Michael Sullivan: Nyphron rising

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Michael Sullivan Nyphron rising
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    Nyphron rising
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Nyphron rising: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Amilia returned to the cell and, setting down the steaming pot of soup, helped the empress to sit up. She took the first sip to check the temperature then lifted the spoon to Modina's lips. Most of the broth went down her chin and dripped onto the front of her smock.

"Okay, that was my fault. Next time I'll remember to bring one of those napkins that lady was all excited about." With her second spoonful, Amilia cupped her hand and caught most of the dribble. "Ah-ha!" she exclaimed. "I got some in. It's good, isn't it?" She tipped another spoonful and this time saw Modina swallow.

When the bowl was empty, Amilia guessed most of the soup was on the floor or soaked into Modina's clothes, but she was certain at least some got in. "There now, that must be a little better, don't you think? But I see I've made a terrible mess of you. What say we clean you up a bit, eh?" Amilia washed Modina and changed her into her own spare smock. The two girls were similar in height, however, Modina swam in the dress until Amilia fashioned a belt from a bit of twine.

Amilia continued to chatter while she made two make-shift beds with the straw and purloined blankets, pillows, and sheets. "I would have liked to bring us some mattresses but they were heavy. Besides I didn't want to risk too much attention. People were already giving me strange looks. I think these will do nicely, don't you?" Modina continued her blank stare. When everything was in order, Amilia sat Modina on her newly sheeted bed in the glow of a handful of cheery candles and began gently brushing her hair.

"So, how does one get to be empress anyway?" she asked. "They say you slew a monster that killed hundreds of knights. You know, you really don't look like the monster slaying type-no offense." Amilia paused and tilted her head. "Still not interested in talking? That's okay. You want to keep your past a secret. I understand. After all, we've only just met.

"So, let's see…what can I tell you about myself? Well first, I come from Tarin Vale. Do you know where that is? Probably not. It is a tiny village between here and Colnora. Just a little town people sometimes pass through on their way to more exciting places. Nothing much happens in Tarin. My father makes carriages and he is really good at it. Still, he doesn't make much money." She paused and studied the girl's face to try to determine if she heard any of what she was saying.

"What does your father do? I think I heard he was a farmer, is that right?"


"My da doesn't make much money. My mother says it's because he does too good of a job. He's pretty proud of his work, so he takes a long time. It can take him a whole year to make a carriage. That makes it hard because he only gets paid when it's done. What with buying the supplies and all, we sometimes run out of money.

"My mother does spinning and my brother cuts wood, but it never seems like enough. That's why I'm here, you see. I'm not a very good spinner but I can read and write." One side of the girl's head was now free of tangles and Amilia switched to the other.

"I can see you are impressed. It hasn't done me much good though, well except I guess it did get me a foot in the door, as it were.

"Hmm, what's that? You want to know where I learned to read and write? Oh, well thank you for asking. Devon taught me. He's a monk that came to Tarin Vale a few years ago," her voice lowered conspiratorially. "I liked him a lot and he was cute and smart-very smart. He read books and told me about faraway places and things that happened long ago. Devon thought either my dad or the head of his order would try to split us up, so he taught me so we could write each other. Devon was right of course. When my da found out he said, 'There's no future with a monk.' Devon was sent away and I cried for days."

Amilia paused to clear a particularly nasty snarl. She tried her best to be gentle, but was sure it caused the girl pain even if she did not show it. "That was a rough one," she said. "For a minute I thought you might have a sparrow hiding in there.

"Anyway, when Da found out I could read and write he was so proud. He bragged about me to everyone who came to the shop. One of his customers, Squire Jenkins Talbert, was impressed and said he could put in a good word for me here in Aquesta.

"Everyone was so excited when I was accepted. When I found out the job was just to wash dishes I didn't have the heart to tell my family, so I've not been home since. Now, of course, they won't let me go." Amilia sighed but then put on a bright smile. "But that's okay, because now I'm here with you."

There was a quiet knock and the guard stepped in. He took a minute to survey the changes in the cell and nodded his approval. His gaze shifted to Amilia and there was a distinct sadness in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Miss, but Regent Saldur has ordered me to bring you to him."

Amilia froze, then slowly put the brush down and with a trembling hand draped a blanket around the young girl's shoulder. She rose, kissed Modina on the cheek and in a quivering voice managed to whisper, "Goodbye."

Chapter 2

The Messenger

He always feared he would die this way, alone on a remote stretch of road far from home. The forest pressed close from both sides, and his trained eyes recognized that the debris barring his path was not the innocent result of a weakened tree. He pulled on the reins, forcing his horse's head down. She snorted in frustration, fighting the bit-like him, she sensed danger.

He glanced behind and to either side scanning the trees standing in summer gowns of deep green. Nothing moved in the early morning stillness; nothing betrayed the tranquil facade except the pile before him. The deadfall was unnatural. Even from this distance, he saw the brightly colored pulp of fresh-cut wood-a barricade.


A band of highwaymen no doubt crouched under the cover of the forest watching, waiting for him to draw near. He tried to focus his thoughts as his horse panted beneath him. This was the shortest route north to the Galewyr River, and he was running out of time. Breckton was preparing to invade the Kingdom of Melengar, and he must deliver the dispatch before the knight launched the attack. His commander as well as the regents had personally expressed the importance of this mission before he embarked. They were counting on him-she was counting on him. Like thousands of others, he stood in the freezing square on Coronation Day just to catch a glimpse of Empress Modina. To their immense disappointment she never appeared. After many hours an announcement explained she was too consumed with the affairs of the New Empire. Ascended from the peasant class, the new ruler obviously had no time for frivolity.

He removed his cloak and tied it behind the saddle, revealing the gold crown on his tabard. They might let him pass. Surely they knew the Imperial Army was nearby, and Sir Breckton would not stand for the waylaying of an imperial messenger. Highwaymen might not fear that fool Earl Ballentyne, but even desperate men would think twice before offending Ballentyne's knight. Other commanders may ignore a bloodied or murdered dispatch rider, but Sir Breckton would take it as a personal assault on his honor, and insulting Breckton's honor was tantamount to suicide.

He refused to fail.

Brushing the hair from his eyes, he took a fresh grip on the reins and advanced cautiously. As he neared the barricade, he saw movement. Leaves quivered. A twig snapped. He pivoted his mount and prepared to bolt. He was a good rider-fast and agile. His horse was a well-bred three-year-old and once spurred, no one would catch them. He tensed in the saddle and leaned forward, preparing for the lurch, but the sight of imperial uniforms stopped him.

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