Thraxas and the Ice Dragon / Траксас и леденият дракон: Двадесет и трета глава

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Chapter Twenty-Three


Heading back towards the arena, Makri is relaxed. I don't think she's given much thought to her next fight. It's quite a contrast to my own experience of the tournament. Then it was all I thought about for weeks. I'd practice during the day, and at night I'd go drinking with sword-fighting friends, swapping tales about fighters we'd seen, and lying about all the contests we'd won. It became my whole life. Makri does want to win, because she takes pride in her fighting technique, but she doesn't care about the competition. I find that annoying. She should respect it more.


Makri's next opponent is Gabril-ixx, from the far north. He won a tournament recently, so he must be skilful, and in good form. Big Bixo has him as slight favourite at four to six, while Makri is eleven to ten. I'd like to bet everything we have but, heeding Makri and Lisutaris's desire to be more cautious, I put 2,500 gurans on Makri to win. Makri has a lot more backers now. She's still not popular with the crowd, but serious gamblers don't care about that. They've seen what she can do.


Lisutaris meets us at the edge of the field. There's something strange about her manner.


"You look odd," I say.


"Thanks, Thraxas. That's always good to hear."


"Why are you holding your head like that?" Lisutaris has her chin pushed down, almost resting on her chest. "What's that you're wearing?"




"Yes it is. I can see it sparkling."


"Oh this?" Lisutaris glances down at the heavy row of jewels currently dangling round her neck. It's a queenstone necklace, a very fine example.


"It's just a… little gift," she says, and blushes faintly. "From Kublinos."


"Did you agree to marry him?" asks Makri.


"Of course not! Why would you ask that?"


"Because he's just given you the most expensive necklace this side of the King's treasury?" I suggest.


"I had to accept it," says Lisutaris, huffily. "It would have been rude not to. That doesn't mean I'm about to get married. The subject was never discussed. Makri, are you ready to fight?"


"What are you going to say when he does ask?" says Makri.


"Could we not discuss it right this moment? Thraxas, listen carefully. I'm convinced Lasat is going to make a serious attempt to sabotage Makri in this fight. I can deal with him and Charius, but the rest of their guild is here too, so there might be spells flying in from all directions. I'll need your to help to deflect them."


"Me? How am I meant to do that?"


"You've had Sorcerous training, I believe?"


"I got thrown out of Sorcerer's College as an apprentice. I only ever knew a few minor spells."


"That's not true," says Lisutaris. "You used to know more than that, before you dedicated your life to drinking. You can help if you put your mind to it. I'll give you a spell for detecting incoming attacks."


"Thraxas is going to help you with your sorcery?" asks Makri.




"I'm doomed."


"She may be right," I say. "I really don't think I'm up to it."


"Fine," says Lisutaris. "If you'd like to see me humiliated, Turai disgraced, Makri defeated, and Lasat elected as War Leader, why don't you just go and drink beer instead?"


"All right I'll do it!" I glare at Makri. "Now I'm going to get killed from a heart attack spell, protecting your skinny hide."


"I'm sure no one will be firing heart attack spells," says Lisutaris, calmly. "More likely they'll simply be trying to jolt Makri, to make her lose her balance. Anyway, you have your spell-protection necklace."


I can't say I'm feeling happy about this development. A good spell-protection necklace does go a long way towards nullifying hostile sorcery, but it won't keep out everything. Thraxas of Turai fears no man in combat, but I'm not that keen on being used as target practice by the Samsarinan Sorcerers Guild. Lisutaris takes a scrap of parchment from her purse and speaks to it. A sentence appears, though not in any language I know.


"Read this," she says.


"I cant understand it."


"Just read it."


I do as instructed. Lisutaris then says the sentence out loud, and makes a peculiar motion with her hand in front of my eyes.


"Now you'll be able to detect, attract and repel incoming spells," she says.


"What do you meanattract? No one said anything about attract."


"It's part of the process," explains the Sorcerer, blithely. "Once you detect spells, they'll come towards you. You'll have plenty of time to deflect them. A good half-second or so."


"What if I don't?"


"You may suffer some minor damage. Are you ready Makri? It's time for you to put on your armour."


Makri goes off to change. I scan the dense crowd, looking for hostile Sorcerers. There seems to be a rainbow cloak everywhere I look. The Samsarinan Guild has turned up in force. I find myself touching my spell protection necklace again, and wondering what exactly Lisutaris means byminor damage. As I lead Makri out onto the field I catch a glimpse of Lasat Axe of Gold, right next to the tower occupied by the Tournament Sorcerer. No doubt they're plotting something together. This time, when the Marshal raises his flag, I sprint back to Lisutaris.


"Are you ready?' she asks.




The fight commences. Gabril-ixx adopts a cautious stance, well-protected by his shield. Too well protected perhaps, as he's slow to react to Makri's attack. She gets her sword underneath his defences, dealing him a blow on the leg which is only just short of being called a foul by the Marshal, for too much use of force. He stumbles slightly, by which time Makri is round to one side of him, with the blade of her sword at his neck, a stroke which in a real fight would take off his head. Makri wins, in one of the shortest fights so far. She comes off the field smiling.


"I didn't give these Sorcerers any time to start firing spells."


We congratulate Makri.


"Shall we pick up our winnings?" says Lisutaris.


We have to force our way through the crowd, many whom are pressing in to look at Makri. I can hear her name being mentioned all around, and the name of Elupus too, wondering what will happen if they're matched together. That's looking more and more likely. Makri is through to the last eight, and I don't see anyone else standing in her way. Apart from the Samsarinan Sorcerers, of course.


"Next time Makri steps onto the field they'll be at it from the start."


"Probably," agrees Lisutaris. "We'll have to make sure we're ready."


I shake my head in disgust. "It's a sorry state of affairs. The Samsarinan sword-fighting tournament was always known for its honesty. When I won, there was no magic involved. Just strong-hearted men battling it out.Lion-hearted might be a better description. A man had to be something special to win the tournament in those days."


"Like you?" says Makri.


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