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Waterdance

It's no wonder that Peri should possess some of the magical talent that her mother, the High Lady Kayli, is known for.

However, the young and impetuous Peri is determined to prove that her swordsmanship, not her magic, is her true calling.

But when she single-handedly rescues a prisoner from a Sarkond warrior's camp, she finds herself the liberator of a dreaded Sarkond heretic.

Now they must depend on each other in order to survive. And face the prophecy they are destined to fulfill -- together...

Book 2 of the Firewalk series

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Anne Logston

Anne Logston: An Icon of the Creative Universe—A Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy Quill—Paver of Past, Present, and Future. Each of best-selling author Anne Logston's books have their own story, but can all be described as all highly character-driven with a lot of action. Her characters, especially Shadow, often have a touch of whimsy and sly humor. While still maintaining a light touch, she talks about the consequences of racism, defining your own identity, and what happens when magic becomes mixed up in everyday lives.

"I was born February 15, 1962 in Indianapolis, Indiana and grew up there and in the country in southern Indiana. I started to write fiction as soon as I could put intelligible words on paper. I quickly learned to type so I could put intelligible and LEGIBLE words on paper. I graduated from the University of Indianapolis in 1984 with an Associate's degree in computer sciences, for which I had no talent, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, for which I had no practical use.

"After college, I spent six years masquerading by day as a bad-tempered but sane legal secretary, then coming home at night to assume my secret identity as a bad-tempered and mildly demented writer. After significant bootsole-to-buttocks encouragement from my best friend, Mary Bischoff, I reluctantly sent off my first manuscript and was blessed with a remarkably short search for a publisher. My first novel, SHADOW, saw print in 1991, and two years later I abandoned my "normal" life and descended completely into fantasy.

"I have a remarkably patient husband, Paul, who supplies the sanity in our marriage. Together we are owned by three cats, two dogs, and one snake. In my infrequent leisure time, I like to grow and/or cook strange and spicy things, and I am an avid collector of anything about vampires."


Chronological Order of the Shadow Series

Greendaughter (Prequel—Book 6)
Wild Blood (Prequel—Book 7)
Shadow (Book 1)
Shadow Hunt (Book 2)
Shadow Dance (Book 3)
Dagger's Edge (Sequel—Book 4)
Dagger's Point (Sequel—Book 5)

Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars seasons of summer

This was a very good book. I espescially liked the swordplay scenes. Atheris was A VERY complex character with complex thoughts and moods. I liked Periann's common sense attitude and perseverence...this story has a very good plotline and it was very well written.

A Kid's Review -- Amazon



4.0 out of 5 stars Good

Having loved Anne Logston's Firewalk, I eagerly pounced on Waterdance. Though pleased in general by the story, I found it to be much darker that its predecessor. Disfigured misfits, bloodletting, and dark assassins pop up frequently. This book's style almost had more in common with Logston's "Shadow" series than with Firewalk, though without the "kiddy" feel. ... Logston's greatness is sensed in the two major swordplay scenes. She captures the dance of swordplay quite remarkably. I finished the book in a day and a half, but allowed myself to return and reread the swordplay sections. If you liked Firewalk, you really should try Waterdance. It's a pretty good read!

Amazon Review


5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful

I always loved this book and all the author's other stories. I wish she had written more books. Her characters are approachable and yet appropriately foreign. The land is just obscure enough to not be ours but yet relatable enough to make it viable. I love her humor and her characterization.

LibKat "book goddess" -- Amazon Reviews



4.0 out of 5 stars Good

This book was about the daughter of High Lord and Lady Kayli. Peri, is with her Uncle Terralt when she decides to leave without a guard and go riding. When she embarks on her journey, she has no idea of the adventure she'll find when she rescues a Sarkond accidentally, learns of deep buried secrets and falls in love with her [biggest] enemy. A Sarkond.

Amazon Review


5.0 out of 5 stars A Strong Female Character To Remember

Periann, the noble heroine of this novel, is a woman to remember! The author, Anne Logston, creates in Periann a woman that we can all relate to. She worries about her family, is concerned with the way that she is perceived, and wants to do what is "just," even if it is not socially accepted. Atheris, her rescuee/love interest, is convincing and sets a contrast to her character. The author has created a complex civilization in this novel and has done an incredible job with imagery. I would recommend this book to high-school and above ages due to the presence of some graphic scenes. Needless to say, they are few and it is an excellent book.

Flame_926 -- Amazon



5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect romantic fantasy

I loved this book! For those readers who like their fantasy to have romance, this is the perfect one. The romance is strong and satisfying and the fantasy/magic element fascinating. Ms. Logston's world-building in this one and Firewalk is wonderful. She creates worlds that transport you there. I recommend Firewalk, but I enjoyed Waterdance the best because it's more romantic. I hope she writes a sequel with the same characters.

Amazon Review


5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Read

If you like your fantasy filled with romance, then Anne Logston is the leading lady. Logston manages to write books that are enthralling (and safe) for youth and adults. She has an excellent sense of dialog and her stories are always complete. Periann, daughter of the High Lord and Lady of Agrond, is on her way to her Aunt, High Lady of Bregond, to be prepared to take over that duty from her. Not the least thrilled, she takes a swift ride away from her guard to clear her head. Being the warrior that she is, she sees someone in trouble and rescues him. Low and behold, she rescues a Sarkond, the two other countries' greatest enemy. Atheris could hardly believe he'd been rescued by a Bregond. He's being chased by deadly warriors trained to kill, though, and can't wonder too long. Chased into the land of her greatest enemy, Peri is forced to trust this man and follow his lead. This book is a must for any Logston fan, but please read Firewalk first and get a good feel for the pride and history of those two countries: Agrond and Bregond.

MellyH "withthewookie"


4.0 out of 5 stars What a relief!

Waterdance was the most enjoyable book I have read in a long time. It's a jump-right-in, quick paced book that is impossible to put down. And those who are suckers for a romantic secondary plot, like myself, should find it all the more engaging. It's the perfect relief from all those slow, heavy, and depressing "classic" books so commonly read (and dreaded) in school.

swing_kitten -- Amazon
Excerpt

Chapter One

Crossing the border of Agrond, riding to her doom, Peri thought wistfully that the Bregondish plains knew no shame.

The hot, harsh wind known as Mahdha, the Breath of Bregond, blew through the razorgrass, stirring it to a sibilant rustle and sucking away the sweat from Peri’s neck. The hard-packed earth of the road still managed to raise puffs of dust at the horses’ and wagons’ passage. Somewhere to the south, a hawk cried in triumph that meant death for some other creature.

And that, Peri thought with a sigh, says it all. No hills, no trees, no rivers. No secrets, no politics, no compromise; everything straightforward, just life and death and get on with your business. Mahdha, blow me away from here, let me ride with you at my back—

She glanced over her shoulder at a familiar sound. Her cousin was hanging out the window of the carriage again. Vomit spattered into the dust.

“Uncle?” Peri called. “May we stop for the night? Kalendra’s sick again.”

Terralt, riding on the other side of the carriage, gave Peri a weary I-know-what-you’re-up-to look, but turned his horse around, holding up his fist to signal a halt. He rode around the back of the carriage, glanced at his daughter’s ashen face, and sighed.

“All right,” he said. “We’ll make camp here.”

Peri fought to keep from bouncing in the saddle with joy. She touched her bow when Terralt glanced her way again.

“Uncle?” she asked eagerly. “May I—”

“Oh, go on, then, Perian,” Terralt said crossly, waving her away negligently. He turned away to help Kalendra down from the carriage.

Peri hurriedly kneed Tajin to a gallop before her uncle could demand that she take a guard escort. This close to the Barrier garrisons, there couldn’t possibly be any danger, but her uncle Terralt would never believe it.

The caravan’s proximity to the garrisons and the Barrier had another effect, however—there was little game to be found. By the time Peri startled up a small herd of lopas, she’d nearly run out of patience—not to mention time—before her uncle, alarmed at her absence, sent guards out looking for her. Despite Peri’s surprise when the lopas scattered into the grass, Tajin’s speed and her skill with her bow were more than equal to the lopas’ swiftness; her first arrow barely missed, but the second brought the plump buck down cleanly. Peri had time for another shot, but refrained. One buck was all they could use (and all Tajin could carry), and Bregond did not honor the greedy.

The buck was indeed large and plump, heavy enough that it would certainly slow Tajin significantly. Peri considered bleeding and gutting the animal, then shook her head. The blood, mixed with herbs and grain and the chopped liver, would boil in the lopa’s stomach to a rich and hearty dish.

Why, it was her betrothed’s favorite meal

Not her betrothed anymore. That thought took all the joy out of Peri’s kill. By this time next month, her cousin Kalendra would be wed to Danber, and Peri—

“Well, it’s your own fault,” Estann had said sympathetically, sitting on Peri’s bed while Peri packed. “If you were determined to have a barn-loft tumble with Stevann’s apprentice, you shouldn’t have gotten caught.”

“We didn’t get caught,” Peri said sullenly.

“Didn’t get caught with hay in your hair and your skirts up around your waist, you mean,” her older brother said wryly. “At least there’s that, I suppose.”

“I didn’t—” Peri bit her lip. It had happened in Loris’s room, not in the barn loft, and they’d both taken their clothes off properly, but that was beside the point.

“I don’t see what’s so terrible,” Peri said hotly. “You were younger than me when you had your first lover.”

“That’s different, and you know it.” Estann had, in fact, celebrated his Awakening when he was thirteen, two years younger than Peri herself.

Isn’t that just like my family, Peri thought bitterly. My older brother has his first tumble and Mother and Father throw a festival. I have my first tumble and my life is ruined.

“Anyway,” Estann said triumphantly, “what would Danber think?”

“Nothing at all,” Peri retorted. It was true, too. Her best friend and betrothed had actually suggested that she—ah—acquire some experience on her own, since his own interests lay—well—elsewhere.

Of course, Estann didn’t know that; nobody did, which was the point. Lord Danber would be utterly disgraced in Bregond if it became known that he was a lover of men. He’d trusted Peri with his secret when they were much younger, and together they’d planned their betrothal. It had worked admirably. The High Lord and Lady of Agrond were more than delighted to pledge their daughter to the boy who would be lord of the largest horse clan in Bregond. Lord Danber would have his respectable marriage. And Peri would have the horse clans, the plains of Bregond, discreet lovers if she wanted them, the companionship of her best friend, and time and opportunity to refine her swordsmanship to perfection.

Tajin knelt on Peri’s command, and she wrestled the lopa up, pulling the tie straps taut with a little more violence than necessary. A month ago she’d had everything to look forward to. Now what did she have? A miserable hint of magical talent awakened by her one and only tumble, far too little magic to do anything useful with, but more than enough to swallow all of Peri’s plans and spit her back out into High Lady Kairi’s neat, orderly, and utterly stifling castle. That’s what she had.

Oh, and the memory of one awkward and rather disappointing night with Loris, of course.

Tajin struggled to his feet, and grunted under the added weight when Peri mounted; she made no effort to press him beyond an easy walk. Despite her uncle’s inevitable lecture, she was in no hurry to return to camp.

“My sister has never named her heir, and her advisers are pressing her to do so,” High Lady Kayli said with that unshakable calm Peri always found so infuriating. “Your aunt Laalen has never been strong enough for such duties, and Danine—she has never been whole in spirit since the war. Kairi can train your water sensitivity while she prepares you to rule Bregond.”

“I thought mages had to be trained while they were still virgins,” Peri had said sullenly. “Besides, Aunt Kairi can’t school me in healing, so what are you going to do about that?”

“Kairi keeps a healer at the castle to attend your aunts Laalen and Danine, and that healer will assist in your education,” Kayli said implacably. “Yes, it’s true that training traditionally begins well before you are Awakened. But because of the minor extent of your abilities and the nature of your talents, there should be no danger.”

“In other words, what you’re saying is that I don’t have enough magic to be of any practical use either,” Peri retorted. “If I weren’t the High Lady’s daughter, the best I could hope for would be work as a dowser or a midwife. But if there’s no danger, then there’s no reason I shouldn’t just go ahead and marry Lord Danber, is there?”

“There is only one,” Kayli said sternly. “And it is this: You have an obligation to use your gifts and abilities, no matter how minor, in the service of your country. Water magic is rare in Bregond, and your water sensitivity gives you an affinity with your aunt. This is the manner in which you can best serve Agrond and Bregond.”

Kayli took Peri’s hand in both her own, and Peri couldn’t help wincing when she saw the old burn scars dappling her mother’s hands. Kayli had earned her scars with no less effort than that by which Peri had earned the sword calluses on her own fingers or the hard, wiry muscles in her shoulders and upper back.

“I was glad to see you make an advantageous marriage of your own choosing,” Kayli said gently.” I was overjoyed that it was to be with your friend, and in Bregond. I know you have a vocation for the sword, and I know that in Bregond it’s easier for a woman to pursue those studies than it is here. I wanted you to have more choice than I did. But Kairi must have an heir, and the opportunity to give her one of my children, of mixed Bregondish and Agrondish blood, is too good to pass by. Your father and I thought it would take several generations to bind the two countries together, but with Estann on the throne here and you in Bregond, it could well happen during your reign. The people of Bregond will accept you because of the years you’ve fostered in the horse clans, and they’ll see the Awakening of your water sensitivity as a sign. Even half of Agrondish blood, even born in Agrond, they’ll accept you as Heir.”

Peri made a sour face, her fingers clenching in Tajin’s mane. If she worked hard enough at it, she might one day actually manage the most elementary water scryings. Her healing ability likely would amount to even less. If only she had kept her foolish mouth shut when she’d felt the rainstorm approaching from the east, or when her chambermaid, Arese, had mistaken indigestion for pregnancy.

But she was mage enough to feel an instinctive awareness of the Barrier not far to the north, like an itch she could not quite reach to scratch. If she stood in the saddle and squinted hard, she could see the faint shimmer of the strange magical wall that had guarded the border of Sarkond, allowing no magic to pass between the two countries, since not long after the war. She knew her uncle could feel it, too, as they rode west, parallel to the Barrier, and since his own mage-gift was every bit as uncontrolled as her own, albeit probably much stronger, he doubtless found it just as irritating. Small wonder he’d been in such a foul mood lately.

And, as Peri learned when she made it back to camp, his mood had undergone no improvement in her absence.

“There you are!” Terralt said angrily. “I was just about to send the guards out to look for you.”

“I’m sorry, Uncle,” Peri said with as much repentance as she could muster. “Tajin was tired and heavy loaded.”

“So I see.” Terralt examined the buck, then gave Peri a smile of reluctant approval. “He’s a beauty.” He waved to one of the guards, who reached for Tajin’s reins.

Peri clung to them stubbornly.

“I’ll take him over to Cook,” she suggested. “Then I’ve got to rub Tajin down.”

“No, you’ve got to wash up and help Kalendra settle in,” Terralt said implacably.

“Sparring after dinner?” Peri bargained.

Terralt sighed.

“Perian, I’ve been riding all day,” he said patiently. “I’m too tired for swordplay. Why don’t you wear out Captain Dorran instead?”

“Captain Dorran’s not nearly as good as you,” Peri said disappointedly. That wasn’t true, not exactly, but Captain Dorran invariably pulled his strokes with her, and besides, flattery almost always won her uncle over. “What about first thing in the morning, while everybody’s striking camp?”

Terralt gave her an impatient glance, then shook his head at last, chuckling.

“All right. First thing. Now go take care of Kalendra, and make sure she eats a good dinner. The Bright Ones know her breakfast will be all over the road within an hour after we leave tomorrow.”

Peri found Kalendra huddled on her pallet, surrounded by maids—one fanning her, one waving a vial of scent under her nose, one chafing her wrists, and two more just generally fussing.

“Go on, go on,” Peri said irritably, waving the maids away. “Get me a cold wet cloth, a hot wet cloth, and the ginger-mint tea Cook will have ready for you. Kala, sit up. I told you a hundred times, it’s worse if you lie down. And I told you to keep your bodice loose if you—”

“Bright Ones, Peri, I’m dying,” Kalendra moaned. “Don’t be cross with me, please.”

Peri took Kalendra’s hands and pulled her upright, then sighed. It was impossible to stay angry in the face of Kalendra’s misery.

“All right, then,” Peri relented. “Lean your head forward.”

By the time the maids returned, Peri had loosened Kalendra’s laces and was rubbing the base of her skull just below and behind her ears. She took the steaming-hot cloth and draped it abruptly over the back of Kalendra’s neck, eliciting a startled yelp; as soon as the cloth started to cool, Peri whisked it away, replacing it with the cold cloth, and Kalendra jumped again, then subsided.

“Oh, Peri, warn me next time,” she said, shivering.

“Better?” Peri asked.

“Better,” Kalendra admitted, accepting the cup of tea and sipping it. “Thank you, Peri. It always works, though the Bright Ones alone know why. If I’d known traveling would do this to me, I’d have asked Stevann for some real medicine.”

Behind Kalendra’s back, Peri made a face. Real medicine. She’d never be a real mage like Stevann. Just enough of one to ruin all her plans.

“Now, tomorrow, don’t lace up tight like that,” Peri said patiently. “Nobody’s going to see you anyway. And when you start feeling sick, hum.”

“Hum?” Kalendra laughed. “Really, Peri! What has music got to do with road sickness?”

Peri sighed and stood up. She couldn’t explain to her cousin how it was that she knew that Kala’s nausea came not from her stomach, but from someplace deep down in her ears; moreover, Kala would never believe her anyway, even though Peri’s suggestions gave her relief. Yet Kala would unhesitatingly drink whatever potion Stevann might have given her, never asking what herbs it contained.

Leaving Kala to her maids’ tender mercies, Peri gratefully joined her uncle at the guards’ fire. She and Terralt had arguedabout that briefly the first night; in the horse clans everyone sat as equals around the fires, but among the landed nobility of Agrond and Bregond alike, it was scandalous for an unmarried girl of noble birth to sit at the fire with men, much less common guardsmen. But since Kalendra and her maids preferred to keep to their tent, it was ridiculous to kindle a separate fire for Peri alone, as Peri had patiently pointed out. Besides, before this journey Peri had spent much of her free time with these same guardsmen, sparring with them or just sitting around companionably tending their weapons. Terralt, who disliked the company of commoners, was probably far less comfortable (and, if the guards admitted the truth, less welcome) at their fire than Peri herself.

“Ah, welcome, Per—ah, Lady Perian,” Captain Dorran said, glancing apologetically at Terralt. “That lopa’s a good fat one. Cook’s got the liver for y….” Then his voice trailed off again confusedly, and Peri grimaced.

Captain Dorran was Bregondish, and Bregondish custom dictated that the liver of a kill went to women of childbearing age. But Peri, soon to begin training in magic under High Lady Kairi, wouldn’t be bearing children for many years, most likely. So the choicest part of Peri’s kill, like her betrothed, now went to Kalendra instead. As if Kalendra was likely to appreciate either one!

Peri grimaced. Suddenly the prospect of a jovial evening around a campfire seemed less appealing. She forced a friendly smile.

“I’ll get some later,” she said, shrugging nonchalantly. “Right now I think I’ll have a look at Pechata’s hooves. I thought she was favoring her near hind.”

Pechata’s hooves were fine and nobody was fooled, but Captain Dorran gave her a sheepish smile and a hasty, “Thanks, Lady,” as Peri retreated to her tent and her pallet and, eventually, to sleep.

Peri was up well before dawn, enjoying one of her few quiet practice moments in a small cleared area behind the camp. She’d already inspected her sword carefully, slid the practice guard over the blade, and meticulously performed the lunges and stretches to limber her muscles and the meditation exercises to focus her concentration. Now she worked her way slowly through the defensive qivashim. The Deep Roots qiva and the Bending Willow qiva, those were the ones she’d have the most trouble with, but if—

“I see you got an early start on me,” Terralt said. He was squatting at the edge of the area Peri had cleared, his guarded sword across his knees. To Peri’s relief, he looked more amiable this morning. “What is that you’re doing?”

Peri scuffed her boot in the dirt self-consciously.

“I’m trying to invent a new qiva, an offensive qiva,” she said, flushing slightly. It was presumptuous and she knew it. Only two new qivashim had been invented in Peri’s lifetime, and those by seasoned adepts. “But there are a couple of the defensive qivas which might counter too easily. I don’t know, maybe if I lead in with something else, Leaping Flame or Summer Lightning ...” she shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe it just won’t work.”

“Mmmm.” Terralt stayed where he was, his eyes narrowed. “Unfortunately what I know of Bregondish-style swordplay I observed at the wrong end of my sword, Peri. But you have the steel in your blood, and if you think you’ve found something new, I’d like to see it. Show me what you’ve got.”

Peri flushed again, this time with pride at her uncle’s praise. Taking a deep breath, she began the initial steps of the Waterdance qiva, her confidence growing as the movements became more natural; then abruptly she disgraced herself by stumbling and nearly falling in the dirt, barely avoiding the utter humiliation of dropping her sword.

To her utter relief, Terralt only nodded thoughtfully, standing and walking over to join her.

“I can see what you’re working at,” he said slowly. “You want to break your opponent’s rhythm and throw him off balance at the same time. Problem is, I think you’re too daring in your footwork, and you’re throwing your own balance off at the same time. Come on, let’s see what we can do with it.”

Nodding, Peri settled herself in readiness, taking a deep breath, then danced forward to meet Terralt’s attack. They were practicing, not fighting, making no effort at a quick kill, only testing each other’s strengths and worrying at each other’s weaknesses. When they were both adequately loosened up, Terralt gave Peri a nod and fell into a defensive pattern, letting her take the offensive. Although Terralt had never studied the Ithuara and knew only Agrondish-style swordplay, he settled into a well-balanced stance surprisingly similar to Deep Roots—exactly what Peri needed. She fell almost effortlessly into the smooth rhythm of Waterdance, flowing easily around his pattern of defensive strokes, and—

—found herself abruptly on her back, the guarded point of Terralt’s sword at her throat.

Terralt withdrew the sword and held out his hand.

“Not bad,” he conceded. “Your blade work’s almost faultless, although I saw an opening or two you’ll probably close with practice. But your feet are still getting you in trouble.”

Peri took the proffered hand and pulled herself to her feet, brushing dust out of her face.

“All right,” she panted. “Again.”

Waterdance failed twice more, and when Peri grew too frustrated, they switched postures, Terralt taking the offensive. Defensive qivashim were Peri’s weakness, even against the Agrondish propensity to favor an unsubtle attack very like the Charging Boar qiva, but she held forth grimly, varying her defenses so Terralt could not find a pattern to break. Tall Grass against Charging Boar was too easy, he’d see right through that, but maybe Thorny Thicket—

“Uhhhh!” Peri grunted, all the breath driven out of her on a wave of pain as Terralt’s sword slammed into her side just at the bottom of her rib cage. She went down to one knee, still grimly holding on to her sword, and Terralt broke off the attack immediately.

“You think too much,” Terralt panted. “A first-year guardsman could’ve got through that. Too much theory and not enough drive, that’s your problem. Are you all right?”

Peri nodded, momentarily unable to speak. Carefully not clutching her injured side, she forced herself back up to her feet, raising her sword.

“Again,” she gasped.

Terralt sighed and sheathed his sword, stepping in front of Peri and pushing her own sword aside. He pressed gently against Peri’s ribs, muttering an oath when Peri could not suppress a hiss of pain.

“We should’ve been wearing practice armor,” he said, shaking his head. “I didn’t expect you to let me hit you that hard. You’re bruised right down to the bone. You’re lucky if I didn’t crack a rib.”

“They’re not cracked,” Peri muttered embarrassedly. “A wrapping and a poultice and I’ll be fine.”

Terralt firmly pried the sword hilt out of Peri’s hand.

“Well, you won’t be sitting in a saddle today,” he said. “Just as well. Kalendra can use the company.”

“Oh, no,” Peri said hastily. “I don’t need—”

“You will ride in the carriage,” Terralt said implacably, hefting her sword, “if you want this back.” Then he relented slightly. “If you’re doing well this evening, you can still go hunting.”

Peri ground her teeth, but there was nothing she could do but join Kalendra and her tiresome, fussy maids in the stuffy—“Oh, shutter the windows, Peri! All that wind and dust!”—carriage. Kalendra, however, was overjoyed at the company.

“You’ve had so little time to talk to me since we left Tarkesh,” Kalendra said, her eyes sparkling. “And our conversation will make the hours pass quickly.”

Peri thought miserably that, on the contrary, the journey bycarriage and the maids’ prattle would make the hours drag on interminably, and she was right. Within less than two hours Kalendra had gone from pink-cheeked to pale to ashen to greenish, and Peri knew she would soon be hanging out the window again.

“Tell me about Lord Danber,” Kalendra said determinedly, burying her nose in a scented handkerchief. “Is he handsome?”

Peri scowled. The last thing in the world she wanted was to talk about Danber. No, correction—the last thing in the world she wanted was to have to keep riding in this carriage, to become Aunt Kairi’s wretched Heir, and to have to talk about Danber. She sighed.

“All right,” Peri said. “I’ll tell you about him. If we ride outside.”

Kalendra protested, but Peri held out firmly, and at last the transfer was accomplished. The ride seemed less bumpy up on top of the carriage, although the swaying was worse, and Peri could at least enjoy the sun and wind she loved so much; some of the color returned to Kalendra’s cheeks, too, and under considerable pressure from Peri, Kalendra admitted that the nausea was less.

“So tell me,” Kalendra persisted. “Is Lord Danber handsome?”

Her mood somewhat mellowed by the change in seats, Peri leaned back against the trunks and bags tied to the top of the carriage.

“Handsome?” Peri shrugged. “I never really thought about it. I suppose so.”

“You never thought about it?” Kalendra said disbelievingly. “You suppose so? Peri, you’ve fostered with the man most of your life. By the Bright Ones, you were betrothed to him!”

Peri grimaced.

“Kala, you’re right, I fostered with him. He’s more like—like a brother.” More of a brother than Estann’s been.

“Well, surely you’ve—” Kalendra raised her eyebrows. “You know.”

Peri shook her head, fighting down a giggle.

“Never,” she said.

Kalendra scowled.

“You mean to tell me,” she said slowly, “that you tumbled a common-born apprentice mage, but not your own betrothed?”

“It’s different in Bregond,” Peri said vaguely. “Nobles—even if they’re betrothed—don’t lie together before they’re wed.”

Kalendra shook her head.

“And on your wedding night,” she said impatiently, “how were you going to explain your misplaced virginity to your husband?”

“Danber knew customs were different in Agrond,” Peri said truthfully. “We had an—understanding about it.” Although not the kind you’d think.

“Well, surely you’ve at least kissed him,” Kalendra protested. Then she smiled conspiratorially. “And perhaps just a little more?”

Peri grinned.

“Well—maybe a little more,” she said, chuckling.

****