“Tell me about your parents. You share your father with your brother the king, yes? But your mother…?”
Athadia, The Healer, Mar 2013
For book clubs and readers who love behind-the-scenes stuff, I prepared a Reading Guide and a Character Guide.
Warning: the Character Guide contains spoilers.
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Maps – click to open, then right click the image to download or print
A heroic act gone wrong…
Once oppressed by the Shote people, the Kerfs only want peace, but unrest brews as Shotes expand into the Kerf’s hard won territory. Vaun, a Kerf General, is patrolling the border lands when he saves a Kerf captive about to be raped—then discovers she’s not Kerf at all.
Survival in the balance…
Athadia is Alvian, one of the mysterious healers driven out of Kerfdom by Vaun’s ancestors. Vaun’s first touch tells her he’s a Latent, not as strong as a full-blooded Alvian, but a possible mate. If she could bring herself to lie with a man again, even a superstitious half-blood Kerf, she could fulfill her vows and save her dwindling race.
Hope at too high a cost…
Athadia’s touch promises a kind of healing that has eluded Vaun all his life, but he has broken the Shote treaty and started the war he was meant to avert. His King expects him to kill Athadia to restore peace…
“Vaun,” she protested. “It is my purpose to expand the Alvian race. I must mate with Alvian men to produce daughters.”
“And you are angry with me for preventing you from finding one.” He rubbed a hand over his face, shamelessly unrepentant that she was in his bed rather than one belonging to a man of her kind, although he could do with less conversation. “I will apologize this last time. Then we are done and you will accept our situation. Hear me?”
“I am not prevented,” she insisted. “I have found an Alvian male.”
Vaun’s senses came to high alert. He sat up again, muscles twitching while his mind raced to identify the face she must have spotted today. Where? How had this enemy infiltrated his village? “You saw an Alvian? In the village?” he demanded.
After a brief hesitation, she said, “Tell me about your parents. You share your father with your brother the King, yes? But your mother…?”
She could not be suggesting what he thought she was suggesting.
Throwing off the blanket, Vaun stood, pulled up his breeches enough to keep them on and snatched a candle off the shelf. He flung aside the curtain and moved to light the wick in the embers of the banked fire. A noise brought his head up.
Lanick held open the curtain to the boys’ bedroom, his jaw thrust forward in readiness for confrontation. His gaze slid down Vaun’s naked chest to his open laces.
“Go back to bed,” Vaun ordered and thanked the gods and goddesses for the United Royal Decree that had removed Shote language from common teachings. At this moment, Vaun wished he’d never learned the cursed dialect himself.
Lanick’s obvious eavesdropping, however, even if unable to comprehend the words, spurred Vaun to keep the rest of this discussion short. Returning to his bedroom, he set the lit candle on the shelf, ignoring the prickle of renewed desire Athadia’s disheveled appearance provoked. Loosened bodice, the swell of a small, plump breast, a kiss reddened mouth. These things meant nothing when she dared accuse him of–
“I am not Alvian,” he told her.
“No, you are…our word is Latent,” she said. “It means…it is like half. When one parent has brown eyes and one has blue, they produce a child with brown eyes, but deep inside, the child has the possibility for blue. Do you understand?”
Terc take her for looking at him with such empathy. If she had thrown the challenge at him, it would have been much less disturbing than her seeming to dread causing pain. Her worried concern made doubt twinge in his gut.
No. She was wrong. He was a bastard, but he was Kerf. Nothing else. Not some half-breed abomination.
“We won’t speak of this again.” He pinched the wick on the candle and let darkness put an end to it.