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The Magic of the Dance

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The Faces of Revenge

The adviser groaned. "Alanna, you are in great danger. You can't sit here and wait until General Geldor returns. You will be escorted to a small nunnery called Arbor Falls, high in the mountains. You'll be safe there."

"My place is with my people. Here." Her gaze shot daggers. "I'm not going to run away and hide, and I'm not going to give up my throne. My brother is in exile, so by birthright and blood, I now rule Bynneria as queen."

She stood slowly, widened her stance, and stretched as tall as possible to meet Rand's gaze. "You didn't like having a Bynnerian rule your country, so why would the Bynnerians want you?" She poked a finger in his chest. "Go back to your Aldarian throne and I'll sit on mine."

Thrumming her fingers against her arm, she continued, "I may consider entering into formal negotiations, for an alliance. For now, I demand that you withdraw your soldiers from my castle and go back to Aldaria before I call my men and have you clapped in irons."

Rand clenched his teeth to hold back a nasty retort.

She turned to her adviser and shrugged. "As you can see, I have this all under control."

"By the Goddess, Alanna, women do not rule kingdoms." Hendrick rose and placed his hands on her shoulders. His voice was still gentle, but his face tightened. "Let's not have this argument again. Bynneria has never had a female alone on the throne. You are a mere child of sixteen. A girl. You've had no training--"

"Then I'll be the first." She recrossed her arms. "I'm intelligent, I've been tutored by the best and am well loved by my people, who will flock to my banner. And I'm one of the finest warriors in all the Seven Kingdoms. Had I not been so tired," she flicked a lidded glance at Rand, "I would have killed that man. I have you, I'll have General Geldor--"

"You would have killed me?" Rand's jaw dropped. He collapsed into tears of laughter so intense, he flinched at the trauma to the wound near his groin.

Alanna sniffed. "That wince should remind you of the damage I can do, even when I am beyond exhaustion. Imagine how few teeth you'd have left if I'd been up to full strength."

That reminded him how his jaw still ached. "I should have used my blade to cut out your tongue instead of batting aside your futile attempt at swordplay." Rand had not only gotten control of his mirth but found it evaporated with his ballooning impatience at Hendrick's coddling. "Well-behaved little girls can be pampered and indulged. Fiery little mud-wasps who don't know their place need a swift swat."

Does revenge's reward ever equal the cost?