Dragon’s Empire — 2

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Goddess for Dragon

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According to fate

Touching the surface of the copper roofs, the sun rays were broken in great number of sparks. The road looped and twisted between the houses of a small village. The world around changed, not only fashion and architecture. The next era came to replace the suspended and sometimes, looking around, I felt myself a creature from another century. I wonder how much time has passed since I got for the study of magical books. No one could give me a prompting. If I asked a passersby, what year is now, it would cause bewilderment and even suspicion.

Almost forests, golden fields and meadows remained the same. I came on a country road and felt that someone watched me. There was a few people in the village, and I did not notice anyone able to cause an interest. But now it was possible to say confidently that the same creature as I myself is observed behind me.

«Show yourself!» I mentally demanded and, turning around, saw a nice guy. In clothes from green velvet, he looked elegantly. The camouflage cloak allowed him to stay unnoticed in the forest landscape, but now standing around the road, he was not at all inconspicuous, rather similar to the royal courier or the page of a nobleman, and maybe even the son of a nobleman. He just took off on a moment from his head a hat with a buckle, and I managed to notice the ears typical for an elf.

«Do you need a conductor?» He was already standing near my horse. «If you want to have a servant that is faster than wind, then I, Percy, is ready to fulfill all your wishes, Monseigneur Dragon.»

The last words were pronounced so quietly, that even if someone came to us closely, it was unlikely that they could hear them. Percy knew about the sharpness of my hearing and that I can do with anyone who would not like to me, and yet risked his own skin to start a conversation. Friendly and kind, he immediately caused a sympathy. He could be trusted, but the sly sparkles in the eyes sometimes spoiled the impression of ostentatious humility and honesty.

«What benefit will be from such a conductor as you?»

Percy met the attack, as if he was ready for suspicion of the new Mr.

«You are looking for your subjects. I can show you the city, it is empty after the Dragon’s raids,» he immediately answered.

«It would be not difficult to find this place for me,» I really felt not far from me the presence of the same creature, as I myself, only it was gloomy and mean. As if the black cloud enveloped The city’s walls, and behind them on the empty streets crawled something terrible and shapeless. And on the bottom of the dried well there was a collection of rarest jewels. There were also collected both valuable and cheap baubles, selected from the inhabitants.

«Take me with you, I will be useful to you,» Percy has already changed the tone. A bold smile slipped from his face, giving way to concern. «I know a lot about the civilization of people, the location of countries and border forts, can easily get into any accommodation and fool anyone. Believe me, I am worthy of taking a place in a suite of the future ruler.»

I almost laughed, surprised of his naivety. A clever, a pretty creature, standing in front of me in the appearance of an elf, was an ancient and wise, but at the same time he did not know completely anything about the intrigues of the sorcerer. Perhaps he was too impressed, besides stubbornly did not want to see the truth lying on the surface.

«I’m not still a monarch, Percy and it is unknown if I will be,» I tried to enlighten him and give at least some useful advice. «You put not on that card, my friend?»

«No, on that,» Percy was outraged. «Compared to you, I am not so clever certainly, but not such a fool, to notice the obvious.»

I gave spurs a horse and it slowly moved forward. Percy followed me, observing a respectful distance and at the same time no lag.

«A vassal should always follow his suzerain, at least for the fulfillment of small orders or to play the role of advisor in negotiations,» he continued to persist.

Percy relentlessly followed me like a puppy for the owner. There was a short green cloak with gold braid on his thin shoulders. A little squeezed eyes carefully watched all what was happening. It was worth just to look at him and I remembered ballads about how the king of the elves leaves the forest to charm and lure into the thicket to the faithful death some lady Isabelle who was embroidered at the window. I wanted to ask Percy whether all these ballads are truthful or they just came up with minstrels, but I didn’t dare to show him that I had at least something from the curious boy. After all, the elf sacred believed in my superiority over all of his kind. He quickly followed me.

«There is a village ahead, the inhabitants left it, not wanting to stay in dangerous intimacy with the dragon,» Percy reported in a whisper at one of the turns.

The village, which was near the full-flowed river, suffered severely from the spring floods. Most low houses were flooded almost to the roofs, others that stood closer to the hill, too, represented a muddy spectacle. Somewhere water reached the level of windows, somewhere only managed to cross through the threshold. However, the peasants didn’t care, the houses were empty long before the spring.

There was a fortress on the hill, but it was best to visit it in the evening when the monster will wake up and will be ready to meet his master.

Percy found an empty stable, not flooded with water and wrapped the scraper, cleaning the skin of my horse. He stubbornly wanted to prove that even in the absence of important tasks, a diligent servant would get out of it. It was difficult to guess where he learned the work of the groom. With pride, he stated that he could also prepare us a dinner. As soon as the first stars were lit in the sky, I left Percy alone and moved to the castle. It will be better if I’m going there without a scared horse. The rise was not easy, but only I stepped up on the ground slope, I felt the soil left under my feet. The dangerous and delightful magic of the flight returned to me. From the height, I glanced in standing water and instead of my own reflection I saw the golden snake in the rings. Just a few moments of the flight and I was already standing in the castle in my previous guise. There was no soul around, the entire building was empty, the doors of the church clapped in the wind, the main bell was silent. Some bells in general were removed, and on the curved ladder, leading to the bell tower, the dirty trail stretched. The columns that register its roof and the railing staircase were cut with something sharp. I approached and noticed that these are traces from dragon claws.

In silence I heard a heavy breathing, and a wheezing scraping claws on the cobblestones. The dragon crept over the area and was directed to me. He saw me and disappeared, replaced by a bright flash, and a stream of silver smoke on a deserted street. Before me stood a tall gloomy gentleman. His unpleasant appearance and black clothes would not cause so much suspicion, if not violent, maniac gleam in the narrowed eyes. He nearly bowed and took off the hat with gold buckle and a large ruby. In this way, the stranger tried to show his respect, though it was immediately evident that he does it, gritting his heart.

«The highly esteemed gentleman appeared to honor us with his presence,» said he.

«You?» I asked. Own voice seemed to me someone else’s, cold and incredibly cruel. He hit the copper roofs of houses as steel and caused a weak echo.

«Me and those rats, crows and insects, who pounced on the cellars of taverns and an empty mill,» it seemed the opponent wants to fight a duel, but he is afraid to say about it directly.

Remembering the words, once carefully rewritten by me on a blank sheet of paper, I made a thin ray of the moon to lie as the spot next to him. My right hand involuntarily squeezed into the fist, and the stranger wheezed, his body was delayed in convulsions, long wrinkled fingers reached out to the throat. He felt the loop delayed on his neck, and realized that I strangle him slow, but true. In his glance flashed a genuine horror. I allowed him to retreat a little and immediately made a new gesture with my hand, so that the lantern hanging on a copper hook at the porch of the tavern, flared up bright, orange light. The stranger bounced off the burning heat, agile overcoming most of the street. I felt the evil and fear from him.

«You, of course, came for the tribute, Your Majesty,» a rough voice stuck out of the darkness. How fast this cruel killer made me in the kings. With my internal vision, I looked at the bottom of the dried well. There are piles of gems, coins, caskets and chests.

«Tribute is just the formality so that you and those who like you have not forgotten that there is also the highest power over them,» I took a step forward and he backed away from me. I had to follow the rays of the moon so that they would be golden dust about the roof of the houses and illuminated a narrow street.

«It’ll be enough?» quietly asked a hoarse voice. Behind my back there were bags with coins, tiny emeralds, gold and silver bars. «The tax is going to every seven years, it should be enough.»

The shadow, twilight world, to which I now belonged, also waited for the beginning of the next era.

«The ruler does not apply to collect tribute himself,» I said thoughtfully. «Not later than tomorrow I will send my servants here. Try not to scare them with your sudden appearance.»

I was sure that Percy would come out of the situation with honor, gathering on the pavement even a little more coins than he was due. Not that I respected the ancient custom of collecting taxes, but it was the only way to remind the terrible winged reptiles that even they can suffer punishment if they broke the permitted border. Only now I realized how it was profitable for Rothbart to have a tamed sorcerer.

Returning to Percy, I felt unusual fatigue and, nevertheless, I climbed into the saddle. «If we turn to the west, we will come to the hospitably open gate of the city with an interesting name Lara,» the elf’s voice spilled around the night with musical trills. City-dwellers must believe that spirits patronize them. This is true, it is the richest and luxurious of all cities, especially now in the spring masquerade season.

Once I saw the motley masquerades in the native capital, followed how the lush cape of Lady Sylvia flashed in an elegant crowd, felt the burning breath of the pursuer at the back of my head. Memories briefly struck the gap in cold insensibility and immediately retreated to the background. Dazzling fragments of the past now hurt, and it was better not to sort out them. Now I belonged to a different world, and in this world I was just a third-party observer, a magician who decided to make a pilgrimage on unfamiliar cities only to win in the crowd of mortals. Maybe one day I will decide to penetrate to the kings and give them dangerous advises if Rothbart will not cross all my plans. Who knows what the kingdom will not like him next time.

The path to Lara passed by the forest, destroyed by stray lights and pieces of rotten wood. Flocks of the fireflies rushed past us, somewhere deafly hooted a owl, but before opened gates were only a few guards. The boats swam in the narrow canal about city’s walls, a variety of masks created the atmosphere of fun. The whole way Percy slid in front of my horse’s hooves at the same time, without touching with his feet the earth. The horse, which has already been accustomed to the presence of two unusual owners, neither afraid of the elf’s tricks.

Percy’s suit quite fit for masquerade. I just adhered the edge of the cloak to the level of the eyes sneaking through the festive crowd. In order not to attract unnecessary attention to my gold hair, I put on a black velvet hat, which my new friend have already managed to borrow somewhere. Anyway, sometimes surprised glances rushed out of the slots of masks.

«Take a look like his skin is flickering, there is something wrong here,» they whispered in the crowd and immediately kept silenced. I made my way into the smallest crowd, where youth and noble ladies in velvet alone were occupied only with their companions and did not pay attention to outsiders. After a deserted dead city, it was pleasant to be in the center of the festive noise. I noticed musicians on the balcony of the nearest home. From the open door, the girl in the purple domino was slipped and ran around the narrow path past well-dressed citizens. I am not knowing why followed her. Someone called her from the emptiness of the ancient temples and the dungeons.

Florian argued that the carnival was a microcosm, where to distinguish a stranger from the enemy can only be a thin hint, accidentally abandoned the word, barely in the movement of the eye, but, despite the many masks, I immediately recognized a man standing on the main square before the well. I even felt evil, I felt the presence of another dragon. He called a girl to himself.. He also noticed me and made way a little. My look found him, even despite the abundance of the people on the square.

Fast ramp of raincoat and flexible, high figure has noticed between dancing couples, making yourself the road. Where an outdoor area ended and a winding labyrinth of quarters began to get lost was much easier. I felt the presence of a creature similar to me even through the thickness of the stone walls. The girl in the purple domino made her way into the crowd, trying to keep up with the one who silently called her. I felt a thin but durable thread that had connected them, some striking contact between the predator and the victim.

Intrigued, I followed the unusual pair. Some sounds that penetrated the stones of the nearest building forced me to linger. I carefully listened, but at the beginning I did not catch anything but noisy scratch, some mouse clogged near the foundation. The facade of the building was shrouded in a bluish haze, but, looking after, I noticed a low window in a niche. It was raised from it a warm orange light, but its rays did not touch the bridge, as if the radiance was illusory.

I leaned against the wall and looked into the window. In the boiler over fire boiled some kind of liquid. In addition, the walls decorated with lambrequins and carved panels did not resemble the kitchen atmosphere. The skin of a polar bear was laid on the floor, and at a small table sat two men and lazily played cards. The glare from the candles, the hearth and the lamps were danced on the walls, giving the whole room a sinister look.

One of the players who covered the face with the black velvet mask postponed cards and looked around. His eyes were tired.

«Are you afraid of someone, Vincent?» His partner asked.

«In addition to the royal guards of anyone,» followed a slightly mocking answer. «I hope that these hounds will not get in the midst of the holiday to us.»

«You said that I put a spell on the door, which would not allow anyone to enter or notice this house at all.»

«If our so-called colleagues were not aimed to break me in a shredder, then this night we could sleep well. They, like locust, make a raid at the most unexpected hour, and they are able to crawl at least into a keyhole. Envious competitors are always ready to destroy the one who has achieved success.»

«Success?» in the voice of the spoken was heard an indignation. «The former allies are about to arrange the court over us.»

«They don’t arrange, until they caught us, and in this their chances are zero,» said Vincent. «They envy to those who retain youth and independence. Listen attentively, Arno, when I was born, this city has not yet been on the face of the earth. The kingdoms underlying from here began to form only many years after I ran away from our famous school. To have obedient mortal servants is much more profitable than allies from our environment. Among the pirates and smugglers are full of people faithful to me who are happy to serve the sorcerer. Tomorrow at night in our secret harbor you are waiting for boats with a commodity. I go to the fortress and gamble with a lord, who manages this area. Before the midnight he will lose to me most of his possessions.

«And he will give you a lost?» Cynically asked Arno.

Yes, he will,» followed a calm, confident answer.

«How are you going to the fortress. Any guard will recognize you on the scar on the throat?»

«Let’s see,» he grinned and throws his cards on the table. They immediately swayed the fan and swept like a colorful leaf fall.

«I would like to try the happiness of the player at least once in my life,» he laughed. «For more centuries, my fate is moving up and down. There were few next decades when Fortuna smiled to me, and then they began to lay the foundation of this city wall. Already then, my accomplices foresees that Lara will be a picturesque place. Only in those days the city had not yet been the name, as long as before the builders did not appear the spirit, in the place where the quadrangular turret is shoved now.»

Vincent continued to chat. Now his voice rang in my mind, like an alarm bell. Does all this spoke that audacious, self-confident boy, who, leaving the port, promised that our new meeting would fall on the upcoming centuries? I leaned a forehead to the cold wall. How many years has passed since the galleon of prince took me from the flaming coast? The hat flew from the head, I did not even try to pick up it. My raincoat rustled in contact with the wall, and Vincent immediately broke away from his classes.

«Is there someone here?» Arno was alerted.

«I do not know. I do not feel anyone,» Vincent sniffed to the air.

«I hope this is not one of the newcomers enrolled in the school of witchcraft.»

«Oh no,» Vincent interrupted him, «not every champion could compete with me, not the newcomer.»

«Still, it is better to retain the curtains and draw a few more signs,» the accomplice advised.

«You’re right!» Vincent rose from his place and I hurriedly slid away, as fast as it could only make a shadow. I went a little aside and turned around, but I did not notice the luminous window, only a weak orange spot in the shrouded haze.

To spend so many years in the dungeon, someone has been whispered to me this seems to appeal to revenge. Even if the native kingdom had not been drawn to the ashes in my eyes, everything that I knew and loved, now it would be equal to the rush. Familiar places would have changed beyond recognition. I finally understood why Rothbart was aged so fast. One day, having made a mistake, he could no longer focus all the strength on maintaining his young posture and a little attractive face.

And I stayed all the same fearful young man.

Leaving the city, I followed the dragon. As if the silk thread led me on the smell of related, self-turning blood. The winding track slid between the hills, wetlands, where the reed and tiny lakes were crushed. I noticed a small, female shoe, laying in dust. In this place, the dragon grabbed his sacrifice. The trail ended, and I had to go on the wet from the dew grass, while the swamp did not seem. Here lived our mysterious lord.

I did not have to wait long. Knowing that he can take a more pleasant appearance, I mentally ordered him to do it. In front of me appeared a rural nobleman. If there was still no danger from him.

News in our society spread quickly as a forest fire. The marsh dragon preferred at least a bow to express his respect, and not to throw a challenge.

«Where is the girl?» I asked.

«You come a little earlier, and she would be yours,» he rummaged in a vest pocket and removed from there a sapphire bracelet and several carnelian pins. «I’m afraid, that’s all that remains from her. In Lara there is a lot of other girls who will follow you anywhere, and it was just a daughter of the money-lender, and also a cunning pretender who loved to follow at night from her window for drama unfolding on the street.

The brain seems to be lit up a flash, I saw a girl who looks with curiosity and fear how the dragon kills his sacrifice under her windows, and nodded with understanding. It is impossible to leave a single witness alive, people should not suspect our existence otherwise, as then we can get lost in the crowd with our impeccable faces and luminous eyes.

«Did you come for the established tribute?» The question suddenly invaded my thoughts, and I woke up and with arrogance looked at the owner of the swamps.

«Later, my trustee will come to you,» I explained in the harsh tone. «Do you support the connection with others… those who are something like you?»

He understood me and nodded:

«With some, but not with everyone.»

«Everyone is occupied only with his problems and his territory?» I grinned.

«We support the connection, because everyone is destined to serve one lord.»

«So, yell the rest that the laws remained the same. I will not be able to visit everyone in the near future and you will be calmer from this, you will not have to take a dangerous guest. My servant will collect tribute. And then, perhaps, I will get acquainted with everyone in turn.»


«For seven years,» the words remembered me from the conversation in the empty city. «Maybe a little later, but I will come to them and make everyone obey my power. And there, let’s see if anyone will dare to disobey. No matter how many years have passed, I will not leave my subjects alone for municipality,» I smiled contemptuously and added. «Time has no longer power over me.»

I do not know if he caught a secret meaning hidden in this phrase. Most likely, no, because he did not know that once I was as mortal and vulnerable, like those people he abducts from the city.

Percy was delighted with the fact that I entrusted him the first responsible task and did not even ask why I went to the walls of the stone fortress, located next the masquerade’s city. I decided to get ahead of Vincent. I had a lot of hours in stock. With his exacerbated hearing, I could catch the conversations that were conducted in distant taverns. From their scraps, it became clear to me that the lord was a gambler and good luck rarely left him. Vincent chose the desired string to, playing on it, and succeed.

For me, it was no longer difficulty, again take the appearance of a golden snake, slip into a climbing ribbon along the night air and squeeze into a narrow hole of the loophole. Updating inside, again became myself, shook off the drops of the evening rain and felt a pleasant warmth from the flaming fireplace. For the guards, I remained invisible, they did not even notice me when I passed just a few steps from their posts.

I acted successfully, although I could not remember most of my witch skills. I was disappointed. The dragons were greed and evil. They were not resembled in any way a fascinating spectacle from the distant past when I have seen the flight of a whole flock of sparkling dragons over a grandiose fire. Now I could behave with them on an equal footing and still did not find any of them neither wisdom nor an understanding, no one with anyone could talk to souls, only animals that were required to tame. It was too early to beat the alarm, because I met only with two representatives of the ancient race, but for some reason the confidence grew in the fact that I would not meet anyone with an outstanding intelligence. Although I can try to visit and the rest, but it is unlikely that such a visit will cause their joy immediately after the news about the hard-hearted ruler will be transmitted by living chain. Their treasures did not interest me. Tribute served as a guarantee that they will obey my orders. About myself I have sworn that I will not give them to plunder the richest and most prosperous kingdoms, to which they are targeted. Let this land has become a stranger to me, but I still loved its splendor. Bustling cities and unhurried for human life reminded me that I myself was once a man. Of gold and jewels, hidden in the recesses of the dragon, on the other hand, it exuded an unpleasant cold. I do not even know why I need to keep any particles of terrible treasures. The same can not be said of Rothbart. He probably already knows everything and requires the lion’s share of the profits. For him the main thing was to divide the booty, not to reflect on where it was taken. If the rate were the treasures, he would have beaten at cards, even the devil. Or maybe he just was a devil. At least, I used to consider him as such.

Reflecting, I crossed several corridors, where guards with halberds were. They did not notice me. Their eyes from the slots of helmets looked at me like I was an empty space and did not feel anything suspicious. Not a sound of steps, nor my quiet breath, they certainly have not heard. Invisible shadow passed by was immune to their guns and spears, but at the same time could cause harm to them. It was pleasant to realize my full power over the people who have grabbed their weapons, even hearing too noisy scraping mice.

At the door of the owner I stopped. The lord was not alone. Next to him were a valet and some women.

All the same, they would not be able to notice me. Opening the door, I boldly crossed through the threshold and passed to a high window with an arched niche. It was nice to look at the starry sky from the fortress.

«What’s the matter?» said the lord. «Why do you look as if you saw a ghost,» he turned to his lady and the servant.

«Someone opened the door,» murmured the servant.

«It seemed to me that I saw someone’s silhouette,» the lady concluded, while resorting to her rich imagination. Otherwise, it was impossible to explain it, because of her thoughts it became immediately clear that she had seen no more than the rest.

«The door is opened from the wind,» the owner of the castle calmly said. «The wind blows here from all four sides. Go to yourself, Leonora,» he turned to the lady. «And you too go and close the door behind you,» followed the second order for the servant.

As soon as the door behind the servant and Leonora was closed, the lord began to look restlessly around. Then, without finding anything unusual around him, he sank into the carved chair:

«It should be true, just the wind.»

«You really think so,» I walked away from the window’s niche and found myself in the middle of the hall. The poor fellow lifted his eyes to me and almost cried out of surprise, because at first he heard an infrequent voice emanating from emptiness, and now, in addition, he saw a silhouette of a golden smoke.

«You’ve been waiting for someone else?» kindly asked I, having already assumed that Vincent not just dropped in here. «Most likely, I disappointed you, coming here instead of your friend’s unusual, and even without an invitation.»

— No, I’m just waiting for my partner in gamble and not a friend. The lord once again looked at me, trying not to miss a single detail of my appearance. He had a good reason, because the visitor entered the castle unexpectedly and could be anyone.

«You got bored of gambling with your friends, and your wife, why are you waiting for someone different from all of them,» I began carefully to read his thoughts.

«You did not even guess,» he was afraid.

«I guess. The luck smiled so often to you that no one wants to gamble with you… only he.»

«All that way. Nobody wants to help me dispel the boredom,» sadly said the gambler. «When he came to me, I was in despair and loneliness. And now I’m ready to play cards even with the devil himself.»

«He is in front of you,» I responded with gloomy courtesy, while my eyes flashed naughty, and I was ready to swear that the lord saw the black shadow of the dragon.

The lord was nor alive, or dead. In this moment, even addiction to gambling could hardly bring him out of stupor, so I did not wait for the invitation, took a place at the table. Before me stood white chess and taking advantage I made the first move, of course, while not touching any figure. White pawn itself moved forward to one field, quickly and deftly, as if a brave soldier.

«Adrian,» using the confusion of the interlocutor, I decided to contact him by name. For me, it was not difficult to read all his names and titles among other thoughts arriving in confusion. «You should not trust either a penny for this fraudster. If he visits you again, drive him away.»

We both understood about whom we are talking. And the lord every time, thinking about Vincent called him with another name. It was indifferent to me, in the end, Vincent had the right to call himself as he liked, but I didn’t want to have entire provinces under the rule of this scoundrel. It will be impossible to follow him forever, but I need to save at least these prosperous places from him and located nearby Lara with their noisy masquerades, cozy taverns, sea of artificial flowers and garlands, and even marshy outlines. When memories of the swamp and his host, the mood rightly spoiled. The only consolation was that if Vincent declares the swamp and meets there with my new acquaintance, then either leaves out of there, or it will not have time to carry his legs at all. For some reason it seemed to me that all these years he was engaged in the fact that he was deceiving around others and used them for its purposes.

«You do not want to continue the party?» I asked.

The lord who came down from fear, stretched out the trembling hand and made a pawn, and so it was so unpleasant that this figure was immediately lost. His move followed, then my, a few more thoughts and movements of fragile chess figures, while the game was not a duel of two minds, and rather reminded the hunt for a rabbit, which suddenly began to beat back from the pursuer.

«I warn you, do not trust this card-sharper,» Shah and Mat followed the warning immediately. Adrian flinched and moved away from the figures as if they were enchanted and could harm him.

«I just warned you, now you have the right to get rid of the scoundrel,» I tried to soften the tone a little, but the advice sounded too cold and sternly.

«But you said that you…» the lord was not deciding to call me once again by the Devil.

«Yes,» I confirmed carelessly, caught in his thoughts this word and fear that he experienced before his guest. «Just, for the first time in the century, I decided to make one good deed. So, for the sake of diversity.»

I shrugged with such a kind, as if I could not understand the causes of such madness. And why suddenly such an interesting person, like a dragon, with long-standing glances and morality to do a good deed to someone. This was followed by graceful flap of a raincoat and guest, not even saying good-bye again became invisible. At the same time, it was very curious to observe how the lord looks in a bewilderment and fright right at me, but sees only emptiness.

At least Vincent is now persona non grata here, and extensive possessions are almost saved from his tricks. When he declares here closer to midnight, he will expect a hot welcome.

Passing by the chamber of the lord’s wife, I was long delayed. Leonora talked with a slender girl — a teenager, most likely a poor relative. Something in their conversation made me stop.

«Who gave you this book?» asked the girl.

«The necromancer from Lara,» answered Leonora. «He came here several times.»

«And he, though, is good?» In a thin voice, curiosity sounded. «Usually all necromancers are so old and evil.»

«In this case it is an exception. He is very pleasant in appearance, but he has such an ugly scar on his throat.

«And what kind of scar?»

«Yes, it seems like from claws,» Leonora shrugged, expressing complete misunderstanding. «But the book is interesting. Over the years, the bards, and scientists also whisper secretly about some destroyed power. The fact that one of the three heirs got mixed up with the sorcerer and destroyed himself and the whole country.»

«Why did he get mixed up with the sorcerer?» asked the girl again. «I read this legend, but I almost did not understand anything.»

«It seems that he gave up his soul for a beautiful face or for something else. Most likely, he was irresistible, but because of him, so many people died.»

«Or maybe he himself still did not die, maybe the story had a completely different end, which no one suspects.»

«Anyway, we and even this necromancer can only guess what happened in fact. We read too much scary legends. Of course, I can understand that this prince immediately became your idol, but even if he did not die then, he would still be dead now.»

«But maybe he still escaped and still wanders on earth under a different name and other appearance?»

Leonora did know the answer.

«You’re right, child,» I thought silently, leaning against the door, and in this moment a fragile blond girl, as if hearing me, staggered and fainted. The inquisitive reader was motionless, like a doll, which was dropped on the floor.

Leonora, with a cry, rushed to her ward and could not see how the golden shadow quickly sliding in the opened window, forever leaves the fortress.

Shortly before the onset of midnight, I returned to Lara and wandered aimlessly in the streets, with difficulty holding away from the desire to catch the first oncoming and tell him all the history of my life from beginning to end. A desire to at least someone recognized the truth, and not empty fictions were so strong that I almost delayed a frightened messenger, but in the end, I made way, passing a frightened boy. More passersby I did not meet. The street was empty, nor dancing people, no carnival masks, only Percy, as if grew up from under the ground at the porch of the nearest house.

Percy was pleased with the fact that he managed to collect tribute with most of those whom he diplomatically called my vassals and admirers. After his appearance, it was already impossible to bother. In the company of a friendly elf, it was difficult to feel all abandoned and unhappy. Percy without silence cracked about where he hid everything and that no one except us could find it. He waited for the praise with hope, and I tried to say something in approval.

«When you need to find servants among people, it will not be so difficult to do,» as if by the way he noticed. «Sorry for the audacity, but I observed and noticed that it was worth only to call and mortals would be ready for everything for you. Of course, it is impossible to leave them alive after they fulfill the instructions.»

Vincent also said that he has servants among pirates, smugglers and other villains.

«What do you mean, Percy?» I immediately asked.

«Well, perhaps you will want to invite to yourself a minstrel or…» he shrugged. «Many of us often used mortals in their games and their plans. Sometimes it brought success. But with your power, such a petty cunning, perhaps, will be superfluous.»

Percy blushed a little, embarrassed by his own sincerity, and I thought that my power is quite doubtful, and even if you want to call poets or musicians to yourself, then there will be no place to invite them. I was no longer at home. Since the royal castle has burned down on fire, I was deprived of home, called the dudgeon of Rothbart somehow did not turn the tongue. Even now following at random the meridian of life, I remained just a traveler. Even now, we have nowhere to spend the night. For the elf, of course, it was possible not to worry, with his flexible thin body and abilities to take off on any height and feel comfortable anywhere, he could have spent the night even in the hollow of an old oak. I was more accustomed to comfort. Remembering the message of Vincent that smugglers’ boats will wait for his accomplice, I immediately pulled an elf for myself to the nearest pier. We quickly overcame the city gate and the mouth of the river, then got to the rocky coast and next to a small, inconspicuous bay, we noticed a dozen tiny lights in the night, which as fireflies looped over water. The splash was heard. There was a crazy plan in my head. The idea was justified by tracing the boats and their owners, it was possible to say for sure that near this place they found a safe shelter.

«Let’s go for me!» I ordered Percy, it would be more precisely to say «fly,» because we hide behind the smugglers on top of the rocky ridge and now we had quickly to jump down, so that our raincoats shot down in the wind, like two multicolored wings. The man would certainly turn his neck, jumping down from such steepness, but Percy only laughed, enjoying the freedom of flight.

«Do you want to drive out these guys from their cozy cave?» he asked.

«The cave will fit for us. Can you gather brushwood for a fire?»

Percy took off his cap and elegantly bowed as soon as we stepped on the bottom of the cave, littered with bales of valuable products. He was happy from the fact that his Mr. is also not against mischief. It was much more interesting to serve the playful demon, than the gloomy hunchback.

However, the witnesses of this scene did not laugh. The smugglers dropped their bales and froze at the entrance of the cave. Such a strong effect could not allow them even the emergence of a whole regiment of the soldiers. Their confusion could be understood. After all, not every day you manage to see an elf with pointed ears, red eyes and such a mood, as if he was ready to destroy all the caves and stony ridges on a mile around. Maybe, I made a greater impression on them, with a sword flushing in the dark, with a cloak, like a black wing and a certain invisible force, which began to put pressure on them with multi-tone severity. It was difficult to say who scared them more the owner or the servant, but after a few moments most of the people preferred to escape and only someone in a low voice sent the curse «frightened fools and a false fellow.»

I learned the accomplice of Vincent even without a mask, but did not detain him. The black figure disappeared in the night, after the rest. Now, it was no longer important. The cave for all night belonged to us.

Percy very quickly returned with twigs, the fire began to rise in the midst of the cave and he asked incredulously:

«Can we really relax?»

«Choose yourself any bale with fabrics and sleep on them,» I allowed graciously. «In the morning, we will be busy, but now you can drink any wine if you like it.»

Percy examined bottles and barrels stood in one of the distant corners, and I, feeling a sudden fatigue, just wrapped in a raincoat and fell asleep near the fire.

I did not remember how much I slept, one hour or more. Something hurts me in the heart and forced to open my eyes. Percy has long asleep. Everything was calm around, the noise of waves, crabs and scorpions crawling between stones and a quiet swaying of algae — all these are normal night sounds on the coast. Smugglers would not be poured back. Their traces were already washed off the surf. The lights went out. Boats, too, was no longer noticeable at the shore. I rose and sat down, trying to come into myself, to separate the dream from reality, but in my heart again there was a leaning pain and a fiery wave spilled throughout the body. I embraced myself with my hands, wanting to warm up and relieve painful spasms. The prince called me. Even at such a distance, I saw the aquamarine ring in his hands. I wanted to drive away his witchcraft. I tried to strike into the emptiness, but had no success. n.

Away from the cave. It is necessary to take off into the airspace until Percy woke up and did not witness a terrible reincarnation. Soon the shining golden dragon flew overnight, without even disturbing the peaceful sleeping of the elf. This time, the wings themselves carried me forward, to some unknown, but excellent bastion. Immediately it was possible to understand that it was the towers of the capital. Alas, the labyrinth of the toy streets, located below, was absolutely defenseless before fiery breathing, but I didn’t want to breathe fire on this wonderful picture.

«Do you really want to destroy all this magnificence, Rothbart?» I mentally asked and heard a deafening, triumphant, vile laughter. Laughter, which no one except me could hear.

Narrow roads, squares and wide avenues, according to the brilliant architectural plan, they were almost empty from the white side of the palace. Bridges, laid out by yellow stones, were cast by sandy color, eaves, chimney pipes and attic enders represented a variety of forms and colors to taste each inhabitant. Even a child who received as a gift one of such doll houses, would feel sorry to break such a beautiful toy, but I could not act according to my own solution.

Someone from the night guard, cheerfully marching very far from me, in the interval between the buildings, stopped and began to point up. The cab driver could not keep a frightened horse and was forced to take a look up. The body of the dragon is the latter that he saw in his life. And then the jet of liquid fire crawled into the city. The buildings are easily ignited. The dream of the inhabitants was interrupted by orange spins, compared with the windows of the upper floors. The golden dragon described again the circle over the fortress wall. Reverse flight to the cave was quick but the heart failed me.

In the morning I saw my bloody clothes, Percy diplomatically kept silence. He only offered me a flask with wine and conscientiously cleaned my cloak from dirt.

«Will be today any instructions?» Percy decided to ask after a long silence.

In response, I could only negatively shake my head.

«Then, with your permission, I should walk around your vassals and bring the chests in the already mentioned place,» Percy always tried to miss the exact names of the places and the names, as if he was afraid that someone could overhear us.

«All this will take no more than a day. But if something unexpected happens, I will return to you as soon as you call,» Percy once again asked my permission and having received it, he disappeared in the bright radiance of the coming day.

«Run, a cowardly elf, until the flames fell to you wings,» someone was angry. It took a few seconds before I realized that a hoarse mocked voice sounds in my mind.

I hoped that if I had spent the night away from the settlements, I can’t harm people. Instead of averting the danger, I most likely got into the place where it was easier for Rothbart to reach me and get to submit to his strength. It was necessary to get away from him as far as possible. Every step that will divide me from the prince must, limit his power to me.

It’s time to go. Percy could find me anywhere. I never appointed a meeting place to him, he himself found me every time and waited for me, standing at a respectful distance. Neither the compass nor the map were with me, only I could guess in which direction I should go to move away from the prince. I quickly crossed the fields, flew through the rivers and lakes, as the shadow rushed past the towns and villages, until I began to feel that the power attracting me to itself as the magnet gradually weakens. With the onset of the first twilight, I got to the borders of the city. It was Roshen. It was immediately clear that, unlike the luxury present in Lara, here, along with new, painted buildings and mansions, there are poor bedrooms. Elegant crowds of honest citizens in the evening are replaced by the beggars and robbers. I decided that in a big city it would be easier to get lost and forget my sorrow. Maybe if I always wander in the crowd or in the center of densely populated areas, then Rothbart will lose a trace and can not find me with the help of his witchcraft.

From large houses came laughing, music, scraps of conversations that I could hear especially acutely, not as people who pass by and will not be able to disassemble in general noise even a couple of words. An old-cut, luxurious cloak — the gift of the prince, waved behind my back. sometimes tasty passersby, but I walked so quickly, which disappeared in the crowd before someone had time to send a passage. It was necessary to stay away from the rich houses. I myself did not notice how I found myself in the poorest neighborhoods. The shabby walls of houses, broken windows and cracks on the shabby doors, were not as strong as the lit expanses of the central streets. It reigned amazing silence.

Only sometimes on the way there was a lantern with a stove or cracked glass. Very rarely in the windows of the second floors under the projected roof, the candle was poorly glued or I heard, as a children’s voice was reading fairy tales from the opened book. Rothbart did not say a word about the fact that in the current times, an education can be found even in slums. Much more often there were tramps and robbers. The outskirts of the city did not go to any comparison with the center. The death danced here in all the catches, but no disease was terrible for me.

Such a decline was strange to me. In the country of my father never ruled the high mortality and hunger, nor in the center, nor on the outskirts. Robbers sooner or later met their end on the gallows, and here they were under the nose of the guard. The consolation was one thing, in such a place Rothbart will not look for me. Camille, his faithful sorcerer, also does not like to visit here, and Percy tactfully will wait for my return in a safer and tidy quarter.

Why the dragon should obey orders of sorcerer, every time rushing on his call, to destroy whole fragile cities, created by many years of work of people. Once at the power of the villain, I again and again, according to his will, turned out in the thick of tragic events.

I went down to the pier. Stopping not far from the slums, it was possible to observe how the moonlight lays the glare on the ink surface of the water. Several boots swayed on its surface, fishing nets were dried on the shore. I wanted to walk around the pier, but several boards were wedged out of the flooring. It remained only to turn back to semi-empty barn and sheds, deserted streets, bridge and tightly locked houses.

Found myself in a dark alley, I heard quick steps and muted muttering, as if two were consolidated about something.

«Look what a pretty little boy!» Someone pushed me in the shoulder and pressed against the wall of the nearest barn. A fool must have been looking for his own death. A man with a nasal voice and a disfigured scarred face took a knife from his pocket. His accomplice, wrapped his face in a dirty scarf attached to my throat the tip of the sword. To keep the weapon as he should not be able, most likely stole the sword together with the sheath from one of the robbed nobles. Such robbers often waited, while someone from the noblemen will go into the tavern, and then cut his throat and cleaned his pockets.

Cliché «money or your life» sounded out of time. A purse I did not have, but it was growing confidence that the evil power hidden inside is about to break loose. Until now, it had been waiting for his hour. I tried to handle myself, as once in the alleys under the towers of the castle of my father. But then I was free, and now I was under the power of my curse. My detached view something startled the robber, armed with a sword and yet he rudely ordered to his accomplice.

«Check his pockets, quickly!» he told

«Just look at his hand there is a ring with the emblem,» happily exclaimed the second, eagerly staring at the glittering signet ring. «Is granted to us a curious prince! Infrequently lords favor us with their appearance.»

The nasty laugh rang, in one hand of a villain flashed a knife blade, and the other reached for the intended victim. In a flash, I slipped out from the corner, the sword barely scratched my forehead. I stopped in front of a stone wall of the next building and turned. The robber took aback glancing at me, and he almost dropped the knife, see how the wound on my temple is rapidly dragged with the new skin. On the hand began to break through the golden scales, nails stretched and sparkled. I did not even try to cast, the transformation happens by itself. The right hand is now much more like the golden gauntlet with long claws of dragon.

The second sword blow would hit me on the head, but I just ducked and the blade crashed against a stone wall in millimeters from my temple. One severed strand of hair fell on the wet ground and now writhing in clear puddle, like a golden worm.

Instinctively stretched out my right hand, I slashed with my claws on the neck of disarmed opponent. Blood was gushing from wounds. What will happen now, if someone finds a corpse with traces of the monstrous claws? In a secret society will have every reason to accuse me of a lack of caution.

I did not even have time to turn back to the second scoundrel. With a cry «Werewolf», the tramp rushed away, but a clawed hand did not allow him a step. Percy said that it is impossible to leave witnesses of our reincarnation from simple travelers in supernatural beings. I dragged the bodies on the pavement and then they fell out of my hands straight into the deep ditch. Even if someone finds the corpses of robbers here, it will decide that they became victims of drunk fights. And scars on the neck? Well, after a few nights, the rat and decomposition will make their job. Nobody will know that the dragon was held on this street. The stones of the bridge will not be able to talk to anyone about the presence of a supernatural being here.

Moon light fell on my hand. The spectacle caused some surprise even by me. The hand again became smooth, covered with flawless white skin, long fingers with pink nails did not resemble sharp claws.

Neither dust left on clothes, raindrops were glistened like a scattering of diamonds on a blue raincoat. Now, I could go at least to the ball, and none of the guests could see in my eyes the reflection of the fighting. Not even turning to the scene, I quickly walked away.

Overcoming a small distance, I felt the presence of another member of a small gang over the distant angle. While two of his senior comrades were not far from the pier, he was hidden in ambush, waiting for call. From his weapon, he had only a folding knife. He did not see me, but he felt the approach of a stranger, because I set a mental contact with him and in several words gave to understand that to contact with a passersby, as I, is too troublesome and dangerous. He still did not leave and even leaned out from behind the corner, wondering to see me, but saw only a dark silhouette.

«Get out,» I ordered. I did not want to strangle the night robbers as chickens. It was impossible to give Rothbart another reason for the celebration. In addition, the fight occurred not according to the rules of the duel, as I used. Just a predator played cat-and- mouse with the victim. For two robbers, who remembered me, there was no chance to save, but the third who did not watch what was happening could be released. He had already escaped, frightened by a hissing voice and the fact that his comrades were missing.

I got out of the slums and turned to the central streets and overlooking the moment jumped through the fence of the first mansion that I liked me. The servants put up at the door, did not even ask me for an invitation. Hypnotized, they retreated to the side, and the guests either did not notice me, or took for one of the invited.

It was interesting for me to watch how the manners and the behavior of noblemen have changed with the time.

Stopping by the fireplace, I felt a pleasant warmth and at the same time I watched the surrounding. The hall was visible as on the palm. The candles were given little light, but it was immediately noticeable that, compared to past centuries, fashion made a step forward. The ladies became more elegant. There were only lush cascades of flickering satin and ball’s dresses embroidered with pearls. Men’s camisoles also sparkled from jewelry. According to the abundance of gilding and silver on handles’ of swords could be said that this weapon serves only as another decoration, real duels rarely happen, and their participants are deprived of that skill, with what the sword owned my contemporaries.

I have already started to bore, as suddenly I heard the sounds of a violin, a familiar melody. It was from an open terrace. Boldly moving through the crowd, I stopped next to the glass doors. Among the honeysuckles and rhododendrons, a slim silhouette of a woman in a white light robe was clearly highlighted. I have already seen this violinist. Long ago, near the village, lost among the forests. She stood far from the fire and played. Then only the wolves listened to her music, and the villagers were locked up the windows and doors so that she could not go to them.

On the moment, dark eyelashes shot up, and I saw bright, blue eyes performed by malice. Did anyone see a strange violinist too?

Those who passed by, did not even hear her music. I myself watched her no more than a minute, and then a translucent silhouette, as if, dissolved in the thick of the rain. Dancing and fun continued in the hall, guests led casual conversations. Maybe it only seemed to me that in the crowd flashed Camille, combed and laid by curls in the last fashion.

With the onset of dawn, guests will begin to drive around. I did not want to wander all day through the streets. Each big city has such a place where people are afraid to go. For me, it was not difficult to read someone’s careless thoughts and find out that the only damned place in Roshen is a crypt of one count’s family. The crypt of seven angels, where seven generations of a noble family rest. Duellists, murderers, gamblers who almost ruined the estate that were nearby. I left the ballroom long before the dawn and went there, to the locked on many chains and locks the doors of the crypt.

Passing by the estate, located near the crypt, I noticed only one lit window. It was on the first floor, low above the ground level and through the open shutters was well visible a girl playing on the harpsichord. Hearing the steps, she shuddered, hastily stood up from her place and closed the window.

Therefore, even those who live in the estate naively believe that at nights near the crypt walks evil spirits. This time, the superstitious girl was right, from such a guest, as the dragon that transformed into the young man is better to lock the windows and the doors. However, besides me, there were no evil spirits. There were many locks on the doors of the crypt. I was not difficult for me to disrupt them all by several quick movements, but such a maneuver would have drawn attention of citizens. It is always better to act with the mind. Remembering and repeating the necessary spells in a whisper, I just gave a short order and heard the locks with a click open. They did not need the keys, the chains themselves slipped from heavy forged doors, and those in turn with a quiet creak opened, as if inviting me. It cost me to cross through the threshold, as the doors smoothly closed behind me, the chains again littered the door of the iron web, and the locks snapped up, being in former places. I descended down the marble steps. There were the statues of seven angels on the steps. They reminded silent visitors who were sacrificed right here. A few lamps flashed, pointing me the way into the gloomy deep hole.

There were no windows. Among the smooth stone tombstones and sarcophagus covers occasionally met statues. There was not fortunately any cross in the tomb. In the marble plates of the floor crawled disgusting insects. Moss made through the cracks. There was no bench around, so I climbed onto a flat sarcophagus cover to fall asleep right on it. After a long and tedious escape, no bed could seem uncomfortable.

In the tomb, settled down a few feet underground, it was possible not to fear that the prince would find me. There were no soul around, only spiders were taped in distant corners and two or three bats hung down heads, clinging to the ceiling.

Must be, the city has already lit the first rays of the sun, but it was cold and dark in the crypt. In a dream, I again saw the spinning-wheel and magical spinners. Then the walls of some kind of fortress and at the window I saw for a moment a strikingly beautiful girl with dark braids, crown-laid on her head and sculptural features of the face. There was an open book before her on the table. The beauty wrote something on a sheet of paper. Only in the last moment before the awakening, I realized that her feather smoothly wrote witchcraft signs. I wanted to warn her from this dangerous classes, talk about the dangerous influence of witchcraft books, but at that instant I woke up and felt someone’s unwanted presence in the crypt.

There were steps, but not from the side of the stairs, but from a long corner. How could I not notice a secret door. Manual lantern with a ringing dropped onto the marble floor. Even before opening my eyes, I knew who I would see.

I instantly threw the crumpled raincoat and raised on the elbows. Noticing me, Vincent froze in one place, fearing even to move. Even with such poor lighting, it was possible to notice that Vincent had not almost changed. He even became more attractive, only in large dark eyes there was some embittered expression. He quickly came to his senses. It didn’t even need to ask how he found me, and why he was generally needed to search for an old friend. Vincent pulled out some object from under a wide cape and threw it on an unoccupied sarcophagus cover. In the glare of green light, I saw that this was a black velvet mask.

«It would be unpleasant to lose forever such a beautiful thing? Is it not true, Mr. Elf?» Vincent asked with sarcasm. I remember the tender nickname, which so loved to call me my brothers and fascinated peasants.

The poor fellow Vincent hoped that at the first reminder of the past, I was angry. He did not take into account that the former trustful Edwin was now a hardened a magician. Like everyone, he relied only on the impressions of the appearance and did not even try to look deeper into the soul. Although he certainly knew how to read thoughts, because it was not for noting that he was kept for many years in this damned school.

«I didn’t expect to see you here. Usually, the inveterate adventurer can be found anywhere, but not only in the monastery of the ghosts,» I noticed with a gloomy humor. Vincent was only more angry and even clenched fists. He measured the narrow passage between the rows of sarcophagus and looked at my side with uncomplicated hatred.

«Why are you?» He finally blurted out. Why is the power about what dreamed all the students of the school of witchcraft, namely yours? The prince was supposed to choose me, I waited for so many years to triumph. I tried so hard to achieve heights at least at school, and everything went to someone who had never had to take himself by reading the book. After all, you did not know anything, except for fighting skills, while you lived in the father’s castle.»

«Perhaps if you spent less time to swindle, and more to study, then, indeed, you could achieve some heights,» said I.

«How can you say that, Edwin,» Vincent squeezed his fists with such force that the nails were dug in the palms, and there was blood on the skin. «While you are alive, I can not become a leading light. There are too many books of witchcraft. For me to open your secrets, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. I’m just the second after you.»

«If not the last,» I quickly corrected. He was again in anger.

«For sure, I forgot about your patron. In second place is he, I am on the third,» as if apologizing, Vincent muttered.

«My patron?» I asked with surprise.

«Well, yes, prince,» Vincent explained, neither a little doubting in his own right.

I almost broke into a bitter laugh. Rothbart is my patron, it was quite incredible.

«You are mistaken,» I sincerely assured him.

«Am I mistaken?» Vincent was in a rage. «He introduced you to the Higher Society, now all these immortal creations tremble in front of you. I know everything. I’m not so easy to fool, although you learned very sincerely to lie.»

I tried not to pay attention to how familiar Vincent appeals to me. While I was a prince, he talked with me much more respectfully. After all, then I did not have success in the witchcraft field, and Vincent had no reason to be angry with me, but now he was supervised by the black envy.

It was difficult not to notice that Vincent is wearing a high, deaf collar, fully hiding the throat before the chin. On a hot day it could seem strange, but in the tomb was too cold. Vincent resembled very much a nyx or an elf, a little grew stupid over time, but still charming. The impression was spoiled only evil, feverishly glittered eyes. Many years ago, their expression was completely different.

«I see, you have not achieved success in your sea travel. That’s right, I did then not go with you,» I decided to tease him a little.

«It is very difficult to achieve success alone. I did not have such a patron, like some. There was not even an accomplice who would never fail me. I am worthy than others, but everything in life is given me with great difficulty.

«Your life was supposed to end a couple of centuries ago,» I wanted to say, but I decided to give him the opportunity to speak out.

«It always turns out that everything is easier for the lazy royal son,» he was obviously exhausted by his eloquence, leaned tiredly against the column.

«Why did you come?» Finally I asked.

«To express everything that I think about you,» he answered. «You have no right to overheard other people’s conversations and spoil my plans.»

«So the lord drove you away?»

Realizing that the question is rhetorical, Vincent only pursued his lips.

«There should be at least a bit of honesty in you,» after a short silence he grunted.

«You would not prevent to keep caution, then you would not appeal to anyone’s honesty. You twice allowed me to overhear the conversation about your plans.»

«Twice?» Vincent was alerted.

«The first time you were too passionate to notice anyone presence. You so skillfully praised your talent to cook poisons that it seemed to convince yourself in the fact that you have the right to be called an evil genius.»

Vincent was staring at me, then he knocked himself with his palm on the forehead, and whispered quietly:

«So what’s the matter!»

«Today you kicks against the pricks. Doors are locked. Here in the crypt, we are alone. Even if the townspeople suddenly open the doors and notice the disappearance of your eminent person and then find your body, torn by the dragon claws, it will attract only terrible legends that walk around this place. By their opinion, you will turn into another unfortunate sacrifice of the local ghosts. And then new assumptions will go, they will take the perch of the deft novelists to explain somehow your death, refute or confirm the guesses of the people. By the way, you do not know, printing machines have long used in this city. In other places, I have not seen a single shop with printed books, but here they are only in the center more than a dozen.

Vincent did not answer, only tightly pressed back to the column.

«It’s not me then wanted to poison you. Lillian and a sly astrologer are to blame. Remember, I came to you not only to invite with myself, but also I wanted to warn, I just realized that you had already exposed their tricks,» he began to justify.

I almost laughed. Vincent lied masterfully. His game on stage would cost applause. It must be, he did not go to the actors just because the work in the Inquisition was more prestigious and safe. Being there and pretending to be faithful, he could not be exposed.

«Did I wound in the dark street any other robber, not you?» I asked in the same friendly tone, but the threat was still in my voice. «Next time, when you want to get a knife from the boot, try to make it more prompt. Not every passerby let you go after you try to cut his throat.»

Before Vincent managed to come to his senses, I jumped off the sarcophagus and darted to him, tightly grabbed him for the forearm and clung to the collar. The fabric with a crackling broke out, exposing a terrible scar that pulled on the throat and chest. It was a trail from five claws.

«Who did wound you so much? Speak honestly!» I ordered, without releasing him from the dead grip.

Vincent did not even try to resist, realizing that he could not break out. He was silent, feverishly thinking how to embellish the truth, but then I looked aside and whispered softly:


«Who?» I demanded again, shaking him with force.

«It happened there, on earth of the burned state,» he said. «There is only ash. I hardly managed to find the hatch’s cover. I just wanted to take a few parchment scrolls from the baron’s pantry. I didn’t think to take everything. Besides, I did not know that he all bequeathed to you.»

I released Vincent, saying strictly:

«You won’t steal anymore. If you believe baron’s stories, then you are still easy to get rid.»

«He could bequeath everything to me, not to you,» Vincent backed up, like a hurt animal, but still ready to scratch and bite. «Why do you need such an inheritance? You and so have the knowledge and power that others can only dream.»

«Are you jealous?»

«Yes,» he honestly admitted. «Why did everything go to you, not to me? After all, I am no worse. Noble blood flows in my veins. I would have a title, if my father did not boil, entered into a plot, but most importantly, I always sought to get power, while everyone’s favorite junior prince neglected his position. I would take advantage of the love of the people and the king to become the only heir, instead of playing nobility. In addition, if the throne inherited the pet prince of sorcerer, then the deceased kingdom would now be rich and flourished.»

ЭAnd in the crowd of frightened people there were a lot of sorcerers, gnomes, elves and other faithful servants of the ruler — the dragon.

Vincent has already managed to repeat «why are you, not me,» and before he managed to start the same song, I strictly broke it off.

«Source of my strength is knowledge. With one dexterity, without prior training it is impossible to practise witchcraft, otherwise you do harm yourself and others. Are you ready to follow my example and spend many years in a conversation with witchcraft books. How would you distinguish the truth from lies, because you can not be pouring the poison or hit the knife in the ghost. And you need to spend not one ten years there to choose the original, and not fake key to the truth. I doubt that you are ready to sacrifice your youth and relative health. If you are prudent and repent of your words, then I cure you from these ulcers,» I pointed to the inflamed scars that Vincent tried to cover with scraps of the collar. «Although they remind you of untimely heroism, but for the ladies it is an unpleasant sight.»

«I could heal them myself,» he hesitated.

«But for some reason you did not. Maybe just did not have time?

«What do you need for pay?» Vincent became incredulously.

«I am afraid that I will have nothing to demand from you, except for the promise no longer arrange conspiracies against me and do not wait for me in a dark alley with two cowardly mercenaries.»

«Why should I believe in your honesty?» Vincent considered a tempting offer.

«Take it easy!» I touched his shoulder, but Vincent suddenly cried. My touch burned him. I didn’t want to hurt him at all, especially when we barely entered into an alliance.

«So I knew that you were lying me,» Vincent almost shouted. He instantly found himself at the far wall and now he was looking in a hurry for a secret lever that opened the hidden door. «Remember, Edwin, destroy such an opponent, as I, you will not succeed. Sooner or later, but I recognize what is the mystery of your power and even exceed you.»

He slammed down the secret door, and I finally could breathe easier. Due to the appearance of Vincent, I was deprived of those few hours of rest, which I was going to spend in the crypt, away from vigilant observation and persecution of my so-called «patron». After listening to the tantrum of Vincent and numerous undeserved reproaches, no one would have been able to calmly fall asleep. He stirred unpleasant memories, made me think over my problems again. What power can we talk about if I have to hide from the prince as a runaway prisoner. After all, I would have remained a prisoner if I did not have time to leave enough away from the strength that was trying to subjugate me.

I remembered the night by baron Raul. An incredible guess came to my mind. After all, the old baron knew about the strength of his treasure. Standing, next to the sealed door, I heard mounted voices. They said they waited for me for a very long time and finally waited.

The baron was a smart person, he did not only read books, but also collected his own library. He wanted to give his treasure to a stranger, whom he saw for the first time in his life. Of course, this stranger killed the wild boar and earned the award, but did not deserve such a heavy cargo, as inhabiting in the depths of earth an ancient and powerful evil. Did Raul guess that the shy hero, who was afraid to admit his lack of education, sooner or later will be the one who became a prisoner of evil fate and a sorcerer.

I would never have thought that the century later I would return to the very place where the terrible treasure was hidden, but I will not be afraid of supernatural creatures, because I became one of them. Probably, scientists and astrologers have understood from the very beginning my destination. It should have felt that the black wings of an invisible demonic satellite will be rustling behind the back of a dismissed prince. Now, even when I made my original appearance, the shadow of the dragon often flashed in my eyes and could easily expose me.

It was necessary to pick up my inheritance covered by ash, until some clever friend or follower of Vincent got into his own hands such a formidable weapon, because sooner or later it is possible to find the key to any lock. In addition, it was impossible to neglect the tips of the spirits, which were not once mentioned about where treasures were hidden for the next ruler. In the fact that I will succeed in getting all this treasures from under the ground, I did not doubt, but it was nowhere to hide my inheritance, with the exception of this crypt. The cold room was located much lower than the level of the ground, no one would have dare to enter here. Vincent went, slamming the door, and it is unlikely that he will have a desire to return, but just in case it was necessary to follow safety.

There was neither pen, nor ink with me, but next to the lamp was lying a piece of chalk. I took the chalk and drew the long formula of the witchcraft signs over the secret door, then I drew some similar signs next to the threshold. Now the door was closed for Vincent.

But this seemed to me not enough. The future treasury should be hidden from human eyes. e.

I went out. Chains and locks with a quiet ringing closed after me. It was necessary to call the fog so that he would shut up the crypt with a dense ring and did not allow anyone to even look into this direction. In the fog, no one can find the way to my shelter. I read a spell.

Already at the first words of the spell the dense fog thickened around. It will hang here and at noon, and in the evening, and at night. White rings will melt over drying ground and gradually the townspeople will even forget about what was in this place. They will find their explanations for the fact that a small block of land near the city center in any weather is located in the fogs.

It took quite a bit time to get out of the neighborhood of the city to the spacious sea coast, over which the first evening stars were lit. It was necessary to wait for the night, but every minute of waiting was difficult. The instructions of the spirits were not a lie. I saw how far from the shore over a separate section of water was a weak radiance, as from an open treasure chest. The hidden treasure was visible only to one-sole observer.

In the evening fishermen and sailors could be met in the taverns. There were two taverns located near the coast. For a short time, choosing between two institutions, which used in the district the same bad reputation, I headed for a crowded «Knight of hearts», but it was worth only to cross the threshold, as two burglars, standing at the entrance, immediately rushed to the side. Nothing remained from their militant appearance, one even pressed against the wall, ready to retreat. Looking at them, I recognized two smugglers, whom the Percy and I have easily survived from the cave. They were far from being happy to see me. I stopped in front of them, crossed my hands on my chest and looked at them. The guy noticed the golden dragon embroidered on the camisole and respectfully removed the hat.

To read the thoughts of these two did not make difficulty. Retribution for their atrocities from the heavenly strength they feared much more than the whole royal guard. The scene in the cave they considered as the sign from the heaven. They quickly managed to swim through the canal and hide their boats in the reeds of another coast. Their hasty and fear of unknown came just at the right moment.

«In the near future, I will not cause an evil to you,» the smooth voice, which sounded as if from the bottom of the grave, not only did bring them out of the stupor, but drove in even more superstitious fear. Of course, such visitors, as I and Percy cost fear, but before I assumed that the robbers are less cowardly. Perhaps it was so in those times when Florian was preparing to inherit a flourishing country, but now the villains have become more mean and less brave. It was interesting to observe how these two tremble for their skin.

«I need a boat with a durable bottom and one rower,» I demanded. The elder comrade pushed the younger one. The boy with an unpleasant appearance and still uncovered head stood in front of me and did not dare to put on his shabby cap on his head.

«Let’s go,» I ordered strictly. «If you will exactly execute all my commands, it may even be possible to get a reward.

He went down after me, while his comrade, reluctantly brought the boat. Fear was a reliable guarantor for the fact that they would not try to swindle.

Soon the boat with a carved nose cut the water’s surface. Two oars with a splash loose on salty seaside water. The rower barely coped with them, so the boat all the time looped, instead of heading straight to the right place. Of course, I could send the boat so that it smoothly rolled forward, but it was better to get strength to the point when I have to get the luggage from the seabed. The boy was trembling all the time or from the cold, or from fear of unwanted neighborhood. One thing to stand in a cozy tavern and with curiosity to look at the dangerous nobleman and quite another thing to stay with him alone in a swinging boat when there are only ripples on the water, and under the boat is the bottom of incredible depth.

When the boat finally got to the right place, I gave another order:

«Stay here. Soon I will come back, wait for me and do not try to run away!»

I jumped down. The frightened smuggler, watched me with the opened mouth. After all, he did not understand that I had plunged into the water already completely in a different guise. The skin of the golden snake was not a luxurious clothing.

In the thickets of corals, it was not possible to immediately notice the chests with gold. The ship, transporting gold, sank too far from this place, but the spirits managed to drag all the most valuable here. With claws it was easy to raise the chests and tear them off from the bottom. My satellite did not even notice how the dragon’s paw deftly threw the luggage into the boat. He just stared at the chests, appearing as if from nowhere. I jumped in the boat after them.

«Turn to the shore!»

After another order we sailed in silence until the boy dared to speak.

«You promised to reward me,» he said.

«So what? We have not even reached the shore.»

«You can everything?» Quietly sounded the question, full of hope.

«What do you want to ask?»

«Only the love potion.»

I had a short laugh. I thought he would ask for one of the gold bars hidden in the chest.

«For this, they usually turn to the witch. You are the first who asks such an uninteresting trifle from a more powerful creature.»

He recoiled, noticing dangerous shine in my look.

«Well, okay, who is this beauty? Probably from noble?»

«No, a lace-maker,» he whispered.

«A lace-maker!» I grinned, then still threw him a coin, which he cleverly caught. «Buy a sheet of paper in the hotel, a feather and a little ink. I will write you a recipe.»

«But I don’t know how to read,» he protested.

«Well, wait for me in the hall for card games, I will bring you a potion,» the petitioner has already started to bother me.

He nodded gratefully.

The boat stuck to the common shore, on a decent distance from the hotel’s yard so that even the visitors of the tavern could not see us.

«You have to wait an hour, maybe more,» I warned the rower, who immediately jumped out of the boat and rushed towards the tavern

In an hour I had to have time to take the chest to the crypt and go into the nearest forest to get the necessary potion. Although the dragon could successfully cope with this, but the aid of Percy would not be a bad thing. I found him near the crypt. He devotedly protected my new ownership. He had nothing to explain. When the chests were fell on the stone floor, and the doors were locked again, Percy followed me to the nearest forest.

Leaving him to wait near the edge, I deepened in the thicket. There was no full moon in the sky, but a new moon also gave enough light. Finding a century-old tree, grew up on the crossroads of a few paths, I took out the dagger and plunged a sharp blade deep into the tree. Dull lights running through the fresh cut and in the pre-substituted flask, drove a thick wood juice. According to the old habit, I decided to fulfill the promise. There was a little more time. Little glowing balls flew low above the bushes, disappeared and again appeared in the most unexpected places. A few minutes have passed before I realized that these are wandering lights. How often they knock down the trails from the road and lure deep into the forest or in a swamp.

However, this time they called me for a certain purpose. After all, before them was not a simple traveler. Tightly clogging the flask and waiting until the cut in the tree dries off and stop shining, I succumbed to temptation and followed the wandering lights. They had fun danced, overflowing with all the colors of the rainbow, looped and flew to the level of high branches. They tried to tell me the way to another treasure. I myself carefully followed the road and counted the steps. I got to the old oak even earlier than the dozens of colored lights had time to take place. They rushed on branches, shifting with pink, purple and purple tones, and I viewed the thick roots of oak, discovering from under the ground. I needed a shovel, but it was not there. However, it was too early to lose heart. It was necessary to find a stick and whisper a spell. In my hands was a useful tool for the job.

Soon the edge of the shovel clanged on forged lid of the chest. I jumped into a deep hole, knocked down a rusty lock and flipped it open to see if it is not a hoax. The chest was full of precious stones and jewels. A handful of gold, sapphire and pearl necklaces are mixed into one glittering mass. It costs to open the chest and on the brightness of the set of priceless items beginning dazzle the eyes.

Percy took the responsibility to deliver the box to the door of the tomb, and I came at the appointed time to the yard in front of the hotel. In the window could be seen the hall where the audience ordered strong ale and shuffle the cards. Only one visitor sat at a separate table with a strained view of peering into the faces of guests, seemed to be waiting for someone. He immediately stood up when he saw me and warmly whispered words of gratitude when I slipped into his hand a sealed bottle.

«I’m grateful to you,» once again he said.

«Why do I need your gratitude?» I took the liberated table and watched how the happy fraudster hurries to his friends playing cards.

Several guards crossed the threshold and headed straight to the table, behind which my acquaintances are located. Of course, they did not pay attention to the young nobleman, which with the most innocent appearance, was located at the window, although the danger proceeded from this side.

The owner of the hotel moved to me. A minute ago, he saw me talking with one of his visitors, now causing the attention of the guards.

«Do you need a room for the night?» He asked uncertainly.

I nodded:

«Yes! I need a key to the room,» I grinned. The prince would not have come to mind that his former student of noble blood suddenly decided to spend the night in such a dirty hotel with robbers.

The owner jammed was clearly not going to remove one of the bundles of copper keys, chatting on his belt.

«What’s the matter?» I asked strictly.

«Sorry, but we never let guests who came after the sunset,» finally said the owner.

So what’s the matter. I wanted to get offended, but I just got up, pushed the nervous suspicious person from my road and slowly said:


Even without turning around, I went out on the night. The door itself slammed after me. It seemed that the moon over coal-dark water was flooded with a bloody color.

I was in rage, and the transformation happened faster than usual. A kind of curious visitor who looked into the window did not see the young nobleman. in the courtyard. Of course, the winged sparkling silhouette, which rose to the roof level, was also not able to notice. Panic in the tavern began only when the smooth dragon wing was demolished part of the roof. Those who managed to figure out what was the matter, rushed into the street, and the others in horror observed how the building easily flashed from the first breath of the dragon.

Feelings of dragon

The dawn, illuminating the picturesque forest’s glade, smoothed the latest memories of the night fire. Most visitors, of course, managed to carry their feet in time. The burning hotel is not a whole huge city, but the inhospitable owner lost his institution.

The shore of a small forest lake was fenced with a border of flowers. Water, as a mirror, reflected the flexible branches of willows’ and wild roses’ bushes. The sounds of music came from the far edge of the glade. It made me alert. There was something unusual in this music. The traveler who heard it would certainly turn off from his way and would run to a deceptively calm lake. A pleasant colder freshness came from the water. Another would hear in this melody all his dreams, but I caught a hidden catch. The sounds were too clean, measured, but without a single fake note. A musician must have very long deft fingers, person can not have those fingers. Through thickets of the reeds I moved to the side where the singing of violin came from. I did not immediately realize that this was a violin.. It is impossible to get used to such perfection during visits to theaters or holidays. Even if the nyx hides in the crowd, he will not work on the stage to entertain the people. The only exception to this rule was Camille. During the service, accustomed to tolerate the adversity, he did not want to miss the opportunity to have fun and deserve at least someone’s approval.

As I approached, the excitement was intensified. Really, I will see the violinist that as the ghost flashed at the reception. Contrary to expectations, no transparent silhouette was there. Only a nyx was sitting on a stump and playing a small violin. He did not even notice a number of outsiders. What can he be afraid when he is so close to his native lake.

My steps were almost silent. The nyx broke away from the violin. He heard the sound somewhere far beyond the forest and put the ears, as if wishing to disassemble someone’s call.

«How was it said there?» the nyx said. Then he smiled, as if he remembered the long-being forgotten chorus and whispered quietly, like a prayer:

«All the spirits know about you.

Where the fortress is burned

Flocks of demons fly

And the bells call.

With seal and locks

Together the treasure is locked

There is a mystery and

Someone’s first dream!»

The nyx noticed me only when I approached him closely. All the mood to read poems instantly passed, he shuddered, dropped his invaluable violin and turned frightened. By rounded blue eyes, it was possible to say that he was not deceived, having taken me for a traveler or an elf. From his attention did not slip away any trait and he felt the presence of hidden strength.

He realized that no one was going to hurt him, he, even at the speed of slow-witted person, but still decided that the reverence would not hurt. The nyx hastily rose from the stump, muttered something instead of a greeting.

«Does this pretty place belong to you?» said I. «Have you settled here for a long time?»

In response, he only nodded.

«I see you more like your underwater house than the land?»

Again the short nod. Loved to chat with himself, The nyx was shy and did not expect a sudden invasion. He did not tear off his eyes off the upward socks of his shoes.

«Are you looking for a place to rest?» answered the nyx. «Unfortunately, there is neither the cave nor the gorge, nor the palace, only the hut.»

«Does anyone live in it?»

«The forester lived with his family. Now the hut is empty.»


«The guard came from the city and accused the whole family in witchcraft,» the nyx smiled slyly. «No one else will live there, mortal are faint-hearted. And you are dangerous.»

Last words, he said quietly with noticeable respect.

«Did you not take my lake?» he asked with the excitement.

«No. Would you really give it without a fight?» Against my will, the question sounded with a contemptuous mockery.

«And you do not tell him that I settled here without making a gift in the treasury?»

I immediately understood that he spoke about Rothbart and almost laughed.

«If he understands that you give the lake only with life, he’ll immediately leave you alone.» If you are able to repulse him, then I will be on your side.»

The hut was in the forest’s wilderness, I immediately liked it. There was all necessary for a sorcerer with his books. Little windows almost missed light, instead of glasses in the frame was inserted transparent mica. Obviously, the glass turned out to be too expensive for local residents. A small furnace in the corner could become useful with the beginning of cold weather. The floorboards strongly creaked, but it could be fixed, besides, Percy is unknown from where it managed to drag a soft carpet, who faded the steps well. Little furniture remained in the room, and the firewood were folded in the yard. Apparently, after the hut was empty, no one dreamed of visiting here to pick up something.

Thanks to the efforts of all the same omnipresent Percy, the cup and the book left in the dungeon returned to me. How he managed to get them from there, I could not guess at all my wishes. In the evening, there were still many rare and elegant things in the hut, and the elf himself settled to sleep in the next little room. He never complained that he had to perform the whims of the owner, but nevertheless, as he could have tried to do better not a careless life.

Looking at the morocco binding of the book, I almost did not feel the sinister attraction of the ring, on the contrary, the forgotten feeling of freedom came again. Looking at the book and the cup, I was unwittingly surprised that these unusual gifts were poured on me as early congratulations not yet acquired power. Many knew whom they saw in front of them and tried to pay off in advance so that in the future do not test the wrath of the dragon.

But the animals from the thicket of the forest were not shy to visit me on the rights of beloved pets. I did not have time to go around the hut, as a large black raven flew into the window and settled on the back of the carved chair, as on the piping. Following it, many other crows flew up, but the one who arrived first, was not going to give up its place. Looking into brilliant beads of their eyes, I realized that they were ready to perform the duties of even postal pigeons.

The wolves were still afraid of me, only one large gray male was whining for a long time and scratched on the door until Percy showed mercy and allowed the predator to watch our property.

Glass retorts and crucibles for melting metals have greatly changed the setting. Now it was rather an alchemist laboratory than the house of the forester.

Someone knocked at the window. Long thin fingers squeezed into the fist and hit the mica several times. Then the steps went around the corner of the house, and in the next moment sharp claws scratched the door. I did not feel near the presence of a beast or a person. Then, who with the animal desperation scratched the door, not deciding to cross the threshold or at least give a voice.

Noise began to bother, as if claws tried to scratch the wooden door, and something scratched inside me, in the left side of the chest, the fact that people are called a heart. I didn’t have it anymore, and in the hut there was not a single person, only an elf and dragon, and the desperate guest behind the threshold. I rose from the table and opened the door. Then there was a moment of surprise, confusion, fear, it seems to be a whole range of feelings and at the same time it was full indifference, only the lips were opened from amazement to say cold:



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