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.‘Instimo,’ she gasped as I grabbed her hair with one hand.I lifted my other arm to punch her but it was like moving through molasses.Slower and slower my arm went until I couldn’t move it at all.‘Ha,’ she said, and she punched me in the gut.If I could have, I would have bowed over with the pain.As it was I fought against my invisible bonds as she punched me again and again.I choked in air, struggling to breathe around my burning chest.She stopped and straightened her crooked nose.Pushing it back into place she wiped away the blood on the back of her arm.Then she picked up her sword and waved it in front of me.‘This ends now.’I grappled with her spell, desperately feeling along the edges of it with my mind.There.I could feel the join where she had melded the air around me.I flowed into it, stretching it and pushing it until finally, it fell away.Screeching, I dived to the side as her sword swept through where I had been standing.I spat some blood out of my mouth and pulled Wilfred’s dagger out of the holster.Holding it high I faced off against her.‘Just like a witch to bring a knife to a sword fight.’ She waved her sword at me.‘It’s knife to a gun fight, stupid.’She snarled as we circled each other.I risked a quick peep at Aethan.Was his chest moving? I couldn’t be sure.She launched the first attack.Letting out a blood-curdling scream she drove the tip of her sword right at my chest.I ducked to the side, and her thrust carried her past me.I kicked out, managing to hook one of her feet.She tripped and staggered towards where Aethan lay.As if he weren’t there, she swung back to face me.Why hadn’t she killed him? What was she waiting for?I moved around the area, staying on the balls of my feet to minimise the instability caused by the broken glass slipper.She looked down at my feet and burst out laughing.‘Why are you wearing those?’‘Glass slippers?’ I asked as if it were the most normal thing in the world.‘You should try some.They’re very comfortable.’‘They don’t look very robust.’ She flicked her blade down and pointed at the broken heel.‘I broke that off in one of your warrior’s chests,’ I said.‘Such a shame.These were my favourite.’She spat in my direction.‘Think you’re so clever,’ she sneered.‘You don’t realise I’ve got you in a double bind.’I had no idea what she was talking about.That made me nervous.‘No matter what you do tonight you will lose.’ She laughed like it was the funniest thing ever.I couldn’t see how that could be true.Either I lost and she killed me, or I won and killed her.‘You must choose between him,’ she flicked her head in Aethan’s direction, ‘or yourself.’Double bind, him or me? I hated cryptic sentences.‘Shut up and fight.’ I threw myself at her, slashing the air with my dagger.She darted away and I leapt into the air to land behind her.She twirled faster than should be possible, bringing her sword up to block my thrust.I kicked her in the chest, and forced her back.As I swung and slashed, parried and blocked, the strangest feeling crept over me.Tingling.Starting at my head and working its way down my body.I ignored it as long as I could but then it changed to prickles.‘What are you doing to me?’ She raked her arms with her nails.‘Nothing.’ I gritted my teeth as invisible ants crawled over me.Scruffy whined as he scratched and nipped at himself.‘Stop it.’ Galanta hopped up and down on the spot, slapping herself with the palms of her hands.‘I’m not doing it.’ I jiggled side-to-side trying to rid myself of the sensation.Pins and needles prickled my whole body.Scruffy spun around and around, trying to bite his tail.She tore her nails through her dreadlocks, scratching as if she had a bad case of nits.Her talons had left long welts down her arms.Blood trickled from a couple of them.As suddenly as it had come on me it was gone.Instead of my torn ball dress I wore the outfit I’d had on that afternoon.I glanced up at Scruffy who was naked except for his black, studded collar.He was contentedly licking his balls.Galanta ran in circles, slapping at her body as if she were on fire.She collapsed on the ground, writhing like a serpent.‘Make it stop,’ she begged.I almost felt sorry for her, but then I remembered her burning me and all feelings of pity went out of my head.I knew I should finish her off while she was down, but I couldn’t.Not in cold blood.If the situations were reversed I had no doubt she would have, but I wasn’t her.I wasn’t a monster.A shimmering light glowed over her, encasing her from head to foot.She screamed again and again, spasming in time with her shrieks.And then finally, the screaming stopped, the shimmering vanished, and she lay there, dressed in a white, crystal gown and glass slippers.I couldn’t help myself, I burst out laughing.‘What have you done to me?’ If I’d thought she’d been mad before, she was in a total rage now.‘I didn’t do anything.’ I stepped back as she climbed unsteadily to her feet.‘It’s a spell that was cast on me.It seems to have stuck itself to you.’She looked down at the gown with a disgusted look on her face.‘How long will it last?’‘I’m only guessing,’ I warned her, ‘but probably till midnight tomorrow night.’She took a step towards me, wobbling on the high heels.Snarling, she tried to yank them off.‘They won’t come off till then.’ I was trying to memorise every detail so I could share it with Aethan when he woke up.‘If it’s any consolation,’ I said, ‘you look lovely.’‘I don’t look lovely,’ she yelled.‘I look hideous.’‘Oh well, that’s just my opinion.Why don’t you go and ask your warriors?’At the mention of them, her face took on a look of horror.‘I can’t allow them to see me like this,’ she said.And then she turned and sprinted towards the edge of the cliff.I watched as she propelled herself off the side, and then rushed to watch her rapid descent to the ravine below.She disappeared long before she reached the bottom.One minute she was falling, and the next she was gone.I rushed to Aethan, kneeling beside him to check for a pulse.It was there beneath my fingertips.I breathed a sigh of relief.I wasn’t too late.I called him and shook him, and, when that didn’t work, I slapped his face.But nothing that I did could wake him.Galanta’s words on the double bind entered my head but I pushed them aside.I refused to be blinded by her callous words.What should I do? I couldn’t carry him all the way back, and I didn’t want to leave him in case a goblin showed up.I reached up and pushed his hair back from his face.It felt as soft as it looked.I traced a finger over the top of one pointed ear, and then, feeling voyeuristic, I did what I had wanted to since the first time I’d seen him.I ran my hands through his hair.My hands brushed the rock under his head and sharp edgings caught at my fingertips.Gently, I lifted his head.Words were etched into the stone.I shuffled him sideways across the stone so I could read them.Only blood can let me live,Only blood can set me free.Blood of my own one true love,Or of a descendant born of me.Huh? Did the poem have anything to do with the spell on Aethan?I pondered the words.It was obviously a call for blood but I was pretty sure I didn’t satisfy the rules.He was a distant cousin though.Did that count?I poised the tip of the dagger over my wrist, gasping as the sharp blade penetrated the soft skin.Blood welled to the surface and I turned my arm so that the first drips landed on the words inscribed in the stone.They sizzled as they landed.My blood pooled on the rock, boiling and bubbling.Then it sank, disappearing into the stone until it was gone [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]