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Tamora Pierce

  To Raquel Wolf-Sister,

  once again,

  To Thomas,

  who has taught and still teaches me

  to keep my mind flexible and

  my creativity from stiffening up,

  And to Tim;

  always, each and every book,

  whether I say so or not.


  Chapter 1. Encounters

  Chapter 2. The Valley of the Long Lake

  Chapter 3. Fugitives

  Chapter 4. Brokefang Acts

  Chapter 5. The Trap

  Chapter 6. Rebellion

  Chapter 7. Counting Soldiers

  Chapter 8. Friends

  Chapter 9. War Is Declared

  Chapter 10. The Fall of Tristan and Yolane



  Normally I prefer not to write acknowledgments until the completion of a series, but this book entailed so much work above and beyond what my nearest and dearest are used to and so much real-life research that I would like to take a moment to express my appreciation.

  First of all, I thank my good friend and fellow writer Raquel Starace. This book would never have been written if she had not inspired me with her own interest in and love of wolves. She lent me texts, tapes, and videos; she accompanied me on zoo safaris and bore with equanimity all those weird-hour phone calls with questions like, “Is brown the only eye color they have?” Muchas gracias, Rock—you can collect from me at will.

  I also thank my writer-husband, Tim, who bails me out of the literary cul-de-sac to which I am prone, and who has lived for more than a year with wolves singing from our tape player, hunting on our TV, and watching him from my bulletin board. See, Tim—I told you they wouldn’t eat you.

  Thanks also are due to Robert E. J. Cripps, armsmaster and craftsman of the Celtic Wolf Medieval and Renaissance Style Crossbows, for last minute information on the proper name for the place where one places the bolt (the notch, where it is then secured by a clip!).

  Most of all, I wish to thank those researchers and wolf experts whose work I plundered so freely for ideas, behaviors, and scents:

  L. David Mech, for all his works, but in particular for The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species;

  Farley Mowat, whose Never Cry Wolf introduced me to that peculiar brand of lupine humor;

  Martin Stouffer and his Wild America television program, particularly the “Wolf and the Whitetail” segment;

  The Nature Conservancy;

  The National Wildlife Federation;

  NYSZ Wildlife Conservation Society;

  The International Wolf Center of Ely, Minnesota, which works so hard for the preservation of this fascinating, endangered species.



  The wolves of the Long Lake Pack, gorged on a careless mountain sheep, slept as they digested their meal. Only Brokefang, their chieftain, was awake to see the moon rise. He sat on a stone outcrop, thinking—an odd pastime for a wolf. In the last full moon of summer, on the advice of Old White, the wolf god, he had sent his best travelers, Fleetfoot and Russet, in search of a two-legger who once belonged to his pack. Their orders were to bring her to him, to speak to the local humans on his behalf. The sight of that night’s full autumn moon reminded him that winter was coming. What if his messengers couldn’t find Daine? What if something had happened to them?

  He did not like “what if” thoughts. Until he’d met Daine two winters before, he had worried about nothing but eating, mating, ruling his pack, and scratching fleas. Now he had complex thoughts all the time, whether he wanted them or not.

  Soft chatter overhead made him look up. Two bats had met a stranger. Clinging to a branch over his head, the three traded gossip in the manner of their kind. The newcomer brought word of a two-legger on the other side of the mountains, one who was human outside and Beast-People inside. She carried news from bats in the southwest, and if a Long Lake bat was hurt, she could heal him with her magic. She traveled in odd company: two horses, a pony, an extremely tall human male, a big lizard, and two wolves.

  The local bats exclaimed over the news. Their colony should hear this, they decided. Would the visitor come and tell them in their cave-home? Along with their guest, the bats took to the air.

  Brokefang stretched. One new thought had been that he could learn much if he listened to the talk of nonwolves. Now he could see it was a good thought, so perhaps the others were good, too. He was interested to hear that Daine also had learned new things since leaving the pack. Before, she could not talk directly with bats. Her healing was done with stinging liquids, needles, thread, and splints, not magic.

  He stopped in midstretch as he remembered something. When Fleetfoot and Russet had gone, the pack was laired near the valley’s southern entrance, where a river flowed from the lake. While they eventually could find the new den in the valley’s western mountains, it might take them days to locate the pack.

  He would take his wolves south and guide his visitors home.

  Two days later, the girl called Daine watched rain fall outside the cave where she and her friends had taken refuge. For someone Brokefang regarded as Pack, she looked quite human. She was five foot five, slim for her fourteen and a half years, with blue-gray eyes the color of the clouds overhead. Her curly brown hair was tightly pinned up, her clothes as practical as her hairstyle: a blue cotton shirt, tan breeches, and soft-soled boots. Around her neck a heavy silver claw hung on a leather thong.

  She played with the claw, thinking. She had been born in mountains like these, in a town called Snowsdale over the border in Galla. The first twelve years of her life were spent there, before she lost her family. When she left Galla to serve the king and queen of Tortall, she had hoped that she might never see the mountains again. And here she was, in a place that could be Snowsdale’s twin.

  Soon she would be with the wolves that had hunted in her old home. They had left soon after she did: Fleetfoot and Russet, her guides, had told of fleeing human hunters to find their new home by the Long Lake. What would it be like to see them again? To be with them again?

  “What are you thinking of?” a light male voice asked from deeper inside the cave. “You look grim.”

  Daine turned around. Seated cross-legged by the fire, a traveling desk on his knees, was her teacher, the wizard Numair Salmalín. He wore his springy mass of black hair tied into a horsetail, away from his dark face and out of his brown eyes. His ink brush was dwarfed by the hand that held it, an exceptionally large hand that was graceful in spite of its size.

  “I’m just wondering if Onua is managing the Rider horses all right without me. I know the king told her he needed us to come here, but I still feel as if I should be helping her.”

  The man raised his eyebrows. “You know very well Onua managed the Rider horses for years before you came to work there. What’s really bothering you?”

  She made a face. She never could distract him when he wanted to know something. “I’m scared.”

  He put down his brush and gave her his full attention. “What of?”

  She looked at her hands. They were chapped from cold, and this was only the third week of September. “Remember what I told you? That I went crazy and hunted with wolves after bandits killed Ma and Grandda and our animals?”

  He nodded. “They helped you to avenge the deaths.”

  “What if it happens again? When I see them, what if I forget I’m human and start thinking I’m a wolf again? I’m s’posed to have control of my wild magic now, but what if it isn’t enough?” She rubbed her arms, shivering.

  “May I remind you that the spell that keeps your human self apart from your magic self is one I created?” he teased, white teeth flashing in a grin. �
�How can you imply a working performed by your obedient servant”—he bowed, an odd contortion in a sitting man—“might be anything but perfect?” More seriously he added, “Daine, the spell covers all your contacts. You won’t lose control.”

  “What if it wasn’t the magic? What if I simply went mad?”

  Strong teeth gripped her elbow hard. Daine looked around into the bright eyes of her pony, Cloud. If I have to bite you to stop you feeling sorry for yourself, I will, the mare informed her. You are being silly.

  Numair, used to these silent exchanges, asked, “What does she say?”

  “She says I’m feeling sorry for myself. I don’t think she understands.”

  I understand that you fidget over stupid things. Cloud released Daine’s elbow. The stork-man will tell you.

  “Don’t fret,” said the mage. “Remember, you allowed me into your mind when you first came to Tortall. If there was a seed of genuine madness there, I would have found it.” Daine smiled. “There’s folk who would say you’re the last man to know who’s crazy and who’s not. I know a cook who won’t let you in his kitchen, a palace quartermaster who says he’ll lock you up if you raid his supplies again—”

  “Enough!” Numair held up his hands in surrender.

  “Just so you know.” Feeling better, she asked, “What are you writing?”

  He picked up his ink brush once more. “A report to King Jonathan.”

  “Another one?” she asked, startled. “But we sent one off a week ago.”

  “He said regular reports, magelet. That means weekly. It’s a small price to pay for being allowed to come to the rescue of your wolf friends. I just wish I had better news to send.”

  “I don’t think we’ll find those missing people.” In March a group of the Queen’s Riders—seven young men and women—had disappeared in this general area. In July twenty soldiers from the Tortallan army had also vanished. “They could’ve been anywhere inside a hundred or two hundred miles of us.”

  “All we can do is look,” Numair said as he wrote. “As wanderers we have seen far more than soldiers will. Even so, it’s a shame the whole northeastern border is opaque to magical vision. I hadn’t realized that a search by foot would be so chancy.” “Why can’t you wizards see this place with your magic?” Daine wanted to know. “When I asked the king, he said something about the City of the Gods, and an aura, but then we got interrupted and he never did explain”

  “It has to do with the City of the Gods being the oldest center for the teaching of magic. Over the centuries magic seeped into the very rock of the city itself, and then spread. The result is a magical aura that blanks out the city and the lands around it for something like a five-hundred-mile radius.”

  Daine whistled appreciation of the distance involved. “So the only way to look at all this mountain rock is by eye. That’s going to be a job and a half.”

  “Precisely. Tell me, how far do you think we are from our destination?”

  Fleetfoot and Russet had measured distance in the miles a wolf travels in a day. Daine had to divide that in half to figure how far humans might go on horseback. “Half a day’s ride to the south entrance to the valley, where the Dunlath River flows out of the Long Lake. From—” She stopped as something whispered in her mind. Animals were coming, looking for her. She ran to the mouth of the cave as their horses bolted past.

  Here they came up the trail, wolves, three in the lead and four behind. Two of the leaders were her guides to the Long Lake: the small, reddish white male known as Russet and the brown-and-gray female called Fleetfoot. Between them trotted a huge, black-and-gray timber wolf, plumed tail boldly erect.

  “Brokefang!” Daine yelled. “Numair, it’s the pack!” She ran to them and vanished in a crowd of yelping, tail-wagging animals. Delighted to see her, they proceeded to wash her with their long tongues.

  Standing at the cave entrance, waiting for the reunion to end, the man saw that the rain was coming down harder. “Why don’t we move the celebration inside?” he called. “You’re getting drenched.”

  Daine stood. “Come on,” she told the pack, speaking aloud for Numair’s benefit. “And no eating my friends. The man is Numair. He’s my pack now” Two wolves—Numair was touched to see they were Fleetfoot and Russet, his companions on their journey here—left the others to sit by him, grinning and sprinkling him with drops from their waving tails.

  Once out of the rain, the newcomers greeted Cloud, sniffing the gray mare politely. Brokefang gave the mare a few licks, which she delicately returned. The pony, the sole survivor of the bandit raid on Daine’s farm, had stayed with Daine in the weeks the girl had run with the pack. In that time, wolves and pony had come to a truce of sorts.

  Next Daine introduced her pack to Spots, the easygoing piebald gelding who was Numair’s mount, and Mangle, a gentle bay cob who carried their packs. The horses quivered, whites showing all the way around their eyes, as the wolves sniffed them. They trusted Daine to keep the wolves from hurting them, but their belief in her couldn’t banish natural fear entirely. Once the greetings were over, they retreated to the rear of the large cave and stayed there.

  “Kitten,” Daine called, looking for her charge. “Come meet the wolves.”

  Knowing she often scared mortal animals, the dragon had kept to the shadows. Now she walked into the light. She was pale blue, almost two feet long from nose to hip, with another twelve inches’ worth of tail, a slender muzzle, and silver claws. The wings that one day would carry her in flight were, at this stage, tiny and useless. Her blue, reptilian eyes followed everything with sharp attention. She was far more intelligent than a mortal animal, but her way of knowing and doing things was a puzzle Daine tried to unravel on a daily basis.

  “This is Skysong,” Daine told the pack. “That’s the name her ma gave her, anyway. Mostly we call her Kitten.”

  The dragon eyed their guests. The newcomers stared, ears flicking back and forth in uncertainty, tails half-tucked between their legs. Slowly she rose up onto her hindquarters, a favorite position, and chirped.

  Brokefang was the first to walk forward, stiff-legged, to sniff her. Only when his tail gave the smallest possible wag did the others come near.

  Once the animals were done, Daine said, “Numair, the gray-and-black male is Brokefang.” When the wolf came to smell Numair’s hands, the mage saw that his right canine tooth had the point broken off. “He’s the first male of the pack, the boss male.” Numair crouched to allow Brokefang to sniff his face and hair as well. The wolf gave a brief wag of the tail to show he liked Numair’s scent.

  “The brown-and-gray male with the black ring around his nose is Short Snout,” Daine said. “The tawny female is Battle. She fought a mountain lion when she was watching pups in Snowsdale—that’s how she got her name.” Short Snout lipped Numair’s hand in greeting. Battle sniffed the mage and sneezed. “The brown-and-red male is Sharp Nose. The gray-and-tawny female is Frolic.” The girl sat on the floor, and most of the wolves curled up around her. “Frostfur, the boss female, and Longwind stayed in the valley with the pups.”

  Greetings done, Numair sat by the fire and added new wood. “Has Brokefang said why he needs you?” he asked. “His call for help was somewhat vague.”

  Daine nodded. “Brokefang, what’s going on? All you told Fleetfoot and Russet was that humans are ruining the valley.” As the wolf replied, she translated, “He says this spring men started cutting trees and digging holes without planting anything. He says they brought monsters and more humans there, and they are killing off the game. Between that and the tree cutting and hole digging, they’re driving the deer and elk from the valley. If it isn’t stopped, the pack will starve when the Big Cold comes.”

  “The Big Cold?” asked Numair.

  “It’s what the People—animals—call winter.”

  The man frowned. “I’m not as expert as you in wolf behavior, but—didn’t you tell me that if wolves find an area is too lively for them, they flee it? Isn’t
that why they left Snowsdale, because humans there were hunting them?”

  Yes, said Brokefang. They wanted to hurt us, because we helped Daine hunt the humans who killed her dam. They killed Rattail, Longeye, Treelicker, and the pups.

  Daine nodded sadly: Fleetfoot and Russet had told her of the pack’s losses. The older wolves had been her friends. The pups she hadn’t met, but every pack valued its young ones. To lose them all was a disaster.

  Brokefang went on. We left Snowsdale. It was a hard journey in the hot months, seeking a home. We found places, but there was little game, or other packs lived there, or there were too many humans. Then just before the last Big Cold we found the Long Lake. This valley is so big we could go for days without seeing humans. There is plenty of game, no rival pack to claim it, and caves in the mountains for dens in the snows.

  Scratching a flea, Brokefang continued. The Long Lake was good—now humans make it bad. They drove us from the valley where I was born, and my sire, and his sire before him. Before, it was our way to run from two-leggers. Yet I do not run if another pack challenges mine—I fight, and the Pack fights with me. Are humans better than another pack? I do not believe they are.

  Will you help us? Will you tell the humans to stop their tree cutting and noisemaking? If they do not stop, the Long Lake Pack will stop it for them, but I prefer that they agree to stop. I know very well that if the Pack has to interfere, there will be bloodshed.

  Daine looked at the other wolves of the pack. They nodded, like humans, in agreement. They would support Brokefang in the most unwolflike plan she had ever heard in her life. Where had they gotten such ideas?

  Will you help us? asked Brokefang again.

  Daine took a deep breath. “You’re my Pack, aren’t you? I’ll do my best. I can’t promise they’ll listen to me, but I’ll try.”

  Good, Brokefang replied. He padded to the cave’s mouth and gave the air a sniff. The breeze smelled of grazing deer just over the hill. Looking at Daine, he said, Now we must hunt. We will come back when we have fed.