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Mary Brown - Unicorn Ring 03 - Master of Many Treasures

Mary Brown - Unicorn Ring 03 - Master of Many Treasures

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Published by: 8mmmmmmmm on Aug 07, 2009
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02/07/2013

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Master of Many Treasures
 
Master of Many TreasuresPrologue
It was a difficult journey.Once in the air he had thought the flight would be easy; after all, he would beflying higher than all but the largest raptors. The thermals, currents of air, clouds,and winds provided his highways, hills and vales, and the skyscape freed himfrom the pedestrian pace of those on the earth beneath. In that other skin he hadonce worn ten or fifteen miles a day had been enough, but now he could easilymanage a hundred in one stint, though he usually cut this by half. After all, therewas no hurry.No problems with the route, either. Like all of his kind the ways of the air wereetched into his brain as a birthright, a primitive race memory he shared with birds,fishes and some of the foraging mammals.At first the wind aided him on his way and the sun shone kindly at dawning anddusk, for he preferred to return to land during the day for food and rest, ready forthe guidance of the stars at night. The sleeping earth rolled away beneath hisclaws, and his reptilian hide adapted to the cold better than he had expected, notslowing him down with his reduced heartbeat as he had feared.Rivers glinted in serpentine curves beneath the moon, hills reared jagged teeth,
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Master of Many Treasures
tiny pinpoints of light showed where those wealthy enough burned candles andtapers in castle or church, and he grew complacent, so much so that when theChange came, he wasn't ready for it.It was that comfortable time between moondown and sunrise and he was cruisingat about a thousand feet, ready to do a long glide down in search of breakfast,when he suddenly became aware that something was terribly wrong. Although hiswings were beating at the same rate, he was losing height rapidly and feelingincreasingly cold.Glancing from side to side, he was horrified to see that his wings were almosttransparent, were shrinking; his heartbeats were quickening, his legs stretching inan agony of tendons and muscles, his clawed forefeet turning into . . . hands?Then he remembered.She had kissed him, not once but three times, and so as part of those acceptedLaws—Laws that until now he had dismissed as mere myth, though he had jokingly told her of them as truth—he would now have to spend part of his life asa human, earthbound as any mortal.All right, all right, so he was going to be a man for a minute, two, five, but why nosort of warning? He was falling faster and faster, but all he could think about wasthere should be some way of delaying the Change, or of controlling it—He landed plump in the middle of a village rubbish dump, all the breath knockedout of him but otherwise unhurt. For a moment he lay dazed and winded, then thestench was enough to make him stumble to his feet and stagger drunkenly downthe main (and only) street, shedding leaves, stalks, bones and worse. Halfwaydown he realized he was not alone.A small boy, perhaps five years old, clad only in a tattered shirt, was watching himwith solemn brown eyes in the growing dawnlight. By his side was a smallerchild, perhaps his two- or three-year-old sister, in a smock far too short for her,thumb stuck firmly in her mouth.He thrust his hands out in a useless gesture of friendship. "Sorry, children: didn'tmean to scare you. Just passing through. . . ."Fiercely he concentrated on his real self—though what was real anymore?—and tohis relief he began the awkward pain of changing back. In the midst of his
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Master of Many Treasures
discomfort he became aware of the children still watching him, their eyes growingrounder and rounder with amazement, and the humor of the situation struck himeven as he took a running leap into the air, as clumsy as any heavy water fowl."Good-bye," he called, but it sounded just like the rumble of thunder, and he couldsee now the terrified children beneath him rush for the nearest hut and safety.Never mind, they would have a tale to tell that would keep the village buzzing formonths.After that the weather became more hostile, and not only was he battling againsthis "changes," which took time to recognize and regularize, but also strongeasterlies, snow, and sleet, so it was well after the turn of the year before he saw inthe distance his objective, four thousand miles from the Place of Stones of histransformation: a small conical hill set proud on a plain, a hill that shone softlyblue against the encircling mountains. . . . 
Part OneChapter One
Venice stank. For the loveliest city in the world (so I had been told), center of Western trade, Queen of the Adriatic, she certainly needed a bath. One would havethought with all that water around the smells would have been washed away, butthe reverse was true: it made it worse. The waters in the canals were moved only
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