Excerpt from The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Red Wolf Conspiracy

by Robert V. S. Redick

The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2009, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2010, 544 pages

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Kim Kovacs

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Pazel knew, for he had helped in his small way to ready her. Twice in as many nights they had sailed up to Chathrand’s flank, here in the dark bay of Sorrophran. Both had been cloudy, moonless nights, and Pazel in any case had been kept busy in the hold until the moment of arrival. Emerging at last, he had seen only a black, bowed wall, furred with algae and snails and clams like snapped blades, and smelling of pitch and heartwood and the deep sea. Men’s voices floated down from above, and following them, a great boom lowered a platform to the Eniel’s deck. Onto this lift went sacks of rice and barley and hard winter wheat. Then boards, followed by crates of mandarins, barberries, figs, salt cod, salt venison, cokewood, coal; and finally bundled cabbages, potatoes, yams, coils of garlic, wheels of rock-hard cheese. Food in breathtaking quantities: food for six months without landfall. Wherever the Great Ship was bound, she clearly had no wish to depend on local hospitality.

When nothing more could be stacked, the lift would rise as if by magic. Some of the older boys grabbed at the ropes, laughing as they were whisked straight up, fifty feet, sixty, and swung over the distant rail. Returning on the emptied lift, they held bright pennies and sweetmeats, gifts from the unseen crew. Pazel cared nothing for these, but he was mad to see the deck of the Chathrand.

His life was ships, now: in the five years since Arqual swallowed his country, Pazel had spent less than two weeks ashore. The previous night, when the lift rose for the last time, caution had deserted him: he had seized a corner rope. Jervik had pried his fingers loose, sending him crashing back to the deck of the Eniel.

But tonight the little ship bore no cargo, just passengers: three quiet figures in seafarers’ cloaks, on this passage of a single night from Besq to Sorrophran. They kept apart from the crew, and even one another. Now, as the blue gaslights of the Sorrophran Shipworks came into view, these three pressed forward, seemingly as eager as Pazel himself for a glimpse of the legendary ship.

One of the three, to Pazel’s great excitement, was Dr. Ignus Chadfallow. He was a slender man with worried eyes and large, educated hands. An Imperial surgeon and scholar of note, Chadfallow had once saved the Emperor and his Horse Guard from the deadly talking fever by placing men and horses alike on a six-week diet of millet and prunes. He had also, single-handedly, saved Pazel from slavery.

The three passengers had boarded at sunset. Pazel and the other tarboys had shoved and shouldered one another at the rail, competing for the chance to lug footlockers aboard for a penny or two. Spotting Chadfallow, Pazel had leaped, waving, and nearly shouted Ignus! But Chadfallow shot him a dark look, and the greeting died in his throat.

As Nestef welcomed his passengers, Pazel tried in vain to catch the doctor’s eye. When the cook shouted, "Tarry!" he sprang down the ladderway ahead of the other boys, for it was Nestef’s habit to greet new passengers with a mug of blistering spiced tea. But tonight there was more to the offerings: the cook loaded the tea-tray with muskberry biscuits, red ginger candies and lukka seeds to be chewed for warmth. Balancing these delicacies with great care, Pazel returned to the topdeck and walked straight to Chadfallow, his heart thumping in his chest.

"If you please, sir," he said.

Chadfallow, his eyes on the moonwashed rocks and islets, seemed not to hear. Pazel spoke again, louder, and this time the doctor turned with a start. Pazel smiled uncertainly at his old benefactor. But Chadfallow’s voice was sharp.

"Where’s your breeding? You’ll serve the duchess first. Go on!"

Cheeks burning, Pazel turned away. The doctor’s coldness hurt him more than any blow from Jervik could. Not that it was altogether a surprise: Chadfallow often appeared frightened of being seen with Pazel, and never spoke to him at length. But he was the closest thing to family Pazel had left in the world, and he had not laid eyes on him for two years.

Excerpted from The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick Copyright © 2009 by Robert V. S. Redick. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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