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Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart
 


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Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart


  WOLF'S HEAD,

  WOLF'S HEART

  Jane Lindskold

  Firekeeper Saga 2

  WOLF'S HEAD, WOLF'S HEART

  Copyright © 2002 by Jane Lindskold

  Edited by Teresa Nielsen Hayden

  Map by Mark Stein based on an original drawing by James Moore.

  Family tree art by Tim Hall

  A Tor Book

  Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

  175 Fifth Avenue

  New York, NY 10010

  www.tor.com

  Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

  ISBN: 0-812-57549-0

  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2002067247

  First edition: August 2002

  First mass market edition: August 2003

  Printed in the United States of America

  Table of Contents

  WOLF'S HEAD, WOLF'S HEART

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  BOOK ONE Chapter I

  Chapter II

  Chapter III

  Chapter IV

  Chapter V

  Chapter VI

  Chapter VII

  Chapter VIII

  Chapter IX

  Chapter X

  Chapter XI

  Chapter XII

  Chapter XIII

  Chapter XIV

  Chapter XV

  Chapter XVI

  Chapter XVII

  BOOK TWO Chapter XVIII

  Chapter XIV

  Chapter XX

  Chapter XXI

  Chapter XXII

  Chapter XXIII

  Chapter XIV

  Chapter XV

  Chapter XXVI

  Chapter XXVII

  Chapter XXVIII

  Chapter XXIX

  Chapter XXX

  Chapter XXXI

  Chapter XXXII

  Chapter XXXIII

  BOOK THREE Chapter XXXIV

  Chapter XXXV

  Chapter XXXVI

  Chapter XXXVII

  Chapter XXXVIII

  Chapter XXXIX

  Chapter XL

  Glossary Of Characters

  Dedication

  For Jim, my angel on Earth

  and

  For Dad, Gwydion, and Haley, three of Heaven's newest angels

  Acknowledgments

  As always, there are more people to thank than I can easily remember. My husband, Jim, must be thanked first for providing his increasingly sophisticated critical and editorial assistance—and his unflagging patience and love.

  Phyllis White of Hying Coyote Books is owed thanks both for help finding good sources on wolves and for the Tower at World-con 2000. Geoff from Fish and Wildlife in New Mexico made it possible for me to participate in a wolf capture. Tom McCarrol and Pati Nagel insisted I needed a Web site and helped me get it up and running. (Check it out at www.janelindskold.com)

  On the publishing front, Kay McCauley offered good counsel when I needed it. Fred Herman earned my undying gratitude by answering the phone. Teresa Nielsen Hayden taught me new things about the inside of the editorial mind.

  To all those friends who offered support during this difficult past year and gave me the strength to keep writing—Yvonne, Sally, Weber, Sharon, Jan, and Steve among them—I offer my thanks and my hopes that you enjoy the story.

  And, finally, I want to thank the Los Alamos Five and all the other readers who wrote me this year for reminding me why I like writing books.

  BOOK ONE

  Chapter I

  Lying on his back in the darkness of his bedchamber, King Allister of the Pledge listened to his wife's soft breathing.

  Pearl was pretending to be asleep, even as he was.

  Twenty-two years of marriage made fairly certain that neither was fooled. Those same twenty-two years made certain that each would maintain the farce.

  He wondered if the same things kept her awake. There had been so much. The war—King Allister's War, they were calling it now, as if he had started it. And maybe he had. He had certainly done his part to end it.

  The coronation earlier that day—all those people kneeling before him, swearing oaths. Some had been truly happy, he thought, but others… He thought he'd seen all the faces that men turn on each other, but he had seen a new one now… the eyes had been flat, holding no expression at all, while lips smiled or frowned; you could almost taste the calculation going on behind them. He'd never had power before, so he'd never seen this bland face that ambitious men turn to power.

  But why should he fool himself? Ignoring the true reason for his sleeplessness was as ridiculous as this game of pretending to Pearl that he was asleep. At least that game served some purpose; at least each could believe the other might be resting.

  Valora's letter. Whether his eyes were opened or closed Allister could summon the text of it before him, seeing it as glowing silver words against velvet black, though the real letter had been neatly written in prosaic black ink upon fine vellum. He'd first discovered the letter—and the queen's treachery—soon after their arrival.

  Allister Seagleam, king in all but crown, had arrived with his family and retainers at Silver Whale Cove mid-afternoon the previous day. The castle itself—a massive stone structure along whose walls both rounded and square-built towers alternated—had been built close to the water, on a high point jutting into the cove. Named Revelation Point Castle for some event in Bright Bay's colonial past, it was the traditional seat for rulers of the area.

  They were hardly through the arched stone gateway before they learned that Queen Valora, the former Queen Gustin IV, had departed on schedule as promised, taking with her rather more of the castle staff than was polite, and leaving those who remained in an uproar as they prepared for the formal coronation that was to be held the next afternoon.

  The Keeper of the Keys, an elderly Pelican whose family had held the post since the days of Gustin I, had been the first to hint that all might not be right. He'd knelt in front of Allister, offering his homage as was his due and duty.

  "I'm Ivory Pelican, Your Majesty," he'd said, extending in front of him a square, flat cushion of dark purple New Kelvinese silk upon which rested a highly polished bunch of keys. "My title is the Keeper of the Keys."

  "I recognize you," Allister had said, "and confirm you in that title and its tasks and honors, unless you have reason to wish to be relieved of them."

  He'd recited that formula many times in just the few hours since his arrival at the castle. The entire thing would need to be redone subsequent to the formal coronation, but these interim oaths were necessary, confirming that he wasn't out to strip everyone of their rank and privilege just because he'd managed to strip the queen of her throne.

  All the other times the person so reassured had made some small speech of thanks and had then hurried off to do whatever needed to be done—maybe pausing along the way to reassure kith and kin that their particular royal stipend wasn't about to be stopped.

  This time, though, Lord Ivory had rocked back on his heels and given his king—for although not yet formally crowned,

  Allister Seagleam effectively had been king for these twenty-odd days—a look that might have been sly, but that just might have been a bit sad.

  "Well, Your Majesty," Lord Ivory had said, keeping his voice low, "if you can spare an old man a few minutes, I believe there is something you should see."

  Allister had found those minutes. Accompanied by Shad, his eldest son and heir, and a brace of trusted guards, he had followed where the old Pelican led.

  Any onlooker would have immediately seen the likeness between father and son. Shad was as fair of skin and hair as his father, but where Allister was
lean and with a vaguely scholarly untidiness to his bearing, Shad had inherited House Oyster's rounded lines from his mother. When he'd been a boy, the uninformed had often mistaken this apparent plumpness for softness, but now that several years at sea had put muscle on him, Shad showed promise of a whale-like solidity that did not preclude grace.

  But where they were most alike was in a frank curiosity regarding the world around them, a curiosity that Shad did not bother to conceal as Lord Ivory Pelican led them into reaches of the castle that before this day had been the private quarters of the now-deposed Queen Gustin IV.

  Allister was less a stranger to the castle. His father had been Prince Tavis, brother to Gustin III, third in line to the throne after his elder sister, Princess Seastar—that is before Gustin III had finally fathered his little Valora, a child born fairly late in his life, after others had become ambitious for the throne.

  Prince Tavis had never held much hope that he or his son would be king. Indeed his own mother, Queen Gustin II, had entered into a pact with King Chalmer of Hawk Haven to wed Tavis to Chalmer's daughter Caryl in a pledge for peace between the kingdoms. The pact did not include the power to enforce those ideals. Perhaps that was why it had failed.

  But Tavis's son by that marriage had frequented the royal castle as a child, escorted by his father, who—much though he resented being a playing piece in kingdom politics—would not let his son be dismissed as an inconvenient nonentity.

  Prince Tavis had made certain that his son would bear a title—that of duke—and hold lands he could pass on to his own children. More than that, he could not do; and when he died at sea, a comparatively young man of fifty-six, it was whispered that he had welcomed death.

  By then, however, Allister had made peace with his odd place outside of the usual order. His was no Great House, yet he was first cousin to the queen. He attended sessions of court, held office, sailed for a term in the navy. Each of these roles gave him access to different parts of the labyrinthine castle, yet he could swear that he had never before even seen the door to which Lord Ivory led him that day.

  "This, Your Majesty," said the Keeper of the Keys, "is the door to the Royal Treasury."

  Allister frowned. He knew perfectly well where the treasury was. He'd been in and out of it many times in his early twenties, when he did a stint as an auditor. Lord Ivory saw the frown, and thinned his lips over old teeth in what a shark might call a smile.

  "The Royal Treasury, Your Majesty," he repeated. "The one that only the monarch goes into. The crown jewels are kept there… and other things. She who is now Queen Valora made a visit here before she left. She said she had to leave the crown for you."

  "And you keep the keys for this treasury?" Allister asked.

  "I do." Lord Ivory shook out a fat silver key from the bunch on his ring. "Shall I open the door for you?"

  Allister knew Ivory Pelican was toying with him and disliked the game, but he couldn't see any reason not to play along. The crown that had fit Valora's dainty head would look ridiculous on him, but two of the former Gustins had been male, and one of their crowns should do. He had no wish to add having a new crown crafted to the reasons for delaying his coronation.

  Besides, there were things other than crowns among the crown jewels of Bright Bay, and Allister felt ice in his gut at the thought of finally seeing them.

  "Open the door," he said, hiding his sudden fear with brusqueness.

  "One moment, Your Majesty." Lord Ivory selected a smaller, rather utilitarian key from his bunch and used it to open a wooden cabinet tucked in an alcove along the hallway. "You will need light."

  He drew out several triple-wicked candles set ready in a silver-gilt candelabrum. Lighting them from one of the wall sconces, he extended the candelabrum to the king.

  "Give it to Shad," Allister said. "I'd like him to come with me."

  "Only the monarch goes into the treasury." Lord Ivory protested.

  "Someday Shad will be king," Allister said firmly. "I think I'll start a new tradition."

  He glanced at the guards, longtime retainers from his own estate. As of yet, he didn't know who he could or could not trust from the castle guard. He didn't quite trust Valora not to leave behind some faithful retainer with orders to slip a knife between his ribs.

  The captain of the guard, Whyte Steel gave Allister an almost imperceptible nod. He, too, was seeing assassins in every shadow.

  Muttering protests, Lord Ivory unlocked the door. Thanking him, Allister stepped over the threshold. He could hear Shad behind him. The young man's breathing came quick and excited, but to any less proximate to him than his father, Shad probably seemed quite calm.

  Lord Ivory shut the door behind them, but Allister was certain that with Whyte Steel on the other side it would open again. Then he turned his attention to the chamber.

  It wasn't large, maybe five feet to a side, but there were six sides, each of equal length. As if to make up for its comparative smallness, the room was very high. The windows at the top of each wall were narrow slits. Set halfway up each wall was a pale block of stone carved with intricate patterns.

  Allister had seen their like before, elsewhere in the castle. They were remnants of Old Country magic, enchantments that—if tales more than a hundred years old were to be believed—had once shed a soft, clean light all through the building. It was said that such routine magics had continued to function for years after the Plague, but had gradually failed because no one remained who knew how to renew their power.

  Ever quiescent, the carved blocks inspired awe, but they could not hold Allister's attention long, not with the huge treasure cabinet that was built into half the room demanding his attention.

  The cabinet was crafted from polished maple the reddish-gold of honey, and fit neatly into three angles of wall. Its doors were closed, but a silk ribbon braided in the sea green and gold of the royal house hung from the faceted crystal door pulls. Two keys depended from the ribbon: a silver one, twin to that which Lord Ivory had used to open the door to the treasure room, and a smaller, golden one set with emeralds.

  "Well, I see that the king need not always bring the Keeper of the Keys whenever he wishes to change his hat," Allister said, trying to lighten his own mood. "How kind of Valora to leave these behind. Shall we see what is in the cabinet?"

  Shad nodded.

  As expected, the golden key opened the cabinet, revealing that the doors had been cleverly hinged so that they folded back into a neat packet that did not impede access to the interior, even in this small space. Good workmanship, perhaps from the days when the Old Country still ruled, but nothing that a competent carpenter could not do today.

  Within, three sets of shelves were revealed. To the left, on the highest shelves, were the crowns worn by the previous Gustins. Allister recognized several as those worn by Valora's father. He guessed that the other set of masculine-styled crowns had belonged to Gustin I, also called Gustin Sailor. There were many of these, as if Gustin Sailor had enjoyed showing off his newly won privilege. That fit what Allister had heard of the man—his own great-grandfather.

  Below the crowns there were a few scepters, but these had never been much used in Bright Bay. Allister recalled Prince Tavis saying that his own mother had said they were damned heavy to hold for long periods of time. She had preferred a gavel of solid oak with which to hammer for silence. The lower shelves on this side were empty, waiting for future monarchs to fill them. Allister felt a momentary surge of awe when he realized that he and Shad would be among those to hold that honor.

  The right-side set of shelves held much more prosaic treasures: ornate boxes containing rings and bracelets, jeweled weapons, pendants, and other such pretties. These were personal property of the kings and queens of Bright Bay. Seeing slight scuffing on one empty section of shelf, Allister guessed that Valora had taken away her own boxes. He wondered if she had made free with anything belonging to, say, her father or grandmother.

  Allister barely glanced at the
jewelry, his attention claimed by a set of closed doors in the center of the central unit of shelves. Here again a key waited for him on a braided ribbon. It was also gold, its ring shaped like the fat body of a whale, the teeth worked cleverly into the whale's spout.

  Allister doubted that a twin of this key rested on Lord Ivory's ring. Indeed, he had seen it before, dangling on a chain worn at the throat of his grandmother, Queen Gustin. She had never been without it.

  Twisting the key in the lock, Allister opened the cabinet. Beside him, Shad turned from peeking into the various jeweled boxes, waiting to see what must be kept trebly locked away. Both of them suspected they already knew.

  The center door creaked slightly when Allister opened it. Inside there was nothing but a roll of pale vellum tied with a bright blue ribbon. Impressions in the plush velvet showed that once there had been something else kept here, something that had left an indelible mark on the fabric.

  Even before he unrolled the scroll, Allister knew that he had been betrayed. All that waited was to learn how severely.

  "My Royal Cousin," began the missive in what he recognized as Valora's own hand. It continued:

  Yes. This is where they were kept.

  I wonder—how long after your arrival did you wait to seek the Royal Treasures? Did you run immediately to gloat over what you had won? Somehow, knowing you, even in my darkest moments I cannot believe that this was the case. Even if the treasures were on your mind, you would be too courteous, too polite to the claims of those who had awaited your arrival to simply order them away.

  Knowing you, I suspect that you had to be reminded that there were treasures for you to claim. Did Pearl say that she needed a crown for her pretty head? Did some flunky hint gently that you were overlooking something important? Or did it take the Keeper of the Keys offering his fealty to suggest that you seek out this room?

  I told old Ivory to remind you, you know. That much I've done for you. Actually, I've done a great deal more. My last gift to the people I was born to rule is taking from them the shadow of Old Country magic. Those three trinkets have been the excuse for war, not just recently, but from the days of our great-grandfather Gustin Sailor.

 
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