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Lynn Kurland is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels and novellas including the Nine Kingdom series, the de Piaget Family series, and. FontArialFont ColorblackFont Size whiteTHE QUEEN IN WINTER ByClaire Delacroix, Lynn Kurland, Sharon Shinn, S. Get Free Read & Download Files Star Of The Morning Nine Kingdoms 1 Lynn Kurland PDF. STAR OF THE MORNING NINE KINGDOMS 1 LYNN KURLAND.
They had already begun to visit his people, going wherever they had felt needed. Was he proposing to her? She's dead already. That connection with her land had been a part of her for as long as she could remember, coloring all her thoughts, her emotions, her desires. He used one last bit of precious energy to change his guards back from horses to men before he dragged himself over to his own horse. He was five and thirty, old enough to manage the affairs of one small kingdom. After she moved to the mainland U.
She looked about her. Her mother was gone, but that was not unusual these days. Her mother had withdrawn from them more and more often of late, as if she found their company painful. Perhaps she was grieved for the loss of her niece, Creana. Perhaps she merely wearied of their company.
Iolaire did not know and it troubled her. But despite that niggling doubt over her mother's absence, Iolaire relished the feeling of being comfortable, safe, and surrounded by those who loved her and whom she loved. Was there a more beautiful place than Ainneamh? Was there a more luxurious and appealing hall than her father's, where the colors, sounds, and smells all blended in a perfection that was only to be found here?
She drew a shawl of the finest cashmere about her shoulders and closed her eyes briefly to better savor the pleasure of it. She was certain that the bliss of her life could be no richer. And then she saw him. Even in her dream, she felt a tingle of something that was not dread and certainly not fear run through her.
The man was not altogether mortal, but not elvenkind either. Who he was might prove to be as much a mystery as what he was. A guest of her father's surely, else he would not have dared enter the king's innermost hall. No crown sat upon his dark hair, but he carried himself in a straight, confident way that bespoke noble breeding. He was deferential to her kin, speaking in their tongue, which was a most unusual thing for one who was not of Ainneamh, but even so, he did not abase himself… She watched him look about the chamber as politely as good manners would allow, but with an awe she supposed she could understand well enough.
But then he turned that looking upon her. And she watched him go still. That same stillness came over her, leaving her feeling as if it were just they two who stood there, connected, silent and unmoving in a sea of strangers. That same feeling came over her, only this time she recognized it for what it was: It was as if she had always known him, but only forgotten until this moment that she did.
Even eternity held its breath. She wanted to go to him, to take his hand, to go into his arms and find herself whole. But before she could move, her brother had taken her by the arm and pulled her away. She wasted time convincing him that she was well and not consorting with mortals beneath her station, but by the time she turned back to look for the man, he was gone, lost in a sea of elves who suddenly looked all the same. She almost wept. She looked amongst her family, but could not find him for the press of her kinfolk.
After a time, she gave up and left the hall. As she walked past the mingling crowd, she thought she heard her name. She looked up quickly and saw the man again, briefly, only to have the crowd draw together before her and hide him from her view. She didn't dare ask who he was.
Her father would have wanted to know why she desired the name of a man who could not possibly interest her. Ehrne would have come undone at the thought of her looking twice at a man whose clothing was likely quite serviceable in a mortal kingdom, but made him look a rough peasant in her father's grand hall. She half wondered, now, if she would recognize him at all, or if she would pass him on a deserted road and not know it was he.
The sorrow of that was so great that she woke with tears streaming down her cheeks. And once she was awake and again facing the hard, unyielding stone of her prison, she wept for other reasons. She would never see her home again. Even if she could free herself, she would be forever barred from it. The law was such and her father was bound to uphold it. She could break herself and her shattered heart against that law, but it would not yield. She was alone now, without home or lover. How she longed for both.
She leaned her bruised head gently against the wall and gave herself over to daylight dreaming. Of her home she could think no more. Her grief would be endless and thinking on it only deepened that grief. But that man, aye, that was something she could think on idly and not have it pain her so much. Was he mage, prince, or stableboy? It had been impossible to tell, though she supposed no stableboy could have spoken her tongue, and she had watched him converse with her kin. And no stableboy she'd ever encountered had ever possessed such a handsome face and such piercing, pale eyes.
Blue or green? She could not say, and she found that it became increasingly difficult to imagine up the contours of his face. She struggled, trying to make out his features in the semi-dark of her prison. And then the face began to speak. She came to herself to find Lothar of Wychweald standing on the other side of the stone chamber, speaking to her.
It took her a moment or two to drag herself from the comfort of her dreaming and understand him. His look was mild, but she was no fool. And only a fool would have missed the malice behind that pleasant expression.
She scrambled to her feet. She wrapped her arms around herself, somewhat alarmed by how chilled her flesh was. By denying me even the most paltry of comforts? And she feared greatly the sound she would make if she began to give voice to her fear.
Lothar pushed away from the wall, much as he had done the first time. He spoke no word, but suddenly a doorway appeared and a door swung open. He left, silently. Once he was gone, Iolaire stumbled across the chamber. She ran her hands fruitlessly over the place where the doorway had been. The magic there was strong, stronger than she was accustomed to. Then again, her magic was given to more noble purposes than locking unwilling prisoners in cold, comfortless cells of stone.
She sighed deeply, then turned and went to the window. It was far too small for her to crawl through; indeed, she could scarce shove her hand through the narrow, vertical shaft that afforded her all the light her chamber possessed.
She tore off the hem of her nightgown and held it bunched in her hand. Rain fell softly, slowly, but eventually long enough that the cloth was wet and she managed to draw off a small bit of moisture.
It tasted far better than anything she had ever savored at her father's table. She spent the better part of that day trying with only scant success to ease her thirst. When evening fell and the misting rain ceased, she retreated to her corner where the draft was less, drew into the smallest folding possible of herself, and gave thought to her future.
She could wed with Lothar, she supposed. It might at least gain her an exit from her prison. She might be able to flee at some point in the future, when she had the means of escape and hope of a refuge. But if she wed with him, she would no doubt bear him children. Unbidden, came the vision of a small, fair-skinned maid child with curling hair and soft blue eyes.
Iolaire fancied that if she'd had the light for seeing, she could have looked down in her arms and seen that wee girl snuggled there, sleeping peacefully with her hands clasped together and her face turned upward, untroubled by unpleasant dreams. Iolaire shuddered. How could she doom that child—and the rest of the world—to the specter of Lothar's manifest evil coupled with her magic? If she had any magic left. She gave thought to that. She had been born with magic in her blood; all elves were so blessed.
At least they were as long as they remained within the borders of their land. There, spells fell over everyone and everything as effortlessly as sunlight sparkling and glistening through dew-laden trees. Elves walked through those spells, over them, under them, making the magic a part of themselves as they passed. And Ainneamh was the source of it all.
Or so she had been led to believe. Now, though, she wondered. Losing that magic was part of what made the specter of banishment so awful. But what if the magic was in her and of her, in spite of where she dwelt? She tried to draw magic from the stones beneath her feet, from the air, from the gray light that came in the window. In Ainneamh the magic so drawn would have shimmered in her hands and effortlessly become what she required.
Here she only drew evil to her. She gasped and ceased immediately. She would have no part of this place or its power. Though that she had even managed to gather some of it to her was something to think on. She allowed herself another moment or two to envision again that sweet, pure child who had not yet rested in her arms, then forced herself to give somber thought to just what she might do.
She crossed the chamber to where she knew the door to be and ran her hands over the stone. She tried door and open in all the languages she knew, but to no avail. She cursed it with all the vile things her younger brother Artair had taught her when their tutor had been snoozing in the afternoon sunlight.
That brought no better result. But as she stood there with her hands pressed against the wall, her head bowed, tears she could not spare falling down her cheeks, she realized Lothar's spell lay over where she knew the doorway to be like a piece of cloth. She pulled back with her palms still flat against that invisible bit of magic and stared at it in surprise.
Could she unravel it? And what would Lothar do to her if she managed it? She decided immediately that it was best not to think on that. She would seek to undo his evil quietly and perhaps she would manage to free herself from her prison, escape out the front door, and be on her way before he was the wiser. It did not serve her to think on what would happen to her otherwise.
Chapter Three Symon surveyed his brother's domain and could scarce believe his eyes. Gone was the lovely castle on the edge of the sea, surrounded by fair meadows full of wildflowers.
Gone too were the beautiful stretches of beach before the castle, the clutches of rocks with wild birds perching thereon, the lovely white cliffs that provided a bastion of safety from the crashing waves. In their places were ruin and decay.
But hadn't he suspected as much when he thought of Lothar overrunning Neroche? He'd wondered, over the past year since he'd been king, and for several years before that, if he was imagining Lothar's potential for evil. He'd wondered it as he had watched his elder brother whilst they grew to manhood together. Lothar's power was perhaps unmeasured, but his capacity for cruelty had been amply demonstrated over the years.
Symon had also wondered, when their father had given Lothar his most beautiful bit of land but no crown as an inheritance, what would become of the magnificent castle on the sea. When he'd asked as much, his father had only looked at him in that way he had, placid and patient, and said that 'twas no longer his affair and that Lothar would have to find his own way. Did a father know, then, when a son was a babe, that the son would go so astray?
And if so, what could he possibly do to stop it? Ah, but such a departure from good sense and goodness. Slabs of rock from ill-conceived and poorly executed mining ventures littered the land, blackness from fire, debris and refuse covered the strand—and not a green thing in sight.
It was as if anything within Lothar's reach that had possessed any life at all had given up. I have little magic of my own, but I'm well acquainted with Lothar's use of his.
Are there invisible companies of his monsters lying in wait to attack upon his command? If the castle was covered by some sort of spell, Symon could not tell. And he was not the lesser of his father's sons. So, let us be about this business and quickly, before she must spend another night in this accursed place. Any fool might win the first, or even the second, but the rest are only taken by those with an affinity for the business or strong power found running through their veins.
But the last ring—" "I can manage what needs to be done," Symon interrupted with a warning look shot Hamil's way. It wasn't as though he cared what Ehrne knew of him, but there was no sense in boasting of any skill so near to Lothar's front stoop.
He looked at his men and considered. Symon supposed they could expect no less, being his men. He looked at Hamil.
Shall you be the wind? As quietly as possible, in a magical sense, he made the necessary changes to his company, then changed his own appearance. Whether or not it would fool his brother remained to be seen. Lothar had magic, 'twas true, but he had learned it not from those who taught restraint and honor in its use, but rather from rogue wizards who had learned enough to be dangerous but hadn't managed to earn any of the rings of mastery.
Nay, Lothar would wear only the first of mastery, if he wore one at all. Even so, that did not mean he had no power.
Ehrne led them down the path to the hall door in a lordly fashion. Symon followed, too busy watching the surrounding desolation for the potential of attack to worry overmuch about what Ehrne would do. If they gained the great hall, hell would be unleashed upon them no matter how pretty Ehrne's introductions were.
All, however, was quiet. Too quiet. Ehrne banged on the door. It was opened eventually by a stooped, misshapen old man. Let me pass. Symon slipped in behind him. He used Ehrne's blustering calls for service as a shield so he could be about his own business. He could not hear Iolaire, nor could he sense her.
He followed Ehrne into the middle of the hall near the fire pit, mentally searching frantically through passageways that were cobwebbed by rotting, though dishearteningly strong magic. And still no trace of her. Ehrne's calls for ale grew stronger. Before Symon could lift a finger or spew out a spell of his own, Lothar had cast a net of his own magic.
Symon watched it fall. Iolaire selected a thread of magic that looked as if it might be weak enough for her to break. It had taken her most of the night to manage to find even that. Of course, she had been clumsy with fear, certain that Lothar would surprise her with another visit as she was about her work. But now, as the chamber had lightened enough to signal full daylight, she had found what she sought. She unraveled a bit more on either side of that weakened thread, and then with a great rending sound that she feared would shake the castle to its foundations, she tore the spell asunder.
The door was revealed. Symon could have sworn the castle rocked on its foundations. The sound of rending was nothing short of deafening. Lothar, startled, turned. And by the time he turned back, it was too late. Perhaps he was powerful. Perhaps he was determined. But Symon fought for a more noble purpose. It was the smallest of advantages, but perhaps it would be enough. He countered Lothar's spells one by one. They were unpleasant spells, ones full of evil portents Symon had never before considered.
It took all his wits to fight them off while doing his best to lay his own snares about his brother. Toss herbs onto the fire? Brew up a potion or two? You needn't bother. She's dead already. He would have bid Ehrne make a search, but he didn't have the breath for any speaking. And then Lothar smiled and began the words of essence changing. Symon was torn between a desire to point out to his brother where he was doing it wrong and the horror of realizing that his brother was trying to weave such a spell around him.
It took all his strength to counter the spell, to fight it off with his own magic. He felt himself, after what seemed like hours, begin to weaken. The ground beneath him began to slip. And slip a bit more. As eternity passed, he began to wonder if he would manage to best his brother after all.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another old man enter the hall. Damnation, was he to be plagued by these geriatric pretenders until the end?
He realized perhaps the instant before his brother did, that this old fool was not quite what he seemed either. If Symon had had the strength, he would have sighed in relief, no matter how unkingly it might have made him look. Yngerame of Wychweald had arrived and he did not look pleased. Chapter Four Iolaire crept toward the stairs, her bare feet crunching things she didn't stop to identify.
She was free of her prison and on her way to being free of the castle. There was noise coming from the stairwell before her, as if there were a great ruckus happening below in the great hall. That cheered her slightly; perhaps no one would notice her in the confusion. Her feet hurt with every step, but that could be remedied later. For now, she would do what she had to.
She hobbled as quickly as she dared down the circular stairs to the great hall. Then she came to a teetering halt. Before her was a scene she was sure she would never forget. Her brother stood there, along with Lothar and two strangers who stood with their backs to her. And around them all swirled a whirlwind that seemed to delight in blowing ashes from the fire into Lothar's face.
Lothar's servants stood all in a huddle at the back of the hall next to her. They made no sign of intending to stop her flight, but she supposed she should have expected nothing else.
They might have been human at one time, those souls there, but they were that no longer. It was a terrified mass of creatures who shrank back against the wall when she looked at them, so she turned away, unwilling to torment them more. Ehrne watched silently, his mouth agape, as Lothar and the older of the two strangers screamed at each other. Actually, Lothar was screaming. The older man stood there calmly, speaking every time Lothar would take a breath.
This seemed to anger Lothar more each time, but somehow, with each firm word or two spoken by the older man, Lothar seemed to have less breath and vigor for shouting until all he was able to do was stand there with his mouth in an open scream and glare at the older man with hate in his eyes. The other man, a younger one, stood with his hand upon the old man's arm, as if he leaned on him for strength, though she could not understand how that would be.
She could not see his face, but he was possessed of a powerful form and stood straight and tall, as if he were someone to be reckoned with. The power that emanated from them both was like waves of heat from a fire; she could distinguish that even in her current state. Who were these two, then, to be dressed so humbly yet possess such power?
Enemies Lothar had made long ago? Powerful noblemen fetched by Ehrne to come battle the foul mage and rescue her? He took hold of her and pulled her back with him toward the front door. She was almost all the way there before she managed to stop him with complaints over the condition of her feet.
He swept her up into his arms and ran. He put her up onto a horse standing there unhappily.
Iolaire stared at her brother, wondering if the journey from Ainneamh had damaged his wits. The horse didn't answer. It looked at Ehrne as if it thought him daft as well. Ehrne cursed, vaulted onto the horse's back and yelled at Iolaire to ride, and quickly, too. She did, regretting deeply not having thanked the men inside for making her escape fully possible. She hoped they would know just the same. It was very late in the day when Ehrne finally allowed them to stop.
Iolaire sat by the poor fire he'd built, shoving her numb, bare feet as close to the blaze as she dared. Ehrne dropped his cloak around her shoulders and sat down next to her. She looked at him.
It was quite some time that he sat there, silent and unmoving. She understood. Any time spent in Lothar's hall was enough to render a body sick at heart. And if Ehrne were sitting next to her, not on his comfortable chair in their father's throne room, then that meant he had been banished as well. She reached out and put her hand on his arm. You must have things you wish to say, or questions to ask.
Why are you here? To rescue me? I listened to her fix just such a bargain with him, but didn't realize whom she intended to betray until you went missing and I confronted her with my knowledge. Father came upon me attempting the deed and cast me from our land.
He was rather unwilling to listen to my tale. If you are not there to see to them and Father does not believe what you've told me, then where does that leave them? If mother is capable of this offense to me, why not something similar to our younger siblings? How will we save them? Iolaire stretched forth her mind in an effort to take hold of the sense of her land. Before, before her time in Lothar's hall, it had been a continual stream of beauty and peace that ran through and under her thoughts.
That connection with her land had been a part of her for as long as she could remember, coloring all her thoughts, her emotions, her desires.
It was gone. She looked at him wearily. If not, it matters not what we do, for we are all lost. She understood completely. Symon spoke the last word of his own spell of binding, then hunched over with his hands on his thighs as he tried to catch his breath.
The fact that his father was in much the same position made him feel slightly better. A stiff breeze blew Symon's hair into his eyes. With a curse, he grunted out another spell that left Hamil standing suddenly there, bouncing on his heels and looking far too lively for his own good. Look at the fool, standing there with his mouth gaping open.
Lothar was trapped, mid-scream, and bound by so many unbreakable spells that he would have looked like a large, very plump chrysalis if the spells had been visible to any but those who had woven them about him. It will be up to your children, I daresay, to see that his evil stays within its bounds. I am sorry for that, for I could not—" Symon shook his head. We will just be vigilant. Now, perhaps you would care to come to Wychweald and rest after all this.
He would have something decent to eat for a change, if he went to Wychweald. He also might have a good look or two at that elven princess he'd had the pleasure to mostly rescue. Aye, that was what he wanted—to sit at his mother's table and stare at a woman who had haunted his dreams for years and be no closer than he had ever been to having her, given the fact that he would still be unable to spew out two coherent words in her presence. Symon grunted. Besides, I'll no doubt need help protecting that elf maiden young Ehrne of Ainneamh whisked away so quickly.
It is a long road to Wychweald. I am quite sure you are just the lad to render such aid. Come with me at least for a few days. You can turn off the road at the great crossing easily enough if you decide otherwise. He paused. The damage may be too great. Can you not do this? He began to undo his brother's foul work—and that with great effort—but as he did so, he realized the changes were wrought so deeply and so poorly, that they could not be undone.
He kept at it, though it cost him dearly in energy and hope. When he was finished, the man was again a man but still quite damaged in mind and spirit. Symon looked at his father. I daresay there is no evil in them. When I return to Wychweald, I will find a steward for them. Then at least they will finish out their lives in some peace. I cannot bear to stand in this place of evil a moment longer. He used one last bit of precious energy to change his guards back from horses to men before he dragged himself over to his own horse.
He found himself with no strength to mount. The older man was smiling faintly, but his color was poor. Symon understood fully. I am not ashamed to desire a slower pace for a bit. He took a final look at his brother's ruined hall before he turned away and rode with his father away from the sea and into the peaceful, welcoming dusk. Iolaire rode next to her brother the following morning, cold, but grateful nonetheless for the pale winter sunshine. It was sublime to have not only liberty from Lothar's hall, but limitless freedom to do what she wished with the rest of her life.
At least she told herself it was so. Something fell on her hands. She looked up, expecting to see rain clouds, but the sky was cloudless.
She realized then that she was weeping. She looked down at her hands and watched them grow increasingly wet. She took a deep breath. This would not do. There were many advantages to being banished.
She would no longer have to endure those endless suppers where she was watched as covetously as a lone bottle of her father's rarest wine that was to be shared amongst the entire company. No longer would powerful elves from other families come to see if they could bluster their way into her father's good graces. Never again would she be forced to learn the languages of foreign kings so she could reject their suits in their own tongues. She was free to do what she liked, to converse with whom she cared to, to make a life where it suited her.
More tears fell. The thought of never being allowed to return to Ainneamh was more devastating than she could bring herself to admit. How was she to go on? Where was she to go on to?
Her life, her family, even her home was now forbidden her. She dragged her sleeve across her eyes and cast about desperately for a distraction. She found one immediately in trying to divine the true identities of the half dozen men who rode in front of and behind her. Most of them had caught up with them the evening before, giving her a terrible fright.
Ehrne had identified them as men-at-arms, though he had declined to name whom they served—as if that somehow was going to ease her mind more than knowing who commanded them. Two other men had joined them as they broke camp that morning. She hadn't had a chance to converse with them—as they had kept firmly to themselves—but she had recognized them from the day before. She supposed she couldn't blame them for their silence, given that they had been the ones to deal whatever blow had been dealt to Lothar.
A renegade mage from the eastern lands you hired to help you? Don't you recognize him?
He does not look so powerful. He looked younger then. Perhaps he's weary. She had other things to think on.
And to look at. She rode on for a very long time before she dared hazard a peek behind her. Closest on her heels, in front of the other half of the men-at-arms, rode the other man she'd seen with King Yngerame.
He was weary as well; that she could tell from the set of his shoulders. She couldn't examine his features, though, thanks to the hood he had pulled close round his face. She managed to bring the beast back under control, then she glared at her brother. It will devastate him. But I must tell him—" "Do, and I will turn you into a toad. You will die a terrible death and I will not mourn your passing. And if you think I cannot do it, then think on all the times you snuck out of your lessons whilst I applied myself to them.
He looked at her seriously, then pursed his lips. Symon of Wychweald, lately the king of Neroche, had come to rescue her. One, he is Lothar's brother and has no love for him. Two, I assumed he had inherited some of his father's power and might be willing to use that power to aid me.
And, lastly," he added, "he was the one monarch of the realm who had not fallen at your feet and begged for your hand upon seeing you. I thought that might be a boon.
She wondered if she should find that offensive or not. I wanted him for his sword and his spells, not his spouting of wooing poetry at inopportune moments—" "Ehrne? Iolaire rode for quite some time in silence, giving thought to what she'd learned. So, the king of Neroche had come to rescue her, quite possibly because he was the one man in the Nine Kingdoms who had no desire at all to seek her hand. She wasn't certain how she should feel about that. Well, no matter. She hadn't any more use for him than he apparently had for her.
She had someone else in mind. And since she was no longer destined to wed with an elven prince, perhaps she would set herself the task of looking for that dark-haired, light-eyed man who had come to her father's hall. Finding him might take a goodly amount of time. And given that she had nothing but an excess of that on her hands, it seemed a task worthy of pursuit. Still, it would be impolite not to at least thank the man behind her for his efforts, misguided though they might have been.
She slowed her mount just a hair. In time, and over several miles, she managed to find herself riding next to the king of Neroche. She stole a look or two at him from under her hair—which was in sad need of a good brushing, but there you had it. It was difficult to look tidy after having been held captive without any of the appropriate creature comforts.
Symon's hands were strong, but graceful. She supposed he was equally proficient at wielding a sword or weaving a spell.
A pity she knew next to nothing of him. She knew a good deal about his father. Yngerame was as famous for his skill with magic as he was for his gilded tongue. He had not founded the schools of wizardry at Beinn O'Rain, but while still a student he had forged bonds between them that courses of study might be shared between the apprentices. He had mastered all the lessons available there, bested each of his masters in turn, and roamed far afield in exotic lands searching for strange and mysterious spells not known in the Nine Kingdoms.
He had returned in time, wed himself the daughter of Murdach of Meith, built her a marvelous palace at Wychweald, then settled down to keep bees and dig in the dirt, shocking everyone who'd thought they'd known him.
Iolaire had suspected, once she had learned his history, that his purposes were far deeper and more serious than weeding out the pea patch—though she had to admit she had always liked that about him, being something of a gardener herself. But what of his son? She stole another look at Symon and wondered how much like his father he was. Was he equally as skilled? Was he kind or cruel?
Was he like his brother, or not like him at all? These were questions worthy of an answer and since she had nothing to do until she was about her self-appointed quest to find that missing stranger, she would go ahead and ask him. But first a bit of small talk. She was certainly adept at that. She cleared her throat purposefully. He didn't answer for quite a while. Then he slowly pushed his hood back from off his face and looked at her.
It was him. The man she had dreamed about since the night she'd first seen him. Symon of Neroche. He had been near her all along, first at Wychweald, then as king of his own lands. And she hadn't known. And he had come for her. In a roundabout way. She could only stare at him, speechless and unable to force herself to look away.
He was as beautiful as she had remembered him being, gray with weariness though he might have been. His brow was just as noble, his face just as chiseled, his bearing just as regal.
And his eyes were blue. A pale blue that was mirrored in the late afternoon winter's sky above them. He was not smiling, but his look was pleasant, if not just the slightest bit inquiring, as if he wondered why it was she had not a useful thought in that empty head of hers. Iolaire wondered as well. There she was, the well-seasoned daughter of a powerful king who was used to smoothing over all sorts of diplomatic disasters and unacceptable proposals of marriage, yet she could not bring herself to spew forth two decent words that might make her sound something more than a fool.
Perhaps she looked worse than she knew and he feared to overwhelm her in her current state of disarray. She smiled weakly. Iolaire had a thousand things to tell him, but every one of those things was completely daft.
How could she say that though she had never spoken to him, she felt as if she had known him all her life? That he had haunted her dreams for years? That she had rejected suitor after suitor because they were not him? He would think her mad. But now he was here and she was free. She had to say something. There had to be a way to start the beginning of something she desperately wanted to grow and blossom like the beautiful, rare meadow-queen flowers in her father's most private garden.
But she could not speak; she could not look away. He was the king of Neroche, after all. He likely had all sorts of kingly activities he went about each day. After all, Neroche was an enormous country. She'd paid attention long enough in her lessons to know that, at least. He did not look away. Perhaps he had never seen a woman come undone in his presence as she was presently doing.
She would have given herself a brisk slap, but who knew what that would lead him to believe. She sighed. She could have sworn her mouth went dry. Aye, he was nothing like Lothar and somehow it had nothing and everything to do with his beauty. There was something else about him that bespoke steadiness in crisis, sureness in deed, unwavering loyalty in the face of criticism and libel.
She could scarce believe he was not wed; Yngerame's list of potential brides for his son was almost as long as his list of what to plant in his garden and equally as famous.
She shut her mouth with a snap. But he laughed. It was a small laugh, but the sound of it fell around her like soft sunlight, warming and cheering her both. A pity the only words she could find to say reflected so poorly on all her years of princess training.
I am a woman just like any other. The sight of it was so delightful and so unexpectedly charming, she felt a little unsteady and quite a bit more flushed than conditions outside warranted.
She swallowed. Iolaire felt the breath of beginnings wash over her. It was just a hint of the kind of spring she'd felt at home, but it was enough for now. He looked at her for a moment or two in silence, then smiled again. Iolaire turned her face forward as well, though it fair killed her to do so. She told herself it did not matter, for she would possibly have days to look on him and marvel at the coincidence that had brought them together. It could not replace what she had lost, but somehow, the sweetness of it began to ease the ache in her heart.
And for now, that was enough. Chapter Five Symon brushed his horse thoughtfully. It was a very unnecessary task—any of his men could have seen to it for him—but it gave him time to think. Perhaps that was an unhealthy and useless pursuit as well, but he couldn't seem to help himself. Iolaire had thanked him. She hadn't needed to, of course. Though he suspected that fighting his brother for the treasure of Ainneamh hadn't been what his mother had had in mind all those years ago when she had ceaselessly drummed into his young heart the need to protect women and children from evil and hurt.
He would have to thank her, when next he saw her. He stopped his grooming and peered over his horse's back to see what went on in their small camp. Iolaire was there, clodding about in boots that were several sizes too large.
His boots, if anyone was curious. He'd brought them for no good reason he'd been able to divine at the time, but he was grateful for it now. At least Iolaire had something keeping her feet warm. And given that he could hear her tromping from where he stood, at least he had a way to know where she was at all times. Not that he needed boots for that. Her very presence was a whisper of spring that seemed to brush over him whenever he was within a hundred paces of her.
But since he now knew where she was and could gape at her as often as he liked without having to explain himself or make excuses for it, he did. She was grace embodied, so drenched in beauty that he had a hard time looking at her, and he was not unacquainted with beautiful queens and princesses. Her hair was not much more tamed than it had been when he'd glanced at her in his brother's hall, but she had found some way to at least pin some of it back away from her face.
He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. Staring into those fathomless blue eyes made him feel as if he were falling off a cliff, never to land, never to find his feet again. Worse yet, he wasn't sure he wanted to.
She paced aimlessly, as if she suffered pain that could only be relieved by mindless movement. His heart ached for her. If he'd dared, he would have gone and offered her his companionship if for nothing more than what comfort it might provide. And for the short time he could provide it. They were traveling slowly, but still the crossroads would be reached in a matter of days.
He sighed. It was as he had told his father: He had no pressing reason to go to Wychweald and a handful of quite pressing reasons to return home. Therefore, three days alone remained before he had to either be about his duties as king or conjure up a decent reason to visit his father's hall. Three days to drink in the sight of the eldest princess of Ainneamh.
Three days to wish he could look on her forever. I always find that a bit of hard labor after serious magic is quite restorative.
A wise woman is your mother, as well. He looked back toward the princess stomping about in his too large boots. She said something to her brother, then walked away from the pile of wood Ehrne was having a hard time making burn. He paused next to Ehrne who was cursing quite inventively at green wood that simply would not light. Ehrne swore again.
What my sister needs are boots that don't make a bloody ruckus every time she stomps next to me in them. Have you a solution to either? The boots were unwieldy, that he would admit, but he had no doubts that 'twas more than simply her gear that troubled her.
She had passed an as-yet-undetermined number of nights in his brother's hall, and who knew what torments she had there suffered? She has lost her beauty, her fire, her passion for life.
He called a flame from elements in the air and wrapped it firmly around the green wood. The blaze began to burn quite cheerily. Ehrne grunted. It took him a bit, but in time he found a patch of weeds plucky enough to survive the layer of snow. He chose what he needed, returned to sit down next to his fire, then began to weave. My father has offered you refuge in his hall for as long as you'll have it, so you won't starve. Failing that, you have magic of your own.
He wove a simple pattern that his mother had taught him one afternoon when he'd been ten, on an endless summer day before he'd left for the schools of wizardry at Beinn O'Rain. And as he wove, he considered the possibilities of Ehrne and Iolaire living at his father's hall.
They would be protected, that was true. They would be well fed and suitably entertained. Indeed, he suspected that it wouldn't be long at all before there was a line of mortals for each of them, mortals come to offer themselves as spouses to two such beautiful and desirable members of the elvish kingdom.
Symon worked the final strands of grass into the slipper. Who was to say that Yngerame wouldn't offer to adopt the pair, so as to better see to matches for them? Symon felt slightly queasy.
Of all the things he thought he might want of Iolaire of Ainneamh, becoming her brother was not one. He set one bit of weaving aside and began a second before he could think any more. Iolaire came to watch. He knew this because the very air itself tingled when she walked through it. Symon kept on with his head bowed over his work, ignoring Ehrne's comments about his choice of pastimes and how his lack of skill would make itself apparent at any moment. Iolaire, quite pointedly, bid him be silent.
At one point, Symon got up and went to roam in the meadow across the road from their camp. He had to search, but finally found a small handful of mountain flowers brave enough to poke through the snow.
He returned, then stuck them into the shoes with as much artistry as he possessed, which wasn't much. He set the slippers down, then silently wove a spell of essence-changing over them. Iolaire's breath caught.
Such spells, even for something so trivial, were not wrought without cost. He took a deep breath, waited until he thought his legs were up to the task of holding him, then rose. Even so, his hand shook a little as he handed the slippers to Iolaire. Dalton Bestsellers lists. She has won three RITA awards and was a finalist for a fourth. Kurland is trained as a classical musician. She plays cello in a quartet, plays the piano when asked, and enjoys singing in public. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Lynn Kurland. RBL Romantica. Archived from the original on October 27, Retrieved Lynn Kurland Official Website. Archived from the original on Fantastic Fiction. Authority control BNE: Retrieved from " https: Living people 20th-century American novelists 21st-century American novelists American romantic fiction writers RITA Award winners American women novelists Latter Day Saints from Hawaii Women romantic fiction writers 20th-century American women writers 21st-century American women writers.