Patricia Briggs: Wolfsbane

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Patricia Briggs Wolfsbane
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Wolfsbane: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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For the last ten years, shapeshifting mercenary Aralorn has led a dangerous existence — a far cry from her noble upbringing. Now she must return home under the most unfortunate circumstances. Her father, the Lyon of Lambshold, has passed away. But when Aralorn and her companion Wolf arrive, the combination of their magic uncovers something wonderful yet alarming — her father is not actually dead, but only appears so. Yet a dark mist is also very much alive within him... The Lyon of Lambshold has been ensorcelled by the ae'Magi, who's using him as a conduit to finally destroy Aralorn and Wolf. With her father as the pawn, can Aralorn overcome this mysterious sorcery? Or will she finally fall to the blackest of magic, losing not only her one true companion but also her life...?

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(The second book in the Sianim series)

A novel by Patricia Briggs


Which, not being a part of the story, may be skipped

I wrote Wolfsbane in between When Demons Walk and The Hob’s Bargain.

Careerwise, it was a dumb thing to do, and I knew it. Masques had been out of print for a couple of years by that point, and I was aware that its sales figures were abysmal and no one in his right mind would reprint it. My editor, Laura Anne Gilman, had left Ace for Roc (which at the time was owned by a different publishing company). After she left, Ace politely declined publishing When Demons Walk, for several very good reasons. First, the editor who had liked my work was gone. Second, my sales record was not good. Masques had failed. Steal the Dragon had done all right, but it’d had a terrific cover by Royo. I was pretty sure that, at least for the time being, my career as a writer was over. So I wrote the book I wanted to write.

I had lived with Wolf in my head since I was in fifth or sixth grade . . . maybe since I first read The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and recognized the pull of the powerful, dangerous creature who loves only one person. By the time I’d written three books, I knew that I had a lot to learn—and that I had learned a lot about writing since I wrote Masques. I still consider The Hob’s Bargain my first professional work. It was the first book I wrote that turned out exactly as I’d envisioned it, the first one that I wrote from craft rather than instinct. I wanted to take those new skills and turn my hand to giving Wolf and Aralorn a story more worthy of them.

Wolfsbane was the result. Eventually, somewhat to our mutual surprise, Ace bought When Demons Walk, The Hob’s Bargain, and the first book that really sold well for us, Dragon Bones. Wolfsbane stayed on my shelves, and every once in a while I thought a little wistfully about it. I admit, believing that this day of publication would never come, I borrowed things from Wolfsbane for other stories—you might see them. You might even pick up on a few that I haven’t noticed.

So here, for your enjoyment, is a book from early in my career that has never seen the light of day—and without you, dear readers, would still be moldering on a floppy disk somewhere. I hope you have as much fun with it as I have.





A winterwill cried out twice.

There was nothing untoward about that. The winterwill—a smallish, gray-gold lark—was one of the few birds that did not migrate south in the winter.

Aralorn didn’t shift her gaze from the snow-laden trail before her, but she watched her mount’s ears flicker as he broke through a drift of snow.

Winterwills were both common and loud . . . but it had called out just at the moment when she took the left-hand fork in the path she followed. The snow thinned for a bit, so she nudged Sheen off the trail on the uphill side. Sure enough, a winterwill called out three times and twice more when she returned to the trail again. Sheen snorted and shook his head, jangling his bit.

“Plague it,” muttered Aralorn.

The path broke through the trees and leveled a little as the trees cleared away on either side. She shifted her weight, and her horses stopped. On a lead line, the roan, her secondary mount, stood docilely, but Sheen threw up his head and pitched his ears forward.

“Good lords of the forest,” called Aralorn, “I have urgent business to attend. I beg leave to pay toll that I might pass unmolested through here.”

She could almost feel the chagrin that descended upon the brigands still under the cover of the trees around her. At long last, a man stepped out. His clothing was neatly patched, and Aralorn was reminded in some indefinable way of the carefully mended cottage where she’d purchased her cheese not a half-hour ride from here. The hood of his undyed cloak was pulled up, and his face was further disguised by a winter scarf wound about his chin and nose.

“You don’t have the appearance of a Trader,” commented the man gruffly. “How is it you presume to take advantage of their pact with us?”

Before she’d seen the man, she’d had a story ready. Aralorn always had a story ready. But the man’s appearance changed her plans.

Though his clothes were worn, his boots were good-quality royal issue, and there was confidence in the manner in which he rested his hand on his short sword. He’d been an army man at some time. If he’d been in the Rethian army, he’d know her father. Truth would have a better chance with him than any falsehood.

“I have several close friends among the Traders,” she said. “But as you say, there is no treaty between you and me; you have no reason to grant me passage.”

“The treaty’s existence is a closely guarded secret,” he said. “One that many would kill to protect.”

She smiled at him gently, ignoring his threat. “I’ve passed for Trader before, and I could have this time as well. But when I saw you for an army man, I thought the truth would work as well—I only lie when I have to.”

She surprised a laugh out of him though his hand didn’t move from his sword hilt. “All right then, Mistress, tell me this truth of yours.”

“I am Aralorn, mercenary of Sianim. My father is dead,” she said. Her voice wobbled unexpectedly—disconcerting her momentarily. She wasn’t used to its doing anything she hadn’t intended. “The Lyon of Lambshold. If you delay me more than a few hours, I will miss his funeral.”

“I haven’t heard any such news. I know the Lyon,” stated the bandit with suspicion. “You don’t look like him.”

Aralorn rolled her eyes. “I know that. I am his eldest daughter by a peasant woman.” At the growing tension in her voice, Sheen began fretting.

His attention drawn to the horse, the bandit leader stiffened and drew in his breath, holding up a hand to silence her. He walked slowly around him, then nodded abruptly. “I believe you. Your stallion could be the double of the one cut down under the Lyon at the battle of Valner Pass.”

“His sire died at Valner Pass,” agreed Aralorn, “fourteen years ago.”

The bandit produced a faded strip of green ribbon and caught Sheen’s bit, tying the thin cloth to the shank of the curb. “This will get you past my men. Don’t remove it until you come to the Wayfarer’s Inn—do you know it?”

Aralorn nodded, started to turn her horses, and then stopped. “Tell your wife she makes excellent cheese—and take my advice: Don’t let her patch your thieving clothes with the same cloth as her apron. I might not be the only one to notice it.”

Startled, the bandit looked at the yellow-and-green weave that covered his right knee.

Softly, Aralorn continued. “It is a hard thing for a woman alone to raise children to adulthood.”

She could tell that he was reconsidering his decision not to kill her, something he wouldn’t have done if she’d kept her mouth closed; but she could clearly remember the walnut brown eyes of the toddler who held on to his mother’s brightly colored apron. He wouldn’t fare well in the world without a father to protect him from harm, and Aralorn had a weakness for children.

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