Keep out of the way. Obey all orders. Get killed on your own time.
Beka Cooper is one of the newest trainees in the Provost's Guard. As a rookie—known as a Puppy—she's assigned to the realm's toughest district: the Lower City. It should be a death sentence. The Lower City is filled with pickpockets who are fast as lightning, murderers stalking the streets, and rogues who will knock your teeth out with a smile. But Beka's not your average Puppy. She grew up in the Lower City and knows what makes it tick. It's Beka who notices that there might be something more to the latest crime wave. And it's Beka who must use her street smarts and her own brand of eerie magic to chase down a killer.
This first book introduces Beka Cooper, an amazing young woman who is the ancestor of one of Tamora Pierce's most popular characters: George Cooper. Here, Pierce gives fans exactly what they want—a smart, savvy heroine making a name for herself on the mean streets of Tortall's Lower City—while offering plenty to appeal to new readers as well!
"Tamora Pierce's books shaped me not only as a young writer but also as a young woman. She is a pillar, an icon, and an inspiration. Cracking open one of her marvelous novels always feels like coming home."
—SARAH J. MAAS, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Tamora Pierce didn't just blaze a trail. Her heroines cut a swath through the fantasy world with wit, strength, and savvy. Her stories still lead the vanguard today. Pierce is the real lioness, and we're all just running to keep pace."
—LEIGH BARDUGO, #1 New York Times bestselling author
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Being the Journal of Rebakah Cooper dwelling at Mistress Trout's lodgings
Nipcopper Close, the Lower City
Corus, the realm of Tortall
I have this journal that I mean to use as a record of my days as a Provost's Dog. Should I survive my first year as a Puppy, it will give me good practice for writing proper reports when I am required to write them as a proper Dog. By reporting as much as I can remember word by word, especially in talk with folk about the city, I will keep my memory exercises sharp. Our trainers told us we must always try to memorize as much as we could exactly as we could. "Your memory is your record when your hands are too busy." That is one of our training sayings.
For my own details, to make a proper start, I own to five feet and eight inches in height. My build is muscled for a mot. I have worked curst hard to make it so, in the training yard and on my own. My peaches are well enough. Doubtless they would be larger if I put on more pounds, but as I have no sweetheart and am not wishful of one for now, my peaches are fine as they are.
I am told I am pretty in my face, though my sister Diona says when my fine nose and cheekbones have been broken flat several times that will no longer be so. (My sisters do not want me to be a Dog.) My eyes are light blue gray in color. Some like them. Others hold them to be unsettling. I like them, because they work for me. My teeth are good. My hair is a dark blond. Folk can see my brows and lashes without my troubling to darken them, not that I would. I wear my hair long, as my one vanity. I know it offers an opponent a grip, but I have learned to tight braid it from the crown of my head. I also have a spiked strap to braid into it, so that any who seize my braid will regret it.
I want to write down every bit of this first week of my first year above all. For eight long year I have waited for this week. Now it has come. I want a record of my first seeking, my training Dogs, my every bit of work. I know I will be made a Dog sooner than any Puppy has ever been. I will start to prove I know more than any Puppy has ever done my very first week.
It is not vanity. I lived in the Cesspool for eight year. I stole. I have studied at the knee of the Lord Provost for eight more year, and run messages for the Provost's Dogs for three year, before I ever went into training. I know every street and alley of the Lower City better than I know the faces of my sisters and brothers, better than I knew my mother's face. I will learn the rest quicker than any other Puppy. I even live in the Lower City now. I know none of the others assigned to the Jane Street Kennel do so. (They will regret it when they must walk all the way home at the end of their watch!)
So my first week is of particular importance in this journal.
Pounce says I count my fish before they're hooked. I tell Pounce that if I had to be saddled with a purple-eyed talking cat, why must I have a sour one? He is to stay home during my first week as a Puppy. I will not be distracted by this strange creature who has been my friend these last four years. And I will not have my Dogs distracted by him. Four legged catsnot even ones who talk in cat but make themselves understood in Commonhave naught to do with plain, honest Dog work.
I am assigned to the Jane Street Kennel. The Watch Commander in this year of 246 is Acton of Fenrigh. I doubt I will ever have anything to do with him. Most Dogs don't. Our Watch Sergeant is Kebibi Ahuda, one of my training masters, my training master in combat, and the fiercest mot I have ever met. We have six Corporals on our Watch and twenty-five Senior Guards. That's not counting the cage Dogs and the Dogs who handle the scent hounds. We also have a mage on duty, Fulk. Fulk the Nosepicker, we mots call him. I plan to have nothing to do with him, either. The next time he puts a hand on me I will break it, mage or not.
There is the sum of it. All that remains is my training Dogs. I will write of them, and describe them properly, when I know who they are.
April 1, 246
And so this is my day at lastmy evening, in truth, as I have been assigned to the Evening Watch at the Jane Street Kennel. The Watch Commander is some member of the As the sun touched the rim of the city wall, I walked into the Jane Street Kennel in uniform. I was able to get it all for free from the old clothes room at my Lord Provost's house. I wore the summer black tunic with short sleeves, black breeches, and black boots. I had a leather belt with purse, whistle, paired daggers, a proper baton, water flask, rawhide cords for prisoner taking. I was kitted up like a proper Dog and ready to bag me some rats who broke the king's law.
Some of the other Lower City trainees were already there. Like me they wore a Puppy's white trim at the hems of sleeves and tunic. None of us have figured out if the white is to mark us out so rats will spare us, or if they will kill us first. None of the veteran Dogs who were our teachers would say, either.
I sat with the other Puppies. They greeted me with gloom. None of them wanted to be here, but each district gets its allotment of the year's Puppies. My companions on this bench feel they drew the short straw. There is curst little glory here. Unless you are a veteran Dog or a friend of the Rogue, the pickings are coppers at best. And the Lower City was rough. Everyone knew that of the Puppies who started their training year in the Lower City, half give up or are killed in the first four months.
I tried to look as glum as the others. The truth was, I had asked to be sent here.
Ahuda took her place at the tall sergeant's desk. We all sat up. We'd feared her in training. She is a stocky black woman with some freckles and hair she has straightened and cut just below her ears. The story is her family is from Carthak far in the south. They say she treats trainees the way she did in vengeance for how the Carthakis treated her family as slaves. All I knew was that she'd made fast fighters of us.
She nodded to the evening watch Dogs as they came on duty, already in their pairs or meeting up in the waiting room. Some looked at our bench and grinned. Some nudged each other and whispered and laughed. My classmates hunkered down and looked miserable.
"They'll eat us alive," my friend Ersken whispered in my ear. He was the kindest of us, which worried me. "I think they sharpen their teeth."
"Going to sea wouldn'ta been so bad." Verene had come in after me and sat on my other side. "Go on, Bekagive 'em one of them ice-eye glares of yours."
I looked down. Though I am comfortable enough with my fellow Puppies, I wasn't so comfortable with the Dogs or the other folk who came in with business in the kennel. "You get seasick," I told Verene. "That's why you went for a Dog. And leave my glares out of it."
Since Ahuda was at her desk, the Watch Commander was already in his office. He'd be going over the assignments, choosing the Dog partners who would get a Puppy. I asked the Goddess to give Ersken someone who'd understand his kindness never meant he was weak. Verene needed Dogs that would talk to her straight. And me?
Goddess, Mithros, let them be good at their work, I begged.
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