaestus was there with him, waiting for him. In his mind, Jarlaxle saw again the fiery eyes of the beast, felt the hot breath and the hotter hatred. Be gone. You have no quarrel with me, the dark elf silently replied. I have not forgotten!

‘Twas your own breath that broke the shard, Jarlaxle reminded the creature. Through your trickery, clever drow. I have not forgotten. You blinded me, you weakened me, you destroyed me!

That last clause struck Jarlaxle as odd, not just because the dragon obviously wasn’t destroyed, but because he still had the distinct feeling that it wasn’t Hephaestus he was communicating with—but it was Hephaestus!

Another image came into Jarlaxle’s thoughts, that of a bulbous-headed creature with tentacles waving menacingly from its face.

I know you. I will find you, the dragon went on. You who stole from me the pleasures of life and the flesh. You who stole from me the sweet taste of food and the pleasure of touch.

So the dragon is dead, Jarlaxle thought.

Not I! Him! the voice that resonated like Hephaestus roared in his mind. I was blind, and slept in darkness! Too intelligent for death! Consider the enemies you have made, drow! Consider that a king will find you—has found you!

That last thought came through with such ferocity and such terrible implications that it startled Jarlaxle from his Reverie. He glanced around frantic, as if expecting a dragon to swoop down upon him and melt his camp into the dirt with an explosion of fiery breath, or an illithid to materialize and blast him with psionic energy that would scramble his mind forever.

But the night was quiet under the moon’s pale glow.

Too quiet, Jarlaxle believed, like the hush of a predator. Where were the frogs, the night birds, the beetles?

Something shifted down to the west, catching Jarlaxle’s attention. He scanned the field, seeking the source—a rodent of some sort, likely.

But he saw nothing, just the uneven grasses dancing in the moonlight on the gentle night breeze.

Something moved again, and Jarlaxle swept his gaze across the abandoned stones littering the field, reached up and lifted his eye patch so he could more distinctly focus. Across the field stood a shadowy, huddled figure, bowing and waving its arms. It occurred to the drow that it was not a living man, but a wraith or a specter or a lich.

In the open ground between them, a flat stone shifted. Another, standing upright, tilted to a greater angle.

Jarlaxle took a step toward the ancient markers.

The moon disappeared behind a dark cloud and the darkness deepened. But Jarlaxle was a creature of the Underdark, blessed with eyes that could see in the most meager light. In the nearly lightless caverns far below the stone, a patch of luminous lichen would glow to his eyes like a high-burning torch. Even in those moments when the moon hid, he saw that standing stone shift again, ever so slightly, as if something scrabbled at its base below the ground.

“A graveyard …” he whispered, finally recognizing the flat stones as markers and understanding Athrogate’s earlier assessment. As he spoke, the moon came clear, brightening the field. Something churned in the dirt beside the shifting stone.

A hand—a skeletal hand.

A greenish blue crackle of strange ground lightning blasted tracers across the field. In that light, Jarlaxle saw many more stones shifting, the ground churning.

I have found you, drow! the beast whispered in Jarlaxle’s thoughts. “Athrogate,” Jarlaxle called softly. “Awaken, good dwarf.” The dwarf snored, coughed, belched, and rolled to his side, his back to the drow.

Jarlaxle slipped a hand crossbow from the holster on his belt, expertly drawing back the string with his thumb as he moved. He focused on a particular type of bolt, blunted and heavy, and the magical pouch beside the holster dispensed it into his hand as he reached for it.

“Awaken, good dwarf,” the drow said again, never taking his gaze from the field. A skeletal arm grasped at the empty air near the low-leaning headstone.

When Athrogate did not reply, Jarlaxle leveled the hand crossbow and pulled the trigger.

“Hey, now, what’s the price o’ bacon!” the dwarf yelped as the bolt thumped him in the arse. He rolled over and scrambled like a tipped crab, but jumped to his feet. He began circling back and forth with short hops on bent legs, rubbing his wounded bum all the while.

“What do ye know, elf?” he asked at length.

“That you are indeed loud enough to wake the dead,” Jarlaxle replied, motioning over Athrogate’s shoulder toward the stone-strewn field. Athrogate leaped around.

“I see … dark,” he said. As he finished, not only did the moon break free of the clouds, but another strange lightning bolt arced over the field like a net of energy had been cast over it. In the flash, whole skeletons showed themselves, standing free of their graves and shambling toward the tree-lined ridge.

“Coming for us, I’m thinking!” Athrogate bellowed. “And they look a bit hungry. More than a bit! Bwahaha! Starved, I’d wager!”

“Let us be gone from this place, and quickly,” said Jarlaxle. He reached into his belt pouch and produced an obsidian statue of a gaunt horse with twists like fire around its hooves.

Athrogate nodded and did likewise, producing his boar figurine.

They both dropped their items and called forth their steeds together, an equine nightmare for Jarlaxle, snorting smoke and running on hooves of flame, and a demonic boar for Athrogate that radiated heat and belched the fire of the lower planes. Jarlaxle was first up in his seat, turning his mount to charge away, but he looked over his shoulder to see Athrogate take up his twin morningstars, leap upon the boar, and kick it into a squealing charge straight down at the graveyard.

“This way’s faster!” the dwarf howled, and he set the heavy balls of his weapons spinning at the ends of their chains on either side. “Bwahaha!”

“Oh, Lady Lolth,” Jarlaxle groaned. “If you sent this one to torment me, then know that I surrender, and just take him back.”

Athrogate charged straight down onto the field, the boar kicking and bucking. Another green flash lit up the stony meadow before him, showing dozens of walking dead climbing from the torn earth, lifting skeletal hands at the approaching dwarf.

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