Read Chance Online

Authors: Nancy Springer

Chance

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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF NANCY SPRINGER

“Wonderful.” —
Fantasy & Science Fiction

“The finest fantasy writer of this or any decade.” —Marion Zimmer Bradley

“Ms. Springer's work is outstanding in the field.” —Andre Norton

“Nancy Springer writes like a dream.” —
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Nancy Springer's kind of writing is the kind that makes you want to run out, grab people on the street, and tell them to go find her books immediately and read them, all of them.” —
Arkansas News

“[Nancy Springer is] someone special in the fantasy field.” —Anne McCaffrey

Larque on the Wing
Winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award

“Satisfying and illuminating … uproariously funny … an off-the-wall contemporary fantasy that refuses to fit any of the normal boxes.” —
Asimov's Science Fiction

“Irresistible … charming, eccentric … a winning, precisely rendered foray into magic realism.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“Best known for her traditional fantasy novels, Springer here offers an offbeat contemporary tale that owes much to magical realism.… An engrossing novel about gender and self-formation that should appeal to readers both in and outside the SF/fantasy audience.”—
Publishers Weekly

“Springer's best book yet … A beautiful/rough/raunchy dose of magic.” —
Locus

Fair Peril

“Rollicking, outrageous … eccentric, charming … Springer has created a hilarious blend of feminism and fantasy in this heartfelt story of the power of a mother's love.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Witty, whimsical, and enormously appealing.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“A delightful romp of a book … an exuberant and funny feminist fairy tale.” —
Lambda Book Report

“Moving, eloquent … often hilarious, but … beneath the laughter, Springer has utterly serious insights into life, and her own art …
Fair Peril
is modern/timeless storytelling at its best, both enchanting and very down-to-earth. Once again, brava!” —
Locus

Chains of Gold

“Fantasy as its finest.” —
Romantic Times

“[Springer's] fantastic images are telling, sharp and impressive; her poetic imagination unparalleled.” —Marion Zimmer Bradley

“Nancy Springer is a writer possessed of a uniquely individual vision. The story in
Chains of Gold
is borrowed from no one. It has a small, neat scope rare in a book of this genre, and it is a little jewel.” —
Mansfield News Journal

“Springer writes with depth and subtlety; her characters have failings as well as strengths, and the topography is as vivid as the lands of dreams and nightmares. Cerilla is a worthy heroine, her story richly mythic.” —
Publishers Weekly

The Hex Witch of Seldom

“Springer has turned her considerable talents to contemporary fantasy with a large degree of success.” —
Booklist

“Nimble and quite charming … with lots of appeal.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“I'm not usually a witchcraft and fantasy fan, but I met the author at a convention and started her book to see how she writes. Next thing I knew, it was morning.” —Jerry Pournelle, coauthor of
Footfall

Apocalypse

“This offbeat fantasy's mixture of liberating eccentricity and small-town prejudice makes for some lively passages.”—
Publishers Weekly

Plumage

“With a touch of Alice Hoffmanesque magic, a colorfully painted avian world and a winning heroine, this is pure fun.”—
Publishers Weekly

“A writer's writer, an extraordinarily gifted craftsman.”—Jennifer Roberson

Godbond

“A cast of well-drawn characters, a solidly realized imaginary world, and graceful writing.” —
Booklist

Chance

and Other Gestures of the Hand of Fate

Nancy Springer

CONTENTS

CHANCE

PART I—CHANCE

PART II—THE GOLDEN FACE OF FATE

OTHER GESTURES OF THE HAND OF FATE

THE WOLF GIRL SPEAKS (poem)

THE BOY WHO PLAITED MANES

THE BARD

BRIGHT-EYED BLACK PONY

COME IN (poem)

THE PRINCE OUT OF THE PAST

AMENDS—A TALE OF THE SUN KINGS

THE DOG-KING OF VAIRE

WE BUILD A SHRINE (poem)

PRIMAL CRY

About the Author

CHANCE

Chance walked softly through Wirral, silent in doeskin boots, more stealthy than seemed possible in a man of his broad-shouldered brawn and middling age. His duty as Lord's Warden was to see what happened in the vast forest named Wirral, whether poaching or spying or, sometimes, murder, a corpse left in the boskage. Sometimes he glimpsed things stranger yet: the small faces that were gone in an eyeblink, vanishing into the hollow of an oak. Denizens. Them he did not report, for Roddarc son of Riol, Lord of Wirralmark, gave no credence to the hidden folk who were even holier than the Wirral and never spoken of by name. Chance did not like to believe in them either, for the tales related of them were fearsome. Squirrels, he told himself. Squirrels rustling the branches of the oak.

The beast with two backs was commonplace within the fringes of the forest, especially in the springtime. It, also, he did not report, nor did it much trouble him. If squires and servant girls needed a private place to enjoy their sport, he would not begrudge it to them, though another with his secret might have. But he was long-suffering, Chance. He would turn his face away and leave the place as silently as he had come.

Only, this time, he could not help seeing that it was she whose name he never heard without a leap of his heart.

Halimeda. He remembered the day she was born. Her lady mother, dying after the birthing, had chosen the name. Halimeda, “dreaming of the sea.” Chance had never seen the sea, but even at the age of ten he had known what it was to dream. A lovely name, and the girl had grown to suit it, tall as befit a lord's daughter, her eyes gray-green, her mien quiet, her look often focused somewhere beyond a stormy horizon.

Halimeda on a bed of violets and spring-green moss. She did not moan and squeal like the servant girls, so he had come quite close without knowing. And she was naked, and so lovely, slender as befit a lady of the blood, fallow-fawn skin and dark, dark hair. So young, so bold. She lay silent and rapt, her eyes lidded, the dark lashes trembling. Head next to hers—that handsome young buck of a commoner, Blake. “Love,” he whispered to her, and her lips moved against his neck.

Chance moved away for a few silent paces, then recklessly abandoned silence. He ran, crashing through bracken like a stag. When he finished running, he leaned against a birch and retched.

Halimeda would never be his; he had always known that. For more reasons than could be counted. But his feelings were not amenable to such reasons.

That evening Lord Roddarc came to see him in his small lodge that stood outside the forest walls and beyond the tilled ground, under the shadow of Wirral.

Chance heard the rapping, hurried over and flung open the door at once, for he knew that signal well. His lord strode in, but no retainers stood at guard.

“You should not come here alone,” Chance scolded. “Have me summoned if you wish to speak with me.”

“Bah!” The lord crossed the room in three paces, sat down on a bench by the hearthfire. A tall man, finer of feature than his warden, not as rugged of build but perhaps just as strong. His hair and short beard shone red-gold in the firelight. His high black boots shone even brighter with hours of some servant's polishing.

“Rod, would you think with your mind instead of your hind end! Out alone in the dusk, fit game for assassins—”

If the lord's retainers had been present, Chance would not have bespoken him so bluntly, nor would he have called him by name. But as they were alone, he let go of ceremony. He and Roddarc had been reared nearly as brothers. As young warriors they had fought the blue-painted barbarians side by side in the front line. Roddarc had been with Chance when he had taken his worst wound—it could as featly have happened to the lord himself. Roddarc had shielded his comrade while they fought out the rest of the battle, and when Chance had weakened and fallen at last the young lord had borne him away to the tents and cared for him. Ten years and more it had been since that time, but Chance was not likely to forget. And later, when Roddarc came into his holding, he made Chance his warden—Chance, the commoner with the sorrow-child's name, orphan and bastard, unclaimed by any family. Roddarc had made him a man of authority in Wirralmark, and Chance would not forget that either.

Therefore he scolded his lord and friend from the heart.

“All the mutterings of the malcontents, the rumors, and you must come a-visiting when anyone could aim a bolt at you from a shadow!”

The lord of Wirralmark sat grinning broadly, as if he wished for nothing more than to be railed at by his friend. Indeed, Chance could hardly have better rewarded him for coming alone.

“At twilight! Alone, to the edge of Wirral! Of all the jackass—

“I'll go where I like,” the lord interrupted, still smiling, “and alone if I like.”

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