Read By the Sword Online

Authors: Mercedes Lackey

By the Sword (73 page)

“But none of my seconds have half my training, either!” She paced back and forth, just about ready to throw herself off the walls and be done with it. “They're not ready, and I'm not ready. It's either leave you, or leave them, and how can I make a decision like that?”
:You're the only one who can.:
“I told you she'd be up here.” Geyr's black head peered over the edge of the observation platform. “Captain, this obsession you have with heights is damned unnatural.” He climbed into view, followed by Shallan, Scratcher, and a tumble of his little dogs.
:I
agree.
Feet belong on the ground.:
“Captain, we voted again,” Shallan said. “We figured you'd be all tied up in knots about being stuck as a Herald and you having to stay and us going back and all, so we figured we'd make up your mind for you.
We're
staying.”
“You're what?” Kero stuttered. “How? Why?”
“Ah, it's easy enough,” Scratcher said with a grin. “This Queen offered an unlimited contract, with you as permanent Captain, once you finish that schooling they want to give you.”
“Hellfires,” Kero muttered. “School. At my age.”
“Since Quenten and the rest can't cross over the border, they're goin' back to Bolthaven and send ev‘body else up here. Quenten's takin' over Bolthaven, make a school out of it.”
“Just like your grandmother‘s,.” Shallan interjected. “Town won't suffer by it, nor will the pensioners. I was talkin' with your cousins before we left; they reckoned it wouldn't be a bad thing to haul some Clan strings up here, where the market's better. So I 'spect they'll bring Tale‘sedrin horses up here, and let another Clan take over the Bolthaven horse fair. And gods help anybody who messes with them. Quenten just made Master. Nobody's gonna try anything sharp on them, comin', goin' or in between.”
Kero turned her back on them, feeling as if she was being humored. “So you've got it all settled for me, have you?” They don't need me, after all.
I
guess
I'm
pretty redundant....
“Hell,fire, Captain!” Shallan snarled, so fiercely it forced Kero to turn to look at them. “This was the only way these damn whitecoats'd let us keep you! You think we're gonna let you go kiting all over this heathen country by yourself? Not likely! If you're gonna find some action, we want a piece of it!”
“Adalnda,
Captain, you've gone and landed us in the cream,” Geyr said shrewdly. “Scratcher has not told you our hire. The Queen is
deeding
us a border town.”
“Can you imagine it?” Scratcher chuckled. “Us! Landed gentry, no less! There is no way we're letting you out of our sight! You took the Skybolts from half a Company to landed status—we wanta see what else you come up with! We may yet wind up dukes or something!”
“ ‘Sides,” Shallan growled, scuffing her boot-toe against the stone. “These folks need us. An' some of your damn morals is rubbin' off on us.”
:High time, too.:
:We'll see about that. You people could use a good shaking up, Sayvel.:
Kero shook her head, and looked down at the pure white tunic. “Damn. Guess I don't have a choice, if I'm going to convert you ruffians to honest citizens.”
Geyr made a rude sound, and Shallan did her “village idiot” imitation.
“Dear gods, what
have
I gotten myself into?”
“We're gonna shake ‘em up, Captain,” said Scratcher, echoing her earlier retort to Sayvel.
“They could use it,” she agreed. “Gods, there's one thing I'd like to do—is there any way we can camouflage this ‘oh shoot me now' uniform?”
“Could be, Captain,” Scratcher said with a wink. “I'll work on it.”
“I guess they're just going to have to get used to a new kind of Herald, Captain,” Shallan grinned.
:High time for that, too. We're supposed to be flexible. You can keep us all on our toes, and you can start with Eldan, I think. And you should have guessed that your troopers noticed how you two feel about each other. They think this is a perfect solution for that, too. And they're taking bets on when the handfasting's going to be.:
Kero chuckled. :Lady, you're going to get flexible like you've never seen before. And Eldan's going to get some real surprises.:
“In that case, I think this is going to work out.” She saluted them, and all three returned the salute.
“Come on,” she told them. “Let's go scandalize Valdemar.”
“For starters,” Shallan observed, “We're going to have to teach these whitecoats how to have a real party.”
:As the Tayledras say, “May you live in interesting times. ”:
Kero threw back her head and laughed.
:You got it, horse-lady. :
:And may you get—not what you deserve—but your heart's desire. :
:You know, lovely lady,:
Kero sent back to her, as she followed her troopers down to tell the rest that she'd accepted their solution,
:I think I have. Beyond all logic and expectation, I actually think I have.:

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