Lessons

Everything hurt, but that was all right. She’d earned it. Stretched flat on the ground in the abandoned garden, Neda couldn’t repress a ridiculous grin. Tierce probably thought she was crazy, but she didn’t care. For the first time in her life, she felt like she was doing exactly what she was meant to be doing, and it was glorious.

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Smoke and Whispers

She saw Taline Sabenay long before the Maestra of Sabenay House saw her. Taline was hard to miss, sweeping up the length of the assembly hall in an ornate gown that probably dated back to the last years of the empire, with her head held high and eyes flashing when “lesser” folk were not quick enough to hurry out of her way. Sabenay was an ancient and prestigious house (if lately reduced in fortune) and Taline was not about about to let anyone forget it.

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Swords on the Stairs

The first one to come at him was the biggest, dressed in roughspun clothes with a scarf tied over the lower part of his face to hide his features. His sword was just as rough, big but with no finesse to its lines, and probably no strength in its forging. But it could kill him just as dead if given the opportunity.

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The Color of Light

The young Jurati – she couldn’t remember if she’d ever heard his name – was not distracted now. Somehow, he had ended up closer to her, though she would swear that he hadn’t moved at all. So close she could taste the spice of his last meal on his breath. So close that she could see the each of the hairs in the golden down that lined his chin. And on his chest, too, where his open-necked shirt revealed far more than any proper Corregan would dream of. So close that when the light caught his eyes…

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Book Bribe

For the second time, his eyes widened in surprise. “For me? I couldn’t … this is too much. I can’t accept such a gift.” The words were heavy with regret and longing, which she took as a good sign, even as he pushed the book reluctantly away.

“It’s not a gift, Tierce.” She pushed the book back across the table to him. “It’s a bribe. I want you to do something for me.”

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Heated

The red pleasure boat had come alongside the barge, its two-man crew holding it in place against the current with the oars. A half-dozen people bunched together on the middle seats—all young and well-dressed and smiling, enjoying their outing on the river. Barris knew them all. Had counted them each as friends once. Even Cael Averre, who stood in their midst, wearing a fresh, sweat-free tunic and a too-smug smile on his face.

By the thrice-cursed fiends, indeed.

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The Liar’s Blessing

The gate was open, and torches lined the vine-wrapped arcade that led to the house, an austere, three-storied structure half-carved out of the hillside itself. Neda ran past the steward standing watch with barely a word. Evod’s influence still curled around her tongue, and she was desperately afraid of what she might say, if she had to say too much.

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The Blade, Part 2

“Look at that,” Tierce exclaimed, admiring the negligent flick with which the Jurati deflected a thrust, and then smoothly turned the move into a cut of his own. His blade moved with precision and speed, too fast to possibly avoid. Only at the last second did he pull the blow aside, the blade skimming so close to flesh that Cael must have felt the wind of its passing against his cheek. There was a shout of approval from the audience.

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