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. At the time, Chane believed that Jilian had per-
suaded him... and Jilian had believed it, too.
The cat sounds were closer now, momentarily hesitant
while the big beast tasted the air. Chanc clung to his
braced position and felt chill beads of sweat among his
She probably still believes it, he thought. How would
she know that her father's villains accompanied me to the
edge of the wilderness, then waylaid me?
They had beaten and pummeled him, enjoying the
sport. They had taken his weapons, his coins, his boots,
his warm clothing. Everything that Firestoke had pro-
vided, they took - and everything else he had, as well.
"Don't come back to Thorbardin," they'd told him.
"Our sponsor doesn't want to ever see you again."
And they had harried his trail, to make sure he didn't
turn back. Day after miserable, hungry day they had fol-
lowed him, until he had crossed beyond Thorbardin's
realm into the wild lands.
Hunger weakened him, and he felt his braced arms
trembling. The purring rumble of the great cat was very
near, just beyond the final bend in the chasm. He took a
deep breath. "Come on, you blasted cat," Chanc said
aloud. "Come kitty-kitty-kitty, you tarnish-pitted carni-
vore. Come on and get it over with!"
Then it was there, thirty feet away, a sleek, stalking
predator of midnight black