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Nose for Trouble
"Durgin has a remarkable gift for inventing unusual characters doing incredible things."
--Kliatt


Books


Touched by Magic


Touched by Magic Baen August 1996
ISBN: 1587157209
Baen cover art by DKS


Wildside Edition
ISBN: 1587157209
Wildside art by Melisa Michaels of Embiid


Sequel: Wolf Justice


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The Ending

Rethia sat at the edge of the meadow and arranged her morning harvest.  Herbs and wild flowers, lichens and mosses--they all jumbled together in her basket despite her best efforts.  The sorting was a game, and the hot midday sun brought out earthy scents as she organized the plants, making neat rows of color and shape in a never-ending process that pleased her six--but almost seven!--year-old's penchant for play.

The meadow was old pasture land gone poor, now thick with sturdy wild flowers and patches of briar.  The woods crowded close around it, offering refuge from the sun.  Finally tiring of the game, Rethia stretched out on her stomach, lay her head down on her arms, and peered into the slat basket to admire the wilted results.  The shade of a leafy maple dappled her tunic, screening her just enough to keep the day's heat away.

Of course she fell asleep.

She woke to wild hoof beats.

Frightened, she pressed herself against the ground.  The earth shook beneath her and the noise filled her ears, and though she should have crawled to safety amongst the trees, she only quivered in front of her basket, her fright tinged with a trace of outrage.  This was her meadow, her sanctuary and playground.  It was her safe place, where no bulls were kept nor horses pastured.  Still the beasts ran, circling the meadow, whipping through the wiry, long-stemmed flowers and trampling the briars without heed.  The dust they raised floated in the sunlight.  When Rethia gathered the courage to peer through the thick fall of her light hair, she could make out only flashing legs and leaping bodies--and all the while, the unmistakable tingle of magic coursed through her body.

Imperceptibly at first, the pounding diminished and the tickling magic intensified.  The creatures were leaving--and they weren't just running away.

They bounded into the air without landing.  Disappeared.  Vanished in a flash of not-being.

And when there was only one set of hoofbeats left, solid and deliberate and walking toward her, Rethia trembled with the knowledge that she witnessed great magic in a world that was drifting free of such things, and forgot to be afraid of the beast itself.

The hooves stopped in front of her basket, strong round hooves with heavy-boned, clean-lined legs rising from them.  Not a horse.  She knew that even before she looked up to see the horn.  The unicorn dropped a brown-glazed muzzle into her basket, its lips twitching as it lipped and explored the pungent herbs.  It wrinkled its nose and snorted mightily, leaving the plants in complete disarray, half of them blown entirely out of the basket.

"Hey!"  Rethia forgot her fear.  She pulled herself upright and looked straight into the face of the unicorn, her deep blue gaze unflinching.  It was a heavy-boned face, with ridges etched in darkest walnut instead of gleaming highlights, and with odd, icy eyes that abruptly reminded her that unicorns were not Tame.  Wild magic, free always, of what man might intend or wish for it. 

When the beast did not react to her impudence, she lifted a small trembling hand to touch the thick, tangled mane and forelock, so long they brushed her face even as the animal raised its head.  It looked around the trampled, abandoned meadow, blew out a huff of air.  When it looked back down at her, its icy gaze warmed, catching the blue of her eyes, staining them with the reflection of its walnut features.  It dropped its head to again accept her touch.

She had no idea it would be a trade.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Touched By Mystery

Chapter 1

Reandn crouched at the base of a rocky outcrop, poking his finger in the damp blemish showing through otherwise crisp brown and gold leaves.  The print in the underlying dirt showed the pad and claw marks of a fox instead of the scuff from a child's soft boot, and he stood with a scowl.  The Highborn boy was as lost as ever.

A single spatter of cold rain hit the ground, then another.  Reandn regarded the marks dourly.  But the boy had not started his fanciful unicorn hunt with the intention of rousting all of King's Keep Wolves for a boy hunt instead.  Even the Hounds--normally limited to internal Keep guard--were out in the fitful weather, driven by the importance of this fosterling from the Resiore valleys of the north.  And although he was ostensibly fostered at King's Keep as a favor to his Highborn father, the arrangement was also a reminder to the remote Resiores--a message of their ties and fealty to King's Keep.

They would not do well to lose him.

A gust of wind penetrated Reandn's wool jacket, and the cold rain hitting his cheek spoke of snow.  Get moving, he told himself.  Find the boy before he freezes to death.  And then--

No.  Not now--

That damnable odd pressure behind his jaw, the one that had plagued him on and off since late summer--a sneeze caught in the wrong place, lingering--making him work his jaw even though it wouldn't help.  He'd learned to ignore it.

Not this time.  It took him by surprise, moving up into his ears to hum with an edge that was as jarring as sharpened steel scraping rock.  He shook his head, hard--once, twice--

And suddenly realized he had hit the ground, had fallen without even noticing.  When the noise faded, it left only Reandn, stunned, on his knees with the cold seeping through his trousers and an even colder realization clutching his chest.

It's getting worse. 
"Doranna Durgin envelops her appealing characters with a rare, shimmerying aura of mystic legend."
--Romantic Times

"[Durgin] has a magic touch for creating rich fantasy."
--Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

"I loved Touched by Magic and was sorry to see it end."
--S.M. Stirling

"Mystery, suspense, and loyalty fill out the plot, but primarily this novel focuses on the dangers of obsession. it also deals hauntingly with loss: of loved ones, of home and status, of entire ways of life.... It will keep you guessing right to the end, and there are no simple solutions to the complex problems presented."
--Hypatia's Hoard