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Chapter Twenty-Two

At least Chemalka seemed to have decided to take her rainstorms somewhere else.

Kaeritha grinned at the thought as she stood on the porch of the Kalathan guesthouse with a mug of steaming tea and gazed out into a misty early morning. Tellian and his armsmen had refused the war maids hospitality and departed late the previous afternoon. They probably hadnt traveled farthere was a largish posting inn at the crossroad with the high road to Magdalas, about three miles from Kalatha, and she felt confident theyd stopped there to rest their horses for at least a day or two. However urgently he might want to return to Hanatha at Hill Guard, Tellian was a Sothoii. He would not damage a horse if he had any choice at all about it.

She felt equally certain that the baron hadnt declined Yaliths offer out of anger or pique, but it had probably been as well he had. Whatever he might feel, the attitudesand angerof several of his retainers would have been certain to provoke friction and might well have spilled over into an unfortunate incident.

Her grin vanished into a grimace, and she shook her head with an air of resignation before she took another sip of tea. Tellians warning that many of his followers were going to blame Kaeritha for Leeanas actions had proved only too well founded. All of them had been too disciplined to say or do anything overt in the face of their lords public acceptance of the situation, but Kaeritha hadnt needed the mage power to recognize the hostility in some of the glances which had come her way. She hoped their anger with her wasnt going to spill over onto Bahzell and Brandark when they got back to Balthar. If it did, though, Bahzell would simply have to deal with it. Which, she thought wryly, he would undoubtedly manage in his own inimitable fashion.

She drank more tea, watching the sun climb above the muddy fields which surrounded Kalatha. It was going to be a warmer day, she decided, and the sun would soon burn off the mists. Shed noticed the training field, and an extensive weapons salle, behind the town armory when she passed it on the day of her arrival, and she wondered if Balcartha Evahnalfressa, Yaliths senior guard officer, would object to her borrowing the salle for an hour or so. Shed missed her regular morning workouts while she and Leeana pressed ahead as rapidly as possible on their journey. Besides, from all shed heard, her own two-handed fighting technique was much less uncommon among war maids. If she could talk some of them into sparring with her, she might be able to pick up a new trick or two.

She finished the tea and turned to step back into the guesthouse to set the mug on the table beside her other breakfast dishes. Then she looked into the small mirroran unexpected and expensive luxuryabove the fireplace. Welcome as the guesthouse bed had been, the communal bathhouse had been even more welcome. She actually looked human again, she decided, although it was still humid enough that it had taken her long, midnight-black hair hours to dry. Most of her clothes were still drying somewhere in the town laundry, but shed had one decent, clean change still in her saddlebags. There were a few wrinkles and creases here and there, but taken all in all, she was presentable, she decided.

Which was probably a good thing. It mighteven do her some good in her upcoming interview with Yalith.

Then again, she thought ruefully, it might not.

* * * | Wind Rider's Oath | * * *