Daughter of Heaven [Treasures series 5] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Elisabeth Waters & Michael Spence
eBook Category: Fantasy/Alternate History
eBook Description: Laurel expects to be stuck working in the Customs House forever (or until her brother Stephen passes his magical Ordeal, whichever comes first), but she finds something in a batch of documents with a shipment from China that will change her life. Of course, she doesn't even notice it at first...
eBook Publisher: Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, Published: Sword & Sorceress 23, 2008
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2009
18 Reader Ratings:
"Spence and Waters interweave their two related stories with practiced ease"--The Fix
Work at the Customs House was much more interesting these days. Laurel hadn't realized how bored she had been getting, but things were different now. She barely had time to think, and, when she did, there were lots of wonderful new things to think about.
To celebrate an extremely complicated alliance/trade deal between their country and China, the Museum of Albion was assembling a special exhibit called "Power and Glory." In addition to the treasures on loan from the King's collection, the Emperor of China was graciously allowing some of the "lesser treasures" from the Forbidden City to be shipped halfway around the world to be displayed. With these "lesser treasures" came guards, servants (they even brought their own cooks--and food), and paperwork. Much paperwork. Mind-boggling amounts of paperwork.
Despite being the youngest person ever to pass her Senior Ordeal and become a full-fledged mage, Laurel was still stuck at the University's College of Wizardry. Her older brother had been dithering for years, rather than even attempt his Senior Ordeal, so when Laurel passed hers, their grandmother had put a geas on both of them. Until Stephen passed his Ordeal, Laurel had to live on campus with him and his wife Melisande. The original idea was that she could tutor and encourage Stephen--or perhaps be enough of a pest so that he'd pass the Ordeal just to get rid of her. Unfortunately Laurel, who was only seventeen at the time, had fancied herself in love with a young man called Edward, who, while he liked Laurel, turned out to be more concerned for his own career. In an attempt to win a scholarship for which Stephen was more qualified, Edward sabotaged Stephen's magic during his Ordeal, causing Stephen serious injury in the process. As part of Edward's punishment, he was working on Stephen's long-term--very long-term--therapy. They had been at it for two years now, but Stephen was still unable to use magic and thus unable to pass his Ordeal. So Laurel, despite having long since graduated, still lived on campus.
Laurel, however reluctantly, had to give Edward credit. Even though his work with her brother had been mandated by a Wizards' Tribunal, he pursued it with the fervor of a dedicated researcher. While Stephen provided the theoretical underpinnings, it was Edward who worked out and field-tested the procedures that turned theory into applied magic. Some of their collaborations had been not only published but acclaimed by several thaumaturgical societies. The University's Board of Elders had been impressed and were now talking about starting a joint program between the Colleges of Wizardry and Medicine, and hiring Edward and Stephen as program faculty--as soon as Stephen passed his Ordeal.
Having no desire to teach, Laurel's choices of employment were severely limited by Stephen's perpetual student status and her consequent inability to leave the city--thank you ever so much, Grandmother. When Stephen was injured and she realized that she might be stuck for a time, Laurel had gone to work at the Customs House. Now, two years later, she was the most senior of the Imports Clerks. This--along with the fact that she had studied Mandarin and could both speak and read it--meant that all the documentation for the Chinese treasures passed through her hands.
"It would be more interesting if the treasures themselves passed through my hands," Laurel muttered, looking up from the pile of papers in front of her to see a new and very junior clerk who had just brought her a cup of tea. "Oh, bless you! I really need that!"
They both studied the desk, looking for a safe place to put a cup of liquid. Laurel shifted some papers from where the side of the desk met the wall, and said, "Put it there; that's the place where I'm least likely to knock it over." He managed to put the cup down without toppling or sloshing anything, then smiled shyly at her before leaving her office.
She took a couple of sips of the tea, then turned back to the papers. An hour later she finished that batch, took another few sips of what was now cold tea (at least it was wet), and opened the next crate of documents. As she started to pull out the first bundle of papers bound together with red silk ribbon, she saw a glint of silver at the bottom of the box. She pulled all of the papers out, stacked them all neatly to one side of her desk, and then examined the object. Its form was simple: a straight, cylindrical piece of silver about five inches long with a loop at one end. Laurel examined it briefly, wondering what it was, then set it in the cleared space next to her teacup and reached for the next batch of documents.
Easter was a full month past, and the weather was getting warmer. Laurel didn't dare to open the windows in her office lest the stacks of paper be disturbed, so she was getting hot, sticky, and tired. Pulling her hair back from her face and off her neck, she coiled it and looked for something to hold it in place. Her gaze fell upon the silver whatever-it-was, and she picked it up and shoved it into her hair. It held, and Laurel took another sip of cold tea and turned back to the paperwork.