Warprize (Chronicles of the Warlands) by Elizabeth Vaughan

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page
















  Teaser chapter



  “Warprize is possibly the best romantic fantasy I have ever read . . . Continue please to enthrall me with your storytelling.”

  —Anne McCaffrey, New York Times bestelling author

  “Vaughan’s brawny barbarian romance re-creates the delicious feeling of adventure and the thrill of exploring mysterious cultures created by Robert E. Howard in his Conan books and makes for a satisfying escapist read with its enjoyable romance between a plucky, near-naked heroine and a truly heroic hero.”


  “The most entertaining book I’ve read all year.”

  —All About Romance

  “Warprize is simply mesmerizing. The story is told flawlessly . . . Keir is a breathtaking hero; you will never look at a warlord the same way again.”

  —ParaNormal Romance Reviews

  “Ms. Vaughan has written a wonderful fantasy . . . The story is well written and fast paced . . . Run to the bookstore and pick up this debut novel . . . You won’t be disappointed by the touching relationship that grows between the Warlord and his warprize.”

  —A Romance Review



  “Vaughan’s descriptive expertise helps bring this adventure vibrantly to life. Poignant and powerful.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Fans will relish this strong romantic quest fantasy.”

  —Genre Go Round Reviews

  “Riveting . . . The plot moves at a nice clip, and the ending is a masterstroke . . . Destiny’s Star is a terrific story.”

  —The Romance Reader

  “Bethral and Ezren are marvelous characters to spend time with . . . [Vaughan] has a gift for bringing cultures and dialogue to life, and I very much look forward to more.”

  —All About Romance

  “Vaughan’s writing is rich and provocative. Her descriptions [are] gorgeous, watching Bethral and Ezren fall in love . . . was perfect . . . I didn’t want the story to end.”

  —Smexy Books



  “An engrossing story which will keep readers enthralled. The characters are interesting and appealing . . . Ms. Vaughan has crafted an interesting world where myths and reality blur. Filled with magic, gods and goddesses, and heroic deeds, the reader will never want to put this book down.”

  —Fresh Fiction

  “There’s tension, turmoil, and adventure on every page. The characters—main and side alike—are interesting and enjoyable. The sex is fun, and the romance is undeniably sweet.”

  —Errant Dreams Reviews

  “Vaughan world-builds with a depth and clarity that allows you to immerse yourself in the world of the hero and heroine . . . If you are looking for a book with colorful world-building, solid characters, and sound storytelling, this one might be just what you’re looking for.”

  —All About Romance

  “A riveting and thoroughly enjoyable story.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “Fans will appreciate the clever twist that Elizabeth Vaughan writes in White Star, as the latest return to her Warlands saga is a welcome entry in one of the best romantic fantasies of the last few years.”

  —Alternative Worlds



  “Dagger-Star is the perfect blend of fantasy and romance . . . a really enjoyable read.”

  —Fresh Fiction

  “An excellent romantic fantasy . . . Readers will enjoy Elizabeth Vaughan’s superb, clever return to the desolate Warlands.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  “Elizabeth Vaughan pens a story of love and adventure . . . You feel yourself being sucked into the adventure and don’t want to put the book down.”

  —Manic Readers

  “In a return to the world of the Warlands trilogy, Elizabeth Vaughan successfully creates a new set of characters and a new story . . . a very satisfying read.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “Gifted storyteller Vaughan delivers a tale of prophecy and rebellion . . . it’s as inventive and riveting as the rest of Vaughan’s novels!”

  —Romantic Times

  “A worthy follow-up to the Warprize trilogy and I look forward to reading her next novel.”

  —Romance Junkies

  “A very good, very sexy book.”

  —Affaire de Coeur

  Berkley Sensation Books by Elizabeth Vaughan






  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

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  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

  South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


  A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author


  Tor mass-market edition / June 2005

  Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / April 2011

  Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Vaughan.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-47774-8


  Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  BERKLEY® SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


  To my parents, Park and Patricia Vaughan


  There are so many people I need to thank who have extended their friendship, love, and support to me during the creation of this book. Of all the gifts that writing has given me, your presence in my life is the greatest gift of all.

  Spencer Luster, who told me to “put up or shut up.” My writer’s group, which includes Spencer, Helen Kourous, Robert Wenzlaff, Marc Tassin, and Keith Flick. Kathleen Crow, who refused to let my dream die. Kandace Klumper, for quiet words of encouragement and a good swift kick when necessary. Lisa Black, who always wanted more. Patricia Merritt, who is my partner in evil. JoAnn Thompson, who believes in me when I don’t. Mary Fry, Roberto Ledesma, and David Browder, who cheerfully read and commented on my early drafts. Phil Fry, Cathie Hansen, and Deb Spychalski, for putting up with me for the last two years. Jane Lackey, for her long suffering patience. Linda Baker, Don Bingle, and Janet Deaver Pack who showed me that it could happen. Annette Leggett, always running through the forest with sharp objects. The Maumee Valley Chapter of the RWA, who welcomed me with open arms. Tom Redding, who suffered through the galleys. Merrilee Heifetz, Anna Genoese, and Fiorella DeLima, whose hard work and contributions to this book made me look damn good.

  But most of all, credit must go to Jean Rabe, who pushed me into the pool, and to Meg Davis, who found me there.

  Dear Reader,

  What is the special magic behind a book? What gives it the power to sweep us away from our everyday reality and fill us with a sense of wonder? Stories make us laugh with joy or cry in anguish and all because of a bit of ink on a piece of paper. Movies and TV are enjoyable, but nothing beats the pure pleasure of a good read.

  I don’t know exactly how it works, this magic that books hold over us, but I am proud to welcome you to this reprint of Warprize. So much has happened since this book was first released. These characters have grown and developed in ways that I would have never anticipated when I first wrote this book. It pleases me to no end that this book is available to you once more, with the addition of a new story I hope you will enjoy.

  Please feel free to stop by my website to learn more about me and my stories at www.eavwrites.com or email me at [email protected].

  Welcome to Xy!



  I PULLED THE SHARD OUT JUST AS HIS WOUND began spurting blood.

  “Goddess, no.” I dropped the knife, pressed my hands against his stomach, into the blood, and threw my full weight onto the wound. Biting my lip, I pressed harder still, desperate to stop the bleeding. “Hold him, boys.”

  The apprentices gathered around the table grabbed tight to his arms and legs, all of them wide-eyed and pale as they tried to keep him from moving. The wooden table beneath my aged patient creaked and complained at the added weight as the room echoed with the sound of our leather shoes slapping against the stone floor and my patient’s frantic panting.

  A quick glance around the large kitchen told me that there were no other healers in sight. They were all in the main hall, tending the others. Just the apprentices, clustered around the table. Blood bubbled up between my fingers, warm and thick. The metallic smell was strong and settled in my mouth. There was something wrong with the smell, but I was too busy to think on it. One of the lads frantically waved a fresh bandage before my eyes, and I snatched it, crammed it into the wound, and pressed down. I had to get it stopped. The bandage turned to scarlet before my eyes.

  The man under my hands groaned and thrashed, trying to get away from the pain. One of the smaller lads was flung away. The patient’s freed arm swiped through the air, catching me on the cheek. Vision blurred for a precious instant as my head rocked back with the blow. My hair came loose, and one long brown curl floated down to lie in the blood that surrounded my hands. The felled boy scrambled up and threw himself back into the fray, grabbing the flailing arm and wrestling it down. “Sorry, Lara,” he told me.

  “Hold him.” My voice was a croak. I was too harsh on the lads who were trying their best. Their bloodless faces were pale blurs. I heard the one next to me swallowing rapidly. Pray to the Goddess that he’d not spew on the wound. My shoulders tightened as I tried to increase the pressure, trying to staunch the red flow. “I need help here.” I raised my voice to carry into the main hall that was filled with wounded and other healers.

  “Lara? What’s happened?” A quiet, calm voice came from behind me.

  It was Eln, thank the Goddess.

  The warrior surged up again, and the table squeaked in protest. We stayed with him, trying to keep him still, trying to keep the pressure on. He cried out suddenly, then sagged back, exhausted. I gulped in breath to answer. “The shard came out clean but he’s bleeding.”

  A head popped in next to mine as Eln craned his scrawny neck to have a look. My teacher for years, he always moved like a gray lake-crane. He made a noncommittal noise, then pulled a deep breath in through his nose. I gritted my teeth. Sometimes he decides that I need a lesson in the midst of saving a life, even though I’ve held my mastery for years. Eln’s head pulled back, but I could feel him standing behind me.

  “Not my patient, and not my place to say.” Eln’s voice was quiet, but cut through the moans of the warrior. “But what happens after you stop the bleeding?”

  I slammed my eyes shut. My patient shifted again, and we moved with him, automatically.

  “Stubborn child . . .” Eln’s voice was a whisper, but I heard it. “You may have gained your mastery but you haven’t truly learned, have you?”

  I did not want to concede to his wisdom, did not want to face what the scent of waste in the blood meant, the scent I’d failed to identify a moment before. But experience had been a hard teacher, harder than Eln had ever been. With a nod, and a strangled sob, I released the pressure on the wound. The apprentices froze, not understanding.

  “Come, boys.” Eln spoke quietly. “Come with me.”

  I ignored them all as they filed out. One stopped, and looked at me.

  “Why’d ya stop?”

  Kneeling to wash my hands in a bucket on the floor, I looked up into his wide young eyes. “Eln will tell you, child. Go now.”

  Eln would not miss a chance to give a lesson, a chance to explain the slow, painful death of a belly wound that stank of waste. Explain that a good healer knew when to let a patient go, that death wasn’t always an enemy. Explain that good healers didn’t stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their limits. I wished them the best of it, for it was a lesson I’d never learned.

  Coward that I was, I took a moment to rinse my tunic and trous of the worst of the blood. That might save me some abuse from Anna when I returned to the castle. She claimed that I didn’t own a piece of clothing that didn’t have blood on it at one time or another. The cool, wet cloth felt good against my hot and sweaty skin.

  I took a fresh bowl of water and a clean cloth and bathed the man’s face. The bleeding had turned sluggish. It would not be long now. The man sighed and relaxed, muscles releasing their tension under my touch.

  Aye, Eln would offer a lesson. But I would offer comfort to a dying man.

  The water seemed to ease him, and I put the cloth down for a moment, and steadied myself. I forced myself to rinse my hands again, working the nails to get the blood off. I took a moment to clean the one stray lock of hair and tuck it up again. My hair was a constant irritation, the curls were never content to stay neat on top of my head.

  The kitchen had cleared again. It was the best room in the old barracks to use for the worst of the wounded. The large tables served well, and every counter and cupboard was filled with jars and bowls of ointments and remedies. I stared at their bright colors and the false promise of the claims that they could cure all ails. But nothing lay there that could save this man.

  A noise d
rew my attention down. His eyes fluttered open. Once again I took up the water and cloth. As I worked, he focused on me, a question in his stare. I smiled.

  “You are in the healing house, warrior. You took a wound. Rest now.”

  He licked his lips, narrowed his eyes. “Lance . . . tip broke off . . . belly.”

  I nodded. No need to speak. He knew.

  He closed his eyes, then opened them again and for the first time he seemed to really look at me. “Fought with your father, Lady.” He gasped as the effort cost him breath. His voice was soft and tight.

  I paused. Few were left that could claim to have known my father. “I am sorry, but I don’t know you.”

  He didn’t seem to hear me. One corner of his mouth turned up. “You’ve his eyes, child. All fey blue and wise.” His arm trembled as he tried to raise his hand. I caught it and held it in mine. His eyes got a strange light in them, perhaps an echo of his younger self. “Now there was a king, your father. What a warrior he was.” He looked over my shoulder, seeing into the mists of memory.

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