In a country where Elemental Sensitivities determine a person's place in society, Mariana, fourth child of King Jonathan and Queen Alexandria, was born an Insensitive. She is given the made up title of Progenna, because she can't be in line for the throne and therefore, can't be a Princess. All her life, she is reminded that she isn't quite good enough. When her father decides she is to marry Pir Leo Valentine, an eighty-four year old man with a scar across his face that took his eye and only one hand, she runs away from the palace.
Orlando of Talla is a pig farmer and former soldier who served the King until he watched his Sovereign burn an entire harbor town rather than lose a battle. Now he tries to live a quiet life while leading a band a rebels who steal from the nobility to bring prisoners home from that war.
Orlando is also the bastard son of a nobleman, and therefore, he has a Sensitivity, one of Blood that allows him to feel the Sensitivities of others.
He finds the injured Progenna in the forest and immediately realizes that the stories about Mariana aren't true. Rather than being an Insensitive, Mariana may be the most powerful Sensitive in Valborough.
Nancy S. Brandt is a stay-at-home mother of two children, a daughter, 25, who is an ap-pointment's clerk at an orthopedic clinic and an editor and book reviewer; and a son, 12, who studies karate, and wants to be either an historian or an artist. Nancy's husband, Ste-ven, is also an author and an adjunct professor of computer science at Louisiana State Uni-versity.
In about sixth grade, an English teacher gave an assignment to write a descriptive essay. Nancy's was all about a wonderful cave filled with diamonds, emeralds and other precious gems. From that experience, she walked into every English class hoping to get to write some-thing, and she learned three things:
1. The difference between stalactite and stalagmite,
2. That fantasy was probably the genre she should concentrate on, and
3. Never end a story with "It was all a dream."
Nancy is a kidney transplant recipient (her husband was her living donor), a thyroid cancer survivor, and an Army veteran. She is currently working on the sequel to Pigsty Princess.
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Progenna Mariana, fourth child of Queen Alexandria and King Jonathan of Valborough, watched the couples twirling around the dance floor. Beneath their feet, colored mosaics representing the eight magical elements danced as well, the patterns changing in time with the music.
The annual ball in celebration of the Queen’s birthday was in full swing.
Mariana watched in delight as her brother, Cognate Prince Ramone, Heir Presumptive, danced with his wife, who would be delivering their first child within the next month. The white sash draped from Grand Sahdess Victoria’s right shoulder to her left hip indicated Air Sensitivity and explained how she could be so light on her feet even with such an advanced pregnancy.
Mariana idly ran her fingertips along the fold of her own black satin sash, narrower than any the rest of the royal family wore. Traditionally, black was for children whose Sensitivities haven’t manifested yet, or the rare Insensitive Commoner invited to royal celebrations.
The color of her sash shouldn’t have bothered her anymore. Everyone in the kingdom knew Mariana had no Sensitivities. In fact, even her title, “Progenna,” had been created especially for her. The title identified her as a daughter of the King and Queen, but also made it clear she had no magical abilities and, therefore, no place in the line of succession. She was, officially, a royal nobody.
The music from the quartet of stringed instruments stopped, and the couples paired up in two lines in the center of the floor for the next dance, a lively reel.
Mariana moved along the tapestry-covered walls toward the three sets of double doors that led to the balcony.
She had to find Darius, son and Heir Presumptive of Clarence, the Margrave of Sasoin. As Mariana surveyed the dance floor, she couldn’t see Darius, who was known as the Rieravo of Sasoin, a title he inherited when his father’s landholdings increased and the older man was given the higher title.
As one of the few still-unmarried Heir Presumptives of a high-ranking noble in the court, Darius had a partner for every dance of the evening. Mariana assumed he had to be out on the balcony getting some fresh air after all the dancing he’d done.
She and Darius had been an unofficial couple for some time now, and one more dance would make it official. Then, her father couldn’t keep them from announcing their intent to wed. After all, a third dance at such an event was practically an engagement announcement all by itself.
As she passed by, guests bowed their heads and muttered greetings. However, she ignored them all, as she was only interested in finding Darius.
Suddenly, she was halted by a black wooden cane thrust horizontally in front of her. Its bearer was a short bald man with one eye, who smiled so wide at her his yellow chipped teeth were visible.
“Pir Leo,” Mariana said, making a small curtsy of respect to the Sahdeer of Valentine, advisor to the King. “How nice to see you this evening.”
“My dear Progenna Mariana, I have been hoping to dance with you.” He grabbed her gloved hand and kissed it. As always, he lingered longer than was appropriate before releasing her. Marianna suppressed a shudder.
Pir Leo had been a figure in her life since she was a child. Because he was an expert in diplomacy and foreign relations, he was a frequent visitor to the palace and even at family gatherings. He had always frightened her.