Valdemar 06 - [Exile 02] - Exile’s Valor

Valdemar 06 - [Exile 02] - Exile’s Valor by Mercedes Lackey

Book: Valdemar 06 - [Exile 02] - Exile’s Valor by Mercedes Lackey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mercedes Lackey
villages—ordinary fighters were not permitted to marry, at all, under any circumstances, only officers. Needless to say, those “understandings,” too, had been kept very quiet. Strange, that whoring was tolerated, if preached against, but an honest marriage was absolutely forbidden . . . on the grounds that it was a distraction to the soldier.
    This had all conflicted with what the Sunpriests decreed, and as their leader, his responsibility was to report every irregularity to the Sunpriests. Except that if he did that, he’d earn the hatred of half of them, and see the other half cashiered before six months was over. Eventually he had come to a decision on his own about what the men did or did not do. If some behavioral trait of one of his people did not affect performance and honor adversely, it mattered not at all. If it affected performance and honor positively, it mattered a very great deal.
    So when confronted by similar “irregularities” as a Herald, he followed the same course, and that seemed to be the right way to go. It certainly fell right into line with the credo that “there is no one right way.”
    So far as he could judge, Keren and Ylsa were good partners. Keren gave Ylsa a boost to thinking imaginatively. Ylsa steadied Keren down, something that hellion badly needed. If they had lovers’ quarrels, they kept it to themselves, or at least, never involved anyone but a counselor. And although Keren was permanently stationed at the Collegium—there hadn’t been a better riding instructor in the past fifty years, so it was said—and Ylsa was a Special Messenger, which took her out of Haven all the time, neither of them complained about being separated far too often. If they’d been Sunsguard, he’d have called them fine soldiers, and written them up for commendations. As it was, since there was no such thing as officers in the Heraldic Circle and thus absolutely nothing he could say or do that would get them any advance in rank, he merely considered it a pity that there weren’t more Heralds like them.
    â€œAnd you want me to help you out?” Keren continued, still with that glint in her eyes.
    â€œFrom time to time. Not often. But there are some things women tell not to men. And some places men are welcome not.” He shrugged. “That there is the greatness of threat to Valdemar that there was once, I think not. That there is the threat still existing, however, I do think. I know not why there was that man paying for grumblings against the Queen, for instance, and this troubles me. Valdemar was not impoverished in the Wars as it could have been—”
    â€œThanks to you,” Ylsa pointed out. “If you hadn’t gone after those children, and got the lion’s share of the Tedrel loot in the process, we would have been.”
    He waved that aside. “Still, seasoned fighters were lost; Valdemar hires not from the Mercenary Guild, so weakened will Valdemar be for some time. A weakened land is a land that others may seek—to exploit.”
    â€œHmm.” Ylsa sat back in her chair, and stroked her chin speculatively. “That could be . . . though we’ve friends on the east and south.”
    â€œThere is the north,” Keren pointed out. “Northern barbarians are always a danger, and the gods only know what Iftel might do—just because it’s been quiet for centuries doesn’t mean it won’t suddenly roar up and turn into a menace. And there’s always the west. Pirates on Evendim. Bandit bands large enough to qualify as armies. Weird stuff out of the Pelagirs. Gods only know what comes farther into the west than the Pelagirs.”
    â€œEven so.” Alberich nodded. “The Northern Border and the Western are—”
    â€œFluid,” Ylsa supplied him. “And what’s more, Selenay inherited a Kingdom where war has allowed other problems to be ignored. And I suspect

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