The Red Wolf Conspiracy

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  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 1/26/2010
  • Publisher: Del Rey

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Six hundred years old, the Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is a massive floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual. And it is on its most vital mission yet: to deliver a young woman whose marriage will seal the peace between Arqual and its mortal enemy, the Mzithrin Empire. But Thasha, the young noblewoman in question, may be bringing her swords to the altar. For the ship's true mission is not peace but war-a war that threatens to rekindle an ancient power long thought lost. As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters, Thasha must seek unlikely allies-including a magic-cursed deckhand, a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors, and a singularly heroic rat-and enter a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf.

Author Biography



Robert V. S. Redick is the author of The Red Wolf Conspiracy. His unpublished first novel, Conquistadors, was a finalist for the AWP/Thomas Dunne Novel Award, and his essay “Uncrossed River” won the New Millennium Writings Award for nonfiction. A former theater critic and international development researcher, he worked most recently for the antipoverty organization Oxfam. He lives in western Massachusetts.


Chapter One


1 Vaqrin (first day of summer) 941


It began, as every disaster in his life began, with a calm. The harbor and the village slept. The wind that had roared all night lay quelled by the headland; the bosun grew too sleepy to shout. But forty feet up the ratlines, Pazel Pathkendle had never been more awake.

He was freezing, to start with—a rogue wave had struck the bow at dusk, soaking eight boys and washing the ship’s dog into the hold, where it still yipped for rescue—but it wasn’t the cold that worried him. It was the storm cloud. It had leaped the coastal ridge in one bound, on high winds he couldn’t feel. The ship had no reason to fear it, but Pazel did. People were trying to kill him, and the only thing stopping them was the moon, that blessed bonfire moon, etching his shadow like a coal drawing on the deck of the Eniel.

One more mile, he thought. Then it can pour for all I care.

While the calm held, the Eniel ran quiet as a dream: her captain hated needless bellowing, calling it the poor pilot’s surrogate for leadership, and merely gestured to the afterguard when the time came to tack for shore. Glancing up at the mainsails, his eyes fell on Pazel, and for a moment they regarded each other in silence: an old man stiff and wrinkled as a cypress; a boy in tattered shirt and breeches, nut-brown hair in his eyes, clinging barefoot to the tarred and salt-stiffened ropes. A boy suddenly aware that he had no permission to climb aloft.

Pazel made a show of checking the yardarm bolts, and the knots on the closest stays. The captain watched his antics, unmoved. Then, almost invisibly, he shook his head.

Pazel slid to the deck in an instant, furious with himself. You clod, Pathkendle! Lose Nestef’s love and there’s no hope for you!

Captain Nestef was the kindest of the five mariners he had served: the only one who never beat or starved him, or forced him, a boy of fifteen, to drink the black nightmare liquor grebel for the amusement of the crew. If Nestef had ordered him to dive into the sea, Pazel would have obeyed at once. He was a bonded servant and could be traded like a slave.

On the deck, the other servant boys—tarboys, they were called, for the pitch that stained their hands and feet—turned him looks of contempt. They were older and larger, with noses proudly disfigured from brawls of honor in distant ports. The eldest, Jervik, sported a hole in his right ear large enough to pass a finger through. Rumor held that a violent captain had caught him stealing a pudding, and had pinched the ear with tongs heated cherry-red in the galley stove.

The other rumor attached to Jervik was that he had stabbed a boy in the neck after losing at darts. Pazel didn’t know if he believed the tale. But he knew that a gleam came to Jervik’s eyes at the first sign of another’s weakness, and he knew the boy carried a knife.

One of Jervik’s hangers-on gestured at Pazel with his chin. “Thinks his place is on the maintop, this one,” he said, grinning. “Bet you can tell him diff’rint, eh, Jervik?”

“Shut up, Nat, you ain’t clever,” said Jervik, his eyes locked on Pazel.

“What ho, Pazel Pathkendle, he’s defendin’ you,” laughed another. “Ain’t you goin’ to thank him? You better thank him!”

Jervik turned the speaker a cold look. The laughter ceased. “I han’t defended no one,” said the larger boy.

“?’Course you didn’t, Jervik, I just—”

“Somebody worries my mates, I defend them. Defend my good name, too. But there’s no defense for a wee squealin’ Ormali.”

The laughter was general, now: Jervik had given permission.

Excerpted from The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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