Naked Empire :: Goodkind Terry
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Naked Empire :: Goodkind Terry
Аннотация: Beginning with Wizard's First Rule and continuing with six subsequent fantasy masterpieces, Terry Goodkind has thrilled and awed millions of readers worldwide. Now Goodkind returns with a broad-canvas adventure of epic intrigue, violent conflict, and terrifying peril for the beautiful Kahlan Amnell and her husband, the heroic Richard Rahl, the Sword of Truth.
Richard Rahl has been poisoned. Saving an empire from annihilation is the price of the antidote. With the shadow of death looming near, the empire crumbling before the invading hordes, and time running out, Richard is offered not only his own life but the salvation of a people, in exchange for delivering his wife, Kahlan, into bondage to the enemy.
You knew they were there, didn't you?" Kahlan asked in a hushed tone as she leaned closer.
Against the darkening sky, she could just make out the shapes of three black-tipped races taking to wing, beginning their nightly hunt. That was why he'd stopped. That was what he'd been watching as the rest of them waited in uneasy silence.
"Yes," Richard said. He gestured over his shoulder without turning to look. "There are two more, back there."
Kahlan briefly scanned the dark jumble of rock, but she didn't see any others.
Lightly grasping the silver pommel with two fingers, Richard lifted his sword a few inches, checking that it was clear in its scabbard. A last fleeting glimmer of amber light played across his golden cape as he let the sword drop back in place. In the gathering gloom of dusk, his familiar tall, powerful contour seemed as if it were no more than an apparition made of shadows.
Just then, two more of the huge birds shot by right overhead. One, wings stretched wide, let out a piercing scream as it banked into a tight gliding turn, circling once in assessment of the five people below before stroking its powerful wings to catch its departing comrades in their swift journey west.
This night they would find ample food.
Kahlan expected that as Richard watched them he was thinking of the half brother that until just recently he hadn't known existed. That brother now lay a hard day's travel to the west in a place so naked to the burning sun that few people ever ventured there. Fewer still ever returned. The searing heat, though, had not been the worst of it.
Beyond those desolate lowlands, the dying light silhouetted a remote rim of mountains, making them look as if they had been charred black by the furnace of the underworld itself. As dark as those mountains, as implacable, as perilous, the flight of five pursued the departing light.
Jennsen, standing to the far side of Richard, watched in astonishment.
"What in the world…?"
"Black-tipped races," Richard said.
Jennsen mulled over the unfamiliar name. "I've often watched hawks and falcons and such," she said at last, "but I've never seen any birds of prey that hunt at night, other than owls--and these aren't owls."
As Richard watched the races, he idly gathered small pebbles from the crumbling jut of rock beside him, rattling them in a loose fist. "I'd never seen them before, either, until I came down here. People we've spoken with say they began appearing only in the last year or two, depending on who's telling the story. Everyone agrees, though, that they never saw the races before then."
"Last couple of years…" Jennsen wondered aloud.
Almost against her will, Kahlan found herself recalling the stories they'd heard, the rumors, the whispered assertions.
Richard cast the pebbles back down the hardpan trail. "I believe they're related to falcons."
Jennsen finally crouched to comfort her brown goat, Betty, pressing up against her skirts. "They can't be falcons." Betty's little white twins, usually either capering, suckling, or sleeping, now huddled mute beneath their mother's round belly. "They're too big to be falcons- they're bigger than hawks, bigger than golden eagles. No falcon is that big."
Richard finally withdrew his glare from the birds and bent to help console the trembling twins. One, eager for reassurance, anxiously peered up at him, licking out its little pink tongue before deciding to rest a tiny black hoof in his palm. With a thumb, Richard stroked the kids spindly white-haired leg.
A smile softened his features as well as his voice. "Are you saying you choose not to see what you've just seen, then?"
Jennsen smoothed Betty's drooping ears. "I guess the hair standing on end at the back of my neck must believe what I saw."
Richard rested his forearm across his knee as he glanced toward the grim horizon. "The races have sleek bodies with round heads and long pointed wings similar to all the falcons I've seen. Their tails often fan out when they soar but otherwise are narrow in flight."
Jennsen nodded, seeming to recognize his description of relevant attributes. To Kahlan, a bird was a bird. These, though, with red streaks on their chests and crimson at the base of their flight feathers, she had come to recognize.
They're fast, powerful, and aggressive," Richard added. "I saw one easily chase down a prairie falcon and snatch it out of midair in its taons."
Jennsen looked to be struck speechless by such an account. Richard had grown up in the vast forests of Westland and had gone on to be a woods guide. He knew a great deal about the outdoors and about animals. Such an upbringing seemed exotic to Kahlan, who had grown up in a palace in the Midlands. She loved learning about nature from Richard, loved sharing his excitement over the wonders of the world, of life. Of course, he had long since come to be more than a woods guide. It seemed a lifetime ago when she'd first met him in those woods of his, but in fact it had only been little more than two and a half years.
Now they were a long way from Richard's simple boyhood home or Kahlan's grand childhood haunts. Had they a choice, they would choose to be in either place, or just about anywhere else, other than where they were. But at least they were together.
After all she and Richard had been through-the dangers, the anguish,the heartache of losing friends and loved ones-Kahlan jealously savored every moment with him, even if it was in the heart of enemy territory.
In addition to only just finding out that he had a half brother, they had also learned that Richard had a half sister: Jennsen. From what they had gathered since they'd met her the day before, she, too, had grown up in the woods.
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