Race of Scorpions: The Third Book of The House of Niccolò by Dorothy Dunnett

By Dorothy Dunnett

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And there were the brigands, their horses beside them. The contents of the carts stood there also, or those very few chests that were left. One by one, they were being heaved down to the water. As Nicholas and his troop came in sight the last chest was released, the last pair of men swung themselves into their saddles and the small, well-armoured force set off along the bank, wheeled, and thundered over the bridge which lay beyond it. The air they presented was one of extraordinary efficiency. There was no time, then, to examine the fate of the Queen’s possessions.

He is a brave man. I agree. Go and tell my lord de Bon and my lord Pardo. ’ The girl did what she was told and, coming back, stationed herself at the window, her eyes on the barn, her hand tight on the shutter. Even in anguish, she kept her courtesan’s grace. The Queen wondered whether, impelled by true love, she had offered to ride with Ansaldo. If so, he had not agreed. The Queen understood the advantages of what Ansaldo was doing, but it seemed very likely that she was going to lose him, and his men, and the boxes, and get herself taken for ransom.

The fools stood as she had left them, hugging each other. The candles guttered, and a brazier smoked. She eased back a shutter an inch and saw that new snow had already covered the wheel-ruts that led to the barn. There was a sledge, and a painted barrow, and a child’s spade stuck by a well. Beside the barn, the snow had been rolled into boulders and given eyes and noses and buttons. A household of brats. In two years, she and Luis had managed no children: another failure of Luis’. It would be remedied.

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