Many legends have emerged from the shadows of Ironhall, yet surely none can surpass the greatness and glory predestined for Sir Beaumont -- possessor of the purest and strongest of hearts, and a mind as quick, keen, and accurate as his sword. But the day he sets out in the service of the elderly Lord Wassail turns to a black one, and young Beau's journey ends in horror and blood ... and disgrace. Banished from the King's Blades, he now faces a grim future as a homeless pariah, a creature to be shunned and despised. But redemption can come from unexpected directions and in unrecognizable guises. Approached in secret by the legendary Durendal, now Grand Master of the Order, the dishonored paragon is offered one last chance to win back his weapon and his place among his brothers in arms. But to do so, Beau must ride alone back through the icy gates of Hell ... and do battle with the Devil himself.
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July 29, 2003
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Excerpt from Paragon Lost by Dave Duncan
At Gossips' Corner
" 1 "
"Isabelle!" Mistress Snider screeched. "Are you deaf?"
Isabelle was not deaf, but she would have had good cause to be, working in this kitchen. On one side of her Nel was chopping up salt pork with a hatchet, on the other Ed pounded dried fish with a mallet it took hours of pounding and soaking to make it even close to edible. At her back, Lackwit was powdering salt just as loudly. Lids danced and clattered on boiling pots, the pump handle squeaked, drudges were rattling sea coal into the great brick ovens and raking out ashes. The door, left open to admit cool air and flies, led to the stable yard where the farrier was shoeing a horse. Deaf? Not at all.
"And what're you doing with all that cinnamon?" The old harpy waxed louder and shriller. Mistress Snider was tall and stooped, tapering from grotesquely wide hips up to a small, mean face shriveled around a beak nose.
"I am making a dipping sauce as you told me to!" Isabelle shouted back. "Cameline sauce, with ginger and raisins and nuts, with cinnamon and pepper, but how you expect me to do it with no cloves, no cardamon"
"Not so much cinnamon! You think we're made of money here? Stale bread and vinegar, that's what makes a sauce, girl. Use up some of those herbs before they rot completely. A man wants you! A gentleman is asking for your husband." The old horror canted her head to peer at Isabelle with one glittery eye, oozing dislike. "And be quick back. I need that sauce done right. And soon!"
With difficulty, Isabelle held back some truths as unpalatable as Mistress Snider's food. The woman skimped ridiculously, but all Chivians tried to get by with inferior ingredients smothered in peppery sauces. In Isilond, one began with a good piece of meat and used only enough seasoning to bring out its natural flavor. She wiped her hands on her apron.
"He's waiting in the King's Room. You hurry back. Don't expect me to pay you when you're not working."
No, Isabelle would be paying her for the privilege of speaking with a potential client. She set off on the perilous trek to the door, watching out for scavenging dogs and people hurrying with hot pans, for her balance was not as certain as it used to be. Fortunately, the baby never made her nauseated, although she lived in that horrible kitchen from before dawn until after nightfall. She had nightmares of giving birth there. But a gentleman looking for Beau might mean a client and real wages, instead of the pittance he earned in the yard by day and serving beer at night.