By Mary Patterson Thornburg
Six years ago, when she was twelve, Alyssha Dodson was transported by accident to another world – a world much like her own, but just undergoing its industrial revolution amidst a whirlwind of social change. She found a home there, the brother she thought she'd lost forever, and a boy who loved her, who will in these six years have become a young man, as she's become a woman. For all these years she's been torn between her loyalty and love for her widowed father, the promise she made to him that she'd stay in his world, and her longing for that other place.
Now, on her eighteenth birthday, a hit-and-run victim found dying on a Granville street says her name and gives a policeman a strange object that can only mean trouble and danger for her brother and her friends. Alyssha has no choice but to go back.
When she gets there, she finds changes she'd never expected…
Now the group was close enough for people to see the alilalu for what they were, and she heard murmurs all around, along with gleeful shouts from children. To eyes accustomed to seeing riders on chialau, the Wind Beasts seemed to dwarf the men mounted on them, except for one rider near the right end of the line who appeared to be a giant. Alyssha edged forward to see if she could make out some details.
Which one was the prince? Surely he would be dressed a bit more grandly than his companions, but in fact they all seemed to be wearing the same costume, long, flowing cloaks and big soft hats. The dramatic uniform looked suspiciously like something the Kardl she remembered might have dreamed up. But all were alike, and the men's faces were still indistinguishable. Most seemed to be neither very light nor very dark in complexion. Kardl could be almost any of them.
Suddenly the big man on the right gave his alila a kick with both heels, and the creature broke into a gallop. The other riders scrambled forward, but the first alila, a jet-black stallion, was too swift for them to catch up to it, and it thundered toward the crowd as people around Alyssha gasped and moved back.
A few yards away, the rider reined his alila in, swung down from its back, and hit the ground running. He was a huge, powerfully built young man running full tilt, his black cloak whipping out behind him.
He was making a beeline for Alyssha. Instinctively, she took a step back, startled and uncomprehending. But he closed the distance between them in a matter of seconds, and suddenly she found herself caught in a bear-like embrace, lifted off her feet and spun around in circles. Astonished, she began to fight, kicking and pounding, and heard a version of her father's voice coming out of her mouth: "What in the hell do you think you're doing?"
The other riders, who'd caught up with him at last, reined in their nervous mounts and stared in consternation. Without letting go, the man stopped revolving and laughed delightedly.
"Alyssha! It's me!" he said. "Don't you recognize me? It's Kardl!" He reached up and whipped the strange hat off his head, to reveal a shock of copper hair as bright as the Duchess's flame-bush in Granville. It had not dimmed perceptibly in nearly seven years.
And of course it was Kardl. Those years disappeared from Alyssha's consciousness in an instant, as did the crowd around them, her prim speech of welcome, Shan – especially Shan – and everything else in both universes but the two of them. She flung her arms around Kardl and kissed him so hard that he staggered backward. Recovering his balance, he returned the kiss with enthusiasm. After a little while Alyssha came back to her senses, at least to a sense of the interested crowd, which would definitely have something to talk about if this greeting were to progress much further.
Horrified, she managed to pull away from him. In a low voice, she said the first thing that entered her head: "For God's sake, Kardl, stop! Put me down! Kardl, I'm going to be married in ten days!"
Mary Patterson Thornburg was born in California, grew up in Washington State, moved to Montana when she was 18, and spent many years in Indiana, where she studied and then taught at Ball State University.
Her dream was always to write fantasy stories and novels, but she didn't get started until she and her husband moved back to Montana in 1998. When she'd finished her first story and it was published, she took off running and never looked back. She's had stories in Cicada, Zahir, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, among other places. Two of her short stories earned honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (2006, 2008), and "Niam's Tale," in the July/August 2010 Cicada, won the SCBWI 2011 Magazine Merit Honor Certificate. Her first fantasy/romance/adventure novel, A Glimmer of Guile, was published by Uncial Press in 2014. Her second book for Uncial, The Kura, came out in April, 2015. An Uncial Novel Byte, "Ghosts," was released October 14, 2016, and a second Novel Byte, "Battle Royal," is scheduled for release in January, 2017. Both "Ghosts" and "Battle Royal" are set in the Kura universe.
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