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Authors: Barbara Campbell

Foxfire

BOOK: Foxfire
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
 

The familiar predawn hush had settled over the forest. Although the sky overhead had lightened to charcoal, the shaft of moonlight in which the fox stood was as brilliant as ever. The fox's brush lashed again, and the moonlight rippled like someone drawing a finger across the still surface of a pool. As Rigat rose to his knees, the shaft of moonlight split open. But instead of the trunks of pines, he found himself staring at the back of a man in a long robe.
Again, the thick brush moved, more lazily this time. The gap widened, as if two unseen hands had grasped the edges of the white light and were slowly pulling them apart. There were dozens of people, he realized, gathered in a circle. Peering between their bodies, he spied a dark, gaping pit.
A red-robed priest in a feathered cloak raised his staff. Although the man had to be forty paces away, Rigat could clearly see the black markings zigzagging down its sinuous length, the painted red eyes that stared skyward, even the grain of the wood. His eyesight had always been keen, but this was impossible. It took him a moment to realize that the staff looked like a giant adder.

As one, the people began to chant. The language was unfamiliar, but Rigat was certain the meaning of the words lay just beneath the surface of his consciousness. Determined to see more, he pushed himself to his feet and took a cautious step forward.
A man's head jerked toward him. He shouted something unintelligible. The chanting faltered. More heads turned. People gaped at him, some frozen in shock, others pointing. Fingers flew as they made signs across their chests, all the while jabbering in their tongue.
Guards converged around a black-haired girl on the far side of the circle. Another spun toward him, spear upraised. Before Rigat could do more than open his mouth, the spear arced toward him. . . .
BARBARA CAMPBELL'S
Trickster's Game
Series:
 
HEARTWOOD (Book One)
BLOODSTONE (Book Two)
FOXFIRE (Book Three)
Copyright © 2009 by Barbara Campbell.
 
 
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
 
Nearly all the designs and trade names in this book are registered trademarks. All that are still in commercial use are protected by United States and international trademark law.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First Printing, February 2009
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
—MARCA REGISTRADA
HECHO EN U.S.A.
 
 
eISBN : 978-1-440-69868-2
PAGE iv 11-14-08 11:52:27
Jackson Type JOB: 7263$$$$fm $FM1

http://us.penguingroup.com

Acknowledgments
The gang at The Never-Ending Odyssey 2006 for critiquing the opening chapters, with special thanks to Jennifer Brinn, Geoffrey Jacoby, and Susan Winston.
 
Robin Fitzsimmons Meng, L.M. Prieto, and Michael Samerdyke for wading through the first draft and providing terrific feedback.
 
Rita Oakes and Jason Ridler for pointing me to resources on ancient battle tactics.
 
Susan Herner, my friend and loyal agent.
 
Sheila Gilbert, the best editor a writer could ever have. Her questions, comments, and suggestions were invaluable and helped make
Foxfire
a much stronger story.
 
And finally, my husband David Lofink. He's been living with these characters for seven years—and with me for twenty-five. He read countless drafts, offered vital input on characters and plot, and even kept a straight face when I bought a gift for my protagonist at a craft fair. His love and faith and support sustain me—in writing and in life—and I dedicate the final book of
Trickster's Game
to him.
 
 
 
To learn more about the
Trickster's Game
trilogy,
visit my Web site:
www.barbara-campbell.com
.
PART ONE
He is the fox that stalks its prey on silent paws.
The weasel that sheds its summer coat for winter white.
He is the jackdaw that scolds in the treetops
And the snake that slithers through the grass.
No man shall see his true form.
No woman shall know his heart.
Honor him.
Praise him.
And pray that your paths never cross.
—Song of the Trickster
Chapter 1
T
HE SUDDEN STAB of fear stole Keirith's breath. He told himself that his father's head might be bowed in prayer, that the splayed legs simply meant he was dozing. But when his father failed to respond to his call, fear swamped him.
He scrambled up the hillside. Clumsy in his haste, he tripped. Pebbles skittered through the grass, clicking against each other like bones. When he straightened and found his father watching him, he breathed a shaky prayer of thanks and continued climbing.
A gust of wind tugged at his woolen mantle, and he shivered. As a boy, cold had never bothered him, but Xevhan had grown up in the sun-baked plains of Zheros, and his body still seemed to resent the brisk springs of the north.
Not his body. Mine.
Even after fourteen years, he sometimes slipped.
He clambered onto the ledge and sat beside his father. The hill blocked the worst of the wind, but even with the warm slab of rock at his back, he hugged his knees to his chest.
“Did your mam send you?”
“Nay. I just thought I'd enjoy this fine afternoon with you.”
His father smiled and closed his eyes. “You're a terrible liar.”
“And you're stubborn as a rock.”
His father's smile widened. Keirith smiled, too. Then he remembered his duty. “It's a steep climb. You know Mam worries.”
“Your mam's a born worrier. Like you. Besides, I like it up here.”
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