Hidden warrior, p.1
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       Hidden Warrior, p.1

           Lynn Flewelling
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Hidden Warrior


  Praise for THE BONE DOLL’S TWIN:

  “The Bone Doll’s Twin is a thoroughly engrossing new fantasy. It got its hooks into me on the first page, and didn’t let loose until the last. I am already looking forward to the next installment.”

  —GEORGE R. R. MARTIN

  “Lynn Flewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin outshines even the gleaming promise shown in her earlier three books. The story pulled me under and carried me off with it in a relentless tale that examines whether the ends can ever completely justify the means.”

  —ROBIN HOBB

  “Fresh and original—and unlike most fantasies that try to put women in traditionally male roles, hers works. I found the world exceptionally well realized and coherent. I think you have a winner here! My congratulations to Lynn. Books like this are too good not to share.”

  —KATHERINE KURTZ

  “The Bone Doll’s Twin is a great read. Lynn Flewelling has outdone herself with this vibrant tale of dark magic, a hidden child, and the demon ghost that haunts it. She builds a convincing, colorful world with carefully chosen details, and her characters are memorable because their dilemmas are vividly drawn and heart-breakingly believable. This is exactly the kind of fantasy novel that will keep you up long past your bedtime.”

  —KATE ELLIOTT

  “A fascinating read, both intellectual and haunting.”

  —BARBARA HAMBLY

  “A dark and twisting enchantment of a book, a story of deception and loyalty and heroism that will magick its readers along with its characters.”

  —LOUISE MARLEY

  “Lynn Flewelling is one of the best at creating complicated stories peopled by diverse characters, each with his own agenda, and each absolutely believable. This tale of a girl disguised by magic and brought up as a boy is engrossing and compelling as it explores the honorable reasons behind dishonorable deeds—and the dark consequences that follow a single desperate act. Flewelling accompanies her skill at story-telling with an exquisite level of detail that brings her entire world to life. A most satisfying tale for readers already familiar with her Nightrunner series—for others, an excellent introduction to the joys of a Flewelling fantasy.”

  —SHARON SHINN

  “You liked Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series? This novel is even better. The Bone Doll’s Twin is a sharply honed, powerful story where good and evil are as entwined as two children’s lives, and salvation carries a very high price. Highly recommended.”

  —ANNE BISHOP

  “An intriguing prequel to Flewelling’s splendid Nightrunner series and a solid beginning to a new triad of fantasy from a most generous and skilled fantasist, The Bone Doll’s Twin will satisfy old fans and capture many new.”

  —PATRICK O’LEARY

  “Masterful … readers will be hooked.”

  —The Bangor Daily News

  “Magnificent, impressive … capture[s] some of the same flavor found in T. H. White’s classic, The Once and Future King, as well as in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books. Factor in some essence of Mervyn Peake, and you have a winning combination.”

  —Realms of Fantasy

  “Flewelling’s Nightrunner books are popular among fantasy fans for a very simple reason—they’re good. The Bone Doll’s Twin continues that trend, and I look for her to be a major force in the future of fantasy.”

  —Monroe News-Star

  “An intensely poignant tale that begs the question: How far should one go to change destiny? Lynn Flewelling delivers a tightly crafted narrative with vivid characters and a detailed background that quickly pulls the reader into her world.”

  —Romantic Times

  “It is the death of children that literally haunts this book, giving it a dark edge that takes The Bone Doll’s Twin out of the realm of fantasy and into the world of amoral, ends-justifies-the-means politics.… Most of the characters are presented as people trying to do the right thing, and being caught up in events that leave them questioning just what the right thing to do is.… Flewelling’s storytelling ability and strong prose make it all work.… It’s a gripping beginning to a story that looks to become even deeper, more complex, more political, and more real as the series goes on.”

  —New York Review of Science Fiction

  “Flewelling is the best thing that could have happened to the fantasy genre.”

  —BOOKWEB

  “Every now and then a book reminds me of why I originally started reading Fantasy. The Bone Doll’s Twin … has the buzz. It’s original, well written, and totally absorbing … by turns poignant, spooky, and earthy.… A moving and thoroughly recommended read.”

  —Starburst

  “This terrific tale is dark and exciting, and the magic in it is truly wonderful.”

  —Booklist

  Praise for the Nightrunner series:

  Luck in the Shadows

  “Memorable characters, an enthralling plot and truly daunting evil … The characters spring forth from the page not as well-crafted creations but as people.… The magic is refreshingly difficult, mysterious, and unpredictable. Lynn Flewelling has eschewed the easy shortcuts of cliched minor characters and cookie-cutter backdrops to present a unique world.… I commend this one to your attention.”

  —ROBIN HOBB

  “Part high fantasy and part political intrigue, Luck in the Shadows makes a nice change from the usual ruck of contemporary sword-and-sorcery. I especially enjoyed Lynn Flewelling’s obvious affection for her characters. At unexpected moments she reveals a well-honed gift for the macabre.”

  —STEPHEN R. DONALDSON

  “A new star is rising in the fantasy firmament.… I am awed by the scope of the intricate world.… It teems with magic and bustles with realistic people and spine-chilling amounts of skullduggery.”

  —DAVE DUNCAN

  “A splendid read, filled with magic, mystery, adventure, and taut suspense. Lynn Flewelling, bravo! Nicely done.”

  —DENNIS L. MCKIERNAN

  “An engrossing and entertaining debut … full of magic, intrigues, and fascinating characters. Witty and charming, it’s the kind of book you settle down with when you want a long, satisfying read.”

  —MICHAEL A. STACKPOLE

  “Exceptionally well done and entertaining.”

  —Locus

  “Lynn Flewelling has written a terrific first novel, a thrilling introduction to this series.… Highly recommended.”

  —Starlog

  Stalking Darkness

  “Flewelling is … bringing vigor back to the traditional fantasy form. In this highly engaging adventure novel, the most powerful magic is conjured out of friendship and loyalty. The author has a gift for creating characters you genuinely care about.”

  —TERRI WINDUNG, The Years’s Best Fantasy and Horror,

  Eleventh Annual Collection

  “Events move forward in this second adventure.… It’s up to four companions to stop Mardus’s schemes. Things get very violent and there’s also a strong emotional undercurrent … an amusing twist on the old ‘damsel in distress’ scenario.”

  —Locus

  “While fans … will find enough wizardry, necromancy, swords, daggers, and devilishly clever traps here to satisfy the most avid, this book also provides entry to a complete and richly-realized world that will please more mainstream readers.”

  —Bangor Daily News

  Traitor’s Moon

  “What most fantasy aspires to, Traitor’s Moon achieves with fierce craft, wit, and heart. It is a fantasy feast—richly imagined, gracefully wrought and thrilling to behold. An intoxicating brew of strange and homely, horror and whimsy, lust and blood, intrigue and honor, great battles and greater loves. It is a journey through a world so strange and real you can taste it, with
companions so mysterious and memorable you won’t forget it. Lynn Flewelling is a fine teller of tales who delivers all she promises, cuts no corners and leaves us dazzled, moved, and hungry for more. Traitor’s Moon is a wonderful book.”

  —PATRICK O’LEARY

  By Lynn Flewelling

  LUCK IN THE SHADOWS

  STALKING DARKNESS

  TRAITOR’S MOON

  THE BONE DOLL’S TWIN

  HIDDEN WARRIOR

  THE ORACLE’S QUEEN

  SHADOWS RETURN

  THE WHITE ROAD

  HIDDEN WARRIOR

  A Bantam Spectra Book / July 2003

  Published by

  Bantam Dell

  A Division of Random House, Inc.

  New York, New York

  All rights reserved

  Copyright © 2003 by Lynn Flewelling

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

  For information address: Bantam Books, New York, New York.

  Bantam Books, the rooster colophon, Spectra, and the portrayal of a boxed “s” are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-48591-5

  v3.1_r1

  For my father

  Acknowledgments

  Thanks, as always, to Doug, Matt, Tim, Thelma, Win and Fran for their continuing love and patience. To Lucienne Diver and Anne Groell, the best agent and editor a writer could wish for. To Nancy Jeffers, Laurie “Eirual” Beal, Pat York, Thelma White, and Doug Flewelling for reading, commenting, and urging me on. To Helen Brown and the good folks on the Flewelling newsgroup at Yahoo, for knowing my work better than I do. To Ron Gefaller, for getting the kinks out. To Horacio C. and Barbara R.—they know why. To all my friends on SFF.NET, for being there, in particular to Doranna Durgin and Jennifer Roberson for that last minute horse-related advice; any errors are mine for not asking.

  Contents

  Cover

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Map

  Part I

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Part II

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Part III

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Part IV

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  About the Author

  The Skalan Year

  I. WINTER SOLSTICE—Mourning Night and Festival of Sakor; observance of the longest night and celebration of the lengthening of days to come.

  1. Sarisin: Calving

  2. Dostin: Hedges and ditches seen to. Peas and beans sown for cattle food.

  3. Klesin: Sowing of oats, wheat, barley (for malting), rye. Beginning of fishing season. Open water sailing resumes.

  II. VERNAL EQUINOX—Festival of the Flowers in Mycena. Preparation for planting, celebration of fertility.

  4. Lithion: Butter and cheese making (sheep’s milk pref.) Hemp and flax sown.

  5. Nythin: Fallow ground ploughed.

  6. Gorathin: Corn weeded. Sheep washed and sheared.

  III. SUMMER SOLSTICE

  7. Shemin: Beginning of the month—hay mowing. End and into Lenthin—grain harvest in full swing.

  8. Lenthin: Grain harvest.

  9. Rhythin: Harvest brought in. Fields plowed and planted with winter wheat or rye.

  IV. HARVEST HOME—finish of harvest, time of thankfulness.

  10. Erasin: Pigs turned out into the woods to forage for acorns and beechnuts.

  11. Kemmin: More plowing for spring. Oxen and other meat animals slaughtered and cured. End of the fishing season. Storms make open water sailing dangerous.

  12. Cinrin: Indoor work, including threshing.

  PART I

  I ran away from Ero a frightened boy and returned knowing that I was a girl in a borrowed skin.

  Brother’s skin.

  After Lhel showed me the bits of bone inside my mother’s old cloth doll, and a glimpse of my true face, I wore my body like a mask. My true form stayed hidden beneath a thin veil of flesh.

  What happened after that has never been clear in my mind. I remember reaching Lhel’s camp. I remember looking into her spring with Arkoniel and seeing that frightened girl looking back at us.

  When I woke, feverish and aching, in my own room at the keep, I remembered only the tug of her silver needle in my skin and a few scattered fragments of a dream.

  But I was glad still to have a boy’s shape. For a long time after I was grateful. Yet even then, when I was so young and unwilling to grasp the truth, I saw Brother’s face looking back at me from my mirror. Only my eyes were my own—and the wine-colored birthmark on my arm. By those I held the memory of the true face Lhel had shown me, reflected in the gently roiling surface of the spring—the face that I could not yet accept or reveal.

  It was with this borrowed face that I would first greet the man who’d unwittingly determined my fate and Brother’s, Ki’s, even Arkoniel’s, long before any of us were born.

  Chapter 1

  Still caught at the edge of dark dreams, Tobin slowly became aware of the smell of beef broth and a soft, indistinct flow of voices nearby. They cut through the darkness like a beacon, drawing him awake. That was Nari’s voice. What was his nurse doing in Ero?

  Tobin opened his eyes and saw with a mix of relief and confusion that he was in his old room at the keep. A brazier stood near the open window, casting a pattern of red light through its pierced brass lid. The little night lamp cast a brighter glow, making shadows dance around the rafters. The bed linens and his nightshirt smelled of lavender and fresh air. The door was closed, but he could still hear Nari talking quietly to someone outside.

  Sleep-fuddled, he let his gaze wander around the room, content for the moment just to be home. A few of his wax sculptures stood on the windowsill, and the wooden practice swords leaned in the corner by the door. The spiders had been busy among the ceiling beams; cobwebs large and fine as a lady’s veil stirred gently in a current of air.

  A bowl was on the table beside his bed, with a horn spoon laid out ready beside it. It was the spoon Nari had always fed him with when he was sick.

  Am I sick?

  Had Ero been nothing but a fever dream? he wondered drowsily. And his father’s death, and his mother’s, too? He ached a little, and the middle of his chest hurt, but he felt more hungry th
an ill. As he reached for the bowl, he caught sight of something that shattered his sleepy fantasies.

  The ugly old rag doll lay in plain view on the clothes chest across the room. Even from here, he could make out the fresh white thread stitching up the doll’s dingy side.

  Tobin clutched at the comforter as fragments of images flooded back. The last thing he remembered clearly was lying in Lhel’s oak tree house in the woods above the keep. The witch had cut the doll open and shown him bits of infant bones—Brother’s bones—hidden in the stuffing. Hidden by his mother when she’d made the thing. Using a fragment of bone instead of skin, Lhel had bound Brother’s soul to Tobin’s again.

  Tobin reached into the neck of his nightshirt with trembling fingers and felt gingerly at the sore place on his chest. Yes, there it was; a narrow ridge of raised skin running down the center of his breastbone where Lhel had sewn him. up like a torn shirt. He could feel the tiny ridges of the stitches, but no blood. The wound was nearly healed already, not raw like the one on Brother’s chest. Tobin prodded at it, finding the hard little lump the piece of bone made under his skin. He could wiggle it like a tiny loose tooth.

  Skin strong, but bone stronger, Lhel had said.

  Tucking his chin, Tobin looked down and saw that neither the bump nor the stitching was visible. Just like before, no one could see what she’d done to him.

  A wave of dizziness rolled over him as he remembered how Brother had looked, floating facedown just above him while Lhel worked. The ghost’s face was twisted with pain; tears of blood fell from his black eyes and the unhealed wound on his breast.

  Dead can’t be hurt, keesa, Lhel told him, but she was wrong.

  Tobin curled up against the pillow and stared miserably at the doll. All those years of hiding it, all the fear and worry, and here it lay for anyone to see.

 
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