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Authors: Jane Lindskold

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Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart

BOOK: Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart
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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
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

L
ying 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.

BOOK: Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart
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