Read Mortal Heart Online

Authors: Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart

Copyright © 2014 by Robin LaFevers

All rights reserved.

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to

Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company,

215 Park Avenue South,

New York, New York 10003.

www.hmhco.com

Map by Cara Llewellyn

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:

LaFevers, Robin.

Mortal heart / by Robin LaFevers.

p. cm. — (His fair assassin ; book 3)

Summary: Annith’s worst fears are realized when she discovers that, despite her lifelong training to be an assassin, she is being groomed by the abbess as a seeress, to be forever shut up in the convent of Saint Mortain.

ISBN 978-0-547-62840-0

[1. Convents—Fiction. 2. Nuns—Fiction. 3. Assassins—Fiction. 4. Death—Fiction. 5. Gods—Fiction. 6. Brittany (France)—History—1341–1532—Fiction. 7. France—History—Charles VIII, 1483–1498—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.L14142Mor 2014

[Fic]—dc23

2014001877

This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, except in the case of historical figures and events, which are used fictitiously.

eISBN 978-0-547-63056-4
v1.1114

 

 

 

 

For Mark,
Again.
And always.
But especially for the last two years.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents

Copyright

Map

Dedication

Dramatis Personae

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Chapter Fifty-Three

Chapter Fifty-Four

Chapter Fifty-Five

Chapter Fifty-Six

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Chapter Fifty-Eight

Author’s Note

His Fair Assassin trilogy

About the Author

 

 

Dramatis Personae

At the Convent

A
NNITH
, a novitiate of Mortain

S
YBELLA D
’A
LBRET
, handmaiden to Death

I
SMAE
R
IENNE
, handmaiden to Death

 

A
BBESS OF
S
AINT
M
ORTAIN
(formerly Sister Etienne)

S
ISTER
E
ONETTE
, convent historian and archivist

S
ISTER
T
HOMINE
, martial arts instructor

S
ISTER
S
ERAFINA
, poisons mistress

S
ISTER
W
IDONA
, stable mistress

S
ISTER
B
EATRIZ
, instructor in womanly arts

S
ISTER
C
LAUDE
, sister in charge of the rookery

S
ISTER
V
EREDA
, convent seeress

S
ISTER
A
RNETTE
, arms mistress

D
RAGONETTE
, former abbess of Saint Mortain (deceased)

S
ISTER
A
PPOLLONIA
, former convent historian and archivist (deceased)

S
ISTER
M
AGDELENA
, former poisons mistress (deceased)

S
ISTER
D
RUETTE
, former seeress (deceased)

 

M
ATELAINE
, a novitiate of Mortain

S
ARRA
, a novitiate of Mortain

A
VELINE
, a novitiate of Mortain

L
OISSE
, a novitiate of Mortain

L
ISABET
, a novitiate of Mortain

A
UDRI
, a novitiate of Mortain

F
LORETTE
, a novitiate of Mortain

 

The Hellequin

B
ALTHAZAAR

M
ISERERE

B
EGARD

M
ALESTROIT

S
AUVAGE

M
ALIGNE

 

Followers of Saint Arduinna

F
LORIS
, a priestess of Arduinna

A
EVA

T
OLA

O
DILA

 

The Breton Court and Nobility

A
NNE
, duchess of Brittany, countess of Nantes, Montfort, and Richmont

I
SABEAU
, her sister

D
UKE
F
RANCIS
II, Anne’s father (deceased)

G
AVRIEL
D
UVAL
, a Breton noble

B
ENEBIC DE
W
AROCH
, the Beast of Waroch and knight of the realm

V
ISCOUNT
M
AURICE
C
RUNARD
, former chancellor of Brittany

J
EAN DE
C
HALON
, Prince of Orange

C
APTAIN
D
UNOIS
, captain of the Breton army

P
HILLIPE
M
ONTAUBAN
, chancellor of Brittany

B
ISHOP OF
R
ENNES

F
ATHER
E
FFRAM

C
HARLES
VIII, king of France

A
NNE DE
B
EAUJEU
, regent of France

N
ORBERT
G
ISORS
, French ambassador

M
AXIMILIAN OF
A
USTRIA
, the Holy Roman emperor, Anne’s husband

 

The Nine

M
ORTAIN
, god of death

D
EA
M
ATRONA
, mother goddess

A
RDUINNA
, goddess of love’s sharp bite, daughter of Matrona, twin sister of Amourna

A
MOURNA
, goddess of love’s first blush, daughter of Matrona

B
RIGANTIA
, goddess of knowledge and wisdom

C
AMULOS
, god of battle and war

M
ER
, goddess of the sea

S
ALONIUS
, god of mistakes

C
ISSONIUS
, god of travel and crossroads

Chapter One

B
RITTANY,
D
ECEMBER 1488

 

F
OR MOST, THE BLEAK DARK
months when the black storms come howling out of the north is a time of grimness and sorrow as people await the arrival of winter, which brings death, hunger, and bitter cold in its wake. But we at the convent of Saint Mortain welcome winter with open arms and hearts, for it is Mortain’s own season, when He is full upon us. In such a way does the Wheel of Life turn, with every ending but a new beginning; that is the promise Mortain has made us.

So while most people bar their doors and shut their windows tight, we have cause for celebration and go traipsing through the wood, gathering the sacred yew branches and collecting holly with its bright red berries that remind us of the three drops of blood spilled when Mortain was pierced by love and Arduinna’s own arrow.

And while Mortain is a far more gentle god than most people give Him credit for, I do not think He would look kindly upon His youngest handmaidens jousting with the sacred branches that are intended for His holy fire.

“Audri! Aveline! Stop that!”

“She started it,” Aveline says, peering out from under the pale red hair that has fallen across her eyes.

“No, I didn’t! You did. You always do. Because you’re good with swords and knives and fighting, you always want to fight.”

“Girls!” I clap my hands, wincing at how very much I remind myself of Sister Beatriz when she loses control of the womanly-charms lessons. “Enough. Audri, go help Florette. Aveline, you come over here with me.”

Thinking the other girl in trouble, Audri sticks her tongue out at Aveline, then hurries over to help Florette. Instead of scolding Aveline, I take her hand, lead her to a holly bush, and give her a knife. “You will fill that basket, and I will fill this one.”

Pleased at being given a blade, something normally reserved for older girls or the training yard, Aveline turns to the bush and begins cutting.

I keep my eyes on the leaves in front of me as I speak to her. “You are the oldest of the group, Aveline. There is no honor in besting those younger than you.”

She stops her cutting and turns her strange, solemn gaze on me. “Are you saying I should pretend to be weak so they can feel strong? Is that not telling a lie?” Before I can untangle her knotted logic, she shrugs. “Besides, she is nearly as old as I am and likes to show off by going without her cloak and shoes.”

I hide a smile, for it is true that Audri is quite proud of her ability to withstand cold. Not only does she not feel the wintry chill, but she does not suffer chilblains or deadened limbs when exposed to it. That is her gift for being pulled from the womb of a woman who had frozen to death in one of winter’s most savage storms. She is as impervious to the cold as one of the great white bears of the far north, and proud of it. “That may be true,” I concede, “but you have gifts every bit as glorious as hers and you constantly pick fights so that you may show them off.”

Other books

A Steal of a Deal by Ginny Aiken
Pregnancy of Revenge by Jacqueline Baird
Negligee Behavior by Shelli Stevens
Rock My Bed by Valentine, Michelle A.
Light of the Diddicoy by Eamon Loingsigh
The Cowboy Poet by Claire Thompson
Joan Makes History by Kate Grenville
Original Fire by Louise Erdrich