کتاب 03 - فصل 13

مجموعه: چهارگانه بخشنده / کتاب: پسر / فصل 45

کتاب 03 - فصل 13

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  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Thirteen

The silence came, lowering itself on him as if a curtain had been drawn. The rush of water behind him disappeared. The leaves on the surrounding trees still moved in the wind, but without sound. Gabe entered Trademaster. He found himself whirling through eons of time, destroying at random, screaming with rage and pain.

He became Trademaster. He was sick with searing hatred, and in the endless vortex through which he whirled, there was no comfort.

He understood Trademaster, and the deep malevolence that inhabited him. It was true, what he had earlier sensed, that Trademaster was inhuman. He was not a man but simply disguised as one. He was the force of evil, of all evil for all time.

Gabriel floated and spun within the veer, being part of evil, feeling the anguish and loneliness of it, of having been cast out again and again throughout history. Of gathering strength once more. Gaining power. Weaponry. Treachery. Cruelty. The feelings were strong enough to destroy one human boy, but he fought through them, concentrating on the knowledge of himself and his task. There must be something within the gift of the veer that would help him now when he emerged to face Trademaster for the final time.

Jonas was startled out of his fitful doze by a sound.

Claire was sitting up. The room was still quite dark, but he could see that she had pushed her coverlet aside. Her eyes were bright, and her shoulders, once frail and hunched, were now straight and firm.

“I’m hungry,” she said.

Suddenly, within the simmering wrath and agony of the veer, Gabe felt hunger. It startled him. Such a small and unimportant feeling—one he had felt himself often as he headed home to dinner.

But this, he realized, letting himself go deeper, to feel it completely, was not a yearning for a bowl of soup or piece of bread. Trademaster was starving.

Gabe remembered what Jonas had told him about this kind of evil—that it is fed by its victims.

He wants to know how his tragedies play out, Jonas had said. He likes to see how things end. He gloats. It nourishes him.

It came to him quickly and was so simple. Those who aren’t nourished will die. Those who starve will die.

Knowing exactly what he must do, Gabriel shed the veer. Sound returned. Trademaster still stood before him, sneering, in his cloak. Nothing had changed except for Gabe’s understanding.

He stood up straight and said loudly, “Remember Mentor?”

Trademaster curled his lip and laughed. “Blotchy face? Old, saggy skin? That miserable fool. Of course I remember him.”

“He was my teacher.”

“I ruined him.”

“No. You ruined him for a while. But he’s himself again. He has his honor back. He’s happy.”

On hearing Gabe’s words, Trademaster gasped slightly. He clutched his stomach as if a sharp pain had stabbed him. Or perhaps a gnawing ache? Hunger?

“Remember someone named Einar?”

Gabe had recoiled in horror when Jonas had related Einar’s terrible history to him. Now he watched Trademaster’s face. “He’s the one who turned you down, remember? He said no to a trade!” Trademaster spat on the ground. He laughed in contempt. “I destroyed him.”

“You didn’t, actually,” Gabe told him calmly. “He made a good life for himself.”

“The life of a cripple?” Trademaster taunted, and briefly imitated Einar’s lurching walk.

“No. The life of a good man. He knows each lamb by name. He can make the sounds of every bird.

“And a beautiful girl fell in love with him,” Gabe added.

Trademaster groaned. He sank onto one knee. His cloak flapped around him, too large suddenly, as if the man inside had shrunk.

“You remember her, I know. Her name was Claire,” Gabe said. “She was looking for her little boy. And you know what? She found me, Trademaster.

“She was willing to give you everything she had. And you took it from her. You took her youth, and her beauty, and her energy and her health—”

For a moment, thinking of his mother, Gabe couldn’t continue speaking. He fell silent and choked back tears. Then he took a deep breath and went on, “—and it didn’t matter. We found each other. None of it mattered but that.

“You won’t ever know what that’s like, to love someone. In a way, I pity you. But I hope you starve.”

Gabe found himself looking down on his enemy, who was hunched over on the ground, whimpering.

His voice, which had earlier been low and sinuous, now gave a loud drawn-out howl, as if of grief. His eyes were closed, but he groped in the dark for the weapons that had been discarded on the ground. When he touched them, he howled again. At that moment, the moon once more emerged from dissipating clouds and the wind fell still. In the new light, Gabe could see that the weapons had changed. They were broken toys, bits of rusted tin, as if a careless child had left them out in the rain.

“Your power is gone,” Gabe said.

The only response was a moan. As Gabe watched, Trademaster shrank further. Soon he had become a formless, unidentifiable heap of something that smelled of rot.

Gabe nudged with his toe at what was left. It had never been human—he knew that. Now it fell away when he touched it with his foot, and became nothing. He stared at it for a long time as the night lifted and dawn seeped into the sky. Then he found a sharp rock and dug into the earth until he had made a hole just the right size. He planted his paddle there and banked the damp earth around it so that it stood and marked the place where Evil had been vanquished.

Then he turned and looked at the river and at the pale wisps of smoke coming from chimneys in the village beyond. It was, all of it, familiar and beckoning and safe. He lowered himself into the gently flowing water and swam easily across.

Sunrise woke Jonas. He had fallen asleep in the chair after feeding Claire some of the soup that Kira had brought. She had murmured a thank-you. Then he had tucked the blanket around her and waited there beside the bed while she resumed her sleep. Her breathing was stronger. He realized that tonight would not be the night of her death after all.

Was there a chance that somehow Gabe—? Jonas didn’t allow himself to finish the thought. For a moment he had simply watched Claire sleep, marveling at her resilience. Then he had returned to his chair and his worry about the boy.

Now, waking, he was stiff and disoriented. He yawned, stretched, and looked around, confused, then remembered Claire and rushed to the bed. But it was empty, the covers thrown back.

The door to the cottage was open. She was standing there in her nightdress, breathing deeply of the daybreak air. She was tall and slender, with coppery hair that fell in curls around her shoulders. Hearing him, she turned to Jonas and smiled.

He thought he heard her say, “I see the sun.”

Indeed, the sky was pink with dawn light. Then Jonas looked past Claire and saw Gabe approaching on the path.

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