Michael Sullivan: Avempartha

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Michael Sullivan Avempartha
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Avempartha: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Michael J. Sullivan


Chapter 1: Colnora

As the man stepped out of the shadows, Wyatt Deminthal knew this would be the worst, and possibly the last, day of his life. Dressed in raw wool and rough leather, the man was vaguely familiar, a face seen briefly by candlelight over two years ago, a face Wyatt hoped he would never see again. The man carried three swords, each one battered and dull, the grips sweat-stained and frayed. Taller than Wyatt by nearly a foot, with broader shoulders and powerful hands, he stood with his weight distributed across the balls of his feet. His eyes locked on Wyatt the way cats stare at mice.

“Baron Dellano DeWitt of Dagastan?” It was not a question, but an accusation.

Wyatt felt his heart shudder. Even after recognizing the face, a part of him-the optimist that somehow managed to survive after all these dreadful years-still hoped he was only after his money. But with the sound of those words that hope died.

“Sorry, you must be mistaken,” he replied to the man blocking his path, trying his best to sound friendly, carefree-guiltless. He even tried to mask his Calian accent to further the charade.

“No, I’m not,” the man insisted as he crossed the width of the alley, moving closer, eating up the comforting space between them. His hands remained in full view, which was more worrisome than if they rested on the pommels of his swords. Even though Wyatt wore a fine cutlass, the man had no fear of him.

“Well, as it happens, my name is Wyatt Deminthal. I think therefore, that you must be mistaken.”

Wyatt was pleased he managed to say all this without stammering. With great effort, he concentrated on relaxing his body, letting his shoulders droop, resting his weight on one heel. He even forced a pleasant smile and glanced around casually as an innocent man might.

They faced each other in the narrow, cluttered alley only a few yards from where Wyatt rented a loft. It was dark. A lantern hung a few feet behind him, mounted on the side of the feed store. He could see its flickering glow, the light glistening in puddles the rain had left on the cobblestone. Behind him, he could still hear the music of the Gray Mouse Tavern, muffled and tinny. Voices echoed in the distance, laughter, shouts, arguments; the clatter of a dropped pot followed the cry of an unseen cat. Somewhere a carriage rolled along, its wooden wheels clacking on wet stone. It was late. The only people on the streets were drunken men, whores, or those with business best done in the dark.

The man took another step closer. Wyatt did not like the look in his eyes. They held a hard edge, a serious sense of resolve, but it was the hint of regret he detected that jarred Wyatt the most.

“You’re the one who hired me and my friend to steal a sword from Essendon Castle.”

“I’m sorry. I really have no idea what you are talking about. I don’t even know where this Essendon place is. You must have me confused with some other fellow. It’s probably the hat.” Wyatt took off his wide-brimmed cavalier and showed it to the man. “See, it’s a common hat in that anyone can buy one, but uncommon at the same time as few people wear them these days. You most likely saw someone in a similar hat and just assumed it was me. An understandable mistake. No hard feelings I can assure you.”

Wyatt placed his hat back on, tilting it slightly down in front and cocking it a bit to one side. In addition to the hat, he wore an expensive black and red silk doublet and a short flashy cape; however, the lack of any velvet trimming, combined with his worn boots, betrayed his station. The single gold ring piercing his left ear revealed even more; it was his one concession, a memento to the life he left behind.

“When we got to the chapel, the king was on the floor. Dead.”

“I can see this is not a happy story,” Wyatt said, tugging on the fingers of his fine red gloves-a habit he had when nervous.

“Guards were waiting. They dragged us to the dungeons. We were nearly executed.”

“I am sorry you were ill-used, but as I said, I am not DeWitt. I’ve never heard of him. I will be certain to mention you should our paths ever cross. Who shall I say is looking?”


Behind Wyatt, the feed store light winked out and a voice whispered in his ear, “It’s elvish for two.”

His heartbeat doubled and before he could turn he felt the sharp edge of a blade at his throat. He froze, barely allowing himself to breathe.

“You set us up to die,” the voice behind him took over. “You brokered the deal. You put us in that chapel so we would take the blame. I’m here to repay your kindness. If you have any last words, say them now, and say them quietly.”

Wyatt was a good card player. He knew bluffs and the man behind him was not bluffing. He was not there to scare, pressure, or manipulate him. He was not looking for information; he knew everything he wanted to know. It was in his voice, his tone, his words, the pace of his breath in Wyatt’s ear-he was there to kill him.

“What’s going on, Wyatt?” a small voice called.

Down the alley, a door opened and light spilled forth, outlining a young girl whose shadow ran across the cobblestones and up the far wall. She was thin with shoulder length hair and wore a nightgown that reached to her ankles exposing bare feet.

“Nothing Allie-get back inside!” Wyatt shouted, his accent fully exposed.

“Who are those men you’re talking to?” Allie took a step toward them. Her foot disturbed a puddle that rippled. “They look angry.”

“I won’t allow witnesses,” the voice behind Wyatt hissed.

“Leave her alone,” Wyatt begged, “she wasn’t involved. I swear. It was just me.”

“Involved in what?” Allie asked. “What’s going on?” She took another step.

“Stay where you are, Allie! Don’t come any closer. Please, Allie, do as I say.” The girl stopped. “I did a bad thing once, Allie. You have to understand. I did it for us, for you, Elden and me. Remember when I took that job a few winters back? When I went up north for a couple of days? I-I did the bad thing then. I pretended to be someone I wasn’t and I almost got some people killed. That’s how I got the money for the winter. Don’t hate me, Allie. I love you, honey. Please just get back inside.”

“No!” she protested. “I can see the knife. They’re going to hurt you.”

“If you don’t, they’ll kill us both!” Wyatt shouted harshly, too harshly. He did not want to do it, but he had to make her understand.

Allie was crying now. She stood in the alley, in the shaft of lamplight, shaking.

“Go inside honey,” Wyatt told her, gathering himself and trying to calm his voice. “It will be alright. Don’t cry. Elden will watch over you. Let him know what happened. It will be alright.”

She continued to sob.

“Please honey, you have to go inside now,” Wyatt pleaded. “It’s all you can do. It’s what I need you to do. Please.”

“I-love-you, Da-ddy!”

“I know honey. I know. I love you too, and I’m so sorry.”

Allie slowly stepped back into the doorway, the sliver of light diminishing until the door snapped shut, leaving the alley once more in darkness. Only the faint blue light from the cloud-shrouded moon filtered into the narrow corridor where the three men stood.

“How old is she?” the voice behind him asked.

“Leave her out of this. Just make it quick-can you give me that much?” Wyatt braced himself for what was to come. Seeing the child broke him. He shook violently, his gloved hands in fists, his chest so tight it was difficult to swallow and hard to breathe. He felt the metal edge against his throat and waited for it to move, waited for it to drag.

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