A roar of outrage started in Golnartac's belly and began to work its way up to his throat. He planted his left foot and tried to pivot back toward the right. I dropped low and spun in the other direction, giving the troll a tantalizing glimpse of my unprotected back. Both his arms swung over my head as a second and third punch missed me, then I sprang up and smashed my right fist into the back of his left hand.

Pain overshadowed outrage in the troll's bellow as my punch further splintered broken bones. Unthinking in his agony, the troll backhanded me with that same hand. I saw the blow coming and rolled with it enough to soak off some of the force. Even so, the swat caught me on the left flank, igniting fire in my chest, and sent me flying across the warehouse floor.

The troll's renewed scream drowned out my groans as I hit and skidded to a stop against one of the ogres' bodies. I rolled to my feet, but as I straightened up I felt something give in my chest. More pain shot through me and I felt the urge to cough because of the blood seeping into my lung. I remained half-hunched over and gritted my teeth against the pain. Hooking my hands into claws, I waved the troll forward.

Golnartac started toward me, but he limped slightly because his right leg failed to respond as it should. I swept in, flicked a glance at his broken hand, then again directed an attack against his right knee. Jamming my left elbow into the joint, I felt Golnartac's kneecap shift sideways and an agonized roar quickly followed. Exultant, I slipped right and stabbed my right fist upward into his stomach.

The troll reacted to the blow instinctively. His right hand slapped my back and smashed me face first into a wall of rock-hard abdominal muscles. Dazed, I rebounded, but hesitated too long to escape him. Golnartac's right hand closed over my head and he unceremoniously hauled me off the ground.

'Like an egg!' he shouted victoriously and started to apply pressure.

Pain shot temple to temple, forehead to spine, but I refused to surrender to it. My hands hooked up over the troll's wrist and, despite the tearing pain in my chest, I whipped my right foot up in a savage kick that locked the monster's elbow. Uncoiling my body for a second, I brought my foot up again and this time drove it through the elbow.

When I heard the sharp crack I couldn't tell which had broken, my skull or his arm. Then the vise that had trapped my head slackened. I dropped toward the ground and launched another quick attack by driving my right heel down on top of the troll's foot. More bones broke with the pop of a gunshot, and this time I knew I was thedamager, not the damages.

I heard the troll shriek with pain, but it did not matter to me in the least. The second I regained my balance, I whirled around in a circular kick that blasted my left foot through Golnartac's right knee. The leg bent to the side with a wet, tearing sound. The troll began to flail about wildly, his battle now waged against gravity, not me. Golnartac lost his fight and began to sag to the concrete floor.

The fury in my heart did not allow me to show him any mercy.

He would have killed Lynn. And he would have enjoyed it.

Emotions gathered in me like a storm. I took two steps forward before the troll had succumbed to gravity's relentless attraction. Defying the elemental force that was drawing him down, I leaped into the air. As the troll's head came into striking range, my right foot flashed up. The ball of my foot hit Golnartac square on the chin, shattering his jaw and smashing ivory teeth into splinters.

Golnartac's head snapped back as if someone had grabbed his long black queue and jerked hard. The thick, corded muscles of his neck stretched taut, thrusting his Adam's apple out like an alien creature fighting to win its freedom. As powerful as they were, even those muscles could not fully absorb all the energy in my snapkick. The troll's neck cracked as a vertebrae crumbled under the pressure.

Head lolling uncontrollably, the dead troll crashed to the ground.

I landed a second later on very unsteady feet. Pure agony told me I'd destroyed my right foot, and black pain exploded in my ribs. For a half-second the Old One let me view my fallen foe, then he, too, abandoned me and I slumped to the floor, unconscious.


Leaning heavily on a swordcane that had not seen use since the Silicon Wasp died, I watched from afar as Dr. Raven shook hands with Phil Ingold at the base of the Fuchi tower. The parting seemed amiable, though Phil looked stiff and turned away slowly to walk back into the building. I didn't sense hostility in him, only sadness and resignation. Phil moved as if he hurt on the inside the way I hurt on the outside.

A fiberglass cast encased my right foot. A similar one sheathed my left arm. Stitches pulled the flesh together on my right flank and bandages helped hold my broken ribs together on the other side. My nose still hurt when I sneezed, and the bruises all over my body had gone from purple to a uniform shade of brown, with jaundice- yellow highlights.

I looked up as Raven came over to me. 'You explained everything?'

Raven nodded solemnly. 'Lynn is recovered from her ordeal and wants to see you. Neither she nor her mother understand why you won't be coming around again. Mr. Ingold does understand, but I think he feels his daughter's pain at not seeing you now more than he fears what might have happened in the future.'

I shook my head. 'He sees future danger as hypothetical, but you and J know it is reality.'

'Do we?'

'Sampson went after her once to get at me, he'd do it again. Breaking it off with her and getting her a transfer out of Seattle is the only way to keep her safe. We both know that.'

'It's not the only way. Stealth would have killed the Halloweeners for pocket change.'

'Slaughter of Innocents.'

'And wewill deal with Mr. Sampson.' Raven's eyes drew distant and the colors in them swirled into a vortex. 'Oak Harbor provided some interesting clues about him, as did his display of magic a week ago. His days as a threat are numbered.'

'And in single digits, too.' I sighed heavily. 'Still, if it isn't him, it will be someone else. The person I would have to be to protect Lynn is a person she would hate.'

Raven looked over at me as we walked slowly down the street. 'You're saying that as if she's incapable of changing and accepting the risks a life with you would entail. She was more concerned about your injuries than her own. Things might not turn out as you think.'

'All dreams become nightmares, Doc, if you don't wake up soon enough.' Deep down inside I wanted to believe what he was saying, but in my heart of hearts I knew I couldn't accept the level of responsibility caring for Lynn required. I'd helped hundreds of people like her, and accepted responsibility for them because I knew that responsibility would someday end. With Lynn it would not, and while a life with her would be glorious, life without her, if she died because of me, would be unlivable.

Raven smiled slowly. 'When you sent me your message, I rejoiced in it because it told me you were willing to shoulder a burden I have refused to accept. I thought you a better man than me in that, Wolf.'

I blinked in surprise. 'Me, a better man than you? Realities, Doc, not hypotheticals.'

'I was certain then, my friend, and I am certain now that I was not wholly wrong.' He laid a hand gently on the back of my neck and squeezed. 'Perhaps, someday, we will both be able to work past that final barrier.'

'Agreed.' I shook my head. 'It's kind of funny, though, being willing to care for the whole world, but being unable to do it for one special person.'

'It's a nightmare, really, Wolf.' Raven shrugged easily, but his eyes burned with intense color. 'But if we stick with it long enough, we can push on through to where it becomes a dream again, and the dream becomes true.'

Вы читаете Wolf and Raven
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату