Table of Contents
Raves for the Previous Valdemar Anthologies:
“Fans of Lackey’s epic Valdemar series will devour this superb anthology. Of the thirteen stories included, there is no weak link—an attribute exceedingly rare in collections of this sort. Highly recommended.”
The Barnes and Noble Review
“This high-quality anthology mixes pieces by experienced authors and enthusiastic fans of editor Lackey’s Valdemar. Valdemar fandom, especially, will revel in this sterling example of what such a mixture of fans’ and pros’ work can be. Engrossing even for newcomers to Valdemar.”—
“Josepha Sherman, Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, and Michelle West have quite good stories, and there’s another by Lackey herself. Familiarity with the series helps but is not a prerequisite to enjoying this book.”—
Science Fiction Chronicle
“Each tale adheres to the Lackey laws of the realm yet provides each author’s personal stamp on the story. Well written and fun, Valdemarites will especially appreciate the magic of this book.”
—The Midwest Book Review
NOVELS BY MERCEDES LACKEY available from DAW Books
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
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
And don’t miss:
THE VALDEMAR COMPANION
Edited by John Helfers and Denise Little
Copyright © 2008 by Mercedes Lackey and Tekno Books
All Rights Reserved
DAW Book Collectors No. 1457
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).
eISBN : 978-1-101-49434-9
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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, December 2008
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
HECHO EN U.S.A.
“Moving Targets,” copyright © 2008 by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon
“An Unexpected Guest,” copyright © 2008 by Nancy Asire
“The Power of Three,” copyright © 2008 by Brenda Cooper
“What Fire Is,” copyright © 2008 by Janni Lee Simner
“Dreams of Mountain Clover,” copyright © 2008 by Mickey Zucker Reichert
“The Cheat,” copyright © 2008 by Richard Lee Byers
“A Dream Deferred,” copyright © 2008 by Kristin Schwengel
“The Sworddancer,” copyright © 2008 by Michael Z. Williamson
“Broken Bones,” copyright © 2008 by Stephanie Shaver
“Live On,” copyright © 2008 by Tanya Huff
“Passage at Arms,” copyright © 2008 by Rosemary Edghill
“Heart, Home and Hearth,” copyright © 2008 by Sarah Hoyt and Kate Paulk
“Haven’s Own,” copyright © 2008 by Fiona Patton
“Widdershins,” copyright © 2008 by Judith Tarr
by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon
Mercedes Lackey is a full-time writer and has published numerous novels, including the best-selling Heralds of Valdemar series. She is also a professional lyricist and a licensed wild bird rehabilitator.
Larry Dixon is the husband of Mercedes Lackey, and a successful artist as well as science fiction writer. He and Mercedes live in Oklahoma.
Herald Elyn refrained from tearing her hair out. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t used to these four. They’d been assigned to her in a bunch when they’d all first been Chosen. They’d gotten into trouble in and around Haven as a group, and now, four years later, it would have been reasonable to assume that this foursome was beyond being able to surprise her.
It would be reasonable to assume that. Reasonable, but, unfortunately, wrong.
Elyn stared at the wagon, hoping it was a hallucination. It wasn’t.
It was a traders-caravan built to the specifications of a rich man with vague notions of “the romance of the open road.” So it was big, big enough that it took two stout horses to pull it. Expensive leaf springs sandwiched between wishbone axles peeked from behind carved, bent-wood coachwork. It was luxuriously appointed within. And without.
It was yellow. Bright yellow. And there were flowers painted on it, scrolling around the windows and door. The roof was red.
Elyn groaned silently. Heralds were supposed to try to be inconspicuous. Hard enough when you were wearing a white uniform that screamed: “I’m the Herald! Shoot me first!” But with this? They’d look like a lot of traveling actors. Or clowns. Would people even believe they
Heralds and not just entertainers dressed up as Heralds?
“We could have it repainted,” said Trainee Laurel helpfully, gleefully gesturing at the wagon and then standing with one hand on her hip. “In fact, we probably should. White, with a blue roof. And with the crest of Valdemar on the side. The people would love that!”
Elyn had to admit that she was probably right about that last part. Laurel was a pretty thing with abundant red hair, kind hearted, with a formidable Gift that was from some place in the Empathy family. She could make anyone like her and want to do what
wanted. Fortunately, she had a strong code of ethics. Unfortunately, she tended to think the best of
. They’d quickly learned not to allow her any say in judgments after she pleaded in favor of a violent murderer, who had been caught literally red-handed, by saying that his mother didn’t think he’d do that kind of thing.
Repaint it white. As if that will make us less of a moving target?
At least no enemy would ever take this wagon seriously. “We don’t have time,” Elyn said, truthfully. “It would have to be sanded down to the bare wood. Otherwise, everything else will bleed right through.”
“Blue. Dark blue.
dark blue, no decorations. I already have the paint, and I rounded up the workmen,” Trainee Alma said as she trotted up with two of the palace carpenters in tow, each of them carrying two buckets of dark blue paint. “I calculated it very carefully. One coat will do it. Night Blue cut one-to-three with Sky Blue has a drying index of six candlemarks, with a twelve-candlemark cure, and has an unprimed saturation well within limits. There will be plenty of time for it to dry before we leave tomorrow.” She waved a clipboard of papers and punctuated her statement with a firm nod that proclaimed that questioning her figures was inadvisable under pain of explanation. Boyish, bookish Alma had been an Artificer-in-training before she had been Chosen; she made up for Laurel’s lack of practicality and then some. Strong-willed, rock-steady, and blindingly intelligent, she was always searching for the most ordinary explanation for the extraordinary. She also had no discernable Gift. Elyn sometimes wondered if that was because Alma herself had not yet mathematically proven she had one.
“Aww. Do we have to paint it?” Trainee Arville asked plaintively. “I think it’s nice.” He was the tallest young man Elyn had ever seen, but you would never know it, because he was always slouching. He always looked a little unkempt. Not dirty, but untidy. Except when in his Whites, he could only be found in faded earth-tone field-laborer clothes, none of which seemed to be his size even if they were. Elyn knew he didn’t do it out of carelessness or because he was slovenly. It was as if everything he put on immediately had a mind of its own, and that mind was half-asleep.
His Gift was as powerful as Laurel’s and as odd. It was a rare Gift and extremely difficult to train for. Luck. He could trip and fall and come up not only unhurt, but clutching something useful, important, or occasionally even valuable. He was almost never hit during fighting practice, not because he was good but because his opponents always made inexplicable mistakes. Small children and animals adored him.
“Yes, Arville, we do,” Alma said firmly. “Otherwise no one will take us seriously.”
The fourth member of the quartet shrugged. “I doubt Father would care if we painted it pink,” Trainee Rod pointed out. Laurel opened her mouth to speak, but when Elyn shot Laurel a look that said
don’t even think it
, she decided against it. Rod continued. “I doubt he even knows what color it is now. He probably just threw money at a bunch of coach-makers and said, ‘Build me the best traveling van anyone has ever seen.’ What matters is that the horses he sent along are terrific.” Trainee Rod ... or rather, Rod’s father ... was wealthy enough that he could do things like that. Rod should have been spoiled rotten. He wasn’t. Rod’s father should have been livid that he was Chosen, but he wasn’t. Guildmaster Fred-rich of the Goldsmith Guild was so proud of his son that he nearly burst every time he looked at the young man. Then again, that handsome boy, blond and blue-eyed, certainly had a face and body that seemed created to wear a Herald’s Uniform.