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Lioness Rampant, Page 1

Tamora Pierce

  Lioness Rampant

  Books by Tamora Pierce

  Song of the Lioness Quartet

  Alanna: The First Adventure (Book I)

  In the Hand of the Goddess (Book II)

  The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Book III)

  Lioness Rampant (Book IV)

  The Immortals Quartet

  Wild Magic (Book I)

  Wolf-Speaker (Book II)

  Emperor Mage (Book III)

  The Realms of the Gods (Book IV)


  Lioness Rampant

  Tamora Pierce

  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

  New York London Toronto Sydney


  who is teaching me that “the M word” can be a good word—


  who changed her initial “no” to “yes.”

  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

  An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, New York 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 1988 by Tamora Pierce.

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  Printed in the United States of America

  2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3

  The Library of Congress has cataloged a previous edition as follows:

  Pierce, Tamora.

  Lioness rampant / Tamora Pierce.

  New York : Atheneum, 1988.

  320 p., [2] p. of plates : ill., map ; 22 cm.

  “A Jean Karl book.”

  (Pierce, Tamora. Song of the lioness ; bk. IV)

  Summary: Alanna continues to create her own life as a female warrior when she and new companions journey to the Roof of the World seeking the powerful Dominion Jewel, perhaps the last hope of saving her country from dissension and hostile magic.

  1. Knights and knighthood—Fiction. 2. Sex role—Fiction.

  PZ7.PZ7.P614 Li 1988

  [Fic] dc—19 88006213

  ISBN 0-689-85430-7

  ISBN 978-0-6898-5430-9

  eISBN 978-1-4391-3208-1


  1. Lioness from Tortall

  2. The Road East

  3. The Warlord’s Daughter

  4. The Roof of the World

  5. In the Capital of Tortall

  6. Homecoming

  7. Period of Mourning

  8. Crossroad in Time



  Lioness from Tortall

  On a March afternoon a knight and a man-at-arms reached the gates of the Marenite city of Berat. The guards hid their smiles as they looked the noble over—in size the beardless youth could as well have been a squire, with only a shield to reveal his higher rank. They wondered aloud if the youngster could hold his lance, let alone unseat an opponent with it. Hearing them, the knight favored them with a broad grin. The guards, liking his reaction, fell silent. The man-at-arms gave a tug on their packhorse’s lead rein, and the small party moved through the gates into the city.

  Most nobles dressed richly, but this knight wore well-traveled leather, covered with a white burnoose like those worn by the Bazhir of the Tortallan desert. With the burnoose’s hood pushed back, everyone could see that the knight’s hair was copper, cut so it brushed his shoulders. His eyes were an odd purple shade that drew stares; his face determined. Before him, in a cup fixed to his mare’s saddle, rode a black cat.

  The man-at-arms was dressed like the knight. There were no grins for him—he was a burly, darkhaired commoner with no-nonsense eyes. It was he who asked directions to the inn called the Wandering Bard while the knight looked with interest at the streets around them. They set off in the direction of the inn, picking their way through the crowds with ease.

  The cat swiveled his head, looking up at the knight. They think you’re a boy. To most, his utterances sounded like those of any cat; to the few he chose, he spoke as plainly as a human.

  “Good,” the knight replied. “That’s less fuss over me.”

  Is that why you left your shield covered?

  “Be sensible, Faithful,” was the tart reply. “The shield’s covered because I don’t want it to get all over dust. It takes forever to clean it. This far south, who’d’ve heard of me?”

  The man-at-arms, who’d drawn level with them, grinned. “Ye’d be surprised. News has a way of travelin’.”

  The common room of the Wandering Bard was deserted except for the innkeeper, Windfeld, who was resting after the noon rush. He’d just begun his own meal when a stable boy charged in.

  “Y’want t’hurry, master,” the boy puffed, excited. “They’s a knight in th’yards—a Tortall knight!”

  “What of that?” Windfeld replied. “We’ve had knights at the Bard afore.”

  “Not a knight like this’un,” the boy announced. “This’un be a girl!”

  “Don’t joke with me, lad,” Windfeld began. Then he remembered. “That’s right. Sir Myles wrote me of the lass he adopted a year past. Said she went as a lad for years, as page and squire, ’till she was knighted. That was when our stables almost burned, and I didn’t pay his letter the attention I ought. What’s her shield?”

  “Shield’s a-covered,” was the reply. “But her man wears a pin like one. It’s red, with a gold cat a-rearin’ on it.”

  “That’s her—Alanna of Trebond and Olau, Sir Myles’s heir.” Windfeld got up, removing his apron to throw it on the table. “And with the Shang Dragon here already! It’s bound to be a good week. The stableyard, you said?”

  Alanna of Trebond and Olau, sometimes called “the Lioness” for the cat on her shield, was surprised to be greeted by the innkeeper. The host of such a prosperous house did not meet his guests unless they were wealthy or famous. Since she had lived in Tortall’s Great Southern Desert for over a year, Alanna did not realize she had become famous.

  Afoot, her cat cradled in her arms, she was short and stocky—sturdy rather than muscular. She did not look as if she could have disguised her sex for years to undergo a knight’s harsh training. And she certainly did not look as if she would excel at her training to the point where some—men who were qualified to judge such matters—would call her “the finest squire in Tortall.”

  She also did not look like the adopted heir of one of her realm’s wealthiest noblemen. “I don’t know if Sir Myles told you,” Windfeld explained, “but I’m honored to serve his interests here in Berat. I bid you and your man welcome to the Wanderin’ Bard.” He nodded to the man-at-arms, who supervised the stabling of the horses. “Whatever you wish, just let my folk know. Would the two of you like a cool drink, to lay the dust?”

  “I’ll see to the packs and the rooms,” the man told them. “I know,” he said quickly as his knight-mistress opened her mouth. “Ye’re wantin’ a bath; hot water, soap, and soon.” He grinned at Windfeld. “She’s that finicky, for a lass who’s livin’ on the road.”

  Alanna shrugged. “What can I say? I like to be clean. Thanks, Coram.”

  “He’s been with you long?” Windfeld asked, as he showed her into the common room, indicated a seat, and sat down facing her.

  “Forever,” Alanna replied. “Coram changed my diapers, and he never lets me forget it. He helped raise my twin brother and me.” To a maid who’d come to ask what she’d like, Alanna said, “Fruit juice would be wonderful, if you have it.”

  The innkeeper
smiled as the servant girl left. “The Wanderin’ Bard has whatever may hit your fancy, Lady Alanna. How is your honored father, if you don’t mind my askin’?”

  The maid returned with a pitcher and a tankard on a tray, presenting them to Alanna. Taking a swallow from her tankard, the knight sat back with a sigh. “He was fine when last I heard from him two months ago. Coram and I’ve been on the road for weeks. I’ve never been out of Tortall before, so we took our time. Maren doesn’t seem much different.”

  Windfeld grinned. “Nor should it, Tortall and Tusaine and Maren bein’ cut from the same cloth. Things change, east of here.”

  Alanna saw a shadow cross her host’s face. “Trouble?”

  “Just the sickness that comes on a land now and then,” was the reply. “There’s war in Sarain the last eighteen months or so. Only a Saren could tell you what started it, or what’ll finish it. But there,” Windfeld added, seeing a chambermaid at the door. “Your rooms be ready, along with your bath.”

  The knight picked up her cat, who was playing with Windfeld’s apron. “Come on, Faithful,” she groaned, settling him over her shoulder. “Let’s get clean.”

  A chill went through the innkeeper as he watched them go. Only now had he seen that the cat’s eyes were not a proper shade of amber, green, or grey; they were as purple as Alanna’s. Instinctively he made the Sign against Evil.

  The bath was everything a worn and dirty knight could wish: large enough to fit all of her and filled with hot water. She splashed contentedly, rinsing a week’s grit from her hair.

  Tongue and paws are all I need, Faithful commented.

  “Is that why you smell after a night in the woods?” demanded Alanna.

  Faithful ignored her, curling up on the bed. Alanna made a face at him and reached for the copper pitcher filled with rinse water. Sunlight hit its side, dazzling her. Her blinded vision held an image: A gem, blue-violet, the size of a silver noble piece, set into a disc of gold, its facets absorbing light, not reflecting it. Beyond it was snow, a blizzard’s worth.

  The picture faded when she blinked. She knew there was no sense in worrying about it. Sooner or later she would find out what it meant—she’d had the vision before. In the meantime, her bath was getting cold.

  Coram knocked as she combed her hair. “I’ve eaten,” he called through the door. “I’ll find out where your scholar lives, then have a bit of enjoyment. Do us both a favor and stay out of trouble.”

  “I can take care of myself,” she reminded him.

  “That’s what worries me.”

  “Have fun,” Alanna called as his footsteps retreated, thinking, Why is he worried? She rarely sought trouble. Tonight she planned to avoid it entirely.

  Downstairs, Faithful abandoned her for the kitchen. Alanna found a corner where she would have a good view of the rest of the common room. While the Wandering Bard seemed respectable, she’d been traveling long enough to know she could never be too prepared. Adjusting her sword—so she’d have room to draw it if necessary—she settled back to enjoy the meal.

  Windfeld came over after she finished. “If there’s anything you want, anything at all, you’ve only to ask,” he assured her, taking a chair at her invitation. “No service is too great for Myles of Olau’s heir, not in a house of mine. He pays us well as his agents—a generous man, your father.”

  Alanna smiled. “He’s generous with everything.” Remembering what Windfeld had said earlier, she asked, “What’s going on in Sarain?”

  The innkeeper looked away. “She rips herself apart. The K’miri tribes hunt lowlanders through the mountains, sometimes on the Southern Plain itself. The mountain-born come west in flocks, runnin’ from the fightin’. The lowlanders are so busy slayin’ K’mir that they let all else go, even the harvest. Only when their belts could be tightened no more did the Warlord bring in paid soldiers and send the lowlanders back to their farms. The refugees talk of little but hunger and killin’. My wife’s Saren—it breaks her heart, and no end in sight.” He forced a smile and added, “Enough of such doom-talk. What brings you here, my lady—if I can be so bold as to ask?”

  “We’re looking for a scholar,” Alanna explained. “Nahom Jendrai.”

  “Another friend of your father’s. He’s well thought of, is Master Jendrai.”

  “I need him to translate something.” Alanna reached inside her tunic to draw out a leather envelope. Carefully she opened it and unfolded its contents: a map of the Eastern Lands and the Inland Sea, charred at the left and top edges. Only natural landmarks—rivers and mountain ranges—were shown. A tiny star marked a spot in the Roof of the World, the great mountain range that cuts off the Eastern Lands from the rest of their world. Silvery runes—the writing that brought her to Maren for a translation—formed a column on the right side. “This looks like the Old Ones’ writing,” she explained. “Myles says the best translator is Nahom Jendrai of Berat.”

  Windfeld touched the charred edges. “How did this happen, my lady? Do you know?”

  Alanna ran her fingers over the map. “You know Coram and I’ve been living with the Bazhir?” Windfeld nodded. “Our headman, Halef Seif, was worried about a friend of his, a shaman living near Lake Tirragen. Coram and I went to see her.” She drew a breath. “Her village was having a bad winter, what with famine and cold. A wandering priest had convinced the people that if they ’purified’ themselves—if they killed their sorceress—his god would put food in their storehouses.”

  “I’ve seen things like it. Folk aren’t sensible when they’re hungry.”

  “Coram and I got there as they started to burn her. We stopped it and got her away, but...She was hurt too badly for me to fix.” In answer to his questioning look, she explained, “I know some healing magic. Anyway, she died. The map was all she had. She asked us to take it back to Halef Seif.”

  “And he sent it to Master Jendrai for readin’?” Windfeld asked.

  Alanna shook her head. “He didn’t want it. He gave it to me—said it was for me, not him.” She smiled wryly. “Halef Seif can be determined when he likes. He says he’s happy with the Bloody Hawk—that’s our tribe. Some of it didn’t make sense, what he said, about destiny and quests. So here I am.”

  Windfeld rose in answer to a yell for service. “You’ve come a long way for curiosity, my lady.”

  Alanna grinned at him. “I didn’t have anything more important to do.”

  There was another yell; with a voice that shook the rafters, Windfeld bellowed, “Just hold on, Joss, you’ll be served afore you go home!” He bowed to Alanna and went to help the barkeep.

  A maid placed a glass of wine in front of Alanna. “He sent it t’you, my lady,” the girl explained, pointing to a man by the hearth. “He said I was t’tell you redheads must sit together for safety’s sake, and he wonders if you might join him when this glass is done.” Leaning down, she whispered, “Not meanin’ any disrespect, but if you don’t want ’im, I do!”

  Alanna looked at the man; he was toasting her. His eyes were blue-green in a tan, pockmarked face. His hair was as copper as hers, clipped short. His nose had met several hard objects. A mustache framed his sensual mouth; his jaw was heavy. He was in excellent fighting condition: broad shoulders, powerful chest, hard waist, heavily muscled limbs. He dressed as she did, in shirt and breeches. She also saw he carried no weapons, not even a dagger. To a knight this was important: the only men who went weaponless were sorcerers, priests, fools—or those who didn’t need them. In a violent world, few did not need to carry some kind of weapon.

  He shouldn’t be attractive, not with a broken nose and his face all scarred. From what, I wonder? Bad skin as a boy, perhaps. But he is attractive! she thought nervously. Why is he interested in me? I’m not as pretty as some of the other women here.

  She raised her glass and drank, her eyes not leaving his.

  From her arrival at court until she’d won her shield, few had known she was female. Although Prince Jonathan had been her lover, he was a
lso her friend and her knight-master; they hadn’t needed the courting rituals Jon used with noble ladies. George Cooper, who also loved her, had flirted with Alanna sometimes; when he did it to the point of flustering her, she’d simply ordered him to stop. Of the other men she knew, most couldn’t forget her knighthood enough to indicate a romantic interest in her. Since the revelation of her real identity and sex, the young knight had lived among the Bazhir. To them she was the Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and sexless.

  So, though she wanted to join this man, or to indicate she was interested, Alanna didn’t know how. How did a lady knight flirt with a total stranger? Noblewomen showed interest with fluttered fan or dropped handkerchief. Bazhir women used their eyes over their veils. She had no fan or veil. Her handkerchief wouldn’t be noticed if she dropped it here. And she didn’t have the courage to walk over to his table and sit down.

  She didn’t know pleading filled her eyes. He grinned—a slow, white-toothed smile that made her insides turn over—and came to her.

  “Liam,” he introduced himself, holding out a massive hand. “And you’re Alanna the Lioness, from Tortall.” She returned his firm grip; Liam’s palm was warm and callused, like her own. “May I join you?” he asked, his eyes dancing. Alanna nodded, and Liam sat. “In Berat long?” he wanted to know, as the maid brought more wine and fruit.

  Alanna shook her head. “Not for longer than I can help.” She filled his glass. “I’d forgotten how noisy cities are. I’ve been with the Bazhir.”

  “So I heard. It took some asking to find out what happened after you killed the Conté Duke.” He spoke with a peasant’s broad vowels and nearly skipped r’s.

  She frowned. “You make it a habit to follow my doings?” She wasn’t sure she liked the idea.

  He nodded. “People like you change the world; a smart man keeps track of such folk. It was a great thing, killing your King’s nephew and proving him a traitor. Duke Roger was a powerful man.”