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Authors: Violette Malan

The Storm Witch

BOOK: The Storm Witch
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A bold new voice in fantasy
The Novels of Dhulyn and Parno
Copyright © 2009 by Violette Malan.
All Rights Reserved.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1486.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
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.
First Printing, September 2009
eISBN : 978-1-101-14012-3

For Paul
As always, my first thanks go to the two people without whom there would be no reason to thank anyone else, my agent, Joshua Bilmes, and my editor, Sheila Gilbert. My thanks also go to my cousin José Ignacio Díaz Hellín, and Alberto Domingues Saenz, the chefs extraordinaire of Restorante Restoval in Badajoz, Spain, for the feast fit for a king. There are a whole bunch of people who are involved with helping me to promote my work, in one way or another. My first thanks go to my brother, Oscar Malan, and his wonderful wife Joanna (another chef extraordinaire) who host my book launches in his bookstore, Novel Idea, with Joanna’s wonderful nibbles to help draw in the crowds. Special thanks to Melanie Babcock at Print 3 for all her help with my bookmarks and posters. Also to Chris Szabo of Bakka Phoenix Books, and from Chapters, Barbara Bell, Dan Millings, and especially Jessica Strider, who got married this year.
The right to have a character named after her was purchased at silent auction by Trudy Primeau. You’ll notice I played with the spelling a bit, Trudy. Say hi to Megz for me.
ARNO LIONSMANE PULLED the hood of his cloak down over his forehead and hunched his shoulders against the rain. Here it was, practically high summer, what his Partner Dhulyn Wolfshead would call the Grass Moon, and the rain was coming down as though it was already well past Harvest Moon. He caught Dhulyn’s eye as they sidestepped the flow of water running down the center of the narrow cobbled lane. She was frowning, and he knew that more than the weather troubled her.
“Cheer up,” he told her. “A few more days at most, and the whole misunderstanding will be cleared up.”
His Partner nodded, but almost as if she wasn’t listening. Dhulyn was Senior to him—though she was younger, she had been longer in the Mercenary Brotherhood, having come to it as a child—and
was part of the problem.
“It’s only the Tarkin of Hellik’s court they are sending to,” he added, “not all the way to Imrion.”
This time Dhulyn looked at him as she nodded, and Parno smiled to himself. “I would not have thought it so difficult to find a Brother Senior to me in a city as large as Lesonika,” she said. “I thought this would all be over by now.”
Both looked up as thunder rumbled.
“A good thing we left the horses, after all,” Dhulyn said. She dodged a fountain of water pouring from a greatly overworked overhead gutter. They’d come down from the port of Broduk on the
the typical wide-beamed, single-masted ship of the Midland Sea, with both their warhorses and their packhorse in makeshift stalls on the deck. Just now Dhulyn had decided that all the beasts would be happier in the warm, dry stable provided by the Mercenary House. And the crew of the
would be happier as well. Captain Huelra didn’t often ship horses—in fact, Parno was fairly certain Dhulyn Wolfshead was the only person Huelra would trust with horses aboard his ship.
“It could be worse,” Parno said now.
“It could be snowing.”
Parno didn’t like the way Dhulyn shook her head without even a token smile. He knew her well enough to make a good guess at her thoughts. If there could be such rain—with thunder—in the Grass Moon, why
snow? As it was, the hay was flattened in the fields, and oats and young barley would be washed out or stunted if the weather didn’t improve soon. Which meant a poor harvest, which meant trouble. Parno brightened. Which generally meant work for the Brotherhood.
The streets inclined more sharply as they approached the harbor where the
was moored, but even so the water was over their ankles more than once before they reached the comparatively dryer docks. Here, at least, the volume of water had somewhere to go—into the sea. Lesonika had a deep harbor, and in addition to half a score of the smaller Midland Sea vessels like the
one of the tall, three-masted, ocean-faring ships was also moored there.
Dhulyn slowed almost to a halt, turning her head to stare at the tall ship as they passed it, her normally bright cavalry cloak hanging in sodden folds and darkened to a dull red by the rain. Parno’s own cloak, just as good a mix of inglera fleece and wool, slapped wetly around his calves as the wind took it.
“I thought so,” she called out to him as he reached her side, her rough silk voice just audible over the pelting rain. “Those
Long Ocean Traders at the Mercenary House. Did you see them?”
“The ones in the scaly vests?” he said. “What could they want with our Brothers?”
“Delivering fressian drugs, perhaps.”
Parno pursed his lips in a silent whistle, taking a longer look. If his Partner was right, and the ship was carrying even a few casks of fresa, fresnoyn, or fresnant, he was looking at more money than he’d seen in many a moon.
There were sailors out even in this weather, seeing to the mooring lines. The tide was beginning to ebb, Parno saw, and the amount of water flowing from the town into the boat basin—enormous as it was to the city dwellers—would make no difference to the sea level; lines still had to be adjusted, anchors checked. Everywhere there were bare masts, but the usual harbor sounds of creaking stays, shrouds, and halyards could not be heard over the drumming of the water and the rising noise of the wind.
“Demons and perverts,” Parno cursed as a spray of water caught him fully in the face. Dhulyn’s laughter did not help. They ran the final few paces to the
and pounded up the gangplank. The usual sentry was missing, but given the rain and the wind, Parno was not surprised.
There was no glow of light from around the door of Captain Huelra’s tiny cabin, and Dhulyn turned immediately toward the entrance to the hold. Their own sleeping quarters were below, their hammocks strung up along with those of the sailors, and Parno hesitated only a moment before following her. A cup of the captain’s brandy would have been welcome, but the dry clothing in their packs below beckoned even more strongly. And if it came to that, Parno thought grinning, there was a newly purchased flask of Berdanan brandy hanging at his own hip.
Not that someone else’s brandy didn’t always taste better.
Dhulyn heaved back the hatch and dropped straight into the hold, ignoring the ladder placed to one side. She moved immediately to the right, leaving Parno a clear space to follow her. He rolled his eyes—even here, Dhulyn would follow the Brotherhood’s Common Rule and enter the room as though staging an attack—but he followed her precisely, landing lightly, knees slightly bent, blinking in the lantern light, his right hand on the hilt of his sword, his left on his knife.
And froze.
“Carefully, Paledyn. No sudden moves, if you please.” The thickly accented voice came from a dark-haired, heavily mustached man holding the spiked end of a
to Captain Huelra’s head. Huelra sat, wrists and ankles bound, on an upturned cask of the cook’s milled flour. Two candle lanterns, one on the floor and one hanging from a hook on the mast, cast double shadows over the scene. Parno gritted his teeth and resisted the urge to look at Dhulyn. He hadn’t seen a
since his Schooling. Long, thin, and fiercely sharp, it was used by divers as an underwater hand weapon. The point actually rested on the skin of Huelra’s temple, and could be through the comparatively thin bone and into the man’s brain before either Parno or Dhulyn could move. And that did not take into account the young woman with her arbalest already cranked back and pointed at Dhulyn Wolfshead, or the half-dozen others, armed and standing farther back in the shifting shadows.
Parno noted automatically that both the mustached man and the woman were bareheaded, though both wore the oddly patterned scaly vests that he’d seen at the Mercenary House. Long Ocean Traders. He couldn’t be sure about the others, though he thought at least one more also wore mail. Parno smiled. As usual, Dhulyn had been right to take precautions—better careful than cursing, that’s what she always said. Anyone else would have come down the ladder the normal way, and been caught with their backs to the enemy.
He leaned against the ladder behind him and lifted his hands away from his weapons, knowing without looking that Dhulyn had already done the same. By no means were they out of options, but with that
at Huelra’s temple, a straightforward attack was low on their list.
Paledyn? What is called here the Mercenary Brotherhood?” The same man spoke again.
“We are.” Without moving her hands, Dhulyn tossed her head and the hood of her wet cloak fell back to reveal her Mercenary badge, the blue and green of the tattoo across her temples and above her ears bright even in this light. Parno still was not used to seeing her with her hair so short, just a damp cloud the color of old blood around her face. Parno shook his own hood off.
BOOK: The Storm Witch
10.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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