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Authors: Nancy Springer

Fair Peril

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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF NANCY SPRINGER

“Wonderful.” —
Fantasy & Science Fiction

“The finest fantasy writer of this or any decade.” —Marion Zimmer Bradley

“Ms. Springer's work is outstanding in the field.” —Andre Norton

“Nancy Springer writes like a dream.” —
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Nancy Springer's kind of writing is the kind that makes you want to run out, grab people on the street, and tell them to go find her books immediately and read them, all of them.” —
Arkansas News

“[Nancy Springer is] someone special in the fantasy field.” —Anne McCaffrey

Larque on the Wing
Winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award

“Satisfying and illuminating … uproariously funny … an off-the-wall contemporary fantasy that refuses to fit any of the normal boxes.” —
Asimov's Science Fiction

“Irresistible … charming, eccentric … a winning, precisely rendered foray into magic realism.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“Best known for her traditional fantasy novels, Springer here offers an offbeat contemporary tale that owes much to magical realism.… An engrossing novel about gender and self-formation that should appeal to readers both in and outside the SF/fantasy audience.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Springer's best book yet … A beautiful/rough/raunchy dose of magic.” —
Locus

Fair Peril

“Rollicking, outrageous … eccentric, charming … Springer has created a hilarious blend of feminism and fantasy in this heartfelt story of the power of a mother's love.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Witty, whimsical, and enormously appealing.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“A delightful romp of a book … an exuberant and funny feminist fairy tale.” —
Lambda Book Report

“Moving, eloquent … often hilarious, but … beneath the laughter, Springer has utterly serious insights into life, and her own art …
Fair Peril
is modern/timeless storytelling at its best, both enchanting and very down-to-earth. Once again, brava!” —
Locus

Chains of Gold

“Fantasy as its finest.” —
Romantic Times

“[Springer's] fantastic images are telling, sharp and impressive; her poetic imagination unparalleled.” —Marion Zimmer Bradley

“Nancy Springer is a writer possessed of a uniquely individual vision. The story in
Chains of Gold
is borrowed from no one. It has a small, neat scope rare in a book of this genre, and it is a little jewel.” —
Mansfield News Journal

“Springer writes with depth and subtlety; her characters have failings as well as strengths, and the topography is as vivid as the lands of dreams and nightmares. Cerilla is a worthy heroine, her story richly mythic.” —
Publishers Weekly

The Hex Witch of Seldom

“Springer has turned her considerable talents to contemporary fantasy with a large degree of success.” —
Booklist

“Nimble and quite charming … with lots of appeal.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“I'm not usually a witchcraft and fantasy fan, but I met the author at a convention and started her book to see how she writes. Next thing I knew, it was morning.” —Jerry Pournelle, coauthor of
Footfall

Apocalypse

“This offbeat fantasy's mixture of liberating eccentricity and small-town prejudice makes for some lively passages.” —
Publishers Weekly

Plumage

“With a touch of Alice Hoffmanesque magic, a colorfully painted avian world and a winning heroine, this is pure fun.” —
Publishers Weekly

“A writer's writer, an extraordinarily gifted craftsman.” —Jennifer Roberson

Godbond

“A cast of well-drawn characters, a solidly realized imaginary world, and graceful writing.” —
Booklist

Fair Peril

Nancy Springer

One

“Once upon a time there was a middle-aged woman,” Buffy Murphy declaimed to the trees, “whose slime-loving, shigella-kissing bung hole of a husband dumped her the month after their twentieth wedding anniversary.” Striding faster through the nature park, her jeans brushing together between her ample thighs, she started to huff. “After she—had quit college to put him through law school, after she—had skipped having a life—to raise three kids with him, he gives her the old heave-ho and off he goes with his bimbo.” Tramping recklessly down a hill slick with pine needles, Buffy contemplated the serendipitous rhyme of
heave-ho, go, bimbo
and brightened momentarily. She puffed her bosomy chest and raised her volume—there was nobody in the park on an April weekday, and even if there were, at this juncture of her life she didn't care. As if being heard venting aloud in the third person might be embarrassing to the normal person? Okay, then she wasn't normal. What else was new. Loudly Buffy declared, “So she, quixotic person that she is, naturally she tells him bloody fine, she can make it on her own, she doesn't want a fricking penny from him, she's going to build a career as a storyteller.” Yeah. Right. So far she hadn't made enough to cover the cost of her business cards. Her scutty job was what was paying the bills, not her storytelling. “The son of a bitch thinks he can pay her off and forget about her. She isn't going to let it happen. He can just keep his goddamn money and feel the guilt, goddamn it. She is so mad she …” Striding along a valley chilly with hemlock shade, reaching for a fiery simile, Buffy failed to come up with one sufficiently incandescent and faltered to a halt, both verbally and physically.

The mouth got going again first. “She's bloody heartbroken, okay?” Her voice hitched, and she shook her head angrily. No crying. No goddamn use. No use telling her story to the forest, either. “I talk to the trees,” she muttered, “but they don't listen to me.” Who had ever listened? But she told stories anyway.

“So on the first anniversary of the divorce,” she proclaimed to a shagbark hickory, “she went for a long walk deep in the woods. Not a happy camper.” She kicked at a jack-in-the-pulpit standing too uppity phallic near her foot, then got herself moving again, never one to follow the marked trails, squelching over damp ground topped with leaves as rotten and swampy as her mood.

“And what happened in the woods? Absolutely nothing. The end. End of story. This woman had no future. And do you want to know why? Because she was fat. Fat. FAT.”

Not true. She was not obese, merely overweight. Thirty pounds. Well, maybe forty.

So, sure, just lose weight and she'd be lovable again? Like morphology was all that could possibly make her worthwhile? The thought made her want to eat somebody's head off.

A serene silver gleam showed ahead, at the bottom of the hollow. Buffy veered toward it. Why did she always do that, head toward outdoor water, even if it was just a glorified birdbath in somebody's back yard? No rational reason, but she always did. There was something about water. By all logic, a person ought to stay as far as possible from muck and mosquitoes, yet she had fallen into some sort of primordial love with the swamp hidden in the woods behind her house when she was a kid. The world had seemed more alive there—hawks, snakes, snails, cattails shooting out of the mud. The wet smells, like the whole place was God's bathroom. Ducks, carp, muskrats with their disgusting naked tails. She had gone there every chance she got.

But that was then, and this was now. Hard to feel the sense of wonder that kid did.

At the muddy edge of a small woodland pond, Buffy stood staring at the shivery reflections of tree branches, trying to sense a promise of salvation. Sure, it was a pretty little place, a tiny echo of Eden. Green horse-ears of skunk cabbage were pushing up along the edge. Buffy noticed bloodroot not yet in bloom, long-legged Jesus bugs walking on the water, duckweed.

Floating in a twiggy, reedy, rankly effulgent mess of trash near the edge was a dented Coors Extra Gold can some yahoo had thrown in.

So much for Eden.

On the Coors Extra Gold can squatted a greasy-green bullfrog, large compared to other frogs, but small for a bullfrog, young. It stared at Buffy with half-dome eyes the same sullied golden color as its throne.

“Can't you sit on a lily pad or a log or something?” Buffy complained.

The frog smirked. “Kiss me,” it said.

Buffy felt everything stop. Her brain, her heart, her breathing, time, the world's slow turning, all hovered in abeyance. The frog—was speaking? The content of its message hung on the air, meaningless. The frog—was talking?

Then time jerked into motion again like a toy carousel. The frog—had spoken? Yes. Yes, it sure damn had. Retrieving the words from the air, Buffy heard what it had said.
Kiss me. Kiss me,
it had said, the cheeky little bastard.

Buffy was used to similar propositions from construction workers. Back when she was still riding her bike, some guy in a Day-Glo orange vest had once yelled at her to sit on his face and pedal his ears. “Kiss me” was mild by comparison, but coming from a frog, it startled her enough to jolt her free of her dismal focus on herself, which was a relief. She stood gawking.

The frog goggled back at her. “I am an ensorcelled prince,” it said in a haughty baritone voice. “Kiss me, break the spell, and I will be yours to command.”

Was somebody playing a practical joke, trying to make her look silly? Her ex seeking revenge by getting her on
America's Funniest Home Videos
? Buffy flashed a look all around, but the woods were typical Appalachian second growth, trees standing like fashion models, thin and boring; there was no interesting undergrowth to conceal anyone. Moreover, the frog's mouth had moved as it spoke. She had seen its salmon-colored gullet, its sticky yellowish tongue thrashing wildly to shape the words.

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