The start of a swashbuckling adventure from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes set in the land of the exciting Dragon Brigade trilogy.
Captain Kate Fitzmaurice was born to sail. She has made a life of her own as a privateer and smuggler. Hired by the notorious Henry Wallace, spymaster for the queen of Freya, to find a young man who claims to be the true heir to the Freyan, she begins to believe that her ship has finally come in.
But no fair wind lasts forever. Soon Kate’s checkered past will catch up to her. It will take more than just quick wits and her considerable luck if she hopes to bring herselfand her crewthrough intact.
"A solid addition to a new series, with a cliffhanger ending promising more intrigue and adventure in the next installment."--Booklist
About the Author
Margaret Weis, the internationally bestselling co-creator of Dragonlance and many other popular fantasy series, was born in Missouri and worked as an editor for TSR. She lives in Wisconsin.
Robert Krammes has collaborated with Margaret Weis on the bestselling Dragon Brigade trilogy, the final volume of which was The Seventh Sigil. Spymaster, set on the world of Aeronne, is the first in a new trilogy, Dragon Corsairs. He lives in Southern Ohio.
Read an Excerpt
By Margaret Weis, Robert Krammes
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2017 Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes
All rights reserved.
Sir Henry Wallace sat at a table in the small cabin aboard the Freyan ship HMS Valor, dunking a ship's biscuit in his coffee in an effort to render it edible and reading the week-old newspaper.
"Ineffable twaddle," said Sir Henry, scowling. He motioned with his egg spoon to an illustration and read aloud the accompanying tale. "'The gallant Prince Tom, heedless of the many grievous wounds he had suffered in the course of the fearsome battle, raised his bloody sword, shouting, "If we are to die today, gentlemen, let history say we died heroes!"' Pah!"
Sir Henry tossed aside the newspaper with contempt.
"Your Lordship is referring to the latest exploits of the young gentleman known in the press by the somewhat romantic appellation of 'Prince Tom,'" said Mr. Sloan. "I have not read the stories myself, my lord, but I understand they have garnered a great deal of interest among the populace, such that the newspaper has trebled its circulation since the series began."
Sir Henry snorted and, after tapping the crown of the soft-boiled egg with his spoon, removed the shell and began to eat the yolk. At that moment the ship heeled, as a gust of wind hit it, forcing him to grab hold of the eggcup as it slid across the table. He looked up, frowning at Mr. Sloan, who had rescued the coffee.
"I haven't been on deck yet this morning," said Henry. "Is there a storm brewing?" "Wizard storm, my lord," said Mr. Sloan. "Blowing in from the west."
Henry heard a distant rumble of thunder. "At least those storms are not as frequent or as bad as they used to be when the Bottom Dwellers were spewing forth their foul contramagic."
"God be praised, my lord," said Mr. Sloan.
"A dreadful war that left its mark on us all," said Henry, falling into a reflective mood as he drank his coffee. "I think about it every time there is a storm. We wronged those poor devils, sinking their island and dooming them to the cruel fate of living in relative darkness at the bottom of the world. Small wonder that even after hundreds of years, they sought their revenge on us."
"I confess I find it hard to feel much sympathy for them, my lord," said Mr. Sloan. "Especially given the terrible fate they intended to inflict on our people. Thank God you and Father Jacob and the others were able to stop them."
"I will never forget that awful night," said Henry. "I thought we had failed and all I could do was wait for the end. Alan, bleeding to death ..."
He fell silent a moment, remembering the horror, the pain of his wounds. He had spent months convalescing and months beyond that battling the nightmarish memories. Not wanting to give them new life, he shook them off and managed a smile. "And there you were to save us, Mr. Sloan, your face 'radiating glory' as the Scriptures say of the angels."
"You were delirious at the time, my lord," said Mr. Sloan with a faint smile.
"I was not," said Henry. "You saved our lives, Mr. Sloan, and I do not forget that. As for the Bottom Dwellers, we couldn't let them continue sacrificing people in their foul blood magic rituals and knocking down our buildings with their contramagic."
"Indeed not, my lord," said Mr. Sloan.
"Even if the war did bankrupt us," Henry added somberly. "Fortunately the crystals will help ease that burden."
The ship rocked again, causing Mr. Sloan to stagger into a bulkhead.
"Please sit down!" Henry said. "You stand there hunched like a stork and being tossed about. I cannot function if you are laid up with a cracked skull."
Mr. Sloan sighed and reluctantly seated himself opposite Sir Henry on the bed, a shocking liberty that was harrowing to the soul of Mr. Sloan, who normally would have been standing or respectfully seated in a chair as he attended to his employer, but for the sad fact that the cabin was small with a low ceiling. Being above average height, Mr. Sloan was forced to stand with his head, back, and shoulders bent at an uncomfortable angle.
HMS Valor was a massive warship, with three masts, eight lift tanks, four balloons, and six airscrews. Her two full gun decks carried twenty twenty-four-pound cannons, thirty eighteen-pound cannons, and twenty nine-pound cannons, as well as thirty swivel guns on the main deck. She was a ship designed for war, not for the comfort of those who sailed her.
Having finished his egg, Henry left the past to return to the present. "If all these fanciful stories about Prince Tom did was to increase the circulation of this rag, I would not mind. But these stories are doing considerable harm, not the least of which is forcing you to sit on a bed with your chin on your knees."
Mr. Sloan was understandably mystified. "I am sorry, my lord, but I fail to see the connection between the prince and the bed."
"The reason we are on board Admiral Baker's ship is directly related to this socalled Prince Tom," said Sir Henry. "Her Majesty the queen complained to me that her own son, the real crown prince, comes off badly by comparison to the pretender. She ordered me to take His Royal Highness on this voyage in order to show the populace a more heroic aspect to his nature. Thus here we are: I have to play nursemaid to HRH while he is on board the flagship, and we find ourselves in these cramped quarters instead of our usual more commodious accommodations aboard the Terrapin."
The ship heeled, this time in a different direction. The thunder grew louder and the room darkened as clouds rolled across the sky, blotting out the sun.
"I must confess I wondered why His Highness was traveling with us, my lord," said Mr. Sloan, deftly whisking away the empty eggcup and pouring more coffee. Henry kept a firm hold on the coffee cup. "I am sorry to say His Highness does not appear to be enjoying the voyage."
"Poor Jonathan hates sailing the Breath," said Henry. "He was sick as a dog the first two days out. He's being a damn fine sport about it though. He knows what his mother is like when she fusses and fumes. Easier to give way to her fancies, though I'm sure he'd much rather be back home in his library with his books. He's found a new obsession: King James the First. Says he's discovered some old letters or something about the murder of King Oswald that reveal James in an entirely new light."
Mr. Sloan shook his head. "A match to gunpowder, my lord."
"The whole damn powder keg could blow up in our faces," said Henry. "This blasted Prince Tom craze put the idea into Jonathan's head. I warned His Highness to drop the matter, but Jonathan gave me that professorial look of his and said history had maligned his cousin and that it was his duty as a historian to seek the truth. Once HRH has made up his mind to proceed, nothing will budge him. He's like his mother in that regard."
"Perhaps Master Yates might be of assistance in the matter, sir," suggested Mr. Sloan. "Simon could offer his help in the research."
"By God, there's a thought!" said Henry, wiping his lips with his napkin. "Simon could stop His Highness from going off on one of his tangents or, at the very least, keep whatever Jonathan discovers out of the press. I can see the headlines now: 'The Crown Prince of Freya Proves He Has No Claim to Throne.'"
"Let us hope it will not come to that, my lord," said Mr. Sloan.
"We will put our faith in Simon, as always. He did not let me down in the matter of the crystals. He has discovered the formula and knows how to produce them. He only needs access to the Braffan refineries. Once the Braffans grant us that, he is ready to launch into production. Soon the Tears of God will be powering our ships. The navies of other nations — including Rosia — will have to buy the crystals from us, and we will charge them dearly!"
Henry drank his coffee. "Speaking of Braffa and the negotiations, I suppose we had better deal with these dispatches. How old are they?" He eyed the pile of letters and newspapers with a gloomy air.
"Some were delayed more than a fortnight, I fear, my lord," said Mr. Sloan. "The mail packet only just caught up with us."
"One would think we were living back in the Dark Times," said Henry irritably.
"Sadly true, my lord," said Mr. Sloan. "I have placed those I deemed most urgent on top."
He held out a small packet of letters that smelled faintly of lavender. "I thought you would like to read these from your lady wife in private."
Sir Henry Wallace, spymaster, diplomat, assassin, trusted advisor to the queen, member of the Privy Council, and long considered by many to be the most dangerous man in the world, smiled as he took his wife's letters and thrust them into an inner pocket.
He then perused the dispatches. His smile changed to a grimace as he read the first, which was from an agent known simply as "Wickham" living in Stenvillir, the capital of Guundar.
Henry slammed down the coffee cup, spilling the liquid. Mr. Sloan reacted swiftly, jumping off the bed to mop up the coffee before the small flood reached the remaining dispatches.
"The Guundarans are moving on Morsteget!" Sir Henry exclaimed, waving the dispatch. "According to Wickham, their parliament passed a resolution proclaiming Guundar's right to the island and voting to establish a naval base there. Fourteen ships set sail for Morsteget weeks ago and I am just now learning about it! These delays in receiving mail have to end, Mr. Sloan. I am seriously considering employing my own griffin riders."
"The expense, my lord —"
"Hang the expense!" Henry said savagely. Jumping to his feet, he promptly cracked his head on the low ceiling. "Ouch! Bloody hell! No, don't fuss. I am all right, Mr. Sloan. The devil of it is that we cannot stop Guundar from annexing Morsteget and King Ullr knows it."
"As bad as that, my lord?"
"Oh, we will make a fine show of being outraged," said Henry, seething. "The House of Nobles will pass a resolution in parliament, Her Majesty will send a strongly worded protest, and we will boycott Guundaran wine, which is so sweet no one drinks it anyway. But that will be the extent of our fury."
Henry resumed his seat, rubbing his sore head. Lightning illuminated the cabin in the bright purple glow that was the hallmark of the wizard storm: the clash of magic and contramagic. The thunderclap was some time in coming; Henry judged that the storm was going to miss them, probably passing to the north.
"At least I can use this move by King Ullr to impress upon the Braffan council that Guundar is a dangerous ally. He has gobbled up this valuable island and has his eye on the Braffa homeland," Henry said. "I wonder if those damn Guundaran ships are still skulking about the coastline."
He sifted through the pile of documents, picked up another dispatch, this one from his agent in Braffa, and swiftly read through it. "The two Guundar ships remain in port in the Braffan capital. The Rosian ships have departed. Not surprising. King Renaud is planning to turn his attention to the pirates in the Aligoes. And speaking of the Aligoes, make a note that I need to speak to Alan about finding a privateer to take his place, since he has quit the trade and become respectable."
Mr. Sloan made the notation with a smile. After years serving his country as a privateer, Captain Northrop had finally been granted his dearest wish: a commission in the Royal Navy.
"But what to do about Guundar?" Henry muttered, returning to his original problem. "I made a mistake advising the queen to request King Ullr's help in freeing the Braffan refineries from the Bottom Dwellers. We have given that minor despot delusions of grandeur."
"You had no choice, my lord," said Mr. Sloan in soothing tones. "You could not allow the Bottom Dwellers to continue to hold those refineries and after the war, neither the Freyan forces nor those of the Rosians were strong enough to oust them."
"You are right, of course, Mr. Sloan," said Henry. "Thank God for Simon and the crystals. Without him Freya would be in dire straits."
He sifted through the dispatches. "I suppose we must let King Ullr have his little island, at least for the time being. Our people will grouse, but once we have this treaty with Braffa and we put the crystals into production, money will flow into the royal coffers, our economy will improve, and our people will forget about Guundar and continue to waste their time reading about the fictional exploits of Prince Tom."
"Might I play devil's advocate, my lord?" Mr. Sloan asked.
"One of the many reasons you are in my employ, Mr. Sloan. Please, do your damnedest."
Mr. Sloan smiled. "If we make a secret treaty with Braffa to produce the crystals, won't we be breaking the Braffan Neutrality Pact?"
"Not so much a break as a hairline fracture, Mr. Sloan," said Henry. "The other signatories won't like it, but if we keep the agreement secret until the crystals are ready to come to market, it will be too late for them to protest."
The two continued to work their way through the dispatches and letters. Henry longed to read the letters from his wife, to hear about young Henry and his recent exploits, but duty called and he forced himself to concentrate on official business. Mr. Sloan handed him a letter from his rival spymaster, the Countess de Marjolaine of Rosia, ostensibly written to the gamekeeper on her estate. One of Henry's agents in Rosia had intercepted the letter, and Henry was trying to figure out if the missive was in fact to her gamekeeper and did in fact refer to poachers or if it was a message of a more sinister nature to someone with the code name "Gamekeeper."
Henry had long suspected the Rosians of supporting the Marchioness of Cavanaugh in her ridiculous attempts to make her son — the Prince Tom of whom the newspapers were so enamored — king of Freya. King Renaud of Rosia had said publicly that Rosia had no business meddling in Freyan affairs, but Henry had discovered that the Rosians were privately funding the prince's cause, hoping to destabilize the Freyan monarchy.
Henry was interrupted in his code-breaking by a stentorian bellow from the deck above. Henry raised his head.
"Was that Randolph shouting for me? What the devil —"
He could hear drums beating to quarters, feet pounding on the deck above, men running to their stations. The next moment someone was frantically pounding on the door. Mr. Sloan opened the door to find a breathless midshipman.
"The admiral's compliments, my lord; you're wanted on deck."
Henry and Mr. Sloan exchanged alarmed glances. Admiral Baker was known by the men who served under him as "Old Doom and Gloom" for his pessimistic outlook on life. He also was known to keep a cool head in a crisis.
"Randolph would not bellow without cause. This does not bode well," said Henry.
Mr. Sloan assisted Henry with his coat. Henry slipped his arms into the tailored, dark blue wool frock coat, which he wore over a blue waistcoat and white shirt. He grabbed his tricorn as he was leaving and firmly clamped it on his head, mindful of the strong wind gusts.
Mr. Sloan followed. The private secretary wore the somber, dark, buttoned-up, high-collared coat preferred by those who observed the conservative beliefs of the Fundamentalists. He then checked to make certain his pistol was loaded. Having served as a marine in the Royal Navy, Franklin Sloan was well aware of the dangers of sailing the Breath.
When the two arrived on deck, Mr. Sloan remained discreetly in the background, while Henry advanced to join the admiral, the ship's captain, and His Royal Highness on the quarterdeck. None of them immediately noticed Henry. The captain and the admiral were both focusing their spyglasses on the distant shore. Crown Prince Jonathan stood nearby, muffled in a long boat cloak that was whipping in the wind. His face, visible above the tall, turned-up collar, was tinged with green.
Henry bowed to the prince, then glanced at the sky. Clouds roiled overhead, gray and ominous and flickering with purple lightning. A smattering of rain was falling, but he could see that the worst of the storm was, as he had thought, heading north, bearing down on the Braffan city of Port Vrijheid.
He cast a look around the horizon. From the ominous tone of Randolph's bellow and now the sounds of guns being run out, he expected nothing less than a Rosian man-of-war bearing down on them. The only other ship in sight was their own escort, the Terrapin.
Henry looked toward Port Vrijheid. The city appeared quite peaceful. No pirate ships attacking, no thundering of cannon fire, no smoke billowing into the air. The port was almost empty, but that was not unusual. Prior to the Bottom Dweller War, he would have seen the large freighters that carried the liquid form of the magical Breath setting out for various parts of the world. Only a few small merchant ships were in port today and none of the freighters, for the refineries had suffered severe damage during the war and were still being rebuilt.
Excerpted from Spymaster by Margaret Weis, Robert Krammes. Copyright © 2017 Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dragons, Pirates,Adventure, Intrigue, and even some Romance! What more could a reader ask for?! Being a fan of Margaret Weis& Tracy Hickman's DragonLance Stories. I was delighted to see that Margaret was still writing . Spymaster has a different flow to Dragonlance but it is just as enjoyable . I look forward to the next installment and reading the series that precedes it, The Dragon Brigade!