Valdemar 09 mage winds.., p.1

Valdemar 09 - [Mage Winds 01] - Winds of Fate, page 1

 

Valdemar 09 - [Mage Winds 01] - Winds of Fate
 



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Valdemar 09 - [Mage Winds 01] - Winds of Fate


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Chapter One - ELSPETH

  Chapter Two - DARKWIND

  Chapter Three - ELSPETH

  Chapter Four - DARKWIND

  Chapter Five - ELSPETH

  Chapter Six - DARKWIND

  Chapter Seven - ELSPETH

  Chapter Eight - DARKWIND

  Chapter Nine - ELSPETH

  Chapter Ten - DARKWIND

  Chapter Eleven - ELSPETH

  Chapter Twelve - DARKWIND

  Chapter Thirteen - INTERLUDE

  Chapter Fourteen - ELSPETH

  Chapter Fifteen - DARKWIND

  Chapter Sixteen - ELSPETH

  Chapter Seventeen - DARKWIND

  Chapter Eighteen - ELSPETH

  Chapter Nineteen - INTERLUDE

  Chapter Twenty - DARKWIND

  Chapter Twenty-one - ELSPETH

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Author’s Note:

  MAGE-GIFT

  The ordinary young woman with the graceful white horse was—not ordinary at all. She was the bearer of an untrained, but major Mage-Gift; one so powerful it sheathed her in a closely wrapped, sparkling aura in his Mage-Sight, that briefly touched everyone around her with exploratory fingers she was apparently unaware of. Quenten was astonished, and surprised she hadn’t caused problems with it before this. Surely she must have Seen power-flows, energy-levels, even the nodes that he could See, but could not use. Surely she had wondered what they were, and how could she not have been tempted to try and manipulate them? Then he recalled something; these Heralds, one and all, had mind-magic and were trained in it. If they didn’t know what Mage-Talent was—it could, possibly, be mistaken for something like Sight. And if she was told that this was just another way of viewing things, that she could not actually affect them, she might not have caused any trouble.

  They have no idea how close they came. If she had ever been tempted to touch something....

  One thing was certain; it wasn’t a question of whether she could be trained or not; she had to be trained.

  Now the question was, by whom?

  NOVELS BY MERCEDES LACKEY available from DAW Books:

  THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR

  ARROWS OF THE QUEEN

  ARROW’S FLIGHT

  ARROW’S FALL

  THE LAST HERALD-MAGE

  MAGIC’S PAWN

  MAGIC’S PROMISE

  MAGIC’S PRICE

  THE MAGE WINDS

  WINDS OF FATE

  WINDS OF CHANGE

  WINDS OF FURY

  THE MAGE STORMS

  STORM WARNING

  STORM RISING

  STORM BREAKING

  VOWS AND HONOR

  THE OATHBOUND

  OATHBREAKERS

  OATHBLOOD

  THE COLLEGIUM CHRONICLES

  FOUNDATION*

  BY THE SWORD

  BRIGHTLY BURNING

  TAKE A THIEF

  EXILE’S HONOR

  EXILE’S VALOR

  VALDEMAR ANTHOLOGIES:

  SWORD OF ICE

  SUN IN GLORY

  CROSSROADS

  MOVING TARGETS*

  Written with LARRY DIXON:

  THE MAGE WARS

  THE BLACK GRYPHON

  THE WHITE GRYPHON

  THE SILVER GRYPHON

  DARIAN’S TALE

  OWLFLIGHT

  OWLSIGHT

  OWLKNIGHT

  OTHER NOVELS

  THE BLACK SWAN

  THE DRAGON JOUSTERS

  JOUST

  ALTA

  SANCTUARY

  AERIE

  THE ELEMENTAL MASTERS

  THE SERPENT’S SHADOW

  THE GATES OF SLEEP

  PHOENIX AND ASHES

  THE WIZARD OF LONDON

  RESERVED FOR THE CAT

  And don’t miss:

  THE VALDEMAR COMPANION

  Edited by John Helfers and Denise Little

  *Coming soon from DAW Books

  Copyright @ 1991 by Mercedes R. Lackey.

  For color prints of Jody Lee’s paintings, please contact:

  The Cerridwen Enterprise

  P.O. Box 10161

  Kansas City, MO 64111

  1-800-825-1281

  Interior Illustrations and maps by Larry Dixon.

  All the black & white interior illustrations

  in this book are available as 11” x 14” prints

  either in a signed, open edition singly, or in

  a signed and numbered portfolio from

  FIREBIRD ARTS & MUSIC, INC.

  P.O. Box 14785

  Portland, OR 97214-9998

  Phone: 1-800-752-0494

  Time Line by Pat Tobin.

  DAW Book Collectors No. 861.

  DAW Books are distributed by Penguin U.S.A.

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

  First Paperback Printing, July 1992

  eISBN : 978-1-101-12785-8

  DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED

  U.S. PAT. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES

  -MARCA REGISTRADA

  HECHO EN U.S.A.

  S.A.

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  Dedicated to

  the memory of

  Donald A. Wollheim

  A gentleman and a scholar

  OFFICIAL TIMELINE FOR THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR SERIES

  by Mercedes Lackey

  Sequence of events by Valdemar reckoning

  Prologue

  The Legend:

  Long ago, in the days of the first King, for whom the Kingdom of Valdemar is named, it came to the King that he was growing old. Now Valdemar had led his people out of the hands of a tyrannical monarch and had no wish to see them fall again into the hands of tyranny. He knew that his son and Heir was a worthy, honest man—but what of his son’s sons, and theirs?

  He longed for a way to determine who would be a worthy successor to the throne, so that Valdemar the kingdom need never become less free than it was at that moment.

  So he went into the fields and gardens beside the Palace, alone, and wrought what was half a prayer and half a spell, begging all benign Powers for their aid in this desire of his.

  And as the last rays of the sun died from the sky, there was a mighty wind, and a shaking of the ground, and out of the grove of trees before him came a being like unto a white horse. And it spoke into his mind-Then came a second, and a third, and before Valdemar could think to question why these came, his own son and his chief herald came to the place as if they had been called. And these two beings spoke into their minds, also, saying “I Choose you.” So did the king know then that these Companions would choose only worthy folk to bear them company, for all their lives-and that these folk would be the instrument of justice and honor for all of the Kingdom from this moment. So did he name those Chosen by Companions to be Heralds, for only one could be a Monarch, and only one could be the Heir, but all could aspire to be a Herald. And he had made for them clothing of white, like the coats of their Companions, so that all might know them at a distance, or in a crowd; and he decreed then that only a Herald could be the Heir or the Monarch. And he decreed that there should be one Herald always to advise and serve and befriend the Monarch, so that his decisions be tempered with another view, and that Herald was to be called the Monarch’s Own.

  So it was. And so Valdemar has prospered. The Heralds incr
eased, and the Monarch’s justice spread.

  The Chronicles:

  In the first year of Herald Talia’s investiture as full Queen’s Own, Prince Ancar of Hardorn slew his father and all his father’s men in a bloody and successful attempt to take the throne. He slew also Herald Kris who was there as ambassador on behalf of Queen Selenay, and imprisoned and tortured Herald Talia who was with him. She was rescued, out of all expectations, by the power of Herald Dirk, the young Heir Elspeth, and all the Companions together. Such a thing had never been known before, that the Companions would all add their strength to the Heralds to accomplish a task.

  Ancar then made a trial of the strength of Valdemar, using both magic and his private army, but he was thrown back.

  Some two years later, he made trial of the borders again. This time he was beaten back by the combined forces of the mercenary Company the Skybolts, under Captain Kerowyn; the armies of Valdemar; and the army of Rethwellan under Lord-Martial Prince Daren, who had come in answer to a promise of aid long forgotten. In the heat of the battle, the Prince and the Captain lost their horses and were both Chosen-and the Prince and Queen were taken with a lifebonding, a circumstance that both pleased and disturbed many.

  Our ancient enemy, Karse, remains quiet, for Karse is beset with internal troubles. Ancar makes incursions on the Border from time to time; nothing but feints, however. So it has been to this day, some seven years from the last battle, when the events occurred that I now relate....

  Herald-Chronicler Myste

  Chapter One

  ELSPETH

  “But—” Elspeth protested weakly. The empty salle echoed back her words faintly. She stared at Herald Kerowyn and tried to make some sense of what she’d just been ordered to do. Repair armor? Why should I repair armor? I don’t even know the first thing about repairing armor! And what does that have to do with anything? She sat down, her arms sagging beneath the weight of a set of worn-out leather practice armor, a set long past its useful lifespan, and smelling faintly of sweat, leather-oil, and dust. “But I-”

  “You know leatherwork, don’t you?” Kerowyn asked, her generous mouth twitching as if she were trying not to laugh. Elspeth squirmed uncomfortably on the wooden bench, feeling very much like a tiny brown mouse facing a bored cat.

  “Yes, but-”

  “You’ve seen me and Alberich repair armor before, haven’t you?” the mercenary-captain-turned-Herald continued with patient logic, arms folded across her chest. Elspeth looked from Kerowyn’s weather-tanned face to the dust motes dancing in the sunlight to the whitewashed walls of the salle in hope of finding an answer.

  She was unable to come up with one. She’d been put directly under Kerowyn’s command this week, in lieu of the “usual” duties of a Herald. Those “usual” duties-riding circuit on a Sector, acting as lawbringer, occasional judge, paramilitary advisor, and general troubleshooter-brought a Herald into areas of significant risk-risk the Council was not willing to take with the Heir to the Throne.

  So her assigned duty at the moment consisted of doing whatever Herald Kerowyn told her to do. She’d assumed her tasks would be things like acting as an assistant trainer, perhaps. Learning command tactics. Perhaps even acting as liaison between Kerowyn’s mercenary Company and the Council.

  Especially since the Council members still weren’t certain what to do with a mercenary Captain who was also a Herald.

  These were all things she knew how to do-or at least make a start on. After all, those were the kinds of things Heralds were supposed to do. They were not supposed to be repairing armor.

  “Yes, but—” she repeated weakly, not knowing what else to say.

  “You don’t happen to think you’re too good to repair armor....” Kerowyn’s tone held a certain silky menace that told Elspeth that someone had given Herald Kerowyn chapter and verse on the ill-tempered Royal Brat. Of course, the Brat was a phase she had long ago outgrown, but some people couldn’t seem to forget that stage of her life.

  “No!” she said hastily. “But—”

  “But why do I want you to repair armor-especially when it’s someone else’s job?” Kerowyn unbent enough to smile and shifted her weight to her right foot. “Let’s play ‘just suppose’ for a moment. Let’s suppose you are-for some reason-out in the back of beyond. Not even alone. We could have a situation like the one that brought me up here in the first place—where you’re with a fighting force, maybe even in command, but there aren’t any armorers around.” She gestured at the pile of leather in Elspeth’s arms. “Your gear gets damaged, and there’s nobody free to fix it. What are you going to do, wear something with a weak spot and hope nobody notices? Hope you can find somebody to fix it before the next engagement?”

  “Did you ever have to fix your own gear?” Elspeth countered. She had so been looking forward to a free afternoon.

  “I assume you mean after I made Captain?” The Herald laughed out loud, displaying a fine set of strong, white teeth. “My dear child, the Skybolts were so badly off that first year that I helped make armor. And arrows and lances and even some horse-gear. No, dear, you aren’t going to wiggle out of this one. Leather armor isn’t that hard to repair; merely time-consuming. So I suggest you get to it. As for how, you take apart everything that doesn’t look solid and replace it.” The former-and current-Captain of “Kerowyn’s Skybolts” nodded her blonde head emphatically and turned away toward the heap of practice armor that had been tossed into the “needs repair” pile.

  Resigned to the situation, Elspeth watched Kero toss her blonde braid over her shoulder, thought of her own dull brown hair, and sighed a little enviously. If I weren’t the Heir, nobody would ever pay any attention to my looks. Mother is gorgeous, the twins are adorable, my stepfather is the handsomest man at Court-and I’m the little brown sparrow. Why couldn’t I have been born looking like her?

  Kerowyn was certainly an amazing person. Lithe, strong, and with a face even her critics had to call “striking,” she would have had dozens of suitors if it hadn’t been for the fact that she and Herald Eldan discouraged even the most persistent with their devotion to one another. The Captain had been blessed with a head of hair as bright as new-minted gold and thick as a horse’s tail. And despite the fact that she was literally old enough to be Elspeth’s mother, it showed no sign of graying. Whatever Kerowyn’s past life had been like, it had left no outward marks on her. And from the stories Kero had told over the past few years, she’d been through enough to gray the hair of four women.

  For that matter, her present was just as hectic, and it hadn’t left that much of a mark on her. She juggled two dedications, Herald and mercenary Captain, either one of which would have been a full-time career for anyone else.

  And there are plenty of folk who think she should stick to one or the other.... Elspeth smiled to herself. Those were the same folk who were mightily annoyed that the Herald Captain wouldn’t wear Whites unless it was ordered by the Queen herself. She compromised-if one could call it that-by wearing the same kind of dark gray leathers the Weaponsmaster favored. And the Queen smiled and held her peace. Like Alberich, Kerowyn was a law unto herself.

  “Besides, you have all the resources of the armory at your disposal,” Kerowyn said over her shoulder, as she hefted another corselet in need of repair-this one of metal scale, a mending task Elspeth didn’t even want to think about. “You wouldn’t have that in the field. Be grateful I don’t demand that you fix it with what folks carry in their field kits.”

  Elspeth bit back a retort and spread the shirt out over the bench she was sitting on, giving the armor the kind of careful scrutiny she imagined Kero must have.

  Well, it isn’t as bad as I thought, she decided, after a second examination proved that some of the worst places had already been repaired. Evidently the Captain had taken that much pity on her....

  She bent to her task, determined to make as good a job of it as Kerowyn would.

  Her determination did not last more than a few momen
ts.

  Someone distracted her as soon as she turned her attention to a tricky bit of stitchery that had to be picked out without ruining the leather. A whisper of air was all that warned her of the attacker’s rush—but that was all the warning she needed. What Weaponsmaster Alberich had not pounded into her, the Herald Captain was making certain she learned, and in quick-time, too. And Kerowyn was a past master of the unconventional.

  :Gwena!: she screamed mentally, as she acted on what had become reflex. She tumbled off her bench, hit the hard wooden floor with her shoulder, and rolled. She came up on the balls of her feet, poised and ready, the tiny knife she’d been using to cut the stitches still in her hand. Her heart pounded, but from battle-readiness, not fear.

  She found herself facing someone who had recovered just as rapidly as she had; he stood in a near-identical pose on the opposite side of the bench, and she sized him up quickly. Taller and heavier than she, an anonymous male, in nondescript clothing, his face wrapped in a scarf and head covered with a tight hood, so that all she could see were his wary eyes.

  A thousand fleeting thoughts passed through her mind in that moment of analysis. Uppermost was a second mental scream for help to her Companion Gwena. Hard on the heels of that was the sudden question: Why doesn’t Kero do anything? She glanced out of the corner of her eye. The Captain stood with arms crossed, watching both of them, no discernible expression on her handsome face.

 
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