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The Dawn Star [Secure eReader]
eBook by Catherine Asaro

eBook Category: Fantasy
eBook Description: High in the Misted Cliffs lives a magic unlike any other. With no teacher to guide her, no mentor to discourage her from the impossible, Mel Dawnfield pushed her magic to its limits--and surpassed them. Only to find that her powers aren't enough to halt burgeoning rebellion within her husband's fledgling realm--or a plot devised to strike at the very heart of Mel's family. The lines have been drawn. Mel's mage strength has become greater than any power ever known, but dare she forge her spells into weapons to protect her people, her husband? For her magic might transform the brutality of war into the birth pangs of a peaceful empire ... unless it proves the death blow to her world.

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/LUNA, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2007

7 Reader Ratings:
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The Sapphire Hire

Drummer was in trouble. Again.

He had strolled into town earlier today, his clothes covered with dust and his frayed pouch slung over his shoulder. His glittar was packed in his good travel bag, carefully protected by layers of soft cloth.

He soon found the town's inn. In many towns, such inns also served as gathering halls where townspeople could enjoy shows by traveling theater groups, acrobats, dance troupes—and minstrels.

Drummer smiled. Especially minstrels.

That night, he played in the inn's common hall, on a platform at one end of the room. As he warmed up with his glittar, a few patrons glanced his way, but no one showed much interest. When he launched into a medley of Aronsdale folk songs, some people moved closer to the stage. Several fellows asked him to sing love songs for their ladies, which he obliged.

Within an hour, people had filled the room. Drummer could feel their moods. Glancing at a wooden cube that adorned a post by the door, he concentrated on its shape. It allowed him to create a mood spell that gave his love of his music to his listeners. It was a minor spell, of course; he had never done any of consequence. But it heightened his joy in singing to offer his pleasure to his audience.

The customers seemed to enjoy his singing and his music. The longer they stayed in the common room, buying food and drink, the more the innkeeper beamed. He kept Drummer supplied with ale. The townspeople didn't have many hexa-coins, but they left Drummer other things—breads and beads and a fine leather pouch. All in all, it was a good night.

He was singing the "Crystal Maker's Lament" when a fiery-haired girl arrived with some other young people. As she glided to a table with her friends, Drummer glided over the high notes of his song:

My heart shatters as easily,
As these vases drawn of crystal,
Don't leave me even teasingly,
I live only as your minstrel.

He sang the last line to the fiery girl. One of the young men in her group frowned, a big fellow in the homespun garb of a farmer.

Drummer waited until the farmer got his dinner and was focused on wolfing it down. Then Drummer sang a ballad to the girl. He drew out the dulcet notes for her, until her pretty cheeks turned the same color as her tousled curls. The big fellow noticed, though, and started looking irritated again, so Drummer switched his attentions to three matrons, who clucked and chuckled at his song. When they left, they set a hefty meat pie on the stage for him. He grinned and they laughed, waving as they made their way out of the inn.

It was growing late, and Drummer didn't want to strain his voice. He rarely had trouble hitting even the highest notes, but they were the first to go when he tired. He finished his song and bade his audience a pleasant night amid calls of appreciation. As he left the stage, he winked at the fiery girl.

Drummer was upstairs, headed for his room, when a sweet voice called from a recessed doorway. "Gentle sir, you do surely sing like an angel."

He peered at the girl in the shadows, wondering if this was a trick to rob him. He was carrying his glittar, his most expensive possession, and he had his take for the night slung over his shoulder in his new pouch.

"And who might you be," he asked, "so shy and sugar-voiced?"

The fiery girl stepped forward, her blush as becoming now as it had been downstairs. "My name is Skybell, handsome sir."

Handsome, eh? His thoughts softened as he ambled over to her. "Dear Skybell," he murmured. "Why are you hiding up here?" He couldn't resist teasing her. "Do you plan to knock me over the head and steal my possessions?" It wouldn't be the first time it had happened to him. However, he had learned to judge such matters, and he suspected the only thing on her mind was far sweeter than thievery. Smiling lazily, he added, "Or perhaps your nefarious cohorts lurk nearby, waiting to do me in."

"Oh! Never." She was aghast. "I would never do such."

Drummer ran his fingers over the strings of his harp, evoking a sensuous ripple of notes. "How can I be sure?"

Her shy smile dimpled her face. "You play with me, sir."

He quit strumming and traced the tip of his finger down her cheek. "Such a vision, with cheeks like blossoms and lips that surely men sing of everywhere. Are you playing with my poor, helpless heart, only to break it tomorrow?"

Her eyes widened. "I would never hurt you, truly." She touched a curl of hair that had fallen into his eyes. "You have nice hair. The color is like corn kernels."

"It's to match your skybell eyes." He wasn't much more than her height, so he didn't have to bend his head far to brush his lips across hers.

"Oh." Her mouth opened like a small O.

He smiled, charmed. "Has no man kissed you before? Surely every fellow in town must be wooing you."

"Only you have been so bold." Tentative, she touched his cheek. "You looked so beautiful singing tonight."

He thought of the glowering farmer. "Your young man didn't think so."

"My who?"

"The big farmer with the straw hat."

"Plowman?" Her laugh rippled. "He's not my young man."

"No?" Drummer slid his arm around her waist and pulled her well-curved body against his. "You aren't spoken for?"

Copyright © 2006 by Catherine Asaro.

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