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Protector of the Small #04: Lady Knight

by

Protector of the Small #04: Lady Knight Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Storm Warriors

Keladry of Mindelan lay with the comfortable black blanket of sleep wrapped around her. Then, against the blackness, light moved and strengthened to show twelve large, vaguely rat- or insectlike metal creatures, devices built for murder. The killing devices were magical machines made of iron-coated giants' bones, chains, pulleys, dagger-fingers and -toes, and a long, whiplike tail. The seven-foot-tall devices stood motionless in a half circle as the light revealed what lay at their feet: a pile of dead children.

With the devices and the bodies visible, the light spread to find the man who seemed to be the master of the creations. To Keladry of Mindelan, known as Kel, he was the Nothing Man. He was almost two feet shorter than the killing devices, long-nosed and narrow-mouthed, with small, rapidly blinking eyes and dull brown hair. His dark robe was marked with stains and burns; his hair was unkempt. He always gnawed a fingernail, or scratched a pimple, or shifted from foot to foot.

Once that image-devices, bodies, man-was complete, Kel woke. She stared at the shadowed ceiling and cursed the Chamber of the Ordeal. The Chamber had shown Kel this vision, or variations of it, after her formal Ordeal of knighthood. As far as Kel knew, no one else had been given any visions of people to be found once a squire was knighted. As everyone she knew understood it, the Ordeal was straightforward enough. The Chamber forced would-be knights to live through their fears. If they did this without making a sound, they were released, to be proclaimed knights, and that was the end of the matter.

Kel was different. Three or four times a week, the Chamber sent her this dream. It was a reminder of the task it had set her. After her Ordeal, before the Chamber set her free, it had shown her the killing devices, the Nothing Man, and the dead children. It had demanded that Kel stop it all.

Kel guessed that the Nothing Man would be in Scanra, to the north, since the killing devices had appeared during Scanran raids on Tortall last summer. Trapped in the capital by a hard winter, with travel to the border nearly impossible, Kel had lived with growing tension. She had to ride north as soon as the mountain passes opened if she was to sneak into Scanra and begin her search for the Nothing Man. Every moment she remained in Tortall invited the growing risk that the king would issue orders to most knights, including Kel, to defend the northern border. The moment Kel got those orders, she would be trapped. She had vowed to defend the realm and obey its monarchs, which would mean fighting soldiers, not hunting for a mage whose location was unknown.

"Maybe I'll get lucky. Maybe I'll ride out one day and find there's a line of killing devices from the palace right up to the Nothing Man's door," she grumbled, easing herself out from under her covers. Kel never threw off her blankets. With a number of sparrows and her dog sharing her bed, she might smother a friend if she hurried. Even taking care, she heard muffled cheeps of protest. "Sorry," she told her companions, and set her feet on the cold flagstones of her floor.

She made her way across her dark room and opened the shutters on one of her windows. Before her lay a courtyard and a stable where the men of the King's Own kept their horses. The torches that lit the courtyard were nearly out. The pearly radiance that came to the eastern sky in the hour before dawn fell over snow, stable, and the edges of the palace wall beyond.

The scant light showed a big girl of eighteen, broadshouldered and solid-waisted, with straight mouse-brown hair cut short below her earlobes and across her forehead. She had a dreamer's hazel eyes, set beneath long, curling lashes, odd in contrast to the many fine scars on her hands and the muscles that flexed and bunched under her nightshirt. Her nose was still unbroken and delicate after eight years of palace combat training, her lips full and quicker to smile than frown. Determination filled every inch of her strong body.

Motion in the shadows at the base of the courtyard wall caught her eye. Kel gasped as a winged creature waddled out into the open courtyard, as ungainly on its feet as a vulture. The flickering torchlight caught and sparked along the edges of metal feathers on wings and legs. Steel legs, flexible and limber, ended in steel-clawed feet. Between the metal wings and above the metal legs and feet was human flesh, naked, hairless, grimy, and in this case, male.

The Stormwing looked at Kel and grinned, baring sharp steel teeth. His face was lumpy and unattractive, marked by a large nose, small eyes, and a thin upper lip with a full lower one. He had the taunting smile of someone born impudent. "Startle you, did I?” he inquired.

Kel thanked the gods that the cold protected her sensitive nose, banishing most of the Stormwing's foul stench. Stormwings loved battlefields, where they tore corpses to pieces, urinated on them, smeared them with dung, then rolled in the mess. The result was a nauseating odor that made even the strongest stomach rebel. Her teachers had explained that the purpose of Stormwings was to make people think twice before they chose to fight, knowing what might happen to the dead when Stormwings arrived. So far they hadn't done much good as far as Kel could see: people still fought battles and killed each other, Stormwings or no. Tortalls Stormwing population was thriving. But this was the first time she'd seen one on palace grounds.

Kel glared at him.

“Get out of here, you nasty thing! Shoo!”

"Is that any way to greet a future companion?" demanded the Stormwing, raising thin brown brows.

From the Hardcover edition.

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crowyhead, August 22, 2006 (view all comments by crowyhead)
This was an excellent end to the Protector of the Small series. Keladry has passed her Ordeal and is now a knight awaiting her first assignment. There is a complication, however; during her Ordeal, the magical Chamber of the Ordeal sent her a vision of a necromancer who is creating fearsome killing machines. The Chamber has set her a task: find this necromancer, and kill him. But Kel has also been set a task by her more corporeal masters: she must manage the refugee camp of Haven. Kel is well-suited to the position; Sir Raoul trained her well to be a good organizer and to manage resources, and Kel has a sympathy and rappor with commoners that many of her noble-born colleagues lack. She knows in her heart that she is the best person for the job, but her visions of the necromancer chafe at her. How can she fulfill her promise to the Chamber if she is saddled with 500 refugees?

Tamora Pierce doesn't pull her punches when it comes to the fate of common people in war, and in many ways this is a rather dark novel. It ends on a hopeful note, however, and it's a very strong ending to a truly excellent series.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375814716
Subtitle:
Book 4 of the Protector of the Small Quartet
Author:
Pierce, Tamora
Publisher:
Laurel Leaf
Location:
New York
Subject:
Royalty (kings queens princes princesses knights etc.)
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
Children's 9-12 - Fiction - Fantasy
Subject:
Fantasy
Subject:
Knights and knighthood
Subject:
Action & Adventure - General
Subject:
Fantasy & Magic
Subject:
General Juvenile Fiction
Subject:
Children s-Science Fiction and Fantasy
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series:
Protector of the Small
Series Volume:
04
Publication Date:
20030826
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 7 up to 11
Language:
English
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
6.93x4.29x1.21 in. .47 lbs.
Age Level:
from 12 up to 16

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Related Subjects

Children's » Action and Adventure » Adventure Stories
Children's » General
Children's » Middle Readers » General
Children's » Science Fiction and Fantasy » General
Young Adult » General

Protector of the Small #04: Lady Knight Used Mass Market
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Product details 448 pages Random House Books for Young Readers - English 9780375814716 Reviews:
"Review" by , "This is an essential and satisfying book..."
"Review" by , "This eagerly awaited fourth and final book in the Protector of the Small series will not disappoint Pierce's many fans....this novel draws the reader into a complete and believable fantasy world."
"Review" by , "Kel's world is completely realized in quick, precise detail."
"Synopsis" by , Protector of the Small #4

Keladry of Mindelan has finally achieved her life-long dream of being a knight. But its not turning out as she imagined at all. With the land of Tortall at war with the Scanrans, she has been assigned to oversee a refugee camp. But Kel has had a vision in the Chamber—a vision of the man behind the horrific battle machines that her fellow knights and friends are now fighting without her. She is torn between a duty she has sworn and a quest that she feels could turn the tide of the war. . .

"Synopsis" by , Kel has finally achieved her lifelong dream of being a knight. But now she is torn between a duty she has sworn to uphold and a quest that she feels could turn the tide of war.
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