ELIZABETH VAUGHAN Warlord

ISBN 13: 9780575082892

Warlord

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9780575082892: Warlord
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Lara of Xy and her Warlord, Keir of the Cat, have been through much together. Lara abandoned her lands and people for love of him.  She adopted his ways and learned of his tribe. Together they have faced plague and insurgency -- and despite these struggles, they have known happiness and joy.
 
Now they face their most arduous task: Keir must take Lara into the Heart of the Plains, and introduce her as the Warprize to the warrior-priests.  She must be tested--questioned, examined, watched--and must find favor with the warrior-priests and the tribe's elders before they will confirm her as a true Warprize.
 
But in Lara's heart there are doubts--for what if she is found wanting? Will Keir give up everything he knows to be with his Warprize?

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Vaughan is a writer and a lawyer. She lives in Ohio.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1I was terrified.I shifted my sweaty grip on the handle of my sword, and watched my attacker’s eyes. ‘Watch their eyes,’ they’d told me. ‘The eyes will tell you their next move.’I stared intently at him, but his eyes told me nothing. My left arm was trembling from the weight of my shield. ‘Look over the rim,’ they’d told me. ‘Look over the rim, watch his eyes and react to hi—’He came at me in an instant, rushing right for me. I managed to take his first blow on my shield and tried to stab at him with my blade, but my helmet shifted into my eyes and—THWACK.My arm went numb, and I cried out at the pain. My sword tumbled to the ground.Rafe stood in front of me, horrified, staring at my arm.“That’s going to bruise,” Prest commented dryly.Rafe groaned, looking up at the skies as if for help. “The Warlord will gut me where I stand.” He glared at me. “Warprize, you were supposed to block the blow!”“I tried!” I dropped my wooden shield, and rubbed my arm. “I watched your eyes and I kept the shield up, but—”“Too slow. She doesn’t have the speed,” Ander offered.“The shield is too heavy,” Yveni added. “She doesn’t have the strength she needs.”“Herself doesn’t have the sense the elements gave a goose.”We all turned to see Marcus riding up to our group, glaring from under his cloak. “What’s all this now?” he barked.My guards all started talking at once. I sighed, took off my helmet and shook out my braid, letting the breeze reach my damp head. Trying to be a warrior-princess is uncomfortable, sweaty work.Marcus and my four guards were arguing at the top of their lungs. Marcus, who was covered in his cloak lest the skies be offended by his scars. He’d been injured in a battle years ago, his left ear and eye burned away. Prest, with skin of light brown and long black braids, towered over Marcus. He stood silent, as usual, his arms crossed over his chest.Rafe, his skin even paler than normal, was gesturing, trying to explain. His hair was dark against his fair skin, and his brown eyes were filled with frustration. He’d been the first in the prisoner tents to welcome my healing skills, and the first to learn my language.Ander was gesturing as well, talking at the same time. The sun gleamed on his bald head, and his thick, bushy white eyebrows danced over his hazel eyes. Yveni stood as silently as Prest, tall and thin, her skin as black as any I’d seen among the Firelanders. But she’d a smile hovering on her lips. She and Ander had replaced Epor and Isdra, who had died at Wellspring.I heaved a sigh and looked off in the distance, back toward Water’s Fall. The trees behind us had lost their color, and their leaves were falling fast.It was hard to believe that it had been two months since I’d left my home to follow my Warlord. In many ways it felt like much more time had passed, what with all that had happened.We’d left the village of Wellspring ten days ago, leaving behind our dead, both Xyian and Firelander. We’d resumed our trek to the land of the Firelanders, the Plains of Keir’s people. Another few days’ ride and I would get my first glimpse of that fabled place which lay beyond the border of the Kingdom of Xy. Another few days’ ride, and the great valley of Xy would open up onto the wilds of the Plains.Another few days’ ride, and I’d be where I never dreamed of going.I glanced over to where the army of the Firelanders moved past us, in their long slow march to their homeland. Keir had left half of his force to secure Water’s Fall and Xy itself, under the watchful eye of Simus of the Hawk. He’d brought the other half with him, to return to the Plains. It was still an impressive sight as they wound past us, all on horseback, an army of fierce warriors, both men and women.Or at least, what was left of Keir’s army, after the ravages of the plague we’d suffered outside of Wellspring. We’d left our dead, to be certain, but there were still problems, still conflicts at the heart of the army. Conflicts as a result of an illness sweeping through the ranks of a people who see illness as a curse. Conflicts as a result of the presence of a Warprize in their midst and the changes that I represented to them. Conflicts that had been set aside for the rest of this journey, to be dealt with before the Council of Elders when we reached the Heart of the Plains.We could have reached it sooner, but Keir had held the army to a snail’s pace, claiming the need to regain strength in the warriors, to hunt and replenish food supplies.In truth, we were dawdling.I didn’t object. Keir and I had spent the last ten days together, making love at night and dealing with problems during the day. How could I object to spending time with my beloved Warlord?The silence behind me made me aware that I was the center of attention. I turned to face an angry Marcus, who had dismounted and was glaring at me with his one good eye. “Apparently this was your idea?”I glared at my guards, but they all found other things to look at. I faced Marcus. “It was.”“Why?”“Because I need to learn to protect myself.” I looked at Marcus and lifted my chin. “I have to be able to protect Keir.” Inside I winced even as I spoke.“Protect Hisself?” Marcus gave me a steady look. “How so?”I sighed, prepared for Marcus’s scorn. “When we were in camp, when Iften was standing over Keir with his dagger, that scared me, Marcus.” I gestured toward the others. “I can’t be deadweight. You said yourself that the Plains are hard. I thought I could at least learn how to—” the words came hard. “How to fight.”Marcus considered me long enough that I blushed and looked away. “I know it must seem silly—”“No, Warprize.” Marcus looked off, down the valley, toward the Plains, and sighed. “Death comes in an instant, and you are learning that truth. A harsh truth, but a truth nonetheless.” He shook his head. “But you are on the wrong path.”“She wants to learn,” Rafe protested. “What’s the harm?”Marcus turned to face Rafe. “Let me show you.” Even as the words left his mouth, he’d launched himself at Ander, with no warning or sign, so fast I never really saw him move.What I did see was Ander ward off Marcus’s dagger with his own blade, which he drew with unbelievable speed. It all happened so fast, and then they stood there, Ander at guard and Marcus making no further move.Marcus stepped back, and bowed his head to Ander, who inclined his head in return. The weapons were sheathed, and Marcus turned back to me. “You see?”I frowned, puzzled, and answered honestly. “No.”Marcus had a patient look on his face. “Ander had no need to think of the ‘how’. He reacted. He knows the blade, knows the movements, knows in the depths of his body and blood. Has known since he cut his first teeth and his thea handed him his first blade.”I blinked. First tooth? But that was—“You think, Warprize.” Marcus continued his lecture. “You think, and then you tell your body and that delay is fatal. Never mind the weight of the shield, never mind that you—”“You give babies weapons?”Marcus fixed his eye on me. “What do you mean by ‘babies’?”The language again. Just when I think I know the language of the Firelanders, something new comes up. “Babies. Children that still crawl and soil their—” I bit my lip. “Like Meara, the babe we found in the village.”We’d found her crying, on the bed next to her dead mother. Meara had been the only survivor of the plague that had swept through the village of Wellspring. All of the Firelanders had tried their best to spoil the babe rotten once she’d recovered from her near-death from the illness.Marcus shook his head. “No. First teeth.” He opened his mouth and showed me his teeth. “All their first tooths.”I thought for a minute. He meant the first set of baby teeth—all of them. Which meant they gave weapons to children that were roughly two and a half, maybe three years old.“Wooden blades, Warprize. The first weapon is wooden.” Marcus looked at me closely. “The first true blade is at the first true tooth. You understand?”I nodded slowly, taking that in. Firelanders wielded steel at roughly six or seven years old.No wonder they were so fast. It occurred to me that I was very glad I’d sent Meara back to Anna at Water’s Fall before we’d begun this march to the Plains.“So.” Marcus’s voice called me back. “We will concentrate on what you can do. Not on what you can’t.”I sighed, and let my shoulders slump. “But I can’t do anything!”“Pah.” Marcus turned, and picked up the wooden sword and small shield that I had been using. “What did you do when that warrior-priest burst into your tent?”I went and sat close to Prest, flopping down in the grass. “I screamed and ran.”“And?” Marcus ask...

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