Barb Hendee: Through Stone and Sea

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Barb Hendee Through Stone and Sea
  • Название:
    Through Stone and Sea
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    ROC
  • Жанр:
    Фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2010
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-1-101-17148-6
  • Рейтинг книги:
    3 / 5
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Through Stone and Sea: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Wynn journeys to the mountain stronghold of the dwarves in search of the "Stonewalkers," an unknown sect supposedly in possession of important ancient texts. But in her obsession to understand these writings, she will find more puzzles and questions buried in secrets old and new-along with an enemy she thought destroyed…

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Barb Hendee, J. C. Hendee

Through Stone and Sea


PROLOGUE

Dusk settled over the harbor below Chemarré—Sea-Side—the western settlement of Dhredze Seatt, home of the dwarven people across the bay from Calm Seatt. A two-masted Numanese ship drifted up to its docks. As the crew cast lines to dwarven dockworkers, the vessel settled, with five cloaked figures waiting near its rail.

Three of the quintet wore polished steel helms gleaming pale yellow under the deck's lanterns. A glimpse of glittering chain vestments beneath crimson tabards showed through the splits of their cloaks. Each wore a long sword sheathed upon a wide belt of engraved silver plates. These three were Weardas—the Sentinels—personal guard to the Âreskynna, the royal family of Malourné in Calm Seatt.

Behind them stood one of the other two, easily as tall as they were, but slighter of build. This one's earthy -colored cloak with full hood hid his face but not the hem of a white robe around his tan felt boots.

The last of the five, standing before all the others, was much shorter.

Hidden beneath a hooded cloak of deep sea green, small gloved hands and a slight frame marked this one as female. She gripped the rail and peered over the ship's side and up the dock, as if looking for someone.

The crew gave these five a wide berth and hurried to unload a paltry cargo, as if their vessel had left its last port not fully loaded. By the time they finished, night had settled in.

The ship's captain strolled past the quintet and stopped a ways off. The broadest and tallest of the Weardas nodded curtly. That brief movement exposed the tuft of a dark beard on his squared chin. The ship's captain shook his head and turned aftward toward his quarters below.

And still the five waited—until heavy footfalls barely carried from shore.

The woman in sea green rushed down the boarding ramp.

She reached the dock before her panicked guards caught up and encompassed her once more. The tall one in the earthy cloak pushed close behind her as she searched the night for those footfalls. But all she saw were warehouses, other smaller buildings, and a trio of dwarves settled down to pipes and low talk.

Yet those footfalls never broke rhythm.

At first, the dockworkers gave no notice. Perhaps they thought it was one of their own coming on for evening duty. Then something passed through the edge of their lanterns' dim light.

It stomped onward like a broad piece of night on the move, and then vanished from the light's reach.

The closest dockworker jerked to his feet, overturning his heavy cask stool. His companions rose, but he turned the other way, peering shoreward and all around the port. Only then did he stare after those footfalls, as if the shadow heralded something worse he hadn't spotted.

Slowly, the steady steps breached the edge of the light from the ship's lanterns. Illumination exposed the silhouette of a broad dwarf.

At first, the light only caught on wild, steel-streaked black hair around a grim, wrinkled face. The rest of him remained lost, as if night clung to his massive form. An indignant hiss rose from the tall Weardas with the chin beard.

"You're late!" he growled. "I don't like my charge being forced to wait in the dark!"

"You are early, Captain," replied the new arrival, his voice like gravel crushed under a boulder. "And I do not care to be seen by my people … any more than necessary."

He drew closer, stepping into full view.

Standing as tall as the small woman, he was easily twice as wide and three times her bulk. Wild locks hung to his shoulders, framing the hard line of his mouth within a beard of short, steely bristles. Over char-gray breeches and a wool shirt, he wore a short-sleeved hauberk of oiled black leather scales. Each scale's tip was sheathed in ornately engraved steel, and two war daggers in like-adorned black sheaths were tucked slantwise in his thick belt.

This dark juggernaut stopped three paces off and blew a long exhale through his broad nose, full of disdain for his challenger. Then his black pellet eyes settled upon the small woman ringed in by her taller entourage.

"The new moon comes, this time with the year's highest tide," he rumbled. "Welcome again … Princess."

The woman raised gloved hands to her hood.

The movement opened her cloak, exposing a forest green skirt. The skirt's front was split around her dark brown breeches and calf-high leather riding boots. The hilt of a small horseman's saber poked out above her left hip. She pulled the hood back, revealing a mass of dark chestnut hair around a dainty face of even features that some would call fetching.

"Duchess … Master Cinder-Shard," she corrected him, but her voice quavered and broke. "Always … duchess."

Reine Faunier Âreskynna, Duchess of Faunier and princess by marriage to the royals of Malourné, nodded respectfully—almost reverently—to the dark dwarf.

"Toying with titles changes nothing," he returned. "It disrespects heritage. It is a princess of the Âreskynna who comes to the Hassäg'kreigi."

A soft laugh, like a lark in the woods, rose from the brown-cloaked attendant.

"Oh, spare us, Smarasmôy, you old ghost tender!" that one whispered, using the newcomer's dwarven name. "Preference of title will not crack the walls of propriety."

Master Cinder-Shard's dour expression flattened. He raised those black pellet eyes to the tall and slight figure.

"Chuillyon?" he asked with a forced scowl. "What impish prank did you pull this time … to end up on guardian duty?"

His caustic tone didn't hide an elder's shake of the head at some suspected mischief by a youngster.

"Not a thing, I swear," answered Chuillyon innocently. "I chose this duty."

At that, Cinder-Shard turned serious, almost worried. "Why not assign one of your order instead?"

Duchess Reine remained uncomfortably quiet, and Chuillyon pulled back his earth-toned hood and the white cowl beneath it.

Lantern light spread over a male elf's triangular face with the large amber eyes of his people, but he was no youngster to be chided. Chuillyon's golden brown locks, hanging past his oversharp chin, were faded in streaks. Prominent creases lined the corners of his eyes set around a narrow nose a bit long even for an elf. More lines framed his small mouth, perhaps as much from mirth as advanced age.

"How fares the Order of Chârmun," Cinder-Shard asked, "without your mischievous guidance?"

Chuillyon, whose name meant "holly," lost his soft smile. "As well as the Stonewalkers, I imagine … with such unknown times ahead."

Duchess Reine cringed, clasping her hands tightly together. She tried to breathe slowly, normally, but her effort was plainly visible. One Weardas, with a face too boyish for his stature, leaned around his captain's shoulder.

"Sir, we draw too much attention."

Reine's gaze slipped to the dockworkers down the way. Three dwarves stared with anxious wonder at Master Cinder-Shard and the gathering on the dock.

"Enough talk," growled the captain. "We go now."

"Tristan!" Reine admonished sharply, and then lowered her voice. "You will show respect for the master of the Stonewalkers!"

At her strained tone, everyone fell silent. Chuillyon laid a hand lightly upon her shoulder.

"Apologies," the captain said. "No offense intended."

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