Authors: Mercedes Lackey
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General
Titles 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
UNDER THE VALE
Written with LARRY DIXON:
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
HOME FROM THE SEA
*Coming soon from DAW Books
And don’t miss:
THE VALDEMAR COMPANION
Edited by John Helfers and Denise Little
THE COLLEGIUM CHRONICLES BOOK FIVE
Copyright © 2013 by Mercedes Lackey
All Rights Reserved.
Jacket art by Jody A. Lee.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1632.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).
Book designed by Elizabeth Glover.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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To the memory of my mother, Joyce Ritche, who never failed to support me.
here it was, a city on a low, gentle hill, walls shining in the sunlight, houses clustered up against the outer and inner walls like chicks snuggling up to a gray hen. And underneath Mags, the solid, steady warmth of his Companion, jogging steadily toward those walls, taking him back to the only place he could even think of as home. By all rights, Mags should have been half out of his mind with joy to see the walls of Haven in the distance, but all he could muster was relief.
Partly, that was due to exhaustion. After all, a person doesn’t get kidnapped, drugged, escape, trek alone and without any real resources across a foreign wilderness, get caught again, get drugged
and fight his way free without being exhausted by it. He’d gotten some rest on the journey back; his Herald and Healer escorts had been very careful to see that the trip had been taken at a slow pace when Mags showed no evidence that he was in a fret to be home. But exhaustion could be mental as well as physical, and he was suffering from both. His sleep was . . . not good. He woke a dozen times in the night, and his dreams were full of strange images, people he didn’t know, a life he had never imagined before all this. He knew what they were from, of course: the “memories” that his captors had forced into his head. And none of these so-called “memories” raised even a little interest in him. If anything, he would have liked to be rid of them. They were disturbing on a multitude of levels.
Dallen, his Companion, had been uncharacteristically quiet for the entire journey back to Haven. He was always a steadying presence, but he just hadn’t said much that wasn’t necessary. Not that the Companion was withholding himself in any way! On the contrary, it was a great relief to Mags to feel Dallen as a bulwark in the back of his mind when he woke in the night. And it wasn’t a disapproving sort of quiet, more the introspective sort.
When Mags had finally asked him what was going on, just this morning, he’d gotten a somewhat surprising answer. At least, it wasn’t anything that Mags would have guessed.
:I’m examining those—well, I suppose they are “memories”—that you got.:
And that was all Dallen would say. So those memories . . . well, Mags supposed it was just as well
was looking through them. It was the very last thing that
wanted to do.
It wasn’t the first time that Dallen had gone rummaging through Mags’ head, and Mags certainly didn’t mind, but it was the first time that the things Dallen had examined weren’t exactly events that Mags himself had lived through.
I wonder what he’s made of all of that . . .
He’d probably shared it with other Companions at this point; it would be foolish not to. The men who had shoved those things into Mags’ skull had tried multiple times to destroy the heart of Valdemar—first by killing the King, then by destroying the Companions, then by kidnapping the daughter of the King’s Own Herald, Mags’ sweetheart, Amily. If anything could be learned by going through all those thoughts, Mags would let a hundred Companions rummage through them.
he asked, as they rode down into a valley and lost sight of the city for the moment.
:Have you learned anything?:
Dallen made a sort of muttering noise, and Mags got the definite impression that he was not at all happy. A moment later, the Companion’s answer explained why.
:Not very enlightening as to the origin of your pursuers. I suppose I would have to say “your countrymen”—:
Mags objected, so strongly that Dallen’s head jerked up, and the Companion turned to stare at him with one startled blue eye.
:Mebbe I got the same blood, but I ain’t the same sorta person as they are! Valdemar’s my home!:
No matter what those fiends had said, if there was one thing he was sure of, it was this—he had nothing whatsoever in common with a clan full of assassins who took whatever contract paid most, regardless of how heinous it was.
: . . . I apologize, Chosen,:
Dallen said contritely—and immediately.
:I should never have put it that way. Well. There is a lot you don’t really remember of what they poured into you, and I think that’s just as well. I can get at it with some work and share it back with you, but, honestly, it doesn’t seem to be particularly useful. It’s mostly about training, clan life, the clan hierarchy, and the bonding that those awful talismans of theirs creates. There’s nothing there that I can look at and say, “Aha! That’s where they come from!” I don’t recognize the language, even. Rolan doesn’t.:
It wasn’t the first time that Dallen had shared things at a great distance with Rolan; Mags’ Companion seemed to have an extraordinarily long “reach” when it came to Mindspeaking. And that gave Mags some comfort. Rolan knew . . . a lot. He’d been the Companion to the last three King’s Own Heralds, and as a Grove-Born, Mags had every reason to suppose that he had access to a wealth of information no other creature—except maybe a few gray old scholars—had ever seen.