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The Lord-Protector's Daughter

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The Lord-Protector's Daughter

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Author: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Publisher: Tor, 2008
Series: The Corean Chronicles: Book 7
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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The Lord-Protector's Daughter is a standalone fantasy novel that takes place in Tempre, the capital city of Lanachrona on Corus, the world of Modesitt's Corean Chronicles.

Mykella, the eldest daughter of the Lord-Protector of Lanachrona, discovers that someone is diverting significant sums of money from her father's treasury. One of the ancient soarers appears to Mykella, telling her that she must go to the antique stone Table in the cellars of the Palace and find her Talent in order to save her land and her world.

From there, matters become more perilous. There are attempts to remove Mykella and her sisters from Tempre by marrying them off to lords in neighboring lands, and fatal and near fatal accidents occur to members of her family and trusted retainers. While Mykella develops a solid idea of who stands behind it all, every attempted solution is used to discredit her. How can she save their father and land?



In the late afternoon of Octdi, Mykella dismounted at the base of the ramp leading to the north end of the Great Piers of Tempre. The top of the ramp ended some twenty yards short of the squarish one-story stone structure that held the portmaster and his clerks. Immediately to the north of the portmaster's building stood the shimmering green tower that dominated the northern end of the Great Piers of Tempre.

Behind Mykella, her younger and taller sister Rachylana also dismounted, if reluctantly, as did two of the four Southern Guards, in their uniforms of spotless dark blue, assigned to guard them, for none of the three daughters of the Lord- Protector of Lanachrona went anywhere outside the palace without an escort.

Mykella hurried up the ramp, and Rachylana followed, the two guards bringing up the rear. At the top of the ramp, Mykella slowed and glanced back at her sister. "Do you want to come in?"

"Why would I want to do that?"

Instead of snapping that Rachylana might learn something, Mykella forced a smile. "I won't be long."

"Not more than a glass, I'd imagine. I'll wait out here." Rachylana walked farther west, her fl amelike mahogany hair barely kept in place by a dark maroon headband against the west wind coming off the water of the wide River Vedra. The wind was chill enough that the slightly acrid odor of the waters around the Great Piers was almost unnoticeable, and since the wind was directly from the west, it didn't pick up the far more odoriferous scents from the pens to the southwest where the towing oxen were kept when they were not hauling barges upstream or riding them downstream to begin the process all over again.

Two of the guards waited with Rachylana, as the other two followed Mykella.

The Great Piers were composed of the long base, an expanse of unchanging gray eternastone that stretched nearly a vingt from north to south along the east side of the river, and the more than fifteen stubby river wharves, eternastone fingers some thirty yards in length jutting out into the river. At the far south end of the Great Piers stood a second green tower, identical to the first, each soaring more than sixty yards into the silver-green sky. The towers were hollow shells, each with a single door at the base, but without stairs or any sign within that there had ever been any way to reach the top. Nor were there any windows or signs of any rooms in the tops of the towers, or in the others--identical--scattered across all of Corus.

More than half the piers had either sailing craft or barges moored to them. Carts and wagons were scattered across the short piers, some being loaded, but the majority being unloaded. Seemingly ignoring the chaos on the piers, Mykella walked briskly to the portmaster's door that faced the river and opened it. Two guards followed her step for step as she entered.

Inside, a squat white-haired man immediately rose and hurried to the long counter that separated the waiting area from the three clerks who appeared to be checking invoices for the purpose of levying the proper tariffs. One had only begun that process when he had seen Mykella, she noted.

"Portmaster Chaenkel," Mykella said pleasantly.

"Mistress Mykella, let me bring you the summary ledgers."

"Thank you."

At the left end of the counter, a grizzled bargemaster glanced toward Mykella and the pair of guards behind her, then looked quickly away and back at the clerk who stood waiting for him to finish declaring his cargo so that the form could be completed and the proper tariff levied--after


Chaenkel set the ledger before Mykella.

She began to study the entries for the week, of the sailing traders and the numbers of barges that had ported and departed, both those towed laboriously upstream, and those headed downstream with the current and guided by long sweeps. Most of those headed downstream were departing lighter than they had arrived, since, as the capital of Lanachrona, Tempre was generally a destination port, although wines from the Vyanhills and glassware from Krost were sought throughout the entire west of Corus, from frigid Northport to Southgate.

The total number of barges and other vessels was only three less than the total for the previous week, and the total of tariffs levied was close to the same. Mykella nodded and straightened.

"Thank you, Portmaster. How do you think the trading and traffic have been?"

Chaenkel furrowed his brow, then tilted his head. "It'd be hard to say, Mistress. Not all that different from last week. It seems about the same as it should be for this time of year." He smiled, ruefully. "When you get to be my age, the years blur, but I'd know if things were greatly different." He nodded. "That I would."

"Are we getting much trade from the east?"

"Not any more than one would expect now that we're into winter. No less, either, from what I've seen. A bit more iron from the Iron Valleys. Nightsilk--who can say? That comes overland and under guard."

Mykella nodded to that. "Thank you."

"My pleasure, Mistress."

Mykella turned. As she walked from the building, followed by the two Southern Guards, behind her Mykella heard the bargemaster.

". . . is she? Not seen her before..."

"Lord- Protector's eldest... checks on tariffs... since midsummer..."

Had it been for less than two seasons? It seemed longer than that to Mykella.

Once back out on the Great Piers, Mykella continued to where Rachylana was standing. Just short of her sister, she paused to watch as a trading vessel eased out into the current and spread its sails, struggling upriver against the current. Was the trader bound for Borlan or farther east, perhaps to Salaan, the easternmost river port in Lanachrona before the Vedra became unnavigable?

"What was it like, I wonder, when people could travel upstream without sails or oars?" she asked.

"Do you really believe those absurd tales about the Alectors? How could anyone?" Rachylana sniffed. "I mean... flying on creatures with wings as wide as sails, and on ships that had no sails or oars at all, and the River Vedra boiling over when it all came to an end in the Great Cataclysm. And soarers--little winged women who floated in midair, yet destroyed giant Alectors. In hundreds of years, no one has ever found the remains of anything like that. Really, I could write a better story myself."

"Perhaps you should," Mykella said blandly, knowing patience to write anything of length was hardly one of her sister's strengths.

"Why bother? Anyone with any sense thinks they're just stories for children."

"Then who built the eternastone highways, and why are the old buildings built so large?" asked Mykella. "We've both seen chairs in the storerooms that are too large for the largest man to sit in them, and the steps in the palace are all too high to be comfortable climbing them."

"It's all nonsense," rejoined Rachylana. "They're just ceremonial chairs built for past Lords- Protector who wanted to seem larger, and the stairs are to make anyone who enters uncomfortable in the presence of the Lord- Protector."

Mykella refrained from pointing out that an overlarge throne or chair only made a large man seem smaller, and a man of average size seem insignificant. Rachylana wasn't about to listen to anything that reasonable.

"You're done, now, aren't you?" Rachylana snapped, re-buttoning the top flap of her dark maroon jacket. "I'm freezing. It is winter, you know?"

"Barely," replied Mykella. Octdi was the eighth day of the week, the last full working day before the end-days of Novdi and Decdi, and this particular Octdi was the second of the winter. Besides, Tempre never got as cold as the Iron Valleys did, the forbidding lands that stretched northward from the far side of the Vedra, reaching almost to the Ice Sands that bordered the Aerlal Plateau.

"I still don't see why you need to come here every Octdi--"

"I'm checking with the portmaster to see how many traders ported this week, compared to the week before. The tariff ledgers in the palace just show the totals collected. It's not the same."

"I don't see why you spend so much time checking on river traders and talking to people like the portmaster... or those bargemasters." Rachylana offered her most serious frown. "You're the Lord- Protector's daughter, not a clerk like Kiedryn."

"If Father's brother can be Finance Minister, I can certainly supervise the accounting," Mykella replied. In any instance, doing that was far less boring than speculating about which son of which ruler in what adjoining land might decide to make an offer for her hand. Mykella preferred to avoid thinking about that eventuality at all.

"It's hardly supervising. Father's just letting you do it so that..." Rachylana's voice trailed off.

"So that what?"

"So that you'll know more about accounts when you get consorted, I suppose."

Mykella knew very well that what Rachylana had said was not what she'd started to say, but let it pass.

"Can we go now that you're done with whatever it was?" added Rachylana.

"You didn't have to come," Mykella pointed out. "Or did you think that Berenyt might want to escort us?"

"I thought it might ...

Copyright © 2008 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.


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