Table of Contents
Novels by MERCEDES LACKEY
available from DAW Books:
THE NOVELS OF VALDEMAR:
THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR
ARROWS OF THE QUEEN
THE LAST HERALD-MAGE
THE MAGE WINDS
WINDS OF FATE
WINDS OF CHANGE
WINDS OF FURY
THE MAGE STORMS
VOWS AND HONOR
THE COLLEGIUM CHRONICLES
BY THE SWORD
TAKE A THIEF
SWORD OF ICE
SUN IN GLORY
CHANGING THE WORLD
FINDING THE WAY*
THE MAGE WARS
THE BLACK GRYPHON
THE WHITE GRYPHON
THE SILVER GRYPHON
THE BLACK SWAN
THE DRAGON JOUSTERS
THE ELEMENTAL MASTERS
THE SERPENT’S SHADOW
THE GATES OF SLEEP
PHOENIX AND ASHES
THE WIZARD OF LONDON
RESERVED FOR THE CAT
*Coming soon from DAW Books
And don’t miss:
THE VALDEMAR COMPANION
Edited by John Helfers and Denise Little
Copyright © 2010 by Mercedes Lackey
All Rights Reserved
DAW Book Collectors No. 1524.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
eISBN : 978-1-101-44381-1
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
First Printing, October 2010
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
HECHO EN U.S.A.
For Betsy Wollheim and Russ Galen.
AGS slapped the palm of his hand against the blue-painted wood of the stable door, and it banged open, whacking into the frame as Mags hurried through it. The noise echoed through the stable, startling the Companions that were huddled together in the aisle nearest the door into backing up a pace or two. Brick walls didn’t do much to deaden sound. The chill wind that followed him through chased down his neck as the last icy grasp of winter clawed at him. Behind him, a few stubborn patches of granular snow lingered at the bases of trees and under bushes, but most of the ground was bare, which was a welcome relief after a winter season that seemed as if it would never end. The huge blizzard that had virtually closed down Haven, Palace and all, had been followed by snowfall after snowfall until Mags began to wonder if spring was ever coming.
Then, finally, the snow stopped, and began to melt. And now the weather was changing, but winter was definitely not going quietly. Occasionally a frigid wind showed that it wasn’t quite done yet.
Mags pushed the door closed, leaning into it as the wind whistled around the edges, before the spring latch dropped into place with a snick. He took a long deep breath of the comforting smell of the Companions’ stable; clean straw, clean “horse,” a hint of damp wool, another hint of woodsmoke. If “home” had a scent, this was it.
All of the pristine white “horses” in the building looked in his direction for a moment before going back to whatever it was they had been doing. For a moment, Mags was the focus of a sea of blue eyes.
The largest stallion in the building, who had presumably been chatting with two other Companions in the middle of the aisle between the stalls, gave him a long look down his aristocratic nose that Mags read as disapproving.
Bad manners to
. Just Not Done. Besides, You Let The Cold Wind In. Also Not Done. Hmph.
It wasn’t in Mindspeech, but it might just as well have been. The stallion’s ears were slightly laid back and he swished his tail in irritation.
“Sorry, Rolan,” Mags said quickly, ducking his head as the King’s Own Companion continued to give him the Stern Look of the Elder. He strolled under the watchful gaze down to the end stall near the door to his own small room and came face to face with his own Companion, Dallen. Horses—or Companions—couldn’t grin, but he sensed more than a little amusement from his bondmate.
:Don’t worry about Rolan; he likes to think that he stands in one place and the universe revolves around him,:
Dallen said. Dallen’s blue eyes shone with amusement, and while one ear twitched in Mags’ direction, the other pointed back toward Rolan.
A snort from the other side of the stable told Mags that Dallen hadn’t bothered to keep that little comment “quiet.” Rather than Mindspeaking directly to Mags, Dallen had communicated it openly so that every Companion in the stable could hear it. Mags grinned. There were times when Dallen’s cheekiness didn’t just border on impudence, it jumped right into the middle of impudence and splashed it all around.
:Rolan’s just being prickly. People have been banging through that door all day; and of course they let the freezing cold draft in every single time it starts to get a little warmer.:
Dallen reached over his shoulder and tugged his blue-and-white blanket a little higher on his shoulders with his teeth.
:This is why I am sporting my natty little rug, here. Of course some people don’t want to wear their blankets because they can’t show off their muscles, so when a draft roars in, they are the first to complain.:
There were whickers from all over the stable at that one. And another, louder snort. Mags smothered a giggle with both hands.
:THANK YOU FOR YOUR AMUSING OBSERVATIONS, DALLEN, :
came a very loud, ringing mind-voice, one that was probably heard all the way down to the edge of Haven.
:I’LL BE SURE TO RECOMMEND YOU FOR COURT JESTER.:
Now there were whickers from virtually every stall. Including from Dallan, who had no problem poking fun at himself. Dallen tossed his head and somehow managed for just a moment to cross his ankles and his eyes, inducing more giggles from Mags.
:Until this weather breaks, when I don’t need to be out with you I’m staying right here in my stall hugging the hay—it shields me a little from the blast of cold air each time someone comes in,:
Dallen continued complacently, as King’s Own Companion Rolan went back to whatever important thing he had been discussing.
:But I am well known as a lazy lout.:
“Not lazy,” Mags replied, getting a brush to get whatever invisible bits of dirt and hay might be caught up in his Companion’s shining mane and tail. “Just practical. If I didn’ have to go back and forth t’ classes, I’d hole up in m’ room an’ not move till it got true-warm.” He sighed a little. “Been so long since I seen a warm sun, I’m beginnin’ t’ disbelieve in it! Don’ wonder that Rolan’s tetchy.”
Dallen nodded vigorously.
:Oh I heartily agree with you. All those days of dark cloud and endless snow made people depressed and edgy, and now I think maybe some of us are losing our patience as well. It’s hard to be cooped up in here, knowing that Spring is taking its time in getting here properly.:
The stallion stretched, arcing his neck so that Mags could get at all the itchy spots with the brush as he did so.
:I’m not the only one wanting a nice walk out on a lazy hot day with the sun blazing down. Too bad that won’t happen for at least a couple of moons yet. And when I think about how it feels to have a good roll in long grass, and a gallop on a warm summer night—bah, I start to feel out of sorts too. Especially when I think about those gallops on summer nights, because I do look so splendid by moonlight!: