written for fiefgoldenlake dot proboards dot com's Decathlon contest!


It's a wondrous thing, how Beka can talk to the dead. Kora sees her standing in the mass of birds, an intent look on her face and the Black God's ghosts whispering in her ear, and wonders who she hears. How many crimes get solved on the wings of the pigeons?

She wonders if Mama or Papa or Goddess forbid, her sister, ever talk to Beka. She wonders what they would say, if Mama would talk about the magic that killed her, or if Papa blamed Mama for not catching his illness in time.

Her Gift seems insignificant and small.


Danil Andris flirts with Kora on Saturday afternoons when he comes to buy herbs from her mother. He looks down the front of her blouse when she dips to make change and touches her waist and hair in greeting. She brushes off his attentions, always laughs him away, but every weekend like clockwork he returns to her.

One day in dark winter he tells her that he's marrying Galya Esil, that the wedding is in a month- "got her pregnant?" Kora asks scornfully, and he blushes and admits it's the truth- and she realizes that she's never wanted him more.


Her Gift doesn't make her invincible, no matter how many charms she makes or herbs she gathers. The Tortallan Court of the Rogue is more dangerous than Scanra- there's so much more to protect. But when they're up there on the dais, her and Aniki and Rosto with wounds healed and scars showing, most of the dissent quieted, it feels like they'll never fall off. And all the little things, their friendship with a lady knight and too-closeness to the Dogs, their foreignness, none of that is going to be an impediment. They are on the top of the world.


She wanted Rosto more than anything else when she first saw him. He was what Mama warned her about, pretty-boy and bladed, and he wanted her just as much as she wanted him. Gratification isn't everything, Kora knows, and when they end up with Aniki in tow her time with Rosto cuts down by half.

She still wants him in her bed, wants his fine kisses and craven touches, that part of him she thought was only for her. She used to seduce him, night after night in shifty inns, and she's going to return to that way of life.