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Chapter 10 The Anger of the Dark

 When she said that, the man named Ged put his hand over hers that held the broken talisman. She looked up startled, and saw him flushed with life and triumph, smiling. She was dismayed and frightened of him "You have set us both free," he said. "Alone, no one wins freedom. Come, let's waste no time while we still have time! Hold it out again, for a little." She had closed her fingers over the pieces of silver, but at his request she held them out again on her hand, the broken edges touching.
 He did not take them, but put his fingers on them. He said a couple of words, and sweat suddenly sprang out on his face. She felt a queer little tremor on the palm of her hand, as if a small animal sleeping there had moved. Ged sighed; his tense stance relaxed, and he wiped his forehead.
 "There," he said, and picking up the Ring of Erreth-Akbe he slid it over the fingers of her right hand, narrowly over the breadth of the hand, and up onto the wrist. "There!" and he regarded it with satisfaction. "It fits. It must be a woman's arm-ring, or a child's."
 "Will it hold?' she murmured, nervously, feeling the strip of silver slip cold and delicate on her thin arm.
 "It will. I couldn't put a mere mending charm on the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, like a village witch mending a kettle. I had to use a Patterning, and make it whole. It is whole now as if it had never been broken. Tenar, we must be gone. I'll bring the bag and flask. Wear your cloak. Is there anything more?"
 As she fumbled at the door, unlocking it, he said, "I wish I had my staff," and she replied, still whispering, "It's just outside the door. I brought it."
 "Why did you bring it?" he asked curiously.
 "I thought of... taking you to the door. Letting you go "That was a choice you didn't have. You could keep me a slave, and be a slave; or set me free, and come free with me. Come, little one, take courage, turn the key."
 She turned the dragon-hafted key and opened the door on the low, black corridor. She went out of the Treasury of the Tombs with the ring of Erreth-Akbe on her arm, and the man followed her.
 There was a low vibration, not quite a noise, in the rock of the walls and floor and vaulting. It was like distant thunder, like something huge falling a great way off.
 The hair on her head rose up, and without stopping to reason she blew out the candle in the tin lantern. She heard the man move behind her; his quiet voice said, so close that his breath stirred her hair, "Leave the lantern. I can make light if need be. What time is it, outside?"
 "Long past midnight when I came here."
 "We must go forward then."
 But he did not move. She realized that she must lead him. Only she knew the way out of the Labyrinth, and he waited to follow her. She set out, stooping because the tunnel here was so low, but keeping a pretty good pace. From unseen cross-passages came a cold breath and a sharp, dank odor, the lifeless smell of the huge hollowness beneath them. When the passage grew a little higher and she could stand upright, she went slower, counting her steps as they approached the pit. Lightfooted, aware of all her movements, he followed a short way behind her. The instant she stopped, he stopped.
 "Here's the pit," she whispered. "I can't find the ledge. No, here. Be careful, I think the stones are coming loose... No, no, wait -it's loose-" She sidled back to safety as the stones teetered under her feet. The man caught her arm and held her. Her heart pounded. "The ledge isn't safe, the stones are coming loose."
 "I'll make a little light, and look at them. Maybe I can mend them with the right word. It's all right, little one."
 She thought how strange it was that he called her what Manan had always called her. And as he kindled a faint glow on the end of his staff, like the glow on rotting wood or a star behind fog, and stepped out onto the narrow way beside the black abyss, she saw the bulk looming in the farther dark beyond him, and knew it for Manan. But her voice was caught in her throat as in a noose, and she could not cry out.
 As Manan reached out to push him off his shaky perch into the pit beside him, Ged looked up, saw him, and with a shout of surprise or rage struck out at him with the staff. At the shout the light blazed up white and intolerable, straight in the eunuch's face. Manan flung up one of his big hands to shield his eyes, lunged desperately to catch hold of Ged, and missed, and fell.
 He made no cry as he fell. No sound came up out of the black pit, no sound of his body hitting the bottom, no sound of his death, none at all. Clinging perilously to the ledge, kneeling frozen at the lip, Ged and Tenar did not move; listened; heard nothing.
 The light was gray wisp, barely visible.
 "Come!" Ged said, holding out his hand; she took it, and in three bold steps he brought her across. He quenched the light. She went ahead of him again to lead the way. She was quite numb and did not think of anything. Only after some time she thought, Is it right or left?
 She stopped.
 Halted a few steps behind her, he said softly, "What is it?"
 "I am lost. Make the light."
 "I have... I have lost count of the turnings."
 "I kept count," he said, coming a little closer. "A left turn after the pit; then a right, and a right again."
 "Then the next will be right again," she said automatically, but she did not move. "Make the light."
 "The light won't show us the way, Tenar."
 "Nothing will. It is lost. We are lost."
 The dead silence closed in upon her whisper, ate it.
 She felt the movement and warmth of the other, close to her in the cold dark. He sought her hand and took it. "Go on, Tenar. The next turn to the right."
 "Make a light," she pleaded. "The tunnels twist so..."
 "I cannot. I have no strength to spare. Tenar, they are- They know that we left the Treasury. They know that we're past the pit. They are seeking us, seeking our will, our spirit. To quench it, to devour it. I must keep that alight. All my strength is going into that. I must withstand them; with you. With your help. We must go on."
 "There is no way out," she said, but she took one step forward. Then she took another, hesitant as if beneath each step the black hollow void gaped open, the emptiness under the earth. The warm, hard grip of his hand was on her hand. They went forward.
 After what seemed a long time they came to the flight of steps. It had not seemed so steep before, the steps hardly more than slimy notches in the rock. But they climbed it, and then went on a little more rapidly, for she knew that the curving passage went a long way without side turnings after the steps. Her fingers, trailing the left-hand wall for guidance, crossed a gap, an opening to the left. "Here," she murmured; but he seemed to hold back, as if something in her movements made him doubtful.
 "No," she muttered in confusion, "not this, it's the next turn to the left. I don't know. I can't do it. There's no way out."
 "We are going to the Painted Room," the quiet voice said in the darkness. "How should we go there?"
 "The left turn after this."
 She led on. They made the long circuit, past two false leads, to the passage that branched rightwards towards the Painted Room.
 "Straight on," she whispered, and now the long unraveling of the darkness went better, for she knew these passages towards the iron door and had counted their turns a hundred times; the strange weight that lay upon her mind could not confuse her about them, if she did not try to think. But all the time they were getting nearer and nearer to that which weighed upon her and pressed against her; and her legs were so tired and heavy that she whimpered once or twice with the labor of making them move. And beside her the man would breathe deep, and hold the breath, again and again, like one making a............

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