A trick of magic, a twist of fate.
As the orphaned nephew of the king, trusted companion to his cousin, and second heir to the throne of Skala, Prince Tobin's future is clear. But not as clear as the spring in which a hill witch shows him his true face--and his secret destiny....
Now Tobin carries a burden he cannot share with even his closest friend, Ki, his squire. He is to rule--not as he is but as he was born: a woman. Given the shape of a boy by dark magic, Tobin is the last hope of the people of Illior--those who desperately seek a return to the old ways, when Skala was ruled by a line of warrior queens. They still believe that only a woman can lift the war, famine, and pestilence that have run rampant through the land since the king usurped his half sister's throne. It is these outlaw wizards and witches who protect Tobin--and it is for them that Tobin must accept his fate.
With the unsuspecting yet fiercely loyal Ki at his side, Tobin must turn traitor against the only blood ties he has left. He must lift the masks of Skala's rulers to show their true colors--before he can reveal the power of the woman within himself.
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June 30, 2003
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Excerpt from Hidden Warrior by Lynn Flewelling
Chapter 1 Still caught at the edge of dark dreams, Tobin slowly became aware of the smell of beef broth and a soft, indistinct flow of voices nearby. They cut through the darkness like a beacon, drawing him awake. That was Nari's voice. What was his nurse doing in Ero? Tobin opened his eyes and saw with a mix of relief and confusion that he was in his old room at the keep. A brazier stood near the open window, casting a pattern of red light through its pierced brass lid. The little night lamp cast a brighter glow, making shadows dance around the rafters. The bed linens and his nightshirt smelled of lavender and fresh air. The door was closed, but he could still hear Nari talking quietly to someone outside. Sleep-fuddled, he let his gaze wander around the room, content for the moment just to be home. A few of his wax sculptures stood on the windowsill, and the wooden practice swords leaned in the corner by the door. The spiders had been busy among the ceiling beams; cobwebs large and fine as a lady's veil stirred gently in a current of air. A bowl was on the table beside his bed, with a horn spoon laid out ready beside it. It was the spoon Nari had always fed him with when he was sick. Am I sick? Had Ero been nothing but a fever dream? he wondered drowsily. And his father's death, and his mother's, too? He ached a little, and the middle of his chest hurt, but he felt more hungry than ill. As he reached for the bowl, he caught sight of something that shattered his sleepy fantasies. The ugly old rag doll lay in plain view on the clothes chest across the room. Even from here, he could make out the fresh white thread stitching up the doll's dingy side. Tobin clutched at the comforter as fragments of images flooded back. The last thing he remembered clearly was lying in Lhel's oak tree house in the woods above the keep. The witch had cut the doll open and shown him bits of infant bones--Brother's bones--hidden in the stuffing. Hidden by his mother when she'd made the thing. Using a fragment of bone instead of skin, Lhel had bound Brother's soul to Tobin's again. Tobin reached into the neck of his nightshirt with trembling fingers and felt gingerly at the sore place on his chest. Yes, there it was; a narrow ridge of raised skin running down the center of his breastbone where Lhel had sewn him up like a torn shirt. He could feel the tiny ridges of the stitches, but no blood. The wound was nearly healed already, not raw like the one on Brother's chest. Tobin prodded at it, finding the hard little lump the piece of bone made under his skin. He could wiggle it like a tiny loose tooth. Skin strong, but bone stronger, Lhel had said. Tucking his chin, Tobin looked down and saw that neither the bump nor the stitching was visible. Just like before, no one could see what she'd done to him. A wave of dizziness rolled over him as he remembered how Brother had looked, floating facedown just above him while Lhel worked. The ghost's face was twisted with pain; tears of blood fell from his black eyes and the unhealed wound on his breast. Dead can't be hurt, keesa, Lhel told him, but she was wrong. Tobin curled up against the pillow and stared miserably at the doll. All those years of hiding it, all the fear and worry, and here it lay for anyone to see. But how had it gotten here? He'd left it behind when he'd run away from the city. Suddenly scared without knowing why, he almost cried out for Nari, but shame choked him. He was a Royal Companion, far too old to be needing a nurse. And what would she say about the doll? Surely she'd seen it by now. Brother showed him a vision once of how people would react if they knew, their looks of disgust. Only girls wanted dolls . . Tears filled his eyes, transforming the lamp flame into a shifting yellow star. "I'm not a girl!" he whispered.<