Landscape of the Imagination [Vows and Honor series] [MultiFormat]
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by Mercedes Lackey
Description: Tarma and Kethry had managed to get stranded in a place where they couldn't find a new job. When their only way out was into the magic-infested chaos of the Pelagir Hills, Tarma was worried, but then Kethry's enchanted sword Need led them to their new employer, and things got truly strange.
eBook Publisher: Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, 2001 Crossroads
Wildside Press eBook Store Release Date: August 2010
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [MultiFormat - What's this?]: eReader (PDB) [22 KB], ePub (EPUB) [39 KB], Rocket/REB1100 (RB) [18 KB], Portable Document Format (PDF) [222 KB], Palm Doc (PDB) [19 KB], Microsoft Reader (LIT) [68 KB], Franklin eBookMan (FUB) [90 KB], hiebook (KML) [76 KB], Sony Reader (LRF) [50 KB], iSilo (PDB) [15 KB], Mobipocket (PRC) [20 KB], Kindle Compatible (MOBI) [53 KB], OEBFF Format (IMP) [30 KB]
Reading time: 15-22 min.
Microsoft Reader (LIT) Format: Printing DISABLED, Read-Aloud ENABLED
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Tarma's stomach growled, and she tried to appease it with a long drink of water. It wasn't fooled, and growled again. The problem with being a low-level mercenary pair without an impressive reputation was that sometimes you wound up at the end of a job in a place where your talents weren't needed. And when that place was as law-plagued as this one...
They'd escorted a very nice old lady to the timid niece who was going to take care of her in her old age. An exceptionally low-paying job, but one that Kethry's sword Need had insisted that they take. Appropriately, as it had turned out, since the poor old woman evidently bore a striking resemblance to a very wealthy old woman in the same town, and kidnappers had decided erroneously that they were one and the same.
Still, it hadn't done much to fatten their purses; it had led them here, the Duchy of Silverthorn, possibly the most law-abiding part of the world that Tarma had ever seen, and no one wanted them. Worse, everything was horribly expensive because of the taxes on everything that paid the salaries of the lawkeepers and constables. Worse still, there were more than enough lawkeepers and constables keeping a jaundiced eye on strangers that when their money ran out and they had to leave their inn, it was obvious that it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to acquire food for themselves by underhanded means without getting caught.
So the only way to handle the situation was to saddle up and move out, ignoring hunger pangs for the two or three days it was going to take them to get out of the Duchy. Normally it would only take a day at most, but--
But traffic was held by law to a snail's pace here. And constables enforced that as well.
The only members of the party that were happy were the warsteeds and Warrl. The 'steeds, because not only was grazing the road-verge permitted, it was encouraged. So they were getting enough to content them. And Warrl, because he was resorting to the usual food-source of wolves and things that looked like wolves in the summer.
Mice and rats.
And that, too, was encouraged. Once constables saw him pouncing and gulping in the ditches, they were perfectly happy to leave him alone.
:You really ought to try these,: Warrl said happily in Tarma's head. :They're quite delicious. Fat, tender. I don't know why they have a rodent problem here, but I am certainly pleased that they do.:
Tarma's stomach growled again, suggesting that at this point, fricassee of rat was sounding good.
But Tarma's brain went into revolt. No matter that she had eaten worse things. This was not something her mind wanted to contemplate, surrounded as they were by civilization. There should be meat pies, stew, bread and cheese, her mind insisted. Pease porridge, bread, and onions at least. It was not going to put up with the idea of eating mice.
You've eaten voles, she reminded it.
Those were clean wilderness creatures, her mind said primly. Mice are not. You don't know where they've been.
Well, her mind had a point. And if they couldn't afford to eat, they most certainly could not afford to get sick.
:They taste just fine to me,: Warrl said gleefully, as he pounced, tossed, and gulped. Their current pace -- stalled, actually, while they waited for a big hay-laden cart to negotiate a difficult turn -- was so slow that Warrl was having no trouble in hunting for such small prey.
Urg, said her mind, and she resolutely turned her thoughts away from the idea. Properly speaking, Warrl should have been Kethry's familiar, not hers, Kethry was the sorceress. Kethry was the one who had cast the spell to summon a familiar. But Warrl was his own kyree and he had decided that Kethry, who already was bound to the spell-sword Need that gave her fighting powers equal to just about any swordswoman Tarma had ever seen, did not need a familiar. But Tarma evidently did.
So the two of them were bound to exceedingly useful but occasionally vexing partners. Kethry to a sword that forced her to come to the aid of any female in jeopardy, and Tarma to a calf-sized wolfish-looking beast with a penchant for sarcasm, a weakness for Bards, and a distinct and unique sense of humor.
Usually at his mind-mate's expense.
The hay-wain was still stalled in front of them. Now the driver was arguing with a constable. Her stomach growled. She resisted the urge to ride along the verge; the last time she'd done that, the constable had threatened to fine them. The only reason he hadn't was because Kethry turned out their purses, proving they had nothing, and pointed out that if they were jailed, they would be housed and fed at the expense of the Duchy.
Mind, that was beginning to look attractive--
Except that the warsteeds and everything they owned would be confiscated and sold.
No. Not a good option.
Tarma was all in favor of laws, but this place was ridiculous.
Kethry couldn't even earn some money by performing minor sorceries, because she wasn't licensed as a magician in this Duchy. Which license, of course, cost money.
Kethry was looking around with impatience. The other side of the road -- reserved for traffic going the other direction -- was absolutely clear.
Well, of course it was. The hay wagon was blocking it.
"Is there any reason why we have to go in this direction?" she asked Tarma.
"Well, no, but--" Tarma didn't get to finish that statement. Kethry nudged Hellsbane with her heels, turned the warsteed's head, and set off down the clear and open side of the road.
:It's all the same to me,: Warrl said philosophically. :There are just as many mice in that ditch.:
Tarma had no idea where they were, and she didn't much want to stop long enough to find out. As long as they got out of the Duchy, that was all she cared about.
:We're heading for the Pelagirs,: Warrl remarked philosophically.
Oh, bloody hell-- "Keth. Warrl says we're--"
"Headed for the Pelagirs, yes I know." The Pelagir Hills were as chaotic and magic-infested as the Duchy of Silverthorn was law-abiding. "That's probably the reason why these people are so law-obsessed. It's their way of dealing with the insanity on their doorstep." Kethry, who was usually far more cautious about venturing into the Pelagirs than Tarma was, seemed entirely cavalier about this idea.
Kethry turned in her saddle and looked back at her partner. "Because if I'd had to look for another candlemark at the back of that hay-wagon I was going to kill someone. Because the longer we stay in this place, the more likely we are to do something that gets us thrown in jail. Because my stomach is growling. And because I'm getting a faint twinge from Need that is sending my head in this direction."